How to Take Bad News and Still Thrive

The economic times we are in are touching people’s lives in a challenging fashion.  I recently ate dinner with a Harvard Law graduate who felt lucky have landed a less than ideal job.  In my personal circle of millionaire friends, six of them have already declared bankruptcy, and others I know are just hanging on by the skin of their teeth. I, myself, am having my own financial issues and am having to bust my butt to maintain cash flow.  It’s easy to get down when bad news comes your way, but to cry in your soup offers no solution or relief. We are in a time, as Family First Entrepreneurs, where we will be challenged at a level never seen before in our lifetimes.  All of the financial rules have changed and there are new trends that we must adapt to.  

My strategy has been to accept that my life, both personally and professionally, is in the hands of a God who loves me and often teaches me through a breakdown before breakthrough modality.  Some folks, during the breakdown stage, choose martyrdom and wallow in the mud puddle of self doubt, shame and blame.  This always results in a longer and more painful cycle of growth.  Some, in fact, never breakthrough at all.  For those of you reading this saying, “that ain’t me,”  you are the ones who will always keep the outfielders on the warning track when life throws you a curve.  I acknowledge you.  More often than not, your battle, like mine, is not moving through breakdown, but maintaining personal balance while you’re on the solution train.  I will address that shortly. 

For those of you who feel stuck in mud, I will ask you to emotionally and intellectually understand that the mire will only result in one thing, MORE PAIN.  Keep focused on the fact that the greatest things in life are often on the other end of slogging through the crud.  To choose not to venture forward and excel through the other side will guarantee mediocrity.  You have to believe, to your core, that you are destined for greatness, as you define it, in all things.  Excellence in marriage, parenting, and one’s professional life all require this same skill.  Knowing that you are mediocre in any of these categories will bring more pain.  Grab hold of that “can do” person inside yourself and cut him or her loose to operate in faith that you’re on the right path before you realize the rewards of that choice. Forward movement doesn’t guarantee that all the pain goes away, although it’s decrease will be instantly noticeable. Operating in solution mode feels a whole lot better than boxing yourself into the pain of defeat. 

Once you learn how to get on the solution train professionally, or if you already know how, the battle now is maintaining personal balance.  I will speak to this personally as this is where I find myself today.  Happy to be in solution, but flat out working my butt off with lots of stress.  My battle, as a Family First Entrepreneur, is maintaining quality relationships with my two boys, my wife and close friends as my work life can easily become all encompassing.  I choose to set aside sacred times every day to connect in a deep way with these people.  I work while they sleep.  I walk with my wife after I stuff my face at lunch, leaving time for us.  Every moment for right now is productive both professionally or personally.  The one who gets shortchanged is me.  Right now I’m willing to accept that.  I don’t have plans for this to last long term. Self care is critical, but right now, I’m choosing to put my personal needs on the back burner temporarily, and fill that cup intermittently when it empties.  It’s just what has to be done as I embrace my role as a husband, father and the provider in my family.  My hope for you is to find a sense of peace as you dive into your solution and that you learn as you earn.  Blessings to you and your family. 

Small Biz. The Rich? Employers of the US

I was recently sent this letter by one of my Family First Entrepreneur friends.  I think it encapsulates why we need to support small business and Family First Entrepreneurs, politically, as they are the reason this economy is still hanging on.  This is a bit long, but definitely worth the read. 

The Employee Meeting: I would like to start by thanking you for attending this meeting, though it's not like you had much of a choice. After all, attendance was mandatory. I'm also glad many of you accepted my invitation to your family members to be here as well. I have a few remarks to make to all of you, and then we'll retire to the ballroom for a great lunch and some employee awards.

I felt that this meeting was important enough to close all 12 of our tire and automotive shops today so that you could be here. To reassure you, everybody is being paid for the day --- except me. Since our stores are closed we're making no money. That economic loss is mine to sustain. Carrington Automotive has 157 full time employees and around 30 additional part-timers. All of you are here. I thank you for that.

When you walked into this auditorium you were handed a rather thick 78-page document. Many of you have already taken a peek. You were probably surprised to see that it's my personal tax return for 2008. Those of you who are adept at reading these tax returns will see that last year my taxable income was $534,000.00. Now I'm sure this seems rather high to many of you. So ... let's talk about this tax return.

Carrington Automotive Enterprises is what we call a Sub-S - a Subchapter S corporation. The name comes from a particular part of our tax code. Sub-S status means that the income from all 12 of our stores is reported on my personal tax return. Businesses that report their income on the owner's personal tax return are referred to as "small businesses." So, you see now that this$534,000 is really the total taxable income - the total combined profit from all 12 of our stores. That works out to an average of a bit over $44,000 per store.

