Having Professional Growth Through High End Tribes Of Specialists With Mandi Ellefson

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TTB Mandi | Tribes Of Specialists


Having a great community is important in any business. Do you know how you could build your tribe? Do you have what it takes? It’s time to level up your game and have a big transformation professionally! Mitch Russo talks with Mandi Ellefson about a system of organization and delegation. Mandi is a sales and marketing executive focused on creativity and compassion for people. In this episode, she discusses a methodology that would help businesses grow and prosper. Tune into this episode and learn what you can do to build a tribe, create an experience with great engagement, and scale your business!

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Having Professional Growth Through High End Tribes Of Specialists With Mandi Ellefson

Our goal is to help you be a better leader, inspire more people, create the passion your community wants and profit from experience. Since this is still a brand-new show, I want to hear from you. Tell me what you want, who you are interested in hearing from and what actions do you take from each of these incredible guests that we speak with.

Our guest started out, like many of us, a bit overworked, disorganized, and way too much to do on her own. As her small business continued to grow, she tried everything until one day, she realized what was missing. She discovered that a simple system of organization and delegation might be the solution.

She tried several different strategies until she discovered a methodology that completely solved her problem rapidly and almost effortlessly scaled her company from that point on, but she wasn’t done. In fact, others saw what she was doing and asked how they could do it too. That became the beginning of her now rapidly growing tribe, a dedicated group of people who believe as she does that, CEOs and company owners can be hands-off and work less. Welcome, Mandi Ellefson to the show.

Thanks for having me, Mitch.

It’s my pleasure. Mandi, tell us the story about what brought you to the point of building your community.

I wouldn’t say I’m a coach, but like many consultants, you were working one-on-one with clients. You get to a certain point where your head is about to explode. You can only work with so many clients in a one-on-one way. This was a real challenge for me because I also saw a lot of coaching programs out there that threw a bunch of people in a group and said, “This is good for my scalability, but fingers crossed, let’s hope that it works out for our clients.” The reality is there are a lot of junk programs out there and it declines in quality. This is something I have been resisting for a long time.

What I did is I looked at, “What can I do to be able to build a tribe?” I call it a tribe. We have our Hands-Off CEO Tribe and our Scale to Freedom Tribe. I looked at it and said, “How can I make this be a bigger value-add? How can I make this add more value to what we’re already doing in a way that will allow us to scale?” More than anything, I started this tribe because I saw this added value where clients could communicate with each other and be able to build each other up. There’s this community that it’s like outside of me.

It takes integrity to what you're building and the vision that you're creating. That vision is what creates the container for this tribe to be in. Click To Tweet

I started that years ago. I was nervous about doing it because the whole point of a tribe is for it to grow beyond you, which means you have to let go of some control. It also means that you have to set a vision. At that time, I was working with a mentor who helped me be able to craft like, “Who’s in and who’s out?” How I started this was getting those people together.

It was amazing because we had clients who had been working with me for years one-on-one who said, “I liked this even better.” That’s when I knew like, “We’ve got something going here.” It took a real commitment to keep on building that into building that. As we continued to build it, what happened is that people came to us for our consulting and expertise to be able to help them scale their company, but they stayed for the tribe. It became a nice value-add for our clients.

Mandi, as you probably realize, I reject a lot of people who simply want to promote their business because this isn’t necessarily about business. We’ll talk about how we use a tribe to generate revenue, but more importantly, what we’re looking for are people who are dedicated community builders. That is the distinction. There’s one element of this, which is you are helping your clients be more hands-off, which is hence the name of your company.

The part that resonates with me, and I think with anyone who is reading this, is that you had this realization that the community might be as important or maybe possibly at a different level, more important than a particular client per se because the client relationship is great. What we don’t get from a client relationship are the insights of others. There’s where the tribe mentality and the power of a great culture, which you’ve obviously created, permeate the whole group.

TTB Mandi | Tribes Of Specialists
Tribes Of Specialists: The whole point of a tribe is to have like-minded people who are at your level or around your level.


It sounds like everybody is happy to help each other, pull each other up by the bootstraps, share their wins, ideas and techniques, all without worrying that, “Mandi is not going to like this for some reason.” At this point, you’re not even leading it anymore. It’s more or less taken on a life of its own. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a leader, but a great community has a culture that supports that. Did I summarize that right?

