Join business strategist Tina Tower as she explores how to build your empire by packaging your expertise into online courses, speaking, content, podcasting and credibility.

Tina has over 17 years of experience in starting, building and selling companies, she's a speaker, teacher, mama and world traveller.

She's unapologetic about living an intentionally big life and if you want too, this show is designed to show you many different options to help you gain clarity over YOUR version of awesome.

Episode Takeaways 

  • What you need to change in your business to ensure you not only survive, but thrive during a recession

  • Pivoting your business model to be more conducive to your life of design
  • Using journalling and meditation methods to get clarity on our next best move
  • Your long game VS your short game strategy
  • Creating space for your next rise 
  • Knowing when to stick, or when to quit (it's OK to change direction)
  • When everybody else freezes, that's the time for you to shine so you can come out the other end stronger, better and more ready than anyone
  • If something isn't generating revenue or enhancing the customer experience, say 'NO'
  • Solving your customer's immediate problems will be the key to your longevity during economic downturn
  • Reducing bad debt as early as possible
  • How to prepare for the rebound when it inevitably comes



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Show transcription 



Hello, and welcome to episode 192 of the her Empire Builder podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today, I am recording this only a couple of days before it's gone live. So I had all of my podcast episodes batched in advance. And then, as happens when we batch, we get to the end, like, Okay, we've got to do a whole new batch again. So I've just kind of mapped out all of the episodes until the end of the year. And I will record about seven of them this week. So we'll get a good batch done. And a couple of them will be in the moment like the one of the 2022 wrap up and different lessons and all of that sort of thing. But it's all mapped out and all planned. And I love that feeling of when it's all mapped out and planned. So this week in my life, because I know it's always interesting when you hear you know, not just the the shiny, bright things, but the behind the scenes things is we're doing massive changes in the business. And I have a whole episode coming in for that for you in a few weeks. But a big part of that is moving from part time staff to full time staff. And we have teams starting in the US and in Australia all employed full time. And it is a massive undertaking, in terms of you know, how do we set up culture when it's it's spanning across the globe as well, and just the expense of everything and the planning of everything and how it's all gonna work out. So it's been, it's been a really massive time.

So this week, we're finalising a whole lot of things. And so I'm doing podcasts, I'm doing that, I've got an elite intensive day, we've got a masterclass for her Empire Builder. It's one of those weeks where it's like, it's all happening. It's all you know, there's a lot of behind the scenes stuff. And then there's a lot of stuff that's like, Okay, let's go! And I got a puppy last week. So I am on very little sleep as well. But this is the ride that we that we go on. And so today, I actually didn't have this one planned, and this my friends is why I like to keep gaps in podcast schedules as well. So when I do the seven, I will like leave strategic gaps in there for “of the moment” things because what I've seen in my members Facebook group, and with a lot of my friends’ social media accounts, is people talking about the recession and talking about economic downturn. Now in Australia, if you're in Australia, we, it's highly likely we won't hit a recession, we're pretty well protected, we managed to dodge it back in the GFC as well. But in saying that, obviously economic downturns do hit everyone and hit them hit them differently in different countries. But it doesn't hit everyone at an individual level. And so what I want to talk to you about today is to realise like, is this a problem for you? Or is it not? And it's just a whole lot of noise. And if it is an actual real life problem, then what can you do to not only survive through economic downturn, but to thrive? Because you know, for a lot of us, this is not the first time that the world has done this, depending on how old you would be the second, third, fourth - we know what goes down must come up and what goes up must come down.

I mean, not always. Part of me there's going “well, it's okay to just keep going up, right?”. But one thing I have learned is there's nothing truer than this too shall pass. The only constant in life is change. And so whether you're thriving in economic downturn - because the thing is for some people, when the economy as a whole goes down, their business goes up. We just have to look at COVID for that for some businesses, it was the greatest thing that ever happened. For other businesses, it spelt the end of the way of doing that. So I'm going to address a few of those things in today's episode and give you some practical tips of what you can do in an economic downturn to not only survive, but to thrive. Let's get to it. 

Main episode

I will start by saying that I do not consume mainstream media.  

