Your Business, Your Values, Your Culture - Sonita Reese - Episode 41


In this episode ~

This is coming out on the third Thursday of the month and that means it’s time to meet another brilliant woman who is successfully growing her business. I’m so happy to introduce you to Sonita Reese today!

Sonita is sharing one of those pivotal moments she experienced along the way. It’s a bit different from many that we talk about because it is such a positive one. As with all of them though, it allowed her to step more fully into her gifts and talents and embrace all of the goodness that comes with that.

Of course, she’s like the rest of us and has those days where the thought of burning it all down runs through her mind. We discuss that as well as some of the main causes of stress in team environments and how to avoid them, specifically during the onboarding phase and the early days of adding a new team member.

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This week's guest:
Sonita Reese, First by Five


Your Business, Your Rules - Sonita Reese - Episode 41

Sonita Reese is the Chief Encouragement Officer and Lead Consultant at First by Five, where she encourages people-centric entrepreneurs and leaders to rise above their daily demands and lead with vision, clarity, and empathy..

An ex-corporate consultant and Certified Director of Operations, Sonita uses her 18+ years of leadership experience in the private and not-for-profit sectors to give her clients the roadmap they need to execute what matters and grow their teams and businesses in a way that everyone wins.

Passionate about reducing avoidable stress and seeing people and organizations succeed, Sonita believes entrepreneurs owe it to the world to bring it without burnout. After making too many of her own life-work tradeoffs, Sonita left the corporate world and has since made it her mission to help entrepreneurs and leaders alike lead in a way that’s more impactful and less stressful.

Sonita grew up in Southeast Asia and now lives outside Washington, DC with her husband and two energetic boys. She views life as an adventure, thinks 5 AM is the best time of day, and values hugs from her sons more than any amount of money or distinction.

Connect with Sonita



Ever hit a wall in your business and feel like burning it all down? You’re not alone, come on inside and hear about Sonita’s pivotal moment and what she does when she’s about to light that match.

It's time for the Growth Strategies Café podcast designed specifically for female online business owners.

I'm your host, Teresa Cleveland, and I believe we can all make a difference and that having a successful online business is one of the best ways to do that.

Let's be real, though. Growing an online business isn't always easy. It definitely doesn't look sexy all of the time. AND it's one of the most fulfilling endeavors you can take on.

There are no secrets to building a successful business, there's just the stuff you don't know yet and we'll be talking about it all here in the Café.

Whether you're on your way to six figures or beyond, you're in the right place. So grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair. Let's get to it.

Hey, hey! I’m so glad you’re joining me for this episode of Growth Strategies Café. I'm Teresa Cleveland and I suppose we could say I'm your barista here in the Café.

This is coming out on the third Thursday of the month and that means it’s time to meet another brilliant woman who is successfully growing her business. I’m so happy to introduce you to Sonita Reese today! She’s sharing one of those pivotal moments she experienced along the way. It’s a bit different from many that we talk about because it is such a positive one. As with all of them though, it allowed her to step more fully into her gifts and talents and embrace all of the goodness that comes with that. Of course, she’s like the rest of us and has those days where the thought of burning it all down runs through her mind. We discuss that as well as some of the main causes of stress in team environments and how to avoid them, specifically during the onboarding phase and the early days of adding a new team member.

I’m going to give you her professional bio and then we’ll get right to it.

Sonita Reese is the Chief Encouragement Officer and Lead Consultant at First by Five, where she encourages people-centric entrepreneurs and leaders to rise above their daily demands and lead with vision, clarity, and empathy.

An ex-corporate consultant and Certified Director of Operations, Sonita uses her 18+ years of leadership experience in the private and not-for-profit sectors to give her clients the roadmap they need to execute what matters and grow their teams and businesses in a way that everyone wins.

Passionate about reducing avoidable stress and seeing people and organizations succeed, Sonita believes entrepreneurs owe it to the world to bring it without burnout.

She grew up in Southeast Asia and now lives outside Washington, DC with her husband and two energetic boys. She views life as an adventure, thinks 5 AM is the best time of day, and values hugs from her sons more than any amount of money or distinction.

