This is the transcript of episode 10
Click here to visit the full episode page and listen to the interview.
Hi there. Welcome to this week’s show. We’ve another great episode lined up for you today.
We’re talking to Michael Virardi.
That’s Michael Virardi, International Speaker, Trainer and Author from Limassol in Cyprus.
Michael has delivered talks, seminars and workshops to a range of international organizations including McDonalds, Microsoft, Ericsson and many others. And he’s a visiting lecturer at the University College of London and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and he has spoken twice – not once, but twice at TEDx – how did he do that?
This is Episode 10 of the Hired Trainer.com podcast. You’re very welcome.
Hi and welcome. HiredTrainer is the show for self-employed training consultants around the world, people like you and I, and the show’s premise or goal is very simple. It’s to help you to get hired, to learn more and to earn more.
Each week we bring a different guest on the show who can share their story, their training business lessons, advice, secrets, experience with you.
We find out what they know and how they’ve learned the hard way. Sometimes the hard way, sometimes the easy way, and we get them to share their experience with you, so you can apply these lessons to your training business.
Today’s guest is Michael Virardi, speaker, author and trainer from www.michaelvirardi.com.
I’ll be providing all the links in the show notes to this episode on the website.
If you’re listening, Michael, thanks again for your time.
Michael, good morning and welcome to the program.
Good morning, Mark. Great to be here.
You’re based in Limassol in Cyprus.
Yes, Limassol, Cyprus, a beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea.
So for those who have never been there before, what’s Cyprus like?
I’m a bit biased, but I think it’s like paradise on Earth.
My late father used to tell me that in the UK, when he worked there, that Cyprus had 360 days of sun out of the 365.
So, it’s a beautiful place.
So, your family has a successful business in Cyprus.
You could have gone down that path, but you chose the path of international speaker, author and trainer.
I’m just curious. Why do you like speaking and training so much?
First and foremost, I like speaking and training of course, but it’s not my ultimate aim.
My ultimate aim is to help people reach their full potential and I have gone down the path of the family business. I have worked for the family business for 15 straight years.
I’m still a Director in the company, but I’m not active anymore because my career has fruitioned into not only local, but also on a global status.
I cannot go around running too many businesses.
I worked in the family business for 15 years, so I’ve gone down that path.
I really enjoyed it, but then I left to pursue my passion which was what you have just talked about, speaking and training.
And you were influenced by someone called Jeffrey Gitomer, who is the author of a couple of books, one of which is The Little Red Book of Selling.
He also hosts a fantastic podcast which is really entertaining.
It’s called Sell or Die.
How did Jeffrey influence you and what was the result of his influence on your career?
That’s very true.
It’s a long story. I’ll make it as short as possible.
When I first started working for the family business, my Dad told me that we just imported plastic articles, plastic products, polycarbonate and polyethylene from a company called Carlisle International that were based in the United States.
He told me because he didn’t want to get me worried that I couldn’t sell, I couldn’t produce the goods.
He told me these are low cost products, so go ahead and do whatever you can.
The Americans said that our goal is to sell one 40ft container and if we do that we get to keep the representation.
So, to cut a long story short, in 365 days my efforts have proven worthwhile.
We sold eight 40ft containers and we were awarded the First European Award in Sales in terms of population size and they flew us, together with my brother to Charlotte, North Carolina, which happened to be the base of Jeffrey Gitomar.
Jeffrey was invited to speak.
He came on stage. He gave a seminar for six hours.
That was the first time in my whole life that I had stayed rooted in one chair, so as soon as he finished I walked up to him and I said, “Mr Gitomar, how can I become like you, sir?” (After I’d told him congratulations!)
And he said, “It’s easy and it’s difficult.”
I said, “As a secret, what is it?”
He said, “Study two hours on your chosen topic every day except weekends. In five years you will be recognised in your country, 10 years worldwide.”
So I bought his cassettes at the time – not DVDs, not CDs – and I bought his two books that he had at the time, The Sales Bible and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless.
I started reading.
He was right.
Even though Cyprus is a small place, almost non-existent on the map, it took me seven years to get my first local training session and 13 years to get my first international session.
That was three or four years ago and that’s the story.
And tell us some of the highlights of your career to date since then.
There are many. Let me boil them down to three.
Speaking for Ericsson in Tallinn, Estonia, during Ericsson’s innovation day in front of their executives at the Kumu Museum.
It’s sort of an oxymoron because we were talking about innovation in a museum.
My feeling is maybe they’ve done it on purpose just to show that what you innovate today will end up in a museum tomorrow.