I talked to a lot of people and they're like, you know, this is all mounting up, and I'm like, where is all this fear come from? Like, how is this built up to this kind of catastrophic level? And for a lot of people, it's the media. So my first tip is turn that shit off. It's really, really helpful. In any circumstance, I have probably not seen like morning television or listened to the radio for I want to say 15 years, maybe. So most of my adult life, I have not consumed mainstream media. What I have found is if I miss something of utmost importance, I can see it on social media straight away. So as soon as I turn on social media, you can like, take the temperature, take the vibe, or someone will tell me have you heard about this? Have you seen this, and I'm like, So what now.

And what it means is that I'm not reactive to the collective, all of the time, I get to exist, whether good or bad. And obviously, there's positives and negatives to everything. But I get to exist in this bubble of my own creation. I am not constantly being pushed up or pulled down by what the media is choosing to articulate to us at any given moment. Because the thing that I know as well is, you know, media has an agenda. They have different things that they share. It's not an accurate depiction of what's going on globally in the world, and what problems they're sharing are often, you know, what's relevant to us, or what we as people view as relevant, and it's not, there's so many things that I've seen happening in the world that I go, How is this not on the news? You know, how does this not make it. And so I'm not a news watcher. I'm not a news listener. I'm not a news consumer.

And I think that is one of the easiest ways to stay away from the fear that is created with clickbait headlines that the media has to do because they have to sell. So in saying that, I'm not denying there's an economic downturn there, there definitely is things going on with money markets, and interest rates and all of those sorts of things. But in Australia, the chances are, we're not heading into recession, however, it does have economic follow through from the US and from the UK, and, and different things that are happening in China and all over the world.

And so what we want to be able to do is go alright, what can we do when there is an economic downturn so that we can not only survive, but we can thrive through it? What do we need to change? And for some people, it's just, you know, taking a bit of a bit of a not a break so much, but going, how can I change priorities to get through this and come out the other side, for other people, it's going we're going to need to have a serious pivot. You know, this happened in the GFC back in 2008. It happened when COVID hit. We've been relatively lucky in constant economic upturn. And this is the thing like it needs to balance out. It was going super crazy. A year ago, where property prices were through the roof, the share market just kept growing and growing or growing. Of course, it has to balance out so it's kind of just coming into alignment with what should be relatively normal.

So there's no need to go “oh my god, the world is ending” because it will bounce back like it always does.

So I wanted to share with you a story of mine from 2008 when the global financial crisis hit. So I had been in business by that stage for four years. So I started my first business 18 years ago in 2004. I started an educational toy store, a tutoring centre and a birthday party place. And oh my gosh, did I love it like in terms of a first business, probably running three businesses was not the smartest thing to do strategically. But it was great to give me, like you look at a four year university degree. That's what I did in a practical sense and going okay, here's how to learn everything about different business models. And so when the GFC hit in 2008 I had my first baby Kai in April. All of 2008. And already, the business model that I had set up was not conducive to the mother that I wanted to be.

So I had a business that was operating seven days a week, we had 17 staff at the time, I had Kai strapped to my chest in a bubble hustling the whole time. And we're just, you know, I was really lucky that we were in an environment that was very family friendly. And I could just go behind the toy store, kind of counter and feed him behind and just like, drop my top and do my thing, and then go around.

But I was tired. You know, when you have little people, and I know the people that have had little people or have current little people, it's tiring, like you don't have as much resilience as what you normally do when you're well slept. And so towards the end of the year, we had another toy store open about not even 50 metres from us, that was a large, very well backed, very classy, beautiful toy store. They were better than me, let's let's put it that way. They were professional. And so I could have fought with that. But I decided that with them coming in, and with the economic downturn that was happening, that there were easier ways to make money and to have the lifestyle that I wanted.

And so I decided to pivot. And that was, for me, my first experience of taking the big swing, and knowing that I can change my mind at any time. And I tell you this story, because I want you to know that if your current business model setup isn't working, you can change your mind at any time. Now, I want to caveat that in saying business is hard. No matter what people tell you, business is hard. You know, we're surrounded by this whole thing of it should be easy, and it should flow. And if there's not 100% Joy, it's like, That's bullshit. Business is hard. Show me anybody that's been in business, building something epic for longer than five years. And they will tell you, yes, it's hard. Not all the time. But there's definitely things that you have to go through. And so one of the most difficult things is discerning, okay, what part of it is like, naturally hard that we need to push through and not give up and grit in? And what part of it is actually, this is not the best path? And no one can answer that for you. And I think it's one of the hardest things is one of the hardest things that I have to experience through my business journey is going like when am I hitting a wall that's telling me the season aligned wrong way, go back. And when I'm hitting a wall that's like this was put here, so you can smash through it and go up to the next level. And it's really hard to figure that out.

