EP. 15: How Amber and Kai-Saun Anderson are Managing Happiness

EP. 15: How Amber and Kai-Saun Anderson are Managing Happiness

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I’m very happy to finally welcome a female founder on the show! Amber Anderson is an extremely successful technology consultant turned entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of a strategy consulting firm, where she works side by side with her husband Kai-Saun Anderson. Amber and Kai have a lovely son called Kayson. What are the challenges of being a mom and an entrepreneur and how to achieve work-life integration? Find out from Amber and Kai.

About Amber Anderson

Amber Anderson is the founder and CEO of Kayson, a product management and strategy consulting firm in Phoenix, Ariz., and MORE, a community that helps entrepreneurs enjoy both family life and business. Amber brings more than 12 years’ experience in scaling organizations and managing all areas of the product and service lifecycle. She has created a portfolio that makes or saves her clients more than $1 billion per day.

Amber has a background in business analysis, strategic planning, marketing, user experience and product management and growing successful companies. She started Kayson in 2012 to bring this expertise to the small and medium-sized business community. She has led multi-million-dollar projects for Apollo Education Group (formerly Apollo Group, Inc), Edgenuity (formerly Education 2020), The University of Kansas and more.

About Kai-Saun Anderson

Kai-Saun Anderson is the founder of Kai-Saun Photography, a professional photography company based in Phoenix, AZ that captures lifestyle images for entrepreneurs, businesses, agencies, and families.

Alongside his wife, Amber Anderson, Kai-Saun has founded three businesses, including MORE. He is the digital creative director for MORE: the retreat and the lead photographer and photo editor for MORE.

Vision and Mission

Amber and Kai had a turning point in their lives after their son, Kayson, was born prematurely in 2013. The baby was in the hospital for three weeks and Amber and Kai spent the entire time together. While they were in the NICU, they realized how lucky they were for being able to afford to take time off work and take care of their baby in this challenging moment.

I wanted to be a mother and not knowing if I’d ever have that experience again was something that made me think about what my priorities were and what was really important to me. – Amber Anderson

Fortunately, Kayson recovered soon, but even when Amber’s maternity leave from her high-powered leadership position at a growing startup was over, she wasn’t ready to go back. Amber felt torn between her obligation to her family and the pressure to return to her obligations at the office. That’s when she made the commitment to use her skills to create a community that can help businesses and business owners succeed while leaving space for family and life outside of work.

Through MORE, Amber works alongside her husband Kai. Both of them lead their businesses with the goal of building a legacy to leave for their son, who is now a healthy, active toddler. Amber and Kai believe in putting family first and have worked hard to create a schedule that allows them to care for their son full-time themselves rather than hiring childcare.

Our goal is to be able to spend as much time as we can collectively with our family doing the things that we want and the things that we love. We find happiness with each other. – Amber Anderson

Want to learn how Amber and Kai have achieved work-life integration? Listen to the podcast and tell us what you think about it in the comments section below.

Time-Stamped Show Notes

[00:11] – Intro

[00:40] – Amber grew up in a working-class family in Chicago which taught her that hard work is the key to success. She always envisioned herself as a CEO or Executive of a Fortune 500 company.

[01:22] – Working as a high-level executive, Amber thought that she had achieved the American Dream.

[02:00] – Kai and Amber had been together for 12 years when they decided to have a child.

[02:07] – Amber gave birth to their son Kayson prematurely when she was 31 weeks pregnant. This was a turning point in Amber and Kai’s live.

[03:21] – “I thought that I was going to slow down. I just felt like I had more time. I planned on it. […] But we just didn’t have the opportunity to do it.” – Amber Anderson

[03:51] – Amber tried to go back to work after giving birth, but she realized that she couldn’t combine being a great mom and a businesswoman.

[05:28] – “For years, women didn’t have opportunities. Now we do have opportunities to grow and scale and do all these amazing things. Then motherhood comes into the picture and you realize you are the only one that can breastfeed. You’re the only one that the baby wants sometimes.” – Amber Anderson

[06:23] – “I wanted to be a mother and not knowing if I’d ever have that experience again was something that made me think about what my priorities were and what was really important to me.” – Amber Anderson

[07:43] – Have you clearly defined your roles and responsibilities in the family?

“We are very good at utilizing each other’s strengths.” – Kai-Saun Anderson

[08:20] – Amber and Kai have family strategic planning sessions every year. In the beginning, Kai didn’t see the value in them, but Amber insisted that they keep on doing them and they turned out very useful over time.

