Season 1: Episode 3 Skills For Making Tough Decisions

Small business is at the heart of the Texas Economy.

We’ve devoted an entire show to the powerful advice gathered from our TX business owners on the skills they’ve needed to make “The Tough Decisions” and we’ll introduce Executive and Entrepreneurship Coaches, Dr. Stephie Althouse of Top Notch CEO and Marcel Brunel of The Brunel Group, who will help break down the skills we all need to become better leaders in our current reality and beyond. This episode is chock full of ideas that you’ll use both now and throughout your professional career, so get ready for some gold nuggets to be dropped in your lap.

Episode 3 Guests:

Anthony Beauchamp – Christian Ellis Images, Boerne

Dona Liston – Lambermont Events, S.A.

Dr. Stephie Althouse – Top Notch CEO, Flower Mound

Marcel Brunel – The Brunel Group, Dallas

Bios and business information for all the guests featured in Season 1 can be found on Find out how you can work with them and support your Texas small businesses.
This episode of Emerging Texas Strong is sponsored by Texas Mutual Insurance Company, a leading worker’s comp provider in Texas, and is a production of Earnest Media.

Texas Mutual Insurance Company

If you are interested in sponsoring a heartful podcast focused on the journey of Texas business owners for a focused market audience email,


TX Mutual Insur…: 00:00 Support for the Emerging Texas Strong Podcast comes from Texas Mutual Insurance Company. A Workers’ Comp provider committed to helping companies build a stronger, safer Texas.

Host, Linsey Li…: 00:11 On this episode of Emerging Texas Strong:

Marcel Brunel, …: 00:14 The world economic forum came out with their Top 10 skills needed between 2020 and 2025. Dealing with ambiguity was a pretty big skill; being conceptual, a pretty big skill. So why would that be so important now, as we go through the environment of a pandemic, not a lot of things are a hundred percent certain, so we’re all doing the best we can, but dealing with ambiguity is a huge deal moving forward as a leader.

Host, Linsey Li…: 00:49 Welcome back to Emerging Texas Strong, a growing collection of stories, lessons, and advice from small business owners in Texas, working hard to survive this pandemic economy. We follow a collection of businesses and weave their stories together. As we navigate a full season of big picture topics like cultivating resiliency, emotional intelligence, and the silver linings of 2020 for episode three, we’ve devoted an entire show to the powerful advice gathered from our Texas business owners on the skills they’ve needed to make the tough decisions. And we’ll introduce two Executive and Entrepreneurship Coaches who will help break down the skills we all need to become better leaders, in our current reality and beyond. This episode is chock full of ideas that you’ll use both now and throughout your professional career, so get ready for some golden nuggets to be dropped in your lap. I was thinking back to watching all the webinars that were happening in the first few months that followed the pandemic. I was looking for reassurance and practical advice, asking my family and friends. If they knew any small business owners, who’d made it through the 2008 financial crisis and failing, and failing to find anyone to call, I just kept signing up for the endless supply of webinars and had faith that I was going to find that one, like, webinar that had the answers or somebody who could speculate better than the rest of us. And I think I spent 15 hours watching webinars and I finally threw my hands up and I said, “Nobody knows! Nobody knows. Nobody has the answer. Everybody is speculating. Like, there really is no adult in the room right now who can help us through this.” Did you feel that way too? I asked Anthony Beauchamp of Christian Ellis images in Boerne, Texas, that question and here’s what he said to me.

Anthony Beaucha…: 02:43 Hi, I’m Anthony with Christian Ellis images. We provide photography and videography services for weddings and events here in Texas when everything started and, and the pandemic hit, it was like, I could see everybody’s scratching in the dark. I just knew like there is no, no guidance. Yeah. I was just, I was, I was waiting for an adult to stand up. That’s exactly the wording I would use. Just stand up and say, “Hey guys, I got this, you know, Hey, this is what we need to do. Here are the steps we need to follow. Here are the guidelines.” There was no protocol, in my opinion.

Host, Linsey Li…: 03:22 Because of this, I knew that we had to find some experts that can finally help us answer these questions. Because one thing is, for certain as business owners, we’ve decided that we are the adults in the room, at least when it comes to our business. And we’re the ones who have to make those hard decisions, like what do we do next? Even in times of uncertainty, you are the one call to make those tough decisions. And 2020, won’t be the only time you’ll need this advice. So I called up Dr. Stephie Althouse, she’s an Executive Coach, Business Coach and Entrepreneurship Coach based in Flower Mound, Texas. Now, Dr. Stephie is a native of Germany, but she moved to the U S to attend the University of Knoxville at 22 and subsequently has relocated to Texas. So you’ll hear her strong German accent, but just know she says, it’s all y’all that have the accent to her.