Why did I feel it important for you to see my actual 2008 tax return? Well, there's a lot of rhetoric being thrown around today about taxes, small businesses and rich people. To the people in charge in Washington right now I'm a wealthy American making over a half-million dollars a year. Most Americans would agree: I'm just another rich guy; after all ... I had over a half-million in income last year, right? In this room we know that the reality is that I'm a small business owner who runs 12 retail establishments and employs 187 people. Now here's something that shouldn't surprise you, but it will: Just under 100 percent ... make that 99.7 percent of all employers in this country are small businesses, just like ours.

Every one of these businesses reports their income on a personal income tax return.. You need to understand that small businesses like ours are responsible for about 80 percent of all private sector jobs in this country, and about 70 percent of all jobs that have been created over the past year. You also need to know that when you hear some politician talking about rich people who earn over $200,000 or $500,000 a year, they're talking about the people who create the jobs.

The people who are now running the show in Washington have been talking for months about raising taxes on wealthy Americans. I already know that in two years my federal income taxes are going to go up by about 4.5 percent. That happens when Obama and the Democrats allow the Bush tax cuts to expire. When my taxes climb by 4.5 percent the Democrats will be on television saying that this really isn't a tax increase. They'll explain that the Bush tax cuts have expired .. nothing more. Here at Carrington we'll know that almost 5% has been taken right off of our bottom line. And that means it will be coming off your bottom line.

Numbers are boring, I know .... but let's talk a bit more about that $534,000. That's the money that was left last year from company revenues after I paid all of the salaries and expenses of running this business. Now I could have kept every penny of that for myself, but that would have left us with nothing to grow our business, to attract new customers and to hire new employees. You're aware that we've been talking about opening new stores in Virginia Beach and Newport News . To do that I will have to buy or lease property, construct a building and purchase inventory. I also have to hire additional people to work in those stores. These people wouldn't immediately be earning their pay. So, where do you think the money for all of this comes from? Right out of our profits .. right out of that $534,000. I need to advertise to bring customers in, especially in these tough times. Where do you think that money comes from? Oh sure, I can count it as an expense when I file my next income tax return .. but for right now that comes from either current revenues or last year's profits. Revenues right now aren't all that hot ... so do the math. A good effective advertising campaign might cost us more than $300,000.

Is this all starting to come together for you now?

Right now the Democrats are pushing a nationalized health care plan that, depending on who's doing the talking, will add anywhere from another two percent to an additional 4.6 percent to my taxes. If I add a few more stores, which I would like to do, and if the economy improves, my taxable income .... our business income ... could go over one million dollars! If that happens the Democrats have yet another tax waiting, another five percent plus! I've really lost track of all of the new government programs the Democrats and President Obama are proposing that they claim they will be able to finance with new taxes on what they call "wealthy Americans."

And while we're talking about health care, let me explain something else to you. I understand that possibly your biggest complaint with our company is that we don't provide you with health insurance. That is because as your employer I believe that it is my responsibility to provide you with a safe workplace and a fair wage and to do all that I can to preserve and grow this company that provides us all with income. I no more have a responsibility to provide you with health insurance than I do with life, auto or homeowner's insurance. As you know, I have periodically invited agents for health insurance companies here to provide you with information on private health insurance plans.

The Democrats are proposing to levy yet another tax against Carrington in the amount of 8 percent of my payroll as a penalty for not providing you with health insurance. You should know that if they do this I will be reducing every person's salary or hourly wage by that same 8 percent. This will not be done to put any more money in my pocket. It will be done to make sure that I don't suffer financially from the Democrat's efforts to place our healthcare under the control of the federal government. It is your health, not mine. It is your healthcare, not mine. These are your expenses, not mine. If you think I'm wrong about all this, I would sure love to hear your reasoning.

Try to understand what I'm telling you here. Those people that Obama and the Democrats call "wealthy Americans" are, in very large part, America 's small business owners. I'm one of them. You have the evidence, and surely you don't think that the owner of a bunch of tire stores is anything special. That $534,000 figure on my income tax return puts me squarely in Democrat crosshairs when it comes to tax increases.

Let's be clear about this .... crystal clear. Any federal tax increase on me is going to cost you money, not me. Any new taxes on Carrington Automotive will be new taxes that you, or the people I don't hire to staff the new stores I won't be building, will be paying. Do you understand what I'm telling you? You've heard about things rolling downhill, right? Fine ... then you need to know that taxes, like that other stuff, roll downhill. Now you and I may understand that you are not among those that the Democrats call "wealthy Americans," but when this "tax the rich" thing comes down you are going to be standing at the bottom of the mud slide, if you get my drift. That's life in the big city, my friends ... where elections have consequences.

