I have a client in New Orleans. Or at least I used to. The last time I talked to him was the end of August. Things were great.
Jim is an easy-going Southern gentleman with a huge heart. For the past 22 years he has owned and operated a small computer company serving the New Orleans business community. There have been good times, and bad times. But in the past six years, since he joined ProCoach, things have been mostly good. Suddenly everything has changed.
Naturally, I was concerned about Jim when I heard the news of Hurricane Katrina's devastation. I tried anxiously to contact him, but it took five days before I received a response. At that point, the only communication the entire area had with the outside world was through e-mail. Here is what Jim told me.
Four of his 10 employees lost their homes. Three were flooded; one was crushed by a tree. It is unlikely any of them will be able to return to their homes until at least next year. At this point in time, there is no reason to return anyway. New Orleans' business and residential infrastructure has been almost completely destroyed.
Jim's employees ended up staying with friends and relatives as far away as Wisconsin, Florida, and Texas. It seems likely that some of them will never return to New Orleans. Jim's company has lost one of its most valuable resources - its people.
Fortunately for Jim, his home was not flooded. His business, located near the Superdome, was neither damaged, nor looted. However, many of his clients did not fare so well. Because the storm and evacuation order occurred on the weekend, few people had a chance to visit their businesses to retrieve crucial items and shut things down properly. Paper records were soaked and destroyed; computers and all the data they contained were lost. Thousands of businesses, many of them Jim's clients, were completely wiped out.
Think about it. What would you do if you were in Jim's situation?
Here's what Jim did. Within a week of the hurricane, he had rented a small office space in Baton Rouge (90 miles from New Orleans) including telephones and high-speed internet. Jim quickly established contact with all his staff to ensure they were safe. He enrolled his son in a high school in Lafayette, (60 miles away). His wife, who had hoped to find work in Lafayette, was called back to work in New Orleans. Jim found himself traveling between the three cities to keep his family together.
The biggest challenge to reestablishing his business was housing. How do you keep a company going when no one has a livable home within hundreds of miles of your office? A sense of humor doesn't hurt. When I asked Jim how we could help, he replied, "Does anyone have a place for me, my family and 100,000 of my closest friends to stay?"
A few days later, he bought a large home in Baton Rouge for the sole purpose of providing accommodation for his employees and their families. Again, Jim's sense of humor kicked in. "I've always wanted that second home in the country," he said. "I didn't realize it would be in a subdivision."
The house is now "home" to four of his employees, their families and a variety of drop-ins. They have no furniture, no linens or bedding, no household appliances and few basic supplies. When I asked Jim what they needed, he responded, "everything."
I can sense the unbelievable stress in Jim's emails, yet he remains upbeat, focused, and determined to rebuild his company, his life, his community and his city. He is the kind of leader we all need in difficult times.
In my communications with Jim I have been struck by the many lessons we can all learn from this tragic event.
||Vision and commitment are key. Jim's resolve to overcome enormous challenges and rebuild is demonstrated in everything he is doing. His vision keeps him motivated and moving forward. More importantly, his determination provides crucial confidence, inspiration and focus for other members of his team, especially those who are distracted and struggling.
||Success is achieved one step at a time. Jim has done a masterful job of identifying his highest priorities and taking action on them. First, he tackled survival and safety issues. Then, he secured an office. Next, he provided lodging for his staff and their families. As each challenge is handled, he moves on to the next. When things are overwhelming, it is more important than ever to focus on one thing at a time.
Having a sense of gratitude is one of the keys to success. Jim is in a situation few of us can imagine. Yet, during my e-mail interactions with him, he has been positive and it is clear that he considers himself fortunate. Instead of focusing on his personal losses and misfortune, which are significant, he is overflowing with gratitude for his own good fortune and concerned primarily with helping others.
I recently had the privilege of seeing Dr. Patch Adams speak, and he also reinforced the importance of gratitude. Adams pointed out that most of us enjoy greater abundance and privileges than 98% of the people on this planet. His view is basically this: if you are not living with extreme poverty, starvation, or war and violence, you are having a pretty good life.
At first Jim was reluctant to accept help, especially cash, from other members of the ProCoach group. His reasoning, he confessed, was a matter of pride. Now he has opened the door and asked us to help those members of his staff who lost everything. Those of us who know Jim will be sending prepaid credit cards and gift certificates for Wal-Mart to help with the purchase of desperately needed necessities. Doing so will bring us pleasure.
It is wise to remember that life is full of cycles. There is a time to give, and also a time to receive. Right now many of us who were not affected by Katrina are feeling gratitude for our good fortune, along with compassion and concern for those who have had their lives turned upside-down. By agreeing to accept our gifts, Jim is giving us an opportunity to enjoy the blissful experience of caring for others and sharing our abundance with those who are less fortunate.
There are many more lessons each of us can draw from this situation. Meanwhile, I remain grateful for my wonderful life, and thankful that the world has leaders and role models like Jim who make such a difference in times of crisis.
Andrew Barber-Starkey, Master Certified Coach.
ProCoach "7 Success Accelerators" Evening Seminars
During September the ProCoach, Andrew Barber-Starkey, led free evening seminars in BC, Alberta and Washington State. In them, he revealed the "Seven Success Accelerators" he uses to help his clients dramatically accelerate their progress so they get results faster and with less effort.
All the evenings were packed - over 190 people registered to attend the Vancouver event! Andrew's high energy, content rich presentation left those who attended inspired and motivated to go and implement his principles immediately.
Due to the success of the September events, the free "7 Success Accelerator" evening seminars will return again in October.
Click here for further information and registration.
Kirkland, WA - Tuesday, October 11
Surrey, BC - Thursday, October 13
Edmonton, AB - Tuesday, October 18
Calgary, AB - Wednesday, October 19
Burnaby, BC - Monday, October 24
Registration for all events begins at 6:30. Seminars are from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.
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Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.
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