In this first episode, Erik Bagwell sits down with Billy Boughey, Founder and CEO of Elevate Experiences. Billy is an internationally-recognized communicator, thought-leader and emcee who has led events for Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A, The John Maxwell Company and many other notable organizations.

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In this episode, Tom Fitzgerald sits down with Todd Patrick and Todd Davis from CenterState’s fixed-income group. They unpack how banks should be approaching their investment portfolio during this economic crisis and highlight the ways River Bank & Trust in Prattville, AL is implementing these strategies and winning with their bond portfolio.


Broadcasting from Atlanta, Georgia. This is the community bank podcast, the show dedicated to helping community bankers grow themselves, their team and their profits. Now here are your hosts, Erik Bagwell and Tom Fitzgerald.

Erik: Welcome to the community bank podcast coming to you from Atlanta, Georgia. I’m Eric Bagwell, director of sales and marketing with Center State Banks correspondent division. And with me is Tom Fitzgerald, director of strategy and research and then the capital markets area of our correspondent division. Tom, you doing okay, Eric?

Tom: Eric, I’m doing just fine and I’m really excited to be a part of this new podcast. Thanks for giving me a microphone.

Erik: Well, as you heard in our intro, we want this podcast to help community bankers across the country grow not only themselves and their teams, but also their profits. And in our shows, we want to talk about a few different topics and we want to talk about culture. Some of our shows, we’ll talk about leadership. We’ll talk strategy as far as bond portfolios, loan portfolios, what’s going on in digital banking. We want to talk to other banks across the country and provide them a forum to tell others what they’re doing. And every show we want to talk about the economy. Tom, you’re in the markets every week. We want you right now to give us an update on what to expect in the economy this week.

Tom: Well, Erik it’s kind of a tale of two markets really. It’s a situation where the equity markets are pretty much kind of discarded all of the April numbers and are kind of looking forward to a V-shaped rebound in the economy. And so, it’s been a real, you know, obviously positive you know, stock market profile in the last week or two. The situation in the fixed income market is those completely different. We’ve looked at, you know, we have basically been range trading in the treasuries for the last two months. And so, there’s a lot less certainty about what kind of a rebound we’ll see in the economy and the fixed income markets. It’s more of a looking at a longer U-shaped type of rebound, whereas the equities are looking at more of kind of a more rapid V-shaped recovery. So those two things are going to have to resolve themselves at some point in the near future. And I tend to always come back to the fixed income markets are where the smart guys reside. So, I think that’s kind of where we’re going to go as far as economy but for right now, we’re sort of, the markets have kind of taken two different roads, but at some point, they’re going to have to resolve in the very near future.

Erik: Thanks Tom. Today I caught up with Billy Boughey, founder and CEO of Elevate Experiences in Norcross, Georgia. Billy is a professional speaker, author and entrepreneur and he’s just written a book called culture reconstructed. Billy is going to talk with us today about culture and how it’s even more important than ever in the world we’re in. Thanks again for being with us. Hope you enjoy our conversation with him right now.
Billy Boughey. Thank you for being on our community bank podcast today. We really appreciate it. Tell us about elevate and tell us you do.

Billy: Well, Erik I’m so excited to be on and those that are listening in, my goal is to add as much value as I possibly can for you and the fact that you’ve tuned into this podcast means you want to grow as a leader. So, I’m humbled to be on and hope to add value. My story, born and raised in Atlanta, played baseball at Auburn, played a little baseball professionally after that. I started hosting and emceeing and being on the microphone and creating experiences for people and realized there was a special magic that happened when you had a really good message and a group of people and you can mix those together. And so fast forward, many years later, I started a company called elevate experiences. And the phrase that I use as events are something you attend and experiences are something you undergo. And so, we are in the undergo business, so we help the best brands in the world tell their story through remarkable experiences. So, yeah, it’s been a lot of fun to partner with groups around the world and figure out the best way they can tell their story and then figure out the marketplace and how it makes sense and how they do something fantastic. Something simple, something extravagant, regardless of what they do, just making sure it translates in the market. So that’s what I do. I’m an experience creator for a living and it’s a lot of fun.

Erik: That sounds awesome. Tell us some of the companies you’ve worked with in the past. I know there’s some pretty big names everybody will recognize. Tell us some of those.

Billy: Yeah, it’s really fun. The best brands in the world are always learning and I’ve asked my first key principle, we tweaked something hot early in the podcast is that every great brand, every great bank, every great leader is always learning and discover new things from various sources. So, Chick-fil-A was one of our first clients. They are a small little chicken restaurant you might’ve heard of them.

