Every CEO’s nightmare is watching profits turn from black to red. Your company was once at the top of the market, raking in the cash. Now it’s losing money, and you’re trying to get back on track. The struggle to stay in the black reminds me of AC/DC’s “Back In Black:”


‘Cause I’m back on the track and I’m beatin’ the flack

Nobody’s gonna get me on another rap

So look at me now, I’m just makin’ my play

Don’t try to push your luck, just get out of my way…

Yes I’m back

Well I’m back in black

— AC/DC, “Back In Black”


Unfortunately, the switch from red to black doesn’t happen overnight. It requires proper financial planning and a redefined business model.


Stay on top of your finances


One thing I found is that many CEOs are horrible with numbers. When they started their business, they were adept in the technical aspects, but lacked knowledge in the financial portion. It’s safe to say most entrepreneurs aren’t financial geniuses. As a result, CEOs get in trouble either by not watching their finances carefully, not hiring people to handle their finances, or not watching the people they DO hire.

On top of having a team of financial experts, CEOs need to make sure they have the right checks and balances. Don’t give the “keys to the kingdom” to any single individual. Even as a small company, I had a full time employee who did the bookkeeping, a CPA who came in once/month for a couple of hours to make sure everything was in order and who did some mid-level work like provide me a cash flow forecast that monitors my assets, and finally I had a larger accounting firm do my business taxes (and my personal taxes).  Having these three involved made me feel comfortable that no “funny stuff” could go on.  Definitely less chance of any embezzlement.


Adjust your business model


Taking inventory and cutting costs only goes so far to increase your profits. CEOs often forget to fine-tune their business model. Sure, you’ve built the perfect business model when you first started your company. But the environment, market, or economy might have changed since then – all that factors into your bottom line.

If you’re losing money or your sales are down, it could be that what you’re offering isn’t good enough anymore. Your first step is to look at your churn. If your customers are leaving you, you should stop and wonder why.

The case could be that disruptors are coming into your market, similar to the problem taxi cab companies now face with Uber or what some department stores are facing with Amazon. You might be used to the status quo, while other individuals are constructing innovative ideas to improve an existing industry, or creating products/services to disrupt the industry entirely. When that happens, you need to pivot.  Adapt or die!


Plan ahead to avoid financial hardships


One of the biggest reasons why companies fail is because they don’t have the proper capital or financial backing. You should plan what you need to fund your business at the very beginning, whether it means establishing a line of credit, setting up your bank account, or borrowing from friends and family.  And of course, the banks only lend you money when you don’t need it, so when you are in a good financial position and don’t NEED the money, get that line of credit bumped up or a loan for some ready cash.  If you don’t have enough money or access to quick capital, you might have to pass up on a major contract. That’s a missed opportunity that could have helped you scale your business later down the road.


Stuck in the middle ground


In the book No Man’s Land, Doug Tatum discusses a point where companies are “too big to be small and too small to be big.” This issue appears frequently in the government-contracting world. Companies will grow, leave the small business arena, and go toe-to-toe with big companies like Lockheed Martin, CACI, and Northrop Grumman. You know as well as I do that they don’t have a prayer.

Companies get stuck in this middle ground area, which is horrible. They get to a certain point where they don’t have the proper processes and procedures to run operations like a well-oiled machine. If you don’t create systems, your company will lose traction and money.

There’s almost never just one reason companies lose profits. The correct financial planning coupled with the willingness to adapt, you don’t have to worry about getting “Back in Black”, because you’ll never be in the red.


“Back in black, I hit the sack

I been too long, I’m glad to be back.”

Brian’s Musical Inspiration:

RIFF:  Back in Black was recorded over seven weeks in the Bahamas in spring 1980. The area was hit by tropical storms at the time, making the sessions difficult at times. Following its completion, the group mixed Back in Black at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. The album’s all-black cover was designed as a “sign of mourning” for Bon Scott, the band’s original lead vocalist.

BAND ON WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AC/DC

WEBSITE: http://www.acdc.com

VIDEO: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ac+dc+back+in+black+video&&view=detail&mid=7694DE011B7718FAF1DC7694DE011B7718FAF1DC&FORM=VRDGAR


There are many reasons that may make you feel like throwing in the towel. Sometimes the market may not be where you want it to be. Other times your product or service may not be where you had intended, so you get anxious or a little unsure. The first thing to understand is that ups and downs are part of the cycle for any business. You have to constantly evolve in order to adjust to changes in the market or its conditions.

There may be instances where a trough in the cycle causes you to wonder if it’s worth it to keep going, or to cut your losses. Things people said before – the words we knew were not true when we were confident – come back into our thoughts, trying to feed the seeds of doubt. This is the time when you have to dig deep. Pushing through problematic times is often a prerequisite for success.

You’re kidding yourself if you don’t believe it

Get up, get back on your feet

You’re the one they can’t beat and you know it

Come on, let’s see what you’ve got

Just take your best shot and don’t blow it

— Styx, “Fooling Yourself”

Sometimes it’s a mental obstacle blocking your path to success. Ask yourself a few questions. Why do you feel like giving up? What were you trying to accomplish in the first place? How did you feel about getting to that place? If you felt you could get to that place, why is it different now?

Sometimes, visualizing where you want to be gives you the extra boost when you are experiencing a sluggish period. Visualize where you can be, see it as it is already yours, and keep pushing until it comes into fruition.

Once you have done some soul-searching, answered the questions above, and visualized where you want to be, do a top-to-bottom evaluation of your company – evaluating your people, processes, and technology in use. Do you have the right people in the right places? Are you utilizing your personnel at optimal capacity? Are you keeping up-to-date with the trends in your area of business? Are your processes running fluid, with fail-safes, backups, and secure networks?

