583 Amanda Ross:

If we try to please everyone in business, we often end up pleasing no one. It takes courage …to stand out from the crowd, and if we want to create a memorable and compelling brand we must dare to be polarizing and different.

MELINDA

I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who has made it her mission to help women business owners leverage the power of differentiated branding to build successful companies.

Amanda Ross is founder and CEO of SparkLab – a creative agency with a focus on product development, planning and branding.

Today we talk about the courage to differentiate, how to connect your true passion and purpose with the right customers, how to build a referral business, and the power of saying “no”.

I can’t wait to introduce you to Amanda! First…

Amanda Ross has led an international marketing team with a million dollar budget, she’s coached more than 200 entrepreneurs to build strong brands, and designed hundreds of digital and real products (she even made a board game) and has loved…almost…every minute of it.

Amanda works with female entrepreneurs and small biz owners to strategically design their products and online brand presence to connect with their true tribe and grow their businesses.

Today we’re going to talk about the courage to stand out from the crowd, why a polarizing brand is helpful in attracting the right customers and repelling the wrong ones, and how to turn your customers into your best sales people – and much more.

Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Amanda Ross.

Melinda Wittstock:         Amanda, welcome to Wings.

Amanda Ross:                  Thank you so much for having me. I so pumped about being here and kind of sharing what I can and helping where I can.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, fantastic. Well, I’m curious about SparkLab. Tell us about your business. What do you do?

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah, for sure. The business has, as anything does, it evolves over time, but really the roots of the business have always been helping people build their brands online in really smart ways and making sure that our brands really stand out.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah [crosstalk 00:00:42] easier said than done, though, right? Because-

Amanda Ross:                  It sure is. Oh, yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         … there’s so much noise out there, I call it infobesity, and it’s hard to stand out in that. What’s the secret of having a brand that really stands out in the crowd?

Amanda Ross:                  Do you know what the secret really is? Is being fearless about that brand. I see that so much that people, they don’t want to actually push outside the boundaries. They see what everybody else is doing and think that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m like, “No, because then you’re just like everybody else. You’re all the same paintbrush now where we want to actually be on our own painting that’s totally different, that makes people go, ‘Whoa, what’s happening over here?'” That’s really how we capture attention is by doing something a little bit different. It doesn’t have to be crazy, it just has to be different enough that people stop and go, “Oh, that’s different. What’s happening right now?”

Even with one of my clients, when you think of like non-profits, they tend to be like a certain way when you think about them, but when you go my non-profit’s website, one of them, it’s like this bright orange and we’ve got different shapes. We’re using different shapes to capture the attention, and with our messaging we’re being a little bit more bold with what we’re saying, so it’s just being thoughtful about that. I see that happen all the time that everybody wants to just follow the path of everybody else. I’m like, “You know what? Yes, we can get inspired by that path, but we actually need to create our own path.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, and that can be tricky for people because I think, especially women founders, we’re so acculturated to want to please everybody. A great brand, I think, often is polarizing, like you have to be willing to stand for what you really believe and that means you’ll alienate people, and for women that’s scary.

Amanda Ross:                  It’s so scary. Yeah, and you know what happens? It’s this really strange thing that we allow into our mind. We’re constantly thinking, “What are they going to think about me? What are they going to say?” I’m always like, “Well, who even in the heck are they? Who are they? Why are we worried about them?” Really, if anybody is going to be out there saying negative things about you because you are taking steps to improve your life and your business, they aren’t your friend.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, and they’re not your ideal customer anyway.

Amanda Ross:                  No.

Melinda Wittstock:         I think great brands, just through their brand, end up qualifying their customer, so the sale actually becomes easier. You know quicker who you’re actual customer is, which is vital at any time, but especially at an early stage-

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah, for sure [crosstalk 00:03:25]-

Melinda Wittstock:         … because otherwise… Yeah, otherwise you waste a lot of time trying to persuade people who even if you land them as clients, will not make you happy and you probably won’t make them happy.

Amanda Ross:                  Absolutely, yeah. There’s a power in saying no and being able to say no is… I mean, like I said, it’s really powerful, but you have to know who you’re saying no to. You absolutely have to know who your yesses are and who your nos are. I know now, and it takes time. At the beginning, you’re like, “I’m saying yes to everything because I got to make money.” I get that, I understand that. However, what does end up happening is because you’re coming from a place of desperation and sort of just letting anybody in, you’re literally getting anybody and then you’re like, “Oh my God, I hate my life. Why is this happening to me? Who are these people? They’re pounding me, they’re always emailing me. It’s too much.”