Erik: Yeah.

Billy: Chick-Fil-A founded in Atlanta by Truett Cathy and he has this quote that says never underestimate the importance of fun. And I fell in love with that quote is very simple and I think Chick-fil-A is built not just on a great chicken sandwich, but also caring about their people and connected with them. So I took my skills and started hosting events for Chick-fil-A and for over 10 years we helped them with various events from their big corporate events they put on for their support center all the way down to helping local operators do a 10 to 12 person leadership event for their teams. So, if really fun to dive in the nitty gritty and over time with Chick-Fil-A and we partner with people, world cup and Coca-Cola to do some of their big events in Los Angeles and around the world. And we’ve helped home Depot do some team building events to get their teams on the same page and have a little bit of fun in the process. We’ve helped companies like Delta airlines do big block parties for the organization and not just the fun and the dance moves and the interaction, but also the meaning the connection. Why are we doing this? And so, I tell everyone when they’re putting on some sort of event, whether it’s a holiday party or whether it’s a team building event or a customer facing experience, just making sure it makes sense and making sure it’s adding value. And it’s been fun to see those brands all the way down to smaller brands, brands that you would not even know their name, helping those folks do something meaningful for their customers. And those are just some of the folks that we serve.

Erik: That sounds great. So, the question everybody’s probably wondering right now and when I actually met Billy last week and he’s an event planner, puts events on and makes them really, really cool. People are not putting events on Billy, so I was very, very impressed that you guys in, I think it was 12 days, you had to basically change how you do your business. You had to pivot and you got that done in 10 to 12 days. Talk about that in these times because obviously everybody’s business has changed. I don’t care what you do, it’s changed. Tell us what you guys did and it’s probably something that everybody needs to be thinking about and looking at their business and thinking the same thing.

Billy: Yeah, so very interesting question. It’s a very interesting emotion. I’m sure the listeners are tuning in for this. You’re hearing this podcast, whether you’re mowing the lawn or riding in your car or wherever you might be listening. I want to challenge you to ask yourself this question is who you are, what you do, and if it is, there’s potential there could be trouble down the road. I had to come back to the basic theory of who am I as a person, as an organization, what are we about? And our vision at elevate is we exist to help people and organizations live and lead at a higher level. That’s what our vision is. That’s what we’re about. How that happens. It’s going to look different over time. You know, I remember Henry Ford when he made the first car, he didn’t go around and ask the people, Hey, do you want a car? They said, no, we want a faster horse. We just want to get from point “A” to point “B” faster and he answered the question of the customer before they even knew what to ask and I think that’s what the best businesses do and we had to pivot quickly. Listen, we did 297 events in 2019 in 2020 it will be a lot less in person because of the COVID-19 the things that are happening in the culture. But for me, I had to go through the grieving period. Of course, just like everyone listening, I don’t know if it’s ever going to be the way that it was and I’m doing quotation marks with my hands when I say way that it was.

Erik: Yeah.

Billy: But isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that great that we have the opportunity to know who we are and even get pushed back into who are we and what are we really all about? And a bigger question for me, Eric I had to ask was what do I want to happen? You know, I think that we can, as leaders will more things to happen than we think we can. I think we have the opportunity to ask a better question because I think leadership is just simply this. If you’re taking notes out there on this podcast or listening along or however, you’re receiving this is, I believe that leadership, here’s the definition. It’s just the ability to ask a better question. That’s all leadership.

Erik: Yeah, that’s good.

Billy: You know, it’s a title. It’s lots of things for free I had to ask myself, gosh, all the brands that we serve are saying we can’t get our people together and I can’t blame them. We want people to be safe. We want people to make the right decisions but how could we pivot our business to still meet that need? How could we help people live and lead at a higher level? How can we do that virtually, even today, as we’re recording this, I have a big massive event for 1300 people that we are doing via a conference, we’re doing via interaction on a digital platform, and for me, just like everyone listening, it’s not the same. It’s just not, and we have to die to it. Not being the same, but could it be better? I believe that it can and until we stop comparing the way that we did things the way that it could be and saying it never was like it was, we’re never going to accomplish what the future brings to us. And it brings me to my favorite quote of all time from a ride down at the magic kingdom at Walt Disney world in the carousel of progress. There is this beautiful song that plays as you ride this age-old ride that came out in 1964 to a world’s fair in New York city, it’s the carousel progress song that says there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day. Man has a dream and that’s the start. He follows his dream with his mind in his heart and when it becomes a reality, it becomes a dream for you and me. And I believe that we pass on dreams to other people and we give people permission to dream, if they can sit back, take a deep breath and say, okay, I might need to wear a mask and have a lot more hand sanitizer and wash my hands a lot more often and be more aware. But could I be more relevant to my customer? And I think the answer is yes if we seize the opportunity. So, stay tuned. I think we’re all in the process but it’s been fun for us to see some glimmers of this can work even if we did it differently.