Exactly. I think you know that it’s working when you have other people within the group that meet outside of it. They go, meet in person and connect. One person will go and help someone else and say, “I noticed you have this problem,” and no one is getting paid for that. These are high-level CEOs, but they’re choosing to spend time and invest in these relationships. That’s when you know that you’ve got this momentum building. I agree with you absolutely.

Here’s an insight. For any CEOs reading this, once again, your value both to your clients and to the people who you work with can be greatly enhanced by thinking the way Mandi has thought about her business and thinking about pulling your own clients into this group called your tribe, which you could call it anything you like. There are paid versions of this at some level. They’re called masterminds. I won’t speak to you, Mandi, but it sounds like what you’ve done is you’ve kept this fairly loosely structured so that people can get together and meet any time they want, which is a beautiful thing, in my opinion.

There are some loose structures you have, but there are also set times where we meet. We get together for retreats in person as well. There definitely is room for it with the interactions within the tribe to grow organically. We also have a very strict requirement for people coming in and that’s why it’s so valuable. That’s where a lot of those group programs pretend like they’re tribes, but they’re not. What happens is they’re going to take anybody in with a pulse.

I’m looking at this as the guardian of our tribe that we’ve built like, “I want to know how is this person going to be adding value to the tribe. Is this person going to say, ‘If they helped me, maybe I will?’” That kind of attitude doesn’t belong there. The other part of it, too, is that the whole point of a tribe is to have like-minded people who are at your level or around your level.

Maybe a little below that will give you some ideas for, “I’ve been there. I remember what that was like,” and above you because you can say, “This is where I’m going to,” but every person having something to add, even the people who have the smallest businesses within that but having a minimum standard. The minimum standard, though, the tribe would not be what it is if we let anybody in and it was about the growth of the company.

A tribe is a safe place to share wins. Click To Tweet

Here’s the thing. In years past, we could have grown a lot faster if we had done that, but it takes integrity to what you’re building and the vision that you’re creating. That vision is what creates the container for this tribe to be in. It creates something very different because I’ve talked to other people who are creating group programs for agencies, for example. We work primarily with agencies and consultants. Consulting agencies, as we call them.

One of the things he said is like, “We’ve tried putting together a mastermind or a group, but what happens is that they’re competitors and nobody wants to share anything.” I’m like, “I haven’t found that at all.” Nobody is competing and we help each one of them to create a different offer that looks completely different from the rest. They’re collaborating and sharing resources. They’re saying, “This is working for me.” What this looks like is we have other experts within the tribe teaching different pieces of it so that we can benefit from what they’re bringing. I learned a lot from our clients.

In my life and all the companies that I have built throughout my years, I have done one thing that freaks most people out and is somewhat unusual. It sounds like you do this too. I would reach out to my competitors and take them to dinner at trade shows. I don’t even talk about business. I just want to get to know them because they’re genuinely interesting people who have taken a risk themselves to create their business.

By the time I sold TimeSlips Corporation, we were having dinners with twenty different competitors all at the same table at the city where we were meeting. Everybody would go for their wallet like, “No, I’m paying.” It was because it was such a fun evening and we got so much from each other. When I sold my company, I got more and faster congratulations from my competitors than from anybody else because they were genuinely happy for me. When you build a relationship with the people who you think of as your adversaries, all of those feelings go away. As you were saying about the agency owners, everybody is a competitor, the fact of the matter is none of them are and you know this.

The other added benefit of what you were talking about is building those relationships. You have acquisition merger partners. They might want to buy your company. You might be able to look at them and say, “I want to buy your company.” You’re going to get the very best opportunities before they go on the market. They’re going to want to sell to you because they like and trust you.

In fact, we bought one of our competitors out of that group, which later, we rolled into our offerings. What that did is it increased the value of my company when we sold it to Sage later. You’re absolutely right. It’s an almost invisible strategy because nobody would think it should work, but it’s wonderful. I love how you encourage that in your own tribe as well. Let’s switch gears here. As a leader of your tribe, how many people are in your tribe now?

Its around twenty.