And one of the ways that I do that is to journal and to meditate and to spend time thinking, and to going back to what I'm doing, why I'm doing it for where I'm feeling the joy, where I'm feeling, what I'm doing for the long game, what I'm doing for the short game, all of that sort of thing, and making sure that it's as light aligned as possible for what next, because we don't know what's gonna happen in a year's time, we don't definitely don't know what's going to happen in 10 years time. So all you can do is make the best decision for you and your loved ones at the time with the information that you have available. And sometimes you're going to totally nail it. And sometimes you're going to look back on it with hindsight and go that was the biggest mistake I've ever made. You know. And we, we do these things.

Like I'm sure if you look back on your life one probably 10 or 20 years ago, you are like, “Oh, hell yeah, look what you did you frickin superstar”, because we weren't stripped of the life that we have now. But also you can look at the last 10 or 20 years and go “Well, if I made that decision, if I kept going with that. Or if I left that earlier…”, or whatever those big decisions that you have in your life. In hindsight, we can always look at them and go, “I could have made a better decision”. But we're only making the best decision we can with the information that we have available at the time.

So what I want to say is when I had my first education center, I decided at the end of 2008, “right a seven day a week toy store right now when people are not buying as many toys for their children as possible because we've got this media fear going on”. When I had started creating curriculum, when I was tutoring, all of that sort of thing. I'm going, “I don't need to be doing all of this. What I can do is cut the fat”, so when I looked at all my profit and loss, I looked at my time, I looked at where my time and money were going, basically. And what I saw was that most of my time and money were going on the thing that was bringing me with the least amount of return, so I decided to kill it, we shut the doors on Christmas Eve.

I had a massive sale in the two weeks leading up to Christmas and I closed the doors, and then decided to take the curriculum that I had written for my tutoring centres, and to licence that throughout the country to teachers everywhere, because the problem that I saw was that teachers loved teaching, but they didn't like writing curriculum, they wanted to have a system to follow. And for me, I loved teaching. I also love creating content, you see how it relates to what I'm doing, like 15 years later. Anyway, I love creating content, I love creating systems, I love creating lesson plans, all of this step by step that people could just pick up and implement. So I did that.

Now at the time, I still remember closing my doors to my toy store on Christmas Eve. And I had a moment sitting in the middle of the shop. And I just cried and cried and cried and cried. Because I put four years of my life into that store, I had worked so many hours. And I had tried so many things. And I did not want to close it. I loved it. I knew it was the smart thing to do. But I didn't want to do it. And I sat there and I felt like such an epic failure. I felt like all of the things that I'd worked towards, and all of the dreams that I had had amounted to nothing. And I was now back to square one. And I tell you this story, because what it did was create the space for the next rise. So we don't know at the time what is to come. And it can feel so absolute. And I am lucky enough to have had many of those moments. I can pinpoint about four or five of those pivotal moments where I thought, fuck, I've really fucked this up right now. Like, this is not what I wanted to do. How did I get here? Like, you know, you know what those moments feel like. And then on the other side of that is been like the biggest moments of growth and rise and success.

And now I have this beautiful comfort in knowing that whenever I pulled the pin on something, whenever I changed direction, whenever I kill something that I loved, that I can go, I wonder what this is creating space for, like, I'm ready to see what's next. What's the universe gonna bring me here, this is going to be an exciting ride?

And so then I started selling my curriculum under a licence programme. I did that for two years, and then changed to a franchise company. I started franchising and grew to 40 locations over the following years. And then five years later, sold that business for multi-millions to an international company. Now, none of that would have happened if I didn't close the doors to my toy store. And while it wasn't a straight line to that success, I want you to know that if you need to change direction, it's going to be okay. Just hope that direction in the right way.

