The year was 1973, and life was good:
- I had just graduated with honors from our local state university after only three years at the age of 20.
- I had just concluded serving as the President of Student Government (PSG) at a university of over 4,000 students.
- During that academic year, I helped my fraternity win both the Scholarship and Intramural Sports trophies.
- I was waiting to hear about my acceptance to law school.
- I became engaged with my future wife with plans to wed in January 1974.
Life was very good!
Life Changing Event
Life was indeed, good – until one late summer evening when I was playing goalie in a game of Foosball with my college buddies, and one of my friends came up to me and said, “Bobby, we just got a call, and they said your dad has had a heart attack. They said they have taken him to the emergency room.”
My friends hopped in the car with me, and we rushed to the emergency room. When I entered those double doors with my friends behind me, my mom was seated in a chair to my left, and upon seeing me, she quickly got up. About that time, our long-time friend and family doctor came up to both of us, and softly said, “I could not save him”.
My mom and I were speechless! We were absolutely stunned! We were so shocked that neither one of us displayed any emotion. I just felt all my energy had been completely drained from me. My mind kept telling me that this was not true. It was just a bad dream, and I was going to wake up and everything going to be OK.
New Leader for Family Business
Reality began to sink and, and I realized that I would be the new leader of our small family business with only five employees.
One of the first things I did was pay a visit to my father’s three bankers. I knew each of these men, having been around them since I was a little boy. When I paid them a visit, I was in for another shock. I discovered we were $70,000 in debt and our total gross revenue was less than $90,000. Not good.
Financially, we were way upside down! Two of the bankers wanted to shut us down and sell the assets to pay off the debt. It was easy to see why:
- They held only one old small moving van/trailer as collateral.
- They were looking at the very young, 20-year-old son who had never run a business before.
- Our business was so upside down that the chances of us ever pulling out of this financial crisis were slim to none.
- They knew from experience that when a son (or any second-generation family member) takes over the business that the likelihood of success is remote at best.
- They feared that my motivations for wanting to give it a try were for only sentimental (emotional) reasons and not reasonable or prudent.
To my surprise, one of the bankers who understood all the reasons why they should not give me a chance somehow convinced the other two bankers to give me a chance. However, they would not loan me any more money, and I would have to use the cash from the business to pay down the debt, pay operating expenses, and make enough to live on. Yikes!
The Challenge of Leadership
Immediately, I jumped in with both feet, investing all my time and effort, devoting all of my ability, energy, and might to build the business. I worked seven days a week for several years. It was obvious we needed more revenue, and that was my main focus. I had to scrape and scrape and scrape to make it work. My wife still reminds me today that our weekly food budget was $20.
The rest of 1973 and on into 1974, I worked harder and harder IN the business. I was focused on the tactical action steps required to meet the daily and weekly needs of the business.
Over the years, I have seen a similar pattern as I’ve mentored struggling leaders, departmental and divisional managers, owners, presidents, CEOs, and other C-Level executives. I’ve found that 85% of them are working harder and harder IN the business driving for results like I once did. They’re focused on the daily, weekly, and in some cases, monthly tactical action steps.
Eventually, I discovered a better way to spend my time that helped me, along with my team, build a highly successful business of over 150 employees. Stay tuned for more details on this better way to lead!
Have you ever been in a season of your life were everything was going well, and then suddenly, your world collapsed? Are you becoming worn out working harder and harder and feeling you are barely treading water? Have you reached a point where you are open to a change? Please leave a comment <here> and share this article with a friend or co-worker.
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CEO of The John Maxwell Company
You can learn more about Principled Profits – Outward Success Is an Inside Job at http://principledprofitsbook.com.