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Let’s talk reinvention.

Reinvention is about looking at your current situation and seeing the possibilities for more. This can apply to your personal life, or in your business, brand or company.

The reality is you can tweak some part of your life and nurture your soul or create something that you can be engaged in. Anything you look at that triggers that is going to be a snowball effect on affecting other parts of your life.

Kathi Sharpe-RossOwner & Founder of The Sharpe Alliance


Reinvention in Business and in Life with Kathi Sharpe-Ross

Katie Hankinson (00:02): Hi, I’m Katie Hankinson.

Mickey Cloud (00:04): And I’m Mickey Cloud, and welcome to Building While Flying, a new podcast from the Sasha Group, where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient, and navigate ever changing skies.

Katie Hankinson (00:22): Welcome to this week’s episode of Building While Flying, where we’re on a mission of exploration in the midst of uncertainty to learn from a diverse set of incredibly smart people, like the one I’m going to speak to today, about how to move forward through uncharted territory. So we’re all learning, adapting, experimenting, and doing. Basically building while flying. And we’re going to learn from each other along the way.

Katie Hankinson (00:47): So my guest this week is global brand and lifestyle marketing guru, Kathi Sharpe-Ross. She is the founder, president, and CEO of The Sharpe Alliance, and founder of The Reinvention Exchange, a hub for all things life reinvention. But you’ve worked over the years in PR, promotion, marketing, and a number of countries across the world, and now are the author of a book. So plenty for us to talk to, Kathi.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (01:16): Well thanks for having me, I’m very excited. This is a really interesting time to be having this conversation.

Katie Hankinson (01:23): I agree. Well I think let’s just start with a quick lightning background, given that you come from such a storied career. Tell me a bit about kind of where you started out, and what brought you through those various iterations of company history and beyond.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (01:40): Absolutely. Well I think given my roots of growing up around the world on different continents, and having very early childhood adventures with my family, I was pretty clear that I wasn’t going to exactly graduate college and go work in a corporate job for 20 years of my life. I don’t think that was in the cards for me. So having grown up in Australia, lived in Europe and traveled extensively, I had a broad picture of the world and what it looked like. And just sort of my spirit of wanting to be… well, being curious, but wanting to explore what the world had to offer. I was exposed very early to something that I think expected the rest of my life.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (02:23): So when I got out of college… I went to high school and college here in Los Angeles, well, Santa Barbara for college. But I sort of didn’t want to just go work for somebody else right away. And fortunately I was quite the entrepreneur, got a bit of my father’s bug in that regard, and had a jewelry business while I was in college. So it very interestingly enough was sort of like, I was this entrepreneur, I had a very successful jewelry business. There wasn’t a sorority girl on campus that wasn’t wearing Kathi’s Kustom Jewelry, with a K.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (02:58): And it was one of those sort of cool things that started leading to other things, such as manufacturing of seeds, sister living in Hong Kong, kind of running with that and a whole bunch of other parts of our business. But getting into manufacturing and production of the seeds, and global distribution, and working with sales reps, and understanding of retail, and handling all the promotion and marketing of everything we were doing. So we had an agency, literally as I got out of college, had an agency that we were doing some of this global business.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (03:33): And a lot of it was learning on the fly, and I think that’s where my ability to adapt and pivot, and kind of figure it out as we go, and build it as you fly kind of mentality was literally the way I have lived most of life in business. And 32 years later, here I am with an agency that does business around the world in different ways with all different verticals within industries, and I think the key is surrounding yourself with amazing people who really know and understand different verticals in different parts of the business, so that you can orchestrate. I often feel like an executive producer, or running an agency in a business hat. But they’re all kind of one in the same. So long story short, based in LA at this point, but have the joy of being able to do business all over the place.

Katie Hankinson (04:29): I love that. What would you say are the other kind of core qualities that have carried you through various iterations of your lifestyle?