You have to decide really who you want to work with and really who you don’t. What are your no ways? What are the absolutely, “No, I am not doing that.”? Anybody who wants to… For me, I  ask people ahead of time, “How do you want to communicate? Do you want to communicate with me via email? Do you want to communicate with me on the phone multiple times a week? That changes the price of what we’re doing.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah.

Amanda Ross:                  I may just say no because really, I don’t want to have to do that. I want to work with people that know and believe and trust that I know what I’m doing and I take what I do and I run with it and I make your brand what you go, “Wow,” about, where that’s always my goal is for you to go, “Oh my God, this is unbelievable. I can’t believe this.” Yeah, well, there’s also some changes, but I really want it to be like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe this. You hit the nail on the head.” I have to make sure that I’m working with the right people in order to make that happen, and if I’m feeling icky about the relationship because I haven’t decided what my boundaries are, that’s on me, right? That’s-

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amanda Ross:                  … my fault that I didn’t say, “This is okay and this is not okay.”

Melinda Wittstock:         How do you go about qualifying it? First of all, there is the brand, so it’s like who you’re attracting, but then at that point when you’re trying to decide who to work with or not to work with in the context of SparkLab, what do you look for? What’s a sign that you’re just going to say, “Nah, I don’t know, this is isn’t right?”

Amanda Ross:                  It’s really understanding my own boundaries and how I like to work. Really for me, as much as I believe that communication is important, I do not need to have meetings every day with you. I’m very aware that that is not necessary for what I have to do. I know that I can communicate with my ideal clients in a very different way. My ideal clients are generally busy and they want me to do what I do best and go and do that thing, and they trust me to go and do that thing.

Melinda Wittstock:         Well, trust is the key word here, and-

Amanda Ross:                  Trust is huge, yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         … establishing early on that they trust you-

Amanda Ross:                  Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         … because people will say that, but then their behavior sometimes will be different.

Amanda Ross:                  Absolutely, absolutely, and so is it ever. What I do is like before I even say yes, we go through a bit of a process. There is some minor little step-by-steps that I can feel out how the rest is going to go, so I, A, make sure that, “Well, they’re busy.” I need to know that they’re also committed to what we’re doing and that it’s important to them.

I absolutely have them fill out a form that’s pretty serious. It’s not just what’s your name and some things, it’s a pretty detailed form because if they can’t get through that, then we’re going to have problems. I already know that if they can’t commit to this and make this important to them and what we’re doing, then that’s going to be problematic for me.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right.

Amanda Ross:                  There have been times where I do send that form and it just never happens, right? So I’m like, “Okay-

Melinda Wittstock:         Right.

Amanda Ross:                  … because they just aren’t even getting through step one. I think that’s important, and I know a lot of people have that problem. They’re just like, “Well, then, I’m putting up barriers.” Yeah, but you’re blocking out people that are probably wrong for you, so that’s okay.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Well, this is the same process that you would use to hire a team member-

Amanda Ross:                  Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         … and it’s very, very… We’re hiring a lot of people right now at Podopolo, my podcasting network, and there’s a lot of qualification that has to go into it.

Amanda Ross:                  Right, yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Will they tell you what they think you want to hear? Or will they tell you what you need to know? It has to be a good cultural fit.

Amanda Ross:                  Absolutely.

Melinda Wittstock:         … and the other thing that I think a lot of people forget is that if you bring in a whole bunch of clients that are not dedicated to doing the work and they don’t succeed using your tools, then that rebounds on you.

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah, yeah, for sure. I think you’re hitting it exactly right. It is very much because the reality is that you are interviewing your clients to make sure that they’re the right fit. You do want to make sure that you’re bringing people around you because being an entrepreneur is tough. It is hard. There are 3 AM wake-up calls where you’re, “How am I going to make money to pay the mortgage? The kids?”

There’s a lot of things that come with being an entrepreneur, the confidence that comes with it, all of those things. Why are we working with people that make it hard for you to do it and do it really well and love what you do? Don’t make it hard. Find people that make sense with you, that are aligned with you, that feel good, that make you feel good, that you’re making them feel good. It’s like this big, beautiful, feel-good circle of life. It’s just everybody feels nice, it makes sense. Why do we make it so hard?

