Posts Tagged ‘legacy business


houston, we have a puppy

Roscoe Jones, Chief Barketing Officer at Tremendous Life Books.

Roscoe Jones, Chief Barketing Officer at Tremendous Life Books.

On June 14th, I lost my constant canine companion of thirteen years after a ten-month battle with lymphoma. I have been through a great deal of heartache and loss in my life, but this experience literally took me to my knees.

These last four weeks I experienced an outpouring of prayer that bathed, comforted, and protected me in a way only possible by the power of our loving Father. I read each of the notes, cards, posts, and tributes with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, enabling the “loss” to be turned into a tremendous time of thankfulness. All that kept going through my heart and head is that I was given such a special companion to get me through the greatest triumphs and tribulations of my life.

In honor of Mr. Blue, I began looking for a pup in his similar situation to rescue. While I completely respect those that do not want to go through a repeated loss of the love of a dog, I also had the intense awareness that my grief does not diminish the population of homeless animals and that hesitating for even one day can mean life or death.

Mr. Blue was from a large litter, born out in the country in Texas and with a glorious Basset Hound stature and soul mixed with his Australian Shepherd side. I needed another low-rider mutt in my life. The search led me to a rescue in Santa Fe, Texas: Southern Comforts Animal Rescue.

A Springer/Basset mix stray had been caught outside of Houston and had delivered eight pups on March 8th, 2014. There were four remaining males when I got to choose my “pick of the litter”. The one I was drawn to was described as the biggest, the smartest, and the most laid-back. That sounded just like my Blue boy.

Arrangements were made and two weeks later my new fourteen-week-old soul pup made the direct flight from Houston to Dulles. When I laid eyes on him I immediately burst into tears. He peered out of his transport crate and calmly looked at me with the same old wise-soul look of his predecessor. I knew at that moment the next leg of the legacy was about to begin.

I have the blessing of caring for another one of God’s creatures. I also have the blessing of continuing the legacy Mr. Blue started. Just because a physical presence is no longer with us means absolutely nothing to a child of God. I work in the world of books and many of them contain the achievements and sacrifices of those who have gone on before us, including the legacy of my father who started this company fifty years ago.

If we live in view of the eternal, the grief we suffer now is just one small iota of the glories to come. Letting that sidetrack us on our life’s journey is the only true loss in life.


Put Success in Succession Planning

ImageFive years ago today, I left my previous life and came home to run the publishing business my father started 49 years ago. I still remember the anxiety as I pulled onto the Carlisle Pike and drove by my high school. It was surreal, as if everything I went through during the 27 years since I left home had been a dream. I felt the twinge of a panic attack coming on.

Walter Lippmann said, “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” Perpetuity is the tie that binds across time. I heard a tremendous acronym last year that was right on the money: A.L.I.V.E.—Always Live In View of Eternity. But how exactly does a mere mortal do that?

Taking over a second-generation family publishing business was uncharted territory for me in all respects. But here I am five years later happier and more settled than in any other career I’ve worked. People stress a lot over succession planning. Here’s a few of the things that got me through my succession process that will hopefully put some success in yours.

Take it easy. Don’t spoil the time you have left with your predecessor by stressing about the future. This is especially true if you are dealing with someone who is suffering from a terminal illness. As long as they are alive and in charge, the whole shootin’ match is theirs. Don’t be obsessed with fixing everything before you’re even at the helm. In my case, there was very little planning involved. I spent the last three months flying from Missouri to Pennsylvania to be by my father’s side while he was in home hospice. We did not talk about the future direction of the company or its financials. We shared precious time together, I recorded his memoires for a book, and we watched TV.

You’ve got to truly want it. My father never once, during that time, asked me to come home and run the business. He knew it had to be my own decision and so, one week before he passed, I told him I was leaving my current world and coming home to take the reins. He squeezed my hand and told me that I would take it places he never could. That one moment, that one sentence, was all I needed to propel me forward to carry on the legacy. Just because you’re the son/daughter/heir apparent doesn’t mean you’re automatically the one to carry the torch. You have to want it more than anything. If you don’t, be honest with the founder so they can make other plans.

Keep the DNA, but put your individual stamp on it. I left home at 18 to literally earn my own stripes. Growing up with a powerful parent you have two choices: you can stay in their shadow or you can forge your own path. The more powerful the personality, the more impossible it will be for anyone to recreate it. So I spent decades filling my own experience bag knowing that sometime in the future I might get the opportunity to carry on a legacy. It’s like the Seinfeld episode where Kramer sells his life stories to J. Peterman and then can no longer use them. The stories are most meaningful if you’ve lived them yourself; otherwise you’re just a storyteller or an actor. The second bit of advice I read about when I returned home was the importance of rebranding at the one year point. Although this will sound heretical to many who know you under the original name, it is essential that you let the world know that someone new is at the helm and that the company is on a sure course. By changing our name from Executive Books to Tremendous Life Books, but keeping my father’s “kicking man” silhouette as our symbol, we kept our DNA yet opened it up to any type of material that promoted not just an executive life but a tremendous life.

