Burn out, leadership and the art of rebuilding

Ian Enright discusses entrepreneurship and teamwork in audio production.

An interview with Ian Enright, CEO of Goat Rodeo

*This story was originally handed in for an in-class assignment on April 8, 2019.

WASHINGTON – Ian Enright, CEO of the Goat Rodeo creative audio agency, said that the greatest learning experience of his career was the moment he believed his company was going to fail.

Enright, a “Navy brat,” grew up bouncing from place to place until his family situated in Virginia Beach. After attending college in Virginia, Enright moved to Washington and got the idea to start an audio production agency right as podcasts were becoming popular.

“Originally, the plan was to create an audio network just like everybody else was doing: create shows, get advertisers, scale, then dollars, right?” said Enright. But about two years in, that plan changed.

Ian Enright, chief executive officer and co-founder of Goat Rodeo, sits at his desk in his company’s headquarters in Washington. He is passionate about audio storytelling and engaging with podcasters both locally and around the country.
(Photo by Braeden Waddell)

After the co-founder and chief creative officer of Goat Rodeo, Carlisle Sargent, left the startup in 2017, Enright said he felt like all his work had “gone back to nothing.”

“I was doubting whether or not, like, I’d be able to afford rent in D.C. with Goat Rodeo,” Enright said. He said he had to reassess what it meant to be a leader as the company tried to rebuild.

 “I think there’s a really damaging culture with like, the hustle and grind and that kind of Instagram entrepreneur side, everybody has to project this image of like, they’re crushing it, they’re nailing it,” said Enright. At the time Sargent left Goat Rodeo, the company was not growing as fast as he had hoped.

Enright was forced to recognize where he could personally improve to better the company without blaming himself for the things he could not change.

“The mentality of ‘a leader being the best’ was actually really detrimental overall … your brain just hits this fatigue point,” said Enright. He explained that he would overwork himself by trying to have a hand in every part of Goat Rodeo.

In his new role directing both the business and creative aspects of the company, Enright said that learning to take that step back allowed him to focus on restructuring Goat Rodeo to promote “passion projects” in audio and assist podcast producers.

According to Enright, this new plan not only helped Goat Rodeo recover and grow to make a profit, but also allowed the company to engage with content that is personally fulfilling.

“Part of your growth as a company is to recognize that the creative side is beyond your voice, it takes on something larger,” said Enright.

“A lot of what Goat Rodeo is making its bet on is that there are more talented storytellers outside of audio right now than inside. … Our job is to find the people who are being overlooked,” Enright said.

Pierce McManus, who works with Goat Rodeo to produce the “Perfect Liars Club” podcast, said that “Ian is the textbook definition of grace under pressure.”

“His presence adds a certain degree of confidence, whether he’s running sound, or helping promote the show, or just doing his job, that it’s, you know, going to be handled with a certain level of integrity, skill and professionalism,” said McManus.

Megan Rummler, founder of ADECIBEL Media and an independent audio producer that records with Goat Rodeo, said that a recent conversation with Enright helped her reimagine the focus for her podcast.

“It’s really easy to drown in all the details and effort that you’ve put forward in making every episode. … He reminded me, he kind of pulled me out of my own mind meld in the sense that he elevated our conversation to remind me to keep the listener in mind,” said Rummler.

Bishop Sand, a former member of the Goat Rodeo team, said that working with Enright gave him the freedom to really experiment with audio production while still knowing he had someone to rely on.

“What he, honestly, did for me was very empowering, and I can’t really boil it down into a single conversation or a sentence,” said Sand.

“He would always encourage me to make something new and push the boundaries. … Yeah, I think empowering is the best way to describe it,” Sand said. 

Sand left Goat Rodeo in February to work with The Washington Post, and another member of the team departed because she is expecting a baby. With two members leaving, Enright said the company is once again in a “rebuild phase,” but he remains optimistic.

As the company looks to rebuild and continue expanding, Enright said he will continue to grow this new understanding of what leadership means to him. “The best qualities I can represent is figuring out how I can ask for help when I need it,” said Enright.

Author: Braeden Waddell

Hailing from Waldoboro, Maine, Braeden Waddell is a junior at American University studying Journalism and Latin American area studies. Waddell is an avid podcast listener, an aspirational chef, and a two-wheeled transportation enthusiast currently suffering a minor setback. His long-term career goal is to work as an investigative reporter for a podcast similar to Post Reports, Reveal, or In The Dark. His choice to attend American University was inspired by desperate need to leave his 5,000-person town in rural Maine and enjoy the benefits of modernity he lacked at home, such as a cable internet and being able to go to a grocery store without seeing upwards of five people from his high school. Fun fact: Waddell only learned to ride a bike 3 weeks ago. Fun fact 2: While Waddell loves to cook, he is less knowledgeable with the art of baking. He can only bake one thing: Banana Bread. But, it’s damn good banana bread.

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