Feb 22, 2024
Tiffany reflects on and explores her early beliefs of all things business, leadership and people. She talks about what she learned over the years, and focuses in on 6 beliefs that she got fundamentally wrong, so you don’t have to.
Living a Life of And requires the practice of self reflection to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes over and over again. Listen in as Tiffany shares her early mistakes in hopes that that you can accelerate your journey by getting it right the first time.
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I'm a small-town kid, born with a big city spirit. I choose to play a lot of awesome roles in life: Mom, wife, entrepreneur, CEO, board member, investor, and mentor. 17 years ago, I founded a marketing consultancy and, ever since, my husband J.R. and I have been building our careers and our family on the exact same timeline. Yep. That means four kids, three businesses, two careers, all building towards one life we love. When I discovered that I could purposefully embrace all of these "ands" in my life, it unlocked my world. And I want that for you too. I'm Tiffany Sauder, and this is Scared Confident.
This morning, I am giving a keynote to a very special audience. EOS Worldwide is doing their user conference this year in Indianapolis, and they've asked me to be the opening keynote, really being the customer success story for what EOS can do in your business and your life, if you go all in and implement it and do the things that it says to do well. And it's been completely a life-changing experience for me and Element Three since we implemented EOS five years ago. And it is a really special moment for me, to be able to share my story in my backyard, in front of both a bunch of friends and some strangers, people I don't know. So, it'll be an audience of about 2000 people.
And as a follow-on to that presentation, I've spent really the last three months going back through my journey, my subconscious. I lived the journey, but kind of like pulling myself up above it and studying it like a case study and extracting from that, "What did I learn? What did I get right? What did I get wrong?"
And if I could go back to my earlier self and passionately plea, "Here's what to do right, and here's what you had wrong, what would that be?"
So, that has really been the thinking construct for the presentation. And there's a few things that came out of that process that didn't fit into the presentation, that I thought the podcast was actually a better medium for the content. And you don't just have to be running on EOS for these things I'm about ready to share, to be really relevant. If you're in business at all, early in the journey specifically, these things I'm going to share are really, really relevant.
So, I want to talk through six beliefs that I got wrong. So, my younger self thought, "Hey, X, Y, Z is right. I'm going to execute decisions, behaviors, funding, investment accordingly and hope that I get the outcome that I want."
And as I tried on new tools, as I started to learn more through the process of implementing EOS, as I got closer to more sophisticated business people, as I just matured and got more context, I started to realize I believe some things were just fundamentally not true about business and how the world works and leadership and people.
And, so, I have six here. I'm sure there will be more. Maybe someday I'll write a book of 25 things that I got really wrong. But for the purposes of this podcast episode, I want to walk through six beliefs that I got wrong, six beliefs that, as I started to keep on the journey, realized these were fundamentally totally flawed.
So, we're going to go through them. I'll share some stories, and yeah. I am sharing this podcast episode with the EOS audience, so if you're new to the Scare Confident feed, welcome. I hope that you will find content here that helps high achievers on the journeys of pursuing a life of "and" which really is about saying, if you have a heart of wanting it all, I hear you, that is what my heart is. I want all the things. It doesn't all come at the same time. And you have to be really planned and purposeful about, if you're going to pursue the things you want, how do you get the things out of your life that cause distraction, that are sucking resources, are making you unfocused, are chaotic, are making you respond to your life instead of being able to be proactive? How do you do that?
So, we're creating a place here where we're exploring what does it mean to live a life of and? What are the tools and mindsets that we can have that help us in that pursuit? So, welcome and thanks for tuning in to this episode.
And if you're a listener to Scare Confident, I hope that this very business-y episode will speak into your world, either business that you're in, or maybe have a friend or someone that you know that is trying to figure out this entrepreneurship thing, and these six things can help them. So, here we go.
Okay, number one. I believed that knowing how to grow a business is the same as knowing how to run one. I believed knowing how to grow a business was the same as knowing how to run one.
