What’s Holding You Back From Moving To The Next Level – Tommy Breedlove

Tommy rec



“If it's important enough to want, it's important enough to work for"



  • How Tommy's business partner reacted when he decided to make some life changes [13:02]
  • Quite often it's the fear that's holding you back, how to fight with it [22:54]
  • What investing in yourself means? [29:19]
Tommy rec


Salena: Hey there and welcome to this week's episode of the bringing business to retail podcast. Today's guest this week is Tommy Breedlove. Now Tommy chose to leave a very lucrative international financial consulting career to follow his calling to help others with the same insecurities and struggles he faces everyday as a leader and as a man. Today on the show Tommy going to share with you his wisdom and his tools to rediscover your brilliance to achieve meaning balance and true happiness without compromising your financial and professional success. Now just before we jumped on to record we were talking about what topics we're going to cover. Because Tommy is great in the finance department and you are going to be really excited if you're in that middle level point where you have hit a plateau in your business. Today’s episode is for you. So welcome to the show.

Tommy: Hey Salena Hello audience. I'm so excited to be here. Hello from the East Coast of the United States.

Salena:  Now the financial career. My next door neighbor was in the financial area in the finance industry in a very similar sector to where you were. And I have to say like we said in the introduction it's quite a lucrative place to be. So you just turn your back on something like that?

Tommy:  Financially it was extremely rewarding and the tough part about it as I had just reached the mountaintop and I'm not even remotely making that up.

I was literally just made a senior partner equity holder of a large firm here in the southeast United States I'm actually in Atlanta Georgia and that's where we were based.

And they elected me to the board of directors at 39 years old which is about 12 years quicker than most. And that's not because I was anything special except I could sell and make really complicated things really easy for folks to understand. But I literally had this oh my god. Oh you know oh shit moment candidly when I got to the top I just knew from a value system standpoint from a money generation standpoint and this is just not what I wanted to do anymore. There wasn't a check they could write me that would fulfill my soul. And I had gone on this five year journey of rediscovering who I was what I stood for, what my purpose was and I really wanted to work in my zone of brilliance, and what I mean by that is I could buy and sell companies. I could do financial consulting. I could help make companies profitable cash flow management operations blah blah blah. But that was like a zone of excellence. I wanted to work in my zone of brilliance was really helping humans lived their best life work in their passions without compromising financial success and even more importantly increase funding and success.  And so that's what was important to me. I lived it before and after I lived from a state of scarcity and then I lived in a state of abundance. So that's what lights me up in the morning and I knew I could sit there make a lot of money yada yada. But at the end of the day I wanted to be fulfilled. I wanted to live my truth and my life with my passion. So that's the honest answer why I left.

Salena: So what was the catalyst that five years beforehand something usually happens for you to go on that journey, what was your catalyst.?

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Tommy:  So I come from humble beginnings. I come from a salt of the earth trade background, where I'm from people either go to the military or some sort of trade school, plumber or electrician or candidly they go to jail.  And so I had worked I was the first person in my family to graduate university and I had overcome a lot as a young man. In fact when I was 18 years old I ended up committing a violent crime and thought my life was over so I literally went from jail to the lawyer in three years as a young man just by working hard, cleaning myself up, getting surrounded by good mentors. Fast forward to the age of 36 years old, I was a principal at the firm which slashed junior partner international practice leader. I had all the fancy bells and whistles, the watch, the car the suit you know the designer suit. Literally, an office that looked down on the city and I was miserable. And I looked behind me and I never really knew who I was. I was making decisions out of fear. I was making decisions about what I thought would be the quote America and Australia and European dream you know go from rags to riches and here I am with the title prestige and money and I'm truly miserable.  Because at the end of the day honestly I was, Selena I was compromising my value system. My marriage was crumbling. I was working. I was that guy of you who turns the lights off last wims04:52  and I was really on the pursuit of this thing called perfection for the next big deal or money. And it just wasn't fulfilling me or lighting me up. And so I had a collapse.

I literally basically bounced off rock bottom and decided just to turn my life around and reinvest it myself mentally emotionally spiritually and physically and financially. And the most amazing thing happened and I'll be quick is when I went from that scared really given a care about what everybody else thought and trying to chase you know wearing this Viking tough guy. I can't show any weakness business guy. When I stopped all that nonsense and just became Tommy. The most amazing thing happened in my personal life, my marriage and friendships just started to expand in so many positive ways. And in my financial life I went from junior partner to senior partner to equity holder to elected to the board three years and was making basically double almost three times what I was coming from the negative place. I literally went from being one of the most disliked people at the firm to the most beloved just by living my truth, living my value systems and honestly coming from, and this is going to sound...06:02 a place of love, abundance and passion both for myself and others.  And so that was the transformation I went to. And so what I try to teach people these days regardless of their retail and finance distribution, manufacturing or if I'm just working with someone individually. Because I am a firm believer because I've done it both, is that you can truly have it all in this life depends on what that means to you. I do believe you can achieve meaning in life, find fulfillment, just pursue this thing called balance and do that with increasing your financial success. Because I've done it twice. And so that's what I preach from the ceiling.

