153: Growing a Right-Sized Business with Ashley Cox
No matter where you are in your coaching business, it's never too soon to think about hiring. As we build our coaching practices, we must align our people plan with our business plan. With so many celebrity entrepreneurs sharing what they do on social media, it's easy to feel like their way is right.
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No matter where you are in your coaching business, it’s never too soon to think about hiring.
As we build our coaching practices, we must align our people plan with our business plan. With so many celebrity entrepreneurs sharing what they do on social media, it’s easy to feel like their way is right. The truth is that there are many “right” ways to approach hiring, and it’s up to you to check with yourself and make sure you’re choosing the path that’s right for you and your business.
Today I’m excited to share this conversation with my friend and colleague Ashley Cox of SproutHR to discuss what you need to know about hiring for your coaching practice. I’ve known Ashley for almost seven years, and we’ve grown up together as business owners.
Ashley Cox is a certified human resource professional with over 16 years of experience. She founded SproutHR to make HR accessible for visionary small business owners, and she’s all about helping women-owned businesses hire and lead in a way that boosts their profit, sustainability, and success. Ashley wrote her first book, Transform Your Stories, to guide women to overcome the stories that hold us back so we can become confident and courageous leaders who create a resounding impact in the world.
In this interview, Ashley and I discuss some things that both early-stage and seasoned business owners should consider so that they are ready to hire at the right time. She shares excellent insights on best practices and tips you can use right now. Let’s jump in!
- How Ashley helps women-owned businesses as an HR consultant
- Ashley’s entrepreneurial journey – the good, the bad, and the ugly
- We go through many seasons in our businesses
- Normalizing entrepreneurial fear and doubt
- Why it’s important to celebrate your wins, big and small
- The inspiration behind Ashley’s book, Transform Your Stories
- The art of self-leadership
- What you need to know to prepare for hiring in your business
- Ethical hiring practices
- Ashley’s recommendations for your first hire
- SproutHR Website
- Ashley Cox’s Book | Transform Your Stories: Overcome Your Toxic Stories, Become a Courageous and Confident Leader, and Impact the World
- SproutHR on Facebook
- SproutHR on Instagram
- Ashley Cox on LinkedIn
- The Impact Ripple Podcast
- Coach with Clarity Podcast | Episode 151: Creating A Business That Works For You with Leonie Dawson
- My Book | ACT On Your Business
- Coach with Clarity Collective
- Coach with Clarity Podcast Facebook Group
- Connect with Me on Instagram
- Email Me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Now it’s time for you to show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity! Screenshot this episode and tag me on Instagram @coachwithclarity and let me know what you’re more excited to explore in future podcast episodes!
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Well, hello, my friend. Welcome to the Coach with Clarity podcast. I'm your host, Lee Chaix McDonough and I want to thank you for joining me today. I am so excited to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Ashley Cox of Sprout HR. I have known Ashley for almost seven years. In fact, she and I started our businesses within a month of each other. And we have grown up as business owners together. She is someone that whenever I connect with her, I immediately feel at home. It can be weeks or even months since we last spoke, and we pick up right where we left off and I think you're going to catch that energy in our conversation today. Ashley's expertise is in the field of human resources and specifically helping women-owned businesses hire and lead in a way that maximizes their profit, their sustainability, and their success. Now, regardless of where you are in your coaching business, whether you've been coaching for years, or you're just getting started, it is never too soon to think about hiring. And so in our conversation today, Ashley and I discussed some things that even early-stage business owners should be considering so that they are ready to hire at the right time. Ashley is also the author of the book, Transform Your Stories and so we'll talk a little bit about why she wrote that book, why it matters so much to her and how it informs her work in serving business owners specifically around issues pertaining to hiring. So enough from me, let's get right into my conversation with Ashley Cox of Sprout HR.
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Lee: Well, hello, Ashley, thank you so much for coming on the Coach with Clarity podcast.
Ashley: Hey Lee, I'm so excited to be here today. Thanks so much again for having me.
Lee: Oh, it's my pleasure. I have been looking forward to this conversation. I can't wait to get into all of the good stuff. But first things first, let's start with talking a little bit about who you are and the work you do for the world.