Melinda Wittstock:         I think there’s something interesting in that word “hard.” I think somewhere deep inside many people is this idea that to succeed, it has to be hard, that somehow it’s not valuable unless it was hard. It’s like a mindset issue, when the actual fact of it is the reverse. When you’re doing something that you’re really good at, that you’re aligned with, that you’re meant to be doing, actually, success is actually kind of easy. It doesn’t have to be hard.

Amanda Ross:                  Totally. Yeah, absolutely, yeah. Melinda, I think you’re totally right, and I don’t want to point fingers at anybody in particular, but I think when you hear gurus saying things like, “The hustle, you’ve got to hustle,” and, “I worked 18-hour days and duh, duh, duh,” and all of this. You think that’s what has to happen. That is so absolutely not true. There is the other side of the guru. Remember the four-hour work week? Right? Like there is-

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amanda Ross:                  … this is absolutely possible to do what you love and enjoy it. You know what? If you decide to work 18 hours, it’s because you want to and not because you’re like, “I have to work this many hours.” There are times I work on the weekend, but it’s because I’m like, “I’m really invested in this project, I’m excited about it, I want to dig in a bit more,” but I know I don’t have to do. These are my choices now.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes, and this is all about awareness and consciousness of what it is that you actually want.

Amanda Ross:                  Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         If you come at entrepreneurship with an attitude of, “This is what I think I’m supposed to be doing or what I should be doing out of obligation or because someone told me I had to hustle and grind,” as opposed to doing it because it brings you joy.

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah, absolutely, and I think it’s really unfortunate that we kind of have these deep-seated thoughts about that. It’s also the way we grew up. In the ’70s and ’80s and things like that, it was about getting out there and pounding the pavement. It was a very different world. Well, we live in a very different world now, but those deep-seated fears that our parents had also sit with us, right? Like [crosstalk 00:12:19] you’ve got to get a job and you’ve got to go to school and you’ve got to do this and you got to… Like, “Okay, I got to follow this path,” but our world changed so much in the last 40 years, like massive.

The internet has completely changed how we can do business and how we can accomplish things. We are way more efficient than we ever have been. Productivity is so much simpler because we have tools and things at our fingertips that can help us do things. It is a very, very different world, but it is very hard to push outside of those sort of really deep-seated fears that we’ve been brought up with and still sometimes here all around us.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. I think sometimes women fall into the trap, though, too, of thinking that we have to do it all.  The thing that’s made me infinitely more productive while working fewer hours is just being really clear on like, “What is the one thing I can do today that’ll have a multiplicity of impacts?” I may not have to do all of that.

I realized actually I could get more done by doing less.

Amanda Ross:                  Again, trust is like the key thing in the business. It’s by trusting others to know what they’re supposed to do and by guiding and knowing that they can go and do it.

Melinda Wittstock:         At SparkLab when you’re helping people with their brand, sometimes people confuse branding with just as simple as a logo or your marketing tactics or whatever, but a brand, I think, and I’ve come to learn is really your whole culture, your whole M.O., like everything about you and if you’re really consistent and you walk your talk. It’s sort of infuses the entire enterprise if done correctly. It resonates more with people because there’s a truth to it or an authenticity.

When you’re working with your clients, what are some of the things that come up in the branding conversation that are actually related to something much bigger in their businesses?

Amanda Ross:                  You know, I think a lot of things come up because, for me, I agree with you. I think that brand is everything. Your brand is in every move you make. It’s in every message you type. It’s in your emails. It’s in your spreadsheets. It’s in your team. It’s in your values. It’s in everything that you’re doing because all of those things speak to who you are as a business.

I think that with my clients, what I do find is that they separate these things, and once we sort of have that discussion and they go, “Oh, I get it. I see that how I inspire my team is actually part of my brand.” Yeah, it is. How you treat people internally, what your values are, what your mission is, how you achieve things as a team, all of these things are part of your brand because everything you do tells somebody something about the business.

If you’re not able to sort of lead a team, what does that actually say about the business? If there are problems with your efficiency, what does that say about the business? There are things that we have to look at, so often what I do, it’s interesting, because people often bring me in for one thing. I recently just had a conversation with somebody. They were just going to start a new business and they wanted to talk to me about their website, so I said, “Yeah, of course. We can get on the call and we’ll chat about that.”

