Author Archive for Amanda

The Importance of Mentorship

Whether you’ve been on one side of the mentor-mentee relationship or consider yourself a veteran of both, you know how important it is to learn from others along the way and to pass on what you know. To discuss the many phases of the mentorship experience throughout your career, Amanda BensonTilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, invited Sharlene Johnson of SJ Partners real estate firm into the studio.

Reflecting

“I’ve done a lot of reevaluations in my life, a lot of assessments,” Sharlene said. “I think that as a mentor and a mentee it’s so important to have an ability to look at and reflect upon what you’ve done along your pathway, where you need to make adjustments, in terms of your time allocation or how you handle situations.”

From her work as the membership director at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation and now as a real estate expert, Sharlene is well known by Santa Clarita business owners as someone who shares her experience and expertise with others. She serves on the board of directors for College of the Canyons Foundation and the SCV Senior Center. “The senior center is near and dear to my heart,” she said, “because of seeing transitions in life and wanting to support the organization and what it does for our active seniors, and those they’ve lost.”

Striking Balance

“My current status is I still am a workaholic, but I’m tailoring that,” Sharlene said. “If you’re really good at, you’re always going to be working on that balance side of whatever it is, whether it’s work-life balance or where you allocate your time. One of my downfalls in the past was wanting to say yes to everything.”

Amanda pointed out the growth that she and Sharlene have experienced in this aspect of improving their business skills while working together on the boards of non-profits in Santa Clarita. “We were the ‘yes girls’ for quite a while,” she said. “We’ve learned to set some boundaries and say yes to the things that we know we can really show up for and really give our all, but also not sacrificing the family and home life, because time is very valuable.”

Learning and growing are timeless. Whether you own a small business in Santa Clarita or you’re launching a global powerhouse, continuing to develop personally is important throughout your lifetime. You find more stability in your relationships while building your business, which means you have the fuel to mentor others along the way.

Finding Your Gift and Sharing It

Pablo Picasso said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

It’s a message Sharlene has taken to heart. “I remember thinking that this was really a reflection of how I felt at that point in time and then it just perpetuated all along,” she said. “I do truly believe we are all innately talented at something.”

She began to actively volunteer and give back to the community at the age of 17 when she served as Miss SCV Princess, then later was crowned Miss Saugus, and finally Miss Santa Clarita in the year 2000.

“Through that experience I came to this perspective and ideology – what good is a title or a role or capacity if it doesn’t come with some type of service?” Sharlene said. “What are you advocating for? What are you standing for? There’s no point in winning something and then just walking away. Then it becomes an afterthought and has a very short shelf life; but if you can impact people and it resonates with them and changes the trajectory of their life, to me, that is something that’s worth doing.”

Learning to Give Back

Sharlene believes your parents are your first loves and your first mentors. “They’re the ones that kind of set those guidelines,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that you don’t evolve as a person and find other people who impact your life and change the trajectory, or the direction you want to go. It might change your mentality regarding some of the values, or what was proposed to you at a young age, but not massively. I think your values are set by your family dynamic.”

She describes her parents as reflective and said they were very engaged in evolving as individuals. Her mother is a teacher, and her late father was a public servant, serving on the school board and the Agua Dulce Town Council, among other things. He believed that once you start to have that kind of impact, make sure that you’re doing it with integrity and for the right reasons.

“If you’re going to get involved with something, do it with a purpose,” Amanda said. “At that young age – in your later teens – you really did learn about volunteering, being intentional. Having known you all the years I’ve known you, I can say that is true to who you are. You would say yes to things because it mattered to you and you knew you could step in and make a difference, and you did. You learned that from them. Your parents were guiding you and mentoring you, whether they knew it or not.”

Mentors Appearing Along Your Career Path

Sharlene was exposed to a bureaucratic work environment and the dynamics of politics when she worked for the office of L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. “At the time I didn’t understand the political arena because that wasn’t my jam, and that wasn’t what I wanted to go into – though I seem to get propelled sometimes into that, but not intentionally,” she said.

Through that experience she identified values she wanted to see integrated and grew in her desire to advocate for the development of others.

“When you look at the history of my involvement in the community you start to see a real prevalent theme of education and development,” she said. “It goes hand in hand with mentorship. Along that path you have different guides.”

Next Sharlene took a job in the Arts and Events Department for the City of Santa Clarita, which gave her exposure to another set of individuals. After college she began working in the finance industry and began doing a lot of nonprofit community work.  “I think that is one of the places where I can also pinpoint somebody who I felt was a true mentor,” she said. “I find them in different ‘growth points’ in my life.”

Mentors Bringing Opposite Strengths

“You want to find a mentor who can help you with marketing if you’re already great at sales,” Amanda said. “It’s an obvious thing, but an eye-opener – I don’t want to attach myself to somebody in a mentoring role who is already all the things that I am. I want to find somebody who can help me grow to be something better.”

You will eventually outgrow your mentor.

Sharlene had a branch manager named John who encouraged her and her colleagues to get out and try new things and think outside the box. “He didn’t want to be limited to just doing things that were the same all the time,” she said. “It was the first time that somebody kind of stepped back, so instead of just doing what I was told to do, I was like, ‘I’m allowed to put something together? You want to know my thoughts? That’s awesome.’”

Mentees Becoming Mentors

Financial literacy was part of the work for Sharlene, and they took it into the classroom to educate students at Canyon High School. “What we’d do for students is talk to them about putting together a budget and a profit-and-loss statement,” she said. “They were supposed to build their own businesses in this class, so we talked about percentage rates. These kids – just to watch them flourish with their own ideas, creating their own marketing managers and then doing the businesses on campus – were just amazing.”

Sharlene and her colleague took that mentoring template throughout Santa Clarita.

After a stint doing equipment rental sales for construction sites, Sharlene worked with the FranklinCovey Co. “A lot of my premise for the real meat of starting mentorship went hand in hand with the content that I was exploring, because we would go into companies and find out what was going on with them,” she said. “Communication, leadership – all those things that would impact your bottom line and resolving that. The biggest challenge for a lot of folks was productivity and putting into practice these wonderful, strategic plans that you put together.”

Amanda often helps business owners in Santa Clarita with the execution process.

“Execution is still a problem for a lot of people, by the way,” Amanda said. “They like to talk, talk, talk and plan, plan, plan. The execution is always really hard for people.”

Sharlene has been active in the Junior Chamber of Commerce, which has a significant impact on business in Santa Clarita.

“It’s a big organization here and you’ve played a big role with them for a long time,” Amanda told Sharlene. “What I love about the Jaycees is that they take young people in the community and really give them guidance and structure and opportunities to plan events. I think that’s so important to teach them about the importance of giving back to the community. It’s a great place to make connections if you’re looking to grow your business. It’s a great place to be exposed to other people’s careers.”

Finding a Mentor

Understand you don’t have to be a young person to find a mentor.

Attach yourself to someone in a position that you aspire to. “I’m 50 and I have a mentor I talk to every single day,” Amanda said. “He has completely changed my life and my thinking, the way I live, the way I budget, the way I spend, the way I earn money, the way I handle certain things. You know, usually I’m in ‘go mode’ all the time. He’s taught me a lot about patience and slowing things down.”

The mentor Sharlene met during her years at FranklinCovey was Dale Bond. “He was the first person who I ever really saw, aside from my own father, passively reflect the necessity for integrity,” she said.

Many clients would request the high-end training from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” but when he completed an assessment and saw less expensive opportunitiy for a business to grow, he would recommend those.

According to Sharlene, Dale Bond said, “I don’t believe in selling people just because it’s the higher dollar amount. It’s not about that – it’s about really impacting people and I want to see them be successful.”

“That really resonated with me, so that was my number one thought process in any sales role or capacity,” Sharlene said.

Her mentor also exposed her to the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. “I read The Game Plan for Life and that is when I started to hear the term mentorship, because he talked about different individuals at different phases of his life, like Mother Teresa, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and what they did for him in terms of establishing his moral code and value system,” Sharlene said. “Also being a reflective individual and recognizing areas of opportunity for growth in himself. He just introduced me to those ideologies and thought processes and those who projected them.”

Sharlene left FranklinCovey during the economic downturn because the real estate industry crashed, so it impacted everyone fiscally. “I had to sit back and say, ‘Who am I and what do I want to do and where do I want to go?’” she said.

Someone reached out to her about a job at the YMCA. “I had gotten my personal training certification at the time because, again, it goes back to that coaching mentality,” she said. “I loved unleashing potential in other people because I really appreciated when somebody took the time to do that for me.”

Sharlene experienced a shift in mentality during that phase. “The YMCA taught me to be patient with individuals, to take the time to ask questions, listen, but also recognize my deficiencies and reactive personality,” she said.

There was an individual there who Sharlene clashed with, so she would avoid having any discourse with her. One day Sharlene walked into the executive director’s office and admitted to her boss that she was avoiding the woman.

“She asked me, ‘Do you think that you ignoring her and not having conversations with her is going to facilitate the type of relationship you’re looking to have?’” Sharlene said. “That’s the turning point, where I started to recognize that those who had wisdom would not tell you what you were doing wrong – they’d have you answer the question for yourself.”

Choosing a Mentor

“I think it’s so fascinating that mentors just show up in our lives, but they don’t know that that’s what their role is,” Amanda said. “With some mentors it’s direct – ‘this is what I need, and we’re going to meet every week or talk every month,’ whatever it is. But there are other people who you learn from, who really can change your life, who never even knew that you would consider them a mentor.”

Amanda was working for the Hyatt Regency when Sharlene approached her. “You were the first person who I saw really make a clear change from the corporate arena to being an entrepreneurial spirit,” Sharlene said. “I really am fascinated by those folks who have the goal, the tenacity, the drive, to just expose themselves to the resources to help them thrive.”

Being asked to be Sharlene’s mentor was a first for Amanda. “I had never been asked such an honorable thing,” Amanda said. “Of course I would help you. I would do whatever. It did make me think, ‘How can I serve? How can I be of service? How can I help her achieve the goals that she wants to?’”

Since then, Amanda has been approached many times with a request to mentor. “Every time it’s been for a different reason,” she said.

Sharlene wasn’t sure she knew what she was looking for. “I just felt that you had the strength and knowledge, the capacity to provide that,” she said. “But now, in reflection, I admired your ability to ‘do things that are uncomfortable because at some point they will become comfortable.’”

Everyone trips and falls and makes mistakes. “I was so fascinated by your ability and drive to be independent,” Sharlene said. “I wanted to be on my own and do more of an entrepreneurial role and I didn’t know what that looked like. You were demonstrating not only the behaviors, but also the strength to do it. You were already making such great strides and I was just enamored.”

Qualities to Look for in a Mentor or Mentee:

Coachable – The mentee needs to be willing to be taught and coached.

Someone You Connect With – There’s got to be a level of trust.

Willing to Admit Mistakes – We’re all human and we have missteps, but you can come back and revisit it.

Humility – They don’t always have to be the face for everything; they can work behind the scenes and give other people glory.

Willing to Share – There is always something to be learned; there’s always something that you can share.

Recognize Yourself in Them – I can recognize myself in this person and pass on what my mentor has done for me.

Teach what you know because that is invaluable.

Meet the Experts

Sharlene Johnson – Realtor at SJ Partners

Sharlene is a longtime resident of the Santa Clarita Valley and has been in the real estate industry for the past 8 years. Her passion lies with helping support the residents and shaping her local community. She has been involved with non-profits since her teen years, supporting organizations such as Single Mothers Outreach, the Chamber of Commerce, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, and the YMCA. Sharlene also has served on several local boards and committees including: the WiSH Education Foundation, College of the Canyons Foundation Board, JCI Santa Clarita, and the Valley Industrial Association’s (VIA) education team. Locally, she champions young leadership development in order to support the community’s education and commerce infrastructure. She believes that her job as an agent is to be involved in the community, as well as educate, support, and negotiate for clients.

You can reach Sharlene by phone at 661-713-7365 or visit her website: sjpartners.co.

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. She recently helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram. 

About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created the Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!

From the Fight Ring to Business Success

Every business owner has moments when they feel like they’re in the ring, fighting for their life, and sometimes they’re tempted to throw in the towel. When facing challenges in your industry – against competitors or among your own team members – it helps to have experience tackling tough times and operating in survival mode. Few Santa Clarita business owners understand this process better than Jared Bradshaw, co-founder of MaxPro Insurance Solutions, who stepped into the studio with Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show.

As the co-founder and CEO of business strategy for MaxPro, a commercial insurance brokerage serving hard-to-place blue collar companies, Jared has used a background of adversity to motivate and energize his efforts to make changes to his business model.

“California is sort of the battleground for blue collar insurance because it’s very expensive, it’s high risk, and there aren’t a lot of brokerages that are really specific in this realm,” he said. “We felt there was a gap in this category, and we wanted to build a model that business owners and the blue-collar industry could trust and go to for anything and everything, to have a team that they can call for the most difficult things going on in the workplace.”

The types of insurance handled by MaxPro includes:

  • Workers’ compensation
  • General liability
  • Commercial auto
  • Professional liability
  • Group benefits
  • All sectors of commercial insurance
  • Employment Practices Liability (EPLI)
  • Directors and Officers Liability (D&O)

MaxPro was established in 2018, but Jared has been in the insurance business for 12 years. He opened a Farmers Insurance office in 2011 and was writing a lot of home, auto, and life insurance policies. Clients in the commercial insurance space began approaching him, which brought in a lot of high-risk categories and industries that Farmers was adverse to carrying, so they would decline it, but allow him to place it elsewhere.

“I had built an outside commercial book of hard-to-place commercial risk in the blue-collar space and was much more passionate about that, because I felt like I could be more hands-on with businesses and really dive deep into the business,” he said. “It was much more challenging, so I ended up selling my Farmers in 2017 so I could focus on the commercial insurance hard-to-place risks.”

Finding a Balanced Partnership

Jared met Christian Moore, his business partner, at a Bible study group that met at 5:00 a.m. “I’m always going towards difficult things, and it was difficult to wake up at 4 and go to this Bible study and then go to the office and work,” Jared said. “I met him there and we hit it off. I had my securities licenses – my Series 6, Series 63, and he had his Series 7, Series 6 – all different types of licenses. He was in financial planning and doing high net worth investments for individuals, working for Morgan Stanley and then JP Morgan.”

Jared had already decided to launch his own company, so he asked Christian to partner with him in the new venture. The two men were big readers and began discussions about how to make an impact in local business as well as in the world at large. That competitive spirit is something they have in common.

“Business is our new competition, it’s my new fight,” Jared said, “and I want to be the best at it.”

The partners agree on a lot of things, but their opposite strengths bring more to the whole, which is a big benefit for entrepreneurs hoping to maximize the success of their business.

“Christian is super analytical and he’s good at organizing facts and data and all these things that I’m actually not great at doing,” Jared said. “I’m more of the type that will jump in the ring or jump into the tough situation and handle it. I’m more of an operator. I’m like Michael Jordan and he’s my Scottie Pippen.”

The two teamed up to create a whopping 25-year plan.