Ashley: Yes, I love that. So I am Ashley Cox, I am an HR consultant for women-owned businesses with under 50 employees. That's a big key part of our work. We work with micro businesses, and we help them hire and lead profitable, sustainable, impactful teams with more confidence, ease and a whole lot of fun.
Lee: Oh, I love that.
Lee: I love that. We're gonna talk a lot about hiring in our conversation today, for sure. But before we get there, I would love- I'm just so fascinated by people's personal histories, and specifically how successful business owners get to where they are today. Because contrary to popular belief, we don't just like sprout out and it's like, oh, here, here we are perfectly developed. And it's perfect.
Lee: Here we go. Like, that's not how that works. So I would love to just know a little bit more about your journey, and how you arrived where you are today.
Ashley: Yeah, so I always like to call it, “It's the good, the bad, and the ugly cry,” because there's a lot of that involved along the way. And I think back on starting my business, it was almost seven years ago at the time that we're recording this this conversation. And I think of baby entrepreneur, Ashley and how much she didn't know, and how excited she was to just figure it all out. And I think that's so inspiring. And sometimes I need to tap back into that energy today. Because now you know so much more that sometimes that can be a bit of a hindrance. And it can cause you to not be as bold, not be as courageous, not be as as outgoing as maybe you were in those early days. So if you're in the early days of starting your practice, please be encouraged by that. Be encouraged by not having all of it figured out. Spoiler alert, you'll never have it all figured out.
Ashley: And the energy and the excitement that comes with starting something absolutely from the ground up. So to give you a little context, I worked in corporate for 10 years, I worked for Kroger, and then I worked for J Crew. So I worked in these large, multibillion dollar, you know, global organizations. And that gave me a lot of the training and the skills and the the knowledge and expertise that I would need in order to start this business. So when I left corporate, I started a photography business, because that makes sense, right? You just you take a hard left and you start something that's not anything remotely related to what you were doing. But it was through that particular business experience that I discovered: Number one, photography is for me, it's not something I enjoy creating for other people. And I didn't like that I had turned my favorite pastime and hobby into work.
Lee: And some of us have a bad habit of monetizing all of our hobbies, don't we?
Ashley: Yeah, don't do it.
Lee: I'm guilty of that.
Ashley: Just don't do it. Yeah, it's, everything's not meant to be a moneymaker. Some things are just meant to be a soul filler. And that's to me what what photography was, but it's because of starting that business that I discovered the need to start Sprout HR. And I was in all of these Facebook groups- you remember when Facebook groups used to be like, like a really big thing? And that's where everybody met and connected. And you and I connected through Facebook groups.
Lee: We did.
Ashley: And so I was networking with all these people and trying to promote my photography business. And in the meantime, seeing all of these business owners have questions related to hiring and HR and leading their teams. So I would pop in and go, “Hey, for the last 10 years, I've been working in corporate HR. So here's the answer to your question. Here's a link to a resource to help you. Also, I'm a brand photographer now. So if you need help with that, let me know.” Looking back, obviously not the best way to market myself, but it gave me so much knowledge and so much insight into a gap in the market. That there wasn't someone helping and serving in this way, with this deep knowledge, this deep expertise in the things that were going to help these business owners not just hire the right people, but avoid making really costly mistakes. Whether it was through hiring the wrong people, making legal mistakes, just not knowing what questions even to ask in order to get started. And that's how Sprout HR started. So it started because I had another business and because I saw this need and so I think it was about eight months after I started my photography businesses is when I started Sprout HR, in July of 2016. So we're coming up on seven years this year. And it has been such a fun journey, and terrifying and very iterative. And I think, kind of leading from there to today, I had to go through that experience of having the photography business, understanding what the market needed, deciding to make a very bold, courageous shift and start a totally different business just eight months later, and then listening. Listening all the way, “What do my people need? What do they want? How can I support them? How can I make sure that they are getting the right information?” Because you can definitely fall down a Google rabbit hole when it comes to hiring. And so my whole goal has been to really educate and empower business owners with their hiring and leadership processes.
Lee: What I loved most about what you just shared was that, in hindsight, we can see how all the dots are connected. And it took going from point A to point B to point C to get to where you are now. And yet, I'm willing to bet and correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm willing to bet in the moment, it did not feel that logical and like, “Oh, yeah, this is the next logical step. I'm going to start a brand photography business. And then I'm going to do this,” like, in the moment, I can imagine it probably felt a little overwhelming and a little uncertain, like, “What am I doing right now?”