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (04:38): I think you’ve got to have grit, you’ve got to love what you do more than anything. The only way to really maintain for as long as I have, in this case 32 years, that get up and go spirit, is to love what you do. And I have to say truly, come Sunday evenings, I’m so raring to go for Monday. I’m already figuring out what’s on my to do list, who do I need to talk to tomorrow, what’s the week going to look like, what are our clients’ agendas looking like for the week. I’m in that mode no matter what. And I think if you know that you can do that, and you can do that almost every day in some capacity, you kind of jump out of bed in the morning and you’re ready to take on the day.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (05:31): And I love sleep as much as the next person, but I have to say that it takes a force of nature to get me to wind down. And now with clients back in Australia, it’s definitely taking longer to wind down, because we could be talking all night long. But you’ve got to love what you do, and I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t find, that they don’t have the passion for what they’re doing. And even if you’re not an entrepreneur but you’re working within a company, find what it is that you love about it, that motivates you, that drives you, and to be curious and to want to engage in things, and pulling the things that you like into your life and into your business, or into your career and your world every day.

Katie Hankinson (06:19): I love that. And I think that’s obviously right at the core of the book that you have just published, RE:INVENT YOUR LIFE. I’d love to hear just a bit about, a context of what it was that drew you to focusing on that topic, and what reinvention means to you given that idea of really looking for the thing that makes you happy.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (06:41): I appreciate that question actually, because it was a pivotal moment that I didn’t see coming. But I was sitting at dinner having a conversation with a friend. This would’ve been 10 years ago. And I said, “You know, it’s funny. People constantly say to me, ‘You’re so lucky. You love what you do, you’re always having fun. You always have a smile on your face, you’re making money, you’re working on all these cool and interesting things, and this is how you make a living? You’re so lucky.'” And I thought, I’m not lucky. I have never stopped working since I was about 16, 17 years old, but it was about the fact that I chose by design to create my life that way, that I made a very concerted decision that I didn’t necessarily want to go work for some big corporation, or some mid-sized corporation, but that I wanted to kind of create my own playground, and I wanted to live my life on the terms that felt really good to me.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (07:43): And it might’ve been my upbringing that kind of gave me the insight, or the fortitude for that. But I had a very clear vision that I wanted to create something that I could enjoy every day of my life. And so for me, that was a moment where I realized that if I had the ability to share with others that they’re entitled to live the life they want. Which I think a lot of people don’t realize that they really do have that, that we could literally create our lives if we put some energy, and effort, and time into it. That change can be adventure, which I’ve had plenty of change in my life.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (08:23): And every time my father said we’re moving or we’re going, new school, new city, new home, I’d be like, “Okay. What time do we leave?” I was ready for the next one. That’s good. But everybody doesn’t feel that way, and it brings up a lot of fear for people. And there are realistic circumstances that will stop people from kind of reinventing their life. There’s many reasons why we all think, “Oh, I can’t do what I want with my life.” But that’s not necessarily always the case.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (08:54): And so I set out to interview a lot of people, and in the book, there are about 30 incredible interviews of men and women from all walks of life, all stations, all kinds of job positions or non-job positions, and 26 power tools that sort of give you insights on not only if he can do it I can do it, and if she can do that maybe I could pull that off. And there were small reinventions. You asked me to define a reinvention from my perspective. Reinventions really come in all shapes and sizes. You can have your five minute reinvention, you can have a 10 year reinvention.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (09:32): And the reality is, is if you can tweak some part of your life and nurture your soul or create something that you want to be engaged in, anything that you look at that triggers that is going to be a snowball affect on affecting other parts of your life. So when you really focus on you, and who you are, and what you want, and I think from that, 35 years old now, people are really starting to sit back and go, okay, what do I want to do with my life and who do I want to be, and how do I want to show up with a purpose or relevance, or impact the people around me or the world around me?

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (10:11): And I think it’s those questions. When you start to kind of have that gnawing feeling, and you start to look at everything and go, I wish I could be doing this, and I wish I could do that, or I want that in my life. We have to start listening to ourselves a little bit better, and recognizing that voice in our head, and then being able to figure out how to put that reinvention roadmap together. Needless to say, right now, reinvention conversations are like the 11:00 o’clock news.

