Sandy Asch: “Activate your network”

Publishing the ROAR book catapulted my career forward. It gave me exposure to a new audience and allowed me to spread my message of resilience much farther than I would ever have expected. I gave a TEDx talk, received invitations to appear in media interviews, on podcasts and give keynote speeches at higher level conferences […]

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Publishing the ROAR book catapulted my career forward. It gave me exposure to a new audience and allowed me to spread my message of resilience much farther than I would ever have expected. I gave a TEDx talk, received invitations to appear in media interviews, on podcasts and give keynote speeches at higher level conferences with larger reach. It helped me expand my influence and position myself as a thought leader.


As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, ” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandy Asch.

Sandy Asch is a TEDx Speaker, best-selling author and resilience thought leader. Her book, ROAR: How to Build a Resilient Organization the World Famous San Diego Zoo Way, was named in Inc. magazine as one of the best business books written by a woman. Over the past 20 years, through keynote presentations and workshops, 45,000+ leaders in 50 countries and 6 languages have implemented Sandy’s ideas to navigate change, manage work-life balance and be more resilient — to ROAR with purpose and passion.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about?

Growing up in South Africa, I had many opportunities to observe animals in the wild. Every summer my parents would pack my brothers and I into the car and we would wind our way through the safari park for days, our noses pressed to the window trying to spot animals, especially the lion. Observing the lion taught me many valuable lessons.

What most people might not know is that the lion fails often. In fact, the lion’s hunting success rate is less than 30 percent. But the lion just gets up and tries again over and over until it accomplishes its mission. The lion is the epitome of resilience.

My childhood lessons observing the lion, growing up in a challenging political environment and many challenges I faced along the way — raising my son on my own, facing bankruptcy, and overcoming serious illness — taught me the importance of resilience.

As I worked with leadership teams, I realized that their success and business performance depended on their ability to deal with inevitable stress, demands and constant change while striving to stay “whole” –maintaining a calm focus, clear purpose and tenacity — just like the lion.

Cultivating systematic resilience — physical, emotional, relational, value and mental — is fundamental to everyone’s success, no matter their title, education, or role. My passion about resilience inspired me research, learn and explore its role in every aspect of life, and ultimately led to writing the ROAR book.

Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?

My consulting engagement with the world-famous San Diego Zoo definitely shaped the course of my career. Who doesn’t want to be part of such an exciting and forward-thinking organization? It was a dream come true for me. Working closely with Tim Mulligan, the Zoo’s CHRO and his human resources team, we implemented my ideas on how to develop resilient leaders and a resilient culture of focus, accountability, positivity and joy.

The outcomes of the culture transformation were significant. The Zoo received the best guest satisfaction scores in its 99-year history, employee engagement improved and revenue increased by 23 percent. As the Zoo’s centennial celebration drew near, Tim and I realized this was a perfect time to share the Zoo’s success story. Even though the San Diego Zoo had long been well known and respected for its innovative animal exhibits, now it was admired for its leadership and employee experience as well.

Our book ROAR: How to Build a Resilient Organization the World Famous San Diego Zoo Way was released at the centennial celebration, which attracted tens of thousands of Zoo fans who recorded the loudest ROAR measured by the Guinness Book of Records.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?

I have been working on several exciting projects in the private and public sectors to transform organization culture and create a positive work experience where people are united by a compelling purpose. I am always fascinated at how a clear, inspiring purpose can bring people together and spark a new level of energy. When people have a bright future and possibility to live into, it brings out the best in them.

My other area of focus is inspiring women leaders to be bold and let their ROAR be heard. I am working on a new podcast and cohort to support women in the workplace to be wildly successful and feel deeply fulfilled — to be resilient!

Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you please tell us a bit about your book? Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates its main theme?

Absolutely. The key to not only surviving the events of today’s world but prospering is resilience. While human resilience may be thought of as a personality trait, in the aggregate groups, organizations, and even communities can learn to develop a “culture of resilience,” that manifests itself as a form of “psychological immunity” to the effects of adversity, along with the ability to rebound quickly from it.

But resilience is more than survival. It is the ability of the individual and the organization to endure while remaining true to closely held values. Resilient people and companies not only rebound from challenging circumstances, but also seek out meaningful ways to learn from those experiences and build capacity for the future.