Ashley: Right? Chaos, straight up chaos. Thinking, most days, I was thinking, “Oh, my gosh, what am I doing? I don't have a clue. I'm just trying things. Is this spaghetti being thrown at the wall? Am I actually learning something? And am I contributing?” And that, to me has been the biggest part of my business all along, I want to be able to contribute in a meaningful and impactful way. And there were so many times and there still are, I don't know that this ever necessarily goes away: where you question, “Is what I'm doing enough? Is what I'm doing meaningful? Is it helpful? Is it truly creating the kind of impact that I want to have in this world? In an aligned way, in a congruent fashion with who I am and who I want to be?” And I think that's the scariest part for me, personally.
Lee: I agree with you wholeheartedly. And I think you're right that we go through seasons in our business, where sometimes we feel super connected to our purpose. And we know that everything we're doing is fully aligned with our values, and we're just in our sweet spot. And then we go through seasons, where we feel a little disillusioned, a little unanchored, uncertain. I'm coming out of one of those seasons, to be honest with you, where I lost sight of what does this mean to me? How am I contributing? How does this connect to my larger sense of purpose? I feel very fortunate that I am surrounded by strong female business owners that inspire me on the regular. There was one in particular who inspired me a few weeks ago, and I realized, “Okay, I need to go back to the drawing board. I need to do some soul searching and I need to get super clear on what it is I believe in, how it shows up in my business, and why I'm doing the work I'm doing.” And like you, I'm almost seven years in. I started this in June of 2016, so we're right there with each other. And I think, I think even now almost seven years in and maybe maybe it is that seven year itch, but you start to think about what is this really all for? And not just what am I doing now? But what do I want my legacy to be? And how do I want to grow this in a way that it's something I can be proud of now and in the future?
Ashley: For sure, for sure. And I think, you know, there's so much bad information out on the internet. There's just so much bad information, right? And there are very toxic ways of talking about business ownership that I don't think serves anyone who is starting and running their own business, regardless of whether it's a coaching practice, or it's a brick and mortar shop or it's a whatever. And it's this, this disillusionment that if you're having any kind of problem, you're having any kind of doubt, you're having any kind of crisis or chaos, you know, situation, that you're doing something wrong. And I 100% here to tell you that if you're having all of that you're absolutely normal and you're doing it exactly right.
Lee: Amen. Say it again. There is no such thing as perfection.
Ashley: No, no.
Lee: In business, in relationships, in life, it just doesn't exist. And yet our culture does hold us to this standard that if we're not doing it perfectly, then we're doing it wrong. And so we create this binary, this all or nothing approach, which is either I have all of my shit together, and I'm doing it what 100% right. Or I'm a failure.
Lee: And that is not helpful.
Lee: It's not true. But it creates these obstacles, external and internal that we then have to navigate while we're trying to get our business up and running or to the next level, or scaling. And it's a lot for a small business owner to shoulder.
Ashley: It is, it is. This growing your own business is, requires so much mental toughness and tenacity that I was not prepared for. And I wish that I would have heard a conversation like this in the early days, that would have said, “This is normal. If you feel like you're losing your mind, this is normal. And you're going to have amazing days where you're going to feel like such a champion, and you figured out something really hard. And you're going to be so proud of yourself.” I was actually just having a conversation with a friend who's a business owner this past weekend, and she was talking about how it's been a really tough week, and she's newer in her business. So about a year, year and a half in. And she said, “I just don't know, you know, if I'm going to be able to make it.” And you know, of course, I'm encouraging her, “You've got this, you're brilliant, and you've got all the skills you need. Don't let anyone else tell you that you don't have what it takes.” And she dealt with a pretty difficult situation with a tech issue, which hello, if you've been in business for any length of time, we have all been there, done that. And they can feel really discouraging. But I asked her, I was like, “What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do about it? How are you going to rebound from this? How are you going to, you know, how are you going to get yourself back to that point where you feel grounded in who you are, and what you have to offer this world?” And she was like, “Okay, let me think about it.” So she came back later. And she said, “Okay, Ashley, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to write down every accomplishment that I've had in my business, regardless of how big or small it is.” I was like, “Yes, that's it. That's so good.” I was like, “I might do that too!”
