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“5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry” With Stacy Tuschl

Having a broad platform has helped me get a lot of media attention, both in my local channels and nationally. I won the Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year for 2019 and I was written about and interviewed several times. What I found is that opportunities like this tend to snowball. Not only did […]

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Having a broad platform has helped me get a lot of media attention, both in my local channels and nationally. I won the Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year for 2019 and I was written about and interviewed several times. What I found is that opportunities like this tend to snowball. Not only did we share it with our followers, but many of our clients did as well. I’ve been asked to speak at business events and have been asked to contribute to books and trainings. Once you start putting yourself out there, people will find you. It may not happen quickly though, so you need to be patient and persistent.


I had the pleasure to interview Stacy Tuschl . Stacy has made a name for herself as an expert in growing small businesses. Put it this way, Stacy started her own business at the age of 18 in her parents’ backyard and turned that company into a multi-million dollar business she still runs today (The Academy of Performing Arts has two locations in her home state of Wisconsin). In addition to being a Small Business Growth Coach, Stacy is a bestselling author, and founder of the Foot Traffic Formula — helping small businesses around the world get more customers in the door, more profit in their pocket and more happiness in their homes. When local area businesses started asking Stacy how she grew her company so rapidly, it sparked the inspiration needed to launch The Foot Traffic Podcast. Her podcast now has almost 700,000 downloads and is frequently on the top 100 of all management and marketing on iTunes. Stacy was recently named the 2019 Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year by the United States Small Business Administration. She was featured in Inc. Magazine as one of the top 10 podcasts for moms looking to grow a thriving business and has also been featured in the Huffington Post and popular podcasts like Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield, Eventual Millionaire, and Social Media Marketing.


Thank you so much for joining us Stacy! Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I’ve been an entrepreneur for more than 17 years and I have several big competitors in each area of my business. I had to learn early on that I needed to focus on being different, not necessarily better. I mean, I have to be excellent at what I do, but it’s a losing fight to always try to be better than everyone else. That gave me a very different perspective as I stepped into thought leadership. I can’t watch my competitors and just simply try to “outdo” what they do. People who want to be thought leaders can’t just do more — they have to really start to think outside of the box and become so unique that it doesn’t even seem like they have any true competitors. When I first started the online portion of my business, I had virtually no experience there. Now, I’ve been on some of the biggest podcasts and stages I could have ever fathomed, and I can directly attribute that to standing out, having a unique perspective, and owning my experience. I’ve also seen such a positive effect on my small business. My brick and mortar dance studios have always been very successful, but when I added a podcast, published a best-selling book, and built a personal brand, it took every element of my businesses to another level. Your authority in one area lends authority to all areas.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I remember, very vividly, telling someone once that I own a dance studio and their response was, “How cute.” That gutted me. I worked so hard and I have a very successful business, but all that amounted to was “cute” in someone else’s eyes. When I decided that I really wanted to share my message, coach other business owners, and start my personal brand, I carried that memory with me. I thought that I’d lose credibility if I told people that I owned a dance studio (now two, actually). But the truth is that when I finally got brave enough to share it and talk about it, my credibility instantly skyrocketed. It makes sense to me now, but I didn’t realize how much my experiences showcase who I am as a person and my success as a business owner. I can’t recommend enough that people really own who they are and not be embarrassed or let anyone shame you. The right people, your perfect customers or clients, will love it.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Ugh! I still can’t believe I did this. At my dance studio, I threw away all of the registration cards from members that took classes with us the first year. I thought, “What would I need these for in the future?” This was before I understood how incredibly important a contact list is! I mean, I could have used those to follow up with clients, offer them new classes, offer promotions to get lapsed students back in — so many things! I was so naive and I just assumed that everyone would just sign right back up the next year. If only business were that easy! As I know now, and as I teach all of my business-owner students, lists of past and current clients are gold!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

As I see it, a leader is someone who has influence over others and has a goal for how they want the group or organization to progress. There are leaders in families, workplaces, activities, everywhere. A leader keeps everyone together and helps them head toward a common goal.

A “thought leader” is similar in that they inspire people to go in a new direction, but it’s really someone who has something to say and a different take on a topic or topics than everyone else. They are sharing their ideas, opinions, and expertise through a variety of platforms. Thought leaders are compelled to share what they know and their unique insight, so you’ll find them speaking in person to audiences, writing articles and books, sharing on social media, and maybe even selling their own products. Thought leaders have a unique and valuable viewpoint and they’re passionate about getting that information out into the world.