Teresa: Welcome, Sonita. It is so nice to have you here today.

Sonita: Thanks, Teresa. I'm delighted to be able to chat with you and have a conversation.

Teresa: One of the things that I really enjoy about you is how much calm you bring to things when you show up. I just know that everything is going to be fine. You bring that air with you. Every time that I've met with you, you just bring that air with you. So I'm sure that that is such a valuable, valuable skill, talent, whatever it is to your clients to just know, like, "OK, Sonita is here, everything's fine."

So as we get started, let me ask this. Do you do Word of the Year?

Sonita: I do.

Teresa: And what was your word for 2021?

Sonita: Create and this word surprised me a lot. Typically I've had words that are a little bit more philosophical than that. So the way this came up for me really surprised me. And part of my vision board says to 'consume less and create more.' And that's really what I'm trying to do this year, not just for the sake of creation, but to serve. So create is my word of 2021.

Teresa: Nice. And how does that, how's that rolling out so far this year?

Sonita: Interesting. Like I said, that word surprised me. I resisted it because typically my words are like breakthrough or something like that. The way that it's become tangible for me so far this year is primarily in two ways.

One, I am creating more, not just content, but I think new ways of serving my clients. I have created a vision that I didn't have prior to this year. I am creating and have/in the process of creating almost, if you will, a whole new business, which is different from how I started. So that's one way that it's shown up.

The second way it's shown up for me is creating space and joy for the things I care about and the people I love.

Teresa: Nice I love it. That is just kind of a holistic thing there.

Sonita: Yeah.

Teresa: All right. Well, let's jump in and will you share a pivotal moment in your journey to where you are? I know I just heard you say that your business is changing and it's not what you first imagined, which I think that's the case for all of us.

And there are so many things on this journey that we come up against. And it's like, okay, is it time now? Is it time to throw in the towel or just let me wave my white flag and be done. And we go take a walk or do whatever we do. And then we make that shift and we continue on. So what is one of those, if you would share one of those that happened on your journey?

Sonita: I sure will. By way of context, I have spent most of my adult working life in the corporate and nonprofit spaces working for someone else. So I am newer to entrepreneurship in the last three and a half years. And when I first got into this, it was really more about creating flexibility for my family and trying to do some work I enjoyed more than some of the reasons why I had left that corporate and nonprofit space.

So the pivotal moment I'm about to share comes early on in that journey where one of the first clients I had was a large aerial imaging company and I was doing a custom research project for them.

It coincided with a trip we had pre-planned to Malaysia, where my mother is from and where I am fortunate to still have a living grandmother. So my two boys have gotten to meet their great grandmother in person, which is just incredible.

The pivotal moment came for me when I'm doing this work. I had gotten a new laptop because I knew my old one wouldn't cut it. Going on this international trip, it was bulky, heavy and slow. And I think it was the second night we were in Malaysia and as typical for me, I tend to have jet lag for a couple of days. But I also had some deliverables for this client and I was tired, a little cranky because of some of the work I had to do, we were in an unfamiliar apartment and all of the things.

So that pivotal moment came where, in the midst of just feeling kind of out of sorts, I had this sense of, 'oh my gosh, I didn't have to ask anybody's permission to go on vacation. Oh, my goodness. This investment that I made of this computer, I still have it I'm talking to you on it now, and I'm about to get a new one. But I love this thing. I haven't gone so far as to name it, but I am so grateful for the freedom and the ability it gave me to perform, sitting up in the middle of the night where I just recognized that I got this client. I am doing this. I'm tired and cranky, but I didn't have to ask for somebody's permission. And I'm doing some really cool work. And, yes, I didn't think it all the way through because I'm going to have to balance it while we're overseas on this really important trip. But holy cow, I got to do this. And that was really powerful for me.

So I'd be lying to you if I didn't share that it wasn't the optimal work-life balance because of some of the deadlines I'd committed to, but just the recognition that I get to do this and I get to take this with me overseas. And I didn't have to jump through a bunch of hoops or feel guilty. That was just really liberating.

Teresa: That is an incredible realization. It's very empowering, there's so much freedom that comes with that. So how did that then shift? How you did business from then on?

