Ep #67 | Create An Experience

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Billy Boughey is a nationally recognized host and speaker who has led events for Delta, Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A, FIFA, The John Maxwell Company and many other notable organizations. He is the Founder and President of the Atlanta based company: Elevate Experiences. Billy’s passion is to create world-class experiences that inspire each attendee to live and lead at a higher level. As a former baseball player at Auburn University, Georgia State University and the Philadelphia Phillies his experience includes working with many college and professional sports teams to improve their culture. His talents include keynote speaking and consulting groups on how to make their team members smile and their customers rave. He is currently writing his first book titled: “Created for Experience”, which will challenge readers to view each relationship as an opportunity for positive impact! Billy has participated in many freestyle hip-hop events and loves rap as a creative art form. Put on a beat and watch his passion to create come to life in vivid technicolor. Billy is married to Jenn and has three energetic children that you might see dancing on a stage near you!

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Shantel: Hey, Billy. Welcome to the Imagine More podcast.

Billy: What's happening, Shantel? How you feeling?

Shantel: Well, I'm excited. I like that intro. You certainly are waking up our listeners and getting everyone pumped for the day.

Billy: Well, I hear that you lose people after about two minutes into a podcast if you don't give value out the gate, so I want to say thanks for listening. I'm pumped about this conversation, and if you're tuning in, I hope that you're living and leading at a higher level. So let's get it.

Shantel: Nice. Okay, well, let's add value in the first two minutes. Typically, we start with a little bit more about Elevate and your company. Is there anything you want to lead with instead to really get things started?

| FOR THE LOVE OF CURIOSITY |

Billy: Yeah, so brands are people, people are brands, and so Elevate, that wing, it's blue, it's blue ocean, it's blue skies, it's designed to help people fly. So we're the brand that helps to give people wings. I know Red Bull coined that phrase, which I think is awesome, but, for us, we're really figuring out how do we take someone's idea and maximize it? So we're a brand experience agency is the way we frame ourselves in the market, and love to help people with our ideas, just take those and take them to the next level.

It's a dream of mine. I love curiosity. I love helping people discover what makes them come most to life, and then go do that and do more of it in every context they can imagine. So yeah, that's what we're about. We host events, primarily, so we're on the microphone a lot in front of guests and work for big brands, Chick-fil-A, Delta, Home Depot, Coca-Cola, FIFA. A lot of big brands trust us, but then a lot of startups say, "Hey, how can we build a culture in our small business context? How can we figure out how to make our team members smile and our customers rave?"

I've been a tinkerer my whole life. I'm the kind of person that loves to spin 33 plates at one time because I love creativity and ideas. I mentioned a little earlier, before we started this, I love the book Curious George and that idea of being curious of what's around the corner. And that's what Elevate is all about is that we can really help someone discover what their passion is and then display that in the market, one, so they can hope to make a lot of money doing their thing, but two is they can make a big impact on the Earth. So that's what we're about.

Shantel: That's awesome. I haven't heard very much about this experience piece. I mean you hear of event planners or coordinators or event type of companies, but tying in the experience piece I think is certainly very unique. How did this idea come about?

Billy: You know who Justin Timberlake is?

Shantel: Yes.

Billy: You probably have heard that name, right? So I am the self-proclaimed biggest Justin Timberlake fan on the planet. I love his music. I love tracking his career. I've been to every concert. The Man of the Woods tour that's out right now, I'll go to the concert five times. Each and every time that I hear Justin I learn something new, but one moment for me crystallized why I love him so much, and, for me, why I do my thing as a business leader.

He was playing this song, Drink You Away, from his last album, The 20/20 Experience. He had his guitar in his hand, and he stopped at the end of the song and he directly in the microphone said this. You know those moments in life where things just stop? This was one of those moments for me. He said, "I don't want my music to get in your ear. I want my music to get in your blood." And when he said that, it was like, Huh, that's what I've spent my entire life doing is thinking about how do you take not just something written down and not just something on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, musical.ly.