It’s small. This is another thing. We talked to people that have hundreds, some thousands of people, but when you have a tribe this small, it becomes very intimate. Tell us a little bit more about the dynamics of a twenty-person tribe.

Maybe I should add two because there are two different tribes. There’s the CEO tribe. Something that’s innovative that we do is we put together a tribe of our operators. The CEOs are second-in-command. We have a tribe that we’re training and developing to run the company without the CEO. They have this group. We have widely different levels. We have COOs and some project-manager-level people in there. It’s a vast difference.

TTB Mandi | Tribes Of Specialists
Tribes Of Specialists: To be able to lead a high-level group of people, you have to be high-level and continuously growing.


There are leadership opportunities within that to be able to coach the people who are earlier. It’s a safe place for them to build those leadership skills and then they’re learning how to run the company. That’s one tribe that we would do. That’s something that we include as part of our Scale to Freedom Program. With the mass resignation that we’re running into right now, we’re seeing a very small percentage of those people who turn over. Almost none of them are quitting because they’re being invested in. That’s a side note. What was it that you wanted to know about the dynamic of the twenty-person group?

You’ve already explained it. I want to add to what you said. In the news right now, we have people resigning because of the powers that want to dictate how we act, particularly when it comes to our health circumstances, notice how careful I am with my words here. What I’m basically saying is because when you teach your tribe members to create a culture like the one you’ve created, then there’s much more of a reason for them to want to stay and become part of this. It’s not a mandate anymore. It’s more an invitation to stay included with who we are and what we’re doing. I’m not wanting to change the meaning of words. That’s not my goal here. It’s simply to share the ideas that you said in a way that others who are not deep into it might relate to as well.

We need to create tribes of our team in a way that they want to stick around where they’re getting developed and getting that mentorship within a tribe like that. The biggest perspective is building a tribe for our clients adds a lot of value. Something else that we’re doing is we’re building a tribe for our partners. We have a specific tribe that we’re building around there in a way that adds value to them. That right there leads to more growth for everyone.

Let’s talk about the management aspect of this. You said you have two tribes. You probably have two separate communication channels, one for each. How does that work? Is it as simple as sending out emails or do you have a group? Do you have a place online where they meet and can have a community online? How do you manage that?

I can’t talk too much to the tech a little bit because my team handles all that. What we do is we have Slack channels. We used to be on Facebook, but we’ve had to transition over because we don’t want our platform to be controlled. We want to have access to our own. I won’t say any more about that, but we want to be at a place where there is positivity and not a lot of messages that are going to do that.

That right there is a challenge. We’re building that back up. I remember even the first time when we started adding that channel to Facebook, it took some time to build the interaction that people communicate and talk. We’re back to square one. We started moving over to Slack, but I know from experience that you have to stick with it, build the community within that and find reasons for people to be there. There’s a balance, particularly for our clients. Their CEOs were busy. How do you be able to create an experience where there’s an engagement, but there’s not a bunch of noise?

Mandi, for those of us who are not yet at the place where you are with an active running tribe, you’ve spoken a lot about the benefits to the members. Let’s talk about the benefits to the owner and to you. Share some of what they bring to you. It could be monetary and philosophical. Whatever way you feel you benefit, we’d love to know about it.

One of our tribe members made a referral for someone who wants to buy our company. I’m not going to sell it. Also, on the side of that, that’s the licensing deal that we want to be licensing out a piece of what we’re doing and helping them build a seven-figure company out of it. That’s a very relevant one. There’s loyalty to the brand, so they give us referrals. They’re constantly sharing wins and we’re creating case studies. We have so many case studies more than we could possibly even put up on our website.

I do think that part of our tribe, the environment of that in that safe place of sharing, the safe place of sharing both wins. Here’s the thing. There’s success shaming in our society. Where do you go where you can talk about this without hearing people who are like, “Wouldn’t that be nice if I had a company like that?” That’s the attitude that you hear so much. This is an environment where you could be like, “I made a six-figure sale. I’m amazing.” You can be like that energy.

When COVID first started, it was a challenging environment to be in business. Being able to have a tribe there where we’re putting a little circle of abundance around us, we’re thinking in a specific way and actions, even that responsibility of the leadership required me to up my game in a big way. It was a big transformation for me.

