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The Heartbreak of Closing a Business

The business I own has specialized in selling used restaurant equipment for over 30 years. The majority of the equipment comes from closed restaurants, many of which are individually owned. The restaurant business has always had a high failure rate, especially among non-franchised units. Just this week I spent some time with an owner who had closed one location due to financial hardship and was closing the second location that had been open nearly 10 years because of the hardship of the failed location. 

There are multiple reasons why restaurants have such a high failure rate, but it rarely has anything to do with the food. Sometimes it does, but not most of the time. Usually, people get in the restaurant business because they have some talent for cooking or baking. The problems usually arise from some other area such as people or money management or undercapitalization. Every time I see someone closing their business it breaks my heart because I know there are many things that are going on in that person’s mind and life. They are experiencing a wide range of emotions. I want to share with you some of the reasons why it is so tough on them. Hopefully, they will help you relate to someone the next time you see them going through a business closure.

It Is Who They Are

Small business owners spend an enormous amount of hours starting and running a business. It becomes their life. Often it becomes their identity. Not just internally, but it is often how people recognize them in a community. When that business closes, there is a certain loss of identity. They are often struggling to figure out what comes next and wondering what people will think of them now. Almost every business owner who closes a business will go through a period of grief where they are mourning the loss of not just a business, but a major portion of their life. 

They May Have Lost Everything

It is not uncommon for business owners to invest everything they have to start a new business. I recall in the late ’80s when I was first starting out and was working with a customer who was starting a muffin shop in Chapel Hill, NC. This was way before there were so many specialty dessert shops. He invested everything he had to open this business including all of his retirement savings. He spent nearly $500,000 to open this fancy little muffin shop only to see it fail in less than one year. He did not just lose his business, he lost everything including his home and his retirement. Business owners are heavily invested in their operation. If it is not successful, it can be financially devastating. 

They May Spend Years Paying Back

Not only is it possible to lose everything in a business closure, but it is also possible to be liable for the debt that has been incurred which may take years to repay. After closing the business, many business owners take a job just to pay back the money they have borrowed. Just because a business is closed does not mean the owner is finished with their responsibility. 

They Are Embarrassed 

No one likes to fail. You do not start a business to see it close. You start it to be successful. When things do not work out as you planned, there is a certain level of embarrassment. That owner is concerned about what people will think of them. This often takes time to overcome. We all want to succeed and when we don’t, the embarrassment can be overwhelming. 

There is a false assumption that business owners have it made. Rarely is that the case. Usually, any freedom or benefits they have is because they have invested their entire life into that business. The next time you see a business close or fail, have a little sympathy for that owner. They are working through a lot of issues and they could use your support. 

My Experience At Hampton Inn Amelia Island

Recently, Barbara and I had to make a quick trip to the Jacksonville, FL area for business. We were only going to be there one night and had a few hours to spare the following morning. Our grandson Vandin was traveling with us. He has been traveling with us since he was just a few months old and he is a great traveling partner. He can ride forever with no complaining. I had heard some people talk about Amelia Island and thought that maybe a visit to the beach would help him get some energy out.

I try to be a brand loyalist when traveling because I want to know what to expect when I arrive. I will fly Southwest and Delta almost exclusively and try to stay at Hilton branded hotels which include Hampton Inn. I reserved a room at the Hampton Inn near Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. Their site said it was one block from the beach, the price was reasonable and it looked convenient. What I did not expect was to have one of the best customer service experiences ever. Not just at a hotel, but anywhere. They made me want to come back. Some of the things I am going to mention I have seen at full-service hotels directly on the beach, but I have never experienced something like this at a moderately priced hotel with limited facilities.

They Love Kids
When we checked in, the attendant at the desk told us about breakfast and said they had a “treasure chest” for kids to choose a prize from in the morning. The next morning when we went down to breakfast Vandin saw the treasure chest on the front desk and headed straight there. The manager was on duty and started explaining to Vandin what he could get. The chest contained toys and books; not very expensive items but something to light up kid’s eyes. In the conversation, Vandin mentioned shark teeth and the manager said she had a collection. She proceeded to the back and came out wearing a shark hat, a box of shark teeth and a paper showing what each tooth was. She let him hold the teeth and gave him one of the description papers in case he found some on the beach. She made Vandin’s day.