All these spots are cool, but how do I get into someone's blood and with me pumping positivity in the culture is a big deal, and so after that concert, I really crystallized in my mind that an event is something that you attend. An experience is something you undergo. If we were to pause and have the listeners who are listening and say, "What's the greatest experience you've ever been a part of, something you underwent that just literally changed your whole existence?" You could pause and say it was the moment your child was born, when you got married, when you got that big promotion, whatever that thing was, it was very little to do with the event of that but it was the experience of that.

I had a conference call this morning with a gentleman who's leading an event. And I really pushed back on the word event planner. I don't like that word. I think it's an experience planner. The best people that plan events, they think about not just, "Let me get the blocking and tackling of the caterer and the lights and the stage," and all those things that have to be in place, but once you get those basics in place, then i should shift totally to the end user, which is the guest that's there. And you want to elicit a certain kind of emotion.

So the gentleman I was talking to today, I said, "Man, when people get in the car as they leave and they press the key fob to start their car or they crank the engine or whatever and they're driving away, there's two things you should be thinking about as putting on this event, as an experience creator is, 'What are they thinking, and what are they feeling,' because those are two really different things, and if you can get to that, whether somebody sees a tweet or an Instagram post or they really see your consistency on Facebook or they look at an ad or whatever it is, you've got to get their brain thinking and their heart feeling."

And I believe from a live perspective, that's what we do as a business. We help people discover what that is and then make that come to life, and that's a much different conversation than, "Hey, let's put on this event." It's really, "Gosh, what do I want the end user to get, and am I going to bring more value to the Earth by doing something that's kick ass or something that's average?" And I think average sucks, honestly.

Shantel: Are there, I mean, tactical things or ideas that you guys have come up with that maybe you can share to shed some light on how you guys have done that? I mean I think that that's amazing and profound and it's so true. You think of the experience piece as opposed to that moment or the event you were at, but I'm trying to think of how a company has done that successfully that maybe I can't articulate just thinking about it, but there was some planning behind the scenes that helped contribute to that really great experience.

| LISTEN, DESIGN, PRODUCE |

Billy: Yeah, 100%, and our three words that we narrow down what we do is, "Listen, design, produce." And for me to create an experience, you have to begin with your ears and not begin with your hands, and I think most people that put their hands to the plow to create an event don't pause long enough to really, really listen to what their client's trying to accomplish, put it through a unique system which we have at Elevate called the Flight Plan. Apt name, right? So we put it through our Flight Plan, which is our process of really taking what they said and creating an experience around it.

And so I think the best leaders that I have met don't have to have all the answers. They just have to ask better questions, and to create experiences, you look at my three favorite brands in the world, outside of Justin Timberlake. I think he's a brand in himself, but outside of him, it would be Apple, Nike, and Disney. Why those three?

Because Apple doesn't create a computer. I have two laptops on my desk. Both of them are Apple. I have my iPhone 8 that's sitting right here. I have products all around me at all times Apple. Why? Because it makes me feel cool. It connects to my story. It's very easy to use. It's user-friendly. When they don't get something right, they upgrade it. They've really listened to what me the end user wants. Now, they're a dynasty. I've never talked to anybody at Apple, but I know they're thinking about the end user first as opposed to, "Let me show you this cool computer."

Why do I love Disney? I have three kids. My kids are six, five, and four. We've been to Disney a handful of times already in their life, and I know that Disney doesn't present, "Let me show you how cool this is." They're thinking from my experience at Disney World. And then Nike, their brand I love so much for the simplicity around it. I think the best brands and the best creation of experiences, you don't have to go over the top on making it loud or rambunctious or over the top. And some events require that. I mean the best experiences, folks really just go zoom right to the bottom line of what that should be.

So that's just a handful of ways that I think about, but the main one for me is the listen, design, produce point, and maybe you have a listener, you're not getting the results you want at your events, maybe you should zoom back and ask a better question. And that's one that I ask a lot is, "What should your guests be thinking and feeling at the end?" It's amazing when you get that answer. It changes the programming. It might change the food. It might change how you do X, Y, Z. And so being open to those kind of questions I have found has helped me in my career.

Shantel: I'm glad that you mentioned those three examples, I mean specifically Apple. I was reflecting on my experience. Anytime I go into the store and the way that I feel when I'm there and when I leave. I mean cool is such a silly word, but I feel hip and like I'm innovating just by being in the store. And I imagine that's a large part of the lighting and the sound and the buzz that's there and what they're wearing. I never really thought about it from that perspective, so thanks for sharing.