“Christian mapped out how we would do it – figure by figure, year by year, month by month, policy by policy,” Jared said. “We want to build a billion-dollar company and that’s in the 25-year plan.”

That level of planning is an aberration for Amanda. “That’s crazy to me – a business plan is usually three to five years,” she said. “I haven’t met anybody who’s mapped out 10 years of their life. In a realistic world everybody’s more about the tangible, the here and now, like ‘what can I do in the next 5 years?’”

The here-and-now describes Jared’s general approach.

“I’m more of ‘What’s going on right now, today?’ and ‘What fire do I need to jump on?’” Jared said. “Christian’s very good at pulling me out of that and taking me up to a bird’s eye view so that we can really map things out and see ‘this road leads here and this road leads here, but we want to be here, so how do we bridge this to get there?’”

Prepared by a Challenging Upbringing

Successful entrepreneurs are often driven by backgrounds of adversity.  Many times, their origin stories involve difficult childhoods.

“I’ve been through so much trauma and adversity from a young age. When I was about 6, my mom left and went to a different country, and we didn’t hear from her or see her for about 20 years,” he said. “I’ve never felt like I could think long-term, because I never felt like I had support or the back end to think long-term. I’ve always been thinking, ‘How am I going to take care of myself this month or today?’ or ‘How do I pay the bills? Where am I going to live?’”

He lived with his brother and father through adolescence.

“It was like growing up in the wolf ‘s den because my dad was extremely tough on us – mentally, physically, emotionally, every way possible,” Jared explained. “He had moments of being awesome, but then most of it was very intense and very difficult.”

His older brother provided comfort and stability for Jared, and he maintains a high level of gratitude for that.

“My goal always has been and always will be to take care of my brother financially as soon as possible, in every way possible and just help him live the most amazing life, because I couldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for him,” he said.

Jared started getting into the fighting world because of how difficult it was at home.

“I felt like I didn’t have a voice and I wasn’t in charge of even myself at home,” he said. “Our dad was so overpowering about everything we had to do, very controlling. We had to do everything his way or the highway. Outside of the house, when anything happened that was an altercation, I was very quick to handle it.”

Jared obtained a level of toughness by watching his father.

“He was a tough guy, so you do look up to that in a way, and you think, ‘I’m going to be tough too,’” he said. “So, I would get into street fights and different things, not because I wanted to, I never looked for it, but I was always ready to go.”

By the time he was in junior high school, Jared was practicing martial arts, beginning with Kenpo kickboxing.

“They would let me train for free as long as I would fight in the tournaments that were coming up,” he said. “So, I would fight in different kickboxing tournaments from a young age, when most kids were playing baseball and soccer. I didn’t realize how cool it was, but I was fighting, like, three people at a time on the weekend in a tournament and then coming home and skateboarding with my friends, not even thinking about it.”

One of the life skills Jared was nailing down was how to survive.

“I started doing straight boxing, jiu jitsu, and MMA in high school and kept going, and I decided I wanted to be a professional fighter after high school – that was my goal,” he said. “I also was in business, so I wanted to do some type of business entrepreneurship and fight.”

According to Jared, he got the entrepreneurship bug from his father, who ran a variety of his own businesses.

“Right out of high school I went into training all the time at different fight gyms and started doing cage fights,” he said. “Back then it wasn’t as big as it is now, where you could make money doing cage fights. A lot of them were underground and they were called ‘smoker fights.’ You’re drinking beer and you’re just jumping in a cage and you’re fighting whoever’s there that’s in your weight class.”

Emerging as an Entrepreneur

“I’ve always been driven by money, not in a greedy way, but because I was already living on my own, sleeping on couches after high school and renting rooms at different places,” he explained. “I worked in produce at Albertsons right after high school for probably a year. I saved the apple boxes and banana boxes and I put all my clothes in them and put them in the back seat of my truck. Then I would do laundry at friends’ houses where I’d be able to sleep and shower.”

Jared lived in survival mode and continued competing. He opened two gyms – Standup MMA and Fit to Fight MMA.

“I was also a certified private trainer, training people and fighting in tournaments,” he said. “I really got hooked on boxing, partly because I knew you could make more money. I thought, ‘I love fighting, so if I’m going to get punched in the head, I would love to make money doing it, not be doing these little smoker fights and trying to figure out my way.’”

Jared competed in the amateur circuit for USA boxing and won a Golden Gloves boxing title for welterweight in 2010. He also competed in the U.S. Open for the Olympic trials that same year.

“It was a good experience,” he said. “Boxing helped me learn so much in life – fighting did – just putting myself in those situations, being super nervous. You learn a lot about yourself leading up to a fight – what you’re capable of mentally and physically – and then showing up to weigh-ins and then looking at your opponent and knowing ‘I have to fight this guy tomorrow and there’s going to be a lot of people watching. I could embarrass myself.’ It’s nerve wracking.”

Amanda pointed out the relevance of some of the concepts in Tim Grover’s book, “Relentless.”

“It’s a good book and he talks about ‘you’re thinking too much; just get in there and do,’” she said.

Grover’s book talks about three categories of people:

  • The “coolers” think being successful is based on what other people tell them.
  • The “closers” are those who tell you about their success.
  • The “cleaners” never feel successful because there’s more work to do.

“I feel like you’re always striving for more,” Amanda said. “Grover talks so much about mindset before any game – like what you’re talking about before a fight – if you are in your head too much you could go in there and really screw it up.”

Jared agreed. “The best fights I had were when I was the most calm,” he said. “I realized I needed to put myself in more difficult situations before the fight, so I would spar the most difficult people around at different gyms. When I was doing that, putting myself in scary situations before my fights, I was the strongest and the most confident going in, because I’d already sparred the hardest people.”

The fact that he was getting paid to spar such competitors as Sergio Mora who won NBC’s “The Contender” was a boost to Jared’s morale.

“So, for anyone I fought, I was like, ‘I just sparred someone that’s much bigger than me and actually did very well against him,’ so my confidence level was through the roof,” he said.

Jared regrets making multiple career moves, jumping around from jobs in one arena to the next. He realized he has a pattern of leaving a specific pursuit once he becomes successful at it, possibly due to boredom. When it came to establishing a successful local business, he took a new approach.

“When I got into insurance, I had to tell myself to stick something out for 10 years and see where it takes me,” he said. “You’re going to realize after that 10-year mark if you want to keep doing it.”

Jared suggested that you don’t need to limit your options by only pursuing what you’re most passionate about.

“Your passions can be your hobbies,” he said. “What you make money with doesn’t have to be your passion. It can be something difficult that you don’t want to do every day and that’s what builds discipline too – doing what you don’t want to do.”

There’s a saying that the wildest colts make the best horses.

“I was a super wild colt,” Jared said. “Once I could tame myself and learn how to control my mind and learn stoicism – how to control my emotions – then I could do anything. I’m not just a feather in the wind getting blown around; I can control where my mind goes.”

Amanda shared the lasting effect of her own experience with adversity.

“My little brother passed away when I was 22 and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through,” she said. “Every single thing that came up afterwards, I just thought to myself, ‘I can do this.’ Whatever the trauma is. I think that’s the mindset I’ve recognized that most entrepreneurs have and that’s what drives them to keep going.”

Building Your Business and Family Dynamics

Your choices as an entrepreneur have an effect on your family members. When Jared decided to launch his new company, he was married and had two sons – aged 1 and 3. Christian was married with four children and left a stable job at JP Morgan to begin MaxPro. Because of their responsibilities, launching a new business in Santa Clarita was a big risk.

“I could tell my brain was already thinking we should start a marketing agency instead. That sounds fun – build some residual income … so we played around with it for a few months,” Jared said. “Then we snapped out of it and said, ‘No, stick with what we’re great at and what we can truly build.’ It was very hard.”

A husband and father of three sons, Jared is his own biggest critic, which adds to the pressure he experiences when business challenges arise.

“Anything I do, I’m self-analyzing,” he said. “Any presentation we make to a new client or prospect, I look back and think, ‘I did this wrong, this wrong, this wrong. I barely think about what I did right. That’s why I got so good at fighting and that’s why I think I get good at things, because I’m thinking and looking at room for improvement – physically, mentally, and emotionally.”

A huge part of it comes from his practice of positive thinking.

“I learned that from all the books I was reading as a kid and going deep into my mind and realizing that life is as you are, not as it is,” he said. “If I’m in a positive mind state, then everything around me in my world that day is going to be in a positive mind state.”

Jared’s wife, Alexa, is his biggest cheerleader, and he tries to stay present for his children, treating them with a softness he didn’t get as a child.

“I want to be a really good example for them,” he said. “One thing I learned from (lifestyle guru) Wes Watson was ‘build yourself into the man that you look up to and that your kids want to look up to. Be the hero and then give that person away to the world.’”

Lifestyle Decisions and Foundations for Business

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important to Jared, and he sees a causal relationship between physical fitness and serving your clients effectively.

“I feel like if I walk into a room and I’m giving someone advice on how to run a business, why should anyone listen to me if I don’t look like I can take care of myself?” he said.

Discipline and routine are the foundations of Jared’s healthy lifestyle choices.

“I’m the type of person who can eat the same thing every single day forever,” he said. “I don’t care what it tastes like – I’m eating for performance. I feel like I’m eating like a cheetah would, and it comes from fighting, because you have to eat this way to make weight. I can wake up at the same time every day, I can go to the gym at the same time every single day, do what I need to do, and then I feel amazing.”

Amanda went through a mind shift earlier this year that unveiled the link between physical performance and job performance.

“I wanted to really take control of that,” she said. “If I’m doing these high-performance things, my body needs to follow the mind.”

The mind-body connection means that a commitment to physical development can help a business owner improve their bottom line through better overall performance.

“You’re going to have a sharper mind if your body is in shape,” Jared said. “I take vitamins. I drink an insane amount of water every day. I eat an animal-based diet, a lot of grass-fed meat. I have liver, I have heart. I eat a lot of fruit. I try to eat stuff that has the minimum number of ingredients possible.”

Jared’s mental fitness routine includes listening to books and podcasts, studying what’s going on in the world.

“I’m excited to see where MaxPro is going to go,” he said. “We’re going to keep building our team and as long as we can keep dialing in our processes and systems, we can offer the level of service that we need to and that our clients deserve. We want to be able to pour in value and eventually build a platform for other brokers who have the same vision as we do. They can come work with us and get trained by us and build an elite, Navy SEAL-type of team in this industry.”

Meet the Experts

Jared Bradshaw – Co-founder/CEO of Business Strategy, MaxPro Insurance

From rising to the top in the MMA and boxing world to owning and operating several fight gyms and supplement stores, Jared has enjoyed a solid track record of business success in his past. He initially grew his business experience in the health, fitness, and fighting arenas and in 2011 he transitioned into insurance. While he established a Farmers Insurance office and successfully built it to serve more than 800 clients, he gradually saw the need to build a commercial insurance agency alongside to handle more complex insurance needs that were outside the appetite of Farmers.

As he realized his capabilities as a problem solver in complex risk management situations, his demand for the harder-to-place markets became so great that he sold his Farmers agency in 2017 to focus solely on this commercial business. He has received recognition from insurance publications along the way. He was one of the 20 agents nationwide to be named 2019 Agent of the Year and the only one chosen in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Connect with Jared on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn or by visiting MaxPro Insurance Solutions.

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram.

About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!

How to Take Your Business to the Next Level

When a small business owner has a thriving company, there comes a time when they decide to stand pat and let it ride or generate a vision to expand and reach a wider customer base. To explore the many factors involved in creating a broader business model and increasing your company’s impact, Amanda BensonTilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, had a conversation with Chris Ingram of Prosperitas Financial, about his journey from financial advisor to CEO of a company with a diverse range of services.

Should Your Company Evolve?

Some business owners are comfortable with their level of success, and it fits well with their personality and lifestyle choices, while others feel compelled to make changes.

“It started when I was just shy of 20 years as a financial advisor,” Chris said. “I started to look at my life and what I was doing, and the question became, ‘Do I just stay the same or do I do something different? Do I evolve into a new chapter?’”

Chris had reached a level of success where he could have stayed the course.

“But I’m not really good at that,” he said. “I get bored very easily just maintaining. I’m always continuing to try to be better tomorrow than I am today. So, it started to push me in the direction of saying, ‘I can’t just continue to do what I’m doing. I need to take it to the next level.’”

Changing Your Business Model

If you’re a business owner wanting to make changes, begin by analyzing the industry, looking at it from two different perspectives:

  • What you feel the industry needs
  • The direction the industry is going

The Client’s Perspective

Chris suggested thinking first about what the client wants and needs.

“From the client’s perspective, the way I viewed it, they really wanted somebody to manage all aspects of their financial life,” he said.

He looked at a model of services called a “family office,” that’s typically restricted to clients with a high net worth. Through a family office system, professionals manage everything from A to Z regarding the client’s financial life, including:

  • Their real estate
  • Their investments
  • Paying their bills
  • Bookkeeping for their business

Everything is run through the family office to optimize their finances, but it’s typically not available to the average client. Chris felt the industry needed the same services offered to others.

“That’s what the average client wants, and they don’t know how to tie all these pieces together,” Chris said. “They’re looking for somebody to come in and take over everything and guide them to their goals and future financial success. So, the first thing I thought of was: ‘How do we bring that level of service that they’re giving to these ultra-high net worth clients in those family offices down to a level that every client can get it?’”

You need to educate clients about why it’s important.

“One of the biggest flaws or mistakes clients make is not understanding how beneficial it is to them to have somebody really fine tuning all aspects of their financial life,” Chris said. “Then the problem was they couldn’t get it anywhere. Nobody was able to really provide that.”

What ends up happening is they fragment their financial life:

  1. They have an estate planning attorney
  2. They have a financial advisor
  3. They have an insurance agent
  4. They have a property and casualty expert

“They have all these different people who don’t know each other and are not communicating, so they’re bouncing from person to person and getting different advice,” Chris said. “I had my first meeting with some clients with a very large estate – $15,000,000-plus – and the wife looked at me and said, ‘I have no idea where our money is, how it’s doing, where our real estate is. Nobody’s communicating with us and we don’t know what’s going on.’ I described to them that they need somebody who’s going to tie all these things together, to be the quarterback and coach their team. It gives you peace of mind, knowing that everything is aligned and doing exactly what it’s supposed to do and educating you in a way where you no longer feel lost.”

The Advisor’s Perspective

With Prosperitas Financial, Chris connected a wide range of services to offer more than investment advisement.

“Having been an advisor for almost 20 years, what I realized is the reason that most advisors aren’t doing it is because it’s very time-consuming,” he said. “It’s very difficult. Some of them, frankly, just don’t understand all those different areas, so they’re trying to moonlight. And some of them are afraid to dive into these other areas, so they don’t even bring them up.”

Advisors may lack the resources to offer other services and they often specialize.

“At Prosperitas Financial, not only did we want clients to be able to get these services, we wanted to help advisors, to provide them with the tools and resources to offer these services to their clients,” he said. “It’s just physically almost impossible for them the way they’re currently set up.”

