Sasha Laghonh, Founder, Sasha Talks
Sasha Laghonh is the Founder of Sasha Talks.
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
I was exposed to a nomadic lifestyle from a young age. After experiencing living within the United States and some abroad, I continued learning about different lifestyles through my peers and commitments. This granted me leverage to explore these diverse interests from my academic to business endeavors through taking healthy risks when entertaining engagements that would eventually yield the foundation for the platform Sasha Talks. The inception of Sasha Talks weaved my professional and personal journey of development in the realms of business, self-development and spirituality. Such traces of evolution are communicated through the educational & entertainment channels within its portfolio of engagements.
Was any one person who was instrumental in helping you get from where you started out, to where you are now?
I would like to extend a thank you to Peter. Peter was an instructor of mine during my academic years who always brought enthusiasm to his craft. It was his uplifting demeanor and affinity for humor which made our crossings of paths worthwhile. It was his dedication to his career that taught me that no matter what we pursue in life, it's important that our heart is vested in the mission. The heart is a compass that lets us know where we are needed to 'show up' in life. When the heart is present in what we do, we care to out perform ourselves without realizing it because feels natural to our entire being. When we go against our true selves that is when the uninvited problems surface. Thus be true to yourself. It will make your life a bit easier as well others around you will benefit from your contribution to life.
Is there a particular piece of advice you were given in the early days of your business journey that you still benefit from today?
Be yourself and the right people will find you. I haven't changed how I approach life opportunities in my path. Do your inner work, continue growing while accepting that no one is perfect. I believe opportunities come from the source - the Universe, not people. They may come through people as messengers but they aren't the sole source. When society solely credits another stranger for their well-being, people start conforming to pleasing one another to address a means to an end. This diminishes one's ability to fulfill their potential because they tend to discount their own worth by activating unhealthy vices within themselves for short term gains. This goes back to believe in yourself before expecting the world to believe in you. Earn and attract your merit.
What is the most important lesson you've learned about leadership in your business journey so far?
"Pay attention to the people first." People create ideas which later become plans that need to be executed. The work itself will always get done one way or the other. If the people aren't right for the mission and/or the environment, start cleaning house. People contribute to a business culture for better or worse, it's important the technical aspects of a commitment are addressed after securing the right minded qualified people who know how to co-exist among seasoned talent pools. It's important that on most days everyone is moving forward in the positive direction to achieve sustainable progress. Also wise leaders know how to divide the work and conquer. If they can't, they need to assess their reasons why trust and power are hibernating solely within them. The latter may translate to a red flag.
What are the top three things you wish you'd known when you were just starting out?
1. Communication is Key. Leverage all forms of communication in face to face, written, phone calls, chat and online portals. It's wise to reiterate the content and progress of communication through correspondence that can be revisited for reference because not all progress can be stored in the mind. A lot happens in a day. It saves time for a multitude of reasons -- operational, legal, commercial, team-building, and efficiency purposes. This provides situational awareness to others invested on a professional mission because there is less reliance on a specific person who may be absent later in time. Communication can range from daily correspondence to setting the rules of engagement to ensure the optimal use of time and resources. Of course, timeliness matters when working on such initiatives.
2. Enforce the standards from the first day of operations. Standards have a purpose that ensures a viable delivery of engagements. Not every client and occurrence can become an exception to the rule, or else it defeats the point of having standards. This ranges from operational effectiveness to client protocols put into place. This holds everyone accountable as well protects all parties from deviating on the agreed upon mission. Standards exist for a reason - enforce them. If they are ignored, then you have no one to blame but yourself for delays and unexpected complications that follow over time. It's rare there is ever a one time deviance present, the signs are always there whether you like to accept reality or not. It's part of the golden rule - we can only become better if we practice it together as a community.
3. Taking healthy risks is part of a lifelong adventure. Once milestones are achieved, it's important to still continue thinking (and striving) beyond the horizon. I believe an ambitious nature doesn't age, it only learns to pace itself with life's different seasons. I'm not one to get comfortable by nature but I would have ventured into some commercial spaces sooner. My risks and direction were dictated by the inner compass letting me know when it's the right time to build upon my past performance. It's important to focus on personal growth which will work parallel to one's professional development. Also, when assessing risks, don't let money be the primary factor for your decisions. You must care to perform the mission, or else no amount of money will deliver happiness nor success. Money has an ebb and flow in life. This leads to no one wanting to do business with some disgruntled person. Show up, smile and learn to care -- other stuff will fall into place including the money.
In your experience, what is the most effective way to build a strong network of mentors and advisors to guide you in your business endeavors?
My mentors organically appeared in my path when I was initially paired to either work with them, or appointed to be their point of contact for certain engagements. If I felt I can benefit from their presence to study their character and/or learn more about a specific craft, I contacted them to consider if they could contribute a small amount of time to entertain my questions. I believe mentorship is earned because most successful people guard their time, resources and bandwidth like a hidden treasure. I don't blame them. I myself do not invest my time in people who lack a certain prerequisite to benefit from my efforts. Good mentors do not invest time ruminating how to build sand castles in the sky, they want to know what is the mentee's objective and how they specifically can perhaps help.
How do you determine when it's time to pivot, and what factors should you consider in making that decision?
I believe when people know themselves well, they can honestly assess when it's time to change direction even when it's a matter of outgrowing an opportunity in their path. Give it your all when honoring your commitments, whether it's implementing a strategy or addressing new types of clients. It comes down to knowing your negotiables and non-negotiables when taking on a new opportunity. It's not wise to keep kicking a dead horse because your ego wants you to look good for the sake of being right. Smart people will move on in a flash if they recognize there is no method to the madness. Pivot when there is a need to change direction to benefit all parties concerned. Do not pivot out of fear -- this can lead to premature decisions cutting a viable opportunity short. Sometimes the need to cease a vein of the business may serve as a pivot itself.
How do you stay motivated and inspired during the business cycle of ups and downs?
Business is just like life - it comes with its fair share of twists and turns. Continue focusing on your growth, keep learning and leverage the down times to come back stronger to perform well in life. Enhance the quality of your communication in your relationships, discover efficient ways of saving time in your work, give yourself a mental break to attain better objectivity; etc. Keep living - it's the only way you'll know how it all pans out!
Looking back, what one thing would you do differently if you could start your journey over again?
I would have started the 'speaking' part of my work at a much younger age. By nature I am innately shy (for some, it's hard to believe!). I would cringe at the thought of people wanting to engage me in conversations in public environments from lectures to group settings. I felt the same way for talking to strangers on the phone for work commitments. This was once upon a time. Now I am somehow the one with the megaphone telling people to sit down and listen to me. LOL