Lee: Oh, my gosh, I love that. And I love too that it's about not just the big milestones, but also the little wins, because those little wins add up.
Ashley: For sure.
Lee: They add up, but it's so easy to discount them. And then forget them.
Ashley: For sure.
Lee: You know, and I can't tell you the number of times I've done like an annual review and I pull out my calendar. And I look at my calendar, and I'm like, “Oh, right, I did that!”
Ashley: Right! We forget the good stuff. But the bad stuff, it sticks in your craw.
Lee: Yes. Yes, thank you negativity bias like, and I mean that a little sarcastically but also truthfully, I recognize that's kept our species alive and surviving. Like it serves a purpose. But we also have the gift of being rational and intuitive. And we can actively decide how much we want that negativity bias to control our own narrative. I mean, we have to raise our awareness about it first, so that we know it's happening. But once we see it for what it is, then we regain control. And I know that this is something you talk a lot about in your book, Transform Your Stories. And in fact, I have I have my Kindle copy right here.
Ashley: I always love seeing it. Like I wrote this three, three and a half years ago now. And I still get butterflies whenever somebody says, “Oh, hey, I bought your book!” And I'm like, “Oh, my gosh, that's so amazing!”
Lee: Me too, me too. It's hard to believe. I think, again, we're on a similar trajectory, because I published my book. Oh, my gosh, it was three years ago this month. I think I totally flew past the anniversary.
Ashley: Oh, my gosh! Happy bookiversary!
Lee: Thank you. I just realized I didn't even celebrate it. Again, it's one of those things. It's an accomplishment that we just kind of like “Oh, right. Yeah, that's, that's there.”
Ashley: You check it off your list and it's done. And so that means it doesn't count anymore. And it absolutely counts. Every single thing is cumulative in our lives and that's such a gift.
Lee: It's so true. And like you I get excited every time I see someone has purchased my book.
Ashley: Every single time, every single time.
Lee: It's amazing. Yeah, it's so cool. So anyway, so. So we,
Ashley: We digress.
Lee: No, as we are known to do. But I did want to ask you about your book, both the experience of writing it what what it was like to work on your first book. And also what prompted you to write it? Why did you feel that Transform Your Stories really needed to be shared with the world?
Ashley: Because that's the book I needed when I was starting off. That's the book I needed. That's the book I needed when I was starting off as a brand new leader in corporate when I graduated from college and had absolutely no clue what I was doing, but had a lot of, you know, that 21/22 year old excitement and invincibility and “I'm going to change the world” kind of energy. Which I I feel grateful that I've still hung on to a lot of that, because I feel like this world can quickly beat a lot of it out of you. But it's the book that I needed then. It's the book I needed when I started my business. It's the book I still need every single day of my life. Because what it's about, is about the stories that we tell ourselves about why we aren't good enough, why we're not meant to do something, why we're not meant to be a leader. And specifically, this book focuses a lot on women stepping up into leadership roles. Whether that's leading a business, it's leading a team of contractors, a team of employees, leading a passion project, leading you know, a vision that you have for the future. Leading yourself, because sometimes that's the hardest job of all.
Lee: Self-leadership is no joke. I mean, it leading others can be complicated.
Lee: Not always, but we'll talk about that in a bit. But yeah, self-leadership and understanding how to navigate yourself out of your own stuck points.
Lee: That's an art form.
Ashley: It really is.
Lee: And it's something I think, no matter how long you've been alive, or in business, how much work you've done. There's always new ways for those messages to kind of try to come at you again. And so yeah, it's, it's an evolution.