When advisors join Prosperitas they have access to experts including:

  • College planners
  • Estate planning attorneys
  • CPAs
  • Insurance agents
  • Business attorneys
  • Business consultants

“Now they can go to the table with all these different specialists in these different areas and make sure their client is truly getting the best advice from all the different areas they need,” Chris said. “And then be the coach, be the person that’s sitting in the middle making sure that everybody’s doing their job and providing that service to their clients.”

 Launching Your New Business Model

When you start to build a new business, you have to think about multiple facets including:

  • The brand
  • The onboarding process
  • The marketing
  • The location
  • The leasing
  • Furnishing the office

Expanding Responsibilities

“It evolved,” Chris said. “I had to figure out how to create a company that would optimize the service to clients and give an opportunity to advisors.”

When you create or rebuild a business, you begin to wear more hats.

“They often look at me as two people within the firm – I’m still a financial advisor, I still have my book of business, but as the CEO of the firm, my job is to provide these tools and resources to make advisors more productive and work better with their clients,” Chris said.

Branding begins with choosing a name for your new company. Prosperitas is Latin for “prosperity” or “providing good fortune to all.”

“That’s what we’re in the business of doing – providing good fortune, good results,” Chris said. “I’m helping people accomplish their goals, and that was kind of summarized in that.”

The Work-Life Balance

Chris was married with four children when he created Prosperitas Financial. Moving from a comfortable position to taking on a lot of risk begins with a conversation between you and your partner.

“Everybody’s going to be different – the relationship they have and the personalities of the spouses and your responsibility in the household,” Chris said. “My wife is probably the most supportive, ‘whatever you want to do’ kind of person. She never really puts any pressure on me being away. She’s super supportive in all areas of that kind of stuff, so I’m very lucky.”

Finding a fit that includes room for the family can be challenging.

“The hardest thing is the kids,” Chris said. “I’ve coached every team that I could, I want to be at every dance, every game, every everything, so the challenge of trying to juggle it all sometimes weighs on me. If I have to run to a basketball game and then turn around and run back to the office, then run back home, it is what it is. It’s part of the process – having goals of being there for the family, being a good dad and a good husband, and also building a business at the same time.”

When you launch a new company you can get buried by longer days, more responsibilities, as well as the additional phone calls and text messages.

“I don’t just have clients calling me, now I have advisors texting me at all hours of the day, asking me questions, wanting to meet with me and collaborate and talk about things,” he said. “So, the need for my attention was spread out even more and it continues with every new advisor we bring in.”

Creating a Team

You need competent help when you launch or expand your small business, which means you build a team to help you with operations.

“The beginning was crazy,” Chris said. “Now I have great partners and people involved, which helped out a lot, so that was huge. If it would have been solely me doing it, it would have been way worse. Kudos to them for being there.”

It’s important to have a good team, which is most successful when the business owner identifies their own strengths and weaknesses.

“I surrounded myself with people who are good at things that I’m not good at,” Chris said. “They’re able to pick up in areas that I don’t want to do, that don’t interest me. It interests them, and it excites them, so they pick up that piece and take it.”

Marketing Your New Business

When you’ve developed the shift in your business model, you’re ready to roll it out to the public. For Prosperitas Financial, Chris had to market both to the clients, to get them in the door, and to advisors to bring the talent into the company. 

“I think the challenge we had in the beginning was understanding who was the audience we were trying to reach, because previously as a financial advisor, my target market was the clients,” he said. “I started to realize we still want to get the message out to clients – what we provide and the opportunities we present to them. But as a firm, we’re also now looking at it from the standpoint of trying to get our message out to the advisors and let them know the opportunities that we provide to them and what we can bring to the table for their business.”

There are multiple levels of engagement where marketing is concerned, particularly in the early phase of developing your new company.

“I’m having strategic partners come to me and say, ‘Let’s talk about my business plan,’ so I’m talking about business plans for a college planner and business plans for an estate planning attorney,” Chris said. “That’s a lot of different marketing ventures. The scope of who we’re marketing to and what attention we’re trying to get has gotten much bigger. Trying to fine tune that and be able to meet all of those needs has been a bit of a challenge.”

For companies of various sizes – whether you’re a new business owner in Santa Clarita or a global corporation, you can work with marketing professionals from an outside firm or hire in-house staff to grow your customer base.

“I hope everybody, especially in the Santa Clarita area, would say that we did a fabulous job when we first started the company,” Chris said. “We were everywhere, and we really blanketed the community with our information.”

Prosperitas made their presence known through in-house marketing in the beginning, but as they continue to grow their company from a small business in Santa Clarita to widen their scope and make a broader impact, they may need to reconsider.

“Currently we’re all so busy in the office with all of the massive amounts of growth that we’ve had,” Chris said. “We’re contemplating right now how to transition into that next level and bring on a team or bring on other people.”

The advantage of in-house marketing is your ability to control the content, and Prosperitas has a studio in their office.

“You have people there who could create content right away, and it’s not an outside firm asking you to send them content,” Amanda said. “You have a lot of dynamic personalities who would do great with video – quick messaging – who would capture and relate to people, grabbing the attention of the average person and trying to do business with them.”

A successful social media influencer recommends having a camera follow you throughout the day to capture the gems that occur randomly.

“We have so many people at the firm who have great information to share, and it just pops up at weird times,” Chris said. “If there was somebody there who was constantly recording and could capture those things immediately, I think we would get a lot more content out there, so that’s another thing that I am exploring.”

Developing a Company Culture

At the beginning of the process of pivoting or launching a new company, you have to decide the culture you’re trying to create.

Physical Space

“I love your office vibe,” Amanda said. “It’s so welcoming and bright – busy in a way, but it’s not loud and obnoxious. How did you develop that culture?”

Chris did not want Prosperitas to resemble an old-school financial services office.

“We wanted a bright, light, exciting atmosphere to walk into,” Chris said. “Planning for your financial future and dreaming about what you want your life to look like is exciting, it should be fun. Not this gloomy doctor’s office, like ‘I’m going to get a root canal today.’”

Emotional Vibe

When it comes to creating a company culture at Prosperitas, they have a teamwork philosophy.

“There’s a vibe we want from every single person who works for the company. It’s ‘I’m excited to be there. I want to be a part of the team. I have fun being at work,’” Chris explained. “We’re very critical of who we allow to be a part of the team. You could be a financial advisor who has the most gigantic book of business on the planet. If they’re not nice to my staff and they’re not fun to be around and they’re not going to be a part of the team, we will not take them on, and we’re very strict about that. We want to keep that level of ‘family feel’ in the office.”

In a culture of teamwork, everyone is willing to help others in the office. It’s not an adversarial vibe, even between advisors. It’s collaborative.

“We have the idea that there’s plenty of business out there for everybody,” Chris said. “A rising tide lifts all ships. If we all work together, we can do so much more collectively than we would by locking ourselves in our offices and trying to do it individually.”

Staff and advisors at Prosperitas also have team outings, such as a recent night at MB2 Raceway. It dovetails with the company’s message that they are a family.

“We do a lot of fun things together, we get out as a group,” Chris said. “We’re working together, we spend time together, we do fun things together, we go on vacations together. We try to bond and have a real relationship with everybody in the office. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to fulfill our dreams of what we want our life to look like and it’s the same for your employees. We want everybody to have the kind of life that they really desire.”

Future Growth

Prosperitas Financial is a registered investment advisory firm (RIA) and Chris wants to become a ‘Top 25 RIA’ firm in the country. “That’s the goal we’re shooting for and it’s going to take time,” he said. “We are definitely on the right path.”

They began in California – establishing a company in Valencia and other parts of greater Los Angeles. They’re currently exploring the Bay Area and opening an office in Las Vegas while meeting with professionals in New York, Chicago, Florida, and Austin, Texas.

“The goal is to spread across the country and take what we believe is the right way to do this job and give it to more and more people,” Chris said. “We feel like we do it right and we’re doing really good things for clients, who deserve to get this level of service.”

Their method for expansion involves:

  • Finding an advisor in that area to serve as a “branch manager”
  • Determining the look of the office
  • Marketing to that community
  • Hiring a team
  • Recruiting advisors
  • Building up a presence in that area
  • Repeating the process in other areas

“We want to have a nationwide presence and have a brand that other advisors could use in their community,” Chris said.

Meet the Experts

Christopher Ingram – CEO of Prosperitas Financial

With decades of experience as an Investment Advisor Representative/Fiduciary, Chris Ingram has offered clients an uncompromising commitment to provide financial advice and services. After working at firms including PaineWebber and Morgan Stanley, he became an independent financial advisor through Ingram Financial Solutions and witnessed the evolution of the financial services industry and the needs of his clients. His vision drove the formation of Prosperitas Financial, providing an extensive array of tools and resources to elite financial advisors and financial service providers. They advise clients in a collaborative setting to include financial planning, wealth management, life insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, corporate benefits, employer retirement plans, health insurance, estate planning and trust services, tax preparation and planning, college guidance, lending, business succession planning, and more.

Visit the Prosperitas Financial website or you can follow Chris and Prosperitas Financial on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. She recently helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram.

About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created the Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!

How to Start a Small Business from Scratch

One of the challenges when opening a new business in Santa Clarita is finding a strategy that resonates with the public and sets you apart from your competitors. From the idea phase through customer service and expansion, there’s always something to learn from someone who’s been down that road before. Matt Peyton of EVERPREP meal preparation company sat down with Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show to share his entrepreneurial journey as he described the ups and downs of establishing his successful Santa Clarita business.

Find Your Company’s Mission

From a storefront in Valencia, EVERPREP has found a customer base for a meal preparation service stocked with wholesome foods to promote a healthy lifestyle for local residents. Identifying a need in the marketplace and designing a solution is a winning combination, especially when it’s the founder’s personal passion.

“My own health story goes back 10-plus years ago,” Matt said. “I was incredibly unhealthy. We were a two-income household with small kids, super busy. There was lots of fast food in our life at the time. Chasing my son around the backyard one day, I had to stop and sit down. I was short of breath, and I was getting lightheaded, and I just decided this is not how this is going to go. That was sort of the beginning of my health journey. I quit smoking and started eating better.”

Matt’s desire was to offer an alternative to the attractiveness of the fast-food culture. It partly involved recognizing the convenience and the addictive, unhealthy ingredients fast food restaurants use.

“When you’re feeling better, when you’re in good health you can show up for your family in ways that you can’t when you’re not,” he said. “It’s really, truly one of the missions of the restaurant. I don’t know that any of us is going to add a day to our lives, but we’re going to feel a lot better and be able to do things that we want to be able to do.”

Other factors fueling his motivation to launch EVERPREP was the evidence throughout the pandemic of the number of health issues tied directly to diet.

“You can walk into EVERPREP and get a meal for less than you’re going to pay for your burger combo,” he said. “You’re going to eat food that you know is clean – whole, fresh ingredients, nothing is processed, low sodium, low sugar. We use all of our own organic seasonings, and we make our own sauces, and we make our own marinades. If you’re interested in knowing exactly where your calories and your macros come in for the meal that you built for yourself, you can go online and do that.”

Matt’s goal is “to beat the fast-food guys at their own game and make it just as convenient and even less expensive.”

His ideas began to percolate when he saw how difficult it was to do meal prep at home. He figured there’s got to be a better way to make healthy eating convenient, affordable, and accessible.

Getting Started

“When you’re starting a business, you’ve got to be smart enough to know what you don’t know and recognize and rely on experts where it makes sense to do that,” Matt said. “We resourced a Consulting Group comprised of a number of chefs to develop a menu that would ensure that the food is delicious, craveable, and something that people want to come back to every week, but still delivers on those things that are most important to us.”

Amanda was struck by his clear vision and courage to follow through.

“You truly are an entrepreneur, because you’re not a chef and you opened up a restaurant,” Amanda said. “I know people who are personal trainers, and their goal is to open a gym, but they know nothing about running a business. You have so much experience as an executive in a retail chain. Everything you learned you were able to apply to this business model. It’s also your passion and your need – to live healthier. You combined those two and you made this great business, but also being able to take the risk to do it – that’s truly what an entrepreneur is.”

Matt recommends seeking help for the parts of the business you don’t know. “It’s cheap insurance, if you think about it. It’s way more expensive getting it wrong,” he said. “I sort of came to it backwards, because I do have a history in an executive role for a sizable retailer, a national footprint, multiple billion dollars, but I did not have that restaurant background – other than I love food and I want to eat healthy.”

Do Your Research

During the COVID-19 pandemic there were many Americans who realized it was a good time to launch a small business involving meal preparation. Because those stories were out there, Matt felt it was important to find a unique business model, improving on the rank-and-file concepts of other companies.

EVERPREP established a clean and simple process:

  • Fresh food
  • Cooked on site
  • Refrigerated for pickup
  • Pick your protein
  • Pick your starches
  • Pick your vegetables
  • Pick your toppings
  • Pick your sauces
  • No minimums
  • No subscriptions

“We’re trying to differentiate ourselves from all of the other meal prep companies out there,” Matt said. “In doing our market research we found that people shy away from meal prep companies because of the commitment you have to make through subscription.”

Customization

Building your own meal combination is one of EVERPREP’s main features. Customers build all their meals exactly to their calorie and macronutrient goals.

“There are a lot of prep companies out there who use words like ‘macros smart’ or ‘calorie smart,’ but everybody’s different,” Matt said. “Everybody’s lean body mass is different. Everybody’s activity level is different. So, the calories that you need, the macro nutrients that you need are going to be specific to you. What we’re trying to offer is 100% customization.”

Sometimes subscription meal prep plans make you decide whether to choose the meat option or the vegetarian – you can’t get a combination.

“We offer a tremendous amount of variety,” he said. “Chicken comes in six flavors. We continue to get hounded by customers to jar the sauces, so I think that’s the next thing. One guy told me he would put the soy miso on his shoe and eat it. The sauces really are the sort of the MVP for a lot of people.”

Personalized Service

Getting people in the door for the first time is one thing, but they return because of the service.

“One of the things that you don’t get with most of these other meal prep companies is that it’s not personal,” Matt said. “It’s between you and their website or the app. One of the things we talk about all the time is we really want to be relational.”

When you walk into a fast food or fast casual restaurant such as Chipotle, they ask what you want. “But we want to understand why you’re there,” he said. “Are you just looking to be a little bit healthier? Or are you looking to lose weight? Are you looking to gain weight or are you looking to maintain? Do you have some health issues in terms of your blood pressure or other things? What’s brought you in and how can we be a part of helping you get to the solution that you’re looking for?”

Choose Your Venue

There are many reasons a local business may want to consider opening a storefront:

  • Customers love it
  • They can see the products
  • They have a hands-on experience
  • They can weigh the food
  • The smell can get public attention
  • Customers know the breadth of options
  • They recognize the convenience
  • They can get comfortable with the business
  • It’s easy to order online and grab their bag from the refrigerator
  • Easy to-go food, on their way to work, camping, etc.

Matt chose the location because it was a drivable distance. His family didn’t have to move.

“We looked across this larger geographic area and actually drew circles around the intersections that we thought we wanted to be in,” he said.

A hot tip Matt shared about doing research for a venue – take advantage of work that others have already done. For EVERPREP he looked at places where there were Chic-fil-A restaurants. “These guys have done their homework,” he said. “They’ve got a sizable real estate team that I don’t have – let me learn from them.”