Katie Hankinson (10:42): Absolutely. I can’t turn around today without coming across someone who’s really trying to figure out purpose, and what to do in a new environment or new moment in time. Can you talk a bit about how The Sharpe Alliance has evolved over time?

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (11:01): Yeah, it definitely has. I mean, when I started the agency we were a public relations agency by name. And then as I realized my big question constantly to my clients was, “That’s great, we got you on the front page of the New York Times, or page two, or The Today Show,” or whatever that great media placement was. “But is it really impacting your business?” And I found myself wanting to roll up my sleeves constantly with every client saying, “That’s nice, but that’s not enough. Let’s do this. Let’s look at marketing, let’s look at events, let’s look at retail programs.” So we got very proactive with our clients about understanding the different nuances in their business, and where we could actually step in and help. And it didn’t mean I knew all the answers, but I was asking the questions. And if they were open to it, we would jump in very quickly, bring in the right team, and really start to go down that road and help grow their business in all these different areas.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (12:05): So for me, that was a really important growth part of my company, not realizing what I was building at the time. And ultimately, at about the 15 year mark, I actually pulled out the public relations piece, stopped doing the tactical media work. We did strategy, but it had to ladder up to the larger vision for the company. So we almost took on sort of this stealth CMO role for a lot of our clients. Even when they had internal CMOs, but we sort of became that external taskforce if you will, or agency that really activated all of these other initiatives. So we went from what was a natural evolution from the PR business of producing events for our clients, getting media there, and then you’re going, “Okay, well someone’s got to pay for this. Let’s find corporate sponsors, and let’s find ways to bring value to those corporate sponsors so they keep coming back again and again and again.”

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (13:05): And we very naturally just progressed into the sponsorship business around entertainment, sports, fashion, luxury, travel, children’s industries, not for profits. Sort of all these different industries. And then the funnest part about that was sort of cross-pollination of the ideation. Things that we were doing in the sports world, that we would suddenly bring its concept in its right form to the children’s business, or things we were doing on red carpets in the entertainment space and bring some of that glitz and glamor to the sports world that at the time was really not being done in that way.

Katie Hankinson (13:44): I love that. I think it’s such an interesting evolution. It almost mirrors how much the marketing landscape has kind of diversified and proliferated, that you couldn’t stay in that single vein and still do right by clients and give them that thinking. And the fact that you’ve sort of evolved from producing to orchestrating, and from providing the answers entirely as a team to just knowing who to bring in where and when, it makes so much sense in this space. The generalist CMO, versus the specialist single track. It’s super interesting.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (14:25): Right. And it’s not just the disciplines of the business. You just mentioned something that sort of triggered this, but the connection, the people, the knowing. It’s quite frightening, I think there are about 14,000 people in my database, and maybe some of them are repeats of, they were at five different jobs. Which I also keep track of, because we love to do business with people that we enjoy and have relationships with. That’s what makes it a pleasure. When you connect with people, and it’s genuine, and you’re interested in them, and who they are, and what they do, and having a real conversation about whether what I have to share and you have to share make any sense together.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (15:09): And so sometimes, it’s something as simple as just a lovely conversation and a nice connection, and we’re talking about somebody’s daughter being a student at UCLA. And then six months later you call up and say, “Hey, I’m working on something, this might be of interest to you.” Versus, “I’d really like to meet you, talk to you, and I’ve got something I want to share with you in the next 24 hours. Are you open to that?” And building relationships, I mean look, I’ve spent my life, I do enjoy the social aspect of what we do. And so right now, it’s very challenging as Brandweek is going on right now as we speak. And I was in Palm Springs for four days last time Brandweek was happening, and now it’s all virtual. And there is some virtual networking component that they’ve created, but it’s not the same as me being able to walk up to you and go, “Hi Katie, so good to meet you. How’s this going in your life? How was your trip to London? See you in [CAN 00:16:05] in a few months.”

