Leslie Sanborn is managing director at the downtown Spokane digital marketing agency Seven2, where she leads a staff of 60 graphic designers, writers, web developers and account managers. She recently became owner of Spokane Barre downtown and a certified barre instructor.
In this month’s Role Model, she shares why she dove into small business ownership, how she balances career, second career and a personal life, and what it’s like to lead in a male-dominated industry.
So, you bought a barre. (For readers: Not a bar, but a fitness studio that uses the barre method, which uses a ballet barre for balance while guiding practitioners through a series of repeated poses to develop long, lean muscle.) What led you to the decision to buy Spokane Barre from the previous owner?
I always loved it and it was always a little thought in my head that I would love to become an instructor. I heard about the owner selling in passing, leaving the class, and I was like, “You know, I don’t want to lose the studio downtown.”
I became an instructor and an owner—and being a mom, and working at Seven2, and being a wife—in between all that. I also completely re-did the marketing and the space, which was also exciting for me, doing what I do.
Now that you’re teaching barre, is it still relaxing for you?
I get excited about teaching, but I get excited about turning it off sometimes. When you teach, you’re cueing people. You’re counting the reps. You’re correcting them. It’s kind of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. I love that, but when I do barre, my brain can kind of just turn off because I’m not thinking. Someone’s telling me to do the reps, someone’s telling me to do the moves.
By day, you’re managing director at Seven2. How has advertising changed over the 15 years you’ve been in the industry locally?
It’s totally evolved, from technology to what software is being used to what users want. Games were a big deal for us—web browser games—and now it’s moved all to downloadable apps.
Everything is needed within a short time period. So, everything that you can access in real time always comes back to our jobs, it’s just made it faster. The quality still needs to be high, but the output needs to be faster.
How do you navigate leadership in an industry dominated by men?
I think from the onset, I had their trust which was important. Ninety-five percent of our staff are men and Seven2 owners Nick and Tyler could have brought on a guy. But they kind of knew my style and my approach. I took it as a compliment.
There are different unwritten rules, fortunately or unfortunately, for women. Just speak to the point. Don’t ever abandon your personality but just keeping it to the business, speaking confidently, never just immediately apologizing for things. I think women, we’re wired to go “Well, I know I’m not an artist but . . .’’ We immediately knock ourselves down a few notches.
I tell this to a lot of women: I really want women to raise each other up. I work with some very smart and talented women, and the thing is, I want us to all work together on it, not stepping on each others’ shoulders to get there. I think there can be a posse of females who are all working together on it.
How do you manage it all?
I think some of my family members and Jeff’s family members think we’re crazy. I think people who sign up for this kind of job have that kind of energy. You’re always working against a deadline.
So many places say, “Hey, come up with an amazing slogan for this company—brand new, fresh thinking—in 48 hours.”
A lot of people would be paralyzed. But we’re like, “Hey yeah, I’ve got four.”
I think for the individuals who sign up for this kind of job, that’s what we do: We set deadlines for ourselves for what we want to do, and get it done—and that’s how we become multitasking ninjas.
And, you’re mom to an eight-year-old. How do you balance your professional life with family time?
I’m grateful that I have a little village that I trust and know are good, and who are shaping my son. When I’m at work, I’m at work. When I’m teaching, I’m teaching. When I’m with Gannon, I’m with him. We want to make sure we always have quality time. While it may not be as many hours as others get, I make a real effort to be present to be in real time with him.
We talk about that all the time. I’m very honest with him. If I’m having a difficult time and he sees my emotion, I explain to him what’s going on. He’s eight, but what’s great is that as kids, they get it.
Do you make time for yourself?
There’s definitely me time, but it has to be scheduled.
I always love to get into a good book. I like to research. I love to carve out some time and work out where my brain can kind of go away. Once a month, I’ll have girl’s weekend. I work with a lot of working moms. We all cherish those times where we can get together and commiserate about how things are going.
What’s your advice for other women in leadership roles? I think at times we imagine, “Well, if I was a woman in this role this is how I’d act.” I think you come off as more relatable if you’re being yourself. I feel like you get farther in life when you go with your personality and you’re honest about what that personality is—and have gratitude for that personality, because no one’s like you, right? That’s what people are going to gravitate toward and trust.