Can you really have it all? Today’s guest, Tiffany Sauder, believes you can.
With four kids, three businesses, and two careers, Tiffany is a firm believer in living a life of “and”. She is a mom and entrepreneur, a wife and CEO, all building toward one abundant life.
Since Tiffany founded Element Three marketing agency 17 years ago, she and her husband have been building their companies alongside their family. She joined the podcast to share her best advice for having it all.
Press play for the full interview or keep reading below!
Growing up in a small rural town, Tiffany watched her father make the transition from farmer to entrepreneur. He brought Tiffany and her siblings along with him on that journey to improve his business sense and financial literacy.
Their father encouraged them to start their own business selling mulch to local farmers, teaching them how to manage money as a business owner – even going so far as to help the kids file their own taxes.
“We always understood money as a tool for opportunity,” Tiffany says. “My own risk tolerance and understanding of the business world started at a young age.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tiffany went to college for business and finance. Not long after moving to the city, she realized big business wasn’t the right fit for her, so she and her father bought a small marketing agency.
In 2006, the digital marketing world was undergoing a huge shift. There was a lot of new data available, but marketers didn’t know how to make sense of it. Tiffany saw a gap she could fill.
“I recognized a lot of the thought patterns from financial analysis were happening in marketing. My brain was just wired to operate that way.”
Tiffany and her father took over the agency from the previous owners and expanded their offers to three core elements: story, strategy, and creative.
Looking back on the early years of her company, Tiffany says, “It was unsettling for companies because suddenly the consumer had a lot more control over their brand narrative than they did.”
Review sites and social media had replaced the typical sales process. Customers were doing their own research. Instead of trying to learn about a company, they were asking a new question: “Is the thing I read online actually the thing you are?”.
The goal of marketing became to build trust and validate consumer assumptions. Tiffany saw this trend before many of her clients, and her agency quickly gained traction as one of the leaders in inbound marketing.
For the first 10 years of business, the company grew rapidly. Element Three was named HubSpot’s agency of the year and their team expanded to almost 80 people. But that growth didn’t come without cost.
In 2018, they lost their largest client and began to have client churn issues when employees couldn’t deliver on their promises.
“What I was finding was that I had great digital marketers, but they didn’t know to ask the right questions to get context and correctly identify the client’s problem.”
“That was a moment of reckoning for me as a leader,” Tiffany says. “I knew we could sell, but I hadn’t invested enough in other parts of the company, like training and onboarding.”
To save the company, Tiffany made the difficult decision to let go of clients and team members who weren’t the right fit. She knew they needed to rebuild their infrastructure from scratch.
“One of the mistakes I made in that season was growth at all costs. We were taking on clients that weren’t profitable.”
In their new onboarding process, Tiffany and her team make sure to align on business strategy before diving into work for new clients. They also pay much more attention to client satisfaction and churn rate, rather than focusing exclusively on sales.
It took two years of internal focus before they were able to return to their previous growth rate. “Now we focus much more on profit first over growth first.”
Despite her hectic career, Tiffany still finds the time to be a present wife and mother. The key, she says, is to set up systems that serve you and the environment you want to create.
For Tiffany, that meant having live-in care while her children were younger. Their nanny looked after the kids, prepped food, and did laundry. It was a large financial commitment, but it gave her the flexibility she needed.
Many women feel forced to choose between their careers and their family. “I think we look at it too unilaterally,” Tiffany says. “We don’t need to choose one or the other.”
Instead, think about what part of being a stay-at-home mom matters the most to you. For Tiffany, “I want the house to smell like a mom is at home. I want home-cooked meals and not takeout.”
Cooking is something she loves to do for her family. On the other hand, she doesn’t feel emotionally attached to bathing her kids. For you, it might be the opposite – or something else entirely.
Figure out which family activities are most meaningful to you and make those a non-negotiable. Then outsource intentionally around those values.
Tiffany’s advice for other working moms is to be mindful of where you spend your time.
“As career women, we don’t often think of time in terms of opportunity cost. We pretend that we can do the full list of what we would do if we were a stay-at-home mom while also running a business.”
Tiffany wasn’t willing to give in to those unrealistic expectations. Instead, she advises women maximize their time by betting on their earning potential.
“If it costs me $150 a week to have my house cleaned but it takes me five hours, my earning potential is way higher at my company.” Knowing what your hourly rate is in your business will help you make more informed decisions about where to spend your time.
Although Tiffany loves her work, some days are harder than others. “As a mom, there are days when I just have to put my big girl pants on.”
In those moments, Tiffany reminds herself that there are always trade offs. There is a cost for her to have a career, but she’s also able to give her children wonderful things that she wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
Remember that you’re saying no to certain things now (like doing laundry) so you can say yes to things later (like taking your kids to Europe).
Growing up with an entrepreneurial father gave Tiffany an abundant money mindset. She sees money as a tool and a renewable resource, and that’s allowed her to take bigger risks in her business.
She and her husband try to live light on personal debt so they can have more freedom in their businesses and investments. This is just one example of how your personal finances impact the longevity of your business.
If you have a lot of personal expenses, it puts more strain on the business. But if you’re able to live within your means, there’s less pressure to constantly grow your revenue.
Want to learn more about managing your personal finances as a business owner? Check out Blueprint at Home, my 30-day program to help you determine your financial needs, save for your big goals, and finally start paying yourself a steady paycheck every month.
Just because Tiffany “has it all”, doesn’t mean every day is perfect. In business, there are always pivots and changes. There’s no point of arrival.
“Hard is not the end, it’s just hard. People wrongly interpret difficulty as a sign you should quit.” For Tiffany, it’s been a sign to keep going and to keep living a life without compromise.
If you’d like to connect with Tiffany, visit her website and make sure to subscribe to her newsletter for more mindset advice!
To hear the rest of the story and what Tiffany is up to now, press play on the player above for the full interview or click here to download the transcript.
Tiffany Sauder is a wife, mom, entrepreneur, CEO, board member, speaker, investor, and mentor. 17 years ago, she founded Element Three and ever since she and her husband have been building their companies and their family on the exact same timeline. That means four kids, three businesses and two careers, all building towards one abundant life. While Element Three now has a growing stack of accolades and awards – this isn’t the whole story. An amazing team and a hefty dose of hard work, wrong decisions and scary nights are all a big piece of how she got here. Tiffany has learned it isn’t our trophies that are transferable, it’s our scars and stories.
May 18, 2023