Billy: Yeah. They don't have the typical cash register, right? They've even upgraded their experience that any of your associates around can make sure you get taken care of. I've met people that have really bad Apple experiences. They're not exempt from customer service magic. There's things that have gone wrong, but overall, you're right. They've really thought about ...

Even the way the phones are displayed at the store, it's very nice wood setup. It's very simple. It's very clear. The windows are wide open. You walk in and you feel very hip and cool. Me, I feel intimidated because I don't know the inner workings of a computer, but I know that when I use it, it's very intuitive and very easy and connecting. So, yeah, I would totally agree.

Shantel: So thinking of Chick-fil-A as one of the examples that you mentioned earlier on, are you creating large events at scale or even the micro moments of crafting that perfect messaging in store when one customer comes in or is a little bit on a larger scale?

| WEAR THE JERSEY |

Billy: Yeah, so we do a little bit of both. The first event that I got a chance to be a part of with Chick-fil-A was in 2010, and that's eight years ago. And now we get the really funny opportunity to be a part of a lot of their events. Most of the time when they open up a brand new store in a new city, whether that be in Las Vegas or Maine or South Florida or California, our team helps think through, "How does the brand translate to that community," really listening to what they're trying to accomplish, and then putting on an event for their teams but also their customers that make the most sense.

So it's really fun to hand-to-hand combat of just communicating with people about Truett's vision and what that was, but then down to the new team members is assisting operators and assisting people that are part of that particular brand communicate what the story should be for the customer. So it's been really fun to be a part of training events, celebration type events. We get a chance to help them with the Chick-fil-A kickoff game and then the bowl games, national championship, doing big activations on and off the microphone for those as well. So, yeah, we've had a very fun opportunity to work with them and other brands with their customers and also for others.

Look, we work with a lot of brands, and when we partner with a brand, we wear the jersey of that team that we're serving. So we don't come in as Elevate. We come in and put on the brand that we're serving. So if it's Coca-Cola, if it's Lincoln Financial, if it's a company called Alcon that makes contact lenses, we wear the jersey of the team that we're serving. And so we've got to really bought in to what their vision and mission is and make sure it aligns with us, and then we can full heart, mind, soul go after communicating what that is. So each brand we serve, we've had the very fun opportunity to do internal events but also external-facing events as well, which I think is what makes us unique.

Shantel: That's really neat. Now, Billy, I'm imagining you at a Justin Timberlake concert just jamming out thinking about getting into people's blood and coming up with this idea. Did you come from a background in events? I mean how did it solidify and when did you take that first step of, "Okay, I'm starting a company"?

Billy: So I'll go this direction with you. My parents divorced when I was five. I had this inadvertent belief that I had to work out love and work out being a part of something bigger. I think the inadvertent belief of kids when they're from that situation ... I know a lot of listeners. It's over 50% of folks in the US and around the world are a part of a situation like that. I had two really, really good parents from that perspective where they were always there for me in different ways, but I had this belief. And so I would always, honestly, try to work things off.

I played baseball through high school, and I played in college. Then I played for the Philadelphia Phillies for a little while. I was a right-handed pitcher, and it was really fun to play college and professional baseball. And that was all great, but during all of that, it was identity for me. I was like, "What is my identity? Who really am I when I bring myself to the marketplace?"

Something that always held me together was music. It was hip hop. It was pop. I joke when I tell my story but not really is that hip hop raised me. In a lot of ways, Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan, and A Tribe Called Quest raised me more than any teacher or parent did. So I learned a lot about music and the impact of what a lyric could really look like and the impact of music, and I realized that my entire elementary and middle school, high school, and even into college, there were songs, anthems, themes that just made me come to life, that song when you're in the gym that you hear that you just get fired up about, or that song that chills you out when you're on the beach or when you're going for a run somewhere and that one particular song.

