Audio (Podcast)

The Magic of Collboration

Sarah Webb
By Sarah Webb

Sarah believes in the magic of collaboration. She founded the Ellivate Alliance to connect people, ideas and resources in a way that creates powerful new opportunities to elevate women entrepreneurs. The Ellivate Alliance provides women who are starting a business the inspiration, practical know-how and like-minded community to accelerate their growth during the critical start-up phase.

Sarah is also the co-founder of Intend2Lead, a company that coaches CPAs to access the Dimension of Possible through one-to-one coaching, group learning and innovation labs. She was honored as one of the Most Powerful Women in Accounting by CPA Practice Advisor in 2017.

Connect with Sarah Elliott:

Web: EllivateAlliance.com & EllivateCoaching.com

Email: Sarah@ellivatecoaching.com

LinkedIn: Sarah Elliott, CPA, ACC

Introduction:00:09Welcome to Plaid Radio by Plaid for Women and the #NoMeanGirls movement. Enjoy today's show and be inspired to change the world.
Sarah Webb:00:18Welcome to Plaid Radio. I'm your host, Sarah Webb, and I'm with my dear friend Sarah Elliott. Sarah believes in the magic of collaboration and she has founded the Ellivate Alliance to connect people, ideas and resources that create powerful new opportunities to elevate women. The Ellivate Alliance provides women who are starting businesses, the inspiration, practical know how and likeminded community to accelerate their growth. And I am so excited to have you here on the show. Thanks for joining us, Sarah.
Sarah Elliott:00:44Thank you Sarah. I'm super excited to be here and I love all the work that you do, so it's really a treat to be on your show.
Sarah Webb:00:51Yeah, well we're definitely both in the women's space of elevating women and supporting each other. Tell us a little bit more about the Ellivate Alliance and how your career started out? How did you get to where you are today?
Sarah Elliott:01:04Yeah, well maybe I'll start by sharing my story for how I got here and really why I created the Ellivate Alliance and I think that will shed some light on who we are and what we do. So, I started out like you, Sarah, as a CPA. I had what I guess most would call a 14-year, successful career in public accounting. I took all the right moves so to speak and made it up to the Partner level at a firm and enjoyed my work there. But I ended up leaving the practice of public accounting in 2014 to start my own business in Coaching and Leadership Development and that was obviously a huge step and a big shift in my career. When I made that move, I was actually five months pregnant at the time. And I guess part of my story is I'm married to a wonderful man named Brandon. I robbed the cradle with him. So, he's eight years younger than me and he has a fantastic career, as well, but at the time, I was the primary earner in our relationship because I was eight years ahead of him. I was a Partner at a firm and so when I started my own business we essentially walked away from two-thirds of our household income and we had a baby on the way. So, that was an exciting time and it was also a scary time. It was kind of crazy, some would say it was a crazy leap. That first year of being on my own was amazing because I got to create my business and my life, you know, just the way that I wanted and I had a lot of freedom but it also could be lonely at times. So, I think as business owners, and especially I think as women business owners, we tend to feel like we have to have it all together. We're supposed to know all the answers because we're running a business and in reality, we don't. I don't think any of us do. But you know, when you're trying to put that out to the world… that “hey, I'm starting a business” and you're trying to build a business and sell work and partner with people, you don't really have a lot of space to be vulnerable or at least I think we tell ourselves that. So, I often felt that I didn't have a lot of people that I could talk to and really share what was going on. And as wonderful as the people are in my life, my friends and my family and my husband, I just didn't always feel like people could relate to what I was going through as an entrepreneur because only a very small sliver of the population does that. I was very fortunate to have a mastermind group with two other beautiful women who were in similar stages of their business as mine. We all kind of left secure corporate careers to launch our businesses around the same time. And so we had this weekly space where we could connect with one another and be real. And we shared the celebrations that we had together. We shared the challenges together and we really believed in each other and saw who the other person was and would remind each other of that if one of us was having a hard time. And we gave each other, and ourselves, permission to dream big. That was so powerful to me. So, once I became an entrepreneur, and with the support system of this mastermind group of women I had, I started just meeting a lot of other women entrepreneurs and I started connecting them with each other. I just met so many women with heart based businesses. They went into business for themselves or they had dreams to do that because they wanted to make a difference in the world and I met so many of these just beautiful souls and