Q and A with Sasha Nation.

In this special edition of Building While Flying, James Orsini, President of The Sasha Group, and Joe Quattrone, SVP, Head of Education, answer questions from our listeners. 

A pivot doesn't always mean you have to leave something behind.

James OrsiniPresident, The Sasha Group

Transcription

Speaker 1 (00:00):

Welcome to building while flying a Sasha group podcast, where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever changing skies.

Joe Quattrone (00:11):

Hey, Sasha nation. Thanks a lot for, uh, proposing some questions to me and James on all of our different social channels. Um, we hope that you, uh, enjoy this episode of building while flying and James let’s go ahead and get into the action. Yeah,

James Orsini (00:25):

I’m looking forward to it, Joe. Let’s. Uh, let’s see who, who fired in some questions for us to answer

Julia Balick (00:31):

At hoo Baba underscore asks, how does a nontraditional storyteller successfully pivot into a career in branding?

Joe Quattrone (00:38):

Cool. Well, I mean, I can kick off, I think, you know, take out some of those variables and take out the one consistent, uh, which is the word pivot. Um, how does anybody pivot into something else? Uh, I think it’s understanding, um, you know, what you’ve got going on in your life and figuring out how you’re gonna be able to commit the time, resources, energy, money into making that pivot successful. Uh, it’s a little hard without knowing the specifics of this person’s life to understand how to give them direct guidance. But, uh, I would say, you know, me and James have a lot of experience figuring out pivots at the Sasha group or Vader cuz as you can imagine, like change is so constant and fluid and we’ve survived a pandemic, we’ve survived a lot of different fluctuations in the market. It, and it having a pivot mindset is, is very critical. Um, so I think that’s part of it just like having a, a good philosophical approach, good perspective, but then being realistic with how you can actually commit to the pivot would

James Orsini (01:36):

Be yeah. And, and a pivot doesn’t always mean you gotta leave something behind. Right. Gary’s all about the, and the, and instead of, and, or a lot of what we pivoted to during the pandemic at the Sasha group, uh, will follow us post pandemic. Yeah. Because it worked and we’re keeping it. So, uh, it doesn’t have to be one or the other

Julia Balick (01:53):

Alicia Willis Tenby asks James, was it a tough transition for you coming into the world of social media marketing? Or do you feel that it was a perfect fit to an intricate puzzle?

James Orsini (02:04):

You know, Alicia? Um, it was so funny cuz I’ve been through so much, uh, you know, in, in uh, uh, public relations, branding, general market advertising, mobile media and now social and digital. Uh, and what I realized is just like media, it’s all additive. Right? So, uh, so when the re radio came out, it didn’t do away with the newspaper when the television came out, it didn’t do away with the radio and, and when the internet came out, it didn’t do away with television. It’s all kind of additive. So, um, uh, this, the social digital landscape was in fact, the one piece that I felt that I was missing, uh, in the overall, uh, uh, market, any offering. So, uh, I was happy to, to have to learn it. Uh, I’m still learning each and every day. And just when I mastered one thing, another thing comes out. So, uh, I never really stopped learning. Uh, but it, it certainly has, has given me a holistic voice in, in an integrated marketing offering, uh, of which all pieces are needed.

Joe Quattrone (03:10):

And I could probably tack onto that from a person that, you know, worked with James from day one when he came to Vanner media, you know, it’s not like we’re building a social network, we’re building a service business with James has a tremendous amount of experience running. And we were a very young company at the time you had leaders like myself that were VPs in the company, but we didn’t have a ton of people above us that had a lot of experience running agencies like this. So him being able to bring complimentary skills to the table to help train the next generat of leaders of the organization, it was a two way street. That was, you know, I think we won in the end by bringing in James CE on to kind of help coach up people like myself.