Dr. Stephie Alt…: 04:16 Hi, I’m Dr. Stephie Althouse and I’m the founder and CEO of Top Notch CEO. What we do is we leverage brilliance and make it immortal. And what that means is we work with CEOs and innovative business owners on making more of what they do best. I heard from a business owner of a rather large construction company, that there was an HR person in their company who once a year mentioned, “shouldn’t we, as part of our emergency plan, have a preparation for a pandemic?” And everyone said, “Ah, that’s never going to happen. Let’s put that on the back burner.” And here we are. And it reminds me a bit of Who Moved My Cheese, there’s a book of that title. Basically. The idea is the cheese is supposed to be in a certain place. You know where it is, you get used to chewing on it and being nourished by it. And then one day the cheese isn’t there. Oh man. Now that’s the big question. What do we do? Then we can sit in the corner where the cheese was and whine about it and say, Oh, that’s not fair. Oh, we can scurry around the place and find new cheese. The tendency. A lot of times the mindset becomes one of scarcity. We don’t have money. We don’t have clients. We don’t have this. We don’t have that. First. You have to turn around your mind, your mindset. When we’re getting near a situation that feels like survival. Part of a brain, the amygdala sends out some pretty bad signals that cost is fight or flight response, or it can also be a freeze response. We just have to recognize that this is how we are wired and we need to pause and assess what is the worst thing that can happen here? What is the best thing that can happen here that already lets a lot of steam out of the situation? In my experience, it’s a release of that pressure because we normally see things as worse than they are. All of us. We live in a pretty wealthy country and there’s a lot of support. So the idea of I’m in this survival mode while that’s partially true, a brand can make it into something even bigger that makes it even scarier and then makes it really hard to be innovative and creative and see other options. It’s not a good idea to make a profound decision at a real down-point because it may take 10 years to recover from that decision.

Host, Linsey Li…: 07:06 We know that we have to move to action, but it’s not a good idea to make any hasty decisions out of emotions. To exemplify this, I asked Anthony Beauchamp of Christian Ellis images, “What was your thought process on what to do next? How did you make the tough decision on what was going to be the best next step for your business?”

Anthony Beaucha…: 07:25 The next step for me, for my business, once I saw that, you know, the industry in so many words was, was in a standstill, was to take a step back because with anxiety, there’s also fear and making decisions when I’m afraid, or if I’m uncertain, it’s not really a good way to be. So what I did is I took stock of the current situation and I realized the things that I could control.

Dr. Stephie Alt…: 07:57 One thing that I could throw into this conversation is I wrote a Declaration of Brilliance, which you actually can look up. If you go to, it’s right on the front page. “In your life you’ve learned so much, you’ve forgotten how much you’ve learned. Your expertise is second nature to you. It is you, your life’s work is your baby. You have nurtured and grown it in good times and in bad, it makes a difference. Future-proof it, scale it up and protect it.” For Texas to emerge, even stronger in the business community and everything else we touch, the communities we touch, the communities we serve, the people who we are. I invite us to embrace a new model. So for Texas to emerge even stronger out of this, let’s use that little pause button that we just got with the pandemic as a place to reinvent ourselves, to look at things with fresh eyes. Sometimes you need to perhaps ask someone who can see things that you can because we all have blind spots. So that’s my 2 cents.

Host, Linsey Li…: 09:07 Our second business expert is Marcel Brunel with The Brunel Group who specializes in helping organizations raise self-awareness as to how they make decisions, problem solve, and build relationships through the use of psychological and emotional intelligence. Marcel wants us to stay away from being overwhelmed by situations, by showing up responding well under pressure and just doing the next right thing.

Marcel Brunel, …: 09:31 Hi, I’m Marcel Brunel. I’m the president and founder of Brunel Group. We’re out of Dallas, Texas, and we do three things really, really well. One thing is team development. When a new leader gets a new team, we can really help that team leader be insightful as to what she or he has talent wise. The second thing we do really well is conflict resolution teams trying to pull together, or maybe when teams are pulling apart. The third thing we do is infusing emotional intelligence into policing into the way they make decisions and solve problems and build relationships. So that’s what we do. Anytime I’m working with an executive and they have to make a tough decision where emotions run strong opinions vary, and the stakes are high. The biggest thing we can do, the best thing we can do is think about what is the next right thing. And it might be small. It might be something that we can make that decision incrementally at night when you’re driving your car, the car lights only let you see the next 200 feet. Sometimes when the decision is so daunting, it’s so big that we, we as executives, we think we can handle it on our own. Let’s just put it on our own shoulders. Let’s treat it like the car lights and just look at the next 200 feet.