The person who knew me knew what was going to happen. She knows what happens when you start talking to me. Her partner had ever met me, and about halfway through she said, “I don’t even know what’s happening right now. I thought we were just talking about a website and I have all of these notes about all of these things I have to do about the business.” I said, “Well, that’s because I don’t just do websites. We have to consider everything we’re talking about in order to make that website amazing.” All of it is connected. There is no way around it, so yes, people definitely think, “Oh, my brand, it’s the logo,” and I’m like, “Yeah, no. No, not even.”

Melinda Wittstock:         There are these deep psychological drivers, or I guess in branding terms, avatars or personas or whatnot, and getting really deep into that in both a product development sense as well as just in your marketing or your social media. I think all too often because it’s painstaking, detailed work, it can seem like a nice-to-have to people. It’s kind of like, “Oh, I’ll do that later.”

Amanda Ross:                  Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         Again, but, no, no, no, it’s sort of a foundational element. Do you get pushback from people when you try and, I assume, you kind of lead them into that? Who is your real ideal persona? How to actually talk to them and whatnot?

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah, for sure, and I think what happens is, too, we’ve all heard this. “Who’s your ideal client? Who’s your target audience? Let’s create your avatar?” I think there’s been so much focus on it that people are almost tired of it, which is really unfortunate because it is so critical. What I try to do is I take them through a little bit of a… Instead of who it is, let’s start with who you don’t want because then we can start cutting things out.

As we have the conversation about it, I actually start hearing who they do want, and then I can build that out for them so that I can sort of ask those questions as we move along because I think it’s a lot easier for people to go, “Yeah, I definitely don’t want somebody who’s like this. It’s definitely not for people like this.”

We can start going, “Okay, let’s cut those people out.” Then, as we narrow down, we can actually sort of zero in on who it is for. That’s what I tend to do is I kind of come at it from the opposite side. Instead of saying, “Who is it? Who do you want?” Who do you definitely not want? Then, we can kind of build it out from there.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, that’s a really, really interesting point. You work with a lot of women entrepreneurs. Is there any real difference for how they approach this? We’ve talked about a couple of things like the people-pleasing and not wanting to please everybody. Is there anything else, though, that’s different about women that women struggle with a little bit more that you need to help them with?

Amanda Ross:                  Yes. Yes. One of the things that I definitely find with the difference between men and women because I have worked with a lot of men previously and sort of before I shifted to really focusing only on females. They tend to get… Not that they’re clear, but so I just started something called The Clarity Cure, and The Clarity Cure is all about getting very clear on what your core offer is and what your product ecosystem is around that core offer. The reason why I did that is because I find that females have a really hard time zeroing in on that. Men don’t, and the reason I think that is is because women, we want what we do to completely, perfectly 100% relate to every single thing that feels like us, right?

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amanda Ross:                  We want it to feel like at total 100% expression of who we are in all ways and all things. That’s near impossible to find, right?

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amanda Ross:                  It’s nearly impossible to find that, so it’s all about saying, “Okay, let’s pick one thing that fills out some of that and be okay that later you can bring in something else that fills in another piece.” It’s very difficult to find this all-encompassing thing that is absolutely a reflection of who you are in all ways every way because we never want a stamp and say, “This is what I do,” because then you’re like, “Well, then I’m saying that’s what I do and that’s the only thing I am.”

No, of course not. That’s not. It’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying that this is something you’re really, really good at and you can focus on this and that you can bring in other elements in other ways. Maybe it’s through your marketing, maybe it’s through your messaging that you can showcase other things. Where I find with men, they don’t struggle with it. They go, “This is the thing that I know is going to make me money and I know I can do it.” They don’t hang it on this whole thing of, “It has to be totally related to me and fit all of the boxes.”

Melinda Wittstock:         They’re better at-

Amanda Ross:                  Right?

Melinda Wittstock:         … compartmentalization.

Amanda Ross:                  Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Actually, there’s been a lot of study about the differences between male and female brains and there was a funny comedian… he did this hilarious thing about how men have these different boxes in their brains that don’t necessarily relate to one another, so-

Amanda Ross:                  Right [crosstalk 00:22:42]-

Melinda Wittstock:         … they’re in their work brain or their family brain. They actually have part of their brain that’s an empty box where there’s like literally nothing going on. Women are basically like it’s impossible for us to be there and everything fuses together for us, so everything’s interrelated. In lots of ways that’s great because we can see the connections between things and the relationship between things. We tend to come up with business models that can be a lot more creative because of how all these different pieces fuse together, so we can see things sometimes that men can’t. On the other hand, it tempts us into trying to do all of it at once.