Get your vision aligned with where your skills are. Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about that. That’s interesting. What you said is I got chills. If there’s ever been a reason to create a tribe that allows you and helps you up your own skill levels and be on top of your game, it’s a slam dunk. Explain how you did that. What have you changed about yourself and the way you work even since your tribe has been in place?

To be able to lead a high-level group of people, you have to be high level and continuing to grow, especially if you want to continue to grow the people that are in your tribe. I definitely want to be doing that. What that looks like is if I want to set the culture and intention that our clients are ridiculously successful in any market condition, I’ve got to own that and be that. What that looks like is fully embodying the movement that you’re creating. For me, I am always aspiring to fully embody the Hands-Off CEO.

This is a very big deal. For most people, they build a company, generate what they hoped they would, run it, and start to go to sleep. They start thinking, “This is running on its own. Maybe I’ll take a fishing trip,” but what you’re doing is completely different. Your community is pushing you to be a better person and leader. You create a better business in the same vein that you’re promoting that they do.

We’ve seen tremendous growth in our business since then. While many companies are struggling, our clients are doing better than ever. Our company is also doing better than ever. We’re seeing a tremendous amount of growth. There’s real pride in that, if I’m going to be honest with it. I know that we’ve changed a lot of people’s lives that their businesses otherwise might have gone under. Their businesses would maybe not even have gone under, but even worse that they would be staying with this company that is eroding away at their life. Years later, they look at this and hate everything about it.

We want to help people create companies that leave a lasting legacy and so much wealth for them that they have the freedom to be able to say, “No, that’s not a choice I’m going to make for my health. I don’t want to live in this state anymore.” That’s one reason why I moved to Southern Utah so I could have that freedom to make choices for myself and my family. If you don’t have the wealth in your company to do that, your options are limited and your freedom is taken away. I’m very passionate about people having that freedom.

The term freedom has even more meaning to me anyway than it ever has before. I’m glad that you brought that up. Mandi, we have people reading this now who don’t have a tribe but have been thinking about it for quite some time and potentially would love to have one. What would you advise somebody who is thinking of and wanting to start a tribe? What would be the very first thing they should do to take the next step in creating their community?

I would think about how you’re going to monetize it. Otherwise, it’s not worth putting your energy into it, if I’m being quite honest. It takes energy and resources. I shared with you how I have to change and show up to be able to do that. That’s energy and lifeblood, and I’m going to be paid for that. That’s something that if you are interested in building wealth for yourself, owning the energy that you need to put into place because it’s not just about your time. It’s also about your energy.

Thinking about your vision for what you want to create in the world and what is the change that you want to create in the world, get that aligned with where your skills are. If you don’t have the skills, I might not build a tribe yet. I would build the skills first. I built the skills through running two different companies and working with clients one-on-one. Fine-tuning our systems before, we got to a point where somebody even wanted to come into a tribe with me.

I want to offer a different perspective too. I‘ve spoken to many people who have built tribes that have nothing to do with becoming wealthy or generating revenue. My advice answering my own question is, what would be that first step would be to crystallize what your purpose is. One good way to do that and I love this word because it still has a ring of excitement to it when I think about it. The word is manifesto. I would love for you who are in that place right now to write your manifesto.

Write down, “What is it that you are passionate about? What hill would you stand on and die for if it were your cause?” Once you have that, then everything under that will fall in place. Mandi already has that. It was unconscious for her to even bring it up because that’s how she is wired, but many of us need to have a starting point, particularly for a community that’s not focused on necessarily building a business.

No matter what, if you’re going to build a community, you need passion, purpose and mission. A manifesto is a great way to convey that. Secondarily, even if it’s a nonprofit, you’re eventually going to have to ask for money because you’re going to have to run this thing. It’s going to have to be able to be self-sustaining because no one has the savings to build an unlimited-size tribe forever. All of these lessons are very important, but I would start with the manifesto. What do you think, Mandi?

I completely agree with that. I’ll talk about the manifesto in a second because I definitely have one myself. There’s something to be said about that when I was talking about up-leveling. I don’t think that every tribe you have has to be monetized by someone paying money. It could be a way that you’re giving back like I was sharing with one we have with our partners that was a way that we’re giving back. It has a long-term game of being monetized. In that way, we know that we can invest our time and energy into it in a way that it’s worth people showing up for.