In government, in churches, in businesses, in life, smaller is always better. Hitler had millions of followers, Jesus had only twelve. Be careful of surrounding yourself with too many advisors, board members, trustees, or family members. Too many cooks spoil the broth. I was blessed in that I could make the decisions affecting the company quickly and blessed with a board that loved my father, but most importantly, trusted me. Therefore we were not constantly bogged down in minutia and personalities.  Big is nice, profitable is better. I can remember how I was constantly comparing my father’s numbers to mine when a dear friend and VERY successful speaker pointed out to me that because we were lean we actually were more profitable than his business was. The light bulb lit up! My expertise is in operations, so although I didn’t yet have my father’s reach, I did have the means to create profit. Bring your particular business acumen to the forefront. It will undoubtedly be different from your predecessors so you’ll be able to deal with issues they couldn’t.

My father left me with a company that had a sterling reputation, no debt, unlimited content, and a host of contacts with the conviction to help me carry on what he had started. That is perhaps the most important portion of succession planning:  Although I was optimistic about the opportunity to carry on what my father started, I had no idea it would still be in existence and continuing to evolve five years later. No one can do it on their own so don’t sweat finding that one special person who will take it to infinity and beyond! Focus on sowing seeds across a myriad of years and locations so that when the next crop begins to grow there’s plenty of it.


four things in four years

fourFour years ago this week I made a decision that I knew was coming for the past 45 years. In the words of ole blue eyes, “I’ve lived a life that’s full, I traveled each and ev’ry highway”. But I was ready to travel the biggest unchartered course of all, and ready to no longer be doing things “My Way”. I came home to carry on what my father started.

Here are the top four things I’ve learned over the past four years that have not only kept me alive but actually enabled me to thrive.

  1. It takes time: I recently read a book review on Amazon where the reader stated, “My only disappointment with this book is that it does not offer any real secrets to becoming successful overnight.” That’s right, despite the fact that we live in a society addicted to YouTube videos and reality shows devoid of any reality, there is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes doing things repeatedly for years, sometime decades, or even a lifetime, to gain any traction. If you’re not willing to dedicate your life to sharing your gifts, then you’ve got nothing worth sharing past your 15 minutes of fame. But if you know “why” you are doing what you’re doing, time doesn’t even enter into the equation and you’ll never ask the self-serving question, “how long will it take?”
  2. No one can grow your business but you: If I had a nickel for everyone who promised me they could grow my business I’d have at least $200. The fact is none of them can do this. How do I know? I’ve hired plenty of them to do it! In doing so, I helped them grow their businesses, but after a while I realized they were the only ones in the relationship getting paid. You really are the only one who can truly take yourself to the next level. Sure, you can game the system by timing sales to produce an artificial “bestseller” but that’s not true organic and sustainable growth. I can pay to gain millions of followers on twitter. So what?? Be honest. You do the work. And always remember, if you want it bad, that’s how you’re going to get it, and usually after you paid someone else dearly for it.
  3. Eliminate the waste: My father used to tell me, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Never were truer words spoken. This gem applies to everything in your life. Stay focused on what you do best and to hell with the rest. And the bottom line is that you must produce a bottom line, otherwise you will not remain viable. Waste can come in the form of people that suck your time, drain your resources, and don’t do what you are paying them to do. If they are not with you, they are against you, and it’s time to eliminate them.
  4. The more you give the more you get: My father told me that the more books he gave away the more money he made. I used to assume it was because he was a salesman of unprecedented skill and star quality. But the truth of his point is that freely sharing books and what he learned from them was his way of tithing. You don’t give to get; that’s trading. You give because that is the true meaning of life. And life rewards us when we comply with this gorgeous truth. I have a plaque in the office given to my father thanking him for donating $200,000 to a particular college. I remember wondering if there would ever be a time when we could do that again in a single year. Well guess what? After four years of numerous free speeches, countless giveaways, sponsorships of wonderful people and events, and the publishing of hundreds of thousands of books, we were able to give $189,500 this year alone. Close enough: I’ll take the cigar!

People ask me how I do it. The answer is simple: stay focused, work hard, use discretion, have a purpose, and try new things. If they work continue; if they don’t discontinue. And that, my tremendous friends, is what I’ve learned in four years!

Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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June 2020

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