James Orsini (03:48):

Yeah. Kind words. Thank you so much. I appreciate that. You know, uh, and, and that point, har Harkins true when, uh, we had our studio in long island city, uh, and, uh, we’re transitioning in some leadership. Uh, and, um, Gary, uh, asked me to go run the studio for six months. And I said, gee, Gary, um, I’ve never run a production studio. And, and it was a very simple response. He said, it’s a business it’s broke, you’ve run a business, go fix it. So, uh, it was just, uh, realizing that common business sense transcends, uh, different, uh, different practices

Julia Balick (04:29):

At ho asks for a young business owner. How do you deal with older staff that push back from being managed by youth?

Joe Quattrone (04:37):

One thing that I’ve seen as constant is usually the older you get in life, life. Uh, and I know this is for myself too, but the, the older you get in life, typically the more responsibilities you add, the more you can stand to lose in general. So I think what happens a lot of time when a younger person comes in to manage you, um, you have a little bit of, you know, job security flashes. You start thinking about whether or not things are gonna change and, and way you don’t want your whole entire life to get upended, uh, because you don’t know what their motivations are. Uh, but I would say in general, like you can’t let that stuff get to you. And as a, as that person’s, you know, direct manager, you’ve gotta be able to connect with them in a way where you can show empathy and understand what they’re going through from a personal perspective. So even though you’re not in the same exact position, what do you have? Can you, that you can show them some vulnerability and show them that they’re not alone in being vulnerable? Um, so that, that’s what I find. If you can get to that level of like raw vulnerability with an employee that’s a little bit older than you you’ll typically end up winning with them in the long

James Orsini (05:40):

Run. Yeah. And I think, uh, you know, there is no substitute for, uh, wisdom and experience. Um, so, you know, gleaning off of that in some way, shape or form, uh, is, is the best of both worlds, right? So, so I, I wrote an article once on reverse 360 mentoring, where I was trying to tell mentors who typically are older than those, that they’re mentoring. That there’s a lot to be learned from the men mentee. Like, you know, don’t just be all close ears and you’re talking at, ’em listen to what’s coming back. I’ve learned a ton by, uh, you know, um, being the oldest kind of building for a long period of time, you know, what was it like working with 800 millennials, you know, simultaneously and what did I learn from it? Um, so, uh, and then how do I apply it right.

James Orsini (06:29):

Much better relationship with my kids now who really, uh, see me as super relevant, because I tell ’em what’s happening next on Snapchat, where they know it, uh, and those kind of things, but, uh, uh, you know, not really forgetting who, who and what I am. So, uh, I, I think there’s a problem in this particular industry with ageism. Sure. Okay. Uh, and this company does a great job in overcoming that present company included, right? Where, um, I, I think I was, uh, oh, I 55 years old when Gary said, are you ready to start something new in this industry? When typically at 55, when you’re having a conversation with the boss, it’s like, so when are you leaving? How you exiting and this was you ready to start something new. We’re built the whole new company off of it at the age of 55. So kudos to Gary who doesn’t see ageism, uh, in this. And, uh, there’s a lot to, from all of us to learn from

Joe Quattrone (07:26):

That. Yeah. And my first boss here actually wasn’t Gary, it was actually AJ, his younger brother and AJ, even though he was probably five years younger than maybe even more, maybe seven years younger than me. Uh, he had two like really defining characteristics that I always admired. He was a super smart, right. You always kind of have to have the intellect and wit, but he was also deeply compassionate. You know, like he very much cared about everybody that he was interfacing with. And when you were in a room with him, he just made you feel like there was nothing else going on in his life. And you knew that wasn’t true.

