Dr. Stephie's Bio
Dr. Stephie Althouse (“Dr. Stephie”) has 20+ years of experience in C-level leadership, a Ph.D. in science (chemistry), and a strong analytical mind. She brings a rare combination of business and technical expertise to her clients.
She is an authority on guiding companies and people to grow revenues and business value. She earns the trust and collaboration of top leaders and their teams. She has the unique ability to grasp which areas are working, which ones are not, and which ones need optimization. Her fresh eyes reveal new opportunities and overlooked challenges with astonishing speed. Her clients thrive in Super Change.
Dr. Stephie has a proven process for taking advantage of the organization's expertise and operational knowledge in a new way. The process is Brilliance Extraction.
She is the author of 2 books, “101 Quick Tips for High-Talent Companies” and “101 Quick Tips for ESOP Leaders.”
- Moved a company from extensive losses to $1.5M profits in 6 months - 30% per year growth since then
- Raised annual revenues by 41% during the worst economy of recent times
- Created growth and a succession strategy via capturing and streamlining the business processes
- Enabled a smooth succession of the CEO role
- Established systems for contract bidding and for hiring new employees - saving millions
- Saved a company by reshaping the team’s roles and functions
People are sometimes surprised to learn that I started out my career as a Ph.D. chemist, scientist, and innovator.
"How did you go from that to what you are doing now?" they ask. Here is my story.
"Made in Germany"
I was born in Germany and grew up there. I went to the Philipps University in Marburg and began studying chemistry. When I was almost 23 years old, I finally got to realize my dream to live in another country for 9 months while continuing my chemistry studies. I chose Knoxville, Tennessee. This turned out to be a life-changing choice.
The Microbrew Option
I ended up staying longer than planned and earned my Ph.D. in chemistry in Knoxville. I turned down an offer to return to Germany and work with one of the top professors there. That is because I realized that I liked it much better where I was. I decided I could build a name for myself, rather than relying on a "big name rubbing off" on me.
It was a defining decision. A close friend helped me think it through over a meal of hot chicken wings and cold beer. He pointed to the well-known label of a bottle of beer. He suggested that I had to decide whether to associate myself with a well-recognized brand or be like a great but unknown microbrew.
With the microbrew option, people would have to take a taste to see whether they liked it. I decided right then and there to live my life as that microbrew. I have never regretted it. I did - and still do - the things I want and feel driven to do, and I serve those who are attracted to my work and philosophy.
Making a Difference Through Research
After graduating with my Ph.D., I worked as a postdoctoral fellow. My plan was to become a professor at a major research university. I always saw basic research and applied research & development (R&D) as equally important. Basic research forms the pool of knowledge we use to create applications that make a difference in our daily lives.
After three years, I decided to leave academia and take a job as a researcher in a small but rapidly growing R&D company in San Diego, California. Our focus was on detecting explosives for aviation security and landmine detection. We also invented other novel detection methods, e.g., for nondestructive inspection of composites.
Soon after joining the company, I began to write my own grant applications and attracted my own grant monies. I became a group leader heading up my own research area.
Working with DARPA, this work led me to Bosnia in 1999, to test and demonstrate our novel landmine detector there. This technology became an important contributor to solving the landmine problem.
My team and I were blessed to receive some nice recognitions.
- MIT Technology Review Magazine recognized me as 1 of the 100 most promising young innovators under the age of 35.
- We also won two "Small Business Innovative Research Research (SBIR) Awards" as well.
By the way, I did this work under my maiden name, Vierkotter.
Being a Sponge Like Thomas Edison?!?
It didn't take long before I realized for our work to make a difference we needed to do more than solve tough problems in detection technology, physics, and hardware design. We needed to become much better in understanding what it takes to commercialize our innovative technologies and products. I wanted our innovations to make a tangible difference in the world.
I pulled up my sleeves and began to learn about business, marketing, and leadership. I absorbed this knowledge and applied it to the innovations my research group was developing.
For many years, I have told people, "My middle name is 'Sponge'". It is because I'm so curious to learn new things. My Dad told me that Thomas Edison compared himself to a sponge, too (first, in fact).
Being a "sponge" caused me to study chemistry. It was the reason I came to the U.S. It drove me to learn about business, leadership, and the commercialization of innovations and visions. It got me intrigued about what drives human behavior and how we can get what we want.
I realize I've become the middleman between expertise and that expertise having more impact now and in the future.
Taking the Leap to Becoming an Entrepreneur
In 2005, to the shock of my colleagues, I quit my job as a scientist and started my own company. Initially, I consulted exclusively with high-tech companies. My work was at the interface of technology development and business development.
Less than 3 years later, I found myself leading a client's high-tech company. This business consisted of very smart, tech-savvy professionals. Yet, the company was in serious financial trouble. Working with my team, we raised revenues by 41% in the first year. This happened at a time when the economy was hurting badly.
One turnaround turned into several. Soon after, the term Visiting CEO™ began to describe my role in returning companies to profitability.
I was asked to write a book on how I was able to turn around companies. Together with my dear friend and mentor June Davidson, I wrote "101 Quick Tips for High-Talent Companies". It is a practical guide from which just about any business can benefit.