Matt and his team liked the demographics in Valencia. “There’s no community like Santa Clarita in terms of checking all those boxes – the family community in which people are very committed to health,” he said. “Just look at all the gyms, all the different sports leagues, the paseos. This is a community that is about being active and healthy and living that healthy lifestyle. Busy, two-income households where their time is of the essence – they don’t have a lot of it. They want to be able to eat well and they want to be able to take care of their kids.”

Develop Your Brand

“We also worked with a branding organization to help us really bring the brand to life,” he said. “What’s really tricky is we wanted to make sure that the branding and what we represented to the customer was polished enough that it lent us the credibility we needed to recognize we weren’t just trying to figure this out or shooting from the hip.”

Though creating a company brand that looks professional sets it up nicely to begin franchising, it was important to Matt that EVERPREP was represented as a local company.

“We’re still a community business, and Santa Clarita – like no other – supports their community businesses,” he said. “This is a place where people really do get behind and want to support small business in the community.”

Matt has advice for business owners when consulting with a branding company.

“Working with the branding organization to help bring that vision to life was incredibly valuable,” he said. “But I was incredibly hands-on and directive about what we were trying to convey, what we wanted the customer to experience, and how we wanted to be seen.”

The experience can cut both ways, he said.

“You’ve also got to be careful because if you’re going to hire experts and then tell them what to do, you’re just lighting money on fire,” he said. “It’s important to recognize what that expertise is that you’ve paid for. Ensure they’re not running away with it, and it becomes something that’s very different than what you want to create.”

Marketing the Business

Matt regrets some of his marketing choices before opening the doors of EVERPREP.

“We did marketing, but probably not nearly aggressive enough and not in the right places,” he said.

He thinks they would have benefitted from promoting the business in venues such as gyms and health fairs. “Getting in front of people who are thinking about that commitment to their health,” he said. “You can fish in the ocean, or you can fish in the fully stocked pond. You can throw your advertisement out there on Instagram to the world at large, and maybe you convince some of them that meal prep is an option for them right now, but many are scrolling right past. You’re trying to communicate to the masses when there might be a smaller audience that has any real sort of interest.”

When using platforms such as Instagram you’re reaching wide and deep instead of targeted.

“Likes and followers and all those things don’t necessarily translate to sales,” Matt said.

EVERPREP is marketing to people who are meal prepping themselves, telling them, “We’re going to give you your Sunday back,” he said. “Go enjoy your family and just swing through and pick up your bag when you’re ready.”

He thought it would be a faster process marketing through social media and digital channels, but found they needed “boots on the ground,” connecting in the community, which takes time.

Future Plans

Matt came from a background including the operational process and implementation in stores on a large scale. Looking forward for himself, or tips if you’re opening a small business, include focusing on the following issues:

  • the ability to execute efficiently
  • the ability to keep costs in check
  • the ability to make sure they offer a relational experience
  • the training that needs to happen
  • the marketing – how to get the message out

At this point, EVERPREP is a family business. Whether or not they expand, and it becomes a chain restaurant, remains to be seen.

“There’s a handful of different approaches,” Matt said. “There is the ‘slow and steady wins the race,’ self-funded way. We’re completely self-funded to this point. It’s a long-term commitment to get there, but you maintain 100% ownership which has tremendous value, being able to make everyday decisions that are focused not on a shareholder or an investor’s payback. You can take on angel investors or capital in a number of different ways and grow much faster, but now you’re beholden in some ways to those investors. There’s always franchising, which is a whole other thing.”

Meet the Experts

Matt Peyton – Founder, EVERPREP

Matt Peyton’s personal health journey led him to realize the Santa Clarita business community needed a meal service company that supported residents who were short on time but wanted to maintain a healthy balance. EVERPREP is breaking all the rules to disrupt the meal prep industry. With a restaurant storefront you can visit, and same day pickup or delivery, the company provides completely custom meal prep with no minimums, no subscriptions, and no advanced ordering required. Matt is committed to providing clean, whole, fresh ingredients and unparalleled customization and convenience. “We’re here to help people eat well and live well.”

EVERPREP is located at 24339 Magic Mountain Pkwy in the Target shopping center between Big 5 Sporting Goods and Big Chicken. You can visit the company online at Everprepmeals.com or find Matt on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram.

 About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created the Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!

Mental Health Insights for Young Adults in the Workplace

Mental health is as important in the workplace as it is in every other arena of life. To help Santa Clarita business owners, managers, and their employees devise strategies that improve mental wellness at work, Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, had a conversation with Kelly Kozlowski, executive program director of behavioral health services at Aspire Santa Clarita.

Aspire Counseling Services is a Santa Clarita business offering counseling and other services to men, women, adolescents, and families struggling with substance use disorders and behavioral health conditions.

Aspire offers 4 different tracks of programs that include:

  • Partial hospitalizations
  • Intensive outpatient (IOP)
  • Individual therapy
  • Group programs

What is Mental Wellness?

Mental Wellness is an internal resource that helps individuals think, feel, connect, and function. It is an active process that helps us build resilience, grow, and flourish.

It has multiple dimensions including:

  • Mental dimension – thinking
  • Emotional dimension – feeling
  • Social dimension – connecting
  • Psychological dimension – functioning

Professionals at Aspire use a set of guidelines entitled “10 Essential Emotional Needs.”

“Just like physical needs that we have – the connection, the support, the community, the purpose – there are so many things that go into that,” Kelly explained. “We call them ‘human givens,’ and if we’re not fulfilling ourselves emotionally, we’re going to struggle with what we do. Just like the physical body, if we’re not nurturing our body and taking care of ourselves, we’re not going to do well.”

Management and the Mental Wellbeing of Employees

Mental wellbeing in the workplace is a component of society that is often overlooked.

“I think that we’re not doing enough within the workforce as managers or directors or corporate leaders to help our young adults when they’re entering the workplace,” Kelly said. “We’re just expecting them to be ready and prepared, but at the same time, they’re still young adults who are learning about themselves and who they are, on top of these stressors and pressures of society to become an adult and to do well in this world.”

There are many reasons mental wellbeing should be talked about more in the workplace.

“Addressing mental health issues can help prevent absences, for instance. If you’re feeling fatigued, if you’re mentally struggling with something, it can have a physical impact on you,” Amanda said. “It also can help boost confidence and identity at work. When you’re stable and you’re feeling more confident, you have an identity and a purpose when you show up every day to your job.”

Belonging

Is management building a team that enables their employees to feel they belong?

“Are they allowing them to embrace their strengths and weaknesses? Or are they just fixating on their weaknesses, which is then affecting their mental wellbeing?” Kelly asked. “Are we finding out what are the strengths of this individual and where are they best suited and fitted?”

How Managers and Staff Members Can Foster a Sense of Belonging:

  • Allow them to embrace their strengths and weaknesses
  • Don’t fixate on the weaknesses of your employees
  • Based on their strengths, find the most suitable position for the individual
  • Help them find a purpose within the company

“As an employee, if you have that, you’re going to want to come in, you’re going to want to be there, you’re going to want to be a part of your company,” Kelly said. “Then these young kids are going to want to represent what they’re doing, they’re going to talk about it with their friends, and that’s free marketing within itself.”

It’s a win-win for staff members and business owners who want to improve company culture and it can even have a positive effect on the bottom line. “It can help these young adults, or anybody, manage stress and make them feel productive,” Amanda said. “You’ll really get the most out of your company’s employees when they show up to work.”

 Pressures Affecting Young Job Candidates

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a collaborative study conducted this year involving college graduates age 22 to 28 found that 51% of them reported needing help for emotional or mental health problems. More than one-third of young professionals find that their workplace erodes their sense of mental health and wellbeing.

“I run a gym in Burbank, and I employ the age group we’re talking about, from the ages of 18 to 24, and these are very young adults,” Amanda said. “I think this age group gets completely overlooked because they go from being considered children to immediate adulthood. We don’t address the transitioning — from the parents’ home into college or from the parents’ home into the workforce. Some get married or go into a roommate situation. We don’t really address it; we just think that they need to know everything because now they’re adults.”

Successfully launching young adults is a collaborative effort.

“Teachers and parents can only teach so much,” Kelly said. “That’s why having strong management to help with young adults is so important, because we all do play different roles in these young adults’ lives.”

Stress and the Job Hunt

Questions for Job Searchers to Ask Themselves:

  • What do you stand for?
  • What are the company’s values?
  • Can you work for a company that doesn’t match your morals?
  • Who is the manager?
  • Who will be your boss?

“The reason why they jump into corporate America is because they have pressures to start paying for things and be on their own and build a retirement,” Amanda said. “I know that some young adults will look at a job and based on just the salary, they’ll plug in to Indeed or any job boards for the salary. Or they take a management position when maybe they’re not quite qualified, and then they feel a lot of pressure to live up to that title or what the expectations are.”

The financial component is a prominent piece that’s driving young adults in the hiring space.

“In the interviews that I conduct for the new employees that come into our facility, money is such a big factor,” Kelly said. “I’m the type of person who doesn’t really want to talk about money. Let me make sure you’re the right fit; let’s get to know each other and let’s have this conversation. At the end, if we’re vibing, we’re doing well together, then let’s talk about what we want. I would rather work for a company that I feel supports me and wants what’s best for me and make less money than to make the extra $10,000 a year or whatever it is. But for our younger kids, money talks to them.”

Money talks to young adults today due to:

  • Post-COVID inflation
  • Rise in wages
  • Young people feel they deserve higher pay

“It can be dangerous because they can get into a role where they’re not feeling fulfilled inside,” Amanda said, “which can lead to other stresses that bring on so many other issues with their health and everything else – things that I think can break somebody down.”

Ghosting Employers

“Another thing I’ve been seeing when helping business owners with problems is that candidates end up ghosting their interviews or ghosting their first day on the job,” Amanda said. “This has happened to me numerous times, where I’ve set up an interview and we’ve had a great phone conversation. They sound excited, I’m excited, and they no-show. Then I text and there’s no response — nothing at all.”

According to Kelly, there are two possible explanations:

  1. “What if I’m not enough?” They have anxiety and fear that they can’t live up to what is on paper. “I think a lot of times these younger adults are hiding behind their phones, so actually having to face someone is something that’s so different for them,” she said.
  2. “I found something else that’s better, but I’m too afraid to tell you.” They just ghost you and act like nothing happened. “That kind of goes into the dating world of that generation too. A lot of things we’re seeing in the workplace people are seeing in the dating world as well,” she said.

The Effect of Boomeranging

“A lot of these young adults are still living at home,” Amanda said. “Even if they’ve gone to college, they’ve come back home because it’s very hard to afford to live on their own or even in a roommate situation. I think there are added stresses that come from their home life, probably by coming back and having to learn how to deal with that now at an older age.”

Kelly concurred. “Kids go off to college and they go get a degree within their major and they’re away at school, living in dorms and apartments and their parents are helping them with all of that,” she said. “But when college is over, they’re not going to keep paying for these dorms or these apartments for them to live in while they figure out what they’re going to do. Going from four years of being independent and now living under that roof – it’s definitely going to be an adaption that’s very hard.”

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is the effect of self-doubt, when you question your success and abilities internally, even when your external performance is good.

“They don’t believe what they’re capable of,” Amanda said. “So, they feel like ‘I’m not going to apply for that job because I’m not really that.’ But, in reality, they’re very capable.”

Kelly asks her clients, “How do you know unless you try?”

“Maybe you don’t have the experience like someone else does when you apply for a specific position, but maybe you have the personality, that drive, the work ethic,” she said. “There’s so much more when we look at people coming in for a job interview. There are so many components we look at.”

In Amanda’s work with small business owners in Santa Clarita she advises job candidates in the same way. “I always tell people to just put themselves out there,” she said. “It doesn’t even matter if there are one or two things on the job description that you don’t fit. If you don’t get it, you’re practicing; you’re learning what people expect and then you can grow.”

Fear of failure can fuel imposter syndrome.

“How do you let go of that? You show up and you be your authentic self and be willing to learn,” Kelly said.

Interviewing as a Learning Experience

“They need to learn that it’s OK to go on a job interview and not get the job,” Kelly explained. “You can’t allow that one job interview to be the determining factor of your self-worth and your self-esteem. Those come from within. It doesn’t get to be decided by someone who didn’t want to hire you.”

We can’t have success without failure, and we can’t have strengths without weaknesses.

“The more job interviews we go on, the better we’re going to get at them,” Kelly said. “Then the higher position we’re going to find, or that job we’ve been looking for, we’re going to get with time.”

Be confident and proud about who you are and bring your authentic self into those interviews.

“I’ve learned that some people might not fit the position, but their internal work and the things they do while in the position really plays such an important factor,” Kelly said. “In my workplace that’s what I look for. We have so many different personalities, because in the therapy world we say that therapy is like an art form. We have different art forms, and every therapist isn’t going to be the same. We have different people and different dynamics, but when we come together, we create this, as I call it, the ‘dream team.’”

Take the interview even if you don’t meet all the requirements in the job description.

“If the person that’s interviewing you can see that you’re coachable or that you’re willing to learn and that you’re eager to know those things, or you’re reading a book that’s going to help you achieve, these experiences will level you up,” Amanda said. “You can’t just be expected to go into the job and know every single thing about it. That’s why internships are good, and mentorships are good, showing up and being willing to learn even if you take the lesser position first.”

Be willing to learn and adapt to the environment.

“I think that’s how you and I got to where we are today,” Amanda said. “Because we started somewhere and then we found a love or an interest or a passion in that, and then we explored more, and it created opportunity. I wish these young adults would let that go and just accept that that’s something you don’t know until you try.”

Tips for Executives and New Hires in the Onboarding Process

For Young Adults Entering the Workplace

There are a range of coping mechanisms new staffers can use to reduce stress and maximize mental wellness.

“The number one thing I see is time management,” Kelly said. “They’re constantly scrambled and anxious and overwhelmed and that anxiety is draining and it’s hard. By four hours into your eight-hour shift you’re so exhausted you don’t want to do anything anymore or you’re getting snippy and rude. But if you organize your time better, you walk into a workplace and you are prepared.”

Time management and organization are the two things that set you apart from any other employee.

Throughout her years in corporate work and business consulting in Los Angeles, Amanda has found some tools that help new employees with structure, including:

  • Calendar To-Do List for each day
  • Excel spreadsheets
  • Scheduled meetings
  • Proper nutrition
  • Organizing your desk and workspace

For Leadership

When a business owner mentors new hires, they can set them up for success by becoming a role model.

“If you’re always rushing around and you’re late to work and your life is a mess – guess what? Your employees are going to do the same,” Amanda said. “If you’re a manager or a small business owner who wants success with staffers, but your life is chaotic and messy, you cannot be upset at the employees you hire if their life is chaotic and messy.”

Leadership sets the tone for their direct reports.

“So, it’s being a role model and not teaching them ‘do as I say, not as I do,’” Kelly said. “That doesn’t do anything for anyone, and a lot of these young adults learn by observing.”

Everything you say and do is seen by your staff members. “It also spreads to the whole culture of the company,” Amanda said.