Full-Service Food
Hampton Inn generally provides a limited hot breakfast. There are options to choose from but the options are usually out. While getting her and Vandin’s breakfast, Barbara walked up and asked Vandin if he wanted sausage. He said bacon but they did not have bacon out that day. The manager said they would get it for her if she would just ask the lady in charge of breakfast. Barbara did not want to be a bother so she did not ask. We all got a plate of food and went to eat. A couple of minutes after we sat down the lady brought out a plate full of fresh bacon. Vandin was happy. We were all happy. Bacon makes everything better. They did not have to do this, but that manager went out of her way to make our stay great.

Beach Gear
This may have been the biggest surprise of all. They asked if we were headed to the beach and if so, they had most anything we would need. They had beach chairs, beach toys, beach towels, and sunscreen. All of it was FREE to use. When we got ready to go to the beach they took us to a closet and gave us some chairs and let Vandin pick out some beach toys. They gave us towels and sunscreen and we were ready. This did not cost us anything and made our 3-hour beach visit so much better. This also made me want to come back to this hotel the next chance I get to visit.

Great customer service will make people come back. It will also make the best advertisers in the world. I have written an entire blog about my experience. I encourage you to go out of your way to make things better for someone else. If you do that, your life will be immeasurably better as well.

Ways To Bring Clarity To Your Prayers

People will often ask if God hears their prayers and if He does, why is He not answering. There are a lot of responses to offer. First, silence is an answer. Whether you are dealing with people or you are talking spiritually, saying nothing says something. Second, some of our requests or prayers may just be so off base that there is no need to answer. There are many verses in the Bible that talk about how God will give us what we ask for but almost always there is some qualifier in the verse or very close by. For example, it says that He hears those prayers that are pleasing to Him. He hears the prayers of those who are living a godly life. James says that sometimes we don’t have because we have not asked while other times we have asked with the wrong motive or asked for the wrong thing.

So then the question becomes more about how our prayers can be more answerable. How can we know they are heard and when should we expect a positive answer? I believe there are some things we can do that will increase the clarity and accuracy of our prayers.

Spend Time In His Word
Jesus said in John 15:7 “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!”. First, where are you in relation to Jesus? Second, are His words inside of you? Spending more time reading God’s Word brings greater clarity to truth and His desires for our life. The Word of God is your greatest tool in bringing clarity to your prayers.

Listen When You Pray
When I get down to pray I keep a notepad nearby. For one thing, everything I have forgotten to do in the last 10 years suddenly floods my mind. I write them down so I can continue praying. The main reason though is to write down what I sense in my spirit while I am being quiet. If prayer is an opportunity to commune with God, we need to give Him time to work in us during the process. Just being quiet during your prayer time can often bring clarity to the request you want to make.

I am a firm believer that you never know until you ask. My wife was just sharing today about how they were stuck in JFK Airport overnight. They had been traveling for a long time and the overnight stay in the airport was unexpected. They ate a meal at a diner and one of their team said these booths would be better than sleeping on the floor. So they asked the manager if they could sleep there. Keep in mind the diner was still open. He said he did not know why not so they closed off that area and the team went to sleep. You never know until you ask. Remember that James said we don’t have at times because we just have not asked. As you practice asking, you will begin to learn more about God and it will clarify your requests and your prayer life.
As you practice asking, you will begin to learn more about God [click to tweet]

Prayer is not a magic potion or something left for only those who have a title. Praying is for all of us and all of us have requests that we need to take to God. Bringing clarity to your prayer life will make praying much easier and more fruitful.

4 Observations About NASA and the Johnson Space Center

On our recent trip, one of the places we visited was the Johnson Space Center in Houston. I had seen one of the space shuttles in 1984 at the World’s Fair in New Orleans but had never been to a space facility. There is so much to see in this world and so many spectacular things taking place. It is one of the things that makes traveling enjoyable.