Ashley: It really is. It really is. And so in the book I, I wrote it like, the kind of book that I would need. This is very much a self serving book. And I knew that if this was something I needed, I knew there were other people who needed it as well. And I knew that through my work with, you know, clients and Sprout HR, the previous four years that I had been in business and what they needed to hear at that point at that pivotal point of, “Should I hire a team? Should I should I do more with this business? Can I do more with this business?” And it was that story of, I didn't think I was worthy. I didn't think I could do it. I was told, literally told and I tell the stories in the book by managers that I wasn't going to make it. And so not only was I experiencing those internal stories and that internal voice of “You're not enough,” and like “Who were you to be a leader? And who are you to start a business?” But I was literally experiencing these things from an external perspective from other people saying, “Oh, you know, you're too soft, you need to toughen up. You're never going to make it as a leader.” And then realizing later, a little bit of a spoiler alert, but I won't give away every story. But realizing later that that unique strength, that unique skill set, that unique personhood that I embodied, was exactly what was going to set me up to be successful in life, in business and leadership in all the ways that were most meaningful to me. And I was like, “So I'm just gonna go do this now. Cool.”
Lee: You know, I think you are onto something in the sense that what qualities make us uniquely us are the secret to our success. And it can be challenging when those qualities don't necessarily line up with traditional productivity culture, and traditional patriarchy. And so were told, sometimes literally told, like, “You will not do this, you will not make it.” And so we do have to approach it with a little bit of tenacity, you know, a little bit of like, “I'll show you.”
Lee: But also with the awareness of just because my way doesn't look like their way, it doesn't make my way wrong. And it certainly doesn't make my way unsuccessful. It requires us to be a little creative, a little innovative, to think outside the box. But then when we do that, we set ourselves apart from everyone else. I just interviewed Leonie Dawson recently, and she basically said, “Look, there are 1000s of beige business coaches out there, if I'm not your girl, go find someone else.” And I just thought to myself, oh, first off, I loved how she described it as beige.
Lee: You know, because,
Ashley: Such a great visual.
Lee: It is. And I think I think the expectations that were held to are often coming from beige business owners. You know, that that quote, unquote, “traditional” wisdom that may not work now, but certainly doesn't work for those of us who feel like we're a little avant, like, we're a little outside the norm.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. And you know, as an HR professional, I very much didn't fit, quote, unquote, the box that a lot of HR professionals in corporate would would fit into, and I was a little bit more creative. And I was a little bit more colorful, and I was a little bit more. “Oh my gosh, Ashley's doing what again?” And you know, I had a hot pink monkey that hidden, you know, that hung on my door that we named Virginia. And, you know, like other HR people were like, “Is that really professional?” And I was like, “Who's trying to be professional? I'm trying to be human. Human resources.” There was a big whiteboard in my office where I invited people every time they came in, write down something you're mad about, write down something you're excited about, write down your favorite quote, just write like, express yourself. Because so many times people were told to like shut up and get back to work, right? And not in in the entire companies that I worked for, but by certain leaders or some certain department heads or, you know, areas of the of the business that were being stifling. And that's where we go to kill people's creativity. And so we have to be secure in ourselves as leaders to say, “This is my way, this is what feels good. This is how I'm going to help the most. And just say, “You know what, it may not be your way, and that's okay. But I'm going to do it this way.”
Lee: And I love that you are bringing that humanity, and that creativity to your work now in supporting small business owners and coaches. And I know, you know, many of us who even those of us who have been doing this for a while, we may feel like we're not ready to hire, “It's too soon, I don't have everything set up. This isn't something I need to worry about right now.” But I think an argument could be made that even if you're earlier in your development, as a business owner, even if you're still early stage in your business, now is the time to start thinking about your hiring practices, because that time may come sooner than you realize when you do need to hire. And I'm curious when you're thinking about people who are still earlier in their business, who maybe haven't hired yet, but see that as a possibility in the future. What do you think they should know? Or what should they be doing in order to prepare for that time,
Ashley: I love this conversation, because I don't think there's ever too early of a time to prepare for growing your team. And whether that means that you're going to be partnering with some contractors in the future, or you're actually going to be hiring part time and full time W-2 employees, growing your team looks so many different ways. So the first thing I would say is, let's reframe what team looks like and what team can mean. And a lot of times I have people come to me say, “I don't know, I don't think I'm ready to hire a full time employee.” And I'm like, “Who said you had to hire a full time employee?” So part of it is, is realizing that growing, your team can look so many different ways. And that just because some celebrity entrepreneur is doing it this way, doesn't necessarily mean it's the right way, or the best way or even the legal way for your business. And those are some things to really keep in mind as you're seeing people grow your teams kind of doing a gut check, does that feel good? Does that feel like something that's meant for me? If not, what feels meant for me instead, maybe it's a really small team? maybe it's one employee, maybe it's just two or three contractors, that's okay. Maybe you're like, I want a team of 150. Cool, we can do that, too. But it's knowing what feels good for you, and what makes sense for your business goals and vision. I always say we have to align our people plan with our business plan. Because if we don't, that's where a lot of folks come back to me later. And they said, “Oh, my gosh, I've got this team of 25. And I just want to fire everybody and start over. Because this isn't what I wanted.” We get to create that very intentionally, for ourselves, for our businesses and for our team members. So starting there, just you know, just as you're going through your day to day business life, and you're looking at other people's teams doing that, that quick gut check, it literally takes no time, it costs you no money, you don't have to sit down with a big spreadsheet and plan a bunch of things out, it's literally the most accessible way to start planning for your future and your team.