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (16:06): Our lives have changed so dramatically, so we actually have to work at it. And I’ve actually made a point of keeping in touch, whether it’s by text, by social media, popping in email. Just, “Hi, thinking of you. How are you faring through all of this?” Just staying connected, and it’s genuine because I actually really care. I’m curious. And I think we have to make the time for the conversations in our lives with people, even if they’re short.

Katie Hankinson (16:34): It’s funny, there are so many parallels with what you’re saying about individual relationships and maintaining those, but also the exact same thing of a brand with its consumer. How to authentically connect with your audience, with your consumer, in a time when you may have fewer opportunities to interact with them. Perhaps you’re in retail and there’s no one in your store, perhaps you have less of a reason to reach out to your customer. So I think that’s an interesting challenge for brands and advertisers too. And with that, I wanted to talk a bit about some of the clients you’re working with. Are there examples where you’ve seen sort of interesting moves, or shifts, or pivots, or just simply risks that some brands are taking as they think about how to connect?

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (17:23): Yeah, it’s an amazing time. We have a lot of different clients in different sectors of business. So a few examples, Forbes Travel Guide is the standard for luxury travel, five star, four star travel and hospitality around the world. And what’s fascinating there is that we have a client who has an annual event, it’s sort of their Oscars or their Superbowl of the luxury travel space. We just hosted our last event February 18th, 19th, so literally weeks prior to everybody shutting down.

Katie Hankinson (17:57): Just under the wire.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (18:00): And as a matter of fact, our companies are five star award winners and general managers from global resorts around the world, from Macau and China, couldn’t come. They weren’t able to travel, or it wasn’t safe for all of us for them to travel. So there were a few people that dropped out because of what was starting to percolate, but yeah, right prior. So now we’re looking at this coming February saying, okay, that’s not going to be an option. We’re not going to have a thousand people in a room in Vegas for four days, or three days. So what do we do? How do you bring luxury travel and the experience of hospitality at its absolute, white glove five star level of experience to people in the B2B world, when the whole travel industry is literally shut down? And with the exception of a very small percentage that are reopening and reestablishing themselves, the priorities have shifted.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (18:55): And right now, for the next year it’s going to be about reopening. So we had to really take a hard look at that with our client, and understand the nuances of the industry, the business, what they’re going through. And our company runs the brand official program, with 30-ish brand official partners, and these are all luxury brands and brands that at a very elevated level cater to the luxury hospitality world. And we had to really work through the nuances of this industry, and how important is an espresso coffee in the room when not all the rooms are available? And who’s spending money on purchasing versus other things they now need to do to adapt in a property to accommodate their guests? So priorities have shifted internally, and it’s not business as usual. When is the right time to have that conversation? How does that better serve and deliver value for a guest? In that case, yes, having an espresso machine in your room is probably better than having the room service folks deliver a tray of coffee to your room at this point. So these are the protocols and systems within an industry that we are looking at.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (20:07): And then we have to look at the events side of the business, and understand what to do with local events. We were about to do an event mid-March at The Langham in London with some of our local five star resort winners, and some of our brand partners, and a gorgeous event that was in the planning that obviously we had to postpone. And now we’re looking at sort of when we can, how do you do what might be a hybrid of a virtual experience, bring some of the guests into a room, stream it out for everybody else to have a little taste of that, make these hybrid type situations a little more kind of the norm. And we’re seeing it in the entertainment space. We’re seeing people get on stages, stream it out, drive through events.

Katie Hankinson (20:54): I love that.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (20:55): [crosstalk 00:20:55] the way to accelerate that is in creating these touchpoints, these physical engaging touchpoints. So a big thing we’re working on right now is building out these merchandise experiences, where suddenly that luxury travel in a box set, five star experience, is delivered to your doorstep. You sign up, you buy into this gorgeous package of luxury brands and goods that might’ve been in your resort that are going to give you the scent of the spa, and the moisturizer that was your favorite at that hotel, and the coffee that was that beautiful morning coffee. So you can recreate your five star luxury experience in your own home.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (21:40): And maybe if there is an event, and this is all B2B at this point, you’re now engaging in a Zoom experience, conference, that’s a series of really important industry conversations. But you’re sipping on that wonderful coffee, and the scent of that candle is in the room, and you’re sort of immersed now in what feels like more of a visceral sensory experience. And we’re talking to major global brands and different companies doing different things, about how to create that. How do you take the Superbowl experience, and recreate that at home when the game may go on? Hopefully. After what was seen this weekend, it was so fun to be back in football.