Sonita: I think this realization of 'I have choices and I get to serve', that was sort of the the spark. So that spark wasn't and hasn't always been right throughout my journey. If your listeners are familiar with this CEO mindset versus an employee mindset, that's something that I had to really work out of myself. So this pivotal moment that we just talked about, it was this very visceral, very tangible, like it's empowering. I get to choose, but I've had to remind myself of that.

And so I think that picture that's coming up as you've invited me to share the story, you know, that's something that has helped to anchor me. It's not always so intentional and thought out like you're going about your day and you have a challenging client situation or you're realizing that, gosh, I really should be doing more of X and less of Y and right away you think, well I get to choose. I'm thinking back to that time in Malaysia.

No, but that said, I won't ever forget that I got to bring work and not have to make an exchange that would have compromised my family or short-changed them. I carry that with me as I'm going through some of these other pivotal moments and decisions, especially when I'm frustrated or angry or want to burn it all down.

I don't know if anybody listening can relate to that. I have that thought usually at least once a quarter.

Teresa: That is such an incredible feeling and such a gift that you got that so early. And wanting to burn it down. The thing I always go to is like, "That's it. I'm going to go be a greeter at the Wal-Mart" and, you know, not really what I want to do. So that's always good motivation to get myself together.

So when you say that you have to remind yourself of this, how do you do that? Because we've all been in that place, right? Where we've taken on maybe a client that we shouldn't have. I don't like to should on people, but, you know, it just wasn't a good fit. And you learn from that, you know, for the future. But we've all been in those places where even if it's a client that we love, that we will become overwhelmed or maybe there's scope creep and all the things, right? So how do you remind yourself in those moments? Because I feel like we can get so bogged down and lose total sight.

Sonita: Yes. So three things really helped me. And the first is, I think, getting a very deep understanding of my purpose. So it's been a journey over these last three and a half years. I would say I was always doing things intentionally, but I hadn't really, I think, found my my purpose. And that's come up for me in the last six months. So I've always had whys, you know, primarily for my family. And then as I got into this and realized more and more that I had choices and I can use the gifts and the skills that I've had for an impact, it became about impact.

But in the last, I'd say six to nine months, I've really honed in on my personal/professional mission, which is to replace distraction with focus and reduce avoidable stress for growing teams. And I am passionate about doing this for people-centric entrepreneurs and leaders because of everything that comes at them. So now really having that clarity around purpose, I keep that in front of me. That helps. That's one.

Two, is just visually, you know, I think many people say, well, I'm a visual person, I'm a word, I'm a voice individual person. But after I finally drank the Kool-Aid on vision boards, I think two years ago and made the effort to do one, and it has really made a big difference for me. Right? I keep it on the back of my door in this office where I work. There's also that phrase 'consume less, create more'. And I just have the word create around. So locking in back on that really helps.

And then the third is, is community. So there's a combination of coaches I've worked with, communities I'm part of. I think one way that I've grown, not just having that community, but being a lot quicker to ask for help. Being just really happy and grateful that I have a community of people that I can shoot a voxer to or send a slack to or even pick up the phone. Yes, I still use the phone to communicate with people in this online space and say, hey, what do you think about X or, hey, I led teams for over a decade and I'm struggling with this thing that's so basic.

That's really helped me because I think what that represents is having something to go toward, but also realizing that I'm not going at it alone. And for a long time I think I was unconsciously thinking I needed to do this alone and that in those moments when you want to burn it down, it's almost easier to pull the trigger because you're like, well, I'm alone. It doesn't matter. So just really embracing this idea of community in a messy way and asking for help.

That third piece is really, really been helpful in those moments when I want to burn it down.

Teresa: And that is something that I have commonly heard, not just here on the podcast and the brilliant women that I have had the privilege of talking with, but in the online space altogether. There's like two things there. The successful women that I've talked with talk about that community and the importance of that community. And for many people, that is another pivotal moment when we realize that because when we have worked in corporate you know, you come from nonprofit, there is that 'I don't want to show any vulnerability. I can't say, you know, it's so difficult to ask.' And that is, again, as we get in here and we realize, oh, my goodness, there are other people here who want to support me, who want to see me succeed.