Lee: I love the idea of determining what your right sized business is. And I will admit it's very tempting, almost seductive when I see other business owners talk about their, their teams, like all these people that they've hired, you know, like a staff of 15, or whatever. And there are some people who really make that part of their marketing platform talking about, you know, these huge teams they have. I've also seen, especially in the last couple of years, people rethinking having this huge team and really downsizing and going back to basics, where maybe it is them and a part time contractor or them and one, maybe two employees. And I just want to say that I've gotten caught up in thinking “Oh, more is better. I need more team, I need more people.” sometimes more is just more, and you can get more done and be more efficient and more profitable with the right sized team, whatever that looks like for you.
Ashley: For sure. And I think too, that that also goes along with the message of there's so much messaging out there. Well, six figures used to be, you know, the target, right? Like, “Oh, if you're making six figures in your business. Six figures in six minutes, yada yada, yada.” Okay, great. That's awesome. What does six figures mean to you? How much of that is take home pay, how much of that is being outsourced? How much of that is being you know, filtered into ads or you know, wherever it is, and now seven figures has become like the new next level, does that even sound good to you? Does that even make sense for you? And I'm not a business coach but we talk a lot about money when it comes to HR, because people are an investment. And they're going to be the most expensive part of your business growth. And if you're not,
Ashley: Yeah, and if you're not interested in, you know, having payroll, and having benefits, and having insurance and having perks and all of these things that come along with people, maybe it's time to look at your revenue goals, and kind of think about what would create the type of comfortable life for me with my goals and my impact dreams that makes sense? Maybe it is six figures, maybe it's 250k revenue, maybe you're keeping half of that, and you're using half of that to reinvest and hire some contractors, and that's good. Maybe you want a million dollar business, we work with million dollar business owners all the time, a million million and a half, 2 million. Those are big numbers. They also have a lot of team members. There's a lot of cost involved there. There's things that people don't talk about. And that's my, my mission is to help you understand, what does that look like from a financial perspective so that you're not just throwing money out the window, but you're getting a real return on that investment? And that's why that gut check is so important. And do you even want to be managing 25 people? Like there's a lot to that.
Lee: Yes, there is. It becomes your primary responsibility after a while.
Ashley: It absolutely is. You're no longer doing the work that you started to do. So if you're wanting to truly coach in your business, you may want to keep a smaller team. And honestly, I don't want a huge team. I have one full time employee right now we work with a couple of contractors, and I'm super happy with that. But that's my, my goal. That's my happiness factor. Yours may be totally different. I've led teams of 400 people before I'm good.
Lee: Yes, more is not always better. Sometimes it's just more. And I will say, as someone who has several contractors on her team, that that's the highest expense when I look at my monthly profit and loss. My outflow like the largest number is team. And I'm very happy about that because I love the people who I get to work with. I feel really solid about them, I want to pay them, I want them to do well and live the life that lights them up to and I recognize that what they earn from me helps them do that. So I feel really good about that.
Lee: And I have to be mindful that that number can creep up and up and up and up if I'm not careful, and if I keep bringing more people on. So I really appreciate your emphasis on linking your business and specifically, your hires and your size with your values. And effectively what you want to create for yourself in your business and in your life.