Amanda Ross:                  Yes. Exactly, exactly, and the other thing that I see happen because of that is that they change their mind every week. “This week, I’m going to do this for sure, 100%. I’m down for this.” Next week, they’re like, “Oh, I found reasons why that wasn’t totally 100% perfect, didn’t check every single box, and now, I’m going to do this.” You’re never actually starting because you’re constantly changing your mind. We have to commit. We have to say, “Okay, I’m going to commit to this thing for six months, 12 months, whatever that is, and really go with it.” I know it can be scary because we’re like, “But it doesn’t check all of the boxes.” Nope, you’re right, but sometimes we have to do that. We have to like cut that out because you’re never going to move forward if you are trying constantly to find the thing that’s going to check every single box. Yes, eventually you could get there, but let’s just get started. Let’s move on something.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. This is so important, and I wonder if this relates in a way to our tendency towards perfectionism?

Amanda Ross:                  Oh, for sure. Oh, for sure.

Melinda Wittstock:         I joke-

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         … on this podcast and I’m sorry to everybody who’s heard me say this like a million times, but there really should be an AA for perfectionists.

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah [crosstalk 00:24:42].

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely, yes. It’s getting out of our own way in that sense, but entrepreneurship, you learn after a while and you have to come to terms with this. It’s like it’s never perfect.

Amanda Ross:                  That’s right.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s never going to be perfect. It’s the journey, it’s not the destination because there’s so many external things. Everything around us is changing all of the time and we’re learning all of the time, so-

Amanda Ross:                  Absolutely.

Melinda Wittstock:         … it’s never going to be perfect, so the minute you just kind of say, “Okay, it’s never going to be perfect, I don’t have to be perfect,” it takes such a huge weight off you that your personal value and your personal confidence is not derived entirely by what box you ticked or how perfect your product is at this particular moment in time. Psychologically, it’s definitely a challenge. It requires a completely different mindset.

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah, oh, for sure. It does, but I just look at it and I think, “Okay, but let’s look at Oprah.” Okay, Oprah’s a great example of the then and now because if we all remember what still used to be like, I mean, she would have people on that… I remember she had a show where there was like these witches on they were talking about how the media and everything was making witches look bad. Then, there was the show about the wife meeting the other women and things like that. Well, that’s not what Oprah does today, right?

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amanda Ross:                  She grew and changed, and that’s allowed. We have to give ourselves permission to go after something and then say, “Okay, I’m ready to change into something else.” That’s okay, we just can’t do it every week.

Melinda Wittstock:         Exactly [crosstalk 00:26:16]-

Amanda Ross:                  Actually commit, right? We have to try it for real-

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amanda Ross:                  … and see because the reality is, after you try it for real, you might go, “Wow, I kind of really liked that. Okay, great, but I’d like to bring in another element.” That’s okay, great, but if we shut everything down every other week or every other month, we’re never moving forward, so we have to really make that commitment, but also give ourselves permission to say, “Okay, after I try this for six months or 12 months, it’s totally okay if I walk away and do something completely different.” You’re allowed.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amanda Ross:                  Right?

Melinda Wittstock:         Exactly. Well, and the fact is we learn really from the challenges and the failures and like, say, going down a path and maybe it doesn’t work out. Well, what’s the learning there?

Amanda Ross:                  Right, yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, it’s always a work in progress.

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah, that’s right.

Melinda Wittstock:         So, you have a referral-only business – What’s the secret of being able to build a business that is referral-only?

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah, so I am shifting my business a little bit now, but I have been a referral-only business for a long time, and the reason I’m shifting my business is just that I want to reach more of a one-to-many, so moving from a one-to-one to more to a one-to-many, but I don’t think my referral business piece will ever go away because the secret to referral-only business, though, is it’s really building the deep trust and deep respect for people. I have great respect for my clients and I know and feel incredibly grateful for every single one of them.