Music has always been so important to my existence, and I'm grateful because the reason I love JT so much is he's transitioned from the Mickey Mouse Club to NSYNC to becoming the artist he is today, and his music has sort of ... I feel like I've grown up with music and grown up alongside him. And now you see him married to Jessica Biel, has a baby. His song he wrote recently called Young Man, I have a six-year-old boy, and I tear up when I hear that song because he's talking about this song he's singing to his son.

And then Macklemore has another song called Growing Up, and he talks about him having a child and how do I teach you how to be a young woman who's strong and who gets things done when I haven't even figured it out myself? So I think why I love music and creativity and the arts so much is it's a anthem for me to discover that I don't have to have it all together, that artistically I can, each day, design what my future could look like. So yeah, that's why I love his music, and those are the thoughts that collide for me whenever I hear a certain artist or hear a certain piece of music that inspires me.

Shantel: Yeah, I like how you mentioned that you don't feel this pressure to have it all figured out. I'm really glad that you mentioned it because I think as a business owner, one, there's some type A personalities, typically, some tendencies to want to know what to do in that moment, and there's not a guidebook and there's not a rule book of how you should do it, and it's truly just this learning and this process of figuring it out and learning from mistakes or challenges and then continuing to iterate and get better and better.

So I'm glad that you mentioned the JT song and also the Macklemore song because I think sometimes it's good to reflect and just remember people are in the same boat. We're all just trying to figure it out and be better versions of ourself every day.

| YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER |

Billy: Well, let's get serious for a second. Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Robin Williams. I would have loved to have paused and had a conversation with them before the tragic thing that happened to all three of them, and not just them three but many, many others. What is the chaos that goes on in your mind? If you're a leader listening to this podcast and there's chaos going on in your soul and in your mind, there's an opportunity to pause. And most the time it's a deep breath and a better conversation and a better question you can ask. Gosh, you don't have to have it all together.

I just talked to someone on the phone today. She is a incredible business leader, I mean leading multi-multi-multi-multi-million-dollar businesses. And part of the coaching business that I have called Elevate Your Culture, and we help people discover what kind of culture they want to create and push through in that. She was feeling so inadequate, and the words she used was, "I feel like, Billy, every single day I am a firefighter. I wake up, get the first text or the first email, there's another fire to put out, and I'm so reactive my entire day. I never can spend time thinking about where I want to take the business."

I said, "Whose fault is that?" And she paused, and it got really quiet for about four or five seconds on the phone. When you pause for four or five seconds on the phone, it's, "Did they hang up? Are they mad?" I could hear a little whimper. I heard a little whimper, and she said, "It was me. It's up to me." I said, "Okay, now that you know that, what are you going to do about it?" I said, "The fires aren't going to go away. You've got to figure out what you're going to make most important."

And, honestly, Shantel, I'm trying to figure out for me what I'm making most important every day because when I make the menial stuff important, I miss out on the good stuff. And so I would say that I directly do not have this figured out, but I'm learning every day as a business leader that, man, maintaining my own heart and having a correct posture on how I pursue stuff is the answer. There's nothing more important than that. I'm a pilgrim in the progress when it comes to figuring that out, and we're producing a lot of content and podcasts and videos and things that are around that topic of how to help people discover the best parts of who they're supposed to be and then just go completely rock that thing but also have grace when you fall because you will.

And then how do you get back up? How do you get punched in the mouth and then go down to the bottom and then get back up and make it happen again? I've been punched in the mouth a lot as a leader, and I've just learned over time that the things that seem so hard are not quite as hard if you have the right perspective. So, anyway, thanks for letting me rant for a second. I went off script a little bit, but, yeah, that's just where my heart's at this morning.

Shantel: No, no, I'm certainly glad that you shared. I was talking to my business owner last week ... or my business partner, and I was sharing that I just could not wait until the weekend and it had just been one of those crazy weeks, super draining. I completely overpacked each day and then that led to emailing super late at night, just draining. And I was complaining about it, and then I paused in the middle and I was like, "Why? I'm the only one that has control over my schedule-

Billy: That's right.

Shantel: So I was not quite sure why I was so looking forward ... anyway, this week has been a little bit different because I've been able to shave some things off to create that space and that grace for just pausing and thinking and working on the business as opposed to that fireman or firewoman at the front of the gates. Yeah, so it is, I mean, all in our control, so I'm glad that you prompted that, for sure.