And that's a lot of this podcast, why I wanted to do it, because sometimes we don't ask. And so I want to bring on incredible women like you to talk about these things so that they can hear some of the things that maybe they're coming up against and they start to understand, like I'm not alone snd I can ask.

I appreciate the vulnerability that all of our guests have had in sharing these moments and being in a space where they're so willing to talk about it, because what does that come from? Because we all, collectively, at least with the guests that have been on the podcast, want to do that. We want to see other people succeed so we're more than willing to put ourselves out there like that. So I appreciate that.

But going back to what you had mentioned about working with teams and creating the ease, can you share with us what are some of the main causes of stress?

Because, you know, so many times you hear someone's hired, there's a new team member, and the next thing you know, the business owner is upset because things aren't being done the way that they think they should be done. And then the team member is ready to walk out because, good grief, you haven't really given me a lot of information to go on here. Because I think there's sometimes a miscommunication that just because you are hiring an expert or a virtual assistant who knows how to do a lot of things, they don't know exactly how you do them in your company. Like they have the understanding of things and they can make them happen, but there's that missing piece that sometimes goes over people's heads. So I'm sure that contributes to the stress. But can you talk about that and how you help these businesses have a more cohesive environment so that everybody gets to be successful?

Sonita: For sure. I'm so glad you brought that up, because for those of us who are leading teams, I think we should always remember that at one point we were on someone else's team and we still may be. And what does that look like? A team is not just a group of people who are doing something. A team is a group of people who are working toward a common goal and have some kind of connection. And it's up to leaders to create that, right?

So I'll go back to one of your initial questions, which are what are some of the common causes of stress. I'll just highlight, two. And that's expectations or maybe unreasonable or unshared expectations, and then communication.

So let me speak about expectations. I think a lot of times when our leaders are bringing people onto the team, they expect that person without knowing it to save them. And that in and of itself can set things up to be very stressful and often unsuccessful because no one person is going to come in and save your business.

That's your responsibility as the leader. You get help, you get coaches, you have your group of counselors, you hire experts, but you're in charge. And so first and foremost, being clear about understanding, why am I hiring this contractor or this part-time employee or this full-time employee? What role should they play? And really thinking, is this a strategic role? Is this a management role? Is this an implementation role?

I've seen many situations where there's somebody brought in to implement, but there's not a great strategy. And all at once their expectations that this person is just going to figure it out and create all the strategy as well. Sometimes it's so unconscious that the leader, the business owner, doesn't even know they're doing it.

The second thing is around communication, right? You mentioned or I think you've mentioned in the past that onboarding is sometimes often overlooked and that word can feel really amorphous, like what does that mean? Am I jumping on a surfboard and riding a wave? What is onboarding anyway?

It's the intentional act of planning for a new hire or a new contractor's first 7, 14, 21 days in your business. What do they need to know? Who do they need to talk to? Do they have enough time to do the drive-by of the resources of your blog, of whatever the things are that they'll be touching to use in their business?

And often it's an email and maybe some links and then it's off you go. So there are different ways to do it, that being intentional, to understand that like anything else, like an on-ramp to a busy highway, you're going to be in a much better and safer situation to join the flow of traffic if you've got a good on-ramp. That's really, really helpful for a team member and reduces stress because of the communication that's already built into it and then the opportunities for communication that continue because of that good rapport.

I mentioned two causes. I think a third cause is just not communicating values, which is a little bit different than expectations. Some people love being in fast paced environments where there is an expectation that we all take initiative and we figure things out. And it's better to, for example, ask for permission or ask for forgiveness than ask for permission. That's great. But if you as a business owner, haven't taken the time to define that and say, hey, this is really the heart and soul of our business, these are the people we look for, and so you're not hiring people who consciously raise their hand and say, yep, that's me. That can also contribute to that rub of unmet expectations or miscommunication.

And I'll just make one more comment that I've seen, not just with onboarding, but across teams in general, that a lot of times leaders either, and through maybe all good intentions, really don't have any clue for how long things should reasonably take. And it's I think, I hope anybody listening to this will say, OK, that might be me, so what can I do to mitigate that?