James Orsini (07:57):

So he was also my boss by the way, when I got here. So, um, prior to that, for many years, I was a mentor of his, Hey, how would you do this? Do you know somebody who does that, have you ever done that before? Outside of the Vayner, uh, ex walls? Uh, but when I came to Vayner media, he was my boss. Um, and, uh, you know, mutually learned off of, uh, each other, shout out to AJ,

Julia Balick (08:23):

Tina Powell asks, what new skills should marketers learn this year

Joe Quattrone (08:27):

For strategic, organic contexts, a huge term. That’s been bounced around the hallways of VAX and, and Saha group in particular. But I think to me, as I keep getting further and further into like the build out of what the product is, I’m learning more that it’s, it’s less about like the technical skills and it’s more about the psychology or the mindset or the religion. If you want to call it that you have to be walking into these things with the right state of mind. And the state of mind is tapping into culture, understanding what the action of volume is, and being willing to put yourself out there, being willing to turn the camera on and get as much content on camera as possible. Um, so it’s, it’s really that steady action steady flow, not getting interrupted it from that flow, because if you stopped, it’s hard to start back up again. So similar, like going to the gym or trying to lose weight, if you, if your progress is stunted, it’s hard to get back on. It’s hard to get back on track. And, um, and so I think really just being super philosophical, philosophical about understanding how to hack attention and how to, to get better at platforms in which you can gain organic and environ reach like TikTok, right? Like, so it’s TikTok now it may be Snapchat tomorrow, but it’s TikTok now, how do you hack it and be consistent about

James Orsini (09:47):

It? Yeah. And I, I think that’s a good point. Tina, when, uh, when we first started Sasha group Gary’s, uh, comment was Sasha will stick a fork in the eye of perfection. And what he meant by that was that we weren’t necessarily setting out to create award winning artwork, perfection. We were there to produce as much content as we can in a fail fast, fix, fast, learn, fast environment where we’re constant, only testing and optimizing to see what works and what doesn’t work and not be passionate about the stuff that doesn’t work and lean into the stuff that does work.

Joe Quattrone (10:25):

So it’s about creating systems and frameworks that allow you to actually achieve your goals. And it’s not just, and, and that will apply from now until the rest of time. That’s the way all social networks of opera for the past 12, 13 years, you know, they come out with these, uh, products, they allow brands and influencers to try them for free. And then eventually they start monetizing them and the, the getting is not as good. So then the people move on to other platforms. So, yeah, right now it’s TikTok. Can’t tell you what it’s gonna be next year.

James Orsini (10:53):

Yeah. One, one last thing, Tina, because your, your question was proposed as marketers, very broad term, uh, which is fine. Uh, but it, it would not hurt to understand the various aspects of marketing. So when I was in public relations, we thought we did branding when I was in branding. We thought we did advertising when I was in advertising. We thought we did everything. So just understanding the nuance of each one of those, uh, marketing disciplines before you kind of focus in on what your pillar is, uh, is also some sound advice for 2022

Julia Balick (11:29):

At switch grocery asks, what’s your process to prioritize because we really can’t do everything.

James Orsini (11:36):

We, uh, did a segment, uh, on the Eisenhower matrix, uh, and it talked about separating important from the urgent, uh, and, and categorizing, uh, um, different tasks, uh, by virtue of, uh, their, uh, their need to, to either get done immediately or, um, be done at some point in time because they’re really urgent. Um, I, uh, I urge you if you’re not a historic, actually, if you went to the, for these, you are a historic subscriber. So, uh, uh, go back and look at that episode on the Eisenhower matrix. Uh, and, uh, it, it’s a good framework for prioritization in, in general. Uh, I know you lean into that often right off now off. Yeah.

Joe Quattrone (12:21):

And for those of you that aren’t store members, we’ll go ahead and, and release that episode for free viewing for everyone. That’s listening to this episode right now. So we’ll put it up. Our social channels

James Orsini (12:30):

Free is always good.

Joe Quattrone (12:32):

Yeah. But I now is great. I use it not like on an everyday basis. Um, but usually when I’m stuck. So, um, when I’m overwhelmed and the whole world is coming at me pretty fast, and I’ve got lots of pressure kind of coming in from all angles, but we need to kind of power through and, and really figure some stuff out, um, which

James Orsini (12:48):

I put on you weekly.