Billy: Absolutely.

Shantel: Let's switch gears a little bit to your team. You have this culture training and coaching, and I imagine some of that spurred from your experience leading a team. How big's your team now?

Billy: So we have a team of 21 team members in Atlanta, just north of ATL, and you're right, the people that do great things in life begin with solving a problem. So we began in the event industry. I grabbed a microphone when I was first finishing playing baseball and began to host things, was on the mic MCing, getting crowds excited, engaging with a message. I was the glue between the keynote speaker. I would connect the video that was just played on the screen with the speaker that was about to speak.

And then what would happen was I would come off the stage, get the crowd excited or get them focused, whatever the moment needed, and the CEO or the president or the director of HR or someone with the event would come up to me and say, "Gosh, your team is helping me run this event. They're so positive. They go the second mile. They seem like they actually like working together. You guys are not stressed. What is that? I want to learn more."

Over time, I've just had more conversations with folks around culture. Your culture is your set of beliefs, your set of systems, the set of things that you allow within your context, and you, as the leader, get to decide what those are. And if people don't meet those, you fire them or you correct them, probably not in that order, but you figure out what are the things that need to change, need to adjust, and you get to set the parameter on that.

As I've dove more into culture and had more conversations, I'm a huge believer in assessments. I love the assessment called Kolbe, and I'm actually a certified consultant with Kolbe, and we do this a lot with groups. We'll have a group of 15 to 50 to 100 of folks that come in and we'll give them a Kolbe assessment, which measures your instinct, your volition of will. There's some great assessments out there like StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram. There's a lot of really good ones, and this is just another one that's great.

But the reason I love this one is it measures your instinct, like how do you do stuff? How do you make things happen? Do you initiate with data and information, or do you initiate with, "Let's just try it and see," and figuring out how that plays out. That's how I started my work in culture is loving those assessments myself. I got a chance to work at a few places and be a part of some things that use those, and now we've started coupling that with what we do with Elevate. And most of the time when we do an event, it'll end up in a conversation about culture, and then we'll take the folks to these assessments.

And then we have a 12-week coaching program that helps people coach through specifically, and here's the phrase, "Build the culture they desire." We don't tell people how to build quote, unquote, "the right culture." It's just helping them be honest about the culture they want, and then put the building blocks to get there. So it's been a byproduct and a back into versus, "Hey, I want to start a company that builds culture." That's not it. It's we're doing it, figuring it out, and as we go, documenting it and it turns out that you just do what's right by people, things happen, and the business has grown from there.

That's how I think about culture. Pretty passionate about it. I don't have a degree in it. I got a 910 on the SAT, barely made it through college, so I'm not a big believer in you got to have a certain degree or something or the number of letters after your last name to be quote, unquote, "qualified," to be a culture consultant. But I think you learn it more just by being in the grind and what works and what doesn't and how do you honor people. That's some of my passion around culture.

Shantel: I love that. What do you think are maybe three things that come to mind that has helped your culture specifically within Elevate?

| HELP ME UNDERSTAND |

Billy: Number one is being aware of what you allow. I think when you build a culture, it's not about the pizza party or the bowling alley night or the Christmas party or whatever. And those things are cool, but it's what you allow on the day-to-day basis. And for me, I would say that's the top thing, and then right behind that is I have more conversations quicker versus still waiting until your quote, unquote, "performance evaluation" later, I'll pull somebody aside and here's my posture when I see somebody do something crazy or I hear a quote or I hear something that went on. I'll pull somebody aside and say, "Hey, I know this wasn't your intention, but here's how that came across. Tell me more about that."

It's amazing when you enter with that posture how people aren't defensive. They're not like, "Why are you accusing me?" No, no. "I know you, and we hired you because you're awesome, and I know this wasn't your intention but here's how it came across. Just help me understand it." I got a really funny story about this. We have a team member that ... we're big on social media, just like telling stories in that way, and this gentleman, I told him to send in five to 10 different 15-second clips of him on the microphone of hosting and being a part of this group.