Top-Notch CEO and Our Academy Was Born
While I was writing my first book, I also went through a year-long training to become a certified executive coach. I learned to ask a lot more questions and focus even more on extracting the wisdom from the clients I was helping rather than providing my solutions. Coaching Firm International and my company are part of the Institute of Coaching which is affiliated with McLean, Harvard Medical School.
This training led to me becoming a powerful amalgamation of coach and consultant. I'm acting as a thinking partner to the CEOs, business owners, and executives I work with. When necessary, we brainstorm and I bring in ideas based on my extensive experience.
Over time, I expanded beyond the high-tech sector, and I worked with companies in various industries. I found that many companies are founded and run by subject matter experts (SMEs). This phenomenon is common in many industries, not only in the high-tech sector. As a result, leaders and managers often are on their own to figure out how to be effective at leading or managing.
This recognition led to my founding Top-Notch CEO Academy. The Academy provides leadership and business training to business owners who began their careers as SMEs. That was only the beginning of what the Academy is about today...
Fostering Employee-Ownership Becomes a Passion
Suddenly, I was referred to the CEO of a company that was in the process of becoming an employee-owned/ ESOP company (ESOP means Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Initially, I knew nothing about it. However, it didn't take long for me to fall in love with the concept. Employee-owned companies have the opportunity to outshine non-employee owned companies in the same industry. What is needed is to train employees in the mindset of being an employee-owner. The existing leadership also needs to learn how to involve, and engage the other employee-owners, resulting in a successful culture and leadership.
My work with employee-owned companies prompted me to write a second business book called "101 Quick Tips for ESOP Leaders". I joined the National Council for Employee Ownership (NCEO) and the ESOP Association, and I am a frequent speaker at conferences of both organizations. Eventually, this work led to creating a website focused on what we do with employee-owned companies.
The Brilliance Extraction System Changed Everything
Oftentimes it takes another person to see what you are really good at. My friends Robert and Irene Donnell from P5 Marketing pointed out to me that I am often extracting the smarts out of someone's head and help them make it tangible to the point where they themselves see it more clearly AND it can be passed on to others. We named it Brilliance Extraction.
Over time, it turned out that I was onto something. Intangible expertise in someone's head became tangible, expressed more simply, trainable, transferrable - in other words, much more valuable.
The Brilliance Extraction System made it possible for business owners to onboard new team members and train their existing team efficiently. Processes get improved, delegation becomes so much easier. The resulting systems enable fast growth and scaling up of operations.
Other applications were educating prospects and customers, thereby driving up sales. Also, expertise previously shared in person can be delivered online, via Do-It-Yourself or facilitated courses.
We help clients do all of the above, leading to company manuals, checklists, eBooks, courses, and company academies.
With all of that, not only the income but also the value of the business goes up.
Consequently, the Brilliance Extraction System became recognized as a vital tool for preparing for a successful business exit/sale.
Giving Back with STEMVIP.org
This project started innocently enough. As part of the course I was taking with Landmark International, I created a project called STEMVIP.org.
The goal of the project was to connect STEM students to a wide variety of seasoned professionals with STEM degrees with careers in academia, business, and government. The main idea was to expose students to the vast array of career choices. VIP means “Vision Into (career/life) Possibilities”.
The reason behind this project was /is this: In my experience, graduate schools do a great job teaching students in their main subject, e.g., a given STEM field. Yet, students end up with little information about career and life opportunities. Goal setting and networking skills are also often ignored.
I handpicked an array of seasoned STEM professionals. I invited each of them to become a STEM VIP mentor by sharing their career experiences during a 60-minute video conference session. We held a total of 12 video conference sessions with typically two mentors plus myself.
The mentors were excited to make a difference with this next generation of STEM professionals. I know how long it took me to get the kind of insight we gave the STEMVIP students in only 12 weekly sessions.
The program was very well received with nearly 100 students participating. We got very positive feedback, and we were asked whether/when we will do this again. I have this on my list of projects to systemize such that it can be an ongoing offering for STEM students.
A "Final" Thought: What is True Wealth and Success?
What is wealth? And what is success?
Of course, everyone has their own answer. To me, wealth certainly includes money. Yet, it certainly is only one of three factors, as you can see in the graphic here. I describe it as a three-legged stool.
Making a difference with our work - whether paid or not - is also critical. And if we don't get to enjoy life it is out of balance, too. Paying attention to our health is part of that as well because without good health joyful living is challenging.
Over the years, I have developed many tools that help me and others to create and maintain this success or true wealth stool.
- Purpose mapping and purpose quadrants - replaces to-do lists with a tool that supports dynamic work-life harmony (which I think is a much more fitting term than work-life balance)
- The Top-Notch CEO Success System - regardless of whether you are a CEO in the traditional sense of the word, I submit that we all are invited to be the CEO of our business/career and our life
- The Brilliance Extraction System - it allows you to leverage your expertise in a whole new way, free you up for creating new ideas and visions, stay on the cutting edge, and leave a legacy!
Last but not least, I wrote a book called "Moms Never Sleep" and I created a video course about this topic as well. It stems from my inquiry about how we can be "successful" as moms and professionals. I actually have not released this book or course as yet - but I have leveraged the thoughts, tools, and techniques to help many clients of either gender.
Feedback & Reviews
Here are some examples of what others have said about working with me.