So one of the things that like I said earlier is knowing like how do you decide when you need to stick it and when you need to quit, because so often we're told like never quit, never give up. But sometimes one of the smartest things you can do is to quit. But sometimes you quit just before you're on the other side of success. So say I'm making no sense. Welcome to entrepreneurship. And you can never abdicate responsibility of this to someone else, right? I have people every day say, Tina, what should I do? Should I do this? Or should I do this? And it is individual and it depends. So what I want you to do is look at your business, look at your profit and loss, look at your profit levels and go right and what's happening here? Where is my money going? I don't believe that in economic downturns we should like freeze, I don't think we should stop expenditure on everything. I actually think that if you can, it's the time to spend on team development, on marketing, and on serving community. Because when everybody else freezes, that's the time for you to shine and you will come out the other end stronger, better and ready more than anybody else who is there. So it again, it depends on if you're on the wire. So if you're on the wire, where it's like, you know, you need a certain amount of money this week. And if you don't make it, you can't pay the mortgage, you can't feed your kids. I have been there. And in those circumstances, it's different decision making of when you have the privilege of being able to play the long game with that and take a bit of a pay cut or a bit of lack of security, knowing that you're doing it for the long haul.

So what I would say is with your profit levels right now, if they're super tight, so by super tight, I mean if your profit is under 20% I want you to have a look at it and go okay, where is your time going? And if your time is going all over the place, because a lot of us do, and a lot of us are very busy, but what I want you to do is look at your activity and go if it doesn't make money, or if it doesn't improve the current customer experience, it's a no. Like that's the simple lens when we're in difficult times, and profit is low. Don't spend any time or resources on things that don't pass those two filters. So one of the most underutilized things I see like is people devaluing the current customer experience. So going, Okay, we won't put on that event, or we won't send them that Christmas gift or will cut costs, they're your current customers, or the people who are paying you now, they're the people who already love you. They're the most important people to love upon. So don't forget about that.

So always go, what can I do to improve my current customer experience and let them know how much I value them? And how grateful I am that they're still doing business with me. That's number one. Number two, is looking at everything and going right am I spending time or money on anything else that is not leading to me making money in the short term. And if you are, say no. So we want to do marketing, we want to do team growth, we want to do things that are going to have a direct response to having that money and that cash flow coming in. So when you are going about it, like one of the things that we can do in this economic downturn time is to change a little bit of how we offer so look at you know, if you're a high end programme, it's likely that you're not going to have as many uptakes on super high end programmes. In saying that, there's a programme that I've just joined, that's 30,000 US dollars for next year, it booked up straight away. So this is the thing that I want to tell you is you know, if you catch yourself with absolutes and going, everything is going down, no one is having good launches. Everyone's struggling, like if you catch like the absolute sentences coming out of your mouth, catch them, because it's not true.

So some people are going down, some people are having bad launches, some people are suffering from that some people are thriving, some people are having the best launches they have ever had. Some people are finding their way to absolutely nail it. I want you to be one of those people. So instead of going into like the spiral of doom, work out, what can you give your customers that is going to solve their biggest problem. So when you're looking at your customer base, and you're like, Okay, I'm feeling the pinch here, both personally and professionally. Go back to basics and go what is the problem that you're solving with your courses or your membership or your programmes? What I want you to do is solve that biggest problem, whether it's something that you offer now or not. So say you're doing a high end one, then it's quiet down a little bit.

Maybe you need to break it into tiny offers, are there some introductory courses that people are struggling with, that they want to be able to go to you for? Are there accelerator programs? So say you do a 12 month program. And people are like, “I don't want to commit to 12 months right now with all of this uncertainty that's going on”. I can tell you don't buy into the hype, but if your customers are buying into the hype, it's still going to be a problem.

So if they're thinking, oh my gosh, I'm panicking, like I don't know, about 12 months, go Alright, well, for this one time only, everything's got to be done in 12 weeks. Do you like the kickstart one, do give your customers what they need and what they want right now to solve their biggest problem.

So teeny offers accelerator programmes, whatever it is that you have for your courses, your membership, whatever, see if you can break it into bite sized payment plans as much as possible. So the trend that I am seeing across a lot of our members' businesses is Payment plans are becoming more popular. So where people used to go, “I will pay upfront to get like my month free and my two months free my 10% discount”, whatever it is, now people are more likely to go into payment plans because they want to have that cash flow. So even though they have the money, it's going I would rather have the money in my bank account in the hands of uncertainty. So they're going for cash flow. So make sure that you've got adequate payment plans. If you have one, say it's an eight week programme, and you've got you know, your upfront payment or you've got two monthly payments, do a six monthly payment, break it down into as many payment plans as you are comfortable with. What can I offer and how can I address the problem that people are having?