Dr. Stephie Alt…: 11:00 What separates great leaders from not such great leaders is not necessarily that they make better decisions. They make more decisions and then see how it works out. You can sometimes oftentimes break down the decision into smaller steps of decisions. So you make a decision to proceed. You see how it’s going, and then you make the next decision. So you break the decisions into smaller decisions.

Dona Liston, La…: 11:31 Hi, I’m Dona Liston. I own Lambermont Events in San Antonio. I have owned my business for over 30 years. Always keeping your mind focused on what your goals are, but also knowing that sometimes God intervenes in that and he will show you something different. And I am a true believer in that, that, that, um, you know, always keep your heart and your eyes open. And I think that’s it right there. Those things will, will come through. If you do those two things.

Linsey Lindberg…: 12:04 So you don’t, you keep your eye on the prize and you don’t let the setbacks deter you and make you feel like you’re knocked off course, like the course is the way that life goes and, and therefore you can’t make a mistake.

Dona Liston, La…: 12:20 That’s correct. So I have been asked if, you know, do I have any regrets in my life? And I don’t have any regrets, everything I’ve done in my life I’ve learned from, and that’s the whole thing there is. You’ve got to, to learn from the mistakes or what has happened to you. You have to accept those things. Do not blame anybody else. And then move forward.

Marcel Brunel, …: 12:46 Dealing with ambiguity is a huge skill. Moving forward as a leader. So, why is that so important during a pandemic? Well, you might bump into a leader. Who’s very structured. Well, guess what? Not everything is for certain. Now, do I let people come into the office? Maybe not in the office. Do we bring them in early? Do we keep them out for a while? When do they get their shots? When do they not get their shots? Do we do we quarantine the day we find out the day after we get the test, we don’t know at a hundred percent about a virtual office and when to bring them back, what the population size is, what the hybrid model might look like moving forward. Should we be paying for certain things? Should we not? Dealing with ambiguity is huge for us leaders in Texas during COVID. Number two, the ability to be conceptual. What’s conceptual? That’s coming up with ideas. It’s coming up with approaches. It’s coming up with solutions that might what solve this problem, but it doesn’t have to be big. Maybe it’s just the next right thing. Maybe it’s the thing that lets us see 200 feet out. So we can decide today what we might be doing tomorrow. Maybe we reserve the right to be smarter in three days and we’ll come back and we’ll revisit it. For example, I remember back in the old days, when you would invest in the stock market and you had a mutual fund, they would only send you your investment numbers. Once every 90 days, that was sufficient. I got a letter in the mail and said, you lost this much money or you made this much money, but now with the world wide web, I can look every day. I can see it minute to minute. And I’m telling you, that’s not very healthy and it’s darn sure not very successful in the emotional economy as I’m trying to protect the investments that I’ve made, as opposed to maybe emotionally selling them off with my colleagues, just shaking head at me. So maybe sometimes we have too much information to make these decisions, or it’s too daunting for us to make the decision to the next right thing. But I, as the leader, I’ve got to be what they call honest, open and willing. And those are three big skills of any leader. Can you be honest that the feedback people are giving you is true? Can you be willing to maybe do something with it? And can you be open to suggestions to maybe make this work? That’s kind of the thought process that maybe we, as leaders today say, how do I do dealing with ambiguity? And if you don’t do well with ambiguity, then ask yourself what you’re afraid of. It’s all based on fear, right? That’s all based on fear and we don’t get hooked. If we’re not afraid we wouldn’t get hooked on it. We wouldn’t be afraid of it. If we’re hooked on something, we have to ask ourselves, what are we afraid of? And so that might be another thought that we take in this environment of emotional intelligence, all those things that are invisible, that ultimately create the visible.

TX Mutual Insur…: 15:56 Support for this program comes from Texas mutual insurance company, a safety-focused Workers’ Comp provider, supplying information and resources that can help Texas employers stop accidents before they happen more at

Host, Linsey Li…: 16:13 And now back to our show. In discussing these skills for making tough decisions with our experts. I ended up in some great exchanges where I had ideas and burning questions I wanted answered. We’re going to hear a few of these exchanges because they give great insight into how and why we need courage and vision in these moments and why it allows us to move forward with confidence. While in conversation with executive and team building, coach, Marcel Brunel, I brought up an idea I’d been pondering from my journal entries back in March of 2020. I wrote about a metaphor that popped into my head and gave me strength at the time.

