Episode #297: Tero Isokauppila – CEO Of Four Sigmatic: Principled Based Leadership

Tero Isokauppila is the founder of Four Sigmatic, a nature-centric Finnish- American company specializing in functional mushrooms, superfoods, and adaptogens. Tero’s roots are in Finland, where he grew up foraging for mushrooms and other wild foods on his family’s farm. He later earned a degree in Chemistry, Business, and a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition at Cornell University. In 2012, Tero founded Four Sigmatic with the dream of bringing a little Everyday Magic™ to the lives of all.

An expert in all things related to mushrooms and natural health, Tero is the author of two books: Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Adaptogenic Mushrooms for Whole Body Health, his first book from Avery Publishing, and this Fall’s Santa Sold Shrooms, the untold story of Saint Nicholas.

Tero was chosen as one of the world’s Top 50 Food Activists by the Academy of Culinary Nutrition and has appeared in Time, Forbes, BuzzFeed, Vogue, Playboy, Harper’s Bazaar, and Bon Appétit. He is also a sought-after speaker, having been featured at Summit Series, Wanderlust, WME-IMG, and the Fast Company Innovation Festival.

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“It all comes down to value generation.  If you want to generate value, you have to see what others don’t yet see.”

Show Notes:

  • Commonalities of sustaining excellence:
    • “They love what they do” — Love the process.  The work
    • Humility/Excitement to learn — they know things will change and they must adjust
    • Listen more than you talk.
    • Curiosity — The Dalai Lama exemplifies this very well.
    • Able to adjust — Madonna is a prime example of being able to adjust and reinvent herself
  • How being a 13th generation farmer from Finland helped set the course for Tero’s life — “I have domain knowledge.”
  • Finnish people consume more coffee per capita than anyone in the world
  • The idea of putting mushrooms in coffee came because of this
  • Super foods help with:
    • Hormonal response
    • Gut health
    • Immune system
  • Four Sigmatic is a company built with super foods
  • The beginning — “It all comes down to value generation.  If you want to generate value, you have to see what others don’t yet see.”
  • Culture — “You need to rally around people who believe in the mission.”
  • Find believers and sponsors as your first employees — his founding team were former teammates
    • Get to know you team deeply — how they think, feel, act, what motivates them
    • Currently they have a fully distributed team of 37 people
  • The hiring process and qualities they look for.  Four lenses:
    • Can they do they job? — Skills
    • How will they fit in our culture? — Fundamentals
    • What do they cost? — Financially and emotionally
    • What is their growth potential?
    • They must be “extra good” at communication – written and verbal.  How do they write emails?  Must be extra organized.
  • “Culture exists whether you want or not.  It is what it is.”
  • Their principles:
    • S – Stay healthy, eat well, exercise
    • W – We are us, not them
    • A – Always carry product
    • R – Results with freedom — KPI
    • M – Make it grow, let it go
  • Examples of innovation
    • Their marketing budget spent advertising on podcasts ($250,000)
    • “Take conscious bets, if you fail, learn.  You won’t succeed without it.”
    • Tero saw that podcast advertising was underrated and made a bet that worked
    • 2 Rules for podcast ads: “You have to say whatever you want as the host.” “You must be who you are. Authentic self. Be you.”
  • Perspective from living all over the world?
    • Different cultures show you humanity.  Gives you ideas.
  • Lean management – Six Sigma
    • Japanese, no waste, always continue learning
    • Get ideas from different parts of the world
    • Learn from other cultures
  • Finnish Army forces a lot of discomfort.  It’s valuable.  You struggle and need to bounce back.
  • Tactical takeaways:
    • “You don’t need to travel if you can’t afford it.  Meet people in different social settings near where you live.”
    • Volunteer
    • Work with inner city or disabled people
  • “Santa sold shrooms”
    • St. Nicholas was Turkish
      • Semi-nomadic reindeer herders, indigenous cultures.  In the winter solstice, Santa served people mushrooms
  • Misconceptions about mushrooms?  People confusing what they do at Four Sigmatic with psychedelics:
    • “You can’t ignore that. Embrace it, don’t fight it.”
  • What’s next?
    • Don’t use arbitrary numbers to measure yourself… Ask questions like:
      • Are we having fun?
      • Are we learning?
      • How can we deliver value?
  • Best advice — When you’re the leader and you have the map, and things are going bad, your team will remember YOUR ENERGY in that moment.
  • End of the podcast club: @RyanHawk12 & @FourSigmatic — Tweet us what you learned and Tero will send two lucky people $100 worth of product
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document

“Take conscious bets.  If you fail, learn. You won’t succeed without it.”

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Episode 234: Jocko Willink — Why Discipline Equals Freedom