Ashlee Sang consults conscious and caring business owners so they can grow their impact and their revenue. Through Ashlee Sang Consulting, she equips entrepreneurs to take confident, meaningful action in alignment with their values. She believes that business can feel and do good when it’s rooted in values and propelled by purpose.
Before doing brand messaging strategy and marketing consulting, she worked with a variety of nonprofit organizations, including a human rights education NGO in Senegal and a local branch of Habitat for Humanity. The common thread has been sharing messages that matter.
Based in Central Illinois, Ashlee has a background in anthropology and a penchant for travel. She’s a fan of one-liners, happy surprises, and taking walks in the sunshine.
💝 Key Takeaways
- How to establish, define, and apply brand values in a way that’s unique to you.
- Attracting who you want to work with by living out your values.
- Making business choices that feel good to you based on your values.
📚 Resources Mentioned
Stand Up To Stand Out Kit – A Brand Messaging Workbook and Consistency Checklist
🔗 Where You Can Find Ashlee
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ashleesangconsulting/
🌹 Rose’s Resources
📖 (Imperfect) Transcript
We use Descript to provide this transcript which isn’t always perfect but wonderful all the same. (affiliate link 😃)
Rose: Hey, it’s Rose and welcome to another episode of the Sensitive CEO Podcast. And in today’s episode, I’m pleased to introduce you to Ashlee Sang. Ashlee consults conscious and caring business owners so they can grow their impact and their revenue. Through Ashlee Sang consulting. She equips entrepreneurs to take confident, meaningful action in alignment with their values.
Ashlee believes that business can feel and do good when it’s rooted in values and propelled by purpose. I love that. Ashlee, welcome to the show, and I would love for you to introduce yourself and let everyone know a bit about your background please.
Ashlee: Yes. Thank you so much for having me. So I am Ashlee Sang, I run Ashlee Sang Consulting, as you said, and I’m based in central Illinois, so literally dead centre, middle America.
And I started more or less, I started my career in West Africa, actually in Senegal. I studied abroad there. I met my husband while I was still a student. I lived there for four years after graduating, doing international development and all things communications. Internal communications, media relations, donor relations, and all the things related to communications and outreach.
And when my husband finally got his green card, we moved to the states, and I did local non-profits, still in the communications realm. And I wanted to feel more connected to people in my backyard instead of a big international headquarters. And, you know people who were just near me as my neighbours.
And I discovered that I was still a bit connected from the mission. And what I was enjoying more was the freelancing I was doing on the side. I liked the variety of it. I liked that it was for-profit businesses. More, more often than not. And I liked that I could use my skills in a really specific way, but not have to cost to a single cause, organization, or team.
So. Almost four years ago, I decided, you know what? I want to do this, this freelancing thing, full time. And that has morphed into the business I have now, which is very different from the business I set out to create. Now I live in the strategy realm. I found that my, brain really worked better at the strategy level, and I found that when I was doing ‘done for you work’ copy and content, and anything under the sun that, a business owner would need, I found that they were throwing money at contractors like me without any strategy behind it, without any forethought of: How is this part of the customer’s journey? How is this in alignment with my values? How is this in alignment with how I want to show up in the world? And so now I work with these conscious and caring business owners at that top level. Who do you want to be as a founder? How do you want to be as a brand? How do you want to show up?
What do you want to be known for? How do you want to make people feel? I do that through brand messaging, strategy, and values alignment.
Rose: I love that. And that makes me think about my previous business. I had a web development business and would build websites for people, but as you say, they didn’t have their values. They didn’t have their brand sorted out. They just wanted a website with everything on it, but they still needed to actually do the high level strategy. So what you’re doing is really valuable and very called for.
Ashlee: Yeah, thank you. And the same example with the website, right? Like how do you know what the website is supposed to say?
How do you know how the website is supposed to look? All of the things that we pay graphic designers and web developers and copywriters and, and even our VAs, all the people that we bring onto our team or that we do ourselves, how do we know what we’re supposed to be representing while it’s that high-level brand messaging strategy work that informs it all?