As with any tour, we were given a lot of information and were able to see some of the things that are happening behind the scenes. We took two tours while we were there and I walked away thinking about four specific things that I want to share with you.

Gifts Can Change The World
There were multiple organizations involved in making sure the Johnson Space Center was able to get off the ground. In their publications they write, “On Sept. 19, 1961, NASA announced that the $60 million manned space flight laboratory would be located in Houston on 1,000 acres of land to be made available to the government by Rice University. The land was owned by Humble Oil Co. [now Exxon] and given to Rice to give to the government. In addition to acquiring title to this donation from Rice, the federal government subsequently purchased an additional 600 acres needed to give the site frontage on the highway. A 20-acre reserve-drilling site fell within NASA’s total 1,620-acre site.” It turns out that a corporation gave the university the land who in turn sold over 1600 acres to the government for $20. The land was worth much more than that, but both Humble Oil and Rice University believed this was a project worthy of their gift. They could have extracted a large sum of money for this project had they chose that route. Instead, they believed this would be a significant project that had the ability to change the world for generations to come. When you believe in something strong enough, be willing to give even when you have the opportunity to get. Your gift may help change the world for generations. We do not always have to extract a return. Sometimes we need to believe in things enough that we are willing to give.

Collaboration Is Important
One of the things they point out to you is that the center is designed to look like a college campus. This serves a two-fold purpose. The first is to encourage innovation. The second is to encourage collaboration. Scientists and engineers from around the world come together to achieve some pretty incredible things in space that have allowed for advances in many industries on the earth. All of us are smarter than one of us. Collaboration is important in every area of our life. I have told our staff numerous times that I have the ability to make a wrong decision, but it is rare that all of us collectively will make the wrong decision. When people collaborate they have a better chance of reaching the best idea and not just a good idea.

They Have A Back-Up Plan
One of the rooms that we visited was Mission Control. There was no one in the mission control room we visited, however, we could see on the video screens an identical room in another part of the building that was actually manned. Both rooms were set up exactly the same and were both operational. If one room went down or there was some kind of problem they could immediately transfer to the other room and continue leading the operation. You could see secondary plans in almost every area we visited. Why? Because everything does not always go as planned and sometimes you need another option. Putting all of your eggs in one basket puts all of your eggs at risk. There are so many areas of your life where diversification and a back-up plan can reduce the pain when one thing does not work out like expected. If you live your life believing everything will work perfectly you will often find yourself disappointed and many times in crisis.

They Have A Long-Range Vision
In our lifetime most of us are familiar with the Apollo space missions and the Space Shuttle. As a matter of fact, we recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and our first space landing. The current long-range project goes past the moon to Mars and beyond. It is called ORION (pronounced O-Ryan). Engineers and astronauts are working on this project to go to Mars between 2030 and 2045. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Possibly as many as 25 years away. But they are planning for it today. Their vision is bigger than 2019. They have a vision that goes beyond the lifetime of some of those working on it. We all need a vision for our life. Where are you headed and how will you get there? Think about today. Live in today. But live it knowing that it will have an effect of tomorrow.

What are you learning today? You will be in an environment that will allow you to learn something if you will just open your eyes or take a few minutes to listen. As you learn you will grow. As you grow, everyone around you will benefit.

4 Things (and a bonus) We Can All Apply From George H. W. Bush

As a part of my recent writing about things I am learning and taking away from different places, I want to share with you some things I took away from a recent visit to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. This was an important visit to me. He was part of the first presidential election that I can recall. He ran against Ronald Reagan in the primaries and later became his running mate as Vice President. He would also win the election for President of the United States in 1988, which was the first year I was eligible to vote. In my adult life, the Bush family has been one of the most prominent names in culture.

There are so many things we could take away from his life and his service, and I certainly have some other notes that I want to remember. But I was walked through this library and museum, there were four things that I think all of us can learn from and grow a little ourselves.