But the truth is, those are not the same things at all. Growing a business takes sales and marketing knowledge. It takes the ability to go out into a marketplace and create demand. Generally, I'm more naturally suited for this, an outgoing personality, being able to iterate quickly, get market feedback, all that kind of stuff.
Growing a business is a very specific muscle and skillset. And then there is the running the business, building the infrastructure, building the training, building the systems, putting the technology in place, having the data that you need to be able to run the business well, accounting, infrastructure, all that stuff. That is a totally different tool and a totally different muscle and usually a totally different person.
If you're completely unfamiliar with EOS, I will give you two seconds here. EOS is a management leadership communication framework that helps you more quickly be able to say, "How do I make sure all the people know what's going on, have direction about where this is headed, and understand the role that they individually play and where we're headed?" That's what EOS is. They use the language of having a visionary and an integrator. I know, if you're familiar with EOS, this is not a new concept, but I cannot overstate enough how getting this wrong, not understanding that those are two different practices, two different principles, growing a business and running a business.
I totally believe Element Three would be three times the size it is today if I had gotten that right early. I thought I could do it all. I thought I didn't have the money for both roles, and I realized you've got to figure out the right time to get both roles in place. It completely cost us growth. It cost us profitability. It cost me a lot of stuff in my personal life, not getting that right.
Knowing how to grow a business and knowing how to run one are completely different disciplines, completely different, oftentimes, skill sets. And if you don't respect that and believe that that is absolutely true for your business too, I'm telling you, you're not going to get as far as fast as you could, if you had the other partner with you.
I had to find my integrator. I had to find my operational partner. And now that's like a team of people, culturally, that their values are exactly the same as yours, or it doesn't work. So, knowing how to grow a business and knowing how to run one are completely different things. I got that wrong.
The second one, it feels a little bit embarrassingly obvious when I say it out loud, but hang with me. I believed that being well-known was the same as being successful. I believed being well-known was the same as being successful. And I think this is probably rooted in where I come from and the name I was trying to make for myself and for Element Three in the city.
So, I am a small-town kid in the truest sense of the word. There were like 1200 people in my small town, 70 people in my graduating high school. It was a very small pond. I moved to Indianapolis which, in my world, was the big city. And I didn't grow up here. I wasn't in a fraternity or a sorority in college, so I didn't have a built-in network here. I didn't go to a private high school here, which there's a huge network there. I didn't have parents who were really connected into the business community. My husband wasn't from here. We literally plopped ourselves on a half-acre lot in a house in Indianapolis and was like, "Well, here we are. I guess we'll start to get to know people."
And I had to figure out, "How do I make a name for myself?" And I remember sitting in my office in the very early days of Element Three, opening up our local business journal and looking at these people, these leaders, these brands, these people who are writing articles, and being like, "How do I become that? How do I get people to know that I exist? How do I get people to understand what I believe and think? How do I separate myself from this great big sea of a city and become known individually for the things I can do, the things I want to create, the stuff in my head, the talents in my body, the leadership? How do I do that?"
And, so, being well-known, I equated very, very closely with being successful. And, so, as I tried to figure out, "How do I become successful?" it became a playbook of, "How do I become well-known?"
And, so, we really rode and explored the awards circuit really hard, the Inc. 5000, the 40 Under 40, the Best and Brightest, the Creative Awards inside of our industry. We chased after that hard because it gave us a reason to write press releases. It gave us a reason to stand out. It gave us a reason for people to pay attention to what we were doing.
And I don't think, in and of itself, that was bad. I still think that was smart for us to explore. I just assumed, if we were being successful in all of those things, that also meant the business was fundamentally sound.
And that is not true, and it's a little terrifying to say that out loud, but I was confusing the two, and we had to get some things really right. And it's kind of like this cultural flywheel that starts to happen. It was like, "Oh, I saw you guys won this award. You guys must be crushing it." And it's like, "Oh yeah, if somebody says we're crushing it, we must be crushing it."