You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Bold purpose: In my early 20s I attended one of those big, “change your life” workshops. One of the activities was to declare your life’s purpose in front of hundreds of people. I remember being super nervous and concerned people would think I was crazy. But I did it! I declared my purpose to “transform the workplace.” Sometimes this purpose feels naïve and, sometimes it seems arrogant. But mostly it keeps me focused on what I care deeply about. This purpose gave me the strength and courage to write the ROAR book and continue growing.
  • Gritty tenacity: Just like the lion has incredible tenacity making the kill, I have learned to be gritty and tenacious. I just don’t give up. Every time I am knocked down, have a misstep, or fail, I just get back up and try again. One of the most important attributes I’ve mastered through life’s ups and downs is to use every failure as an opportunity for growth. Writing and marketing a book definitely required grit and a lot of tenacity.
  • Generosity: In my spiritual work I am learning to give without agenda. The more generous we are, the more we receive in return. With regards to the ROAR book, we were extremely generous in sharing ideas, resources and tools with leaders. When we gave freely without any expectation of outcome, we benefited greatly.

In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book? What was the “before and after picture?” What were things like before, and how did things change after the book?

Publishing the ROAR book catapulted my career forward. It gave me exposure to a new audience and allowed me to spread my message of resilience much farther than I would ever have expected. I gave a TEDx talk, received invitations to appear in media interviews, on podcasts and give keynote speeches at higher level conferences with larger reach. It helped me expand my influence and position myself as a thought leader.

If a friend came to you and said “I’m considering writing a book but I’m on the fence if it is worth the effort and expense” what would you answer? Can you explain how writing a book in particular, and thought leadership in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?

I wholeheartedly encourage people who have a good story to tell to write a book. Of course, writing a book requires an investment of time and expense, but the rewards far outweigh the effort. Writing a book was a springboard to being recognized as a top-10 organizational development firm and receiving a “woman of influence” award. My keynote speaking fees more than doubled and I was able to raise my consulting fees considerably. Even though the ROAR book was published in 2016, it is still featured on a top 100 Amazon list from time to time and it continues to get attention.

What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started? What did you learn the hard way? Can you share some stories about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?

One of the most important lessons I learned was to have a thorough engagement and marketing plan. I think many authors, myself included, believe that their book will sell itself. While in some cases that can be true, if you want to sell a large quantity of books, it’s important to build a network of influencers and create a robust promotional plan.

We found that inviting clients, influencers and our loyal supporters to purchase large quantities of the book for their teams or organizations with a gift of a free webinar or keynote was very successful. The more generous we were, the more books we sold. Oh, and doing in-person book signings at launch parties, events and conferences was a bit hit.

Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own, and when would you recommend engaging an expert?

Write a blog, run your own social media campaign and build your podcast following on your own. These are easy to execute and great ways to connect with your audience. We hired a publicist to help us book press interviews and get us into publications and other conventional media.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Develop a BIG purpose. The bigger your purpose for your book, the more energy and activity you will generate. My purpose for the ROAR book was to transform the workplace — not just one workplace — but all of them. Of course, that’s probably not going to happen, but the expansiveness of my purpose propelled me to reach more people to have greater impact. It’s true. The bigger your desire, the bigger the action you take and the bigger the outcome.
  2. Give generously. One of the principles I find most valuable in life is to give without expectation. I believe it’s a basic spiritual law that the more we give the more we reap. When writing the book, I tried to give of myself as best I could — to share my best and most vulnerable stories. And, when promoting the book, my intention was always to give my audience meaningful ideas they could implement immediately to be more effective and create a better place to work.
  3. Activate your network. Identify every single person in your personal and professional networks and make a plan to help them help you market your book! Think about ways each person could be motivated to assist, whether though their sheer respect and personal affection for you as a person, or through a business relationship that you can both leverage. Strongly consider providing complementary copies of the book to your most influential contacts. Also consider whether they are in a position to post an endorsement for the book to their networks or purchase multiple copies for their own organizations.
  4. Be BOLD. Don’t be reticent about putting yourself “out there” as an expert whose perspectives are valuable to your target market. After all, you are a thought leader whose unique intellectual property has now been published for everyone’s benefit. Remember that your book is a powerful platform and hub for all of your efforts going forward.
  5. Lighten up. We’re all human, seeking our own paths of success. The more you reveal your own challenges in a way that is accepting, self-deprecating and even humorous, the more people will connect their own goals with yours — and that spells success!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Michelle Obama. She is the epitome of resilience — a true lioness — fierce but gentle, passionately purposeful and hard working. She is bold and lets her ROAR be heard to influence change.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The best place to find me is on linkedin.com/in/sandyasch or sandyasch.com

Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.


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