Former Tulsa -Based Entrepreneur Enters Speaking Circuit, Promotes Biz Seminars
Davis, KirLee, THE JOURNAL RECORD
After three long, troubling years of criminal and civil litigation, Bill Bartmann finally allowed himself to believe the nightmare's end was near. But that forced the bankrupt founder of CFS to face another dark dilemma: How could he dig himself out of this hole?
That's when Bartmann received an invitation to address the University of Tulsa College of Business Administration Family-Owned Business Institute. He took the free gig even though he lacked all the classic attributes for public speaking.
I have a raspy voice. I speak with a lisp. I can put you to sleep. I'm not Billy Graham, he said with a smile. I was scared to death. I abhor public speaking.
But as he made that speech, surrounded by attentive eyes hanging on his words, he recognized the message far outweighed whatever he lacked in his delivery.
I realized that even if you said it through your nose, people would get it, he said.
That January 2005 revelation spurred the start of Bill Bartmann Enterprises, a Tulsa-based business training and seminar management firm that also oversees his growing speaking career.
Earning $10,000 from his first keynote speech that May - that was my first real paycheck in seven years - the entrepreneur who built seven different businesses in seven different industries soon found offers flowing in for engagements, allowing him to build more than $100,000 in revenue last year.
Bartmann now charges $15,000 for a keynote address or $25,000 for a full day's attendance, exclusive of travel or hotel costs. He foresees doing more than 75 this year.
I'm having the time of my life, he said Wednesday night, preparing to fly to Lansing, Mich., for another keynote.
But that is just the start of his business.
On April 28 and 29, he launched his first two-day seminar for intensive training on success issues and business management strategies. That Orlando, Fla., gathering attracted 980 people. His second seminar, on May 6 in Los Angeles, drew 1,100.
He offers an apprenticeship program for graduates of the seminars, where they can market future gatherings for Bill Bartmann Enterprises. Selling 30 tickets at $1,000 to $1,297 each secures a seminar by covering the $30,000 operating cost. Bartmann splits the profits from all other ticket revenue with the graduate.
Seminar attendees become seminar marketers, he said, explaining his business strategy. It works out great for them, and it's great for me.
Between establishing these two revenue streams, keynote addresses and seminars, Bartmann released his biography, Billionaire Secrets to Success, which has sold about 20,000 copies. His firm also offers CDs and DVDs of some of his presentations, as well as an audio book version of his book and workbooks on writing business plans, loan proposals and employee handbooks.
Through them all, Bartmann expects his firm to soon grow into a multimillion-dollar enterprise.
I think I've got 20 years left in me at being effective on stage, he said, foreseeing a vast audience for his knowledge. Kathy and I are already talking about getting our G4 back.
Bartmann doesn't crave the $25 million Gulfstream business jet as a luxury. It's a tool, he stressed, helping him to cut expenses both for his firm and those who hire him. But desiring the G4 does reflect his ambition to leave behind the morass of the past seven years.
Most remember the entrepreneur as the man who created the Tulsa debt collection juggernaut Commercial Financial Services in 1986, only to see it crash under fraud allegations. From rising to the ranks of the billionaires, earning at one point more than $500,000 a day, Bartmann endured destitution and bankruptcy through three years of court battles and $500,000 in legal fees to clear his name. At one point he and his family lived for a year on a $10,000 credit line. …