You know our economy is very weak right now. I've pledged to get us through this without layoffs or cuts in your wages and benefits. It's too bad the politicians can't get us through this without attacking our profits. To insure our survival I have to take a substantial portion of that $534,000 and set it aside for unexpected expenses and a worsening economy. Trouble is, the government is eyeing that money too ... and they have the guns. If they want it, they can take it.

I don't want to make this too long. There's a great lunch waiting for us all. But you need to understand what's happening here. I've worked hard for 23 years to create this business. There were many years where I couldn't take a penny in income because every dollar was being dedicated to expanding the business. There were tough times when it took every dollar of revenues to replenish our inventory and cover your paychecks. During those times I earned nothing. If you want to see those tax returns, just let me know.

OK .... I know I'm repeating myself here. I don't hire stupid people, and you are probably getting it now. So let me just ramble for a few more minutes.Most Americans don't realize that when the Democrats talk about raising taxes on people making more than $250 thousand a year, they're talking about raising taxes on small businesses. The U.S. Treasury Department says that six out of every ten individuals in this country with incomes of more than $280,000 are actually small business owners. About one-half of the income in this country that would be subject to these increased taxes is from small businesses like ours. Depending on how many of these wonderful new taxes the Democrats manage to pass, this company could see its tax burden increase by as much as $60,000. Perhaps more.

I know a lot of you voted for President Obama. A lot of you voted for Democrats across the board. Whether you voted out of support for some specific policies, or because you liked his slogans, you need to learn one very valuable lesson from this election. Elections have consequences. You might have thought it would be cool to have a president who looks like you; or a president who is young, has a buff body, and speaks eloquently when there's a teleprompter in the neighborhood. Maybe you liked his promises to tax the rich. Maybe you believed his promise not to raise taxes on people earning less than a certain amount. Maybe you actually bought into his promise to cut taxes on millions of Americans who actually don't pay income taxes in the first place. Whatever the reason .. your vote had consequences; and here they are.

Bottom line? I'm not taking this hit alone. As soon as the Democrats manage to get their tax increases on the books, I'm going to take steps to make sure that my family isn't affected. When you own the business, that is what you're allowed to do. I built this business over a period of 23 years, and I'm not going to see my family suffer because we have a president and a congress who think that wealth is distributed rather than earned. Any additional taxes, of whatever description, that President Obama and the Democrats inflict on this business will come straight out of any funds I have set aside for expansion or pay and benefit increases. Any plans I might have had to hire additional employees for new stores will be put aside. Any plans for raises for the people I now have working for me will be shelved.. Year-end bonuses might well be eliminated. That may sound rough, but that's the reality.

You're going to continue to hear a lot of anti-wealth rhetoric out there from the media and from the left. You can choose to believe what you wish ... ..but when it comes to Carrington Automotive you will know the truth. The books are open to any of you at any time. I have nothing to hide. I would hope that other small business owners out there would hold meetings like this one, but I know it won't happen that often. One of the lessons to be learned here is that taxes ... all taxes ... and all regulatory costs that are placed on businesses anywhere in this country, will eventually be passed right on down to individuals; individuals such as yourself. This hasn't been about admonishing anyone and it hasn't been about issuing threats. This is part of the education you should have received in the government schools, but didn't. Class is now dismissed.

Why Christmas

This is an email I recently received from Troy Olds, a business partner of mine.  In these economic times I think it is critical to remember why we celebrate Christmas and to not fall into the trap of “consumerism” as it’s overall defining “time suck” during this holiday season.  Remember, the people we care about spell love T-I-M-E. I hope you enjoy this transparent  fathers look at his role on this planet during Christmas.  Troy is an example to us who continue to strive to be Family First Entrepreneurs. 

I have to share honestly that Christmas has always been a mixed blessing for me.  As a kid it was curious and magic.  I'd fall asleep under the tree with the lights blinking above me; warm in my full body pajamas with the plastic feet.

Now, as a parent I have dealt with the emotions of giving my kids a special Christmas like I had.  I have dodged traffic around the malls a day before Christmas to round up the 'stuff' that will prove my love and keep me in the game of keeping up with what is expected of me as a consumer. 

Every day, is our day to show our love and it isn't in what we buy.  It's in what we bring.  I ask myself what I have brought to the table for the ones I love.  The ones who love me?  God knows, that in the past, I have fished the stream of life thinking I didn't have enough.  Today, I am grateful that I am able to give back, even if just a little, to the stream that has been so freely given.  And I know.......I can give more.

By being more of what I am supposed to be, I become more of a gift to those I love.  To those who love me.

In the time it would take to go buy another 'token of my love' at the store I could sit with my child and look at them when they speak to me.  I can draw a picture with them and share stories of our day.  I can just.........listen to them.

