Steve Edwards is the founder and CEO of Premier Virtual which specializes in virtual career fairs. With their extremely easy user interface, hosts can have their event set up within minutes and ready to go live within 24 hours of selecting the date and time. Premier Virtual has perfected the virtual career fair by providing employers with completely customizable “booths” with employer “Interactive Hiring Room” that allows the employer to text chat and use the internal video chat to invite the candidate to a live “real time” interview. Jobseeker chat function allows them to send/receive messages from any booth in the event. So if you miss them initially, they can still respond even if they have already left your booth. Employers can respond to jobseeker’s questions, or initiate the chat themselves from the Employer Hiring Room. Back-end functionality allows the ability to follow up with jobseekers after the event.
Their platform has helped nearly 20,000 employers connect with over 200,000 registered job seekers. Advanced features allow recruiters to communicate with multiple candidates simultaneously. Its integrated one-on-one video functionality allows hiring teams to invite candidates into a video interview replicating in-person events.
Josh: What is up everybody, Josh Tapp here again and welcome back to the lucky Titan Today we're here with Steve Edwards who is actually one of three Steve Edwards I know but he's the coolest I'm just gonna say right here, hopefully that two Steve's, don't hear this but I'm excited to have Steve here because he is the CEO and founder of premiere virtual, this guy really capitalized on the Coronavirus, impact on career fairs and taking them completely virtual and I love his model and I'm excited to hear how they've been doing, how they actually grew the company, obviously, through the pandemic, and really where they're going right now so Steve, say what's up, everybody, we'll hop in.
Steve: How you doing? Steve Edwards here, look forward to being on the show today.
Josh: Yeah, it'll be exciting. So Steve, you know, let's, let's talk to this, because you were explaining this to me before the interview where, you know, you, you come from a sales background, but you also saw that the recruiting industry was just a nightmare, right, that's one of the hardest industries to work in from, I mean, I haven't personally worked in it but I do know a lot of people who have and it's one of those, it feels like a sales job but it's also like an HR position, it's really such an interesting position so walk us through that pivoting moment that made you realize you needed to start from a virtual.
Steve: So when I got out of the army, and came to Florida for college, and I got into the job fair industry, because I had attended a lot of jobs as I was building sales forces for other organizations and I knew this company up in New Jersey that put on a different type of an event, it was an event specific or industry specific type job fairs, companies got to speak in front of the candidates to say, here's who we are, here's what we do, here's what we're looking for, so to me, it was efficient the minute I went to that job fair, I was like, this is the most efficient job I've ever been to in my life, I love it when when the company that I was within shut down and you know, I called the owner of that company and said, Let's expand, let's expand your market, let's come down into Florida where really wasn't happening and that's where I lived and so I created this part of that business from the North Carolina tn Florida to Texas, Arizona and I was doing that for nine years. 2018, you know, people would rather apply online and wait in line. So candidates coming in the job fairs when candidates upcoming companies upcoming so that took a hit into my revenue, you know, I had a young, one young son at the time, and I'm like, how am I going to make this happen and I had one of my mentors, say, I just landed a virtual reality client, maybe there's some synergy here so I get on the call with this guy and this guy pitches me virtual job fairs and I've never heard of virtual governors and I was like, this is a future. Instantly from the second I saw a demo, I said, this is the future so then I started, you know, running virtual job fairs, I ran five of them, and my clients loved it but they wanted more so I came in and I went to the you know, the owner of the other company, I said, I want to switch 100% virtual, he's like, nope, nope, I want nothing to do with virtual so I parted ways and we came down here and this was in December of 2018, I was going to a LinkedIn local event and it was all recruiters that were that was the group that was put on, and I was there and they were like, the thing is, is what's going to be your impact in 2019 and I came and on my way down there, I said, this is it, I am starting the company, I didn't know the name of it yet but I said I'm going 100% virtual, I'm gonna build my own platform and I announced it that night, December 2018. Every recruiter started laughing at me and they said, it's not gonna work, virtual recruiting does not work and I was just like, hold my beer and I just didn't realize that there was going to be a Corona but you know, kind of fast forward 2019 we started developing the software for the virtual platform, August, we started testing it with live clients, November, I switched the business model, I said, I'm not gonna put on virtual adapters anymore, I'm gonna license my software so that organizations out there that, you know, from a small mom and pop shop, could do a virtual doctor up to the Amazons of the world that could do that and I'll say Amazon was something every year in around October, you hear them start to advertise, right, in 2018, It was gonna hire 10,000 people in