Erik: That sounds great. Let me ask you this, let’s talk about culture really quick. How do you continue to build culture and an environment like this when you know, we’ve still got, I know in our office personally, we’ve got probably five people in the office every day and you know, there’s phone calls that you have with your folks and everybody’s talking over each other and it’s just more difficult. How do you build culture in an environment like this?

Billy: Yeah, so good. I wrote my first book that came out in January, 2020 “How to culture reconstructed”. And if you would have said many years ago, Billy, you’re going to write a book. I would have said there’s no way but it was really fun to actually release a book about this topic. And then covid-19 happened soon after. And I think the book is super relevant even now that it was before the virus is reconstructing a culture. Boiling it down. I like basics. I like boiling it down to this lowest common denominator so you can really understand it. And for me the definition of culture is just what you allow. Just what do you allow. And so, a culture can allow a lot of different things and when you’re building a culture of cultural or virtually, it’s for me, I boil it down into a Venn diagram of everything that you do with your team is going to do one of three things. It’s going to inspire, educate, or entertain, inspire, educate, entertain. And I think when a leader can make a list of those things that you can do in person and then ask yourself, how could we do that virtually? I know that meetings together more often than you did before is important. I think holding people accountable is important. There’s a great website called where I do a one-hour webinar training on how to lead your team over the internet. And I give you the four key principles on how to do that. Is to do something intentional, do something fun, do something do the work and do something personal, do something fun, do something. Tell me, I’m trying to get all four in a row.
So, I’m thinking for the training there but for me, when I put that training together, it was everybody wants to you know do something personal and the phrase I use a lot is you don’t have to be in person to do something personal. But zoom calls and screen fatigue is a real thing. You know, did you say you were going to do this? And I thought you said you were going to do this. And even now, more than ever, confusion and communication are happening in businesses, it just is. But now more than ever, if we get intentional about how we lead, I think we can go faster. I’ve seen in my organization, goodness, we’ve gone so much faster on things because we have a call in the morning, it’s a 45-minute call every morning at 9:00 AM Eastern standard time. And then at the end of the day we share our wins. And if we say something on the morning call, we share wins in the afternoon. It’s been amazing to say, when I said I was going to do that, did I actually do that? Because I know they’re going to hold me accountable later. So, I don’t like micromanaging and I don’t enjoy standing over people’s shoulders. But I do like personally saying, Hey, I want to be held accountable to what I said I was going to do and as the work changes, I’m learning how to change without.
So that’s just a couple of things and I think that list of inspire, educate, and entertain and having space for all three of those. I think now it’s; I’ve got to educate and I’ve got to do work. That’s all we do. We’re virtual, we got to go for it. So no, we still need to inspire your team. There needs to be moments of you’re reading something cool or watching a video or attending a virtual conference or entertaining them with a game. You know, you can go to our YouTube channel at elevate experiences. We have a ton of free videos you can watch that gives you ice breakers and games that you can do with your team and we do that because we know that’s such an important part. So that’s just some keys that I’ve learned in leading a virtual culture.

Erik: Yeah, that’s awesome. I’ll tell you, even with us, we have this whole thing has pushed us out onto a ledge we knew we needed to get out on but it’s been amazing to see how, when something like this happens, I mean, it really does force you. If you don’t change then you are getting past no doubt. And so, we have started down the road obviously with this podcast being, excuse me, one of them that we need to change and adapt how we do business as well. Let’s stay with culture really quick because I know a lot of banks out there listening to this have probably been involved with M and A stuff in the past. Maybe they’ve been a part of a bank that’s bought another bank or they’ve, you know, there’s a lot of bankers that have been at banks that have been purchased. How do you merge two cultures? I know that’s hard and we talked offline about the BB and T SunTrust and the issues they’re facing. And I know there’s, there’s been in the past, I want to say two years an M and A transaction that actually fell apart because the cultures, they just basically got into the nitty gritty of trying to get the banks together and they figured the cultures not going to work. What are the key factors when you’re trying to get two cultures together?

