Sasha Laghonh, Founder of Sasha Talks, and took some time out to talk with The Industry Leaders and provide some golden rules for business owners in 2023.
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
I started out my career path in global administration and marketing which eventually transitioned to the entrepreneurial realm when I started working for other founders and executives in the public & private sector. Over time I exercised my management skills in sales and team building which eventually prompted me to explore new avenues of applying my abilities without having the need to isolate my business interests. Sasha Talks was initially born from a place of need which unfolded to become an entertainment and educational platform which provides custom business services. I planted a seed to provide the financial means to help me survive a chapter of my life. My dedication to it serves as the fuel that has allowed it to evolve into what the platform has become today.
What does an average day look like for you?
I typically start off my day with some silent reflection time absorbing the agenda that I've designed for the day which covers my physical logistics and activities for the day. I believe in block scheduling that I like to knock out all my calls and emails during a certain part of the day prior to resuming with live engagements (face to face and virtual meetings). I believe in maintaining flexibility when managing the unplanned parts of the day. Life happens when we're too busy planning. If I'm not participating in meetings, then I'll split my day among the few roles I host on the platform and off the platform. These activities can include reading, writing, editing, recruiting and forecasting what's next on the horizon. Some of my days are 110% business focused while other days are allotted to creating content dictated by internal and external deadlines. I'm mindful not to over stimulate the brain because it requires space and change of view for creativity to flow optimally well.
How do you balance the needs of your business with the needs of your personal life?
I've discovered later than earlier in life that balance needs to be defined by the individual and not the outside world. When I'm working and contributing to a worthy cause, I'm more functional and a better contributor to other parts of my life from my family to self-care. I'm more mentally and emotionally present by leveraging my presence rather than exhibiting gestures that I'm present. I make it a point to block out non-negotiable time to address the personal life. While business never stops nor does the brain stop ideating, there is wisdom in stepping away from work to embrace some objectivity when I return to my commitments. Living life outside of work can make one a better innovator, creator and writer.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
Don't over promise and under deliver. When new comers enter the business scene, some folks are over ambitious infused with enthusiasm that they'll try to be everything to everyone even at the expense of making promises they can't keep. People pay attention to our words more than we think. Getting lost in the emotions paired with the best of intentions doesn't make up for times when we fall short. Do not take a 'benefit of a doubt' for granted. One never knows when they'll need that benefit of a doubt. Also one needs to 'earn' a benefit of a doubt. I recently shared in a live talk that addressed 'promises are dangerous when not kept'.
What's been the hardest part about the path you've taken and how would you advise someone facing a similar situation to overcome it?
This may not be the hardest part because it's not impossible but it has to do with learning how to be patient to work with the right clients. The Sasha Talks platform works with a slice of the audience through its niche services therefore there have been learning curves on refining whom to engage because the mindset and ability of the client matters if they are seeking to achieve a goal through any platform engagement. The platform isn't run like a dry cleaning service where people can dump their concerns only to return later to pick up their solutions. It's important to engage the clients when discovering a solution that works for 'them' to ensure they can self manage later in time. If they only want solutions, the latter option is available but the best form of collaboration is when the client is part of the solution process because they are the one seeking to fulfill a need.
Are there any well-known Books, Podcasts, or Courses that you credit your current success to?
The book "The Power of Ambition" by Jim Rohn. Mr. Rohn has authored many books on business and self-development that trace back to the core reality that we individuals are responsible for our personal success which is dictated by our human growth. How we manage our lives will dictate how well we perform in other aspects of our commitments including business. His talks and his work live on decades later because his teachings reaffirm basic life principles which people overlook when overthinking a secret recipe for success.
What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful business owner or executive to have?
I believe authenticity and consistency helps in building reliable relationships over time. It's rare to come across an authentic person who lacks consistency in their character and work ethic when engaged among a population pool. If they lack consistency, there will be moments of frustration when one identifies contradictions in their speech and actions which can silently create rifts in their relationship circle. When those inconsistencies are exhibited through faulty business decisions, it can cost the business and vested investors (including employees) trust issues and financial losses. Wishy-washy people are the worst to do business with - this is an unfortunate yet true guidance I've acquired from multiple sources ranging from the bible to medical and business data.There must be some ounce of trust present on day 1 when building any type of relationship. When people struggle with trusting life around them it's because they lack trusting their own judgement. We can only trust life to the degree that we trust ourselves. The same goes for loyalty.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a business owner?