When I think of what it means to be an “influencer” I think of people with a loyal tribe who will buy whatever they say online. Most aren’t selling their own products, but sharing what they love and use. They have an incredibly powerful influence on their tribe’s purchasing decisions.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Thought leadership gives credibility to you, your business, and your industry. It’s so hard to trust people on the internet! We know “likes” and followers can be bought, so those numbers don’t mean anything to us anymore. But when you take a stand, share what you believe, and spread your message, people notice, start following you, and stay for the value. They don’t care about your follower and “like” count; though, ironically, those are the people that are going to help you organically grow them. People get to know you, like you, and trust you as the expert and as a reliable source for advice.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Having a broad platform has helped me get a lot of media attention, both in my local channels and nationally. I won the Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year for 2019 and I was written about and interviewed several times. What I found is that opportunities like this tend to snowball. Not only did we share it with our followers, but many of our clients did as well. I’ve been asked to speak at business events and have been asked to contribute to books and trainings. Once you start putting yourself out there, people will find you. It may not happen quickly though, so you need to be patient and persistent.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

Becoming a thought leader — as in finding and building a tribe of people who want to hear your unique take on things — can happen fast, but you need to commit to a few things:

  1. You’ve got to objectively assess your strengths and know what you are passionate about. As a thought leader, you’ll continue to talk about your topic of expertise from this moment on. So not only do you need to know it inside and out, but you need to make sure it will hold your interest!
  2. Position yourself in a unique way. While you may have an important message to share, it might feel like no one is listening, and that most likely is a positioning problem. People will look right past you if you seem identical to other people in your industry. What makes you unique? What do you bring to the table that no one else does?
  3. Demonstrate your expertise at every opportunity. When you teach what you know and you provide value to your followers and subscribers, they learn to recognize you as an expert and they trust the information and advice you give them.
  4. Never stop improving. You need to continue to master your topics and also keep growing and developing by staying relevant and up to date.
  5. Share your successes and your failures. Whether it’s in interviews or on your social channels, you need to be an authentic guide and that means sharing what’s worked for you and what hasn’t. People can learn just as much from your failures as from your successes, and sharing those “failures” can help them relate to you and connect with you even more.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

I am such a big fan of Marie Forleo, and I know I’m not alone in this. She’s inspired so many

women to create their own businesses and live their lives on their terms, and she’s also done that by being completely herself. She’s very professional and provides a ton of value to her subscribers and students, but she’s also fun, quirky and genuine. She has a new book coming out at the end of September called Everything is Figureoutable and I think that concept alone will empower a lot of people. I’m looking forward to reading it!

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

Well, usually terms get overused because they’re correct and they offer a new level of insight. The term “thought leader” is used a lot, but I don’t necessarily think people should avoid it when it’s a legitimate description. Those people who are truly leading people to open their minds and think in a new way really are “thought leaders.” I’m sure that there are a lot of people who claim that term for themselves who don’t really meet that standard, but it’s still an important concept and an important role for people to play. Very few of us are capable of opening our own minds. We need people to guide us and show us new possibilities.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

The bigger our businesses get the more we start adding things on our plate that we had to take on even though we didn’t want to. As you grow, start to ask yourself what things you can let go of and delegate to someone else. Get back to what you love doing and stay in your zone of genius. I also recommend making sure to reward yourself along the way. Entrepreneurs are great at delayed gratification and sometimes we wait too long. Take time every day to do something to recharge. Take a break on the weekends. Stop putting off that vacation you know you need. My last point is to understand that your to-do list will never end and setting boundaries for when you will work and when you will “clock out” is a must. You don’t need to work 12 hour days to move the needle in your business.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There’s something really fundamental about people wanting to own their own businesses, create their lives the way they want, and provide good lives to their families. People want to be in control of their own destinies. But at the same time, so many businesses are really struggling — even some of the ones that look successful from the outside. And the failure rate for small businesses is really appalling. The thing is, though, that it doesn’t have to be that way. Just a few changes or a few different systems and strategies can turn so many of these businesses around! I am passionately committed to giving small business owners the skills and resources necessary to make their businesses both financially successful and emotionally fulfilling.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I can’t remember where I heard this first but the gist is that, “You should only take advice from people who are more successful at what you want to do.” It’s so simple, but it’s also challenging to follow because people have opinions on everything, and they’re often loudest when they really don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s such an important life lesson to learn not to take business advice from your Uncle Phil who’s never owned a business in his life, but to take it from people who have the kind of business success you want to have. Don’t take relationship advice from your perpetually single friend, take it from someone whose marriage you admire. Just because someone else is sure that they’re right doesn’t mean you should listen to them!

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are a lot of really impressive leaders I’d love to meet, but I think Alli Webb, the founder of DryBar, is at the top of my list. She not only founded a successful brick and mortar business (which has expanded to sell products online and in other retailers), but she created an entirely new type of store. Her idea was so out of the box and innovative — she really “zigged” when everyone else “zagged.” I’d love to get the chance to talk with her and see how her mind works.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me @stacytuschl on Instagram & Facebook and most other platforms or one of my favorite places to hangout is my podcast Foot Traffic.

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