[09:00] – “In the beginning of our relationship, it caused a lot of conflicts because I would just force him to sit in a room and he would just want me to get to the point. The more we did it [family strategic planning], the more we were able to realize where our personalities fit into and what were our strengths. Then, we were able to allow each other live in our roles.” – Amber Anderson

[09:25] – “We naturally are a solid team and we mimic the corporate environment where you have people that are strategic and you have more tactical teams.” – Amber Anderson

[11:46] – Kai and Amber do their family task management in Asana.

[12:34] – Amber and Kai have a 5-year strategic plan, which they discuss at their annual family retreat. They also do quarterly check-ins. Kai manages the finances.

[13:58] – Amber, Kai, and Kayson have their individual goals, which are part of their strategic plan. They have family mission and vision, a relationship bucket, a business bucket and a finance bucket.

[17:40] – “Our goal is to be able to spend as much time as we can collectively with our family doing the things that we want and the things that we love. We find happiness with each other. We’d like to figure out ways to use each other’s strengths to continue to engage in activities that make us happy.” –  Amber Anderson

[18:50] – While at the hospital, Amber and Kai realized that the most important thing for them was to be present and to support each other in hitting their individual goals.

[19:48] – Amber and Kai didn’t want to put Kayson in daycare because they wanted to get to know him and understand his needs and wants. Amber takes care of him in the morning and Kai has him in the afternoon when she’s working.

[21:30] – How do you entertain your son 7 days a week?

[23:30] – Amber and Kai are planning to homeschool Kayson. They arrived at this conclusion after looking at statistics and data: 1 in 3 Afro-American boys born in the US after 2002 goes to prison in their lifetime.

[25:23] – “That’s the kind of stuff that we discuss in our strategic sessions: What do we need for our family to be successful? And that sometimes means thinking out of the box.” – Amber Anderson

[23:05] – “Every single family is different. Every business is different. You can bring in a consultant to give you guidance but you need to understand what your dynamics are, what are the things that are influencing your ability to be successful, what does your resources look like. From there, let’s come up with a plan that helps you, guys, live your best life.” – Amber Anderson

[28:20] – “Do not say the word “can’t”. You may not want to, but you can.” – Kai-Saun Anderson

[31:30] – The focus of MORE is to create an environment where people can grow personally and professionally without having to leave their family behind. 40% of women in the US are the breadwinners in their families.

[32:50] – Milk, Beer, Wine is a networking series for families by MORE.

[33:33] – They also hold an annual family-friendly business conference where they combine business sessions with personal growth sessions.

[34:15] – Amber and Kai are planning on opening a family-friendly co-working space in 2018. The focus of the space will be to make sure that your family is running efficiently.

[35:44] – The conference looks more like a retreat and Amber and Kai will announce the date soon.

[37:10] – The solution to work-life balance is work-life integration. If we look at work and life as two compartments, we get in too much complexity. At the end of the day, we know exactly how much time we have after we subtract the hours for eating and sleeping. We just need to make the most of the remaining time.

[40:30] – Kai comes from an entrepreneurial family but he himself didn’t want to be an entrepreneur until Kayson was born.

[41:20] – The American society is shaped around the idea for the American dream, but Kai and his family don’t want to live that way.

“Amber and I are going to invest everything we have in our family and everything else will fall into place from there.” – Kai-Saun Anderson

[41:50] – “Instead of building somebody else’s dream, we’re going to build our dream.” – Kai-Saun Anderson

[44:42] – Which are the books that have had the biggest impact on your life?

3 Key Points

  1. The solution to work-life balance is work-life integration. If we look at work and family as two separate compartments, life gets too complicated. Think of creative ways to combine them and make a living.
  2. Each of the two partners in a relationship has their strengths and weaknesses. Identify those and utilize them to become a more solid team.
  3. In business, people make decisions based on stats and data. The same principle could and should apply to our personal lives.

Resources Mentioned

Kayson – a strategy, marketing, and management agency

MORE – community of people, companies, and organizations committed to providing more support to working families and caregivers

Kai-Saun Photography – a professional photography company

The New MORE – Kai and Amber’s podcast

The One Thing – a book by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

How I Built This – an entrepreneurship podcast

The Big Leap – a book by Gay Hendricks

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I’m a serial entrepreneur and I write about things I have learned along the way. I’m passionate about helping entrepreneurs and executives to find success and harmony in business and in life.

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