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Guiding Leadership Principles for Times of Great Uncertainty (with Sunny Vanderbeck)

May 11th, 2020

What are some of the most important guiding principles business leaders need to help their company not only survive a crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic, but to thrive and build a better business than existed before? How can you and your team make up for social distancing with emotional closeness? What do good leaders do to maintain the clarity of mind necessary to make good decisions?

Listen in as Sunny Vanderbeck speaks about what Conscious Capitalism is, what kind of mindset it takes to weather a storm like COVID-19, the key lessons he has learned that will help leadership in today’s climate, and how it all starts with one simple concept: caring.



Sunny Vanderbeck is Co-Founder and managing Partner of Satori Capital, a private equity firm in Dallas/Fort Worth that has been voted a Best Place to Work and is known for its Conscious Capitalism culture and approach to business. Prior to becoming a Co-Founder of Satori, Sunny built on the foundation of his former military experience as an Army Ranger to become one of the youngest CEOs to lead a NASDAQ company.  Sunny is also the bestselling author of “Selling without Selling Out: How to Sell Your Business without Selling Your Soul.”



Business Leadership in Crisis

Sunny Vanderbeck discusses protecting productivity and purpose in unprecedented times

by Jeff Holler

There’s no doubt. The world has been turned upside down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The business owners of most privately owned companies, along with many an entrepreneur, are having to make difficult decisions regarding how to get their companies through this and remain strong and ready to grow again in the marketplace when the time comes. Other small business leaders are having to completely reinvent themselves and their companies.

Leading the way in helping his clients through this crisis is Sunny Vanderbeck – an investor, entrepreneur, best-selling author, and former military leader focused on accelerating the growth of mid-market companies and creating best-in-class, built-to-last businesses. He is cofounder of Satori Capital, a multi-strategy, private equity investment firm founded on the principles of conscious capitalism. Before founding Satori, Sunny cofounded and served as CEO of Data Return, a leading provider of managed services and utility computing.

One of the first moves Sunny made to address the pandemic at Satori involved looking at its core guidelines. “We have both the company directly and then numerous companies where we are a significant investor. One of the things we did very early on is we got the leadership team together to establish new cultural guiding principles,” he said. “We have ones that guide our actions day to day in normal times. What we realized is that we needed some new guidelines.”

Those guidelines for crisis management included frequent and authentic communication, self-care, and facts over opinions. Sunny reveals the rest in my latest podcast, adding, “The funny thing is some of these you look at and think that maybe you should have been doing that all along, and this is what forced it.”

In my podcast, Sunny also discusses the two key lessons he’s learned along the way that are proving prominent in his leadership during this crisis. It began with an essential reminder. “I don’t have all the answers. One of the ways this played out … is it was really neat to see all these great leaders and CEOs that we have in our portfolio find new and interesting ways to engage with their teams that were appropriate for their situation. It wasn’t like we were calling and telling them what to do. They largely knew what to do,” Sunny said. “It was really a blessing to be able to see some of these portfolio leaders execute their own version of what needed to be done.”

“The second lesson I learned is when it gets hard, when it gets stressful, when there are too many things going on, and you are lacking clarity in the world … you don’t have to go it alone. This is not an island. We all have people around us, our team, our family, and our friends that will go on this journey with us no matter how hard it is.”

Sunny believes the difference between the companies that simply survive this economic and business upheaval versus the companies that will thrive and grow starts with achieving a balance between pessimism and hope. “Right now, only hope does not serve you well. You’re not looking at the situation as it is now. You are only seeing it as you want it to be. That still is extraordinarily important as an entrepreneur, and it can be extremely dangerous in an environment like this,” he said. “At the same time, just pessimism gets you nowhere. You need to realize that on one hand it is not going to be like this forever. On the other hand, we don’t actually know how long ‘not forever’ actually is.”

“There is psychology about waiting for things to return to normal, which I don’t believe they will. No one knows what the ‘new normal’ is. I’m not sure I like that term,” Sunny adds. “The hurricane basement analogy that I heard from someone worked much better for me. We all went to the basement and the hurricane blew over us. Hopefully as we come back out, we are not in the eye of it. Those of us that expect to see the world untouched, I think, are fooling ourselves.”

In the midst of it all, Sunny is as sure as ever about what is bigger than business for him. “The starting place for me is that business is not actually about money. It is about creation and building and improvement,” he said. “Business sets the tone and culture for all of its employees. If people come to work and they are at a best place to work and they feel motivated and fulfilled by the thing they spend most of their waking hours doing, that is a pretty big deal.”


Listen to Sunny’s podcast on your favorite  provider below!