He Loved His Family

First, he loved Barbara. This has been prominently on display for the world to see recently as they both passed away less than one year apart. As the country mourned their passing, one thing that was highlighted over and over again was their love for one another. The letters they wrote to one another over the years showed the depth of the bond that they had. As with any marriage that is strong, that loved spilled over into how they loved their family. It has been said that the best gift a parent can give their children is to love their mother or father well. Not only does it set an example, but it helps them see how much you love them. In spite of pressure-packed schedules their entire married life, they were intentional about time with their family and letting one another know how important they were.

Family Affected How They Treated Others

Their strong family bonds and their love for one another affected how they treated people outside of their family. There are several stories that have been shared over the years from people who had the opportunity to spend time with them and how loved they felt. They treated people with respect and dignity. Even in moments of deep disagreement, there was respect shown. No one is without moments when we fail. But the Bushes have a lifetime of examples of how they treated other people well.

He Gained Lots of Experience

Possibly the one thing I noticed above all else was the fact that we may not have had a president with a more broader palette of experience that “41” as he was affectionately called. He served in the Navy. He started and ran a successful business. He served in the US House of Representatives, as an Ambassador to the United Nations, Liaison to China, Director of the CIA, professor at Rice University, Director of the Council on Foreign Relations and Vice President before becoming President of the United States. That is an extremely broad resume and he most likely would have been president for two terms without Ross Perot running as a third-party candidate. The experience that he gained through each of those jobs allowed him to have a broad impact but also allowed him to have an influence on a large stage. Don’t be afraid to gain a breadth of experience. The broader your experience the better you can lead.

He Did Not Forget People Who Helped Him

Not only did he write notes to Barbara, but 41 was famous for notes that he wrote to everyone. He regularly thanked people for their help or reminded them he was thinking about them. Often these notes were about something that many people had long forgotten. One of the notes on display that stuck out to me was one written to the commander who taught him how to fly in the Navy. He was President at the time, but the note accompanied a photo of one of the planes he learned to fly. He thanked that commander for being so patient with him during training and told him he appreciated him for setting him on a course that would later allow him to become President. He did not have to remember that commander, but he chose to not only remember him but to thank him as well. You did not arrive where you are on your own. Don’t forget the people who helped you get here. Maybe even take the time to tell them.


As I was writing this I remembered an observation my wife Barbara made while we were going through the library. She is going through her own transformation at the moment but she remarked about halfway through as she looked at photos that Barbara Bush never tried to look young or hip. She accepted who she was and loved being a wife and mother. Her hair was white at an early age. She did not try to be on the cutting edge of fashion. By some standards, she even looked “old” in her 40’s. Barbara (my wife) was impressed at how comfortable Barbara Bush was in her own skin. I think it is an area where all of us could grow. Learn to be comfortable with who we are instead of trying to be what we think someone else wants us to be. Wife and mother are two of the most important jobs in the world.

Don’t forget to take an opportunity to reflect every time you have a new experience. You may find certain things you can apply to your own life that will make a difference. Live a life that is constantly growing.

4 things that stuck out to me about Lyndon B Johnson

One of my favorite things to do is learn about former US Presidents; how they lived their early life and the path they took to the presidency. When we travel and are close to a presidential library, we try to visit. On a recent tour of Texas, we stopped at a couple. The first presidential library we toured was the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. 


Johnson was the 36th President of the United States serving from 1963-1969. He was serving as president when I was born. A Democrat from Texas, he served in the House of Representatives as well as the Senate before being selected to be Vice President for John F. Kennedy. I always like to listen to the speeches that were selected and look at the quotes they have posted. As I visited the library and museum, there were a few things that stuck out to me that I wanted to share.


You Don’t Always Get To Choose The Time

The country has a vibrant young president with small children whom people love when a sniper suddenly kills President Kennedy in Dallas. It is then that Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as President while on Air Force One. He may have had aspirations to be president during his life, but this was not the timing he had in mind. As Jackie Kennedy stood on one side and his wife Lady Bird Johnson stood on the other, he took the oath of office to be president. A nation that is in crisis, grieving, and mourning is now suddenly his to lead. This is not a moment anyone would want. But when you are the Vice President you have to be prepared. When it is time to lead you must lead even if the circumstances are not ideal. As a matter of fact, your time may come at the worst possible moment. It is in those moments when we must step up and use the abilities we have been honing. We do not always get to choose the timing. We do get to choose how we lead in those moments.