Ashley: Absolutely. And I think too, another component to consider is ethical hiring practices. You know, when you're thinking about growing your team, and I know this is something that you and I are super aligned on Lee, we want to pay our people well. Not just the bare minimum, right? I am not a super fan of hiring, you know VAs for $3 an hour, that is unethical. No one can make a living anywhere in the world on that particular wage. And I think we can do better. And I think when we have celebrity entrepreneurs out there promoting live your best life and work from the beach, and you don't have to, you know, do anything, you can outsource everything and then go live your best life on your millions of dollars of revenue every year, while you pay your VA $3 an hour, that feels incongruent, that feels out of integrity with me, with my values. And if you work with me, I'm going to tell you the same thing. But I think that this is an opportunity, you know? Before you start hiring to really do some soul searching, what does ethical hiring look like to you? Does that feel right? Does that feel wrong? If it feels wrong, you may need to wait a little bit longer to hire until you can afford to pay the wages that people deserve.
Lee: I'm so glad you said that. Because we have seen this push towards outsourcing administrative tasks VA to overseas because you can get it for cheaper. But number one, is that really in alignment with how you want to run your business and live your life? And number two, what if you paid that person overseas, the same wage you pay you would pay someone in your home country? Can you imagine the change you would create for that person and their family and their community? So just because you can do something doesn't mean you should and actually you may find that you have the opportunity to exponentially grow your impact because you are operating from a more ethical place. You can you can touch more people's lives that way.
Ashley: Absolutely. Absolutely, that's something I'm really passionate about. So I could spend an inordinate amount of time talking about it. But if you're interested in learning more, you know, really just research, you know, the exploitative practices that are happening with overseas VAs and agencies where they're charging pennies, literal pennies for work. You know, if you if you think about it, we're paying $3.16 a gallon for gas here in East Tennessee right now. And I'm thinking of paying a human person $3 an hour, I just can't, I can't make those two things meet.
Lee: Yeah, I can't either. So all of that to say, if you are not at a point where you can hire someone at an appropriate wage, that's okay. There's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with your business, it just means you're not ready to do that yet, so.
Ashley: Yes. And there's so many different places that you can start, you know, maybe it's not getting full time help. Maybe it's part time help. Maybe it's not regular part time help. But it's a project based, like you can start with small things, maybe it's having somebody create a logo for you, so that you can really stand out in the marketplace. And that's a one time small, generally smaller priced service that you can get and pay for and be on your way. Or you can have somebody design a website or create some social media graphics for you or 1000 other things that don't require an ongoing financial commitment, that's a beautiful place to start. It's a beautiful place to start testing out the waters on interviewing, finding the right fit candidates. Understanding what it's like to work with another person inside of your business like that's where I recommend you absolutely start one off projects that are on a small financial commitment so that you can start getting some experience, because what I don't want you to do is dive in headfirst and hire a full time employee with no experience ever hiring or working with someone.
Lee: I love how you have framed that as being part of the journey part of the evolution of being in business, and that it is okay to start out with these smaller project based tasks and hire for those. And I will say that's, that's what I did thinking back about my hiring journey. It was absolutely project based. And it and it took me a few years before I was ready to work with someone on a more regular basis. I will also say-
Ashley: For sure, for sure.
Lee: Go ahead.
Ashley: No, I was just gonna say that's how that's how mine started too, you know, I worked with contractors, and then I worked with a VA, a couple of VA agencies for a longer period of time. And then I hired a part time employee, and then I converted her into a full time employee. And so it is part of the journey. And it's a smart and very strategic part of the journey, which I think we don't talk about enough when it comes to hiring as well. It is, there is deep, deep strategy that's involved to make sure that you're getting the return on your investment, and that your people are feeling valued and appreciated and supported. And they're getting the kind of leader who can can actually lead them instead of just, you know, the chaos coordinator.
Lee: I'm so glad you brought that up. Because you're right, we do want to make sure that we are seeing a return on our investments with our hires. And sometimes that can be a little tricky if the person you're hiring doesn't have a direct role in bringing revenue in, if they're doing more supportive activity so that you can go out and bring that revenue in. But we do want to make sure that when we're hiring, that person is contributing to that revenue coming in, so that they're at least sustaining their salaries. If not, if not more. And then I think to your second point, there's also this idea on about like return on energy.
Lee: So that the energy you invest, you're investing in, you're getting that back as well, and that your employees or your contractors are feeling really good about working with you and your business too.
