Company Culture and Lessons from a Female CEO with Steph Tuss

by Amanda Abella  - May 18, 2021

Steph Tuss is the CEO of the multimillion-dollar global coaching company Life Is Now, Inc. The company’s mission is to help entrepreneurs, experts, and self-employed professionals gain the confidence and find the right mindset to increase their revenue, turning their endeavors into seven- and eight-figure ventures.

Prior to her work with Life Is Now, Steph was a school teacher turned entrepreneur who built and sold her first business by the age of 33. She has a passion for helping others create their vision mixed with solid business strategy nuts and bolts.

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Steph’s Background

“I had two career changes before I started working with David Nagel.” After she graduated from college with a teaching degree, Steph taught elementary school for ten years. Although she enjoyed working with kids, teaching wasn’t her gig. “I taught fifth grade music and it was completely awful. The whole time I was teaching, I was trying to figure out how I could get out of teaching. And it wasn’t because I didn’t love teaching. It was because I didn’t love the institution of teaching.”

Her dad was a blue-collar auto worker with GM for 30 years, and my mom was a credit manager at the local newspaper; Steph didn’t have entrepreneurial examples from her home life. “I grew up really conservative, very non-entrepreneurial, very security based. So when I got my first teaching job, my parents were happy they didn’t have to worry about me anymore.”

Having a Child Gave Her the Ability to Question Authority

When she and her husband Brandon had their first child, she was very sick. “Nobody knew what was wrong with her. They wanted to do invasive surgery. And at that point I was very trained to not question authority and to do what you were told to do. But there was just something inside me saying something’s not right here.”

After researching her daughter’s symptoms, Steph found out that her daughter’s medical issues were tied to food sensitivities. “I was nursing at the time, so it was the food that I was eating that was causing her to be incredibly sick, and she had failure to thrive. I changed my diet and all of her symptoms went away and I thought, “this is really powerful.”

Wondering how many other parents were struggling with similar issues, she decided to go back to school and pursue a master’s degree in holistic nutrition.

Leaving the Safety of her Teaching Job

Once she graduated, she left her teaching job and opened her nutrition practice. “That was my first step into the entrepreneurial world.” Bootstrapping her business, she went to corporations and offered to make brown bag lunches. “I talked to people, I asked for referrals and I built my business.”

While building her business, she got picked up by professional sports players. “I was becoming pretty well known in the area where I was living and I reached a plateau.” Not sure where to go from here, she looked to a woman by the name of Allie Brown for guidance.

Finding Her First Business Mentor

Steph was following Allie Brown, and she was doing this program with David Nagel. “The first time I heard David speak and it was like an arrow right through my forehead. When you hear the truth, you know, that you’re hearing the truth and I just couldn’t get enough.”

Hiring a coach, she felt that she needed a switch in her business. Selling her business to another practitioner in the area, Steph decided to move on to something new. David hired her to work in his company.

Women Losing Employment as a Result of COVID

One of the things that my team brought up is that we’ve had so many women in the last year or so who have lost employment because they need to be there for their kids. I want to acknowledge what Steph did in her business and how taking care of her child became a source of revenue.

Giving Yourself Permission as a Female

Steph says about societal expectations on females, “It’s a huge lesson that’s taught to girls. Make everybody happy and sacrifice yourself. What you want doesn’t matter. Your worth is determined by how many people you can help and what you can do for other people.”

I see it all the time on sales calls. If women would give themselves permission to want what they want, but they’re waiting for someone to give them permission. You need to give permission to yourself.

How to Climb the Corporate Ladder

If you’re in a job and want to make more money, go above and beyond your job description. It’s part of our core values is always to be bettering your best. Like you’ve got to go above and beyond – it’s how you grow as a person.

CEO Mindset

The mindset of a CEO is very different from that of a self-employed person or an employee. You’re coming up against growth edges when you’re a CEO. Steph says, “I think the biggest growth edge and leadership piece wasn’t as difficult for me because I’d been a teacher.” She remembers her leadership position as a teacher with a passion for developing people, “whether they are little people or adult people.”

Steph understands that her CEO position comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility as you’re responsible for making decisions that will have a direct impact on the business. Whether you’re making a hiring, marketing, or program, your decision affects others. When you’re an employee, someone else takes responsibility.

Making CEO Mistakes

You have to make mistakes. Steph says, “the hard part for me was balancing my need to make sure that I wasn’t making too many mistakes with the need to make enough mistakes where I could learn and get comfortable with pushing the company further than it had ever been pushed before.”

Fear of Responsibility

That fear of responsibility keeps people from going big and then stepping into this new iteration or this new role or making a pivot. That weight of responsibility gets real fast. I will raise my hand here and say that I’ve definitely avoided some hiring decisions in the past because of pain points. Steph says, “We have 14 team members that depend on this company to provide them with a living.”

So it’s about radical responsibility when you’re a CEO. When someone in your company messes up, it’s your responsibility. “Everything is my responsibility. And, and I think a good CEO sees it like that and takes that very seriously.”

Tips for Hiring Your Team

Stephanie believes that hiring is a skill. There are resources out there that can give you ideas about the steps you put people through to hire them. “The best thing that you can do is be really clear on who you are and what your culture is because I’m a huge proponent of hiring for culture first and skill second.”

Research shows that if you hire for culture first and skills second, you don’t end up with people who aren’t team players. To grow your business, you need team players. Be clear on who you are as a company, your core values, core competencies, and critical factors of the employees you need.

Goal Setting for Your Team

Everything in the critical result is measurable, and every meeting, we go back and find out where we are in these quantifiable goals. How close are we to hitting this? How far away are we from that?

Then we break that down into quarterly goals. And our quarterly goals are based on supporting that objective. But they’re set with only a 50% confidence rating. So that means we don’t set goals that we, that we’re a hundred percent confident we can hit. That is a trap because you will always set goals based on what you think you can do rather than on what you want.

She likes to reverse engineer her solutions to know how she will get the company to its goal. Steph says, “We start with our big, hairy, audacious goal. So your big, hairy, audacious goal is a goal that’s set 15 to 30 years in the future that you only have about a 50% chance of reaching” She says her goal is a guiding light, a force that joins your team, that everyone is behind.

Creating a Work Culture of Safety

Stephanie works hard to create a culture of psychological safety for people where they feel like they can push back against her, can disagree with her, or they can disagree with each other. It’s usually one of the places in a culture that needs the most work because our society is wholly conflicted averse, and you need to have conflict in a business in the form of debate, in the form of the dance to know if your idea you are about to execute is a good idea.


Resources that are mentioned or add value to this episode:

Building Relationships to Build Sales with Erika Tebbens of Sell It Sister

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