Salena: Ok I want to come back to that topic of fear, but just for a moment I want to touch on, how did your partner feel when you decided to go through this transformation?

Tommy:  Well she; first of all, a remarkable woman. You know I fully expected when I went through this transition and honestly was going through all that stuff as a human as a man and was; if there was nine, if there are a 100 things not to do in live Salena I probably checked off 90 of them. And so I was just not living who I was and yeah I still was dealing with that stuff as a young man. And when I went through this transformation and just said I don't know who this is and her name is Heather. Heather I don't know who this is, who this human is, but I don't like him and I want to find out who I am. She was one million per cent supportive because she knew that I was working at being a better human a better person. Really finding my heart space and really overcoming a lot of things to be the person I was always meant to be. So she was so supportive of the transition because I think she knew how it was at the time and what it what it... She always has said to me she knew what it could be.  And it has grown into that and to so much more. And so I'm a living proof that you know, I'm no sage on the stage. But if I can do it Selena, anybody can do this. I'm not kidding. And that's what I teach. But it is a mindset and it's a lot of work. Candidly I work on this stuff. You know I don't just teach it. I don't just speak about it I just don't write about it. I work with clients or masterminds or companies. I also have to live this because it's a lot of work for me to put on my big boy pants every day to serve myself, to really nurture myself that I can serve my community. So there is no magic pill or quick fix. It's a lot of work but I love the work and it's better than the alternative of being miserable, scared and putting so much stock into this. you know what other people think. And so I'm a firm believer that you can have it all. So I hope that answered my question about my partner.

Salena: No it did. I think you need to have that support when you're going through a really big change because if you don't have that support it becomes even more alienating.

Tommy:  Totally.  And I am a firm believer, I've done so much research on this you are who you surround yourself with and really light and like attracts like. And if you're coming from a place of scared, or fear or judgment or envy those are killer emotions that hold us back as business leaders, hold us back as partners in relationships and friendships. And if you're in that state of mind more often than not, you typically surround yourself with those people.  From a friendship standpoint, I basically had to be dogmatic about who I surrounded myself with and lost a lot of friends candidly and was okay with that.  From a partner standpoint, I was very fortunate enough that I always had a glass half full type person, where I was a glass half full you know, empty person. And so I was really fortunate to have that support system that would work with me and support me so that I become... because it only, you know, it uplifts her as well, it uplifts our relationship. So she knew she was wise enough and candidly, really comfortable with herself and our relationship enough to work through this transition with me. It was amazing.

Salena:  Fantastic. Now let's get back to feed. I imagine that this is something that you deal with probably within yourself. But also with the people that you work together with to make, you know, to build those profits, to grow businesses, to get people in touch with that balance that they're looking for. I want to; I'd like to give you an example because we talked a little bit before we started recording, we talked about someone that I've worked with, and how they're at this point in their business where they've come through that hassle, they are working really really long hours. Now I don't like the word hassle but you know working long hours to build this business.  It's been 10 years and now they're just getting to that stable point. You know the point where there's some money coming in, they're getting their product supplied in stores, but now they've reached that plateau that plateau where it's going to have to take some investment, time, money, effort to move to that next level. So business has got to full bandwidth for her and now to move to the next level she's going to have to start outsourcing a lot of things.  And that's going to mean a lot of money up front. And I have several clients who are in this phase right now and this is really difficult. So I wanted to talk about, how do you help people who are in that plateau stage. I don't know about you but I tend to find it. It happens between three and five years and then somewhere between six and eight years, where you worked really hard. And now you're coasting along but you're itching to move to the next level. But you know it's going to be really really difficult.