Rose: Absolutely. So when a client first comes to you, Ashlee, what sort of process do you take them through to help them to understand their brand values?
Ashlee: Yeah, so it’s a lot of reflection on the part of the business owner and many questions on my part. A lot of times, it’s simply the act of dedicating that time and space to your business that brings out everything that you already knew in your head and heart. It’s not like I’m placing ideas in anyone’s brain. I’m getting it out of them. So my process is to ask these questions in a roundabout way. And if we knew the answer, like if we knew what our brand message is, or what our brand values are, if we knew that it would be simple enough to do on our own, right?
But, a lot of times we need to get outside ourselves and have it reflected to us, either validated or poke some holes in it to go a little bit deeper. Maybe we have surface-level ideas, but we’ve never dedicated that time to really dig deep into why we care about this, why we do this, and why we want to stand for this.
So my process is a lot of questions, reflection and validation. And then I’m that distillation process like I’m that distillation phase where I take everything that a business owner says and/or writes, because sometimes we write differently than we speak. So it’s really valuable for me to have both angles from the business.
Ashlee: And I then distill it into marketing speak and strategy speak and the big picture. Sort of tying all that big picture together and connecting those dots. And then also getting granular at the same time. So, whether it’s a quick win consulting call, which is one hour. And literally we’re going after a quick win.
We’re going after that momentum. We’re trying to sort of buzz through a bio together or look at the about page and really figure out, is this what I stand for? Or I’ve had these five burning questions about marketing, let’s zip through those sorts of things. Or it’s my signature messages that matter, VIP day, where we really go deep and have a full day to dive into who is your audience?
What are your values? What is that overarching message and mission that you want to stand for and be known for in the world? Regardless, it’s a lot of questions and reflection, but it’s just a question of container. For the various ways, I work with clients.
Rose: And it’s so similar to coaching.
Coaching is about asking the right questions and drawing out the answers that are already within someone, and it’s a great, great skill to have in both areas. So when you discover or help people find their values, do you have a set amount of values, like three to five or 10, or how many values do you recommend people focus on?
Ashlee: Yeah, I recommend, three to five. Fewer is better. I like three as the minimum so there’s enough to sink your teeth into. There’s enough to guide your decisions. Enough variety, right? You’ve really thought about it from all angles. If you have that minimum of three, I like no more than five because otherwise, you’re spreading your North star, your map, your message too thin. So if you stick in that three to five zone, then you have enough to anchor you, enough flexibility, so you don’t feel boxed in any way, but you have a substantial enough container to have a solid foundation to build from. And a lot of times, we struggle, not with coming up with the values, but with honing them. So I highly recommend listing all the values. If you have 25 things that you care about, that’s wonderful. That means that you’re a conscientious person, probably, right? But 25 core values means that they’re not prioritized right?
The next step in the process is to figure out where they tie together. Are there any umbrella concepts that can fold in multiple of these values?
So I’ll give an example from my core values. I recently revamped them. I was out of alignment, which is how I knew this new value was so important to me.
So, I had offered a free workshop. And I had told everyone it’s free to sign up. And I had, had, I had listed a donation as an optional, like, you can, you can donate if you want. Otherwise it’s free. What I did not realise was EventBritet—mandated a minimum donation to be able to sign up. So it wasn’t free.
There was some minimum buy-in. And so I was so out of alignment that I realised integrity is essential to me, my person, and how I run my business. I felt so mortified by that situation, that I realised. Okay, that means that integrity is a core, core value of mine. So word to the wise. Anytime you’ve ever felt mortified, that is a strong indicator of something very important to you.
So I realised, okay, I want integrity to be one of my core values for my business and how I interact with everyone around me. But that means I need to bump one because I already had five, right? So I was looking at my list of core values, and freedom wasn’t resonating with me anymore.