Self-Care and Advocacy

Self-care is finding quiet time and space to do something for you.

“Sometimes people view self-care as, like, a nap,” Kelly said. “Getting your nails done or getting a facial or getting your hair done – these are things that should be happening. On top of that, you should be taking quiet time to reflect.”

Aspire staff members teach many forms of self-care including:

  • Taking a walk outside
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Deep breathing

“You know where they teach that? In kindergarten!” Amanda said. “They want you to have quiet time on the rug.”

Burnout

You burn out when you put other people’s needs above your own.

Motives include trying to please:

  • Your parents
  • Your boss
  • Your romantic partner
  • Your friends

“We do see a lot of people in their young 20s who come into our mental health intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization program due to stress and burnout from the workplace,” Kelly said.

Use self-care and determine what’s best for you by taking breaks on the job. Ideas include:

  • Lock the door and watch a show on your phone or laptop
  • Take 30 minutes to turn off your brain
  • Put your headphones on and listen to some music
  • Put on a podcast
  • Go to lunch
  • Take a walk
  • Bring a smoothie blender to work
  • Find somebody to talk to

“If there are things going on in the workplace that you’re uncomfortable with, go talk to someone about it,” Kelly said. “That should always be something you can do, to say, ‘Hey, I noticed this.’ Or if you have an idea, bring it to somebody.”

Ask for help and reach out to mentors.

“When I used to work at Hyatt, we did a one-on-one meeting with our direct reports once a month,” Amanda said. “Even if you are a small business owner of five people, I highly recommend having a one-on-one with your team because it really does allow for conversation for them to express their ideas.”

It enables new recruits to connect.

“It allows them to build a relationship with the manager and to become more comfortable,” Kelly said. “These young kids want to feel heard, understood and supported. I know you did a podcast on active listening, which is such an important skill for a manager to have, as well as a worker to have.”

Meet the Experts

Kelly Kozlowski – Aspire Santa Clarita Executive Program Director of Behavioral Health Services

Kelly has been working with people struggling with addiction and mental health challenges for the past few years. She has a unique understanding and compassion for individuals needing assistance with mental health and substance abuse experiences. Her work involves a combination of complex, integrated issues that require ongoing support from not only a treatment team, but from family, friends, and loved ones.

Kelly graduated with two associate degrees from College of the Canyons and earned a bachelor’s degree from Brandman University in 2016. She continued her education at Brandman by obtaining a Master of Arts in psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy and professional clinical counseling in 2018.

To reach out to Kelly, you can call her at 661-296-4444. You can also call the Aspire intake line at 888-585-7373 or go on the website at AspireCounselingService.com where there is an online chat available 24/7.

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram.

 About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!

What’s Your Family Brand?

Every small business owner has a backstory, and many times your life experiences play a big part in shaping the style and content of your entrepreneurial journey. On this month’s podcast, Amanda Benson-Tilch of Ask Amanda Consulting gives her audience a closer look at some of the circumstances that helped her develop strength and resilience as a female business owner while navigating life as a single mother. To get to the heart of it, and to see the impact she’s had on those around her, she had a conversation with the two people who know her best – her son and daughter, Miles and Audrey Benson.

Amanda As Mom

Because she is so active in the community, Amanda is recognized by philanthropic leaders, local officials, and Santa Clarita business owners, which means her children are often in the public eye.

“Going into a restaurant and getting recognized immediately by somebody I’ve never met before,” Miles said, “is always sweet and they’re always nice people. I think it’s a unique situation for both of us, compared to most. It’s like being a reverse celebrity.”

Now young adults, Miles and Audrey described their mother as a model of inspiration.

“Growing up with you as a mom has shown me so much strength and confidence,” Audrey said. “You’re motivated and you have so many opportunities … so many things going on in your head, and you’re always going, going, going. It’s something to look forward to and be inspired by.”

Miles appreciated years of learning how to form healthy bonds between himself and his mother, as well as other family relationships.

“I feel appreciation and gratitude from learning that relationship correctly, because there are a lot of troubled ones,” he said. “I think seeing that and coming to the realization that we have the relationship that we do, and with each other, it’s a place for gratitude for sure.”

Amanda described the first time she caught a young Miles lying to her. She told him: “I’m going to let you sit in here for a while and you’re going to think about what to say. If you choose to lie to me, then it’s going to change our relationship forever.”

A self-described non-mushy mom, when Amanda returned to the room, he told her the truth.

“I’ve thought about it a lot,” Miles said. “We’ve had a taste of being taught something, specifically and sternly – ONCE – and then that changes our mental chemistry and viewpoint for the rest of our lives.”

Children of Divorce

Amanda’s two grown children sometimes use the word “mentorship” to describe Amanda’s strictness, but they also refer to many positive changes they’ve seen from both of their parents over the years. The couple divorced when Audrey was 4 and Miles was 8 years old, at which point Amanda became a single mother.

“It’s really interesting to see that difference,” Miles said. “He’s changed also, but you are very different – both in the very best way possible. The growth of taking the reins – you grabbed the reins, and you got sweaty palms, but you figured it out.”

Audrey has fewer memories because she was young, but she did have a little advice to share.

“I do remember some big pinpoints that also I think made us grow up really quick,” she said. “I would just say, ‘Don’t use what has happened to you and hold onto it forever. Just learn from it and accept it and grow, because it’s going to happen to all of us.’ I think it makes you who you are as a person too. Now I know what I want to look for in someone to love, and because we have a good relationship, that’s what I want for me with my kids too.”

Because he was older, Miles was more conscious of the divorce and its impact.

“My one word of advice, or phrase, would be more narrow,” he said, “and it goes for all kinds of relationships: it’s OK to grieve somebody who’s still alive.”

He brought up a quote from an interview with Spiderman actor Andrew Garfield, who recently lost his mother: “Grief is all of the love you didn’t get to express.”

“It struck a chord with me, and I think it’s the most impactful thing I’ve ever heard,” Miles said. “It’s changed my outlook on a lot, especially divorce, but also relationships with friends and romantic ones. … When grieving somebody who’s alive – clearly, you’re going to see them now and then – it’s OK to still express that grief. Your parents are also, at the same time, at the end of a big term of their lives and it’s traumatic for them also. Everybody’s on the receiving end of that.”

Family Lessons Learned

Making your family a priority is one of the most significant messages Miles and Audrey metabolized as children of Amanda and members of their sizable family.

“You always put family first, because they’re always going to be there for you – no matter what,” Audrey said. “You’re going to go through a lot with them, but that’s your hard rock, your stone. That’s your home. You’re my home – you guys are my home.”

Birth order and proximity to family members, such as having grandparents in the house, have contributed to Audrey’s worldview.

“Being the youngest, it gives me so many people to look up to, especially having Nana and Papa in the house now,” she said. “Nana has become such a good role model for me. I spend a lot of time with her now. And you, Miles, growing up being the bigger brother, I always looked up to you. And, of course, Mom looked up to you. And now I have so many more people.”

Miles appreciated the kind of messaging that taught him to replace judgment with empathy.

“It’s not judgment, as in approaching a situation analytically, carefully, and cautiously,” he said, “but with a form of grace and empathy.”

Audrey concurred.

“You’ve taught both of us to just love people, to not be mean, but accepting with no judgment,” Audrey said. “You’ve taught me to always love, and I think that’s the best thing in a family – to always love.”

Amanda pointed out that family isn’t always limited to blood relatives.

“I think the concept of accepting a family that’s not blood is a very open concept and it’s preached a lot in media now, like movies and whatever else,” Miles said. “But experiencing that firsthand is definitely something that’s valuable, and more people need to, especially in the world we live in now.”

Audrey described Amanda’s openness.

“You’re always like, ‘Come on, let’s just be part of my family. I’m just going to take you in,” she said. “You just learn to love people so much, especially when they’re going through a lot.”

The Importance of Gratitude

Amanda described some of the challenges the three of them experienced as a family, which forged positive character qualities.

“We didn’t have a lot at all, and we struggled and went through some hard times, but we did that together,” she said. “I think that taught us – and then everything that I have built for us since then – it’s taught you to be grateful. I’m grateful for it.”

Miles agreed.

“I think gratitude is the most valuable thing to learn in life; it’s something that you should reach for,” he said. “Along the same lines as appreciation. Just be here now. Always being present.”

Miles underscored the importance of acceptance and appreciation.

“After you go through something or experience a moment, whatever it is – negative or positive – you think of it differently, replaying it in your head,” he said. “But I think accepting it, in terms of what it is, then you can appreciate it more and live it more richly and thoroughly in that moment. Going through so many different situations in the family, in life, I think I’ve learned to live it more richly. That appreciation – you have to see what it is fully and live by it actively.”

Miles and Audrey have shown a growing level of adaptability.

It’s good that you guys have the approach that you do about changes in life,” Amanda said. “It’s very admirable and I think that it’s something you could pass on to other people, which is helpful.”

“I think that’s the true lesson and I think that’s what your goal would be – either consciously or subconsciously,” Miles said. “That’s what you’ve passed, and it’s clearly stuck with both of us.”

Working with Mom

Both Miles and Audrey have worked with and for Amanda. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Miles worked as her assistant at an apartment complex in Burbank.

“We’ve always had a good relationship, so it wasn’t an eye-rolling event,” Miles said. “We had fun. I liked it a lot. There were a lot of things I learned there.”

The two of them spent nearly a half hour a day carpooling from Santa Clarita to Burbank.

“There were lots of laughs,” he said. “We listened to podcasts, but also, I got to spend a lot more time with you and I think I enjoyed that the most. Working with you is fun because, you know… your personality. And the workplace was pretty good.”

Miles learned a lot about how to deal with people by working alongside Amanda.

“You saw how I dealt with people, which was very different,” Amanda said. “I feel like that was really a good experience for you.”

Amanda’s people skills were one of many facets that impacted Miles in a positive way.

“You’re a people person; I’m not,” he said. “In my first really mature job, which had a lot of things I did not enjoy doing. But also, working with you set me up because I was able to handle it and I knew what I was doing. I was tossed into the deep end, and I stayed that way for the whole two years. I was self-managing the whole time. Having a model – that was you – but also in that industry. It was very valuable.”

Audrey worked for Amanda at Burbank Fitness Club at the front desk. COVID-19 restrictions were over and she had just finished high school through a homeschool program, so she was coming from several years without much social interaction.

“I just needed to meet new people and actually communicate, because I just didn’t really talk to anyone,” Audrey said. “I think mentally and physically, I just needed to go do something. And you were like, ‘Audrey come on, let’s go. You’re coming to work with me.’ The same as Miles, it got me very bonded with you, the more I talked to you, spending all day with you – three or four times a week. I loved it. I just made so many good friends and it taught me a lot about communicating with people and customer service. I loved that job. It was one of the best times of my life. It helped me grow up really quick and it taught me more about people and myself.”

Amanda said she’s grateful for the connections that provided her kids with workplace opportunities.

“I’m very fortunate that I have aligned myself with certain circumstances to be able to provide this for you guys,” she said. “But I’m also very thankful that both of you said yes to different types of jobs that were available at the time.”

There were many conversations between Amanda and her children during job transitions.

“Kids are scared, and they look to us adults who have been in the workforce for years,” she said. “If you’re not giving them proper advice, sound advice – leave your personal thoughts and feelings out of it and really try to set them up for success – then I think you’re doing these kids a disservice. Part of my relationship with both of you is to sort of be a mentor, and there’s a fine line between being somebody’s parent and being their mentor. If these were just young adults coming to me and asking me the same questions and they weren’t my kids, I would say the same thing. I think that more parents need to have that viewpoint and not just put what they think and feel onto the kids, because there’s no room for you guys to think and feel differently.”

Miles agreed wholeheartedly.

“That kind of mentorship is important, but the kind of mentorship when you’re holding their hands is very different,” he said, “because typically if you’re holding their hands, you’re going to naturally guide them to where you were, what you did, your experiences. It’s not productive for anybody; it doesn’t help anybody.”

For it to be effective, the job seeker needs to also have the desire to be mentored, Amanda pointed out.

Dreams, Aspirations and Budding Entrepreneurs

“Taking your dream and putting it into real life” is the way Audrey defines entrepreneurship. “Like you did with Ask Amanda. You took your dream and made it a reality.”

“Yours is a unique situation because you are like ‘the entrepreneur of entrepreneurs,’” Miles said. “With Ask Amanda, you’re somebody’s grindstone and you help not only give them the consultation part of it, but also, you’re providing the tools for them to hone in on their own entrepreneurial ideas. You’re helping guide them in the ways that they need most or that they may need to go about things a different way.”

Both Miles and Audrey can see themselves launching a small business someday, but they’re taking their time as they establish their plans.

“It’s so hard to know what you want to do with your life when you’re still a kid,” Audrey said. “There’s so much pressure and so many things you could choose from. Eighteen is so young to pick your whole life. It’s just crazy.”

Miles, who completed some courses at College of the Canyons, frowns on the practice of forcing kids to go to college without a real goal.

“Like Audrey said, when you’re younger there’s a lot of pressure and I feel like picking that while you’re young is hard,” he said. “It’s definitely changed a lot throughout my life, but I feel like I’ve found my actual passions to drive my motivations in times that I have to myself. I find appreciation for things that I like – and you don’t know until you try something.”

Miles, who Amanda describes as meticulous and good at tinkering, would like to launch a watch company, among other things.

“I’m determined and I’m going to do it,” he said. “Start with leather bands first … and possibly either write a book or film. I don’t know when that will be, if I’m 70 or 25 – something I can appreciate now and do then.”

It’s easy for Audrey to identify her greatest passion.

“Now that I’m 19 I’ve finally kind of pinpointed it, because since I was little, I’ve always wanted to bake,” she said. “It just stuck with me. I was always pretending to bake, and I had my own little kitchen. I’m going to go to college for it. I’m working in a coffee shop right now, but eventually I’ll work at a bakery. That’s my dream and my goal and my aspiration – I want to be a little baker. My true dream would be to own a bakery.”

When put in the hot seat by her kids, Amanda shared that she has small business goals of her own.

“There’s one dream that I do have that I’ve never really thought about fulfilling and I don’t know if I will or not,” she said. “I would love to host a conference. I have this whole vision in my head. I can see it in big lights, and I have these speakers in mind that would just benefit a certain group of people, around probably entrepreneurship and self-development, in the world of personal development and self-improvement, which I call ‘self-development.’ That’s on my bucket list if I could pull it off.”

Meet the Expert

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram.

About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!

Benefits of Effective Listening Skills

There are certain skills that help your business thrive while also benefiting you personally, and being a good listener is one of them. Improving your ability to connect to everyone – from your direct reports to potential clients – can be the secret to expanding your business, retaining employees, and boosting morale. To offer guidance in building bridges between you and your colleagues, as well as your family and friends, Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, turned to Sharon Brubaker, a certified life coach and credentialed grief recovery specialist with an expertise in genuine connection through better listening skills.

Listening As a Skill Set

Listening is a skill – a powerful tool and a learned process. It’s a conscious decision to listen fully to another person.