Linsey Lindberg…: 16:49 A surfer is not a good surfer if he only goes out on the beautiful days. A good surfer is the one who goes out, regardless of if it’s raining, regardless if there’s no waves. And he still finds a way to surf. If there are huge waves and he finds a way to do it safely and comes out the other side. A good surfer is not good on only the good days. He finds a way even on the bad days. And it really resonated with me that it’s not just on the good days that we get to be bosses. You know, if we step into these shoes, then we’re taking it on and we have to be willing to ride those waves no matter what we have to be willing and brave enough to go out into that water, even when it’s scary and, and do our best.

Marcel Brunel, …: 17:36 Well, I think you’re describing the word courage and courage. It doesn’t take Marcel to have courage if there’s no fear, the only way I’m courageous is if I’m acting the face of fear and so I’m just kind of what? I’m just doing my thing. Oh, there’s fear. Okay. Now I’ve turned it into doing it, even if there’s a big wave. So I was stationed in the Army over in Hawaii and there was a lot of surfers and they took great pride in being able to surf when there was a tsunami. I can remember it very clearly as the tsunami was coming towards Hawaii, the surfers were running towards the tsunami and they’re like, this is the day. And so if you break it down into leadership, I think it says adaptability determines survivability. And how do I adapt when there is no wave? How do I adapt when the wave is really big? And I think that also kind of comes to, like you said it, on a daily basis. I’m getting better a little bit over time.

Host, Linsey Li…: 18:41 Dona Liston, mentor, community leader, and owner of Lambermont events in San Antonio, Texas has seen it all in her 30 years in business. During our interview, we’d been talking about the idea of making hay while the sun is shining and balancing the times for growth and expansion with the uncertainty of the future. She says that in business, you almost never get to make decisions with full certainty. So you’ve simply got to gamble.

Dona Liston, La…: 19:09 If somebody was thinking about expanding, I would first do your homework. What, you know, what is that homework? It’s very, very hard to foresee the future. But look at the trends, look at what has happened in the past. Position yourself in the best place that if something does that you have a cushion somewhere many times, multi income from different places sometimes is the best. Whether it’s having a spouse that has a different income to doing something completely different on your own. Having different levels of income is very big. Taking the opportunity that is brought to you and looking at it very carefully is something that we have done. Uh, when we bought Lambermont, it was, for 20 years I had been looking for a venue and never had the right one. And then this venue went on an auction site that we just happened to see and had one week to make a decision. And within that one week I looked at it, we did our homework on what was happening in San Antonio, what was happening in our neighborhood. And then there is just a point in time that you have to gamble. And what is that gamble and what are you going to lose? Or what are you going to win? If you gamble and then, then you have to address, are you willing to lose? You know, we just were able to do this and knew if we lost what we would lose and that we were able to be okay on that.

Host, Linsey Li…: 20:46 But in order to, or to make any big decision at all, you must first and foremost, know what your vision and mission is for your company. We get a little clarity on what company vision is from Dr. Stephie Althouse with Top Notch CEO on making decisions with the full integrity of what you stand for in good times and in bad.