In a speech given at the University of Michigan in 1964, Johnson laid out 16 goals he had for achieving the “Great Society”. He had a vision for America and the way we would arrive there was through these 16 goals. Do you have a vision for your life? Your business or your family? If so, how do you intend on getting there? Setting goals is an effective way to move forward.


He Was Concerned About People

A leader who is not concerned about people is not a good leader. LBJ was concerned about people. He wanted to do something about segregation and racism. He was concerned about the treatment of people of color in the country. He wanted to end racial injustice. He was concerned about poverty. He wanted to put an end to the constant suffering poverty was causing families. He wanted everyone to have an opportunity to get an education. He believed that education would help solve the poverty problem. He wanted to raise the quality of every single American’s life. Great leaders are concerned about people. Poor leaders are only concerned about themselves. 

He Had Priorities and the Country’s Best Interest

LBJ suffered with health problems and was concerned about dying. Though there are varying accounts of what led to not seeking the Democratic nomination for President in 1968, the museum presented the case that his health was failing and he wanted to finish some important legislation. He had to choose whether to campaign or to complete one of his goals. He chose to complete one of his goals and leave the presidency to someone else. After the turmoil with the Vietnam War, he also felt it was time for the country to heal and that someone else might be better to do that. It does not appear that power or position were his most important objectives. His most important goal seemed to be doing what was in the best interest of everyone. Sometimes we can become so enamored with power and position that we forget what is important. We still need to live out our values and priorities and make sure we are putting the interest of others at the front and not just ours.

I am a firm believer you should be learning and growing every day. There are so many people and situations that we pass right through on a daily basis, never taking a second thought about how we could learn from them. This is my big take away from the Johnson Library. I am better if I am learning and growing. 

7 Things I Took Away from Lakewood

Barbara and I visited Lakewood Church in Houston, TX on one of our recent trips. The church and its pastor, Joel Osteen, are controversial for many. I was much more aware of this than Barbara. I still wanted to visit. This is not a post to defend or condemn, so I would ask those comments get shared somewhere else. When traveling, sometimes I visit a church because I want to hear the pastor. Other times I go to check out their facility. Occasionally I just want to see how they do things and experience their service. We got a hotel just across the street from the church and Sunday morning we headed over.

When I visit a church I am always looking for new ideas and better ways to do things. I want to walk the entire complex and take pictures and make notes. I did all of that. Sometimes people wonder what things stick out. Usually, only my staff hears about these things and then still only a few. I just thought I would share publically a few of the notes I made while I visited.

Smiles Matter

I know an image just popped into your head. There are plenty of smiling Joel Osteen jokes. But every volunteer we came in contact with had a smile on their face. As a matter of fact, the young lady who was assigned as our host said that was what caused her to become a volunteer. Pastor Joel had mentioned that if you could smile they could use you and she signed up. I will explain the host situation later. Smiling makes people feel welcome and most often they will smile back. It can change the entire atmosphere of a room. Your smile matters at church, and everywhere else. 

Engagement Is Critical

Occasionally when I visit a church I will let them know ahead of time and they will go out of their way to make me feel welcome. This was a last minute trip so I had not done that. But everywhere we went to that church, a volunteer engaged us. They asked if it was our first time there. They offered to help with any information. One of the people who engaged us was the head of their host ministry. These people specifically engage new people. She went and found us a personal host and gave us each a devotional. They didn’t interact with us because I was a pastor. They interacted with us because they did that for everyone who walked through the door. One of their hosts went from row to row after you were seated to talk with you. Having lots of people was not an excuse. They engaged people and of course, it makes you want to come back.