Katie Hankinson (22:21): Oh, I know.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (22:22): How do you now experience Superbowl without actually being there, or going to the party down the street because you didn’t fly to the Superbowl? But how do you create that Superbowl in a box?

Katie Hankinson (22:33): The idea of physical meets sort of analog as it were, or physical meets digital, is super interesting. And I love the idea of engaging the senses, in this time when we’re all starved anything outside of-

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (22:48): Any other stimuli.

 Katie Hankinson (22:49): …staring at the screen, yeah.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (22:51): Exactly. It’s like, “Here Katie, smell the perfume I just got,” and you pick yours up and we’re smelling the same thing, and we’re like, “Oh, isn’t that good?” And we’re having a shared experience. I think there’s a lot to come. Even in the fundraising and red carpet space, there have been some incredible experiences. We’re hearing about people driving onto the red carpet, having their photos taken, never getting out of their car. But the red carpet, step and repeat banner behind them, and these are fundraising events. They’re being given boxed dinners by some of the best restaurants in town and the other partners.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (23:31): So what I completely love is the level of creativity. Everybody’s having to step it up. I feel like I’ve prepared for this moment my whole life, and finally people are really going to listen to all our crazy ideas, because they have to. They have to innovate. They have to be proactive, they need to stay in front of it. They’ve got to question their brand and what they stand for, where they want to be in the world. They’ve got to question what their purpose platform is, and what their culture is as a company. And with all that we’re dealing with with Black Lives Matters, and diversity and inclusivity. Where have they not been paying attention and what do they have to do?

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (24:15): There’s just so many opportunities to do better, to be better, and this is where we get to sort of… everybody’s been forced to kind of take a pause, step back a little bit right now. And it’s so interesting, because it does kind of parallel everything I talk about in my book, which clearly was written way before COVID happened. But it’s such a relevant point that we need to pause, we need to listen, we need to question. One of my chapters is called Hello, Are You Still In There. I mean, that applies to a company that’s been around for 30 years. Who are you? What do you stand for? What is your purpose? What is your culture? How are you connecting with your consumers? How are you now in this environment marketing to your consumers? Are you authentic in your messaging, or do you have a social media team saying one thing but you’re really doing another? All of that matters, and this is our opportunity to kind of get it right, and everybody should be thinking about their role within a company and the role that companies play in our world today.

Katie Hankinson (25:24): I love that. I feel like you’ve just hit upon the two sides that we began with, the idea of that strong core, this is such a moment to take a step back and evaluate purpose and what it is that you can build around, and the brands… I mean, I saw a [SAT 00:25:41] the other day that said that brand strategy is now the number one marketing priority for, in this particular business survey in 2020, for exactly the reason that you stipulate. In order to weather this kind of crazy experience, you need to go back to what it is that you stand for, and make sure you’re authentic. And then the other piece is asking the right questions about those moments in time, and those tactics, and those ways to innovate and learn from other quarters that can really drive change, innovation, and maybe even products that can last beyond the immediate need. Which I mean, that’s the kind of gold standard idea.

Katie Hankinson (26:23): You talked a bit about power tools. If we’re talking to companies that are really seeking to do these things, evaluate themselves, make sure they’ve got those strong foundations, and potentially pivot or flex within the times, what within your set of power tools are the kind of… what would be your top four or five principle things to think about from a pivot perspective?