If you're entering a new situation, maybe ask somebody who knows or ask the team member or say, hey, we think it's going to take this long, but a week in let's let's do a gut check. Because I've seen that over and over again, where leaders unconsciously think something's going to take two weeks, where in reality it's three months on a good day. It just sets up not only stress because it sets a bit of a combative like you're failing when really there's no failure. The failure was in the lack of thinking things through. And it's not a science, right?

We will still miss. I know these things. And I just recently onboarded a new team member and we found out, OK, we were a little ambitious at our first 30 day goals. But here's the beautiful thing. One of my core values is open communication. And we really kind of met and aligned on that. In the hiring process, we talk about that a lot. And so this whole 30 day thing where certain things weren't happening, it was not a stressful conversation. It was okay, I was a little overly ambitious and so was the person that had signed up for it. But as we got into it, we're like, mm, let's readjust. And it's good. And I am really grateful.

So I'll just share those thoughts. In some ways that I help is again tapping into these values. I can't emphasize that enough. Don't think of values as like the one word that gets scribbled on a Post-it note and you throw away, nobody remembers. No. If you're doing it in a way that brings energy to your business, a value translates into a guiding principle. That's a statement of behavior. And that is powerful because you are letting people know, hey, these are the behaviors this company is built on. These are the behaviors people who join the team have, and these are the behaviors that we can make decisions around.

So those things super powerful for hiring. For empowering team members to have more autonomy in how they make decisions, so I if there's one thing I would just emphasize over and over again, it's what are you about, your mission and vision and taking that time to really dive into your values and your guiding principles, because that supercharges the team from an alignment perspective, less wasted time. And from an energy perspective, people are like, yeah, this is me, this is how we behave, we know and this is how we make decisions.

Teresa: If it's done right. It's so intentional. You're creating the culture of your business and so many of us, when we left corporate, that's what we didn't like were the cultures that we worked in. And we forget that, in the day to day, we are actually creating that and we get to choose, it doesn't have to be a certain way.

So with the visions, I think that that's something, too, that comes with maturing in your business, in your role as a business owner. I think in the beginning that it is maybe an exercise, right? And it's just like, if nothing else, you're just picking words from a list, that it's kind of the picture you may have in your mind or what you should do, what you feel you should do. And when you get to that place where you're actually becoming aware of what's working in your business and what's not working in your business, bringing on team members is such a great way to highlight those.

As you know, I think that that is where we become more intentional about that. And it's like, oh, hold up. Because when it's just us and maybe somebody we hire for a one off or something like that, it's like, oh well, I'll go back and fix it. We just see how we're interacting with ourself and the systems that we have in place, or don't. But that new person that comes on, it does highlight a lot of that. And I think it's such a good thing. And it's like any other muscle, the more that you use it and your team grows, you hopefully get better at it.

Not everyone has those skills, obviously. So when someone brings you in as that strategic partner in their business, a director of operations, what do you think is going on that leads up to them understanding that 'I need someone in this role' as opposed to 'I don't need another virtual assistant, I don't need another temporary hire, I need someone to actually help me manage and build this.'

Sonita: Mhm. Yeah, that's a great, great question. And so I'm going to answer it in two ways. First, leaders I think who recognize that they need help to, as one of my clients says 'keep the trains on the tracks.' There's that sense of, that's a management, that's a skill that's to a degree a leadership quality where I can't do it alone. And this is important because if a train doesn't arrive on the station at the right time, there's a whole bunch of things that aren't going to happen. People aren't going to get to their destinations. Maybe they miss the next train. So I love that analogy or that metaphor that my client uses.

So I think they have realized they need extra management help first and foremost. In the Director of Operations space, and that's a certification I wear proudly. It is not a role that I am going to be supplying for clients in a retainer basis moving forward. But I have been kind of that person for several.

So I'll add to my answer by saying it is somebody who values an outside perspective. They've gone from just saying, I need somebody to help me implement X because I don't know how to produce a podcast or I don't have time to write a blog. They recognize that in addition to getting things done, they want that outside perspective, that expertise, that experience to make it better, right? To not pick things apart, but to improve, to add to, to challenge for the good.