I realised that I don’t feel particularly free, in the sense of that I work from home. I’m not like nomadic and, I work pretty set hours and the concept of freedom wasn’t lighting me up anymore, but I realised, freedom as a concept could fold under my current value of exploration.
Ashlee: So I’m free to explore and experiment and stay open-minded and have various things that freedom ideas could more specifically and more emotionally fit into my business under this idea of exploration, which was already a core value of mine. So I bumped one for something that was much more resonant to me and how I want to run my business, and I was able to find that umbrella existing value to tuck in that other one.
So, whether you are evolving your values just as I did, or as you’re setting that initial set of values, how can you tuck and fold and envelop your values, to find the most specific and resonant concept for you.
Rose: That’s such a beautiful example, the way that you enveloped, and I love the word enveloped, the way that you enveloped freedom into exploration.
It’s beautiful, and yeah, integrity is such a lovely value. And I could feel your mortification when you were explaining about the Eventbrite thing. Something like that would really mortify me as well.
Ashlee: Yeah. And I mean those, those negative emotions are really powerful. So lean into those.
Of course. We don’t ever want to be mortified. We don’t ever want to feel out of alignment. But when we do, pay attention to those that can shine a light on what you want. One of the questions I often pose to business owners as they’re evaluating what they want their values to be or what their values are essentially are. What do you absolutely not stand for from other people?
Like, what would you never put up with or what would you never want your name associated with? It’s the negative aspect that shows you the positive thing you want to stand for. ,
Rose: I love that. That’s so important. To know what you don’t stand for. That’s very, very important.
So when you help people to get clear on their Brand values and their values, how does that help with their messaging with marketing and mind in particular?
Ashlee: Yeah, so for me, it’s the crux of everything. It’s what makes marketing successful. Values are how you show up. Your mission is your why.
Your audience is your who, your vision is the what, and your values are the how. So that dictates how you craft your messages, how you want people to feel when they receive them, how you show up, what energy you put into your content or copy or wherever it is that you’re creating or marketing.
And so your values are really what attract the people you want to work with. And at the same time, they repel the people who are not the right fit, which is just as important, especially if you are a sensitive CEO. You need to preserve your energy; nothing sucks your energy more than working with someone not aligned with your values and with your vision.
So your values are a way for people to understand you on a human level. They’re a way for you to understand your audience on a human level. Ideally, your brand values intersect and overlap with your audience’s values. They don’t necessarily have to be the same, but they do need to; if you imagine a Venn diagram, they need to have that overlapping space where they’re at least mutually understood and respected.
And there’s a certain level of expectation surrounding the values that you stand for and that they want to receive. And values are also really powerful in referring people. I’ve had many, many people connect me with other business owners just saying; you know what? I think you’d get along. Or you have the same vibe, or literally it seems like you share values? And it makes the referrals much stronger than just a shared industry or a shared location or anything like that.
Also, leading with your values creates a culture. So whether you are a solopreneur, and it’s a, it’s a culture of one. It’s how you show up on client calls. It’s the types of podcasts you pitch to. It’s the type of content you create. If and how you show up on reels, for example. Your values really do create a culture for yourself, but if you have a team. It sets that tone too. And again, your team doesn’t have to have the exact same values as you, but they need to be able to represent those values on a company level.
They need to be able to emulate those values in customer interactions or partner interactions. So values have a place not only in your marketing but also in your operation.
Rose: That makes so much sense. And as you say, if you’ve got a team, you want all of them to emulate your values because it’s your brand, your business.
And does it also help to make, knowing your values, does it help to make certain business decisions?
Ashlee: Absolutely. So your values, again, are that how they’re, how you operate. So they’re also an amazing gut check. They’re a really great filter for any decision you need to make in your business, especially when paired with your audience.
So, say, for example, there’s a conference and everyone on the internet or everyone in your network is going to this conference. And you check it out, and you’re like, oh, is this worth the money? I don’t know. Is this worth the time? Is this worth the travel? You can put that conference through the lens of your values.