You don't know everything. Because you have a great idea and perhaps also a skill. Allow yourself to learn from others along your journey. The learning curve is there for everyone regardless of one's title and type of business. Becoming too stubborn and garnering a myopic perspective will invite blind spots that can sabotage the growth and evolution of your business. Plan, execute and refine your progress along the way. Nothing is set in stone. Learn to become flexible with how you produce results. Don't trust blindly - vet your sources. My tough love advice is -- no one has figured out all the mysteries in life. Learn humility to live and work, or the over confidence derived from ego can derail your life path in an unfavorable manner. I've met enough people who have destroyed their well being because they lacked the maturity to admit they were wrong, or they felt they were an exception to the rule of life. Business is not any different.
What are the top three things you think are essential for business success?
Learn to Listen. Learning to actively listen will help one improve their critical thinking skills, ignite creativity as well provide a viable means to improve operations in terms of work productivity & performance. Active listening provides an opportunity to question our existing decisions and purpose when focused on creating meaning service. The general population would be surprised to learn that there aren't enough good listeners among us in society. People are too reactive rather than responsive. When we listen with a purpose, we're able to save time by avoiding unnecessary chatter that creates bottlenecks instead of mitigating them.
Invest in self development. This can range from investing in activities and interests that can diversify your comfort zone when working with people in general. If you want to become a better communicator, consider joining a speaking group. If you want to have more fun instead of thinking about work all the time, take up an interest or sport to offset the stress. Perhaps you'll meet new people through those channels too. This has to do less with earning credentials to appear stellar on paper. There are many people who mimic a manufactured checklist to appear desirable yet their personalities fall flat like a cardboard box. The goal is to work on your personal attributes that can be leveraged better in business and life. We need to become better aware of our virtues and opportunities for growth to make our lives easier when it comes to work. Work can be fun when we allow ourselves to have fun in life.
Your clients can become your teachers. There is a lot to learn from prospective and existing clients that can serve as a form of inspiration as well serve as a constructive feedback channel. If businesses are out there to serve people, it's important to create some bandwidth to understand the audience waiting to be served. Do not become a doormat in the process. Pay attention to the type of questions that clients ask, observe how clients interpret your messaging, self evaluate whether you're engaging the right people in the process; etc. The customer isn't always right (but) they might make a point for you to consider as food for thought. During these days of entitlement, it's important for businesses to maintain a sensible mindset without compromising their identity to make a select clientele pool content. It's important to not compromise one's business mission and principles.
Do you think someone can be a great business owner without having many years of experience first?
Yes. There are people who have an innate ability to manage well through running a business with limited experience. Business owners do not necessarily need to hold XYZ credentials to ensure any degree of success. Some people perceive business to be an intuitive craft that integrates rational solutions while others are conditioned to believe there are specific formulas designed to make an idea work. It's all open to interpretation because a great idea executed by the wrong people can impact results. It's not any different if a great idea is executed by allegedly the right people but through poor execution, the results will suffer either way. There is no "set" formula in life nor business that can determine whether a person will be a great business owner. There are people with limited business acumen yet with exceptional customer service skills that were able to build a business that allowed them to hire the right people to manage it later in time. Each business owner's journey is unique.
In general, do you think the world is producing better business owners in 2023 than it was fifty years ago?
I'm hopeful the business owners are better today than fifty years ago when it comes to exercising better risks through the resources we have available. The advent of technology shouldn't be taken into account when assessing this question because people are still responsible for working on their personal development. While peoples' communication skills and select life skills in general have declined due to technology, there are talents finding better ways of conducting business. Business is a human experience. When we take away the human element, we're removing threads of human connection unless people choose to replace it with better channels that recognize people on an individual level. It would be interesting to ponder if we've developed better business owners today and how it has impacted loyalty in today's age from the consumer's perspective.
Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?
People are welcome to visit Sashatalks.com to drop a hello through the Contact Page.