So it's those two things I think that at least at minimum, somebody's bringing in like a Director of Operations or OBM should ideally recognize. And ideally too, these individuals or these leaders will recognize that they themselves may lack a skill to do that because it's not always about replacing.

I find it's interesting when hiring is occurring to take something off somebody's plate. So, hey, I used to do this, I've got the SOP and now I want you to do that. That's important and that's valid.

But it's a whole other ball of wax when a leader may not know how to do something, especially at a strategic level, because that requires, both require trust. I think one requires even more trust because in a sense, a leader is exposing their vulnerability. If they're not mature and self-aware, they might feel really exposed and even if they are mature, it's still a bit humbling to say I really need help. I think it's always humbling to say I need help, and that's not a bad thing. Humility is strength under control. That's the first way to answer your question.

For me personally, Teresa, as I mentioned, I'm pivoting my business to focus more on helping people-centric leaders build, grow their people and their teams in a way where everybody wins. When people work with me, they recognize, they really want that kind of partner in your pocket aspect of it, where sure there's going to be action taken. But there's a recognition on, I'll say what some people might call some of the softer sides of business, which I don't think are soft at all because they translate into action and money and impact at the end of the day. But there's a recognition that, OK, my vision feels fuzzy or I know it's important, but I can't seem to articulate it. Yeah, these talk about values, I have them, but they just don't feel to work.

So there's a recognition that there's a need and at a certain level to invest in those things that shape culture and communication on an ongoing basis. I think when people work with me, they've realized that and when they want decision-making help as well. So let's not just get it done, but I want somebody to help me make good decisions, which is also something that Directors of Operations and other providers who play in that Director or strategy role do. They are really helping business owners make decisions, which is worth so much, not only in terms of potential money down the road but wow, the fatigue, the decision fatigue we can help our clients release is worth so much because as business owners, we all know what's the most important asset we have, right? Our time and our energy. That's what I've realized. When people work with me or people like me, they're really wanting that.

Teresa: And I think also when we talk about values, sometimes we may feel as the business owner like, great, these are my values, but how do we make that part of the way that we work in our company? Because a lot of times we're hiring virtual assistants, OBMs or Online Business Managers, Director of Operations who have their own businesses, and we're hiring them to come in and help. I think the question comes up because a lot of times then they don't feel like employees and they aren't. So how do I make this happen? And so being able to come in and help them understand that.

I would love to have you back some time to talk about those things. There's a lot that goes into it. You know, it's like, oh, great. I now realize that I'm hiring people and I've now added all these other tasks to my list because now I'm managing these people as well as the things that I have to do in my day-to-day as the business owner. So it's nice understanding that now someone can come in and do that. One of the things that you talked about, decision fatigue. Oh, my gosh. So great. So definitely I would love to talk about those things on another day.

Sonita, your business name is First by Five. What does that mean?

Sonita: I love that you asked that question. This is essentially what I want to bring to my clients and how I do business. First is a statement about priority. Keep the first things first. So one of my core business values is that life is greater than work. And so keeping the first things first, your health, your family, whatever that is for you, and also translating that into your business. What are your business priorities?

I feel like priorities are a much maligned word. They've almost become, I'll say, a cuss word because everybody throws them around. But very few people really honor them. right? When we're focused on priorities, powerful, impactful things happen, money gets made and people grow. So first is a statement of that.

And five is my favorite number for a few reasons. One, I am a morning lark, 5 a.m. truly is my favorite time of day because not only is it quiet, but everything's new at dawn. So there's infinite possibility at 5 a.m. For me, 5 is also considered the number of grace, which is basically getting what you don't deserve and also being able to be gracious to other people. I've certainly been the recipient of a lot of grace and that's how I want to do business as well. In a nutshell, that's why the name, First by Five.

Teresa: I love how much thought you've put into that and that it just reflects you and your values and who you are. We're going to go ahead and put all your information in the show notes so that everyone can reach you and find out more about the incredible services that you bring to the table.