I wanted to just help them. And many of them knew I was a coach of course, and so many of them wanted to work with me, but where they were in their business, they didn't often feel like they could afford it. And so I would do my best to help how I could connect women with one another. And I kept thinking, "gosh, there has to be a better way to do this. How can I really serve these women in a better way?" So, I started shifting what I was doing in my coaching business. I was previously doing primarily one-on-one coaching and I started creating masterminds that were a little more scalable in terms of affordability for the participants, but it also allowed learning and connection in a different way, right, than one-on-one coaching. It had been so powerful for me, I wanted to share that with others. So, I started to do that. Then… I guess this is probably about two years into my entrepreneurial journey, at the end of 2016, I have this… Well, at the end of every year, starting in Thanksgiving, I have this process. It's called the 21-day vision quest. And a gentleman named John Henry McDonald clued me into this and it's changed my life. It's incredible. But this 21-day vision process I start every Thanksgiving and I really start dreaming about the year ahead and what do I want? What are my big bold dreams? And what was coming out of this at the end of the 21-days... near the end of 2016… I was really seeking even more clarity on my purpose. “How can I really make the difference that I'm meant to make in the world with the gifts and experiences that I have?” I like to have words of the year. My word of the year that I came up with for 2017 was "Purpose." And interestingly enough, Sarah, the first week of January 2017, that first week in the middle of the night, things just started downloading in my brain. This vision of what the Alliance is and what it could be kept me up. I think it was two nights that first week of the year and it was exciting and wonderful and I was tired. I wasn't sleeping that well, but it was this vision of this idea of really helping women and making coaching and resources affordable and scalable for women that are starting out and creating a community where we support each other. Where we believe in each other. Where it's safe to dream big and to want to change the world and you won't be brought down from that, right? You won't be told that "that's not possible," or "let's get real." You will be supported and believed in. And so I have this idea and I felt very, very compelled and driven to make this a reality. And it just so happened that I was turning 40 on March 16th of 2017. So, I also had this idea come to me that said, "you know what, you need to launch the Ellivate Alliance on your 40th birthday." So, I share my birthday with the Alliance and I launched the idea of this business and I invited many of these amazing women that I had met in the past two years to join me. This team of women who are attorneys, coaches, someone in IT, branding, marketing... Think of all the elements that you need to support a business. Each of these women are women business owners and they specialize in these areas. They are experts in these areas. So, I brought these women together and we formed this Alliance and ever since then, gosh, I guess we're not even a year and a half in, but it has been so much learning and growth and evolution, and we're having a blast and are making a difference and we're welcoming incredible new women into our community every day and I'm just, I'm so thankful to be able to do this work that we do. Just be able to do it together with these amazing women by my side.
Sarah Webb:08:54I love that you did it on your birthday. You will have no excuses for remembering five, six years from now. You'll be like, “oh yeah, we've been doing it this long because…” I feel like I keep a track of things based on how old my kid is or… I need these milestones. So that's first, that's a great one.
I had a chance to participate in the online Ellivate Immersion experience maybe a month or two ago and it was just incredible. And when you talk about these powerhouse women, these are true professional women who are experts in their field. I tend to find myself in this category of, “okay, yes, I'm a CPA so I'm an expert in accounting, but I kind of dabble in some of these other things and I'm okay at them, but I'm not an expert” and just the value of hearing some of these personal branding, marketing, legal… these are professional women who are true experts and dive deep into that specific topic. It was truly amazing.
Sarah Elliott:09:51Thank you. Yeah, we loved having you participate, Sarah, and I think what you're hitting on there is a core concept of what the Alliance is founded upon, which is, individually none of us has all the answers, but when we come together and contribute our individual areas of expertise, we help each other get those answers that we need. So, none of us have to know everything. It would be silly to think we should or we could, right? But together, we can figure it out.
Sarah Webb:10:22So, you had the CPA career, you're married, you're five months pregnant… Most people would say that's probably not a good time to go and start your own thing. Did this idea start a year or two before that? What really made you take the jump at that specific time?
