18th Anniversary Celebration - Founder's Talk

Gail Davis, 31 May 2017

Eighteen years ago I walked away from a very rewarding career at EDS.  I learned so much about business, problem solving and customer service from the Dallas-based IT company.  As I started my company it was a bit of a hobby.  I had one speaker, Nando Parrado, and an office in my home.  Within the first six months, I leased my first office space.  For the next 11 years, I was based in Colleyville, a suburban area west of DFW airport.  I was afforded the luxury of being very close to my two boys as they were growing.  In many ways, GDA became my third child.  

In the early years, I focused mainly on expanding our speaker database.  I distinctly remember hitting the goal of reaching 500 speakers. Then 1,000 speakers, 2,500, 4,000,  5,000 and one day I said, “Stop”.  I realized we can not be all things to all people, and we needed to qualify and quantify our speakers.  My solution was to implement a triage system for speakers.  We created three categories:  high, radar and low.  Simply put, I encouraged my team to focus on our high priority speakers.  These are speakers that not only have a booking history with us, but we know them on a personal level and can stand by their delivery each and every time.  Today we have information on over 5,000 speakers, but we believe our highest value comes from recommending one of the 700 high profile speakers.  This elite group of speakers have proven themselves time and again and have our seal of approval. 

I am forever grateful to the clients who have given us the opportunity to serve their speaker needs.  I particularly value those who ask us to partner; to take a seat at the table and work together to find the best solution.  These are the ones who know the true value of partnering with a bureau. We have many clients that have been with us for over a decade but one stands out in particular: Barbara Lane. Barbara has booked a speaker for an HR Conference in Houston every year since 2002. That kind of loyalty can never be over appreciated. 

There have been many various employees who have made this company what it is today. I refer to past and current employees as GDA Family. Nothing makes me happier than a former employee checking in. Today my employee with the longest tenure is Julie O’Keefe.  I am grateful for all she has done to make GDA a success in her 11 years with GDA. Julie has held every role in our company from my assistant, accounting, logistics, CRM project management and now for many years a trusted sales advisor. 

The last six years have been a huge growth phase for GDA, which included the rebranding from Gail Davis & Associates to GDA Speakers. Additionally in 2011,we said goodbye to our Colleyville location and moved to our uptown location, making 3500 Oak Lawn home. 

Earlier this year, we launched GDA Podcast.  This is our latest evolution to keep GDA current and bring value to our clients. This was the brainchild of my oldest son, Kyle, who is the producer and co-host. We release three weekly episodes featuring GDA speakers engaging in topics that make them unique thought leaders. 

At GDA, there is never a dull moment.  I am eternally grateful to every speaker, employee and client who has made this journey possible.

Gail Davis