Behind every great exit: Traci Austin knows the team side of a business

Plus, how to plan your next soul-satisfying adventure with purpose


The day after, you can hardly believe it really happened.

But when you log into your business bank account, there it is. The big, fat wire transfer from the PE firm that just acquired your startup. 

All your hard work, all those TUMS you chewed, all those tears and all the learning and sweat and stretching outside your comfort zone… it all paid off.

Now you’ve had the payday of your life. But you’re not done yet. This wasn’t an exit, just an acquisition. 

Now, you enter a whole new phase. 

Starting out, it was just you and your idea. As your business grew, you grew your team. Slowly, carefully. It felt scary bringing these people onboard - people with gifts and talents you don’t have, people who’d become accustomed to being paid. 

But you did it. And it worked. Somehow, you cobbled together the team that helped you get your business to this point, to this surreal day.

And now, the first order of business is growing the team. The PE folks agree. The money is earmarked. You have your marching orders.

So… whaddya do now?

You call Traci Austin at Elevated Talent Consulting.

She’ll get you. She’s worked with other businesses just like yours, freshly cash-flush and ready to add more talent. For the past 20 years or so, Traci has built HR departments from nothing. Six years ago, she went out on her own.

Traci’s identified four levers you’ll need to pull to build the team that takes your business to the next level.

She reminds you of something you remember hearing about from other entrepreneurs who’ve had a PE acquisition:

Money amplifies everything. 

Like the meme… Drink coffee! Do stupid things faster and with more energy!

Same, same. Kinda. 

If you’re headed in the wrong direction, the last thing you want to do is go pedal to the metal. Better to be intentional. Get your HR sorted. Then grow like gangbusters.

In this week’s edition of Entrepreneurs Gone Wild, you’ll meet Traci and hear about these magical levers. Plus, she’s just back from a bucket list trip to Iceland. When we spoke, she laid out the most wonderful framework for planning an adventure - and you’ll get that, too. After all, if you don’t plan for time off to go have life-enriching experiences that build lifelong memories… well, that stuff just doesn’t plan itself.

But first…

Our favorite wizard - you know, the one who turns emails into monies - just showed how he built his paid newsletter. Check it out!

Now, where were we?

Wisconsin, actually. 

Hiking with two fluffy Newfies. That’s where Traci does her best thinking. Well, there or on one of her summer evening pontoon boat rides. But it’s February now, too cold to be on the water. 

It was on walks like this where all the pieces of the plan to build Elevated Talent Consulting came together in Traci’s brain. She took the raw ingredients of her plan into the kitchen to work them in her brain. Her kitchen is her canvas. 

Up until that day, she’d built HR departments from the ground up. Not once. Not twice. But multiple times. Traci had gotten her reps in, in different verticals and for different sized companies. She’d even rolled up her sleeves and handled the tactical side of HR, so she’d know that part, too. She worked with non-profits for a decade, then shifted into long-term care, took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and got her nursing home administrator license, and then went into consulting. People are her business.

As she says, if you don’t know exactly what you want, you’re going to end up doing what someone else wants for you. It may or may not be a match. And if not, work is going to feel like a “have to” rather than a “want to.”

Traci wanted to help businesses with their people. That wasn’t going to change. But what if she used all this HR know-how in a business of her own?

Of course, when you work for a corporation, it’s not like you can just take HR side gigs. (Hello, conflict of interest!) You’ve got to choose and move.

So, she did.


If you don't know exactly what you want you're going to end up doing what someone else wants for you and it's not going to be a want match which means you're going to be at the half two curve.

Traci has built her own team at Elevated Talent Consulting - and it’s a beauty. Nobody knows the importance of bringing on team members with complementary work styles and strengths better than she does. 

They use the Predictive Index tool to help them win at the matching game, using the power of science.

As Traci says, “Every single person is created perfectly the way they are. They’re not created perfectly for every job or culture.” It’s crucial to understand and iron this stuff out as we build our teams.

(Many of us are more familiar with the Kolbe or DISC, but they’re all similar. Highly recommended to find an assessment you vibe with and will use in your business. I’m a Quick Start (Kolbe)... which is why this newsletter exists - and actually, come to think of it, how Idyllwild Woods Retreat Center got started.)


It’s like old Archimedes said, "Yo, give me a stick that's like, crazy long, and a solid spot to prop it, and watch me hustle to relocate the whole dang planet!"

Traci says there are four levers that matter in the business of people. You’ll want to get them all doing the heavy lifting in your world.

The four levers help solve for the gap between the “have to” and “want to” curve. You’ve seen this play out before. You’ve had that employee who’s just showing up because they have to be there. There’s no enthusiasm, no discretionary effort. They’ll do the bare minimum to keep their job. 

You’ve also seen the opposite. The employee who is so bought in on your mission and people and the work before them that they practically want your goals more than you do.

Each lever asks an important question:

Lever #1: Am I in the right role based on my natural behaviors and cognitive ability?

Lever #2: Am I being led the way I need to be? Or, is someone leading me the way they need to be led (or they way they’ve been led in the past)?

Lever #3: Are my teams aligned together to execute on our strategy?

Lever #4: Do my personal mission, vision, and values line up with the organization’s mission, vision, and values?

When any of these levers is wonky, you’ll know it. Your people will be crispy at work rather than performing at their best.

This stuff’s not just for your team - it’s incredibly important to consider if you’re looking for a co-founder. You want someone whose strengths are the opposite of yours… but you also need to know that that core difference is going to drive both of you batty at times. You’ll need to figure out how to work with your differences. Open, honest communication is crucial for you to both operate in your zone of genius, in ease and flow. 