I could wrestle on the floor with them while they are still little and laugh and giggle.  Before they are too cool.

As parents we get the small idea of the small painful stages of our children outgrowing us when they no longer kiss us in front of their friends.  And I wonder......when did that happen?  The times when I have those little arms wrapped tight around my neck when I move them sleepy from the car to their almost gone.

Our children are Gods gift to us.  How we raise them and who they become is our gift to the world.  They will become what they see and learn.  From whom they learn it.  Today I ask myself,  "with whom was my child with today?"  I've been gone all day.  Who did they listen to?  T.V., their latchkey friends?  Or, were they simply alone to wonder why I wasn't with them.  Did they wonder who's time was more valuable to me than theirs? 

This Christmas I am reminding myself WHY this holiday exists.  Regardless of ones belief, Christ for me and many is that reason.  Rather than wondering where the best deal on the hottest toy is that I can scoop up for my child so they can be cool at school, I am choosing to follow the example of a man who gave it all.  And as I fall awesomely short of that example I truly find comfort that I don't have to present my children with a gadget or a doll on any day if I remember the truth about me.  That I can be the present my children want more than anything.  And by being present they don't need a toy or gadget to feel cool at school.  Because they know they are loved. 

So today I am a father who looks at them when they speak.  Draws a picture when they ask.  And wrestles with them while they are still little and know that all their life they will laugh and giggle.

It is my hope that none of us get to big or old to laugh at our follies.  Giggle just to giggle.  Or forget that just one man, made life so much more beautiful for millions and millions of people. 

What work went into becoming a man who could do that?

I'm sure, far more than what it takes for this man to make a difference in the lives of only 3..... beautiful babies.

I sincerely hope you have the best Christmas ever.  Be with the ones you love and who love you.  Know that you are the gift.............and smile.

I am grateful to you for being a part of my life and for helping me to be a better person in my children's lives.  You help me dream bigger.  Laugh louder and witness faith manifest.  Thank you.

Is Competition Good for Our Kids?


My wife and I had a spirited discussion (code for, almost an argument) last night on the topic of competition as it relates to the human condition and parenting.  The defensiveness, and resulting venom we directed at one another, came from our differing opinions on the subject and how we wanted to approach the parenting of our sons.  My wife’s take, is that competition, in general, is a bad thing that brings about an overall negative.  I disagree, and respectfully allow her the space to have her opinion.  I’m writing this post to clarify my position, not to devalue her’s or anyone else’s for that matter. 

Let me start by saying good, bad, or indifferent we live in a competitive world.  That is an indisputable fact.  Even animals are competitive and it serves them by creating a pecking order that improves the particular species overall.  As competitiveness is instinctual for animals, I believe the same is true for humans.  It is our intellect, higher reasoning skills, morals and ethics that keep us in check in how we approach and deal with our completive nature.  This is what separates us from animals, yet I believe our competitive nature also improves our species as well. 

It is competition that has pushed people to do things beyond their scope of belief.  Competition can improve lives, be a catalyst for positive change, and reset “bars” that humans believed were set in stone.  For example, the sub-four minute mile run stood unbroken for well over 60 years, but when Rodger Bannister broke through that “bar,” nine different men broke the same record within the next year.  Why?  Because of that awesome human quality that says if someone else can do it, so can I.  What was previously unbelievable, now became a competition to see who else could do it as well.  I’m supposed to tell my son to denounce this incredible instinctual spirit within him?  No way. 

What I must do is teach him how to deal with his competitive nature and to use it in a positive way.  He needs to know the measure of a man is not his “winning” but in his willingness to do his best.  What others do, is only a “bar” of what can be done.  Now, it’s my job as his father to help him learn how to be a good winner and loser.  Also, it is very important to help him separate his quality as a human from his achievement.  Achievement or winning has no bearing on ones value as a human being.  It is my job, as his father, to reflect and teach that.  Along those same lines, it is our job to teach our children solid ethics and morals as they compete. 

This is where we, as a society who is attempting to devalue competition in our children, are doing an injustice.  We want to harvest people’s ability to learn the profound lessons that failure, or losing teaches us. It should feel bad.  We should reflect and find ways to do better.  That is what many aspects of life are about.  It is not, at all, an issue of external self-worth.  It’s the job of parents to teach that, and raise kids whos self-worth comes from within and is not threatened by “losing.”  God don’t make no junk.  I believe it is our duty, while we live here on the planet as spiritual beings living in a human experience, to love, learn and live life with joy.  Competition has an appropriate place in that methodology.       


ONO Breakdown - Part 2

Marc Warnke breaks down his book, ONO: Options Not Obligations, by going in depth on why it is important to live the dream.