When he sent the videos in, he knows my top thing I never want on a video is someone wearing Apple AirPods in their ears. I don't like that when you're on the mic. It looks like you're disconnected. It looks like you're not really listening. So he sent these videos in, and every video he had the Apple AirPods in. I was pissed, like, "Why do you have those ... " and so my first initial response was, "I'm going to call and ream this person." But I counted to 10, throttled back.

And this would be my third thing I would mention is learning what your switch is to throttle back. As a leader, you want to get really mad, upset quickly, but I throttled back. I asked his leader, "Hey, help me understand ... " You notice the question. "Help me understand why those AirPods were in. You know I don't like those." So he called him very gently and asked about it. Turns out that the microphone on his phone was broken and the only way he could send the videos in, which was what I requested, was by putting the AirPods in so the microphones in the AirPods worked and he could send a video in with audio. But my response was I was ticked because he had the AirPods in, but it turns out he was just doing what I asked of him with the resources he had in front of him.

And I think in culture sometimes we get it twisted and we react to something that doesn't even happen. I think leaders are very quick to react, and leaders, being me, emotionally react to something that didn't even happen, which works you up and then you get so upset about it, and then you believe that it happened. Even if you get the facts and data that it didn't, you want to stand your ground because you're so mad. So those are just a handful of things from me, and those are pretty blocking and tackling, easy stuff that folks listening might say, "Oh, I've already got that down," but, man, I didn't. When I started doing some of those things, it really helped people see that I value them and appreciate them and want to listen and don't get too over-the-top emotional about it.

Shantel: I think you said something that's I think really great. It sounds like initially you pick up the phone or you pull them aside for an in-person. It didn't sound like you ever approached that situation over Slack or text or email, like very head-on and person-to-person, which I think is really unique and certainly a lesson I can learn and take away from that.

Billy: Well, I was going to say right inside of what you just said there is I do a talk when I speak to groups about communication that's called Kick the Bricks, and bricks, if you've ever seen a house being built, it takes mortar. They put it on top of the brick, and they stack it brick by brick, and eventually, that hardens and then the whole wall becomes a wall versus just one piece of brick.

So in communication, when someone frustrates you or whatever in culture, when the conversation I created around kicking the bricks is when a first brick gets laid, kick that puppy out of the way by just having a conversation. Don't let the bricks build up so high you walk into a room and there's a brick wall between you and someone else. And brick walls get built on Slack. They get built on text. They get built on voicemail. It's very hard to build a wall face-to-face.

And the quote that I would say when I talk about this is it's very hard to hate somebody up close. We all know this, but you get eyeball to eyeball to somebody, it's hard to hate somebody up close. You see and you understand. You can feel that emotion. You can empathize with where they are, and so yeah, I would tell you as well I have read texts from people through my emotion versus what they were actually saying, and I've made big mistakes in my career by doing that. So I've just learned, gosh, if there's something that's remotely serious, I'll text them back, "Hey, this is a really super important thing. Is there any way we can jump on a call? I know realistically it's hard to pause and stop and go meet somebody face to face, but at best, try to get on a phone call versus responding digitally because you can misinterpret. Things get screenshot, post to different places, taken out of context.

You know that in your industry. I mean people have blown up their careers by stepping out of context, and then you get the real story and nothing actually happened.

Shantel: Yeah, certainly. I mean I think the word, "Sure," comes to mind. That's probably my least favorite word. You read it, and it sounds passive aggressive. It sounds like you don't care, but some people could be like, "Yeah, sure." I mean, yeah, totally can read into that.

Well, Billy, just a couple more questions to wrap things up, and first and foremost, we were chatting offline beforehand, and you mentioned the word that you're a tinkerer. It almost sounds like that shiny object syndrome, lots of ideas, really excited to be moving in a lot of directions really quickly. What is next on the horizon for you?

| THE FUTURE IS GOOD |

Billy: In the New York City Fair of the 1960s, Walt Disney created this thing called the Carousel of Progress. And if you've been to it, it's a place at Magic Kingdom in Orlando that's right next to Space Mountain. There's usually no line because it's one of the more slow rides there, but it's got great air conditioning, so if you have kids, it's a great thing to go to. There's this song they play during this ride, and it was Walt Disney's way of predicting the future. It was his way of seeing what was next. It's this thing. You sit in the theater, and the theater spins and it shows you the 1950s, the 1980s, 2000s, and then later in 2050 or whatever.