And I don't have a critical bent to my life. And, so, I wasn't looking at the business being like, "Yeah, I mean the awards are good, but we've got all this crap to fix." I was believing the hype. And that's a really dangerous game, and I know that now. And I often tell entrepreneurs, one of my pieces of advice is, "The highs are not that high, and the lows are not that low."
Early in our marriage, my husband was a trader. He did a lot with the market. And he would always say, "On days we make a ton of money, we weren't that good. And on days that we lose a lot, we're not that bad."
He more naturally sees the middle of the road, and my personality more naturally rides the high and rides the low. Again, I've matured through that. I think this is the wisdom of me being married to somebody so different than me and his wiring. I get to see, "Wow, what would it feel like to not ride the high and not ride the low?" And now, I see the wisdom in that, but that was not the game that I was playing. That was not where I was at, at that time in my life.
So, just be really careful. The awards definitely serve a purpose. They're an amazing marketing tool. I don't think they're bad, in and of themselves. I just confuse them for what they are. They're really marketing tools and financial ways to make money for media outlets and for organizations. Don't confuse it. There's a reason you pay a fee. There's a reason there's a big ceremony. There's a reason there's an application fee, and they're driving lots of people to say, "Submit," because they make money when they do that.
And again, I'm not faulting the system. I'm just saying, understand it for what it is. It is not actually a badge of success. It doesn't mean your business is healthy. It doesn't mean your culture is healthy. It doesn't mean your clients are healthy, if you're winning those awards. And, so, make sure that you're asking the right questions of your business if you're in a heavy award cycle. Okay, maybe I'm the only idiot that fell into that trap.
Number three, I believed moving fast means that you are moving forward. I wrongly believed that moving fast meant that you are moving forward. And, in fact, moving fast and moving forward are not the same thing at all. Now, I have really come to, I would say embrace, a measured pace over a fast pace almost every time.
You hear things in the tech world, "Put together an MVP and ship it as fast as you can. First to market wins." And I just think there's a lot of pressure to move fast in business. And what that oftentimes gets translated into is, ship decisions before they're fully thought through or before you understand the resourcing or before you've thought through all the potential outcomes or before you've properly ingested it into your organization, so that once you put it in the marketplace, people actually know what's happening.
And you skip all these steps, and then it becomes a cluster, a big mess of leadership-making decisions, shipping product that people don't know how to execute on, or shutting down this technology and moving it to this one. And there's not a clear-cut overplan. Or "Hey, we're going to test moving into this market for a new product or a new service." And the organization doesn't understand why, or what was the thinking, or "If it hits, what are we going to do? Are we building another division? What's happening?"
I fell into this trap of like, "Hey, moving fast is a competitive advantage. That's no problem." I naturally need a very small amount of information to make a decision and to feel confident. And, so, that's like, I don't know, cocaine for somebody like me, like, "Decision, decision, decision, decision. No problem. I feel good when I'm doing that."
And the organization was like, "We don't even understand what you're deciding. We certainly don't have time to plan for what the impact is for that, and we don't have time to share with you, 'Here's some of our concerns. Can you hear us?'" And, so, they were just drug all over the place and, understandably, started to get really tired. I get that now.
So, be careful. And especially the beginning process, I'm going to speak to the EOS audience really specifically here for a minute, when we first started implementing EOS, I was like, "This is taking way too long. Are you kidding me? Two years to get all the way through this? I don't have that long."
Well, the truth is, I actually didn't have the organizational trust to move any faster than that. In fact, it might take me longer, because there was a lot of work that needed to be done, culturally, for people to be able to trust that the decisions I was making were going to stick, and they weren't going to change 30, 45, 60 days later." So, moving fast and moving forward are not the same thing.
The exciting thing is, is that, once you all start moving forward together, you can actually start to move faster, but not at the beginning. It feels very slow, but there is a peacefulness and a certainty and a confidence that comes with the security of doing things well and intentionally and completely, that allows the train to be able to pick up speed over time.