a week. 2019 is gonna hire 20,000 people in 2020, It was gonna hire 100,000 people. And I'm like, any company can do this any company could have a national hiring event, right, but Amazon just had the power of the name and I said, anybody can do this and so you know, we switched the business model started license and software launch stars landed our first big client in January of 2020, started getting ready for everything COVID hit from the minute COVID hit in March, we started doing events from April until this December, we did over 2500, virtual of our 2000 virtual events, from there, and I'm like, I did more events in eight months than we did nine years of in person and we had more people, there was more data and it was just what do people want from a, you know, an entrepreneur that's starting their business that wants to grow, they want analytics, right? They want to, they want to see how many people came to the job fair, how many people, you know, registered? How many logins, what did they look at when they were in the job fair and I just I built it, a lot of the things that I built in the reporting aspect, and the analytics are stuff that would frustrate me a job fairs that I would go to a company and say, how many people did you talk to the janitor, I don't know, how many resumes you get? I don't know. I'm like, Oh, it looks like you got a big stack. How many interviews Did you schedule, I don't know so I wanted to put all of that information kind of into the virtual platform of it and then we had, you know, the our legacy platform got launched and, you know, we did some really good things on it and then we just launched not even a month ago, our second version of our software and we did an event last week on the software that had 1691 companies on it and 17,000 it's a record job fair that's out there. The most companies have ever been on a job fair, and 17,000 candidates in almost a million booth views. So that means almost a million times somebody logged in to look at one of the booths that were out there so
Josh: Geez! well, congrats. That's a huge accomplishment, especially, I mean, you said you started this really, I mean, the virtual side of it, like last year and I guess the question behind my mind, and most of the people who are listening to this are probably wondering, the same thing is, how do you get that many businesses involved that quickly, let alone the candidates who were looking for jobs, what was your strategy?
Steve: Well, one is I hired a phenomenal team and, you know, I made I made some phone calls to we had a team when you know, when this first started, you know, we had just hired it was myself, my business partner and an admin, and we had just hired two people that kind of dialed the phones for us and when you know, we went in supplement, they weren't even here two weeks, and then COVID hit and went from coming into an office to go home and work and we actually had three that we hired but you know, one guy, we used to call him sleepy tea, because every morning he would wake up and he's doing all this calls from his bed, and he didn't want to work but we went now we have almost 30 on our team and it was just bringing in, I called in some of my buddies that I was in the army with that I knew were in sales, that looking one of my friends was company 19 years, and he called me lost his job due to COVID and I said, Come on so we built a team and, you know, we went after, you know, part of it was Google, you know, doing Google ads, but LinkedIn phone calls, you know, our phones were ringing to, you know, going from a nobody to just a couple events that we did, our name started to get out there and you know, once we started to get into a couple of the verticals like workforce development boards, we're now number one in that industry, for in every state has that and we started to get them and then our name started to get out there because we were doing everything to make sure that clients were happy and I don't care what product that is that somebody's selling out there, the customer support has to be there for them and I switched my team and I said, Okay, not just sales reps, we're going to now bring account managers and so as soon as somebody goes in, they now have a dedicated account manager so they can reach that person at all times, we handle all the trainings, I go above and beyond for my clients because we do this on a daily basis, most people don't so when somebody buys your product, and they're like, how do I use it? Hey, this is really cool but how do they use it so you know, having the team and I would hire more customer support than I did front end sales people, because I wanted to make sure that we were taking care of our clients, because we take care of our clients, then our name gets out there and then they're referring to their friends and their colleagues in other locations well, and I also built the platform very easy to use because in software, a lot of people think, Hey, I'm going to build this really cool technology and it's cool to them, Is it cool to that end user? Right? How are they gonna use it right? That person who's you know, working at Burger King, or maybe a receptionist or even an HR, they may not be that tech savvy, so you can't make it too confusing for that. Um, so yeah, you know, building it, it was really built from the end user standpoint of view to make it easy, and then to make, you know, our customer support even better so one thing I did anybody out there, whatever your if it's a, you know, technology or anything, build it for the end user, not just all the coolest features, who might my competitors have some cool features out there, but it confuses people and they don't want to use it so once you get them confused, they're not going to use the use the software.