Back to the manifesto, the manifesto is fantastic. It’s something that is good to revisit and up-level. As we are continuing to grow and develop, we want to keep pushing the edges of that. When we were talking about me, embodying the Hands-Off CEO, what that means year-to-year is going to be a little bit different. What that meant when our company was at $200,000 a year is very different than what it looks like as a seven-figure company because we have different resources. I’ve changed. My vision is changing. It’s constantly expanding. That manifesto was a great tool to be able to bring it to life.

What I would also encourage your readers to do is to think way bigger. Write it down and then go way bigger to the point where it scares you and you want to lean over to the garbage can and throw up. If your manifesto doesn’t scare you a little bit, you need to go back to the drawing table and make it a little bit bigger.

Like Mandi said, if you haven’t gotten that feeling of wanting to find a garbage can quickly, then you’re not thinking big enough. Another element of this is not just running a tribe day-to-day but projecting the future. It’s a very big and important point. You have two futures to think about. I want you to tell me about them both. One, what is the future of your tribe? Two, what is the future of your company? I would love to find out how those two futures seem to meld together at some point if they do.

TTB Mandi | Tribes Of Specialists
Tribes Of Specialists: If you want to set the culture and intention that your clients are successful in any market condition, you’ve got to own that and be that. That’s fully embodying the movement that you’re creating.


They go hand-in-hand with the business that we’ve chosen to create. I can’t imagine running our company now without a tribe. I remember when I started it, I was scared and terrified to be able to do it because I knew what it would take of me personally to be able to create that container. It’s vulnerable. The future of the tribe is I see it continuing to scale and grow. The twenty people that are in there now, we have different levels of the tribe that we’re growing into. They’re going to be more of our tribe leaders and elite people within that. They will continue to get a different support level because they’re going to be supporting us in building the tribe.

That will continue to grow. We’ve been selling one thing for a long time because that’s the fastest way to be able to create a seven-figure company is to sell one big thing over and over again. Build your systems clean for that. We’ve done that. We’ve been very successful doing that. We’re also expanding out to allowing some of our systems to go to a market that isn’t quite ready for what we do yet.

If your manifesto doesn't scare you a little bit, you need to go back to the drawing table and make it a little bit bigger. Click To Tweet

They’re not yet at the place where they’re ready to scale a multimillion-dollar company. They need to be able to increase their prices and get to a $50,000 offer first. We’re going to be building a tribe for them, which is separate from our other tribe. It has to be because there might be some mixing, maybe at an in-person event, but you can’t do too much mixing of that because then, it devalues your whole tribe of what you’re building.

It also means that there are two purposes on the table at the same time to the same person. A confused mind does not take action. That’s a brilliant strategy. Mandi, we’ve covered so much ground here. This turned out to be a fantastic and even a better interview than the first one we had. We went deeper into some of the topics we did talk about in a more meaningful way. First of all, you have a fantastic tool that others can have for free. Include your company URL when you tell us about that as well.

For those who are interested more in our message and how to scale to a $1 million consulting company or service company that can run without you, you can go to HandsOffCEO.com/Roadmap. This is The Ultimate Roadmap To Scaling Your Consulting Agency and how to get out of the day-to-day, be able to double your current pricing and ways to find five simple ways to be able to finance your growth without diminishing quality.

I suggest that readers go there and grab hold of that. Mandi, if somebody wants to connect with you directly, how would they do that?

If they want to connect with me personally, you can go to [email protected]. My team is the one who manages that email, but I’ll get it eventually. I would love to hear any comments that we have and any insights. If you want to have an opportunity to connect with me deeper, if you download that roadmap on the next page, it will give you an opportunity to come to one of our executive briefings. That’s a small group of people where I ask about your business and get some ideas about what you’re doing. You can see the whole process for how to scale a consulting agency. That’s a good way if you want to have an interaction with me more intimate.

That’s an absolutely incredible offer and I hope that everybody takes advantage of that. I don’t see why you wouldn’t. Mandi, thank you again so much. It was a pleasure. I can’t wait until we get a chance to talk again soon.

Thanks so much for having me, Mitch.

It’s my pleasure.

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