But the song that transitions there is, "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 all his heart. When it becomes a reality, it becomes a dream for you and me, there's a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day." It's become my favorite song and my mantra around this question.

So that was a big prelude to the question, but I love thinking about what tomorrow's going to be. There's a group in Atlanta called Plywood People. They had this event last year, and they do it every year, called Plywood Presents. And their theme was, "The future is good." I believe that with all my soul. If you blame your success or lack thereof on Donald or Hillary, you're a loser.

And so I don't think current politics or finances or anything else should stop you from chasing your dream. That's me getting political for a second. I don't vote for a particular party. I vote across party lines on different things. I vote on policy and what is the best thing, so don't get it twisted. I'm not going either way on that one.

But, for me, when I think about what I'm tinkering and thinking on is I lean in and listen to the market a lot on where it's going, so virtual reality. We have four virtual reality systems. Today, as I'm recording this podcast, we are doing a three-hour virtual reality experience for a big brand in Atlanta, and it's not a gaming, shoot stuff kind of game. It is a meditation moment. So there are now VR experiences to help you meditate. So we're doing a virtual reality chill moment.

That fascinates me that the market is not trying to get louder and more rambunctious with their creation of events, but this particular is saying, "How do we pause and get people more reflective and the wellness thereof in their soul?" So I'm very, very keen on VR. I love YouTube is where I'm tinkering a lot. If you go to our YouTube channel, Elevate Experiences, we're creating a lot of content there. And that's our big push now is, "How do we create content on YouTube that's adding value to people and that is going to change the marketplace?"

I love augmented reality and robotics. I have a robot that walks around the office called Hexa, which is a robot that basically just goes and gets things and picks stuff up. I think that within the next decade we're all going to have a chip planted just inside of our eye where we can blink our eye and go to VR, AR, and actual reality. So what that's going to do for us in the marketplace? What does that do for event creators? I don't want to say the name, but Alexa is right here in my office, and she's now turning blue. What voice is going to do in the reality of things is a game-changer as well. So I'm tinkering and listening to the market more than others. I think there's groups that have their thing, and it's dead set focus and that's their thing.

Our thing is experience, and so that's going to change as the market changes. So I'm a tinkerer and a listener to what's important for the market now and what's important in experience creation. And frankly, I think if you're not doing that, I think your business will fold because the market gets to decide. I'm a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk, and Gary talks a lot about how NBC, ABC, CBS are going to be out of business soon because every time there's a commercial, what do we all do?

We pick up our phone and check Instagram or Facebook or whatever. What's that going to do for the marketing dollars as that swings? What is Netflix and Hulu and everything else doing to the market? Okay, cool. That is a precursor to what's going to happen within the experience industry and the culture industry as well is how do we get ahead of that? What does that mean?

So I'm tinkering in new things. I spend a lot of money on stuff that people think I'm crazy about, but I love the movie Back to the Future. If you've ever seen that movie, I'm kind of like Dr. Emmett Brown with the crazy, spiky, white hair who goes around and talks about 1.21 gigawatts and has this flux capacitor. You're like, "What is he doing?" Some of his stuff breaks. Most of his stuff doesn't work, but he found that one thing. He figured out the time machine.

And so my time machine is experience, and I'm pretty pumped to say that I have no idea where that's going to go, but I know that you're not going to be able to pull me off that because I've just seen the impact when you can create a good one.

Shantel: That's great. And, Billy, how can people get in touch with you, learn more about Elevate, and all of your businesses?

Billy: So @ElevateTeam on Instagram, ElevateExperiences.com on the web, and then personal brand wise, it's BillyBoughey.com. There's content going out there every week, every other week, around different topics. So yeah, I'd love folks to follow there, and for me, is I just want to add values to folks. So if you tune in, add a comment, hit that likey-like, subscribey-scribe, whatever that is, and when you do that, I'm so grateful for every comment that's there. So good, bad, ugly bring it. Always wanting to learn. So any ways that folks can follow, I'd be down.

Shantel: Thanks, Billy. Thanks so much for carving out the time. We appreciate it.

Billy: You got it. Thank you.