“The most powerful, precious gift you can give to anyone is to really listen to them,” Sharon said. “We’re all dying to talk and tell our story.”

Being a better listener is useful in both your personal and professional life, as it applies to effective business networking as well as a means to build deeper relationships. Experts including thought leader Simon Sinek talk about the benefits of being a good listener and being a good friend, in and outside the business sector. Building upon his belief that listening is an act of service, in a recent podcast Sinek said, “There is no greater honor than being able to serve a friend in need.”

How to Be a Good Listener

Because it’s a response you can learn, there are steps you can take to improve your aptitude for listening.

Pay Attention

 “When someone approaches us, we have to stop whatever activities we’re doing,” Sharon said. “If you come to me and you really want to tell me something and I look at my watch or I look up, you instantly know you don’t have my full attention. The number one thing we have to do is we have to listen to the person and really pay attention.”

Tips to activate your full attention include:

  • Stop what you’re doing.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Clear your mind to become ready.
  • Turn off background noise.
  • Don’t look around.

“It’s a learned response and we’ve got to really jump in there, turn off all the noise and make sure it’s a quiet place,” Sharon said. “Come on friends, we can turn off our cell phones for five seconds without looking or listening to them, especially if someone is asking for your attention.”

Be Present

Whether you’re seeking tools to strengthen a small business or want to forge better relationships with family members, you can’t have genuine communication without being fully present. When a person comes to you, they may start off speaking from an intellectual place, but just be there and be present, with an open heart to receive. Imagine a giant heart with two huge ears and no mouth.

“Have your heart open – just listen,” Sharon said. “When a person who is telling their story feels like you really get them and you really hear them, you can change their trajectory.”

Listen for Understanding

The average person simply wants to know that you understand. “Even if it’s negative, ugly, or broken, it’s okay. It’s their story,” Sharon said.

Listen with compassion because they’re probably feeling vulnerable already.

“It might be very tough to share and they’re trusting in you, they’re trusting you to share this with,” Amanda said. “So, it’s very important to have compassion and leave your judgment behind. It might not be what you agree with, it might not be how you live your life, and it might not be anything you align yourself with. But it’s not about you.”

Ask Questions

You don’t have to sit silently. It’s perfectly okay to ask questions.

“You can ask questions like, ‘How did that make you feel?’ or say, ‘Oh, tell me more about that,’” Amanda said. “It lets them know you are listening to them.”

One good tactic is to ask ‘why’ questions such as:

  • Why did that happen?
  • Why do you think that happened?
  • Why did you do that?
  • Why did you go that way?

“That’s just their brain trying to figure the answer out so they can become more aligned with what’s going on,” Sharon said. “I honestly think people want you to ask questions. I love it when people ask questions because then my response is, ‘I don’t know. Let me think. Yeah, I think you’re right.’”

Expect to catch people off guard when you respond with questions, whether you’re listening to a disgruntled employee during an effective team-building session or sitting with an old friend.

“They’re probably not used to somebody really being engaged and listening to them by asking them questions,” Amanda said. “Sometimes they’re just there to vent it out, but again, don’t ask them with judgment. Ask them with compassion.”

Repeat Back What They Said

After they speak, follow up by reflecting back what you heard, putting some clarification to it and summarizing it, just to make sure that you fully understand.

“Something that I’ve witnessed a lot that happens in the workplace is an employee gets things off their chest and the manager responds with, ‘Well, this is the way it is,’” Amanda said. “It would be so much more helpful if they actually repeated back what the person said and then they could work out a solution. Even if the answer is no, there’s value in repeating back what they said because it makes them feel heard.”

Don’t Give Advice

It’s very important to understand that the person is not broken and they’re not coming to you to be fixed. From a gym partner to a small business owner building a team, people come to you because they need to share something personal, or they feel you’re a safe place or they just need to feel heard.

“I am a fixer,” Amanda said. “It took me so long to really understand how to help somebody. Sometimes they just want to be heard and it’s just a conversation. They’ll actually talk out the answer to their problem if you just let them. Fixers like me have the tendency to interrupt and tell them what we could do, and ask, ‘Why don’t we try this? Have you tried this?’ It’s because we’re the ‘idea person’ and the creativity jumps in.”

When people are sharing, there’s a brain and a heart involved.

“You’re either talking from your brain or you’re talking from your heart, so it’s either an emotional conversation or an intellectual conversation,” Sharon explained. “You’ve got to line up with the person that you’re talking to. If someone says, ‘I’m coming to you from my heart,’ the two hearts have to line up.”

For example, if someone wants to discuss a fight with their spouse and you offer to fix it, you’re bringing your brain to a discussion that should be a heart-to-heart talk. “Then the person who’s asking you to listen is not getting what they need out of it,” Sharon added. “A lot of times they can solve it on their own because something happens to the person when they hear themselves say the thing out loud. The brain and the heart line up on the same page.”

Pause Before You Speak

“Just take a pause, even if they just dumped a ton of brokenness on you,” Sharon said, “because you’re going to cause them to also pause. Breathe and listen to what you are saying. Connect with your inner voice and say to yourself, ‘How would I want to show up for me?’ and be that person.”

Don’t Change the Subject

“I can’t even tell you how often it happens that a listener is feeling uncomfortable with what has just been told because it’s too emotional, so they change the subject,” Sharon said. “The person with the broken heart knows that you are now not a safe person.”

That’s key, whether it’s dramatic and traumatic or a small disagreement with a spouse.

“I don’t always accomplish that,” Amanda said. “Sometimes I will throw in something random because it’s on my mind and then I feel like, ‘Oh no, now he knows I wasn’t paying attention.’ I was waiting for the air to stop coming out of his mouth so I could say what I wanted to say.”

A key component in the act of listening is to engage with them by asking questions, not changing the subject if you are uncomfortable with what the person is saying.

“It’s not about you. It’s not about your feeling comfortable in the situation,” Amanda said. “It’s about this person who is trusting you with whatever this information is.”

Technology and Listening

Technology has changed the landscape, both for someone trying to build a business in Los Angeles and in the style of communication used among friends and family.

“We don’t really spend a lot of one-on-one, face-to-face time with each other anymore,” Amanda said. “We text or email a lot, and in texting and emailing you lose emotion, you lose somebody’s body language.”

Without context you can’t connect to the person’s heart or connect to their mind because it’s all written. It’s the same challenge for a Santa Clarita Valley business as it is for a global corporation – company leadership has to address the use of technology and its scope at every level.

“One of the things that can harm us in the professional world is if we’re resorting to only communicating virtually with our team, our management, or our coworkers,” Amanda said. “You’re kind of losing some of what’s actually being said, so it’s really hard to listen to somebody through technology.”

Through the use of TikTok, Instagram, and other social media, detrimental habits are formed, such as quickly swiping to new content at the briefest pause.

“There are people who I don’t even talk to – only through text,” Sharon said. “The workplace is a great place to help people feel heard, because there’s so much going on in the world, along with the social media, the politics, the pain, the brokenness, everything that is happening, I could feel this shift.”

Whether you’re a corporate executive developing a business plan or creating policies for a small business, it’s a good idea to find out a person’s preferred mode of communication as a part of the interview process.

“One of my questions when I’m interviewing a candidate is ‘How do you like to be communicated with?’ because if how they communicate is not in alignment with the company, then it might not be a good fit,” Amanda said. “If they say, ‘I prefer texting only’ and there’s no texting application in place, then that might not be supported. Or if they say, ‘I really prefer one-on-one time with somebody’ and that’s not available, that might not be a good fit.”

Not all members of management who want to run a thriving business are exhibiting good listening skills.

“When I conduct team meetings, I really try to engage everybody,” Amanda said. “It’s not me just talking at them. I ask for feedback, I take notes.”

Once companies move to Zoom meetings it’s hard to see body language to pick up on issues such as employees needing help with HR problems or managers who are struggling personally.

“If you can’t see them, how do you know how somebody really feels when you’re developing new policies for your business?” Amanda added.

Much of the information coming through technology – the person-to-person relationship – is being lost.

“The person that we may be sending emails and text messages to may absolutely, 100 percent be a talker,” Sharon said. “We have to go back to our old tools, which are talking and listening.”

Boundaries

“We all have brokenness and emotions that we’re dying to get out but sometimes, if we’re the listener on the other side, we think, ‘I don’t want to hear this sob story,’” Sharon said. “Then that person doesn’t have a safe place to share, where they walk away feeling listened to and heard.”

If a friend, acquaintance, or workmate approaches you at a bad time, set an appointment. Whether you’re a busy L.A. business owner who needs a better marketing strategy or a full-time mommy with no room to breathe, you have to protect your time.

“If you’re running out the door to make it to your next appointment but I’m getting ready to dump on you, you can say, ‘I really want to hear this and I want to be present for you, but now is not a good time,’” Sharon explained. “We set the boundary that we aren’t going to do it right here in the doorway.”

Good boundaries are crucial in the workplace. You don’t need the best business coach in L.A. to tell you there’s value in setting a standard weekly time for meeting with people and obtaining feedback.

“Set a time for people to really be heard, to have that conversation,” Amanda said.

Some people can be high maintenance, requiring a lot of time and creating drama. It’s challenging to set boundaries with employees and colleagues who talk a lot to blow off steam and have an insatiable need to dump on you. It changes the energy of the room.

“Number one, you don’t have to be the listener,” Sharon said. “There are no rules that say you have to be the one who listens. If my neighbor keeps coming over to complain about her husband or a work colleague keeps taking my whole lunch break to complain about the manager, I don’t have to be the listener.”

The boundary you set is for you, not for them.

“We think we’re putting up a wall just to keep them out, but the boundaries are for you,” Sharon explained. “You could say, ‘Hey, I would love to sit and talk with you, but I cannot do it today. I can talk on Wednesday, but I’m telling you I only have 20 minutes.’”

After listening, you can wish them well, and in some cases, refer them to get professional help.

“You have to redirect people to the place where they can get the most help,” Sharon said.

Remember that everyone has baggage, and people bring their past experiences to the table when they interpret situations that arise. We have preconceived notions that affect the narrative we believe.

Listening skills show up in every facet of life. “It’s not just in grief work or therapy, it’s in our office, in our schools, in our churches, and in the grocery store,” Sharon said. “You literally could change someone’s life just by being an amazing listener.”

Meet the Experts

Sharon Brubaker – Grief Counselor and Certified Life Coach

As a credentialed grief counselor, Sharon teaches women how to process their thoughts and emotions when they experience times of grief and loss. After her own painful experience in the grieving process, she studied the science of grief and healing for more than 16 years. She teaches that grieving is painful, but you do not have to live with this pain for the rest of your life. True healing and peace are on the other side and once you learn to process the pain from your heart, you will begin to live again. Sharon knows that your life will be forever changed, but healing your heart is possible.

Contact Sharon if you would like a free Griever’s Guide or would like to do some individual grief work. You can connect with Sharon through her website, HealingStartsWiththeHeart.com or find her on Facebook and Instagram. She and her sister, Erica Honore, have a podcast available on Audible.

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram.

 About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!

Increase Your Sales with a Business Coach

When you’re launching a small business in Los Angeles or want to grow your customer base anywhere in the world, you need a guide with experience and inspiration. Finding a coach who’s been in your shoes will give you the support you need to reach those goals. To get the “cheat codes” to rapid success, Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, talked with Elias Scarr, an entrepreneur who turned his years of experience in sales into a coaching business called Sell It Like Scarr.

How a Service Industry Background Prepares a Successful Entrepreneur

Whether it’s stocking shelves at Trader Joe’s (like Elias) or working on the Levi Wall at Miller’s Outpost (like Amanda), when you work in service to the public and interface with people, you learn a lot about communicating.

“I worked in restaurants, because I wanted to try that out to see what that was like, and then I became a bartender,” Elias said. “I learned how to sell and play and have fun with people, which is really my angle for selling. I really encourage the fun and joy of spending time with people and building relationships.”

He cut his teeth on small businesses in Santa Clarita including some Taekwondo schools. “You can learn a lot about communicating in studying martial arts and in sparring and fighting,” Elias said.

He later went to work for Results Fitness, another Santa Clarita small business.

From bartender to shelf stocker, jobs in retail stores, gyms, and restaurants help you develop relational skills.

“Being a people person, I think, is what makes you a good communicator and good at sales, and knowing how to leverage it,” Amanda said.

First Thing: Get a Business Coach

“If you want to fast track success, you’ve got to have a coach – for anything,” Elias said. “The best people, those at the very top of their game – in a sport or anything – have coaches, usually multiple coaches.”

A coach has the knowledge base to help you establish small business goals and motivate you toward that trajectory. In Elias’ case, the student became the master when he became a coach himself.

“Truly understanding the value of having my coaches – that was how I really understood where my passion is,” he said. “I love coaching, and I love teaching, and I like being super specific, because unlike most people, I love selling. I love sales and communication and all the challenges that come with that, and customer service. So, it just took off like a runaway train. I had great support, great coaches in my corner, and now I’m working with colleagues to help people make business a little bit easier than it can be.”

Elias’ first boss at Trader Joe’s was instrumental in teaching him how to take care of customers, an ethic that was imprinted on him. He then spent 10 years working for Results Fitness.

“That’s where Alan and Rachel Cosgrove, the current owners of Results Fitness, took me under their wing and put a tremendous amount of focus on continuing education for me,” he said. “They sent me from one training course to the next and really accelerated that learning process. Then, as we’d gotten through the hardest part of Covid, both of them pulled me aside and said, ‘It’s time to go. This is as much as you can grow here. It’s time for you to start your own thing.’”

The Freedom of Entrepreneurship

“The freedom is definitely, I would say, the biggest benefit of being an entrepreneur,” Elias said.

One of his greatest lessons came from an 11th grade chemistry teacher at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, who wrote in his yearbook: ‘Discipline is freedom.’

“Thinking of it in that way, of having my own business, being able to work from home and coach from home,” he said. “I can travel, I can work with people who are all the way on the other side of the country and across the world.”

With clients as far away as the United Kingdom, Elias has experienced the shift away from working with local businesses in Santa Clarita to wide-ranging expansion through remote communications.

“The freedom of being able to do what you want allows you to focus on what’s truly important,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have the freedom to do that, to focus on what’s important, because you have to focus on what has to be done, what must be done, what everybody else wants you to do.”

Entrepreneurship enables you to singularly focus on:

  • What you’re good at
  • What you love to do
  • What people need
  • What you get paid for

The Art of Sales

Individuals with strong marketing skills sometimes refuse to be classified as salespersons. They have a fear, or a hangup, about sales.

Two Myths About Sales

  1. You either have it or you don’t

“There’s a belief that either you’re personable and you’re charismatic and you’re fun and you’re an extrovert and all the aspects that make sales a little bit easier – or you don’t have it,” Elias said. “We can flip that switch and see sales and communication as a skill. And anything that’s a skill can be learned, practiced, and improved.”

Start seeing it as a skill and put time into it.

“If you want to become a better cook, you study and you try more things and you cook more often,” he said. “If you want to get good at a specific lifting technique, you practice that technique and you go up in weight and increase the challenge. It’s just like anything else – it’s not as difficult as it seems. It’s a skill, like anything else.”