Joe Quattrone (12:50):

Yeah. We, uh, so what I, you know, what I typical love about the Eisenhower matrix is it not only helps me figure out how to prioritize and, and start to focus in on what needs to be done kind of immediately, but it also helps me figure out what can be delegated out to people and what stuff we can just drop all together, because it’s just not a priority for the company. Um, and that’s, that’s huge. Like you, you never know kind of how many things I, little ankle bite or issues are kind of cropping up until you take an audit of everything that’s going on in your life. And, um, you know, at, at some point you’re just gonna have to take like 15 to 20 different issues that just aren’t on strategy for the next couple years, and you’re gonna have to ditch ’em and that’ll be a very freeing aspect because you could just pick up an email for that contact to somebody else and be like, you know what, this is not really in my wheelhouse. Let me refer you out to somebody that, you know, or let me point you in the direction of a business that can actually help your issue, get it off your plate. Don’t let it worry you. And that’s very freeing. I think when you use something like an I hour matrix

Julia Balick (13:46):

Neha, Charlia asks, I’d love to hear your observations on acquisition and selling SMEs. And by this, I mean, what are the things to think about when you embark on this journey?

James Orsini (13:58):

Well, you know, you can come at that from two ways, whether you’re the seller or you’re the, the purchaser, um, I like working backwards from an end goal. Um, and, and that is okay, here’s my business plan to build my business to 10 million us dollars and revenue, because at that point I’m gonna be ready to, uh, uh, to sell, sell the firm or, or, uh, you decide that, um, um, another rationale may not be for money. It could be for global reach. When I was, uh, uh, running public relations firms, I was buying up independent public relations agencies in the us because they wanted a global footprint and my company offered them that. So how would a guy from St Paul Minneapolis ever be able to service clients in, in Brussels? This is a real example, cause I actually moved a guy in Brussels, but anyway, those, those types of things, uh, depending on what your needs are to reach, if you are the person who’s selling, you wanna make sure you are selling a healthy, viable, profitable business that is diversified, meaning you don’t want a $5 million. This that is 85% dependent on one single client, cuz that’s high risk. Uh, you, you want a diversification of client portfolio, you want a diversification of offerings. And we’re seeing that now, even with some of the, the, the folks that we’re mentoring, right there are, there are certain companies in there we’re, it could be ripe, uh, for a possible sale down the road, uh, or, uh, mature enough to make their own little acquisition. So, um, uh, a lot of this is, is sort of working, working backwards from, from an end goal.

Joe Quattrone (15:46):

Yeah. And I’d say like understanding yourself as a entrepreneur and understanding what your motivations are, right. Like, uh, one of the things we talk to oftentimes inside of the four DS with different entrepreneurs and the question Gary kind of constantly, always, um, you know, comes back to is how motivated are they to kind of hold onto something, both in the short term, midterm and long term, and then what else do they want outta life? Right. And, and how do you kind of reconcile those two things, uh, against one another. So, um, if you’re the type of person that wants to just change the world and you think that your business is a vessel to do that, then you’re, you’re more of a long term play. If you’re somebody that, um, is more motivated for, you know, financial means and you you’re more, and we see this, oftentimes there’s tons of different types of entrepreneurs.

Joe Quattrone (16:33):

A lot of times entrepreneurs get the itch to create lots of different businesses and that’s okay. And, uh, sometimes in order to free, one of the things that you can be motivated by is not even the fact that you’re not making enough money or you wanna make more money. It could just be that you need to free up time to, to tinker around with other businesses or start more things up. Uh, it’s just an itch that a lot of guys get or a lot of gals get and that’s that’s okay too. So I think just kind of understanding yourself and understanding your motivations, uh, really kind of doing that self audit is something that all of you all should be doing.

Julia Balick (17:03):

Jonas. Raymond asks, how can I expand my personal fitness brand? My trainer Jonas from offering in-person local services to nationwide online services?