And determine is this in alignment with my values. The speakers may not be representative of the types of speakers you want to be hearing from. Maybe their environmental practices are not up to snuff based on the values that you have. Maybe, they are super duper cognizant of working parents, and that’s so in alignment with your values.
In any of those cases, those are really big indicators of, yes, you should go to this conference, or no, you should not. Same thing if you have vendors, whether you have physical products or you’re a service provider. The people that you’re hiring and working with, either on an ongoing basis or just ordering client gifts, right?
Where do you order your client gifts from? Should be values aligned. You’re spending your money. Money is one of the biggest mediums for how your values manifest. So, anything from client gifts to, if you order branded collateral, and if so, what is that made out of? How is it packaged?
What does that collateral say? What is that collateral? Is this gonna be thrown away? Is this going to be sitting on someone’s shelf? Like all of these questions, every single business decision, can and should be filtered through your values so that you have something to root your decisions in. especially if you’re a solopreneur; it is so, so difficult to get outside ourselves.
And so that the values framework is a way to have something somewhat objective, but also that is deeply personal and resonant to us. To really support our decision making.
Rose: . That feels so good when you explain it that way, because it feels in alignment, like in total alignment with every decision you make in your business.
And, it seems to make it more easeful as well because you’ve got your values, you know what you stand for, and it would really help to make decisions in all areas of your business.
Ashlee: Definitely. Yeah, my, my entire goal through all my values aligned work, whether it’s brand messaging, marketing, more generally, any of the work that I do, my entire goal is for my clients to take confident, meaningful action because so many of us live in our heads, so many of us have imposter syndrome or feel it’s difficult to talk about ourselves or the brand we’re building. And I do strategy work, but a strategy is only as good as it is implemented. So, it’s that confident, meaningful action that really makes a difference. And when you have values to lean on and a clear message to communicate, then that confident, meaningful action really does come easily.
You can share your brand easily because you took the time to set out an intention behind it. It’s not just: I do this thing, and there’s no reason behind it. You take the time to establish what I do, why I do it, and why it matters to the people I want to reach. So, if you can answer those questions or fill in those blanks, then you can communicate powerfully.
Rose: I love that, and it feels, maybe even more so for highly sensitive entrepreneurs and empaths. That feels so much more easeful, so much more in alignment and truthful to ourselves as sensitives.
Well, I loved our conversation today, and you’ve got so many wonderful things that you’ve shared with the audience.
Ashlee, before I let you go, I have one question I love asking all of my guests. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
Ashlee: I have two reactions. One is more productive than the other. So either I do that productive procrastination where I check off all the million and one small things on my list, to have like a sense of accomplishment or control, or what is more effective is I talk it out.
So even though I’m introverted, I’m an oral processor; so simply saying when I’m thinking or feeling or doing or not doing is a way to motivate me or give me the clarity I didn’t think I needed. So yeah, either do list-checking or chat it out.
Rose: I love both of those. There’s probably a place for boyh them and me; I love productive procrastination.
There’s nothing like ticking things off, as there is not always the best thing, but it does feel good. So thank you. I love that. So I will pop all of your links in the show notes where people can come and find you. But is there one specific place that you would prefer the audience to go and find you, Ashlee?
Ashlee: Yeah, if you’re looking for a resource to start sharing true to you, brand messaging, really share your brand with ease. I have a free download called the Stand Up to Stand Out Kit. It’s a brand messaging workbook that guides you through a lot of this value alignment reflection. And then, it has a consistency checklist, which is the most valuable part to crosscheck.
All right, what areas of my business am I already doing a great job of showing up the way I want to and what areas need some work? So I have a specific link just for you listeners. It’s free for everyone regardless, but it’s at ashleesang.com/sensitiveceo.
And you can download the kit and let me know if anything you want to share bubbles up.
Rose: Beautiful. Thank you so much, and I’ll also pop that link into the show notes. Well, thank you, Ashlee. It’s been really lovely talking to you today, and I love everything that you shared with the audience, so thank you.