Sarah Elliott:10:40Yeah, a time when most people would say, “don't do it!”
Sarah Webb:10:49Especially CPAS. We're pretty risk adverse people in general. So, I'm sure your social circle's like, "Um...I think we need an intervention. She needs some help." But seriously. When did you first conceptualized that maybe I don't want to be in the CPA world anymore? And then like how long did it take you to really make that change?
Sarah Elliott:11:16That's such a great question. I will tell you that I didn't start out life or even adulthood thinking I would be an entrepreneur, that's for sure. Like you mentioned, being a CPA, we tend to be risk averse and we tend to focus on money and numbers. I remember friends telling me in the past, “oh, you should be in sales, Sarah, you'd be such a good salesperson.” And I said, “oh no way. I could never do that because it's variable compensation. I need my salary.” And it's so funny now because there's so much uncertainty in my life and in my finances, you know, just being entrepreneurial. It's kind of funny that I used to think differently. But yeah, as I mentioned earlier, I kind of had my eye on Partnership and public accounting really since the beginning of my CPA career. And so I always took that path. I always had my eye on Partnership. Well then I got there in 2013. And in 2013 a lot happened in my life. So, one was “okay, I made Partner.” That was awesome, right? Got to that "end goal" that I had been shooting for. And now what, right? Like, “oh my gosh, I got there and now what do I do?” Well as part of my role as a partner, I was actually put in an Executive Leadership position in the firm and so I got to be part of the team that was managing the firm and I was also part of the team that was leading the audit practice. So I started to really understand what it's like to run a business and I started to really see that I loved that more than actual accounting, actually a lot more than accounting. And I started to realize, hey, I may be good at accounting, but it doesn't really bring me joy to do it, but I just loved that business piece. And then also what was happening in 2013 was I was working with a coach, so my firm had been wonderful and, and hired a coach for me. It was really in 2012 was when I first started working with her and we were focused on business development initially. So how do I build a book of business as a partner at a CPA firm? So we worked on that certainly, but we also worked on more than that. I started to discover more about myself and she started asking me questions that I had never really asked, you know, asked myself. Why do I do what I do, what do I really want? Right. What's my vision for success? I met John Henry McDonald, the gentleman I talked about earlier, and he shared his 21-day vision quest with me. I first discovered what a mastermind was and a wonderful man called Cole Harmonson invited me into his mastermind and so I started weekly meeting with other people and many of whom were entrepreneurs. So I started surrounding myself with people that were taking bold risks and inspiring me and I started thinking differently and I had that space, you know, through working with a coach to really understand what I wanted and to uncover my personal "why" and I, I understood that, wow, I think I'm put on this earth to create ways for other people to live their dreams and that's such a gift. And, and I saw that that was what I had been doing through my work as a CPA. Through helping my clients through really building and developing my teams. That had always been a focal point for me and what really brought me energy in my work. And so I started to think who could I be and what could I do and contribute to the world if I gave myself permission to do that, the things that bring me energy all the time. And once I started really envisioning what life could be and feeling a bit of that, I couldn't go back. So I, once I understood who I really am, I knew that I could not stay where I was and I will tell you that I didn't leave my firm in accounting because I didn't like it or the people weren't great and my firm wasn't great. I enjoyed all of that, you know, I mean theoretically, right? I had a great trajectory in front of me and it was secure, but it was harder for me to stay there and kind of squash down who I really am because I knew that's what I would be doing if I stayed. I knew I needed to do more. So it actually became easier for me to envision taking that leap even if it seemed like a crazy move financially and to most of the world, I knew I had to do it. And I will tell you that since I've done it, it's been a lot harder than I thought it would be financially, it's taken longer to reap the benefits of entrepreneurship than I thought, but I will tell you that I don't regret a single day of it and I absolutely know in my heart it was the right decision
Sarah Webb:16:06When you talk about squashing down that feeling, it accurately describes how I was feeling in the corporate world. And it is harder than we think it's going to be. It does take longer, and it doesn't matter how smart you are, how many credentials you have because I'm like, “oh, I'm good at business, I'm a CPA.” But it is definitely hard. One of the things that you did is you went and got a coaching certification. You'd been in the CPA space and, like you said at the very beginning, you kind of helped coach other CPAs. Why did you feel it was necessary to get this coaching certificate and how did it help refine that skill?