I think when you treat people like real human beings, they’re not just another ticket that you’re completing, they’re real humans and you’re adding more value than just the thing that you were hired for. If you bring me in to create a website, you’re not just going tog get a website from me. We’re going to talk about your business. We’re going to talk about your growth strategy and we’re going to talk about how we’re going to attract people. We’re going to talk about your messaging. All of these other conversations are going to be happening.

I think that is really important and really building real relationships. All of my clients are my friends now. They are people that I know that if I’m in trouble, I can contact them, too. We have build this sort of nice business-focused, but it’s still a friendship, and I know things about their family and I know things about their lives. I care about them and I care about their business and their growth, and so even when I see something… I remember I sent a message to one of my clients and I said like, “You guys have got to do something to your Instagram posts. These are not going to fly. I don’t do social media, that’s not something that I do, but we need to talk about this and let me help guide you to get into a better place with this.”

It’s just about really thinking about all of the ways you can help them that are not necessarily outside your wheelhouse, but maybe things that you’ve learned along the way that are related to the business, but can help them in way that’s not necessarily something you do. It’s not always… I know people don’t like to hear this, but it’s like, “Yeah, you do some things sometimes where you’re not getting paid. You’re doing it because it feels good to help them out, to help them because you see something and go, “Oh, man, they could do this so much better. They have way better messaging than this. Why are we talking about this? This is the thing they should really be talking about.”

Stepping outside… It doesn’t mean you’re spending hours and hours, but it’s just sending an email saying, “Hey, I saw this. I really think this might work way better for you.” Just being thoughtful about how we’re helping people and asking the question. This is the other thing that I definitely think women have trouble with, asking the question. “Hey, if you know anybody that’s talking about branding or looking for a website or looking in this arena, I’d love it if you’d send them my way or if you shared my website with them. That would be super helpful.” It doesn’t have to be weird, it just like, “Hey, I would love if you thought of me if you hear that.”

The thing is that we don’t realize, if you don’t tell somebody that, guess what? They’re not thinking of you every day. Sometimes, we actually have to plug this into their brain so that when somebody does start talk about something that’s related to, they do, “Oh, I totally know somebody who does that and she told me to tell you about her.” We have to actually tell them so it’s plugged in because if you don’t tell them, they don’t realize you want it. They don’t realize you need it.

Melinda Wittstock:         Exactly, and so that presupposes that women generally get better at asking things and asking for help-

Amanda Ross:                  Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         … but also being willing to receive it, too, which is a whole other topic [crosstalk 00:31:35]-

Amanda Ross:                  Whole other topic, yes, for sure. Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         … it really is, but on the referral side, I do tend to think that your customers are actually your best salespeople generally for any business because they have more credibility-

Amanda Ross:                  Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         You know, of course, your customers are inherently your best salespeople because, I don’t know, I think people are more likely to believe an uninterested third party. Good guess, right?

Amanda Ross:                  Yes. Melinda, I totally agree with you, yeah. It’s just like when we talk about social proof on your website and stuff like that, having testimonials, having video testimonials. It’s the same thing because people are much more… It’s much easier to believe what other people are saying than to just believe the person that’s selling it to you. It’s like that car salesman thing. Like, “Really, is this the best car? Really? Are you sure?” It allows us to kind of hear what other people say. It’s the same thing as like Amazon. You go to Amazon, you read the reviews. What are people really saying about this? Right?

Melinda Wittstock:         Yep.

Amanda Ross:                  That’s important to hear what other people are truly saying about how this business works.

Melinda Wittstock:         What was the spark, Amanda, that led you to found SparkLab to begin with and go into entrepreneurship?

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah. I think for me, I have always… I’ve been very lucky in the way that I’ve always wanted to sort of be the leader. I’m okay in that role. It’s come fairly easy and natural for me, so I’d be very lucky in that way. For me, I always knew that I wanted to control everything, whether it’s a control problem, I don’t know, but I knew that I wanted to be the one making the choices about what was happening.

I was lucky in the way, too, that the roles I was able to step into at a very young age right out of college, I was moved into a leadership training program within the retail space because I went to school for fashion. I moved into the retail space and actually with the Hudson’s Bay Company, which is the original company here in Canada.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah.

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah, so at the time they had this really big leadership training program, and so they wanted me to go into it. I did, I stepped into that. I was very young. I was in my very early 20s and I was leading teams of 40 people who were often much older than me. Struggled right away. I remember going to one of the stores where they brought me in and two of the ladies that were going to be sort of in my main focus area really were not happy about having someone young come in and telling them what to do. It was like, “All right, here we go. Let’s do this.” By the end of it, which was amazing, by the end of it when I had to leave, they were crying, there were balloons on my car, they had cake for me, because I think sometimes it’s not about trying to fit in, but it’s stepping into leadership. It’s stepping into that role.

