How Fearless Leaders Face Losing Their Customers, Cash Flow, and Income

This article is for small business owners, leaders, and anyone who's facing fear and uncertainty about their future. Everything I'm about to share comes from the heart based on decades of leadership experience through some of the toughest times we've faced as a nation. The good news is, we'll get through this by following courageous and virtuous leaders like my father and millions of others.

When I was only 13, I watched what happened when my father lost almost all of his hotel and restaurant customers, his cash flow, the ability to service the small mountain of debt he and his partners used to develop the Shangri-La Motor Inn into Brickyard Mountain Inn in 1974. It was the first economic disaster I'd face, but not the last, during my lifetime.

Since then, I've built and sold two small service businesses. I've lost it all following a financial, mental health, and business meltdown in 2002. Everything I learned from my parents came in handy, but it was the transformation of my head, heart, and soul that really mattered for me as a leader.

Being Fearless Leaders

How do fearless leaders face losing everything we worked our butts off to build? We practice by being on the front line and learning to be better leaders each and every day. We learn to more self-aware, mindful, and to practice better habits as we grow wiser.

If you're like my father and mother, you do your best not to "alarm the children" or others who follow you during tough times. We have to "dig deep" and be strong. It's a mindset thing.

If you're a business owner or leader or anyone who's taking a massive financial hit during the COVID-19 storm, know this; kids, humans, we feel everything. So when disaster hits any business, community, or home, there are several essential lessons for leaders during tough times. We all have a choice in how we work through anything challenging, especially the unexpected.

Oil Embargo, Perfect Storm

After the OPEC oil embargo wiped out my dad's hotel, my younger sister, brother, and I got to watch our parents reinvent themselves. Yes, they were broke. It was 1974 and I'm not quite sure how dad pulled off starting Old Mill Properties in Meredith, New Hampshire. But he did, and I'll never forget our mother teaching us how to do our own laundry because "Mother is getting her real estate license so she can help your father build the new residential real estate business."

The first thing I did after my father died was conjuring up a heart-healing, cross-country motorcycle trip all the way from Scottsdale, Arizona to Laconia, New Hampshire. Next to Laconia lies Meredith, and that's where I go to roll by and see dad and mom's first office building they built. The gravel parking lot was the same, but the building itself, an A-framed wood structure suited for New England winters looked much smaller than I recall as a boy.

I cried when I saw the Old Mill property signs planted on the summer lawns all around the Lakes Region where I grew up. I am eternally grateful to my parents for teaching me how to be a better leader. If only I had learned these lessons sooner!

My father had this logo designed in 1974.

Being A Virtuous Leader During Tough Times

If you're a business owner or leader who's facing hard times right now, I hope what you're about to read will help you.

If you're beating yourself up during this, just like I once did, please read and do your best to practice all of the suggestions I offer.

I'm the guy who got sent to anger management classes once upon a time because I got so out of my mind when the business of life overwhelmed me. Talk about a humbling experience as a younger leader, husband, and dad.

Nothing is more important than our "Inner Game" and mindset as leaders. What you see on the outside is merely a reflection of what lives within your head, heart, and soul. The good news is, humans can change the mindset any time we are willing to do what it takes to change from the inside out.

Practice any of my suggestions as you're willing. If you're like me, and you give the "Inner Game" enough attention and time, you will be a better leader.

  1. Give fear no counsel. You must be very intentional facing fear. Talk to it and tell it to move on since you're busy working on your "Inner Game." If this sounds stupid, give it a chance. I'm sharing the keys to your subconscious mind.
  2. Take a bold stand as a leader. The mark of every leader is the people who follow us. I have tens of thousands of people who follow me online, but I don't know them like I know and love my family, friends, neighbors, including the ones who wake up the old people in our neighborhood late at night while we sleep. Think only of the people who follow you and how to smile, and stand strong so they also have the courage to move forward.
  3. Practice acceptance. If you're a control freak like I used to be, it's time to practice acceptance and let go, or detach, from what only an insane person would think they can control. Accept what is, learn to adapt.
  4. Practice stillness. Billions of people are suddenly stuck at home trying to figure out what's happening around us with COVID-19. We're struggling to adapt and get along with the people we love the most. Now, more than ever, it's essential for us as leaders to find stillness, peace, gratitude, and comfort in our hearts. Yes, it's okay to feel fear, but when you talk to it and replace it with calm, steadfastness, people will feel your strength even if they don't have it themselves. Practice as best you can to sit still, journal, contemplate, pray, and learn other habits that give you and those around you inner peace.
  5. Be virtuous. Virtues are the qualities of character that for all great leaders; Courage, temperance, charity, friendliness, truthfulness, justice or fairness, compassion, radiance, or "joie de vivre" and everything you would read that aligns with the virtues taught by our earliest leaders such as Plato and Aristotle, and Virtue ethics.
  6. Be kinder, more compassionate. We live in a world where selfishness is ripping us apart. The bottom line is the best leaders in the world stand in the middle and find ways to bring people together. Let go of biases, blind spots, and extreme beliefs. Find solutions to problems. Be willing to compromise for the common good. If you're a narcissist, please get help. People like you are the best teachers of acceptance.
  7. Share. Fear breeds greed and hoarding. That's why we see people hitting each other over the head with liquor bottles at big box stores. People, get a grip. Turn off the mainstream media. They simply work to put you in fear. Screw them. Tune their crappy programming out and fill your head, heart, and soul with sharing, giving, and living on purpose without being a selfish jerk. Simple, not easy.
  8. Believe. Never stop believing in the power to see, feel, and trust your way to a way to get through today, just today, for now. Practice this "Inner Game" stuff and watch what happens when you find the power to trust something bigger than all of us. When we crash and burn, we get up from the ashes like all great leaders, and we reinvent ourselves, adapt, and do what it takes.

The Power of Gratitude is Great

I'm grateful for everything now that I've weathered more than one storm. Stormy weather isn't as scary when you've lived a rich life, starting more than one business while raising a family. Looking back on my failures, nothing seems to daunt me like it used to. Trust me when I tell you that during the darkest of times on Earth, we look to the elders for peace, wisdom, and comfort. Now is no different.

If you're like most leaders who take a big hit, you'll face tremendous fear, self-doubt, maybe even shame, and guilt. That's because if you're like me and others who put it all on the line to start businesses with the intention of building companies and providing many jobs, you are the hardest on yourself. That's part of the "Inner Game" of the peak leadership mindset I coach and teach. I learned what I teach from my elders, and coaches, the people who teach me.

When we do all of these things and more as virtuous leaders, we set the tone for goodness. Evil, bad stuff, is simply the temporary absence of goodness.

Be goodness today. Be a great leader people will be inspired to follow, and the world will be a better place.

I always appreciate your comments and questions. If you'd like to connect with me, click here.

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One comment on “How Fearless Leaders Face Losing Their Customers, Cash Flow, and Income”

  1. Wise words Cliff. I, too, have weathered a few storms. Some were my own making and others fell from the sky. After pulling my firm through 9/11 and the Great Recession, I am remarkably calm about where we are today. Be good and you’ll be good.

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