Josh: Right? Well, and what I love about the way you've built your offer, and this is a point we've been talking about a lot on the show recently is that I mean, your offer doesn't have to be complex, everybody kind of prescribes to this billion dollar company philosophy where you have to have this big complex, a bunch of different funnels a bunch of different pieces to your company, when in reality, especially when you're starting from the ground, Just the simplest offer, you should be able to say it in like a sentence, you know, and in your case, it's a virtual career fair, It's not anything, quote, unquote, spectacular for the end user, because they're, they're coming in saying, Hey, I just need to get a job, I want to see what companies are available on for companies. They're like, hey, if I could do this, you know, in shorts at my house of course, I'll do that right, as long as it yield something so I love that the offer was that simple and I think that's honestly why you didn't need such a big sales team at the beginning because it was so simple. Wasn't this,
Steve: I like to say I took a job board and a job fair, I put them together and I injected some steroids in it. You know, very simple, right? What does the candidate want to do when they go to an event, they want to be able to click on a category and say, I'm looking in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a sales job and see the company just that are hiring and sales, then they want to see what the company does. They want to see what the jobs are submit their resume chat and go into a video and you can do that all in a matter of seconds on the platform, right but if they go to that job fair, and they wait in line for 30 minutes, they get to the front of the line and all of a sudden, it's like what jobs you have for we're hiring for marketing. Oh, yeah, that's not what we want, oh, I just wasted 20 minutes, let me go to the next one so these candidates can go in and click see what they do, and then only talk to the companies that they're interested in efficiency.
Josh: And and honestly, you know, going back to my college days, I mean, that the benefit of that for for the person seeking a job is so much higher, because you can you can say, Okay, these are, it's like sounds like a job or you being able to filter for, hey, these are the type of careers that I want so I'm going to kind of turn the conversation here a little bit, Steve, I'm curious what your monetization method is with it because you know, you're doing these massive events, you know, where are you making your money?
Steve: So we make money in two ways. One, it's either a single event, or it's an annual license. So we have organizations that, you know, have signed up the five years with us, so they have five year agreement, our annual license, and I do it a little bit different. One, and I got a plug this is I didn't do it, a lot of my competitors did when COVID hit, they skyrocketed the price, because they looked at I'm going to hit a home run for a little bit, then it's you know, I look and say, Hey, I'm keeping my prices where it was at because when COVID is over which now we know that we don't know if it'll ever be over but in the beginning, we didn't know that is, hey, they're not going to pay when COVID is over, they're not going to pay these astronomical prices, they're going to pay the normal price where I've kept my price like this. Yeah, we had to go up a little bit, just to cover, you know, cover costs and stuff like this, but it was crazy with sounded. So really, the annual agreements are the biggest thing for us and we let our clients have unlimited events, I don't nickel and dime them to say you can only have so many companies or you can have only so many candidates, or you can only download so many resumes to this, you know, and there's all these little things that that are out there and and again, are there some companies out there that are making more money than me, Yes but I'm not here just about that. Right? Yes, we're here, right, we're gonna keep the lights on but we're also helping a lot of people get back to work, you know, I was telling you, you know, that statewide job fair that had 17,000 candidates, I got a lot of people back to work so that is a huge thing, that it's not just the financial aspect, it's also we're doing something good out there.
Josh: Right and I love that, I mean, that's such an interesting methodology as well, because I agree, I think a lot of people's came out and said, hey, let's let's boost our prices but the reality is that if you'll you'll still you're still writing on the fact that people are wanting to go virtual, but you're not saying Oh, just because that's there, I'm going to raise my price because that's kind of like a monopolization tactic, I personally don't agree with that, either, I think you just you leverage that because people are going to know hey, this guy sticks to his guns, even when we could be making a lot more money, long term, you're going to outlast most of those companies, because they'll just take off and disappear next year, you know? Yeah. So Wow, what a unique strategy so so with you and the way that you've been growing this company, because you have had to scale very, very quickly, who would you say is either the key player or the key agency, that's kind of that that catalyst for your success outside of your own company?
Steve: You know, that's a, that's a tough question because there's, there's so many, you know, when I look at my team, and you know, when I look at who's my MVP of the team, is, there's so many of that, and they all play such a vital role, you know, and I'll even say this, right, in one of the Florida magazines, we were voted, you know, number 16, small company to work for in the state of Florida, that shows that our companies are, you know, our employees are here, but the company that, you know, came in, really made us a catalyst is I can't even say, right, American Association of employment, education shows our platform so that kind of got us into the education, a career source in Florida, you know, work in Texas, you know, came in and just kind of got our name out there and, you know, these organizations that that used us, you know, there's a career source Palm Beach County, the guy who runs that is Michael Corbitt and I will tell you, he has been a champion, because from day one, he saw what virtual could do, and they ran and it didn't matter if it was an individual company, or a large job fair or resource of it and you see, some people were very blinded, right, even when COVID came out and they were doing the same thing over and over, right? for 20 years, they do the same thing, right, the recruiting, same thing over and over and over. They weren't looking at new options and then some of the people that came out, like, you know, Michael Corbitt, and there's, there's a lot of those that are out there but he happens to be local to us and he went out, and he really said, here's how we're going to use virtual and they stepped outside the boundaries of what our platform really did and that showed us is, you know, more we did stuff with high school students claim your future showcase where usually all these things were in person and it just showed other organizations, what they could do, out there, we did one with a school that did their stem project on there, where instead of you know, in person, they had their science project, and the judges would come by, well, now they did the same thing, but on our platform and so they had a little video of their experiment, and they had their about them so the judges came in and just got to read, watch their video, and then do their voting, we had a client do a murder mystery on our platform, where they built an entire murder mystery, like the clue game, on the platform so it was people, you know, our clients that would think of stuff that were outside of what our normal platform was, and then use it for different things because then we could say, oh, we can go to different companies and say, Here's more of a value, It's not just a career fair, It's a individual training or resource and have some fun with the platform.