After a careful analysis, you will have a better outlook at where the value lies in your company. There are times when a business started off in one area only to find their niche in an altogether different arena.

“Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.”  Alfred A. Montapert

You are going to face obstacles in business – that’s its nature. When you get up with the attitude of looking forward to facing the challenges, it changes the progression of your day. Instead of when a problem occurs it throwing your mood off-kilter, the expectation of it keeps the flow of your day from interruption and your mood from leaning towards agitation. There are days when one problem after the next will appear, and rather than seeing it as an annoyance, view it as a challenge to master.

“The only constant in life is change.”  Heraclitus

Berkshire Hathaway, one of Warren Buffett’s many companies, started in the textile industry. Mr. Buffett had the privilege of acquiring it on the way down. Throughout the years, with careful planning and strategic moves, he was able to turn it into one of the largest and most trusted companies in the world. His saving grace was investing in the insurance industry and transitioning the core of the business away from the flailing American textile industry — a masterful pivot. Determination, ingenuity, and preparation in business go a long way towards gaining success.

My moment came during the recession of 2008. My wife and I have two businesses working out of the same office, and we had more space than needed, which was making cash flow very tight. We were also slow in downsizing staff, which put us in a hole even further! When the recession hit, nobody knew how long that it would last, and it seemed it would never end. My wife and I had to have the “are we going to have to consult a lawyer about bankruptcy because we don’t know how long the recession is going to last” talk.

Instead of folding, we decided to remain persistent. We didn’t break our lease like many people were doing at the time, taking the high road and honoring our commitments. That cost us dearly, but we decided to keep pushing forward. I remember my wife and I sending out our Christmas letter that read, “What’s worse than having one entrepreneur in the family when going through a recession?” “Having TWO entrepreneurs in the family going through a recession!” Have to keep a sense of humor.

It was a rough battle, and yet here we are seven years later and doing well. The course of events even resulted in me pivoting my business into providing new services – helping small to medium-sized business owners and it is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done! When one door closes…another one opens!

Before You Throw in the Towel

Before you call it quits, make sure you’ve viewed all options and alternatives. Maybe you give up what you are doing today and pivot your business. Examine your business top to bottom, check your people, processes, and technology. Find that new strategy, and wake up each day ready to hurdle every obstacle in your path. Keep pushing! Chances are that you’ll find yourself in an even better place than you had expected.

Brian’s Musical Inspiration:

RIFF:  “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) was a second radio hit off of Styx’s seventh album, “The Grand Illusion”.  Released on July 7, 1977 (7/7/77), it became their breakthrough album, reaching TRIPLE PLATINUM certification (3 Million sold). The first hit off of this album was “Come Sail Away” which reached #8 in 1978.

BAND ON WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Styx_%28band%29

WEBSITE: http://styxworld.com/

VIDEO: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Styx+Fooling+Yourself


CEOs are dreamers who took a small idea and turned it into something huge. It can be as simple as starting a boutique marketing agency, or expanding your services across seas.

“Dream on
Dream until your dreams come true”
— Aerosmith, “Dream On”

Visualize success

There’s no better song that channels the entrepreneurial spirit than Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” If you want success, you must first visualize your triumph. That means envisioning every detail from beginning to end to make it reality.

Athletes use visualization techniques all the time, whether it’s making that foul shot or sinking that putt on the golf course. They just visualize it going in and – more often than not – it does. The importance of visualizing success reminds me of a quote from Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, you can achieve.”

The powers of mind over matter are too incredible to deny. If you wake up in the morning and believe you’ll have a happy and productive day, you will. Even if you hit a snag with a project or you fumble during a meeting presentation, your day will still end better if you began it with a positive daily affirmation.

Tomorrow morning when you wake up, visualize yourself conquering your goals, and channel that positive energy into your daily affirmations. Your dreams will become more and more attainable with each passing day.

Act on the dream

Dreaming is only one part of the equation – you have to make a plan and act on the dream. Otherwise, you’re not going to fulfill that dream – it’s just going to sit on a shelf and collect dust.

I once listened to a speaker whose speech impacted me so much that I integrated it into every facet of my life. This speaker emphasized the importance of reflecting on what you want to be and what you want to do in life. After you’ve figured that out – both personally and professionally – then you can plan actionable steps to fulfill your dream.

Acting on the dream is allowing the Law of Attraction to work in your life. First, you visualize it, then you follow where the current is taking you. In other words, you’ll be traveling on the path of least resistance – it just makes sense.

I recently had a conversation with Dan Frank, one of my CEOs I work with at Vistage. He was talking about figuring out some way to move back to southern California. He was visualizing the next steps he had for his businesses, Three Wire Systems and VetAdvisor, when an opportunity arose to acquire a company in San Diego.

Dan discovered one of his California-based executives was gravely ill, and decided he should move the company operations to California. Running the company from the West Coast was still feasible, since half the employees were located there, and half located back East. Dan had the dream of moving to California for a while, and because of the unusual turn of events, he was finally able to do so – but he had to take action in order for his dream to come to fruition.

Dream for your team

CEOs shouldn’t be dreaming for themselves – they should be also dreaming for their company. Ultimately, they should strive to create a company that draws in new employees, makes current employees proud, and challenges employees to be better every day.

Once you have a team that spurs innovation and growth, the main goal for your company should be to provide monumental value for your clients and to make a difference in the world. After all, isn’t that every CEO’s dream?

Brian’s Musical Inspiration:

RIFF: “It’s about the hunger to be somebody: Dream until your dreams come true.” Steven Tyler

AEROSMITH ON WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerosmith
WEBSITE: http://www.aerosmith.com/
VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bAoq7k3tZ0