Isaac Tolpin is a high-performance culture expert. As a Division Manager in the Pacific Northwest with the Cutco/Vector Marketing sales organization, he built the most successful and highest-performing team in the 70-year history of the company, establishing all-time sales records that haven’t even been approached since. Isaac left the company to establish his own coaching and consulting business, and he continues to guide and inspire entrepreneurs and business leaders to this day. Isaac and his wife Angie now run Courageous Parenting, with the mission of equipping Christian parents with resources to impact their family legacies.


Q: Tell us a little about how you got started selling Cutco with Vector.

  • Like most people who start with Vector, I was going to college and needed some money and I wanted to gain some experience. I had never sold anything before, but I was wired to be entrepreneurial so it was a good fit for me.

Q: And you started in a Branch Office, then eventually moved to a year round office and got to work under the legendary Mark Lovas?

  • Yeah, he was a very important mentor for me in my life.

Q: Tell us about some of your experiences from your Cutco career that you feel like transformed your life, and what were some of the key lessons that came out of those experiences.

  • We have to push ourselves in order to find out our gifts. Some gifts we just know but sometimes if we don’t push ourselves deep out of our comfort zone we don’t discover some of the gifts that can help us have the most meaningful impact on the world or our families or our communities.
  • I discovered when I ran my own Branch office that I had a gift for speaking in from of people.

Q: What other experiences can you look back on during your management career that were real key moments?

  • When I was a Division Manager, our division was selling about $5 million per year, which was good, but wasn’t winning any contests. And I realized that I was the lid to my organization.  I read 30 books one year but I realized that sometimes results lag a little bit.
  • At that time, my wife was pregnant and on bed rest and needed me more than ever, and I had this conflicting idea that I wanted to double what we were selling even though that level of performance had never been done before.
  • I asked myself, “how can I double my business but not work any harder so I can be there for my wife in the way she needs me?”
  • “The Tyranny of the OR vs. the Genius of the AND” -Jim Collins

Q: What is “culture” in your view and why do you think this is a concept that is nebulous for many leaders?

  • Culture is the ethos. It’s the behavior when no one is looking. It’s the unwritten rules.  It’s what actually exists.
  • Its nebulous because people stop talking about it. Also, leaders will often talk about one thing for a few months and then they talk about something different for a few months and they never get the power of momentum to work for them.
  • “Choose growth” was our mantra.

Q: How do you craft a culture-driving statement that’s going to be something that inspires your entire team for a long period of time?

  • You will never talk about what you don’t possess inside of you. So the first thing you need to do is ask yourself, “who am I and what am I about?”  If you don’t start there, you’ll lack the ability to drive it forward and you’ll lack the authenticity to deliver it the right way.

Q: What else goes into the aspects of communication that helps to foster this into the bloodstream of all your people?

  • The next thing to do is think through, “what are the key result areas (KRAs) in my business?” What actually makes a difference?
  • We’re talking about culture creating behavior but what do we want that behavior to impact?
  • Take notes. Write down all the key levers of your business, as many as you possibly can in this process.
  • Then boil it down to the KRAs. What are the 3 to 7 levers that impact as many of those KRAs as possible?
  • A leader can never effectively communicate more than 3 to 7 things.
  • You’re looking for a catalyst or standard that you can bring meaning to.
  • Next you figure out a culture-driving statement that drives that lever that impacts many Key Result Areas.
  • “Multiple leaders proactively leading.”
  • Leaders forget how powerful their words are.

Q: Let’s get into some of the other thoughts you have about what creates a culture that increases performance and results.  How do you create a culture that increases performance?

  • You have to be committed to constantly and persistently sharing your culture-driving statements. You have to embody it.
  • You also have to bring meaning to it.
  • Once you know your levers, you come up with your key statements (one for every lever) and then you need your crucible statement.
    • A crucible is that big pot that metal is melted into in the manufacturing process and it helps to purify the metal.
    • I call it a crucible statement because it’s the purest, cleanest statement that embodies everything you’ve been talking about.

Q: Something I hear you saying is the importance of repetition.

  • Leadership is about that repetition woven into purpose that drives the areas of the business that matter.

Q: What are some of the mistakes that you’ve noticed some leaders make?

  • Thinking you are too good for certain things.  Wrapping your identity into something with your business.
    • Pursue significance.
  • People sacrifice their potential for some really good things.
  • “People rise to the level of responsibility you give them.”
  • “Give respect before it’s earned and people rise up to the level of respect you give them.”

Q: As you look into the future, how do you aspire to change people’s lives through your work or through your influence?

Q: Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with our audience?

  • I think a lot of people settle and they’re focused so narrowly that they don’t see the greater impact they can have.
  • My encouragement is to really do some reflection and ask yourself, “am I using my gifts, my talents, and who I am in the best possible way to have the biggest impact I can have on other human beings?”


  • Pushing to find out our gifts.
  • “The tyranny of the Or” versus “the genius of the And”
  • Culture always exists. It’s the behavior of everyone when no one is looking.
  • Culture-driving statements and the importance of repetition with those statements.
  • Understand your Key Result Areas and what are the 4-7 levers of your business.
  • Give respect to everyone even before it’s earned. We bring new possibility to people’s identity when we treat them as they can be.
  • Am I using my gifts?




Show Notes provided by Carlo Cipollina.

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