Sarah Elliott:16:44Well, I thought I knew what coaching was, but I also didn't know what I didn't know. Right? And I had spent 14 years being credentialed as a CPA and learning that world and thinking I knew that, but you're right, it's funny how much we think we know and then you go into business for yourself and then you realize, wow, I really don't know as much as I thought I did. It's humbling and wonderful, too, because you learn so much. But yeah, so I knew if I wanted to be a coach I wanted the education and the training to really make sure I was doing it "right," okay. And then I wanted the credentials and of course from a credibility perspective and I just wanted to learn. I wanted to explore that piece of myself and see who am I as a coach. And so I found this program at UT Dallas actually, and it's an executive and professional coaching program and it's a graduate certificate programs, so it's about half of the graduate degree. And they taught me over the course of a year, the theory of coaching and gave us plenty of opportunity to practice that. So we had a lot of practice coaching. And what was so interesting was coaching wasn't really what I thought it was. I was thinking coaching was kind of like mentoring where you're sharing insights and giving advice, but coaching is really not about the coach at all. I think of myself as a vessel for someone else's self-discovery. For them to understand themselves better and what their challenges are and to come up with their own solutions. So helping give them clarity. And so coaching provides this sacred space, this safe space for you to explore whatever it is you need to explore, your challenges, your dreams, to really just explore that deeper, right and to not be judged and to really be listened to. And as a coach, what I do right is I hold that space, I listen and I do my best to ask powerful questions that you're probably not asking yourself and that other people aren't asking you or maybe you don't ask them yourself because you don't have time because you're so busy or maybe you're afraid to ask yourself some of these questions. And so coaching, again, it's not about the coach at all, right? I'm just a facilitator of this process and I think coaching is a bit of an art and a science and I always like to say it's a bit of magic mixed in, too. Sometimes I'll walk away from a coaching call and just think, wow, I'm not sure how that happened, but some magic just happened and I'm just thankful to be that for somebody that's pretty amazing.
Sarah Webb:19:23That is interesting because I would think that coaching is a lot like mentoring. So, it's definitely different. And how much more valuable are you to the people that you are coaching in that vessel mentality versus “I'm going to fix this business for you.” It's definitely different. And coming from the Corporate world, I got training on how to be a mentor, mentoring other women or other people. I was a mentee, I was a mentor and so that's very natural, so I definitely would have thought the same thing like, “Hey, I'm just going to continue with this type of skillset.”
Sarah Elliott:19:54Yeah, and I'll tell you, Sarah, that mentoring is incredibly valuable so I'm not knocking that. They're just different things and I'll tell you that sometimes people come to me and they're seeking mentorship and I'm always really clear. Well, “Hey, here's what coaching is. If you want a little bit of mentoring, we can do that or we can do that separately” or “hey, coaching hat off, mentoring hat on,” but coaching itself is so powerful because I really believe that each of us has so much wisdom within and a coach helps you uncover that and what happens when we try to give advice to someone is maybe I think I know the answers for you, Sarah, but your answers are different than mine. Your life is different than mine. Your experiences are different. What you want to create and accomplish is different than me and so sometimes when we give someone else the answers, it may not be as helpful as we think.
Sarah Webb:20:45Yeah. Let's go back to the Ellivate Alliance because I think you know, as you've talked about the coaching and how it is different than mentoring. You know the Alliance is different as well because it is kind of this. It's kind of like coaching, mentoring all together. You're definitely getting the coaching because I feel like you're getting this expert opinion, but then you're also getting kind of the peer mentoring because you're with this group of women that aren't necessarily like you and have, you know, like you said, their expertise, but we're all kind of moving towards this journey. I think that's what makes it so unique and really kind of special. How have you seen the Alliance members grow through this experience?