Billy: Yeah, so I’m married to a counselor, so let me go counselor on your first second. Those that are listening in, just pardon me for a second as I go a little psychological and a little bit of more of the feelings side of things. I believe the greatest tool we have when we merge two things together is our ears. I just think our ears are still the defining factor of success as a leader and that sounds so basic that we run right past it. Some of the very, somebody wants to lose weight, okay, you got to eat better and you got to exercise. Well, I don’t want to eat better but I’ll workout harder. It’s just not going to work. The basics of losing weight and staying in shape or to eat better and to get more exercise. Same way with leadership and merging cultures is if you don’t have the ability to ask the question and then pause and really listen to what someone says that I think it’s impossible. I don’t think you ever have a starting point. So, once you get there, then there’s a three-part series that helps people when they merge.
And I initially got this from Dr. Tim Elmore with growing leaders and I think he got it from somewhere else. I never quite know where all quotes come from, but I’ll give him credit on this one because it really helped me process how I bring two things together. He said all things in your leadership when you’re merging things together and I’m actually talking about this today in the talk that I’m giving is I used to talk about road signs and I used the road sign merge and I use the road sign yield and I use the road signs stop and I use the road sign crossroads. You can probably already, if you’re listening, you can see those signs I’m saying. Then you can kind of see how those apply to leadership and how they apply to merging things. You’ve got to figure out when to yield and the grid that Dr. Elmore gave me was everything in your business needs three things a tweak, a facelift or a funeral. Let me say those again. Everything in your leadership needs a tweak, it needs a facelift or it needs a funeral, a tweak. When two brands come together it could be something small of what color? That’s actually not small, but it’s a big decision and it could be the color of your logo or the actual brand. Does the color matter to one brand more than the other? Do you merge the colors together? Does it need a tweak? I love this story about Chick-fil-A nose on their actual brand. The nose of the chicken on the Chick-fil-A logo was adjusted in 2014 from the droopy nose to the nose that was straight as an arrow.
And I’ve heard several reasons why, but I love the reason of, Hey, we’re moving towards the future and the nose is going straight and that’s where we’re headed. We’re headed for the future. And I love just that slight tweak they made. Still the same logo and you might not even recognize it unless you really were a student of a brand. That’s a tweak. A facelift could be the bones and the structure look good, but the way it looks outside, we need to refresh all of our documents, our websites. We need to make sure all the bones are good, but we need to make sure it just looks good, a facelift as needed. And then some things need a funeral and this is where I see as you mentioned mergers not work. Is if somebody holds on to something so long and everybody else around them see that that thing is just not working, you’ve got to decided that person needs to go or does that thing need to go?

Billy: That’s the tough part of leadership is you got to have that conversation and say what needs a funeral? And there must be a list. There has to be a list when you merge and both sides have to look at it. No, this is how we do it. This is how we do it. Well, there’s going to be some things we have to give a funeral because both can’t live at the same time. If we’re going to grow this brand, we’ve got to have a tweak, we’ve got to have a facelift, and we’ve got to have a funeral. That is the best grid that I’ve seen when you’re merging now, much easier said than done, Eric you know this well is some people just don’t want, they don’t want to go away for so long.

Erik: You’re absolutely right. That’s great advice and we’re going to wrap up here in a second but I need to ask you about millennials. Obviously, the stereotype for bankers is they’re, you know, they’re kind of set in their ways, they’re older. Millennials has been a big thing with banks in the past couple of years. You know how do you attract them? Your company is made up of mostly millennials. Tell us what are some of the best ways that the folks listening can attract millennials to come work for them?