From the first single note that was played, there was an enormous amount of energy. Every single person on that stage was fully engaged and giving everything they had. When the pastors walked out on the stage a few minutes in to greet and pray, they came with energy. For the first 40 minutes, there was not a single silent moment. It was geared to draw you in and get you engaged in the service. The songs were connected in a theme that just built the energy in the room. Add to that the presence of the Holy Spirit and you have a power packed moment.


In my entire life, I have only been to one other church that spent more time dedicated to prayer than Lakewood. There were pastoral prayers, corporate prayers, extended prayer time to pray for specific needs and a time for people to come to know Jesus at the end of service. The time to pray for specific needs was during the middle of the worship set. They had pastoral staff and prayer team members across the front and at every section in the building. They took time with each person. As long as was needed. This lasted 10-15 minutes. Enough time to sing at least three songs. Prayer is a significant part of their church.


I grew up with testimonies in church. Anyone who wanted to testify could. We even had testimony services. Some were inspiring. Some were embarrassing. Others were just too long. They scare me to death. But during the service, they brought a gentleman and a couple to tell what God had done in their lives. The gentleman was sober for 10 years after finding Christ at the church. The couple’s marriage had been restored and they had learned to handle money and get out of debt through classes at the church. Seeing what God was doing was powerful.

Pastor Was Engaged

There are over 50,000 people each week attending Lakewood. Clearly, he cannot know everyone, but Joel Osteen did his best to engage every single person he could. First service was at 8:30 AM. After that service, he went to the lobby where he did a baby dedication for a family in the church and then greeted anyone who wanted to talk to him until time for the next service. When the service started, he was on the front row worshipping. He hit the stage about two minutes in with energy. He prayed with people at the front during prayer time. He was in the service the entire time except just after prayer time when he went out to collect himself before the message. He was out one song. When service was over he was back in the lobby greeting people. I have been to a lot of megachurches. That is something you just don’t see. For about 6 straight hours there was no letup. I was impressed.

Stand To Acknowledge Christ

He asked them when he got up to preach to stay until the end because it was important. Leaving at the end of the sermon is the worst time to leave by the way. At the end of the sermon, he didn’t ask everyone to stand. He asked those who wanted to know Jesus as their Savior to stand. He was very clear that is was something they could not be ashamed of. That was a new one for me as well. People all over the room were standing. There was a man just to my left with tears flowing down his face. He was having an eternal moment and my heart was thrilled for him. We should not be ashamed to ask people to acknowledge Christ.

You can have the theology debate on another blog. You can learn something from everyone. I learned a few things. I was reminded of a few things. Most importantly I left encouraged. Be a lifelong learner. You will never regret it. 


Why I Choose To Say Happy Anniversary

Social media makes it easy to remember everyone’s birthday. Facebook sends you reminders for everyone on your list of friends who has a birthday. Now, this is beneficial for Facebook to know because it is one more piece of information for them to use for marketing. But it is also a great tool for you to remember the big day for your acquaintances. Snapchat and Twitter offer different reminders and chances for you to wish a happy birthday to someone you know as well.

For a few years, I did my very best to keep up with wishing everyone a happy birthday, but it became quite hectic with a full friend list. They make some apps that can help with that. In general, when people write a birthday message on my wall, I do my best to read it and at least acknowledge it by liking the post. Every single one of those means something to me and I believe they do to most of the people who receive them. I don’t discourage anyone from offering birthday wishes to people. It can lift the spirits of the people reading them. I still do occasionally myself.

What I have chosen to do every day is to make sure I wish every married couple that I can a happy anniversary. Facebook makes this easier because they have picked up on that so when people make an anniversary post, it almost always shows up in my news feed. It is not that birthdays are less important. You are alive and that is an accomplishment. But it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get older. My life experience has shown me that it takes a lot of effort to stay married.

I admire people who work at their marriage. Barbara and I know from personal experience the investment it takes to make a marriage successful. It requires individual growth as well as growth as a couple. This requires time and intentionality. Good marriages do not happen by accident.

So, if I miss your birthday, it is not that I do not like you. But I promise you I will do my best to wish you a happy anniversary. Because I know it took some work to get there, I want to cheer you on to have many more great years together.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.