I had to step into that role and show them that while I was younger than them, I was here to support them. I was here to make their lives and job easier. I was also here to guide and move them forward and teach where I could and that kind of thing and make change in ways that they were struggling with. When you can kind of take on that leadership role and show people that you are really here for them, and I think that goes for so many different places, it just allows people to see you in a very different way. Going into leadership was always a very comfortable place for me, so I always knew that I wanted to rule the world.

I ended up later in a different company. It was an IT education and consulting company where I ended up. I was there for about six years and I ended up leading our international marketing team. We had offices all across the world, Brazil, Mexico, the UK, South Africa, Malaysia, like all over the world. It could be a lot, and we also did large events in Vegas that I would have to run with about 2500 people showing up at those events. It forced me also to try all of these different things and I was like, “Oh, I really love all of this stuff.”

On the side, I started to take the pieces that I really loved and that was my first taste of entrepreneurship was being able to start a little side business where I would just help people I knew with their brand, their websites, and things like that because I really found that I loved sort of that marketing piece. Then, I said that my Dad was in real estate, so I was like… To me, the easiest way to become an entrepreneur was to go into real estate, so I left where I was and I became a realtor. I did that for probably about a year and a half, and then I went back into leadership, so I ended up running multiple real estate offices because that’s my comfortable place. It’s very easy for me to do that.

What was cool about the companies I landed the roles with, I was running the business and I was able to put my hands in all of the things that I loved again, so I was able to redo all of our marketing, build out all of our processes so that everything was running really smoothly. I like it when things are super efficient. I was able to kind of get my hands in all of these things, but then I was done. Once you do it, you can’t just keep redoing the marketing over and over. You have to at some point kind of go with it. Once I was done doing that for both of these companies, I was like, “Okay, now what?”

That’s when I took the steps on my own. I said, “You know, I’m going to take this piece. I clearly love this piece, so I’m going to go on my own and I’m going to do this.” In 2013 is when I actually full time started my own company. It started called Realty Boost, where I really focused on helping the real estate industry particularly, but at the same time, my sister had started her own business and she was a consultant and coach.

What happened was I started crossing over into this other realm because she got to know a whole bunch of people in that arena. I decided that Realty Boost as a name and as a brand didn’t make sense anymore, so I changed the business name to… It was actually called Sparkle As You Lab. Recently, I cut it down to just SparkLab because Sparkle As You Lab was just do darn hard for anybody to spell, so I thought, “Let’s cut it down a bit.” Now, it’s just sparklabgroup.com rather sparkleasyoulab.com, but in essence, it is still the same business, so-

Melinda Wittstock:         Right, right. Oh, this is wonderful. Well, Amanda, I want to make sure that people know how to find you and work with you. What’s the best way? You have a podcast as well, so, of course [crosstalk 00:39:03]-

Amanda Ross:                  Yeah, the [crosstalk 00:39:03]-

Melinda Wittstock:         … the people can listen to your podcast.

Amanda Ross:                  … yeah, they can listen to the podcast, for sure. It’s RossSquared, but yeah, it’s probably the best way honestly is to connect with me on LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn. It’s one of my favorite spaces, so LinkedIn is a great place to find me. I don’t know exactly because LinkedIn is a weird URL, but I know that my URL is heyamandar, so linkedinsomething, I know they do something where it’s /in/something. I can’t actually remember, but I am heyamandar at the end of whatever at LinkedIn. Probably if you go to your own profile and see what it says, you just take out your little piece there and put my in, and that should pop up.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, that’s fantastic. Well, we’ll have all of that information in the show notes as well, and so good to talk to somebody else who is a Canadian.

Amanda Ross:                  Yes. Canadian [crosstalk 00:39:54] in the house.

Melinda Wittstock:         Made me feel a little homesick, even though I didn’t out today, so-

Amanda Ross:                  Out and about.

Melinda Wittstock:         Out and about, exactly. Oh my goodness, Amanda, great to talk to you. Have a wonderful day and thank you so much for putting on your Wings and flying with us.

Amanda Ross:                  Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

Amanda Ross
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