In August of 2022, AAE Speakers Bureau celebrates its 20th anniversary. As we look back on the past two decades, I wanted to share a clear picture of what makes our company unique and how we got to where we are today. To do that, I spoke to our CEO, Greg Friedlander, to get his reflections on AAE’s journey: how it all started, timeless core values, favorite memories, and where the company is heading in the future. Here’s what I learned.

Getting our start

From the beginning, it’s always been about making a positive impact.

In 2002, Greg was working as a sports agent in New York City. He was working closely with the top speakers’ bureaus, advertising agencies, and public relations firms. That’s when he realized there was a power disparity between the talent booking agents and the organizations wanting to work with high profile talent. 

Recognizing this opportunity to fill a need, Greg decided to start a booking agency that exclusively focused on representing the interests of talent buyers, largely companies, associations, and universities.

The total initial investment in the company was $10,000, the bulk of which was dedicated to getting the All American Speakers website up and running. We’ve come a very long way since then. Today, AAE has grown into a full-service booking agency — including a logistics, marketing, and contracts team — able to assist event organizers at every step along the way in the event planning process. As one of the largest global talent buyers, AAE has booked well over $245M of celebrity talent on behalf of thousands of the most respected companies and organizations in the world.

Guiding principles

For any business, making it to a milestone like a 20 year anniversary is no easy feat. This is especially notable after the public health crisis over the past few years upended the events industry, making this achievement all the more significant. 

Companies that successfully navigate their industries tend to have a set of core values that guide them throughout the years, like a rudder keeps a ship on course through the storms. From the very start, Greg and AAE’s leadership team have made it a point to keep these principles in mind whenever decisions are being made:

Always listen to our customers and strive to provide them with the level of service and resources they deserve.

Operate on a merit-based system internally, putting people in a position to be successful and providing them with the tools they need.

Don’t take anything for granted or become complacent. Always look for ways to be better, continuing to learn and evolve.

And lastly, Greg shared a key principle that he has carried with him throughout the years — being humble enough to recognize that none of this — the success AAE has had — would be possible without others.

“I may have started the company, but I don’t view it as my company,” he said. “I view my role as a steward and captain guiding the ship, but there is no ship and there is no company without the individuals that make up this company both on the front lines and behind the scenes.”

The best part of the job

Greg told me that it’s all about putting people first. That means serving our clients and partners and supporting their event goals, as well as setting up internal employees for success and building a culture that encourages them to take a vested interest in the well-being of their fellow staff members. Seeing this in action is the best part of the job, Greg said.

“Watching our staff develop personally and professionally, watching them gain confidence, build their careers, and learn new skills,” he said. “I love seeing how people treat each other, support each other, care about each other, embrace new team members, and reinforce our culture. For me, this place is about the people, not about what we do.”

The next 20 years

In the past 20 years, AAE has seen monumental growth. We’ve worked with incredible clients, booked extraordinary talent, and played a role in creating unforgettable event experiences with our many partners that have impacted the lives of thousands and thousands of event attendees. 

As we look ahead to AAE’s next 20 years, Greg said that the company will continue to remember why we got started and use our core values as our guide. AAE will rise to meet the needs of our clients and adapt alongside the evolution of our industry, but our identity will stay the same.

“My hope is that we continue to grow as a company and as individuals, that our work has a positive impact on others, that our employees continue to feel supported and valued and achieve their personal and professional goals,” he said.

To our many clients, talent, and other partners we’ve worked with over the years, AAE would not be here celebrating our 20th anniversary if it was not for all of you. We would like to sincerely thank you for trusting us with your business. Here’s to the next 20 years!