That really got me thinking that I should self-develop myself if I want to help other people reach their goals and dreams.
So at the end of the day, it’s not about liking speaking or training.
It’s about helping people develop, and first and foremost we need to develop ourselves.
That was one of the highlights.
Secondly, when I got my first ever training event in New York City, that was just before I lost my Dad.
I was in Israel at the time and I called my Dad to let him know that out of the many competitors they chose Michael Virardi to fly to New York City to train the American P&I Club Production in Fleet Street
They insure ships together with Lloyds up to $8 billion and I flew to New York City to train their team and I believe they were very happy because they booked me for this year as well.
I’m going for five days training, not two days, and not one day like last year.
The other two is managing to become a lecturer at the University of Lausanne.
I lecture a course on public speaking for the Master’s in Advanced International Taxation.
That’s an eight hour course normally for the Big Four – PwC and the rest, and also at one of the most prestigious universities in the world where I do a speaking event every year, once a year.
The university, you know as well, I’m sure – University College London, UCL in London.
Those are the three main highlights.
Wow! That’s amazing.
Do you think that Jeffrey’s formula was right then so far?
I believe Jeffrey’s formula was spot on.
Jeffrey’s formula spans back to The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and the 10,000 hours, and from what I’ve read it wasn’t Malcolm Gladwell’s formula.
It dates even further back.
So as Malcolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers, ‘even the best of criminals take and require 10,000 hours to perfect their craft.’
Even the Beatles were unknown for seven consecutive years, and it’s after that mark that they started making themselves known.
Yeah, I’ve heard that expression otherwise expressed, but allegedly Bruce Lee is supposed to have said, “I fear not the man who can do 10,000 kicks. I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Correct, Mark. You could have said it, spot on.
So what are some of the challenges in running your own international speaking and training business from day to day?
First of all, I run it on my own.
They say that no man is an island or no woman is an island.
It’s true, so some of the challenges, or the most important, is to manage my time well.
I believe you might know it as well.
I don’t know if you have a team behind you, but if you are a lone ranger like I am it is very, very important to manage our time well and I believe so far I’m doing it quite well even though I fail at it.
Even when I fail at it, I look at the ‘F-A-I-L’ (Forever Acquiring Important Lessons)
acronym as the first attempt in learning.
So, then I get better as time progresses.
And you’re doing a lot of travelling right now still?
Yes, I do a lot of travelling.
Last year I did a lot more travelling than this year because this year I had two major clients, two global clients stationed in Cyprus, and I did a lot of work for them.
So two major clients gave me almost 70 per cent of my turnover from last year, so the year is doing very well.
So looking at your business, for people who’ve not yet come across your brand, you offer motivational speaking, seminars and coaching.
Let’s imagine that someone wants to work with you.
Describe a typical speaking project or training project with one of your clients, perhaps in as much detail as you feel comfortable doing.
Okay, thank you very much. Great question.
First and foremost, let me say that a lot of people, or the majority of people, attribute motivation to Michael Virardi.
For me, motivation – if it doesn’t have any substance – is just nice words being spoken or uttered.
I look at it as education together with inspiration, bringing my own personal examples that I’ve lived through both in Cyprus and abroad in helping companies or individuals reach their goals.
Let me give you the two recent examples I mentioned earlier.
One was with a shipping company and the other one was with a huge educational institution.
Both of them wanted to bridge the gap between their employees.
In one case there were 13,000 employees and the management, which were 11 people, the top management.
And the other case, exactly the same, but on a smaller scale.
I went in there, I heard what the management had to say but that’s one side of the coin.
I interviewed 10 per cent of the employees in one certain region because I couldn’t interview 10 per cent of 13,000.
I heard their views as well.
After I finished my interviews, I went back to the management and interviewed them once again.
Then I prepared all the seminars for the management team (because it’s very important to get the management team to understand what changes we want to instigate).
Then I got all the team in that certain location to help them with their customer service and also with their communication back and forth with the management.
That’s one case.
How do you decide what to charge clients for a programme like that? Pricing is always a tricky subject, isn’t it?
I follow the advice of one of my early mentors (even though I never met him in person), Brian Tracy, who said that “I used to take my price upwards and upwards and as I was taking my price up, I could see that I had more demand for my services. But bear in mind that you need to prove your worth and you need to give value.”
I started raising my price.
I remember my late Dad gave me advice when I was starting.
He said, “Michael, get your prices as high as possible. If you don’t deserve them, don’t worry, son. They will go down to the bottom. But if you leave your prices low just to start your business and start getting customers, and you deserve to have higher prices you will never reach that ceiling. Never. Your customers will not be willing to pay five or six times as much because you gave them a very low price at the beginning, even though you’re worth more.”
