Today we’d like to introduce you to LaDarrell Hopkins.
Thanks for sharing your story with us LaDarrell. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
As I child, I was always very outspoken and passionate. I’ve always had a niche for engaging people with my words. School to me was more about developing my social and interpersonal communication skills. My parents showed us love, but being the oldest child carried more responsibility. They were harder on me when it came to my grades. Failure was not an option. It was not even a word in our household growing up. As a rent-free tenant in their household, I understood that maintaining good grades was just a part of the deal. I maintained an A and B average, but I was not a great student. It was very challenging for me. There were many times that I lacked engagement in class. Like most kids, I would find myself staring at the clock waiting for that bell that indicated I had a few minutes to go socialize with my friends. I was that type of student. I was drawn to diverse extra-curricular activities that presented opportunities to listen and learn about diverse people. As an athlete during grade school, I was on the basketball, football, and track team, but I also was in the choir and performed in plays. I was even the tenor of a barbershop quartet in High School. Yes. This larger than life personality and larger than life person at 6’3 300 lbs, sung tenor in a barbershop quartet.
I was a natural athlete, but my passion was never in becoming a great athlete. I did not put the work into becoming a great athlete. It was fun, but it was not engaging to me. My true love and engagement was in singing. My favorite period in grade school, next to lunch, was probably choir. I started choir at a very young age, and always had great choir teachers to develop my voice over the years. They helped me develop it so well that I qualified for the prestigious Illinois State Choir and Honors Choir. My voice would later help me to qualify and be awarded a four years Performing Arts Talent scholarship to go to Prairie View A&M University. It was here that I really started to understand the true value of my voice. It was not just in the singing. It was people actually listening to my voice when I spoke. It was how I communicated with others.
College for me was one big social experiment. College felt like the best time to be expressive. For me, it was an indication of who I was going to be after college and beyond. You really start to develop the skills that will prepare you for the real world. No one is forcing you to go to class. For many, it’s their first real taste of freedom. I still maintained good grades, but the responsibility to maintain them was on me and me alone. Fortunately, my parents helped create good habits on grades at an early age. I joined diverse organizations like the Chicago Club, NAACP, and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. I developed my communication skills. Although I was a business major, my favorite classes were interpersonal communication and business communication. This continued to confirm my love for communicating well with others and sharing my voice. No moment confirmed this more than when I was nominated Mr. Prairie View A&M University; an award given to less than 40 men since the college opened its doors. It was a real pageant. There was an interview, a talent, an athletic wear, and a question at the end. I won every category. I sung well. I spoke well. I commanded the stage well. I was honored and humbled by the outcome. This opportunity would propel my speaking to a totally different level. I led engaging seminars for the students and spoke as the master of ceremony at several events and pep rallies. I believe without a doubt that these events helped me secure my first sales job out of college.
I worked in Newton, IA at Maytag for six months before I got a great opportunity to be in pharmaceutical sales at Astra Zeneca. The two biggest things that six month period taught was how to become a better listener, and good service is the priority over the sell. I was the number one inside salesperson before I left Maytag. Every sell I ever made was on the phone. I never met a customer, but I did develop some good relationships. This experience confirmed again that when I was engaged, I performed better. At Astra Zeneca, I was awarded the National Selling Simulations “Leader Among Peers Award” in my training class. It was such an honor to have my peers select me for this. The class consisted of first-time sales specialists, seasoned sales specialists, and district managers from all over the nation. After I walked on the stage to accept the award, many of them chanted, “Sing! Sing!” It allowed me to reminisce about the journey. It really made me think about how singing at a young age helped develop the voice accepting the award.
I spent 15 more years in medical sales for various companies. I had great success within these companies, but the biggest success was removing the fear I had about entrepreneurship. In 2016 I created my first limited liability company. The Green Thumb Consultant operates as a consulting company. Most of my consulting clients were initially physicians. I had so many years of experience with this group that it was very natural. I had success with this group, but I was not always engaged. I started to consult for other businesses and organizations. The goal was always the same; I wanted to create optimal value for my customers. I wanted to help them grow. The relationships that were being developed confirmed what I had been knowing since I was a child. I loved communicating with diverse people. I enjoyed the service component of developing organizations and people, but I still had a big appetite for speaking to audiences. My time in medical sales allowed me to speak and present to small and large audiences. I could present at a breakfast with three people or a lunch with 100 people. I would lead meetings and sales training, I consistently scratched that itch of speaking almost everyday for 15 years, but once I became an entrepreneur, I focused on consulting.