Josh: Yeah, well, what a fun way to leverage the platform, I love to see people do that, like take these take these tools and make them even better for their for their own purposes so I appreciate that assessment, I was like your your clients, some of the first clients were those catalysts for making it take off because I think it's the sign of a strong entrepreneur to know that there's your there's other people that that influence your success, you know, because I've interviewed a lot of people, and even the billionaires will tell you, it's, it's timing, and it's luck and obviously, you can position yourself to be in the position to accept that many different times but there's usually a key player who just helps you kind of skyrocket and kick off the ground, you know, that key client or a mentor somebody, so for you, it seemed to be some key client accounts that ended up just really helping that platform grow so I'd love to see that.
Steve: Yeah, and I do multiple mentoring programs as well so you know, I know there's a lot of entrepreneurs on this on this channel and stuff is, you know, what if you can look for local mentoring programs, so fau here in South Florida, it's called tech runway, I was I was part of that they actually came to me and said, hey, we want you to be part of this, where it was that but I also went there's called another one down here in South Florida called the venture mentoring team and these are just people that are volunteer your time, it could be business owners that sold their business and they are here and it's almost like having a board of directors and no cost, right, you're not giving up a percentage of your you know that ‘cuz so many people are like, oh, I'll be uh, I'll help you out. I'll mentor you but you got to give me a percentage and they don't do that and they're here and I'll tell you that my first one with the venture mentoring team I got in and they had me do a pitch scrub and so they went over my pitch and this was pre COVID and I walked out of there, I call my business partner and I was like, I was like, I gotta go have a beer. I was like, I felt like I just went 12 rounds with Tyson, like, they beat me up so bad about everything but they said, this is why we do this, because we want to make sure that you're coachable and that you're going to listen to ideas that we have, because we're gonna volunteer our time so if you don't have a good mentor, there, find one, they're out there, right, there's they're there. You know, some of them are the college's I mean, especially if you're a veteran as well, they're all over like veterans, Florida, here. They have mentoring groups as well and a lot of the colleges, some small colleges it, you know, last year, when I went, I just took a veterans entrepreneurship class, well, that class then led me to a pitch competition for this for the school, it was that FAQ, I won that pitch competition and then I went to the state level, and then I won that pitch competition so then that got my name out there, right, that got my first article in a magazine about me, because it was it was free press, right so if you're looking, it's not just about, you know, the company, but as this you know, as a CEO, right, I have to build my brand as well, so that people understand Steve Edwards, but they also understand the premier virtual site so you know, you can go out there and you can get free press right, just by getting into, you know, a pitch competition, a, you know, a mentoring group or something like that, because they're all over the place and the more you can get your name out there, the more it gets your company name out there, you can, you know, not all that cost money, you know, getting a PR firm is expensive and, you know, you can there's a lot of stuff that you can do just just because of the mentor groups.
Josh: Right, Yeah, I love that. Well, and and you know, super coming to the end of the interview here so can you tell people where to connect with you first as well.
Steve: You can go to premiervirtual.com and learn a little bit about what we do on the website, if you want a strategy session to just about how to, you know, help your business grow, if you're looking to hire or tradeshow or anything or if you want a demo of the platform, you can get all of that right there, one of my team members can be there and either show you a strategy session, or demo the platform in premierevirtual.com
Josh: love it to make sure you check that out to premierevirtual.com, we'll also link that here in the show notes as well, for those of you who are watching this so Steve, I want to ask you one final question just to wrap up this interview, because you have given us a lot of really good content, I hope that people will take a lot of the lessons you've learned from here, or you've taught here as well as the people that you recommend it so if you could give us one final parting piece of guidance, what would it be?
Steve: I'd say there's two one, find a good mentoring group, but two hire the right people around you and sometimes the right people might be the people you think are wrong and I'm going to elaborate on that a little bit is, you know, I had one of the mentors that was speaking to me one time said, everybody now growing up that's coming up into the entrepreneur, young business, especially in the technology world is have somebody on your partnership that is based as an IT because you're If not, you're always going to be relying on other people that you don't know so have the team around you that I don't know everything but I've built a team around me that if I have a question I can go to you know, and I gave up a percentage of my business to have the right team members around me so that we can grow.