W - Sence - DSCF8136 copyJohn Spence reads over 100 business books each year to help him teach people how to be effective managers and employees in their companies.

ALACHUA – Even though he's done it countless times, he still gets nervous when he has to speak in front of a crowd.

John Spence, 49, from Newberry, has been called a motivational speaker, but he prefers the term informational speaker. From his office in the city of Alachua, he runs a business that takes him to speak in front of employees of multinational companies and local businesses alike, lecturing them on teamwork, leadership, embracing change and creating a "culture of winning." He speaks to groups of many sizes, from large crowds, to small teams and mentors individual business owners.

"I'm sort of an introvert," Spence said. "I don't really like crowds, but I do like helping people."

He still gets emails from clients he spoke to over six years ago, thanking him and his company, Flycaster & Company, for saving their business.

When he was in his early 30s, John Spence worked for a consulting company called Sales Force Systems International. He was set to be the CEO, but things didn't work out that way.

Sales Force Systems International gives sales training and consulting to businesses all over the world. In order to prepare himself as a CEO, Spence began traveling with the instructors to places like China, Germany and Japan, watching them give classes to a corporate audience. He mainly sat in the back, but eventually, the instructors asked him to help teach. He was so good at it, the current CEO decided to make him an instructor instead of a successor. Spence was unhappy with the decision at first.

"I fought it for a while," he said. "I had no desire to be a speaker."

Two things changed his mind, Spence said. The first instance was when a client in New Zealand sent him to lecture employees of giant corporations. "That is when I learned I have enough information that I could truly help these big businesses with multibillion dollar deals." The second was when he started helping the Florida Recreation and Park Association train people to direct parks and recreation departments across the state. "That's when I realized I was truly helping people."

Soon, he found a passion for the work, spending nearly three years at that company, before going independent in 1994. Fortune 500 companies and Alachua-based businesses such as Dragonfly Sushi in Gainesville and the biomedical company InterMed have called Spence in for advice on how to manage their businesses.

"What makes me good at doing this is that I'm good at seeing patterns," he said. He looks for the things that have worked for companies in the past, and finds ways to apply them, he said.

Spence is an avid reader, consuming anywhere from 100 to 120 business books per year. "I'm a voracious collector of information," he said. He credits his ability to take in massive amounts of information and learn lessons from what he reads as a driving factor in his success, which includes being named one of the 100 "Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior 2013" by Trust Across America, which started in 2008 to "help enhance trustworthy behavior in organizations," according to its website.

The most rewarding thing for Spence is speaking to a crowd, knowing that their company will apply his ideas to improve their business, though from time to time upper management can sometimes be stubborn and refuse to acknowledge a problem, he said. It's all worth it for him when he gets emails from grateful clients, he added.

"It's nice to get paid, but there's no amount of money in the world that's worth somebody saying 'you saved my business'."

John Spence chose to base himself in Alachua County because he wanted the best of both rural and urban living, being able to drive home from Alachua to Newberry and see cows and fields, while also being able to visit museums in Gainesville. Even though he spends a good amount of time in his Alachua office answering calls from Shanghai and India and writing books, he also gets to go to faraway places like New Zealand, where he took a week off between lectures to go fly-fishing with his wife.    

"It's a way for us to enjoy seeing the world and get paid to do it."

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