It was not until organizations like the National Sales Network (NSN) and St. John’s Methodist Downtown gave me opportunities to share my voice on bigger platforms, that I realized that my unique skill set gave me the ability to speak and train full time. NSN Houston gave me the opportunity to lead the first-ever Sales Training with the NBA Houston Rockets. I have also closed out many of the events to sell the benefits of membership to each audience. St. John’s gave me an opportunity to close out a Palm Sunday Sermon. After these events, opportunities to speak started presenting themselves even more. The moment I received my speaker feedback from a big international audience, I realized that I could help so many other people develop and find the value in their voice. I created a training called “How to Leverage the Power of Persuasion and Influence in the Workplace,” for the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) International 100th Year Conference and Expo. I was able to help so many people leverage the power of their persuasion and influence. I created the presentation while simultaneously writing my first personal development book, “The Unspoken For Win Language: A Universal Approach to Winning Any Conversation. This book really focuses on the challenges we have as a society to stay engaged in conversations, the struggles of keeping our audiences engaged with our story, and creating better communication habits to win any conversation. I emerged myself in the study of communication. I researched over 20 books on negotiation, engagement, communication, habits, and meditation. I became a student in the writing process, but this time, I was more engaged than I had ever been in grade school. The stars were aligning. I had created my own career based on the things that were most engaging to me throughout my entire life. I speak in-depth about the impact a lack of engagement has on a person’s well being, success, and overall communication skills. My job was centered around dynamic speaking, serving others, and creating personalized value for my audiences.
Through a lot of my talks, I remind my audiences that the most important product they will ever sell is their self. I notice that many people I would encounter did not know how to sell their self. This is why I shifted my focus from just organizations and small businesses to people. People are brands. People are their own businesses. I started really doing the research and asking specific questions that aligned with my experience and skill set. What is a platform or position without the people? What is a company without strong people that know their value? How much value are you getting from the people if they are not engaged? A study performed by Gallup in 2018 stated that 85% of people in the workplace were not engaged worldwide. I have heard many of my peers say, “When LaDarrell speaks, people listen.” If they are listening, they are engaged. The stars continued to align. I re-branded the company and became LaDarrell Hopkins Speaks. With over 20 years of experience in singing, speaking, and selling value to others, I started helping individuals find their voice and value in other areas of their lives. I became a student again. I saw great value in the individual sessions and speaking opportunities, but I knew there was a better way to maximize my time and still impact more people. This was the inception of my three weeks online course, “The For Win Language Academy”. The course is jam packed with methods and tools to create more value in your voice, so you can tell better stories to your audiences. By the end of the course, you will have more engagement when you speak to people like significant others, hiring managers, people at networking events, or even huge groups of people you may be presenting something special to. I created several exercises and tools centered around using your voice as an instrument, value beyond the sound of your voice, communicating effectively, and closing for the things you desire. Many people are not happy in their current situations. Somewhere along the line, they lost engagement. I truly believe my purpose in life is to help as many of those 85% of people as I can, get engaged and be more engaging to their audiences. “The For Win Language Academy” is the perfect solution to a worldwide engagement epidemic.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Throughout my career, I was in environments where I could focus a lot of my time and energy on my strengths. I could focus on being a creative salesperson and communicator because there was a department that handled most of the things I did not like to do. I am not a fan of administrative work. I do not like sitting behind a desk for hours at a time. When you start your own business, you are all of the departments. I did not have to be perfect, but I did have to push through things that were not my strong skills. I had to create better habits for the administrative duties. I created better systems to help me attain my goals. It was very difficult.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I help people create optimal value in their voice so they can tell better stories to their audiences. That’s the short version. “The For Win Language Academy” is really a great course for anyone trying to create more value with any audience. I took the best strategies that I have learned in over 30 years and packaged it in a three weeks course. I still do some small business consulting through The Green Thumb Consultant, but my main focus is helping people grow. I am known as a great speaker, value seller, and closer. I have studied some of the best professional speakers in the world. What makes me unique to most speakers is most of them are not award-winning singers and award-winning sales professionals. Most of them do not look like me either. I engage others with the same skills that I have been developing over a lifetime through my own engaging experiences. I’m in tune with my voice, but more importantly, I am in tune with the people.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
This industry is growing and will continue to grow. Engagement has been the hot topic for decades. We almost over use the word, but underdevelop it in people. If studies are coming out as late as 2018 saying that 85% of people in the workplace are not engaged worldwide, we have a lot of work to do. With the emergence of social media, people want to find faster ways to get engaged and get more done. In some ways, social media has robbed many of us of more genuine face to face interpersonal conversations. The people that have that skill set will outlast all of the trends. Creating optimal value in your voice helps you tell better stories to your audiences. Steve Jobs once said, “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.” How powerful is your story?
- Small Business Consulting starts at $500
- Buy the book “The Unspoken For Win Language: A Universal Approach to Winning Any Conversation” (paperback and e-book) $14.99
- The For Win Language Academy (Special introductory price) $349.97
- Personal Development/Coaching starts at $200
- Website: www.ladarrellhopkins.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/ladarrellhopkinsspeaks
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/theladarrellhopkins
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/lhopkinsspeaks
- Other: www.linkedin.com/in/theladarellhopkins