The minute PE backs your business, you jump tracks. Now, things grow really, really fast. That’s why founders seek Traci’s help. She serves in a few ways.

In her consulting program, you learn how to hire the right person for the job. You’ll look at: 

  • Your employee value proposition

  • Your job descriptions and job assessments

  • Your onboarding process

  • How you build career laddering in

  • How you engage your staff

  • Working with the Entrepreneurial Operating System (or similar if you’re already into one)

There are templates a-plenty in both the 6-month and year-long program tracks. Traci can serve as your fractional Chief People Officer. She’s like the HR expert in your back pocket.

The best fit is if your organization is between 30-80 people.

And if your org (and budget) is a bit smaller, there’s an eight-week training program that’ll give you the nuts and bolts. But if you’re imagining your last Ikea project, don’t start sweating. There are live implementation calls, and you can always hire her team to help with some of the tasks.

Traci’s also got a great podcast called the People Strategy Podcast.


If all that sounds like a lot to lead, you’re right! 

Good thing Traci knows the signs of when she’s starting to feel a little crispy herself.

She recently returned from a bucket list kind of trip… to Iceland. You’ll learn more about how she chose that destination for her first solo travel adventure in the next article.

But she doesn’t just wait for BIG adventures. For the past 12 years, she’s taken her kids with her on a mission to visit all 48 states of the contiguous U.S. They’ve hit all but three, and they’ve visited many of the national parks.

They don’t travel like tourists, though. Traci makes a point of asking locals for their intel. What’s the best hike? What’s the best watering hole? Where should we go for dinner that’s owned by someone in the community who’s been here for generations?

With a junior and a senior in high school, Traci’s got cool travel plans for their last summer all together. They’ll take a flight to Vegas, visit seven national parks, and fly home from Denver. And then… she’ll take her son to college, where he’ll study to be a pilot.

Traci’s built a business and a life she loves. She’s done it with intent. It’s working. She’s passed her love for all of it on to her kids. And that’s really what it’s all about.

If you visit her website, you’ll find tons of resources you’ll find helpful. There’s a Predictive Index Assessment, a free strategy roadmap webinar, and of course, the podcast.

Some parting words from Traci:

We're all given 24 hours a day. And if we don't choose it, it chooses us.


In a world where the days blend into a relentless cycle of tasks, Traci Austin reminds us of the profound value in breaking away—purposefully. 

Her solo voyage to Iceland wasn't just a trip. It was a pilgrimage towards adventure, connection, expansion, and beauty. These weren't arbitrary choices but signposts guiding her journey, and they can guide yours too.

Why Iceland, you might ask? 

For Traci, it ticked all the boxes: English-speaking, safe, and ripe for exploration. But beyond the practicalities lay a deeper allure—the call of the wild, of volcanoes and oceans, and perhaps, a glimpse of the elusive Northern lights. 

Although the lights remained a dream, the journey itself illuminated something within Traci: a sense of self-reliance, discovery, and the sheer exhilaration of stepping into the unknown.

Iceland's landscapes were a canvas, but the real artistry was in Traci's method of choosing her destination. 

Traci's journey to Iceland was a deliberate dance with her core values: adventure, connection, expansion, and beauty. This trip wasn’t about checking off a list of tourist hotspots. It was a deeper, more personal quest.

Adventure for Traci transcends mere travel. It's an invitation to stretch beyond the familiar, to embrace the unexpected and to grow from it. In Iceland, she wasn’t just a visitor; she was an explorer, charting her own course through stunning landscapes and against the raw force of nature.

Connection on this trip meant more than casual encounters. It was about introspection, finding tranquility in the face of howling ocean winds, and reaffirming her agency in crafting the life she desires. This solitude wasn’t loneliness but a cherished space for reflection.

Beauty in Traci's eyes is a daily pursuit, an essential ingredient in both her environment and her experiences. Iceland, with its breathtaking fjords and volcanic majesty, was a natural choice. But the pursuit of beauty, for her, is as much about curating moments of joy in everyday life as it is about the awe-inspiring vistas of her travels.

Expansion is woven into the fabric of her adventures and her work. Just as she encourages growth in her business and those around her, Traci seeks it for herself, too. This trip was about pushing boundaries, not just geographically but personally and professionally.

Traci's Icelandic adventure is a vivid reminder that living fully aligns with our deepest values. It's a blueprint for blending our work with our passions, for making every day a testament to what truly moves us. Her journey invites us to consider our next destination not just as a place on the map, but as a step towards personal fulfillment and self-discovery.

As you contemplate your next escape, let Traci’s experience in Iceland inspire you. Allow your core values to guide you to a place that resonates with your spirit. Whether it’s the serene chill of the Arctic or the vibrant energy of an urban sprawl, find your version of Iceland. 

In doing so, you might just discover new facets of yourself.

Daffodils are starting to bloom here - stray tufts of grass and dandelions, too. We’ve got a round of young male robins playing in the yard, looking for worms and a nice place to make a nest… if they ever find a girl.

The frogs are singing their early spring chorus, too. Also looking for love in all the muddy places.

Spook and I have had 9 house showings since last Friday. We hear there’s an offer forthcoming. Ahhh, patience.

Meanwhile, we’re checking weather forecasts, looking for the first weekend the nighttime temps are to be above 50. We’ll drive the first load of construction supplies up to Idyllwild Woods and enjoy standing in our new barn for the first time ever. We’ll bring the four dogs and camp out in the barn. Jonesing.

Thinking we might schedule a week there soon and open the barn and land for a small group of folks who’d like to go primitive camping and learn how to run a sawmill. Kind of a homesteader skills staple. If that kind of thing sounds right up your alley and you’d like me to let you know when it’s happening, just reply and say so.


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