Tommy: I think that; I think you're spot on both in time and there's also, depending on, I'm not sure about the size of the companies that you work with Selena. It really doesn't matter. But there's also plateaus not only in time, there's plateaus and leadership, there's plateaus and where you run the business, and also in revenues of the business. The first one is usually a million. The second one is between 5 and 10 and it kind of goes exponentially from there. My sweet spot in my former life was that 10 to 500 million dollar company. And so there's plateau's not only dollar-wise there's plateaus from what risk you're willing to take, and what lifestyle you want to live. But also making very courageous tough decisions. Do you want to take? Do you truly want to? And can you take the risk of taking your business to the next level. Because without risk there's no reward right. And so what I would encourage your client to do in this particular situation is you've got to take a holistic look, especially if you're an entrepreneur. And I don't know if you call it hustle or just hard work. Most of the people I'm sure that you're working with who start their own company are very ambitious. But there's; but that's a great thing. But the downside to ambition is how much of your life do you want to give up. How much of your time do you want to give up because this thing called balance is kind of an illusion. Those of us who are ambition, we really don't have balance, and that's OK because we choose that. Yea, we choose that. Because we love the game.

We love building things, we like starting retail companies and businesses and yachty and that's okay.  That's what lights us up. It's who we are. We've got to own that. But in your specific situation that person needs to both look at the business and themselves.

And what I mean by that is if they're scared to take that, don't let fear be the driver for you holding your ambition or where your business could go. Because fear will kill you. And the fear comes from a place of A, Candidly I'm not good enough, and can I do this can I really take it to the next level. And also if I just if I screw this all up will I live under a bridge. And to answer to all that is no, you're not going to live under a bridge. There is a reason you've been successful you have to believe that.

So there's a whole lot of tools that you have to; I would start by saying they need to invest in themselves. What skill set do they need, whether it's accounting, operations, a further understanding of investment or finance. And most importantly, and this is something that they always need to invest in.  Because it's the thing that we leave off the most, is invest in themselves.  Both from a courage standpoint, worthiness standpoint, am I good enough standpoint and from a leadership standpoint.  Because they're going to have to believe, they're going to have to be the leader they want to be. And so whatever skill set from tactically of running the business, and candidly, emotionally, and mentally. Because it's just as important, if not more important than the business itself. Because you can outsource a lot of the business expertise. You cannot outsource your internal beliefs, your worthiness issues, your leadership abilities and self-growth. And I believe to be the best business person, the best leader and the best human you can be because it's one big stew. There's not one without the other. You have to invest in yourself. So I would tell them, A, take a self-inventory with someone like yourself, who's a great business coach, and you know really take a self-assessment, and what is it going to take to get me to the next level.

And if I'm ready and willing and want to take the risk, you know what skill sets do I need to get me there on all facets of the business. And outsourcing is okay, that's how you grow. And so, and the last thing I would be remiss if I didn't say this, is so many of us think we're alone when we have to make these very courageous tough choices in our businesses. No you're not. No you're not alone. There's been a million people before you who struggled with the same thing whether you're  going from a thousand dollars in sales to a million dollars in sales to 100 million dollars in sales even into the billions. Everybody struggles with those issues and you're not alone. So chances are there's someone in your peer group or a consultant or surround yourself with people who've also been there to help hold you accountable and uplift you during that process, so that you know that you're not alone. And that's a really long winded way of saying, it's a whole  it's a big stew but there's a lot of facets to it. But I believe they can do it and you believe that can do it. It's just a matter of they've got to believe.

Salena: It's very very true. And fear comes up. It's very insidious isn't it. You think you're OK. You think, why wouldn't I want to move my business to the next level. Why wouldn't I want to make more money? But it's actually; quite often it's the fear that's holding you back. So how do you deal with, let's give us an example. Because there's a pretty good chance, that not a lot of the listeners are doing 10 to 500 million dollars. So tell me what you would do. You've dealt with big retail stores, you've worked with some major corporations. How do you tackle this situation for them, this Plateau moving to the next level what do you do?

What do you go in and say when seemingly they have all the resources they need in order to go to that next level?

Tommy: Just because they make; top-line revenues are very significant doesn't mean that; you know, with larger companies become larger bureaucracies become larger operational issues.  It's it doesn't matter if you're $100000 business or $100 million dollar business, the issues is just compound. And so from a resource standpoint, let's keep it, if you said most of your businesses aren't, let's take; because I also in my former life I have represented a lot of retail stores who are in that hundred thousand US dollar to five hundred thousand dollar US in their bottom line, because they're just getting it built up. You know sometimes they're profitable, sometimes they're not profitable and cash flow is also always an issue. But the fear issue that you're talking about whether or not it's you've got to go out and get a million dollar line of credit, or reinvest twenty five thousand dollars of your money or just take a risk because you've got to buy inventory of a certain bulk. The fear is inherent because of something in you in your past that's not related to the business at all.

There is some sort of anchor, and here's the truth. We as human beings; I am a business financial guy. I love the game but again it's one big system we're one big stew.