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (26:51): Yeah, well look. I think the first is really what we’re just talking about now, and there is a power tool designed for this. But at its core, you need to establish whether it’s personal or whether it’s your business. What are the core values of your business? Really making those quote two columns, right? One is really who are we, what do we stand for, what is our DNA, what is our culture, what is the impact we want to leave behind in this world and society. The why, why we exist. And again, this can be on a personal level when you’re trying to really establish your own personal brand, or why or how you may want to reinvent.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (27:33): The other column is what are we actually doing with our time, and I think every one of us, every one of us can say that if we put these two columns next to each other, very rarely do those actually align. So you get to an end of a day and you go, “What on earth did I just do today?” And you may have been really busy, and really productive, and in service of every one of your clients or everyone in your life that you needed to be in service of. But odds are, most of those things may not align with your boundaries. And if we start right there on a business level, or on a personal level, and start to take a closer look at that, we might be able to create what would now be the next step, which would be our reinvention roadmap.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (28:25): And there’s sort of steps in between of course, but the goal is to put that proactive roadmap in place. And I always like to say that you compare it to when you get in a car, and you plug in an address on Waze or Google Maps or whatever it is that you use. If you don’t put the address in there, the car is not going to know which way to take you. You’re not going to know which directions to follow. So go two miles, make a left, make a right turn at the XYZ Street. Those are roadmap guidelines and guideposts that will get you to the destination that you’re trying to get to. If you don’t do that at some level, you’re flying blind. You’re not going to necessarily wind up where you were hoping to get to, because you haven’t established a destination.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (29:16): And the beauty of a roadmap, it will change. It will pivot. Things will pop up. The context and the content of what you’re doing may change. But it will reroute itself, which is exactly what you have to do. Something came up, something changed, there was a bump in the road. I’ve got to go this way, GPS didn’t recognize that there was going to be construction on this corner. I’m going to make a left instead of a right. And it will reroute itself.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (29:43): And I think we all have to be adaptable and flexible, which is what we’re all kind of living right now, is this ability to say it’s okay, but let’s think it through. Let’s not panic, let’s not go into complete shutdown mode. Let’s look at this and say, okay, we still want to get to destination X, or destination X may have shifted a little because we’ve got a new perspective on our world. But how are we now going to get there? And that’s not a bad thing. That’s actually a good thing. We just have to be cognizant that we are constantly keeping an eye on that, and that we’re playing a role in it and not becoming a victim of it, but rather proactively going, that shifted, that changed. Whoops, okay. What are we going to do? Let’s dig in and figure it out. So that reinvention roadmap is everything.

Katie Hankinson (30:35): So a final couple of questions for you as we close this out. What thing right now has your attention, what are you super interested in today? It could be a marketing thing, it could be a new thing you’re learning, it could be an innovation. And what’s next for Kathi and The Sharpe Alliance?

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (30:58): What’s interesting for me is the creativity in business. I think I am most excited about the level of openness that companies and brands are having to explore deeper, or just not be stuck in the, “Oh, we could never do that. We’ve never done that before. It will take 18 months to make those decisions.” I think the last six months have proven to us that yes you can, and you need to, and you can’t be stuck in the past. And guess what? You’re going to figure it out in three weeks and you’re going to get it done. And I think there are some amazing examples out there of brands that have had to pivot on a dime. And whether or not it exploded the company in the most amazing way, or it just showed them that the team was capable of moving that quickly, that creativity rules, that… really, it’s just kind of forced a set of disciplines. That to me is the most exciting thing we’ve seen in a long time.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (32:07): And I think because I’m an entrepreneur and I can say, “Hey let’s do this,” and tomorrow we’re doing it, and I’m used to dealing with clients and companies that are so big, and it’s like shifting the Titanic around, right? So seeing that change of attitude. And it’s being done responsibly, but it’s being done at a pace that has never been seen before. And to me that is probably the most exciting thing, to be able to work with people and have these conversations, where it’s all bubbling, and action is being taken. So I think that’s super valuable. That gets me excited. We live in an exciting space of creativity in business, so-

Katie Hankinson (32:52): It’s so dynamic.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (32:52): We want to see it happen at that level, and people not getting stuck.

Katie Hankinson (32:56): And what about what’s next?