Sarah Elliott:21:33I think how I've seen the members grow the most is confidence and courage in themselves and what they want to bring to the world through their business and that leads to everything else. You know? I would say that confidence and that courage and the connection between one another. It's so neat when you see people come together and you create that safe space where, hey, we're not here to impress each other. We're here to help and support each other and just share what's really going on, right? To be vulnerable and ask for help. I'll tell you what's interesting is, and I always see this when I first asked women to ask for what they need or ask for help, it seems like they have a hard time. Everybody wants to help other people, but they have a hard time asking and so this is the place to ask. So I've seen growth there too, right? When people actually learning to ask for help and that's really neat because you can do anything when you can ask for help. I mean none of us are in this alone and that's the point of the Alliance and so there's one woman who came to our Immersion experience in January and when we first piloted this, it was live here in Austin, Texas and she just happened to come across it on LinkedIn and so I didn't know her before that and she showed up and it was this intensive weekend where to your earlier point. There were 13 of us on the expert team that we're each delivering content and our areas of expertise and so these women were soaking it in, but we also had mastermind groups for the women to synthesize what they learned, to figure out how does this apply to me in my business? What am I going to do with it? And to connect with each other. And so there was a lot of magic that happened and this one woman in particular, she ended up leaving that weekend and she had so much momentum and energy around something that was just an idea before that. And she gained so many valuable relationships through the Alliance that she ended up actually hiring several of the experts on the Dream Team. That's what I call our team of women that that comes together to deliver the content, it's the Dream Team because we help dreams come true and it's also this Dream Team of just powerful women. So, it's really cool. And part of the Alliance membership, too, we say, "well, hey, we're all coming together and if you want to hire us, we'll give you discounts and what not if you're a member." She hired several women to help support her. She's moved her business forward. She's created an LLC. At the time, she had a full time job in the corporate world and she's had this opportunity to connect with us every month, two-, three-, four-times a month through our office hours. And she gets the most out of those, taking that mentoring, that coaching, and she's actually now built up the courage to leave her full time job and she just quit her job, I think about a month ago. So, she's taking that leap of fate. Yeah! So, you know, it was just an idea when she came in late January and now she's had the courage and confidence to leave her job and she's built up all these things. She has momentum, practical things, right. She's making her business real and so it's, it's been so cool to see. And she's not the only one by the way. So it's been really neat to see that happening for others. It's like a way to really get that momentum and energy to move forward and the support of those around you.
Sarah Webb:24:40Yeah. And for people to really embrace and understand your dream and that it's okay that it's different from my dream, you know, kind of in a judgment-free way. And that's what #NoMeanGirls is all about. I mean, we're hosting the conference in September, September 21st and 22nd and it's totally designed to help lift women up and create tribes of people that support you in whatever your endeavor is. And you're coming as one of the coaches. So as a conference we're gonna have an opportunity for attendees to have quick one on one with you and then if they're interested they can join a 90-day coaching group following the conference. As people are listening to this and are thinking about masterminds and coaching and mentoring. Who is this program best designed for?
Sarah Elliott:25:26Yeah. Yeah. And by the way, I'm super excited to be there and meet all the women at this conference and be part of it. So, thank you for inviting me. Yeah. For our 90-day group coaching experience, I'll say that it's very much a mastermind experience that we'll be creating. So, I think it could be for you if you're a woman business owner and if you're really seeking some space in your busy life, as a business owner to think higher level, to pull yourself out of that day to day and have that space to self-reflect and think about what do I really want. We're going to be having that 90-day program at the end of 2018, so it will be that last quarter of the year. So it's a great time for you to get clarity on finishing 2018 strong, bringing some momentum with you into 2019. What do you want to create right for that New Year? So women that are looking for accountability and momentum to move something important forward in your business. And I would say, you know, we're creating that safe space where you can show up as you are, share what's really going on and make authentic connections with other women who get it right. Other women who are like you and they get it. Women who want to support and challenge you.
Sarah Webb:26:42So, you don't even have to have a business started. You can be at different stages at your business and that might even be more beneficial for the group to have people at different stages as levels of encouragement.