Number four, good intentions beget good outcomes. Good intentions beget good outcomes. I believed that, that if you had good intentions, that you were going to get good things out of life, you're going to get good things out of people, you're going to get good things out of your culture.
That's actually not true at all. I don't know a single leader, I'll give you an example, who says, "You know what? My intention is to build a really crappy culture. That's my intention."
I think if you surveyed 1,000 leaders, 995 of them would say, "I totally intend to build a good culture."
Why do we have so few good cultures? Because good intentions does not mean that you actually know how to do it. I know, as leaders, we judge ourselves in our intentions and not our actual capacity to do the thing. I have always intended to have an organization that has a culture that employees are excited to work for, to be a leader that people trust and know can lead them to the next place in their career and to their life, to have a product and service offering that clients are delighted to pay for, and they see a strategic value in their business when they engage with us. I want to have clients who are like, "You are a game-changer in my organization." That has always been my intention.
But the truth of the matter is, there are seasons where our organization has not delivered on that because we did not know how to do it. I see this financially. People say, "I intend to be able to retire at 65 years old."
Okay, well, just because you intend to, doesn't mean you're going to. If you don't have the tools, you're not going to get there. If you don't have the behaviors, you're not going to get there.
So, good intentions do not beget good outcomes. And I think that we can be really surprised, at least I was, when our organizations are like shit shows. And we're like, "Holy crap, how did we get here? This is not what I intended at all."
I thought my decisions were leading to a very different end. They're not. I have to make different decisions. I have to have the courage to look in the mirror and change what's happening because your good intentions are not making good outcomes.
And, so, it doesn't matter how well-intentioned you are, look at the thing you have, because I'm pretty sure I said this in my keynote, our organizations are a direct reflection of our values and our decisions. So, if there is something in your organization you don't like, and you're a leader there, look in the mirror first.
Number five, we have two left. I believed, wrongly, that motivating people is leading them. The truth is, motivating people is not the same as leading them. I'll try to give a exaggerated example to illustrate what it is that I mean. Okay, I'll use an example in my home. So, if I tell my girls, I'm like, "Hey girls, come on." I have four girls. "Everybody, we're going to need to get in the car in three minutes. Hurry up. Chop, chop, chop. Let's go, let's go, let's go. Come on girls. We can do it. Everybody in the car, three minutes. Come on guys. Let's go. Let's go. Let's go. I know we can do it. Keep moving fast. Let's roll. Let's rock. Let's come on."
That's motivating them to get into the car. "Three minutes, everybody get in the car." I'm just like a cheerleader with pom-poms, jumping up and down, with a fairly happy tone of voice, motivating them to get in the car.
Or I could lead them. I could say, "Hey, girls, let's meet at the bottom of the stairs. Okay? 30 seconds. Everybody meets the bottom of the stairs. Aubrey, I want you to grab snacks for everybody. Ainsley, I want you to grab drinks for everybody. Ivy, I want you to grab toys for you and Quincy. Quincy, I want you to get your shoes on and meet us by the back door. Everybody, I want you to do your job, grab your shoes, meet at the back door in two minutes. Any questions? Let's break on three. Everybody roll."
Everybody has a specific job. They know how their piece of it fits into the hole. They understand in two minutes we need to meet by the back door. I can do a quick check. "Did everybody get what they were supposed to?" And then we have another 30 seconds to load up and get out of the house.
Still an encouraging tone of voice, still like, "Hey, we're all in this together." But I gave everybody a specific job. I was leading them, and they knew what they had to do. They gave them a minute to say, "Any questions? Are we good? Okay, let's meet at the back door and let's rock and roll."
It's a very silly example, but I think we do this in our organizations. I did this. I was like, "Guys, we're going to win. We're going to be the best agency in the city. We're going to be the biggest agency in the city. We're going to have the best culture ever. It's going to be so awesome when we get there."