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (32:58): One of my favorite lines, which we’ve all heard a million times and I wish we could hear it today is, “Put your oxygen mask on first.” Those are the words I want to hear on an airplane, which you just did. But I think there could be a next book, or another series. I will say that for me personally, launching a book and having to literally… I mean just for the record, March 7th was my publishing date. So launching a book on the eve of the COVID pandemic taking over the world was not exactly in my plans. And being the marketer and planner that I am I was like, okay, we’re going to reinvent our book launch plan right now, and that’s what we went into, right? So that’s been a very interesting time for me after all these years, to sort of have launched within this period.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (33:56): So where I had events planned all over the country, and book parties, and book signings, and all kinds of things. And a podcast that I was going to launch. I had to kind of change that, so the reinvention virtual [inaudible 00:34:06] my answer to that. So we’ve got the online book signing events happening twice a week. It also sort of became my own sort of a podcast, which I love, because it gives me a community and a room full of people to be talking with, and sharing, and sort of there’s more of a dialogue and a community, and all these amazing guests every week.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (34:26): But I would like to see more companies take proactive reinvention steps as businesses, and this is a big conversation we’re having. How do you reinvent your business? And it’s everything we’ve been talking about for the last hour. It’s really understanding the value proposition, and the tools, and the process to do it in a careful and responsible way. For me, it’s being involved in more speaking engagements, being able to share that thought leadership, being able to encourage and inspire people to know what’s possible, and to believe that they’re entitled to have, and build, and create things that are going to make a difference. That to me is just what I’d like to be accelerating, and doing more and more and more of.

Katie Hankinson (35:15): Well thank you Kathi, and we’ll speak again soon. Hopefully see you soon in New York, too.

Kathi Sharpe-Ross (35:19): Yes, definitely.

Katie Hankinson (35:24): Well now that we’ve finished that thoroughly interesting interview, we’re getting ready to land. But before we do, Mickey and I spent some time unpacking some of the key takeaways that really stuck out to us.

Mickey Cloud (35:35): We liken this to the post-game show, where we break down the really extraordinary nuggets that we can all benefit from, including us here at the Sasha Group. So get ready for the Sasha Sidebar.

Katie Hankinson (35:52): Hey Mikey.

Mickey Cloud (35:53): Hey, awesome job at that interview with Kathi. She is super energetic, she brings awesome experience. I love kind of all the different stories she told about the journey of her career. It was really, really cool.

Katie Hankinson (36:04): I thought so too. She’s great to chat to, and she’s been all over the world. We barely scratched the surface on that, but yeah. She’s [inaudible 00:36:12] business for 30 years in multiple countries, so great stories to tell.

Mickey Cloud (36:17): For sure. I think the thing that stood out to me the most was she was talking about the power tools, and talking about kind of that list that she makes, where in one column you kind of map out what are your values in life, and the other side is what are you actually spending time on. And you put those side by side. And I thought that was such an interesting exercise because I’ve actually been doing something similar to that, and kind of designing my time and things like that.

Mickey Cloud (36:43): So every Sunday now for the past two months, I’ve been taking an hour, two hours, to A, write down what I want to achieve that week in three focus areas, health, career, and my family. So I write down really specifically what I’m going to do that week to advance goals that I’ve set for myself in those three areas. And then I take a look at my calendar, and pretty much just wipe it clean and say, “All right, I’m going to make time for these priorities.” And then go back in and add the things that people have already put on my calendar, and see if I need to play the Jenga game of rearranging.

Mickey Cloud (37:15): That simple exercise has been so helpful for me personally in making me feel like I actually can use the currency of time on the things that I want to spend time on. I know she talked about it for both companies and for people, and just that really, really struck with me.

Katie Hankinson (37:33): Yeah, I loved it too. I thought it was so interesting exactly as you say, getting right down to the brass tacks of values, and then seeing of it marries up with where your emphasis and efforts and resources are spending, is just completely the right way to think about a company, as well as the right, yeah, exactly as you’re saying, the right way to think about the day to day. And that was kind of her bookend end point as well, like that is literally the way she plans her week. So I thought that was awesome too.