Sarah Elliott:26:53Agreed. Absolutely! I would say if you have a business idea that you're really serious about making a reality, you could be in that space. You may have just recently started a business. You may have started a business three or four years ago, but you're just really needing that space right? To kind of buckle down and move some things forward. You know, I think we all need that and you're right. When we bring a diverse group of people together, there's so much cross learning that happens within the group because there's so much wisdom with each person and just different perspectives. It really is just magical to see what happens when you bring a group together like that.
Sarah Webb:27:30Well, I love it! I'm excited! I think it's going to be great for people to connect with you and learn more about you and your expertise, but also where the Ellivate Alliance can fill in gaps. Like you said, these are expert women, so it's like, “okay, I'm going to grab this from this person and this from this person” and it's a way to bring it all together, so I'm excited that you'll be joining us. I'm excited that people will have an opportunity to get this mastermind and coaching to help take their business to the next level because I just have the greatest joy seeing women succeed either starting their own business or being in their jobs because when women are able to create and do what they are meant to do. You kind of talked about that, like not squishing down, whether that's in Corporate or on your own. You know, our families are better, our lives are better. We're able to give more to the community. You know, when women are doing better, I think the world does better. I think that we're a lot of times the leaders and kind of rearing our children and creating the next generations, and so the more that we could do to support women in their dreams, I think that they definitely plant the seeds for future generations of dreamers as well.
Sarah Elliott:28:40I couldn't have said that better myself. I just want to say, "Amen, sister!"
Sarah Webb:28:45I know it's kind of hard when you speak to the choir and for those who follow me on social media, I am also Sarah Elliott Webb, and so, Sarah Elliot and I, we're not twins and she's not a stalker as my mother once thought she was. We actually went to the same college...
Sarah Elliott:29:00We're not even related, that we know of, right?
Sarah Webb:29:06That we know! But we actually went to the same college and we're a few years apart and then we initially worked for the same accounting firm even though we're in different offices and so yes, we recognize that our names are similar, and we're very, very similar people, and we're also trying to create this great space for women, so it's fun because people kind of sometimes get a little confused. My husband was like, who is this Sarah Elliott?
Sarah Elliott:29:33It's another Sarah that loves supporting women!
Sarah Webb:29:37Well how can our listeners connect with you if they're interested in finding out more about the Ellivate Alliance or they need to cyber stalk you on social media, where do they go?
Sarah Elliott:29:46I always welcome cyber stalkers! No! No, but truly I love connecting with other women and I'm always open to that, so please do reach out! A couple of ideas for how we can connect. One simple thing is, if you're looking for more information about the Alliance itself, you can check out our website and I will spell it for you because elevate is spelled differently than you would expect. It’s a play on my last name. So, it's EllivateAlliance.com and you can also email me directly, if you would like, and that’s Sarah@ellivatecoaching.com. And then I'm also on LinkedIn. So, if you want to find me on LinkedIn you can search for Sarah Elliott and there's a million Sarah Elliotts. So, if you searched for Sarah Elliott CPA, you'll probably find me pretty quickly. But always love connecting. So please do reach out. And if you'll be at the conference, you know I'll be there, too, and would love to connect with you at the #NoMeanGirls conference.
Sarah Webb:30:48And I think if you search for Sarah Elliott, CPA on LinkedIn, you'll find me too. So, connect with me as well!
Sarah Elliott:30:56So, you might also include my coaching credentials. If you add CPA and ACC (Associate Certified Coach), then that'll really be me. I don't think there's another one like that!
Sarah Webb:31:08And I'll be sure to put all those links including your LinkedIn link in our show notes so that for listeners you can just click and then you don't have any question of which Sarah you're getting. So thank you so much for joining us today and I'm so excited we'll get to be together live in just a short time and I can't wait. I'm excited. Thanks for joining us.
Sarah Elliott:31:27Same here. Thank you so much, Sarah, for everything you do and for inviting me on the show. Super excited to see you and all of your other listeners at #NoMeanGirls conference in September.
Sarah Webb:31:37Sounds great. And that's a wrap for Plaid Radio.
Sarah Webb
A bit about me, I'm a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee and volunteer. I am married and have two children - one who aspires to be a secret spy ninja and the other wants be a doctor for toys...Read More
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