So my piano teacher for example. She was saying to me last week all of her online stuff has really stalled because piano lessons are a luxury - no one needs piano lessons. They just want piano lessons. And for some people, they're in industries where people need what you've got, you know, if you're in anything business development wise, if you're in like essential things that people need, then you're not going to feel the pinch as much as if you're in luxury things that people want that are fun hobby based, that people can't make a monetary return from especially.

And so the conversation that I had with her was going look, you need to address the problem. It's now not so much in going like learn to play a song, what fun that will be. Because that's how I find found it was I was like, I want to play a Delta Goodrem song. That's all I want to do - teach me. But we doubled down last week in going okay, what is the problem that people are having right now, if they're stressed, they're worried, they're overworked, they're feeling exhausted from all the brain activity, like all of that sort of thing. So what about if piano lessons are pitched in a way of going, this is giving your brain that space, and that relaxation, and a way to focus on something that isn't the immediate problems that you're going through? It's a way to relax. It's a way to feel creative to balance out all of these sorts of things. She did that, and now she's had uptake again. And so just an illustration of going What is your customer's problem that they're facing right now? Why are they withdrawing? So why why are they either not buying? Or why are they pulling out of a membership? And how can you address that problem to keep them there to keep them with you. 


Another one is, look, if there's a market that's in affected, so like I said, with my example of my toy store, toys and buying, like actual, you know, Lego sets, and that sort of thing was in the GFC, a total luxury item, and people were not doing that. But I looked at other parts of my market. And I was like this small market of teachers that I have, they're not affected, because a lot of people still need their kids to learn to read. And so this is not going to be affected in an economic downturn. So what I did was pivot towards the market, that no matter how long the GFC lasted for, because at the time, you know, it was pegged, as you know, could be a year, it could be two years. And this is what I mean, the frickin media, right?

So everyone was like, Oh, my God buckle in for the long haul, like, Should we start stockpiling baked beans, like, let's not go to catastrophic. Anyway, I went towards that market, because I knew that from a long term point of view, it was not going to be as fickle and not as affected with the media temperature. And it's the same with now, I'm in business development, no matter what is happening in the economy. There are so many millions of business owners that are thriving, there's many, many, many business owners that want to be able to build their business. And so for me, it's definitely affected for sure. But it's not as affected as something else could be. So we want to do that we want to go pivot your market if you need to, we want to solve problems, we want to watch your profit levels, and really like to touch back on the on the profit levels. With that. What I want you to do is when this passes, which it absolutely will, it's just a matter of when How can you be most ready? So for you to be the leader in your industry? What can you do energetically? What can you do financially, to have your business ready for the swing that you want to take?

So for me in 2023, I just think for a second of what you were actually, in 2023, I am planning for a massive rise. So my goal in 2022 was actually not business growth. I wanted to get my life back, I wanted to rest 2021 was, you know, a difficult year in terms of COVID lock downs. My son had a big accident, like I wanted this year to be all about fun. I wanted to travel more, I wanted to spend more time with friends, I wanted to get my life back. And that is what I have done.

Interestingly, like team came into play with that a lot. And I made team changes to enable me to get my life back, but it had the opposite effect because I didn't have full timers. Anyway, I'll talk more about that in the team episode in a few weeks. But what I'm doing now is everything that I can do to set up in 2023. And for me, if it means like I'm not launching anything now until the new year, so I have three months of basically not selling and for a lot of people that would be very concerning. For me though. My priority is I plan on a really, really big year next year. And so that only is sustainable. If I get all the foundation beautifully in place, so all my time right now is going towards how can I get my customers getting the best results possible, because if they're getting great results, it's going to help other people get results, like buy the whole collective when one rises, like all rise together. So my number one priority is serving our customers and going, “how can we increase their success?”.