Katie Hankinson (38:01): The other thing I really liked with what she was saying was around just in spite of how challenging these times are, how creative they are. And the two sides of it, one being that there’s so much opportunity to have a cross pollination between industries, for companies to learn. Say you’re in automotive, what can you learn from hospitality? Or if you’re in CPG, what can you learn from beauty? I thought that was really interesting. And then the other side of it being, how much partnership and collaboration opportunities there are, even in unexpected places. There could be chances, places where brands can find ways to collaborate with one another, and elevate one another together.

Mickey Cloud (38:48): Yeah, and she obviously comes from a bit of the sponsorship and events, and she was talking about how some of her clients have had to adjust and change what does it even mean to deliver. And I think that almost applies to every industry right now, which is like, you use this time now to rethink, well what’s the ultimate value that we deliver as a business? And can there be other ways that we deliver it? You’ve seen it from everything from restaurants doing takeout drinks or whatever, all the way up through in the entertainment world as well, if you’re someone selling sponsorship and you have an empty stadium, or an empty event, or an empty thing where people just can’t be at it now, you’ve got to provide new, creative ways to bring value to your partners, to your sponsors. And that’s something that I know we’re seeing in the sports world, and we’re seeing in conferences, summits, all that kind of stuff. And it’s super interesting to hear her talk about how energizing that is in the day-to-day that she’s in, and kind of the creativity that she’s seeing from her colleagues, from her industry, from herself.

Katie Hankinson (39:53): I’d really like to know actually, this is a question maybe we can throw out to our audience. What examples are other people seeing around those collaborations that are happening now, or kind of mashups or partnerships between brands that are not just a traditional sponsorship, but actually a way to see each other through these times? I’d love to hear from you guys out there on what kind of examples there are out and about in the world. And I think some of these things may be here to stay. I’m so interested in the things that started out as a pivot for now, but actually end up being a centerpiece of someone’s offering I think is going to be an interesting thing to keep an eye on too.

Mickey Cloud (40:31): Yeah, for sure. I think I would love to hear from the Building While Flying universe. If you’re doing something cool and interesting that it was a pivot like you said Katie, and now it’s here to stay in your business, we’d love to hear those examples. We’re always looking for those examples just to show clients, “Hey, here’s how all different types of sectors are doing it,” and we could shout you out on this podcast.

Mickey Cloud (40:55): Thanks for joining us gang. And for Building While Flying with the Sasha Group today, I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

Mickey Cloud (41:07): If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune in for the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate and review us, plus we love feedback. So let us know what you think, what you’d like us to build into next, on Building While Flying across brands, business, marketing, and more.

Katie Hankinson (41:22): This podcast is produced by the team at Original music by Fulton Street Music Group.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by the 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. 

Kathi Sharpe-Ross is the queen of reinvention.

Kathi is the owner and founder of The Sharpe Alliance, an agency that builds businesses and brands through corporate and entertaining marketing, sponsorship, new media initiatives, strategic and tactical campaign development, event production, public relations, and so much more. Covering so many different kinds of clients through so many different platforms may seem a bit much for some. But not for Kathi. She’s used to going her own way and carving her own path.

Kathi’s new book Reinvent Your Life: What Are You Waiting For? is full of all the “power tools” you need to let go of your fears and launch your adventure. Kathi’s a pro at reinvention. And she gives businesses, brands and people the confidence they need to take on the scary prospect of change and evolution.

This interview was recorded in the early fall of 2020, so you may notice some differences from our regular format. Friendly reminder: we’re so focused on the concept of “building while flying” that we tend to do it a bit with this podcast! In this episode, Katie chats with Kathi about how her outside-the-box thinking and perspective has propelled her career. She also touches on why it’s so important to bring aspects that you love about your life into your business. Kathi is such a positive force, this conversation left us feeling so inspired to reinvent.

Other in-flight topics:

  • Kathi’s early career
  • Starting a business while in college
  • The power tools Kathi values most
  • Business curveballs
  • Reinvention in business
  • Creating a business roadmap

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