Dr. Stephie Alt…: 21:07 It is so important to know the vision and mission of your company, because it is a compass needle. For one thing, I want to point out that there appears to be a great deal of confusion about what is the vision statement and the mission statement. And the way that I do it is this a vision statement is a much longer fleshed out, write up of what you see will happen in your business. What do you want to happen and is a longer term vision. And it behooves you to spend some time really thinking that through and writing it down and visualize it. Some of that may be private. Some of it you’re happy to share with the public and as a business owner, depending on whether the employee owned or not, or how you structure that, some of it may be private to you and not even your employees know it, for example, what the exit strategy might be down the road and when you think that will be, etc. Your mission statement on the other hand is a purpose statement. And I believe that it’s extremely important to know your mission statement in your heart, in your brain and express it in 8 to 12 words. A lot of mission statements aren’t like that, that is oftentimes where some transformation takes place right then and there. When I start to work with business owners, because they get clear on how to distill their lengthy expression of business purpose, how to distill it down into 8 to 12 words. So mine is, to leverage brilliance and make it immortal. The mission statement is about being clear about your purpose. Normally that purpose is like a compass needle that points to your North, your magnetic North, and that is a safeguard against shiny objects. Now, when there’s a profound, external stimulus for change such as the pandemic, you may need to look at it in a new way and say, is this still the purpose that I want to stick with? Make a decision after you have evaluated. And I recommend that you don’t fall into either of the two traps that are common. Either not make a decision because not making a decision is also decision nothing. That’s not a good idea. Usually because often that survival strategy doesn’t work what’s going on is not a quick spike of an issue. It is a longer term situation we have to deal with. There are profound changes that have taken place and are continuing to take place. And we don’t know exactly what the new reality will be, but I really don’t think of this as a binary before and after scenario. Anyway, I think there are certainly profound changes that occurred, but it’s a continuous flow of changes. In fact, that’s how life always works. It’s continuous flow of changes. And also I think there are changes that were already in the making that are simply accelerated by what has happened and is happening. If you’re not making money, you have negative profit. In other words, you have losses. You can only sustain that so long and then you’re going to go bankrupt, bad things happened. The hole gets deeper and deeper. So not making a decision is also in effect, making a decision. The other trap that’s common is paralysis by analysis and analyzing it over and over and over. And that’s also bad because it’s an essence. You, again, don’t make a decision and therefore you’re not taking the necessary action. So the mission statement is something that is a guide like a compass needle for your direction and keeps you focused and protects you from shiny objects that distract you from going where you need to go. And that said, there are times when you need to reevaluate and say, is this still what I want to do? Is this still what I can do? And then perhaps, redefine your compass needle, and then go with that.

Marcel Brunel, …: 25:18 One of the things that pops into my head about making tough decisions; anytime somebody throws pressure on top of a personality, now the real work begins. Most people in a leadership role can make decisions on an everyday environment. Most people can solve problems on a good day. The idea is how are we doing under pressure? How are we showing up? And how are we doing in the area of displaying empathy as we make those decisions, and many executives can make decisions, many executives can problem solve. Many executives can build relationships, but can you use both your mindset and your skillset? Can you have both your IQ, your degrees, all the schooling. You’ve gone to all the awesome knowledge that you have, the IQ plus the ability of your EQ, your emotional quotient and the way that you understand yourself, the way that you can interpret the emotions of others, as well as be able to adapt and adjust in each situation in a very, very correct and appropriate manner. So that’s, that might be a couple of things we noodle on moving forward.

Host, Linsey Li…: 26:38 Thank you for joining us on this episode of emerging Texas strong. Let’s a second and review some of the advice we’ve learned from this episode. Number 1: When it comes to your company, you are the adult in the room. Number 2: Stay aware of your emotional state and don’t make any decisions out of emotion or fear. Number 3: When it feels overwhelming, commit to keeping your focus on just doing the next right thing. Number 4: Adaptability determines survivability. And number 5: Know by heart, the vision and mission of your company and it will act as a compass needle in good times and in bad. Come back for Episode Four. As we tackle the topic of Hotels, Hospitality, and Survival. Podcast production, interviews, edits, sound design and office snacks for the Emerging Texas Strong podcast are done by Linsey Lindberg. If you want to connect with the business coaches in today’s show, or find out more about the videography services of Christian Ellis images or the historic venue of the Lambermont Castle in San Antonio, Texas; bios and business information for all guests featured in season one can be found on Find out how you can work with them and support your Texas small businesses. To share the hope, the journey, the struggles, and the advice. Be sure to follow, like rate and subscribe to emerging Texas strong on the web so you can always have the latest episode directly to your phone. And if you’re enjoying the show and you want to show us some love, leave a five-star review, it will help more people find us. Follow us on Facebook @emergingtexasstrong. We’re on Twitter @TexasStrongPod, where I’ll be sharing some special treats from Episode 3, like Dr. Stephie’s declaration of brilliance, historical photos of the Lambermont Castle in San Antonio. That’s mentioned in today’s show that was renovated and restored by business veteran, Dona Liston and her husband. And a link to an Airbnb listing for the castle, so if you happen to be in San Antonio and want to experience it for yourself, you can book a night. And if you’d like to be interviewed, please reach out Emerging Texas Strong is a production of Earnest Media. If you are interested in sponsoring a heartful podcast, focused on the journey of Texas business owners for a focused market audience, we would love that. Email Remember, you’ve got a friend somewhere in Texas, who’s rooting for you. I’m your host, Linsey Lindberg. Join us next time. For more stories of Texas small businesses on Emerging Texas Strong.

TX Mutual Insur…: 29:26 Support for the Emerging Texas Strong podcast comes from Texas Mutual insurance company, a Workers’ Comp provider committed to helping companies build a stronger, safer Texas.

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