As small and independent business owners, we juggle a lot of important balls. If we are not doing all the juggling ourselves, we are leading others who are doing some of the juggling for us. That means that when unexpected family hardship rolls around, if we want to continue in business, we have to find a way to deal with the trauma and without dropping the balls.
But how do you do that? How do you continue to lead your business when unexpected tragedy strikes? Tony and Linda Cole know what that's like, and they joined me to share some tips you can pack away for future use if, God forbid, you ever need them. Tony and Linda are a husband-wife business team and the co-authors of Resurrecting Anthony: A True Story of Courage and Destination (affiliate link). When their son had a sudden heart attack, followed by 90 days in a coma, they nursed him, maintained their marriage and relationship with another child, and kept their business going. How did they do it?
You might be tempted to skip this podcast because there's currently no trauma in your life. But this is the kind of information you need to collect BEFORE you actually need it. Get the scoop now by scrolling to the bottom of this post, turning up your volume, and clicking on the gray arrow. If you'd rather read a high level overview, I have paraphrased Tony and Linda's remarks here.
- The importance of relationships (5:10). One of the things that helped Tony and Linda survive was the depth of relationships they had previously developed with their clients. They cared about them intimately. While they didn't give Tony and Linda a “hall pass,” they did give them the freedom to drop business for a while so they could tend to their family. This gave them the breathing room they needed to organize a new life around their son before they had to get back to making money.
(Be sure to listen to this section for tips on how to cultivate meaningful business relationships.)
- Failure is not an option (15:30). There are no books for handling life and business when your child has cardiac arrest. Tony and Linda say they were absolutely overwrought with their situation, but they had a good team of nurses for Anthony, good family support, and a healthy daughter.
Still, in order to function, they nearly stopped communicating in order not to make it worse for the other person. Underneath it all, giving up the business was never an option for them. As a result, failure also was not an option, and since it wasn't, they just kept plodding away.
- Take responsibility (18:20). Tony says that a lot fell through the cracks when their son became ill, but rather than pick at the omission or blame others, they just picked up where they were and got it done. Tony says:
My gut tells me that one of the challenges for businesses today, especially over the last couple of years and moving forward with economic challenges, is it's become easy for people to make excuses and blame the economy or blame something else, and so they kind of throw up their hands and say ‘too tough, I quit.' And so they file bankruptcy or do this that or the other thing. And you know, everybody faces some sort of tragedy in their life, but when you take responsibility and say, ‘it's not an option to this thing fall, it's an option to take care of Anthony, it's not an option to get nursing in line,' then nothing gets in the way. And if businesses are going to survive, that's the mentality they have to have, I don't care how big or small they are. They are 100% responsible for the results that they are getting.
And don't miss the part starting at 2:14 where Tony talks about how, no matter what your business is, and no matter what tragedy strikes, if you have a business, your real job is generate sales — and that never changes. Even when tragedy strikes, Tony says, “You can't lose sight of the money machine.”
(Please accept my apologies for enjoying this show so much that we ran out of time at the end, and I had to interrupt Tony to conclude the show before our time slot cut off.)
About Linda Cole
Linda founded Alexandra Publishing in 2009 to bring stories of personal courage to those who are enduring difficult times. Her goal is to provide real life experience, insight and useful strategies and resources, empowering readers to meet and overcome their challenges. Linda is also CFO of Anthony Cole Training Group, a successful company that builds sales cultures within organizations nationwide. Follow Linda on Twitter.
About Tony Cole
Tony graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Education. A scholarship athlete, upon graduation Tony leveraged his experience to coach Iowa State University and University of Cincinnati athletic teams. Tony is CEO and President of Anthony Cole Training Group which serves companies nationwide, bringing new life to sales organizations. Follow Tony on Twitter.
How to Listen to the Show
This post contains my paraphrases of the information Tony and Linda shared. To hear it from the horse's mouth yourself, listen to the entire 30-minute show using one of these options:
- Download it on iTunes. (It usually takes a day or two for iTunes to feed the show there.)
- Click on the arrow at the bottom of this post to listen now!
- Because I have not had a chance to load all of my shows to this blog, you can listen to hundreds of interviews from 2005 to 2010, each one as relevant today as it was when I recorded it, at my Indie Business Radio site.
Question: If you've faced family tragedy, how did you get through it and maintain your business? Can you related to the experiences shared by Tony and Linda?