And so if there's if there's a fear of taking that risk to double down on your investment if there's that fear of knowing I've got to buy X amount of inventory or it's all coming from a place of scarcity. And so you've got what; I take a holistic approach to the financial process and really dig in emotionally and mentally and figure out where it is' and I'm not a psychologist, I'm not that, and I'm not the squirrel of...19:06 And so what we've got to do is figure out what is in their story or what is in their background or what is in their systems that is driving them to come from a place of I can't do it. I'm not good enough. I'm scared. And I think I'm gonna lose it all. And we've got to truly conquer that. And there's a lot of tools and systems and other things we can put in place and accountability candidly, so they can overcome that. So to me it's not a business issue if it is it because you're right. Fear is insidious, we have it in our families, we have it in our relationships, we have it in our businesses and it doesn't go away. We all have it. Again you're not alone, but you've got to have the courage to work with somebody. And I'm not talking about go to a psychologist. I'm not you know there's a lot of different ways you can get involved with mastermind's. You can hire a coach like yourselves online or you can hire a coach like me or you can you know read books to help you overcome the self-confidence and other issues to get; thinking grow rich by Napoleon Hill, a great book on overcoming insecurities and the six deadly fears as he calls it. There's just a lot of tools out there to help you do that because it's probably not a business issue, if you're growing and growing and if you've come to the place where I've got to make a courageous big decision in my business, celebrate that.  Have gratitude for that cause you've clearly got the gusto to get you there. Now just double down Invest in yourself emotionally mentally to help you be the best leader and business person and so you don't let that fear anchor you down..

Salena: Okay, there was a key thereto what you just said in case people missed it.  You did not say double down and work harder. You did not say double down and put in more effort. You said double down and invest in yourself.

Tommy: Always

Salena: And I think that's where a lot of people get stuck. And I'll put my hand up. That was me. You think if you just work more hours, you make more money. And that works to a point. But there comes that tipping point when for some reason, even though you're working more, you're working harder. You don't seem to be making any more money in fact maybe you're even going backwards. Is that where you would say to people, if you're in that position, it's time to stop and just take a good hard look at yourself.

Tommy: Always. And I think; and that is a beautiful point because if you just keep working harder and harder and harder you're going to start compromising other facets of your life.

And that's really going to lead to significant burnout of you as well as your business, as well as your employees and even worse as your family friends etc. So you're going to start compromising everything else and that just leads to all sorts of bad things happening within your business, in your personal lives and that's where we read all these, you know there's a million examples of that. So the truth of the matter is, we invest in the stock market, we invest our inventory, we invest our families. But for some reason we as human beings we don't like to invest in ourselves. And that's the first thing we compromise. And I'm talking about all facets of your life physical, mental, emotional and your financial and business. And you've got to have; and it's constant work.  Then again there is no magic pill, you constantly got to be reinventing yourself. And so sometimes as a leader we need to; it doesn't mean you have to give up control your business or ownership of your business. Sometimes there's just better leaders to take us to the next level. That doesn't mean you still can't control the ownership of the company and be heavily involved and work in your zone of brilliance, and whether that is sales, inventory management, human beings whatever it might be.

But sometimes investing in yourself means also putting your ego aside and bringing someone else in to take you to that next level whether it's internally or externally. But going back to your specific question, to live a true, happy, meaningful, purposeful driven life where financial abundance, relationship abundance, positivity, happiness and that happiness is a pursuit. There is no endgame or goal there, balance is a choice. There's all sorts of debates on that. That's another discussion. But in order for you to be the best human, the best partner, the best significant other, the best mother father parent, whatever label you want to put on yourself and most importantly leader. Because this is a business podcast on love of business. You've always got to invest in yourself first because you've got to continue to grow, and when you continue to grow, your customers, your people and your family. They literally become your zealots and that helps you increase business tenfold. I'm telling you I see it day after day so it's so critical to constantly be doubling down not only on you, but your leadership skills and your emotional mental skills too. It's everything. That's my dogmatic and I believe that.