  1. You need to become skilled at everything

“People tend to feel like they have to balance out all their skills, as opposed to doubling down on what they’re good at,” Elias said. “The biggest trend right now in sales is authenticity. On social media, super filtered pictures are a lot less popular,” he said. “When people shoot videos there isn’t a lot of makeup and there’s not a lot of showmanship. It’s just organic – me to you.”

Authenticity is a business superpower right now.

“What that means in relationship to somebody who might have a fear of sales is to double down on what you’re really good at,” Elias explained. “If you are great at being diligent with follow-up and being organized and having the numbers and the data, then sell that way. If you’re good at building relationships and sitting down and having coffee and conversation, you can sell that way too. There isn’t just one way to do it — find out what you’re good at and find a good coach and then double down on that skill.”

Confidence in Sales

It’s hard to sell something that you yourself wouldn’t buy.

“Having confidence around what you’re selling — it doesn’t matter how you look and feel being in front of people or an audience or on social,” Amanda said. “If you truly believe in the product or the service that you’re selling, it’s going to come across no matter what.”

Believing in your products and services is an integral part of sales.

“If you think about high-level persuasion and selling techniques, and marketing and communication techniques, you can use those powers for evil. If you don’t believe in something, you can trick or you can manipulate somebody,” Elias said.  “The biggest difference between manipulation and persuasion is intent.”

Intent is where confidence comes from. To generate that confidence, it’s just like building muscle – get the reps in.

Consumer Trends

A lot has changed for consumers.

Data Safety

Consumers want control of their data now more than ever, so they’re not as inclined to sign up for offers and give out their personal information.

“People want to believe that their data is safe,” Elias said. “There are some baselines – bank data and credit card data is always something people worry about. But it really comes down to that one-on-one relationship. They want to know: ‘Is my data safe with you?’”

It’s not a new concept – it relates to sales in general.

“Trust theory has been around for years, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere,” Amanda said. “It’s just shifting the way that we look at it.”

 Convenient Shopping/Ease of Payment

Coming out of COVID, everybody wants everything delivered, using Alexa, Google, and Amazon, etc.

“We are in this this odd generation where we are living through the fastest acceleration of technology possible,” Elias said. “As much as people want Alexa and Amazon and all that to bring stuff to their doorstep, most businesses are still struggling with ‘we only take cash.’”

The younger generation uses digital wallets. Many don’t even carry cash, and everything is on their phones, so if you don’t accept Apple Pay or some form of digital wallet, then more than likely that consumer’s not going to shop there.

“There’s actually a restaurant down the street that only accepts credit cards,” Amanda said. “They don’t accept cash because they don’t want to count, they don’t want to be liable, having the banker’s truck come and pick up the cash drops, all the extra fees, and then human error with counting cash.”

Coaching Strategies to Help Business Owners

Finding the Friction

“As a coach, before we get into any kind of high-level sales skills or tactics, I look at where’s the friction?” Elias said. “What is making it difficult for your customer to find your product, buy your product, or understand what your product is supposed to be. Those are big things.”

A coach is a neutral third party who looks at such aspects as:

  • Business operations
  • Website quality
  • Sales training

“I recently did some coaching for a Santa Clarita business and I evaluated their website and there was so much information on the product that I was overwhelmed,” Amanda said. “I asked, ‘What am I actually buying?’ I recommended that they dumb it down and just give me two points. I like to say, ‘My dad’s 78 – can he figure this out?’”

Provide bullet points and let the product sell itself.

“People look at improving sales as having a better closing or getting more leads,” Elias explained. “What we should be doing is improving sales through efficiency. Can I take an hourlong sales process and make it 15 minutes? Keep it simple. If you make it easy for people, people will do it.”

Referrals and Reviews

Birdeye is a business platform Amanda uses at Burbank Fitness Club that’s successfully improved the gym’s Google ratings and reviews. It’s a texting app that can help a business engage with customers.

“Referrals are essential,” Elias said.

People look at ratings as well as the number of reviews a business has.

“The number of reviews matters, because it’s become difficult to find trusted sources of information,” he said. “I don’t think reviews are something you can ignore. Data shows that 92% of happy customers are willing to give a review and a referral, but just 8% of the sales force asks for them. Your sales will get better if you ask.”

Customer Service

“In order to achieve a 5-star review it comes down to customer service,” Amanda said. “At the gym the number one priority is to greet everyone. In today’s self-checkout style, it’s a unique level of customer service.”

The front door is one of the most underrated points of service in any business.

“It’s ignored, and people tend to forget that enthusiasm exists on a timer,” Elias said. “The minute somebody comes into your business, enthusiasm is high because they’re excited about what they’re going to do or what they’re going to see or what they might find or what they’re going to buy. That’s the peak of enthusiasm and then it starts to wane. We have to constantly refill that meter.”

Refilling the meter is done by acknowledging that the customer exists.

“You need to communicate ‘I see you, you’re here, you exist, and I’m excited you’re here,’” Elias said. “That goes a long way in the customer experience.”

Walking in the door is going to set the tone for everything that happens in your business.

“And then as they’re leaving, you have the opportunity to set the tone for the rest of their day,” he said. “If they’re thinking about you while they’re gone that’s really the ultimate power of a customer experience.”

If you want referrals, your people must think about you when they’re not physically in your place of business. They have to have a reason to think about you and it’s best if it happens organically.

“Just treat somebody how you want to be treated in a relationship,” he said.

The Lost Art of Communication

There’s so much technology in our way, how do we overcome that?

“There’s an app that enables you to record a video message to your client, instead of just a QR code or asking for a review in an email. So, they’re seeing your expression and how passionate you are,” Elias said.

Technology is hurting us in our attempt to communicate.

“Sometimes when we implement or introduce new technology, we leave something behind,” Amanda said.

Business owners benefit most when they neither leave the old technology behind nor keep it intact, but instead combine the two.

“The ultimate goal is the blend,” Elias said. “Like reaching out to a customer by sending a video message if you get a lead online.”

You’re adding tools to your belt.

“We can’t refuse to communicate in the way that people want to communicate,” Elias said. “People want to communicate via text, so we’ve got to get good at it. You want to communicate via video, so we’ve got to get good at it. Other people want to communicate face to face or on the phone. Some tools we’re leaving behind, but now we’re just adding tools to our belts.”

Final Thoughts

Selling is just relationship building.

“If I was going to share one message with people it’s to understand that most people actually already know how to sell,” Elias said. “You have the skill set if you’ve ever convinced somebody to give you the last slice of pizza, if you’ve ever asked somebody to go on a date, if you’ve ever managed to convince somebody to stay and have dessert, or ever convinced somebody to look after your animals or house for you. If you’re talking, you’re selling. That’s literally all it is.”

The big secret behind getting anywhere fast is finding a coach.

“You won’t be able to keep up with Amanda’s R&D, her study on business, her study on communication, her study on sales, her study on growth in social media and tech,” Elias said. “But that’s a good thing, because instead of investing all that time, you invest in a coach.”

Your focus and abilities are different than a coach who helps your business thrive.

“You hire a coach that’s doing all this studying that you can’t possibly do because you’re too busy trying to sell cars or sell gym memberships, or sell tacos,” he said. “You don’t have time to study all this stuff. You’ve got to get the cheat code.”

The cheat code and the return on investment from coaching is probably one of the greatest ROIs there is.

“I got a business up and running in an extremely short time because I had great coaches,” Elias said.

Meet the Experts

 Elias Scarr – Sales Coach/Communications Expert

With more than 25 years of experience in sales and customer service, Elias Scarr launched his own coaching business, Sell It Like Scarr, teaching entrepreneurs, managers, and their teams how to sell with confidence and sincerity. His primary focus is empowering people with the communication skills they need to earn the income and influence they deserve.

Elias has learned how to see through customers’ eyes, allowing him to bring a fresh perspective and actionable plans to the table for businesses through a mix of easy-to-use implement strategies, simple systems, and techniques backed by empathy and tough love. He’s coached for Perform Better, Perform Better Brazil, IHRSA, Results University, and the NSCA.

He has an “abundance mindset” and answers every Direct Message he receives. His website is Sellitlikescarr.com.

Keep up with Elias on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.  

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped small businesses in Los Angeles increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram.

About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without small business support, clarity, or the feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts in Los Angeles and beyond, acquire nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!

 

How ChatGPT Can Help Your Business

The release of ChatGPT has opened up a new world in content creation using AI technology. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, everyone from an entrepreneur building a business in Santa Clarita to a national franchisee can improve their marketing strategy and reach more customers. To find out more about what’s unfolding in real time, Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, recently sat down with Santa Clarita’s savviest digital marketing consultant, Alison Lindemann of WSI Internet Consulting in Valencia.

AI, or artificial intelligence, describes the ability of machines to perform tasks that are typically generated through human intelligence. Using algorithms and statistical models, new technology provides business owners and individuals access to programs that use skills such as learning, reasoning, problem solving, and various forms of perception to make decisions and execute tasks.

“I know it sounds overwhelming to analyze data and make predictions, and it applies to a wide range of applications,” Alison said. “That’s the overarching artificial intelligence you hear about and see everywhere.”

What is ChatGPT?

A phenomenon that was released to the public in November of 2022, ChatGPT is a tool developed by an artificial intelligence research organization called OpenAI. Elon Musk was one of the cofounders of OpenAI and it is backed by Microsoft and LinkedIn.

“The first week it came out it had one million registered users, so it exploded,” Alison said. “Even now a lot of people still get a message saying, ‘Resources unavailable,’ because it’s pounded so much.”

In January it logged approximately 15 million searches per day. It’s widely considered a revolutionary technology, and many compare it to the iPhone.

What’s going to happen with these different AI pieces of technology?

“Everyday use, even as a consumer,” Alison said. “It’s capable of understanding and generating text. It can answer a wide array of questions. It can generate creative writing, professional writing, summaries, and all kinds of things that are mind blowing.”

ChatGPT is a website – not yet an app. You create an account with a username and a login, then you type the information you’re requesting.

“I used it recently to decline an invitation,” Amanda said. “I wanted to do it very tastefully and professionally. I just typed in ‘write a letter to decline an invitation’ and I put some parameters around it … and it literally drafted an entire letter.”

There is a free version and a paid version of ChatGPT, which is still in the beta phase.

“In digital marketing and in content creation – what I do for a living – it’s just life-changing for us and our clients, so we want access to this as fast as we can. What they promised with the paid version is that we would have 24/7 access to it,” Alison said. “There are still flaws and things are still, you know, it’s not perfect. They’re learning from all of us using it.”

What does ChatGPT do?

It crunches data,” Alison said. “You can put in data that you have and ask it to analyze it and give you recommendations. You could put in, for instance, every customer feedback post you’ve ever gotten and have it tell you the common issues or the things you need to do.”

You can command the tool to write formulas for Excel, create an original image, or you can tell it to create a video.

“I mean, I could keep going,” Alison added. “It’s well beyond just plain old content creation and that’s already amazing. Its uses span way beyond that. The whole idea of the chatbot and what we think about chat – this is it on massive, insane steroids.” 

Live Chat/Chatbots – Then and Now

The live chat that often pops up in the corner window on a website with “Hi, how can I help?” is AI – it’s not a live customer service representative. These old school chatbots have been used by millions of people over the years.

“I don’t know about you, but those were annoying, and for the most part you didn’t feel confident,” Alison said. “Even now, we like live chat and we mostly like it with a live agent, because no one wants to call anyone. A customer support phone call is really crappy. I just want to go on and get the live chat agent and see if they can help me.”

The early models of the chatbot, which were not developed using the superior technology of ChatGPT, were only as good as the programming by the organization using them, and they couldn’t understand the semantics of what you said versus what you meant. You would type in your questions, but if they were different from the standard, you couldn’t get an accurate answer.

By contrast, “ChatGPT understands all that,” Alison said.

As a small business owner wanting to build a better customer experience through AI, you can load:

  • User guides
  • Product information
  • Every question anyone has ever asked you
  • All the FAQ’s on your site
  • Third party data and information

“It’s going to use all that to actually have a conversation with the user,” Alison said. “The amount of information, the semantics, what it understands, how it helps, and how it learns is completely different from those early versions of chat.”

ChatGPT for Small Business Growth

Like any piece of technology, you create an account, input the information, and save it. You can refine it, but it really isn’t integrated with anything, so you may get the output and ask, “Now what?”

“Now they have opened what’s called API’s (Application Programming Interface) and they’ve given the code, open to the world,” Alison explained. “You need to find a developer and say, ‘I want to use ChatGPT technology and apply it in my business in X, Y and Z. I want to be able to do all these customer support things. I want to be able to answer support emails’ – which it can do nearly perfectly.”

You see how it will interface with your business process and how it integrates into your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) such as your database or a third-party mechanism you use. A lot of third-party tools used by business owners in L.A. and across the globe already have an integrated version, or they’re building one. Since this code is available to anyone, many businesses will develop their own chatbots or other ChatGPT technology.

You communicate with the AI tool:

  • What you want
  • What it is
  • How long you want it to be
  • Your basic tone

“Start from there and then understand that it will take feedback, so you can keep optimizing it and giving it feedback and it’ll keep working on it,” Alison said. “The same thing with giving it supporting materials. You can give it background to start with, to say ‘look at all this to understand my niche and the way I write things and understand the technical terminology, and now write for me blankety blank.”

You can give it questions you want answered, or give it keywords for search engine optimization.

“One of the questions I get asked a lot from clients is: ‘How do I respond to negative reviews?’” Amanda said. “You could just plug that in and then copy and paste the negative review into this website and it will come out with an answer on how to respond.”

Building Your Brand with ChatGPT

New business owners needing help with the application of ChatGPT are advised to be sure the content matches the voice of their brand.

“You can tell it what you want,” Alison said. “You can say, ‘Look at my website and get my voice, read my branding guide, here are other things I’ve written. This is who I am and the tones that I use. This is how I want you to communicate all the rest of everything I do under that account.’”

If you’re creating organic content, such as a new web page, you can go online and look at your competitors to provide ChatGPT with examples on the topic. You say, “Here’s my website so you understand my tone. Write my own web page on this topic.”

One example is to upload a white paper on a topic and tell the AI tool that you want:

  • Three choices for a great title
  • Action steps in bullets
  • A concise summary and a call to action

“I had to rewrite a mission statement because it’s been years since we’ve had this one,” Amanda said. “I plugged in the mission statement and said, ‘Write a version of this mission statement including these three words.’ They’re new words that I’ve developed for this brand’s voice. It did that and it gave me something beautiful, but it was too long, so I just said, ‘Write a shorter version’ and it came up with it. Then I said, ‘Break it down into two sentences.’ I kept on the same thread and then I had a lot to choose from to go over with the client.”

How to Improve Your Business with AI Technology

ChatGPT technology is another tool to help your business succeed by trimming costs or improving your business reputation with better communication. There are various applications that would benefit a small business in Santa Clarita or a larger, nationwide enterprise.

Customer Service Representatives

Certain businesses, such as a Santa Clarita insurance company, could use AI to replace human service at the level one position. So, a customer service rep might be fine using AI, but a level two position might be better served by personal interaction with the client base.