And people are like, "I mean, that's cool and everything, but how? What do I do? What do we do to get there?"
And I think, in my specific journey, I was 25 years old when I started as the President of Element three, and we were nothing in the landscape of agencies. And, so, I had to sell people on the future a lot, to say, "This is where we're going. This is what it's going to look like," to get them to join me and to give me a few years of their career and to use their time and talents and experience to help make us better. I had to sell them futures, largely.
And I think that became a leadership habit for me, where that was what I was most comfortable with. I naturally live in the future and communicate into ambiguity, and today is the most boring part of it for me naturally. And I lost sight of being a motivating leader and being a leader. Being motivational needs to be part of your toolbox, but it is not the only inside the leadership package.
The last one, and this is really, I would say, just reiterating something I'm really passionate about. I know I talked about it in my EOS presentation, but this last one is, I believed relationships have infinite elasticity, that you can stretch and stretch and stretch and stretch and stretch them and that they will never break. And that's not true. Maybe my relationship with my mom is in that category of relationships I can stretch and, no matter what, she'll love me. I mean this specifically when it comes to your spouse, your partner, the person that's doing life with you.
And J.R. and I both put a lot of stress on our marriage and we stretched and stretched and stretched and stretched it until it broke. And I think we're both committed to that never happening again. And I hate that we had to get to that spot to be so committed to it.
And, so, part of my promise to myself is that I'm never going to not beat this drum. You have to work harder at your marriage and at your family than you do at your job. And when I mean work harder, there is no question that my waking hours, in quantity, needed to go to my work, to get to where we are today. My husband would say the exact same thing. The quantity of hours that he puts into his job is more than the quantity of hours that he puts into us as a family in a week.
That's okay. But we really missed on even figuring out, "What does quality look like? What do we need from one another, and the same tools that we use at work to excel, like having a plan, having a shared vision, having really specific times where we meet and get on the same page and have a proactive posture towards our day and our week and a team orientation to getting this family, I'm going to say across the finish line, and I mean across the finish line to our goals and our kids out of the house, in a way that aligned with our values and we're really proud of, and that our marriage is on track?"
And is it going to be a 10 every single week, every single month, of every single year? No, that's not realistic. But you know what your low watermark looks like. And you know when behaviors and communication and habits erode, to a place where it's not being fed at all. And I'm telling you, that branch will die off if it doesn't have fresh nutrients. It will. And it happens slowly, all of a sudden. And that really sucks.
And, so, having these hygiene habits, like we have in our businesses, you'll do a three-day offsite for your business plan. You have salespeople come in for big conferences. You go and do big offsite plannings with your big clients. You sit down with a bank and figure out, "What's our financing needs for the year?"
Why don't we sit down with our spouses and do that? Why don't we do that? We're so lazy. And if you have an achievement mindset, and if you're listening to this podcast, I know you do, you want excellence in this area of your life too. Do not fool yourself into thinking that it is a set of random interactions, with a set of random behaviors, with a very surface level set of conversations that's going to get you to a really rich relationship with that person.
That's not how it works. It is not how it works. Relationships do not have infinite elasticity, and your breaking point might not be close, or it's further away than the other, but it doesn't matter. Be excellent in this area too. You deserve it. You deserve it. It's so important.
So, those are my six things. These are things I would go back and do differently. I would make different decisions around. I think my life would be at a different place, had I done these things. But I don't lament that. I'm grateful for the journey. I think it makes my memory very strong on not getting these things wrong. And I hope that my journey and the things that I've learned helps accelerate your journey faster. I think we all want our mistakes to be redeemed in somebody else getting it right.
So, thanks for listening today, and I'd love to hear which one of these hit the hardest for you. Reach out, either over Instagram, DM me, or LinkedIn, and I'd love to hear from you.
Thank you for joining me on another episode of Scared Confident. Until next time, keep telling fear, "You will not decide what happens in my life. I will."
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