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Road Warriors John and Shelia Spence: Partners who work, play and live to the max


Written By: Scott Costello

FS1_4840-2Business partners, life partners, friends: John and Sheila Spence share as much as they can together and love every moment of it. They are the ultimate power couple, not only because of their tremendous success and countless contributions to Gainesville, but also because of the power that they give to one another, enabling each other to fulfill goals, reach milestones, and live life to the fullest.

On the Road

John’s work as a mentor and business consultant to CEOs and other C-level executives and managers of international enterprises forces him to travel extensively. “Force,” however, is probably the wrong word, considering that he and Sheila enjoy traveling.

“You name it, we’ve been there. Fortunately, it’s to a lot of exciting places!” exclaims John with his infectious chuckle.

Although his travel schedule will take him to what Shelia calls “non-glam” places, most locations, such as those in the Caribbean or the South Pacific, are spectacular because John’s clients – who range from credit unions to mammoth corporations like Microsoft and Bank of America – hire him to speak at destination conferences.

This year alone, the Spences have traveled all over Australia and New Zealand. That particular trip, which lasted 30 days, began with a stop in Sanibel Island. They then hopped over to Charleston, South Carolina. From there, they headed to New Zealand, then three cities in Australia. They returned to New Zealand – where John’s popularity is growing exponentially each year – and worked a few more days. They returned to the US, stopping first in Los Angeles, Amelia Island and Jacksonville before heading home.

Less than a month after returning to Gainesville, John went to Sonoma, Calif. for another conference. During the late summer and fall, they will visit Canada for three tours in Quebec City and Edmonton.

Additionally, John is developing a video series that will take him worldwide, and already has contracted a two-month tour from March to April of 2014 that includes visits to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Sheila joins John as much as possible, but only if it’s a “fun place.”

“I can work from anywhere on my iPad… in the car, on a boat,” says Sheila.

With such an extensive travel schedule to a variety of locations, particularly international destinations, it is surprising that the Spences have chosen to stay in Gainesville.

“Gainesville is home,” says John. “I love Gainesville. Our close friends live here. It’s fun, there is culture, it is a giving community, and we enjoy the people. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”

John is especially grateful to the Gainesville Regional Airport. He has flown from Gainesville almost exclusively for the past six years.

“They treat me great and meet 100% of my needs,” explains John.

 

At Play

John’s vibrant personality and no-holdsbarred way of communicating make him an open book. He routinely shares much about his personal life, particularly his past, during lectures, training sessions and conversations.

Other than being a master communicator, author and “Human Cliffs Notes”, as some of his clients call him, John has many hidden talents, hobbies and passions. His tremendous love of art coupled with his natural abilities for teaching and learning have helped him to become a self-taught artist, painting mostly landscape and other impressionistic images. He enjoys the challenge because he does not consider himself to be a particularly good artist. Another hobby of his is gardening, and between trips spends a lot of time in his and Sheila’s spectacular backyard. He is especially fond of edible gardens and cultivates herbs and vegetables, using them for home-cooked meals on those few days a month when he is home to enjoy them.

John’s biggest passion – one that he shares with Sheila – is fly fishing. Every opportunity the Spences have to fly fish is one that they grasp; business trips are often bookended or punctuated by fishing excursions.

John’s love for fishing was cultivated by his mother, a world-class angler, who caught the first 500-pound blue marlin in Key West after Hemingway. Like John, it seems that his mother was not only a wonderful fisherman, but also adventurous and unafraid of a challenge.

 

At Work

As his book title suggests, John’s expertise is taking the complex and making it simple. According to his clients, that is the number one reason that he is loved and asked time and again to speak to the same groups.In the last two months alone, he has spoken to about 3,000 CEOs around the world.

John says that his purpose is to save CEOs time, energy and efforts by synthesizing information and looking for patterns in the over 100 business books that he reads every year. He befriends other thought leaders and spends two to three hours per day reading about and studying issues that he can share with his clients.

“People pay me to tell them where their businesses will be in 10 years,” explains John. “I can’t teach them everything, but I can give them the information that will point them in the right direction so that they can go and study and figure it out for themselves.”

For those reasons and more, John has been selected as one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior in 2011, 2012 and 2013, as well as a Global Thought Leader in 2013.

The challenge for John is keeping up with the pace of change and staying relevant. He customizes every class he teaches, incorporating the nuances of the particular industry’s leadership into each. He emphasizes that he is NOT a motivational speaker. He is a teacher, with an “edutainment” style that keeps his classes lighthearted and fun, but still informative and valuable.

Sheila takes care of the rest. Her goal is to free up John so that he can create the best content for a client.

“I take care of everything except the content and the delivery,” explains Sheila.

By “everything”, she is referring to logistics, contracts, relationships, company financials and client interactions. She has no desire to the talking, and John has no desire to do the bookkeeping.

That’s why a work-life balance is never a challenge for this couple. They both agree that it’s truly a partnership.

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