James Orsini (17:13):

Well, I, I think the, uh, the pandemic has fast forward at the, where we are with the, with zoom and, uh, and, and virtual sessions, uh, a hundred fold, uh, I’ve, I’ve spoken to at least two personal trainers who were able, uh, to, uh, to bring more business because they weren’t shackled to local, uh, um, clientele, right. People were used to, to driving or walking to their gym, and now they could provide a, a, a different service, uh, over, uh, over the internet and, uh, get people from across the country or even across the globe. So the, the question is, what is, what does that offering look like? You know what, when, uh, when we had some new offerings, uh, uh, at the Sasha group during the pandemic, we had to come up with some different things. We couldn’t just do what we did in person online.

James Orsini (18:09):

So, so they are different. The, the virtual four DS is a different version of the in person for these, um, uh, our, um, our mix tape offering, right, which was, say, give us 10 pieces of content, give us 10 days, give us $10,000. And we’ll re we’ll refresh what it is that, that you haven’t been able to do because live production was shut down at that time. You, you couldn’t really go somewhere and film something new. So how, how do you make something old looking new again? Um, uh, you know, so it’s a, it’s a different twist, uh, but, but it’s certainly, and, and to our earlier questions, it’s an, and, and doesn’t have, have to be an Andor, don’t have to shut down your personal training in the local, uh, uh, gym that you’re doing it in. This is a supplement to that, right. An additive, uh, on top of it.

Joe Quattrone (19:00):

Yeah. And so like, if you don’t want, there’s obviously like the, the very straightforward ways you can do this. They’re building technology create an app that it’s gonna be, that would be very labor, very time intensive and very capital intensive. So I’ll give you a secondary way. You can do this and take advantage of, uh, what James was talking about. The pandemic, really kinda resetting things. If you were to just go on TikTok or IRI right now, and search for a handful of different hashtags, number one, hashtag Peloton, number two, hashtag work from home. You’re gonna start, you gonna start smoking out all the people that have invested in working out at home during the pandemic. So those are already, they’re not necessarily hand grazers for your services necessarily, but they’ve identified that they are people that are working out at home and they’re interested in getting in shape, right?

Joe Quattrone (19:45):

So you could go a hand to hand, combat, uh, style and just pick those people off one at a time, follow them, start commenting on their content, interacting with them, uh, once they become familiar with you and they start observing some of your content, I think they’d be, they would start to understand what it is you do. And then eventually you can follow up with them with a more firm, like offer of services or something like that. And then just have your, um, your infrastructure set up, right. Are you doing it through face? Are you doing it through zoom? Like, how are you training the people virtually? Um, and then beyond that, if you wanted to really scale it and go macro, you can do something like what Gary does get your phone number out there for free, not for free, but use mass communication vehicles to actually get your communication, um, out to people.

Joe Quattrone (20:29):

Yeah. Let people contact you on your cell phone, right. Through something like commute, your telegram. Uh, and then once you do that, have the infrastructure on the back end to kind of like filter out some of those people and put them into your lead pool, get them to your website, close them, have pricing, kind of knocked out and all that kind of stuff. So that’s it for this episode of building while flying, please subscribe. If you’d like to hear more content from all of our great hosts, uh, and if you want to take, uh, take in some of the action when me and James come in as guest hosts, uh, we’ve had a blast answering some of your questions and we’re, we’re hoping to do more of these in the near future.

James Orsini (21:02):

Yes. Thanks for all your questions. Appreciate it.

Speaker 1 (21:06):

Thanks for joining us for building while flying today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

Speaker 5 (21:18):

If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune in to the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate and review us, plus we’d love feedback. So let us know. Would you think what you’d like us to dig into next on building while flying across brands, businesses, marketing, and more

Speaker 1 (21:32):

Original music by Fulton street music group.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

What Would James and Joe do? 

In this special edition of Building While Flying, James Orsini, President of The Sasha Group, and Joe Quattrone, SVP, Head of Education, answer questions from our listeners. 

Other in-flight topics:

  • How to make successful career pivots
  • Mentorship as a two-way street
  • Ageism in the marketing industry
  • How to prioritize tasks and projects
  • Buying and selling SMEs 

Links | Connect with James and Joe

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