Research

Baby boomers did research in libraries with physical books. That system has become more efficient with the internet, and AI saves even more steps. But the research acquired through ChatGPT shouldn’t be used verbatim.

“You’re still responsible,” Alison said. “I’m not speaking as an expert on education or anything, but it’s a tool. Nobody should be publishing straight up out of it.”

Creating Images

AI can create images for you without technically withholding royalties, because it doesn’t take images from Getty, iStock (or any other stock sharing site) and give it to the end user. Its computer, the algorithm, “learns from” all of those sites.

“Even though it creates an image that it only gives to you, those Photoshop sites are already taking exception, because it’s going to affect them when we’re not buying the images from them,” Alison said. “They’re saying you still don’t have the rights to give away these images that your AI model learned from looking at all the images that are royalty-based images. It’s not clear where this is going to go. We should be editing those pieces of content.”

ChatGPT for Content Creation

“Now that this can create photos for you, it can also create blog posts for you, it can create your newsletter topics, it can create your YouTube content, like titles and things,” Amanda said. “It’s really going to change the way that we work with some of these other vendors in our lives.”

Is it still beneficial to use a content writer?

“They say that programming, content creation, and even some law research – these are some of the three emerging areas where it’s going to impact us,” Alison said. “They even say in the creative field the impact is minimal right now because it’s not a human, it’s not a brain. I think it’s more of an operational efficiency. If I’m a writer, I’m going to use it as a tool because it’s going to help me be more efficient in creating content for you. If I was a copywriter and you gave me an outline and wanted me to write 1,000 words, I could input that outline.”

Blogging/Publishing

If you generate a newsletter or do any other publishing, a digital blog or a physical ad, AI can help you.

A business owner wanting to use AI needs to ask:

  • What kind of content do I need?
  • How often do I need it?
  • What do I struggle with?
  • Do I have content that needs reformatting or summarizing?

Press Releases

If you contract with a copywriter to produce a press release, your turnaround time may be several days, while AI can get it done right away so you can check it off your list. You also don’t have to know proper formatting for press releases. 

Creative Ideas and Brainstorming

If you don’t know where to start with a project and you need help developing your business content, AI can provide that. If you just come up with an outline or bullet points, it can go from there. You can give it feedback, telling it to rewrite a certain paragraph or add something.

It’s helpful with writing ad content and promotions. “The more time you put in, the more that comes out,” Alison said. “Let’s say you have a topic which is complex. You can say, ‘Please rewrite this at the 13-year-old level.’ It could be even a social topic, like a political one. You could say, ‘Rewrite this whole website for kids.’”

Language Translation

Instead of creating a literal interpretation, ChatGPT uses the language sentiment. Google Translate is more literal.

“Creating a version in another language is really hard, because to do it right you really need someone in that native language to rewrite it the way it should be – not a literal interpretation,” Alison said. “It sounds like this technology is going to explode in language.”

Problems with ChatGPT

ChatGPT is imperfect right now.

“It has some limitations in the back end where, I don’t know if it’s 1,000 words or whatever, but it’ll kind of end abruptly,” Alison said. “You can tell it to keep going, or if you don’t like what you got from it, you can just say, ‘Try again.’”

ChatGPT is currently frozen in time – at the end of 2021 – because that’s when OpenAI built it.

“It’s not cloud-based where it understands the world every single day and everything that’s happened since then,” Alison said. “Everything that’s loaded in there, basically, is back from that time. So, if you want to talk about the last Super Bowl, it doesn’t necessarily know that it exists. That will change, I’m sure. But that’s in the model. Who knows how perfect this stuff is?”

Amanda emphasized the need to read the content created by AI.

“One of my biggest pet peeves is when somebody sends an email out and they haven’t proofread and personalized it,” she said. “It will be very generic unless you have it understand your brand and your personality. I would definitely proofread it to make it your own a little bit.”

Amanda admitted to feeling nervous about the consequences of the new technology: “I feel like it’s going to make us all dumber or it’s going to make us all really smart, really professional, much more on point.”

Alison’s advice to business owners is to embrace the newest AI technology.

“It’s going to change our lives as business owners and content people and those who are in advertising and media – any business, anything, even your internal communication – just knowing that it’s part of the process,” Alison said. “It’s important that you wordsmith it, you edit it, and you maybe add your own flavor to it before you publish it and then you can feel good, that it’s yours and you’re not going to have issues with that.”

Meet the Experts

 Alison Lindemann – Digital Marketing

After 17 years in the corporate management world, Alison joined WSI Internet Consulting in 2004. She has a strong business background including 17 years with Farmers Insurance as the Director of Service Operations as well as Director of Sales in their corporate office in Los Angeles. She completed the Farmers Executive Training Program and was the recipient of their Management Excellence Award. Alison has expertise in both traditional and digital media, as well as strategic planning, competitor analysis, personal development, social media, customer experience, conversion optimization and search engine optimization. Alison holds a BSBA degree from the Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School, and she holds the CPCU Designation, ARP Designation, and numerous digital marketing certifications. She has co-authored two books with WSI entitled Digital Minds. She is the recipient of three Web Marketing Association Awards, and she speaks regularly on digital marketing best practices and strategies.

Need a digital marketing consultant who can help you design and execute an effective new strategy? Contact Alison at WSI Internet Consulting for a consultation.

Keep up with Alison on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped small businesses in Los Angeles increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram.

About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without small business support, clarity, or the feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts in Los Angeles and beyond, acquire nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!

Marketing with AI Data

Whether you’re head of marketing for a national brand or a small business owner in Santa Clarita, you need to employ the next generation of marketing tools to succeed in your industry. AI-powered data is the latest strategy to enable businesses of all sizes and stripes to expand their reach, and most companies need an expert to put it in place. Jason Renno, owner of Definitive Edge Marketing, talked with Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, to share the success of his data-driven research, particularly in the addiction recovery space.

Digital Marketing

Taking a hard look at your marketing strategy is as important for a startup founder as it is for an established L.A. business owner who wants to scale their company. The same is true for your marketplace – every industry needs to get in front of potential customers.

“Whether you’re selling insurance or whether you’re a roofing contractor, at the end of the day, you have to have some sort of marketing and sales tactics that you should be able to pick up and transplant into another profession if you want to,” Jason said.

Working in the digital marketplace enables a business expert in Santa Clarita to have a worldwide reach and work from anywhere, which increases their freedom and flexibility.

Refining/Distilling Your Niche

As a new marketing professional, you may think you can succeed with any client – a small retail business in Los Angeles or a B2B powerhouse in New York City. Experts find that you often hit your stride after homing in on a smaller target. When you launch a company as a new entrepreneur, it typically looks different in year one than it does a few years down the line.

In the case of Jason Renno, who left the mortgage business to launch a marketing company, he started as a social media planning agency serving a wide range of clientele. Six years later, his company is now more targeted and Definitive Edge Marketing works primarily with addiction recovery centers.

“I thought, ‘I can be a little bit different, and I can serve local businesses and national businesses – I can serve everybody,’” Jason said. “We did that for about five years, and we did okay, but there is always this ceiling that we kept smashing our heads into. Finally, about a year ago, when we were able to license and get access to all of these AI-powered data tools and market data and everything else, we landed our first addiction treatment client.”

The addiction treatment space has become a successful niche for Jason’s company.

“Good for you for not giving up and pressing forward, but also, as you hit the ceiling you realized you needed to try something else,” Amanda said. “That is a block for a lot of people, when you hit the ceiling and ask, ‘What am I going to do?’ You know, you can’t just live here forever.”

Finding that niche was a game-changer for Definitive Edge Marketing. “Once we found success in that, and then we started niching down in that, over the last six months our business has doubled, and clients are lining up. It’s just been such an amazing experience,” Jason said. “We focused on one thing and got really good at that one thing.”

AI-Powered Data Tools

Definitive Edge Marketing serves clients by leveraging AI-powered data tools and omnichannel trust-building campaigns through platforms from Facebook and Instagram to Google and TikTok. Two main aspects of their services include:

  1. In-Market Data

For a small business looking for new clients, it’s easy to overspend on Google clicks or any of the well-known online advertising platforms. The Definitive Edge strategy uses in-market data to maximize the success of their clients’ campaigns. The process involves sifting out the online masses to center in on people who have already searched for the client’s business, their products, or services. They apply the data to boost the client’s Facebook, Google, and YouTube campaigns.

How they acquire it:

“We go and we bid on anywhere from 12 to 15 ad platforms – Google, Yahoo, Bing, all of the major ones – and we bid on anonymous data,” Jason explained. “We’re buying a hash form of an email address that doesn’t look like anything to anybody else and we purchase it for pennies, fractions of a penny, on the dollar. We’ve purchased millions upon millions of these. Over the last 12 years, this data and this software has compiled public data where we can match the hash forms and provide what we call in-market data.”

What they do with it:

The in-market data can be used to:

  • Warm up Facebook campaigns
  • Provide a warmer audience at the top end of your sales funnel on YouTube, Google, and email campaigns
  • Add traffic to your landing page
  1. Facebook Pixel

A piece of code for your website that lets you measure, optimize, and build audiences for your ad campaigns, a Facebook pixel is an analytics tool to measure the effectiveness of your advertising.

“Facebook tracks people hitting your website, captures 20-30% of them, and if you feed more money into Facebook, it allows you to retarget them,” Jason explained. “We have our own pixel, so we take that data, and we capture 50-60% of those bounce visitors.”

By creating the same omnichannel retargeting approach, a Facebook lead can be retargeted not just on Facebook, but on YouTube, Google Display, Google Discovery, etc. “We create not just an omnichannel top-of-funnel approach, but an omnichannel retargeting approach,” Jason said.

Consulting

Data collected by Definitive Edge Marketing isn’t just handed over to a business owner looking for marketing help. The marketing content created for various platforms needs to be customized, because whether it’s YouTube or TikTok, they each have their own set of requirements for posting.

Also, targeting requires oversight to be sure it’s successful and to make changes over time. “Part of the consulting is we’ll get access to the client’s ads manager, so either myself or my partner, Alvin, will poke in a couple times a week and make sure, to see if the ads that we set up using our data are performing,” Jason said.

Facebook, YouTube, Google Display, and Google Discovery ads are all tracked in real time. “It’s real-time results and the client never thinks we’re hiding; we’re trying to be as transparent as possible,” Jason said. “So, every week, every day the end-market data is constantly being updated and the numbers fluctuate. Assuming they’re constantly running traffic and driving people to their website, every day that’s more people they could be putting into their database and capturing their name, email address, and phone number and sending out retargeting campaigns.”

Some of Jason’s favorite tools and platforms for his work with addiction and treatment center clients are:

  • A 60-question survey for new clients
  • Google Docs – Different folders for each client, where video footage can be stored
  • Loom – A screen recording software: “I use Loom almost every single day. I don’t even try to type emails to my team anymore. I just record a Loom video and say, ‘Hey, do this.’”
  • Slack – A game-changing platform, because you can pin things to channels and you can link it to Loom and Google Drive for the whole team
  • HighLevel (GoHighLevel.com) – The main software used by Definitive Edge Marketing because it allows them to do anything such as building landing pages and websites: “It’s a full CRM (customer relationship management platform) with email text capability. There’s a full back-end workflow process to build out multiple landing pages, link them together, set up workflows from landing pages, and you can track ads through it.”

Definitive Edge Marketing is beta testing a new software that’s a dashboard. Every client gets a URL where they can see:

  • How much money was spent
  • If leads came in
  • Cost per lead

Marketing Advice

If you’re an L.A. entrepreneur looking for help launching a new company or a business owner wanting to build a better following, it’s helpful to learn from the experiences of others. Jason shared some advice from his journey from startup to finding a niche in the addiction and treatment center marketplace.

Ethics/Best Practices

Developing a more personal, targeted marketing campaign doesn’t have to be unethical or infringe on your audience’s rights to privacy. You maintain the integrity of your brand that way.

Honor “Do Not Call” lists and registries, and when an emailer unsubscribes, drop them from your system. “You can get in trouble calling people who don’t want to be called,” Jason said.

Use an email drip campaign – Send a limited number of emails to your audience based on actions they take or changes in their status. For instance, if you have an eCommerce business, you can reach out to people who abandon a virtual cart on your website.

Scrub all email lists before sending anything out – Remove unengaged subscribers from your email list so you’re only marketing to people who want to receive your emails. “It goes back to tracking,” Jason explained. “You hear, ‘I sent out 10,000 emails.’ How many got delivered? How many clicks? Did you get any spam complaints? “Sending out 10,000 emails is great, but if I could send out 10 and get 5 deals from it, that’s better than your 10,000 that got no deals.”

Spending money on streamlining your campaign can be compared to buying insurance. “It’s not an extra cost, it’s preventative,” Jason said. “You don’t want to have to deal with attorneys. You don’t want to deal with a domain that doesn’t work. You don’t want to start emailing your clients that everything’s going into spam.”

Streamlining Operations by Documenting Procedures

“Everything my team is doing is being documented and we’re creating what we call SOP – service operating procedures – so, as my teams are doing daily tasks they’re recording videos,” Jason said. “That way when we start hiring, I have trainings and procedures. Every single thing is documented and we’re ready to go.”

Jason finds it easy to document using Loom video messaging software. “That’s how I assign all my tasks, and that’s how we record and document,” Jason said. “Next time I hire a campaign manager or my workflow expert, or God forbid, somebody gets sick or quits on me or something, they can spend their first two days watching all these videos, learning how we do things here.”

Marketing Boost

Jason recently hired a virtual assistant, which he calls a homerun. “I have an assistant who acts as myself online and organically outreaches to addiction treatment centers – CEO’s, decisionmakers,” he said. “We’ve gotten more out of her organic outreach in 45 days than the 50 grand I spent on ads last year.”

One tip that’s proving successful with clients is a guaranteed ROI. Jason offers to waive his company’s retainer if they don’t get marketing results for the client.

“That’s a great little incentive for both of you,” Amanda said. “You’re getting their buy-in and they’re getting your commitment.”

Meet the Experts

Jason Renno – Data-Driven Marketer

Jason is the owner of Definitive Edge Marketing, a company combining senior strategists, data engineers, and in-house tech with AI to create impactful campaigns for addiction treatment centers. They build and implement systems to help clients reach more individuals through AI-powered data marketing tools and omnichannel retargeting. Jason is passionate about supporting the important work of addiction treatment and committed to using data-driven insights and the latest technology to maximize their outreach.

An accomplished marketing entrepreneur with years of proven results in the industry, Jason and his partner built Definitive Edge Marketing into a six-figure monthly agency specializing in consulting across multiple nations with a particular focus on addiction treatment. Jason’s previous background in the mortgage and finance industry spanning more than 20 years has equipped him with a deep understanding of both the financial and marketing worlds. He’s a strategic thinker who excels in client communication enabling him to connect and deliver quality work on time and within budget.

Jason specializes in leveraging AI-powered data tools and Omnichannel trust-building campaigns through platforms such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. If you would like to start a conversation or ask him questions about improving your marketing results, you can text him at 661-513-3112. You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram.

About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!