So it took me a year and a half of disappointments, of people telling me, “Sorry, but Michael, we’re not paying three times as much as what the market in Cyprus is paying.”
Then they asked me, “Do you have experience?
I said, “No.”
They said, “Where have you spoken before?”
I said, “I’ve never spoken to anyone before. That’s my first gig.”
And they said, “Do you know that experienced people on this island charge three times less?”
I said, “Yes, but if you don’t like it, I’ll give you your money back.”
I got thrown out of offices two or three times.
I came back to my Dad and said, “Dad, they are paying me for an hour what you pay me in a month.”
He said, “Michael, it took you six or seven years to prepare to be where you are. I believe in you, son, so keep your prices up. Stay working for our family business and the day will come that you will command your pricing.”
That’s what I did.
Even this year when I raised my prices in my home country – because I cannot charge double what I charge abroad and charge less in Cyprus even though it’s a small place – I have still seen that I have met and exceeded my goals.
So it’s experimental, Mark. You need to experiment but also deliver value and even more value than is expected of you once you get the business.
Yeah, it’s funny. There is a correlation between value and price in people’s minds.
It’s almost as if people feel uncomfortable paying for something high profile if the price isn’t high enough because they’re looking perhaps to others.
If your price is high, they perhaps see more in the actual delivery, whereas if they’re looking at a lower price they’re perhaps looking at yours and then saying, “What’s missing?”
If someone’s price is low, they‘re perhaps thinking that you have more than you have.
Probably correct, and in the majority of cases that is the case.
To prove this, one of my students at University College, London, happened to work in Microsoft.
He liked what he was seeing. He had talked to his manager.
That was a few years ago. I gave him a quotation and he said, “No thank you.”
I said, “Okay. When you lose, don’t lose the lessons” to find out how expensive I was.
He said, “He wasn’t expensive. It was too low.”
Assumption! You know what they say about assumption.
And in terms of marketing, how are you marketing yourself?
I know you host Zoom In with Virardi, which is a video interview series.
How is that going?
It’s going well. It’s just started.
I used to have Ask Virardi.
It was a series that started before Facebook Live, so people were asking me questions and then I went on to record videos which took three hours in my office. Stop, start, the camera, and then Facebook Live to my rescue.
I was bringing in guests. It was doing very well.
But I was insistent even though I wasn’t getting the numbers that I wanted.
It took three years and three months of Ask Virardi and then I turned it to Zoom in with Virardi.
I wanted to zoom in to best practices for companies.
We interviewed the HR of Pirelli and various big companies.
People can find all about these interviews. It’s going very well.
Did you say, HR, Michael?
Yes, HR. The HR of Pirelli and also Ericsson and other companies.
What made you go down the path of live-streaming? I’m curious about that.
First of all, if you do live streaming, they give you more visibility for Facebook.
I don’t know the exact numbers, but if you do over a post of a photograph, let’s say you get three per cent visibility, so if you have 100 followers, three of those followers will see it.
If you do a video, let’s say 10 per cent will see it.
That is an approximate number, but if you do live streaming it doubles up to let’s say 20 per cent.
I have around 20,000 followers on Facebook for example. When I do a live-streaming, it shoots up.
That was the main reason and also I believe there is something inside us – I don’t know what it is exactly – but when it’s live, mistakes can happen. Anything can go wrong, so people are drawn to it.
So live-streaming, you are on your toes. You are alert. You don’t need to press any stop button.
So literally anything could go wrong.
I suppose that’s nice because people see you’re vulnerable and they see that you’re human like them, and things can go wrong.
If you had a choice, would you prefer live-streaming to doing videos, as in content creation for retrieval online?
I believe you should do both.
I prefer live-streaming because I know I don’t have a second chance of getting it right, whereas with videos – if you get my iPhone and check it, you’ll see that to get a video out in two minutes – I might sometimes do a trial run of 20 videos, so I’m losing time.
Live-streaming, one go and you need to get it right.
It keeps you on your toes, but this shouldn’t exclude everything else that you mention up to now.
When I was doing some research for this podcast episode, I came across your website (which is obviously the thing to do).
I was absolutely blown away by the design.
It literally is as good as anything I’ve seen from any of the top speakers.
I’ve looked at all the websites. I can think of Tim Ferris, Johnny Dumas, David Simon Garland, etc.
Your website is world-class.
How did you conceptualise that?