So one of the key hires that I have just made, actually yesterday, is a full time client success manager. And her sole job is to check in to help to coach so she's a qualified leadership coach, in helping our members to rise to achieve their goals, to dream bigger to take massive action to do all of these things. And that is a massive financial investment. But to me, it is worth it. Because I'm looking at it going well, the better my customers results are, the better I also do. So it's a win win for everyone. And so I'm putting a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of resources into that, so that we can go in next year, because my goal is obviously, well, obviously, I said it out loud. I don't know. My goal is to be the greatest online education for course creators in the world. Female course creators, sorry, dudes, you're welcome to but I'm focused on females, because let's be honest, we're very behind the eight ball when it comes to wealth. And so I want to create more wealthy women.

And how can we do that is the long game, there's many, many systemic reasons of why that's not happening. And so I've got to put a lot of resources into being able to do that. So that when this does pass, and people have dropped off, because they've wigged out, they've gotten themselves psyched out by going, Oh, my gosh, I'm never gonna sell anything. Again, everyone's going into this economic downturn, everyone's broke. You're right, that's, that's not me. Like this, too shall pass, we'll all be fine. \

And I think that is the beauty of being in business for a long time is you see all the ups and downs both internally and externally, and you know that you're going to be okay, so if you're new into business, I want you to take it from me that you're going to be okay. So be ready when it passes as much as possible. Obviously, like I said before, if you're treading on the wire, and you're really cashflow poor, right now, just do the things that are serving your current customers, so you don't lose them. And only spend time and money on things that are going to make you immediate profit in there as well. So if you're doing any business education courses, or any sort of courses that you're doing, implement, like, take what you're learning and go, right, I'm going to take it, I'm going to implement, I'm going to get a result. Go for the experiment, try different things, see what sticks, but it’s totally pointless if you're learning things or not implementing them.

So whatever you're seeing out there, get it implemented and get a result. And then like, just try and reduce any bad debt. Always, like focus on the long game as much as you can, even when I started getting into the share market as well, because when it's down, it's down right now. So even if you can put in $20 $30, whatever it is, to start joining all of the people that have been doing this for years, and years and years and creating wealth, one of the things that I realised, like in my early 20s was there's a reason the wealthy get wealthier, you know, they all play the same game. It's not this secret in business, or wealth or anything like that. It is literally doing the simple things consistently for the long term. Like it's really, it's really doing that. But so many people get burnt out, because they're looking for the quick fix. They're looking for the short wins, they're looking for the short game.

So if you can, right now write this out and implement those things. So look at your actual offers that you're doing now. Some of them aren't working, what can you offer your clients that is going to solve their immediate problem? If you do that, always come back to basics. How can I serve? How can I help use what you've got, use what you know, to help solve your customers problems. And you will be here for this economic downturn. And the next one, and the next one and the next one. And the best part is, then when the rise comes, you're not going to burn out, spend all your money and get too excited, because you're going to be like, You know what, I'm going to invest this for the long term because I know that another one is going to eventually come because it all goes in cycles.

So we're going to go up, we're going to go down and we're not going to be reactive. We're not going to be reactive to all the roller coasters that we go on because it's just all part of the ride. And this is the ride of business is that the ride of life, especially the ride of entrepreneurship, and you have taken part in that you're doing it for a reason, because you want the ups and let me tell you, being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart.

There's a lot of people that I talked to that are like, “I can't handle these down parts”, but they want all the upside. And with the more downside, you actually get more upside. If you want the steady course, like go get a job. Even that is not a steady course, though, my friends, let me tell you. I was always really surprised in my 20s when I started buying property, and my staff could borrow more money than I could because they had stable employment, but I was self employed. And I'm like, hang on, hold up. They're employed by me. So if I'm not stable, how are they stable? Anyway, it's all the rules. So as an employee, you're classed as stable employment. But as an entrepreneur, not so much because we can change direction and do all the different things. So you have to be the stable one for yourself, you have to be able to go, I'm going to stay calm in the storm. I'm going to control what I can control and let go of the rest because I think a lot of anxiety and overwhelm comes from what we can't control.

So turn the media off, stop looking at clickbait headlines, and focus on what you can control. Serve the pants off your customers and you're going to be totally fine. And then when this passes, you are going to enjoy the upside, like you can't even imagine now. Anyway, let me know what you think. Let me know your thoughts. Instagram, @tina_tower. And I hope that in this economic downturn, you don't survive, but you thrive because you are worth it. You have committed and you are that good. And I'm cheering you on all the way.