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 Benson–Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, invited Sharlene Johnson of SJ Partners real estate firm into the studio.
“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.”
“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.
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!