Billy: Yeah, let me say something maybe could be a little off putting or maybe off colors. We can’t use millennials as like a curse word, right? I think a lot of people use it as millennials or the millennials, you know, it’s got to be it, and I believe this, they are the greatest generation. I believe that so resourceful, so kind, care about so many things, have seen a lot of things in culture just mix and just think about the presidents they’ve seen in their time. Just think about 911 and I just think about all the things they experienced in their childhood and a fear-based, there’s, so many pieces they’ve seen. If you can enter the conversation with, I cannot wait to have the best of the best millennials on my team because they are the greatest generation. If there’s someone who’s older that can actually say that mean that because listen, when I’m generation X, when you know, every generation thinks their generation is the best and the faster you can see that that’s not the case, the faster that you’ll win. Now am I saying that, do I think my generation is the best? I think generation X is awesome. I think we resourceful work hard. I love my generation. I’m very proud to be a part of it but as soon as I began elevating my particular generation over someone else, I’m already starting with a lose, lose game. How could you win? How could you actually listen to someone who’s in a different iteration? And this is for millennials too, and if you’re millennialism this, you’ve got to enter with a posture as well as someone who is older, they might cross their arms, sit back in their chair and start giving you advice when you didn’t ask for it. Just listen, just listen. Just pause and listen. And here’s the, I’ve been around some old dogs that you can teach new tricks. Like I don’t like that quote. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. No, I’ve met some old dogs that learned some new tricks.

Erik: I didn’t know those were out.

Billy: And I’ve met some young dogs that can’t learn new tricks. So, I think it’s both ways. I think the young dogs being the, you know, millennial generation. How could you pause that back and say, there is something that I could learn? How could I enter this with humility? I think all of this, if I sprinkle a dash of humility and gratitude over all of this, I think the way we approach each generation will help. And so, I think that is the key thing. Yes, I think having some, you know the 23-year-old Sally wants different things than, you know, 37-year-old John, they just want different things. So how could you customize the way that you pay them in a way to way which they are compliant? How could you customize the way you do their benefits? How could you show that you’re a giving brand? How could you add a 5% of our profits are going to go to this? And guess what? Millennial generation, we want you to decide where that goes. Oh, my goodness, you’re giving me ownership of my organization and how they give. That’s brilliant. So, there’s a bunch of hacks that you can do, but hacks only take you so far. If your heart is, I believe they are the greatest generation and I’m excited to learn from them, then you can win but if not, I just think they’ll still be divided.

Erik: Yeah. That’s great advice and you’re right. I mean you got to go into it and know that you know, these people can help you and that you do need to change and you need to reach out to them and meet them kind of at their level. So, Hey Billy we appreciate you being on the podcast today. Your enthusiasm is awesome. Tell us this, if somebody listening wants to get in touch with you about their events or just culture, anything. Tell us how they can reach you?

Billy: Yeah, the easiest place is on social media, so we spend a lot of time on LinkedIn if you’re there. So, we have several different groups you could be a part of. So, go check out LinkedIn Elevate Experiences. You can follow me on Instagram those of you that are there, it’s just @Billyboughey. You can probably put that in the show notes there that can click on that. But then I would say the greatest value that we could give you is we do a lot of free trainings, videos on our YouTube channel, but then also that website that I mentioned, Virtual Events Secrets, That’s a great website there and if you just want to reach out and have a conversation about your event, that’s our specialty, you know, virtual events or in person events. You just go to our website, there’s a little button there that says contact us and that goes directly to me and our sales team and we just talk to folks all day long and help them. Actually, right now there’s a phone call happening. We do these free 30-minute consultations of anybody that wants to talk about culture and events. And I see on my calendar popping up as we’re talking on this at 10 o’clock we have a conversation happening right now with one of our salespeople that’s talking to a person about their events and their culture that are coming up. So, we love talking to folks here what they’re up to. We ended up being a counseling session, sometimes we just listen to the frustration things are going on. We love that too. So yeah, if we can help in any way, just reach out to us and we’re here to serve.

Erik: Thanks man. That’s great information. I appreciate you being on.

Billy: You got it. Thanks Eric.

Erik: Well, I hope you enjoyed our conversation with Billy. It was fun listening to him and talking with them. He’s a wealth of knowledge and a lot of energy and I hope you got something out of it. Tom, tell everyone we can expect on our next show?

Tom: We’ll Erik, on the next episode, I think we’re going to talk to a couple of our bond salesman, Todd Patrick and Todd Davis and kind of go over what they are seeing with their customers now in their bond portfolios. You know, with lending kind of slowing down with the covid situation. The bond portfolios are getting to be a little bit more important to try to meet profit goals. And so, Todd and Todd will kind of come back and kind of give us a view of what they are doing with their customers and what are the sort of the hot spots for them right now?

Erik: Well, no doubt that’s going to be a big topic in the future with a lot of folks not knowing what to do with their bond portfolio. So, we are looking forward to that and I know you guys are going to record that soon, so I think it’s right after the fed meeting, so that’ll be good. And I hope everybody will join us for our next show. Thanks for tuning in.



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