What made you go for something at that level, because it doesn’t like you’ve gone cheap, shall we say?
Yes. It’s true, I haven’t gone cheap.
Just to give you a bit of background – and thank you very much for the compliment!
When I started looking for an upgrade to my previous website, which was nothing of the sort of what you’re talking about.
It was the opposite, very badly designed.
I looked at 18 people. Half of them gave me their website creation for free.
They said, “You’re Michael Virardi. You have a large following. We’ll do the job. If you’re happy with us, just refer us.”
The other half would do it for peanuts. Let’s say around 40 per cent for peanuts, and there was one guy who had a reasonable price.
I wasn’t happy with anything that I’ve seen, even with the ones that wanted to do it complimentary.
My wife turned to me and said, “You must be a very peculiar guy.”
I said, “It’s too late for you because you’re already married to me.”
Then out of the blue, I looked at a website that was done for one of my customers, Banker Net.
I was blown away with the website and that led to a great company called Kommigraphics, which I visited in Greece.
They charged me four times as much as the higher bidder.
I paid that money. I even revamped my image, business cards, letterheads, everything, changed my logo.
I went all the way in, even though financially I was better off doing the complimentary ones.
I went all the way and just a few months ago we won the first award in the whole of Greece and Cyprus, but Greece is a much bigger country.
We won the first award in our category, together with Kommigraphics.
Praise goes to Kommigraphics, not Michael.
Has it really made a difference for you to have a website of quality?
I’ll tell you what the difference is.
No one will hire you because of your website, but let’s say the CEO says to the HR “Go and have a look at that guy and let me know if you want to bring him to our upcoming event.”
Or the HR goes to the CEO and says, “There is a guy called Michael Virardi. Would you like to check him out?”
That’s the time that it really makes a difference because no one will pay the fees that we’re charging just because they saw a website.
But the person who receives the referral, I suppose, that’s their instinct, isn’t it?
They’re going to go along and say, “Okay, who is this guy?”
Yes, and the first impression is very positive.
As they go into the website, I believe it becomes even more positive, and there is content in there for them to see as well.
You know what did it for me?
I was absolutely stunned by the quality of the video.
I think it was Lausanne in Switzerland.
Did you use a drone camera for that?
I used a drone camera but a very talented half Russian, half Greek person, Salaz Balziz who flew all the way with me from Cyprus to Lausanne, the University of Lausanne, did the whole video.
The guy is immaculate, very professional, easy to work with and I’m also flying him most probably to UCL in October.
When I come to UCL to lecture, I’m going to be flying him all the way to London.
Yeah. Well, compliments. I’ll get the details after this of the company in Greece and the videographer and put them on the show notes.
Absolutely world class. Hats off to you for that!
You mentioned UCL as well. What is the reward for you in getting on the academic circuit where you pop up in Lausanne, you lecture there, you go to UCL and I think you’re involved in two other universities?
What’s the payback for you?
Is it to do with your brand or is it something else?
The biggest payback is the satisfaction I get working with students.
At UCL they are younger students but at Lausanne they are mature professionals.
If you patient enough to wait for the long term, these are the people who are going to be heading departments or even big companies in the future.
It’s my fifth year now at UCL and in Lausanne and I can tell you that these people have started going up the hierarchy ladder.
Some of them are even partners in law firms or accounting firms and that’s the time my phone has started ringing. It’s been ringing because of five years ago when I trained somebody who was promising, having proved their presentation skills.
In terms of monetary rewards I get paid in Lausanne, that’s nothing to do with the amount that I get from the corporate world but I truly, truly enjoy it.
Between you and me – and if it goes live I don’t mind – I would do it complimentary as well.
I love it. I love being with students and I love their enthusiasm and passion.
And you’ve also spoken at TEDx, I think, on more than one occasion.
Twice. How has that helped your brand?
People and professionals respect TED a lot.
I respect TED because whenever I find time once or twice a week, I watch one or two of their videos about technology, education and design. That’s the T-E-D.
Whenever I speak to people, they ask me “Have you spoken at TED?”
As soon as I saw that, I placed it almost first or second on my website that I’ve spoken at TED.
People respect TED a lot and I respect it as well.
Yes, it has helped my brand.
And you’ve written two books.
I mentioned at the beginning you’re an author.
You’ve written two books. One of which is Positive Impact: 28 Ways to Boost your Life and your Business.
And then you also wrote Crisis? What Crisis?
What inspired you to write those books?
The reason I ask that is because I’ve just finished an e-book and I’m aware of how absolutely laborious it can be writing a book.