[Funky Organ Bridge]

Teresa: Okay, that sound means it's time for our random bag of questions. Let's go ahead and jump into that. We have, I love to start with a would you rather because we've been talking about all this business stuff. So would you rather give up your phone or the Internet for a week?

Sonita: Phone.

VWhy is that?

Sonita: Well, goodness, well as it is I keep it on silent most of the time because I find it such a distraction. I only check it at certain times of day unless there's something I need to be primed for, related to my kids. And I basically, if I have the Internet, I could probably reach anybody I needed anyway so I could go without the phone for a week.

Teresa: I kind of feel that way as well.

Next up, how do you hold yourself accountable, especially when we're working on different clients and in our own businesses? How do you hold yourself accountable?

Sonita: I either always have a coach or an accountability group that I'm part of. Sometimes they're more formal than others. But I'm so grateful to have had that realization early on in business because I think that's really important. And I have a couple of metrics, you know, that keep me accountable, too. And last but not least, my husband. So it's not formal. I don't want to blow this up to be something it's not. But we talk about how not only the business is going, but the boundaries I've set for myself. And if I am veering from those, I invite him to let me know. I also invite him to tell me, hey, yeah, you are present with us or you're not present with us, because that's part of my accountability. I've got business goals, but living and being present and available for my family is really important to me. So I need accountability in that area as well.

Teresa: It's great to have a partner who will step up and do that.

Sonita: It really is.

Teresa: Speaking of metrics, we have that bottom line and that's an important number in our business. What is the next most important number in your business?

Sonita: It is a metric, but it's not a number. And this is because of my pivot. Here's how I am tracking this. Actually, it is a number because I've created a scale one through five. I have a return on energy metric and that's right now, it's for this season. I've had to lean into a lot of really deep work to get to the pivot where I'm doing now and just face some challenging stuff in terms of my mindset and all of it.

And I know I'm on the right track when at the end of the week I have a return on energy. That's a four or five. It is qualitative, but it's consistent. It also helps me know that I'm leaning into the right things for me. If I'm doing something hard or unpleasant, that doesn't necessarily mean I have low energy. It's the combination of all of the right things, those priorities in service to this mission and where I'm headed that have become really important for me, because I know at times when I'm really feeling blah, it's usually because I'm out of alignment or I am doing work I shouldn't be doing or maybe wasn't working with clients that are the right fit for these, kind of, three to six months. That return on energy is a really important metric to me as I am pivoting.

Teresa: Oh my goodness. It does not surprise me that that is something important to you. I will say I've not heard anyone explain it like that before, so I really like that. I'm going to have to sit with that.

Two more questions. First up, I have a question from another guest. She would like to know what is the most surprising thing that's happened in the last three months?

Sonita: The most surprising thing that's happened in the last three months is I realized through an in-person coffee conversation who my people are. So there's a lot of talk about ideal clients and avatars and this and that. I don't want to get into any of that, but I'm passionate about helping entrepreneurs and leaders and thought I was passionate about helping a certain kind. And through this conversation, it came up that really it's people-centric leaders. That's it. That's everything. It's revolutionized how I'm thinking about serving, my ability to start creating content, in conversations that phrase, people-centric, has been such a surprising gift to crystallize really who I serve, but also this broader connectivity point between my mission and how I serve.

And honestly, it just came out of a conversation. This person I was talking to, the husband of a friend just said, yeah, I was talking to another peoplecentric leader and BOOM! Right there it was.

Teresa: So powerful. And that's the way it happens sometimes, right? Well, thank you for sharing that.

Before we go, what is the question that you would like for me to ask a future guest?

I think a great question to ask a future guest would be how do you keep going when you've exhausted all the usual tricks, the bag of tricks. Like going to your accountability partner, finding things that motivate you. And maybe another way to ask the question is, how did you overcome what seems like an unovercomeable setback? Maybe that's the question.

Teresa: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Sonita, it has been such a pleasure. We could talk so much longer, and I definitely want to have you back to talk about the inner workings of all of this, but thank you for giving us such a great overview today. I appreciate you. And I cannot wait to reconnect.

Sonita: I appreciate you, Teresa. Thanks for everything you do for so many women. You are an inspiration, and I am so honored to know you.

Teresa: Thanks so much.

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