Ashley: 100%. And I think that it takes, you know, I'd been leading teams for several years before I started my own business. And before I started working with contractors, and it was still an experience, it was still a learning experience, because running your own business is totally different than working for somebody else's business and you're wearing all the hats, you're the accountant, you're the HR person, you're the marketing person, you're the actual service provider person. And so having that, introducing people into your business is very, it's a very vulnerable experience. And I was not exempt from that. People think “Oh, well, you were hiring for years and you were leading these huge teams.” And I'm still a human having a human experience starting a human business. And that was a very vulnerable and scary time. So I get it, I get that you don't want to dive in headfirst and you know, build the parachute. I personally as an HR person, like a little bit of a safety net. You know, I'm here to help you limit your liability, limit the amount of money you're just throwing at problems hoping that it's going to solve them. Um and so I get that, and I get that from a very I've been there done that, and I've been, you know, up at night worrying about the same things you are. “Can I make payroll? How am I going to deal with this problem tomorrow? You know, am I being a good enough leader for these people?” So I think that it's something to really talk about it and to know that you're not alone. When it comes to hiring a team and changing literally what your business looks like, and how it operates in this world.
Lee: I am so glad there are people like you out there in the world who are there to support us through this. And I know that people who are listening to our conversation right now are going to want to learn more from you. So tell us where we can learn more about you. What's- where can we find you?
Ashley: Well, I have a little rhyme because I'm super, super dorky like that, I guess. But I always say, “You can find us sprouthr.co everywhere you go.”
Lee: Oh, I love that.
Ashley: You know, people were getting, it was really hard in the beginning with the .co instead of the .com so I made this little rhyme up. And it seems like people can find us now. So it's working.
Lee: It is absolutely working. So sprouthr.co everywhere you go.
Ashley: Everywhere you go. So we're on Facebook, we're on Instagram, please come connect with me on LinkedIn. That's where I'm spending most of my time these days. And I love having conversations over there with folks just about everyday things that happen with hiring, with leadership, with the mindset and the strategy, because it's definitely twofold. And then you've got to have both pieces working together in order for it to make sense. And then I also have a podcast, The Impact Ripple, you can come over there and listen to a conversation. I'm gonna have to have you over Lee and we're going to have to continue some more of our conversation and talk about your brilliance there as well.
Lee: Oh, I would absolutely love that. More to come on that. I'll also say that when people go to your website, sprouthr.co They can also find more information about Transform Your Stories, which is a wonderful book. I highly recommend it. So definitely head on over there to check it out and get your copy. Ashley, this has been so fun. I could talk to you all day. I'm so grateful that you came on the show.
Ashley: Thank you so much for having me. This is such a great and very important conversation. So I hope that you know, everyone who has the opportunity to listen feels encouraged, feels inspired, feels supported. And I know that if you're in Lee's community, you absolutely are.
Lee: Oh, thank you. All right, Ashley, thanks so much for being here today.
Ashley: Thanks, Lee.
Lee: Thank you so much to Ashley for coming on the show today and sharing her wisdom and her experience with us. And of course, I want to thank you for listening, you are the reason I create the Coach with Clarity podcast. And I hope that you find each and every episode to be inspirational, informative, and most of all, that you feel supported every step of the way in your coaching journey. At Coach with Clarity, we have many different ways to support you in growing and scaling your coaching practice, all while building your coaching mastery. Certainly, we have the Coach with Clarity Collective, which is my signature group program. I also run intimate cohorts of the Coach of Clarity mastermind for coaches who want a hybrid experience of being in community with a small group of other intuitive coaches, while also receiving one on one support from me. And you can also find inspiration and support in my book ACT On Your Business. And if you go to coachwithclarity.com/getthebook, you can get your copy of ACT On Your Business today. We'll have the link to my book as well as to Ashley's website, her book and where you can find her on social media in the show notes.
And I will be right back in your feed next week with another episode of the Coach with Clarity podcast. So if you have not followed or subscribed to the show yet, take a moment to do so now. It's easy, it's free. And whatever podcast platform you're on, you'll probably find a button that says follow or subscribe or maybe it's just a little plus sign, whatever it is go ahead and click that and then you can be sure that all the new episodes of the Coach with Clarity podcast will find their way into your feed and you'll never miss a show. So until next time, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.