Looking at that cursor on the screen at six in the morning and you’ve a cup of coffee. You think, “What do I write? How do I do this?”
How do you keep going and what was your inspiration for that?
Excellent question once again, Mark
First and foremost, for a speaker or a trainer, having a book is like having a passport because time is limited, and you can fly or speak or visit a customer and you can do it dozens of times or a few times – but your book can travel worldwide, and it can travel in various places.
Secondly, all our experiences need to be recorded somewhere.
It’s a legacy to leave for our children, but it’s also good material for professionals that they can put into practice.
My books have kickstarted my international career because they were translated and placed on Amazon.
They helped me tremendously in my home country where both of them became best selling books.
One of them took one year, the other one took only two months because I was more well-known.
Also, if you meet somebody, instead of only sending a thank you email or a thank you card, you can accompany that with a book.
What better thing to accompany it than with your own book!
The ‘positive-principle’ kicks into effect.
Have you plans for a third book or a fourth book?
Yes, I’m planning for a third book, but when I wrote my books I didn’t have a five year old son.
I now have a five year old son and he has become my number one priority.
I also lost my father very recently, who was my mentor, and time is limited on this earth so I make my son and my wife my first priority.
Success for me doesn’t come in terms of the turnover, but in terms of quality work for quality people whom it’s a joy to work for and with.
My sympathies on the passing of your father.
Thank you very much, Mark. Thanks a lot.
Let’s say I had a time machine on my desk in front of me.
I’m going to lend this to you now. You’re going to go back to let’s say the beginning of your speaking career.
I don’t know if 2007 is correct, but let’s say we go back to that time and you meet yourself.
You’re going to give yourself some key advice now to accelerate your fame, so that you can achieve things much more quickly and remove some mistakes, do more of certain things and do less of other things.
What would you do and what would you tell yourself to be more successful quickly?
I have never regretted anything that I’ve done in the past, but there is one thing that I would tell myself, I would tell Mark, I would tell everyone who’s listening in.
When you do research, you talk about your own work, your own conclusions and you will probably influence the world in a positive manner.
When you do research, you do not refer to others but you refer to your work.
When you do research, you’re hired by more people.
People will opt to get Mark or Michael because they have research behind them, and that’s exactly what I’ve done for my third book – which is on presentation skills.
I got people into a room.
I told them exactly what the topic was.
It was a topic that was foreign to them and I told them to make a speech without even training them.
They did their speech and I recorded it, and then I took them through a whole day of training course and I recorded them again at the end of the day, giving the exact same speech on the exact same topic.
I took the two recordings and I sent them to UCL, University College London, where the Master’s students would watch it and give us their ratings on how they improved on all these pillars that we pinpointed down.
Now you do have research and you have concrete results that you can improve people who have a closed mindset of let’s say up to 33 per cent, and people who have a growth mindset up to 53 per cent, all in one day.
It took me 17 years to be at the spot where I am now and I’m still learning.
If I can do that in seven hours and improve them between 33 and 53 per cent, proven by research, then that’s what I would have done from the beginning of my career.
More research rather than quoting others, without saying that you shouldn’t be quoting or referring to other’s works.
Looking to the future then, where is Michael Virardi going to be in two years’ time and how are you going to get there?
In two years’ time I will probably be at the same office, hopefully having another child which is something I’m planning with my wife and we’re longing to have.
People are asking me, “Michael would you like to franchise? Would you like to bring other people on board?”
I worked for a family business. It was fun, it was exciting, but I used to go back home with my head ready to explode.
When you’re working with people, even if you’re a good manager (and I don’t pride myself as being one of the best managers), I used to go home very tired.
I want to keep it small, lean and beautiful.
Maybe this is not what your clients or followers would like to hear, but in my case I would like to keep it small and beautiful.
I have a good job. I am practicing my passion. I’m getting good returns but my aim is not to become a millionaire.
I would like to become a person who has a million different emotions, hopefully positive, living with my family, with my friends and people like yourself, who I met recently, and I feel very positively towards.
That’s not a bad recipe for a happy and successful life.
Where can listeners find out more about you?
You mentioned your website, which is www.michaelvirardi.com
They can find me on all social media channels and platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, but if they go to michaelvirardi.com they can follow it from there and they can reach me and get their free content advice, videos, blog posts and the rest.
Okay. I’m going to include those links in the show notes for this podcast episode.
Michael, it’s been wonderful talking to you this morning from Limassol in Cyprus.
Thanks for your time.
Mark, thank you very much for the opportunity given.
It was a pleasure being on your podcast and I hope we’ll meet again soon.