Salena: That's something we didn't touch on a little bit earlier, but I find that when people hit that plateau, no matter where it is, no matter what done in business, that spot is and you were just saying when you know, when you invest in yourself and you get that passion back again, it's felt by everybody. And honestly guys if you're having one of those days and you're in you're in a physical shop or even if hearing any Kilmister. Go clean the shelves, go and move things around because that energy, is literally that you feel that.  That is some kind of movement, some kind of change. That changes up the whole energy within yourself and within your customers. Do you find that?
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Tommy: I totally agree. Completely agree on all fronts on that is you've got to be willing to change, you've got to,  there's a reason you started this business. There was something that lit you up. There was a passion and you've got to rediscover that of why you did it. And is it still something within your heart and head that you truly love that you want to continue to grow and nurture into the greatest business that it can be. But you also need to take a deep dive in yourself. If a hundred thousand dollar retail business lights you up, you love your employees you love your customers. You're living the life that you want to live. That's perfectly okay. If it's a hundred million or everything in between. That's perfectly ok too. But if there's something deep, like you said, if you're in a rut or you're starting to judge or criticize yourself or you're starting to get from a place to envy or anger. And trust me we all go through it. That is your gut telling you it is time to make significant change both probably in your business and within yourself and trust that and again double down and start doing the work because the work will be a beneficial in all aspects your life would be worth it for your business. Or maybe it's time for you to sell your business and start another store. Who knows right. You just never know it.

Salena: And guys when he says the work the work is not actually doing anything, it's working on yourself. Let's just make that really clear.

That is completely true. But one absolutely correlates with the other. Unfortunately, double down on your hours at your store or on your e-commerce site. That's not going to overtime because you're plateaued for a reason, that's not going to have the result. But shifting some of your energy and focus back to yourself again and working on getting you optimally running and growing and learning new strategies and tactics both from your level, from a heart level, from a mental level and most importantly from a business level or not most importantly but just as important. That'll help your business grow. If you want it to grow. And so it is work. It is a lot of work. And by the way, it takes a lot of courage too, so kudos to those of you who are doing it because it's easy to do the things we've always done. It's easy to continue to think if we put 12 more hours into the store it's going to grow. That's not. No, it won't I promise because you're missing something. There's something that you're not seeing within your business and in yourself, that's holding you back. And we've got to find out what that is. We've got to conquer that and we've got to move you forward.

Salena: And on that note, I think we're going to pause and just let that sink in a little bit.

I think we've; I think we've got the big stake and we bait people a few times over the head with. It's time to start looking at yourself and looking after yourself and investing in yourself. So I have a question for you to me. Are you the kind of person who likes to shop online. Or would you prefer to wander around a physical store?

Both. I forgot how much I actually enjoy going to a physical store until I did it recently because I'm a huge time management guy and the online you know the instant access and gratification of having stuff delivered to me is fantastic.

But recently I've been on a couple of stores for the first time, and it's just something about the look and smell and feel whether it's human or it's clothing, whether it's knickknacks especially if it's book. I'm a huge reader. I just like to wander it, touch it feel it like the human interaction. So it's both for me. I would say primarily for myself, I probably do 80 per cent online just for ease and convenience. But there's something especially if it's a store I believe in like a local shop around town or the local chocolate maker or the local wine shop or there are some clothing stores in and around in Atlanta here these days that I just really like being in there and seeing people really put their passion in their craft and really work hard to build something. But and I want to say this to your audience too, the fact that they've started either an e-commerce store and or if they've really taken the courage to open up a brick and mortar store that puts you so much ahead of everybody else. At least give yourself a little bit a moment of gratitude and love for having the courage to do that because it puts you ahead of most of the people on this earth. And I think that's amazing.


Tommy’s mission in life is to help individuals, leaders and organizations increase their positive impact on the world while gaining meaning and attaining financial success.
He chose to leave a lucrative international financial consulting career to follow his calling to help others with the same insecurities and struggles he faces everyday as a leader and a man. At the time, he had achieved financial success and gained business notoriety and prestige. However, Tommy felt unfulfilled and had lost meaning and hope in his life. For 36 years, he felt the choices and decisions he made were out of fear and the judgements and opinions of others instead of from his own values.

Tommy took courageous action and chose to make massive changes for and in himself. As a result, he walked away at the top of his professional career. Rather than have a complete meltdown, he regained meaning in his life, rediscovered his brilliance and set out to serve himself and others.

Prior to following his passions, Tommy was on the Board of Directors and the International Practice Leader for a large financial consulting and advisory firm. He and his international practice team won the 2012 Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Global Impact Award.
Since his professional beginning at Deloitte, Tommy has spent his professional career serving companies as a strategic, managerial and financial consultant. Tommy has and still serves as Board Advisor, Chair, and/or Director for multiple for-profit and civic entities.

Tommy graduated from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia and is a Certified Public Accountant. He holds a Certificate in Innovation from the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University and received Cognitive Based Compassion Training from Emory University.

Tommy enjoys traveling, reading, experiencing new cultures and food, continuous learning, all things outdoors, and strives each day to put his positive mark on the world. He and his wife, Heather, live in Atlanta with two adorable four-legged children.

“Each week I interview industry and thought leaders for their take on business and life”

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