Business and Heartbreak by Marilyn Tam

Posted by Marilyn Tam on Friday, 11 May 2012.

 Business and Heartbreak

By Marilyn Tam

“Violence is what happens when we don’t know what to do with our heartbreak… learn how to allow your heart to break open to embrace the lessons with compassion, not broken into sharp shards that hurt others as well as yourself”

-                     Parker J Palmer, author, educator, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. 

Dr. Palmer directed the above quotation at leadership and democracy, but I think it applies to how you should manage your business and life too. Violence in business and life thankfully does not usually degenerate into physical force, but the above concept is instructive in how we deal with all our challenges. 

HEART MARILYN-TAM-3-2012When we have a life or business challenge, do we narrow our focus to how we can get out of the immediate circumstance, or do we expand our vision and strategy to learn how we can improve the results for this and other situations?

With a challenge is looming in front of us, it is easy to fall back into a reflexive mode. We want to make the problem go away immediately, but a decision made in haste or from anger is less than ideal. The flight or fight instinct is activated and to respond aggressively or retreat without full consideration of the options, often prove to be worse than the initial situation. 

Many years ago when I was Vice President of Nike Apparel & Accessories, we were faced with a severe shortfall in sales on our launch line of Major League Baseball apparel. The customers stayed away in droves. Several retailers wanted us to take the merchandise back because it was performing much less than planned. My first snap reaction, after the initial shock, was to investigate how we can stop all ongoing production and get out of that business.

Taking a moment to center myself, I started the process of what I call PAGDE. After the initial pause, I assessed the total situation, not just the feedback from a few extremely vocal people with strong opinions who spoke up already. I assessed the overall market, and found that there were pockets of very promising sales, and stores where the products hardly moved at all.

It seemed that wherever the products were displayed and grouped together as a collection, they sold superbly. Where they were bunched in with other items of the same category, with no way of being seen as part of a coordinated look, it bombed. We gathered that the poor sales was largely because customers didn’t see or realize that they could buy a well put together look that also showed their loyalty to their sports team. Now this was a problem we could solve, at least in the stores that had space to display the collection.

We found out which areas and stores were doing well with the products, and consolidated the merchandise to them, relieving the stores that didn’t have space and/or the customers for the collection. We worked with the factories to make only the sports teams and items that sold well. We were able to keep our production commitments and also get the products we knew had a much better chance of success.

Following through with all our retailers, we were gratified to find that they were pleased with how we responded to a potential disaster. The retailers who didn’t sell the merchandise were happy to get rid of them, and the ones who sold well, were delighted to get an ongoing stream of popular sellers. 

We also endeared ourselves to our factories because we honored our production commitments and kept them humming with goods that everyone wanted. The best thing is that we learned a valuable lesson. We know better now how to deal in a sale and production crisis situation and established stronger credibility and relationships with all our partners – we will be there to work with them when a big challenge erupts. PAGDE, it worked.

Break open into a broader view of the possibilities versus breaking down into a cutting and destructive attack that results oftentimes in a short-term solution with negative long-term results. PAGDE applies to your business and personal life. 


  1. 1.Pause – take a deep breath, then another and then another. Repeat until you feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins begin to simmer down. If you have to remove yourself from the immediate surroundings temporarily to regain composure, do so if at all possible.
  2. 2.Assess – what are the true dimensions of the issue? Who, what, when and how.
  3. 3.Gather - why did this happen, what are the possible solutions and the consequences of the various action steps? Involve all relevant parties as much as possible.
  4. 4.Decide – based on the above data, determine the appropriate next steps to resolve the issue and to prevent new ones.
  5. 5.Execute – resolve the challenge with commitment and the comfort that you have assessed, analyzed and come up with the best solution. Repeat any of the above steps as needed as you proceed; the situation can change and you have to be prepared to adjust to the circumstances.

        Pause. Assess. Gather. Decide. Execute. PAGDE will help you determine the best course of action for the current dilemma and also give you insight into how to handle future issues.

            Break open instead of break apart. May you keep this insight in your heart.


Marilyn Tam is an international selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, humanitarian and former CEO of Aveda, President of Reebok Apparel Products & Retail Group and VP of Nike and the founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation.

Marilyn wrote her internationally selling books, “How to Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want and “Living the Life of Your Dreams, which won the Global eBook of the Year 2011 in the Inspirational/Visionary category. She wrote her books so that others can learn from the experiences and secrets of successful and happy people. Her books and work have helped numerous companies and people globally. You can find out more about Marilyn on her website and connect with her on facebook