Hannukkah Happiness

This week begins the 8 day celebration in which families light the Menorah and celebrate the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah.   While Hanukkah was not part of my religious or spiritual traditions growing up, light and miracles are two things we can all appreciate and every time I light a candle I take a moment to appreciate all that that little flame symbolizes.  If you’ve been without electricity for a period of time (with the natural disasters we’ve experienced over the past decade, and especially the past few years, who hasn’t?), you may forget how miraculous it is to flip that switch and have the room fill with light.  But it’s nothing short of a miracle that we have eyesight and light with which to see.  Yesterday’s celebration of Thanksgiving here in the USA always makes me extra thankful for all we have.  If you’re celebrating Hanukkah I’ve got a few ideas of food and fun to keep the kids busy while you shop.

Challah

Whole wheat challah

Challah french toast

Latkes 5 ways

Brisket

Roast vegetable tsimmes with apricots

Gold and chocolate cookies

Jelly doughnut holes

Foil Menorah

Star punched paper hurricanes

Egg carton dreidel

Etched glasses

Table runner

Charmed napkin rings

Greeting card

Birdhouse Menorah

23 more fun and decorative ideas!

Whether you’re Jewish or not you’ll be seeing lots of candles over the next month with the holidays.   I’ve talked about starting a thanksgiving practice in my newsletters and other places, one aspect of which is a reminder or trigger.  Candle flames are a simple reminder to think of one thing to be thankful for.  What are you celebrating today?

THANKSGIVING in Business

Tomorrow in the USA we’re celebrating Thanksgiving.  It’s a day to be thankful for all we have in our lives and the blessings the next few weeks will bring to our businesses.  in honor of Thanksgiving I thought we’d talk briefly about 12 things that make up a great business, help a leader become great or is part of the awesomeness of owning and running a business.  Of course, these are usually often challenges for us as well, so look for areas that you’ve got room for improvement on too.

Time-it takes time to make an idea successful

Humor-if you’re not running your business with a sense of humor you’ll get frustrated quickly

Action-without actions all you’ve got are great ideas

Network-whether you’re networking for clients or networking for connections, support is essential!

Knowledge-if you don’t know anything about your area of interest, hire someone who does!

Solution-if your product or service doesn’t solve anything or isn’t useful people won’t see it as a solution.

Goal-what’s your goal for 2014?

Integrity-do the right thing!  Your customers expect honesty and quality, do you match up?

Vision-what’s the purpose of your business and the bigger picture that you’re striving for?

Improve-there’s always room for improvement!

New-just about everything gets stale after a while, keep it fresh!

Generosity-personally and professionally your generosity speaks volumes about your character and commitment to the world.

As you head into what may be your busiest month all year I encourage you to share your thanks with your employees and clients.  They’ve helped you get where you are and where you’ll go and I don’t know about you but I truly feel blessed to work with each of them! And keep in mind this thought from Richard Branson:

“My general attitude to life is to enjoy every minute of every day. I never do anything with a feeling of, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to do this today.'”

A Personal Thanksgiving

In Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving episode, Peppermint Patty says:

“What kind of Thanksgiving dinner is this? Where’s the turkey, Chuck? Don’t you know anything about Thanksgiving dinners? Where’s the mashed potatoes? Where’s the cranberry sauce? Where’s the pumpkin pie?”

I know kids and kids are famous for pointing out the obvious.  They always make note when things don’t quite match up to the expectations or knowledge of the event they had.  Like when you go to a store and the Christmas trees are a different color, or how you don’t get where you’re going quick enough or when you try to sneak things onto the dinner plate they weren’t anticipating.  As an adult of course you’re able to eat dessert before dinner, able to watch TV late at night, and go where you want to go, which kids envy.  We often envy their ability to make friends or adapt to the situation when we fall to pieces. Of course these differences are one of the things that makes the world go ’round.

The reality is that you don’t have to do things exactly as the rest of the world does. You don’t have to have a traditional Thanksgiving Day with turkey and trimmings or live in a traditional house with a traditional job and traditional friends.  These are outer trimmings, to use a seasonal word, that aren’t really what life, or Thanksgiving Day, is all about.  Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for who you are and what you have in your life today, and what you hope to have in your life in the future.  It’s about being thankful for continued life and opportunities, for the change of seasons and making of new friends, for what we make of each and every day we’re given.

Thanksgiving, just like any other day, is what you make of it.  What will you make of today?

Marketing this Holiday Season

Yes, the holidays are upon us!  Last month I shared some thoughts to prepare us for the holidays in our businesses.  Today I thought I would follow up with some thoughts on marketing in case you haven’t started yet.  Ironically, my advice may not be what you think it is.  Steve Fogg, a marketing adviser who works with churches and businesses, said:

“Brochures, websites, social media aren’t the be all and end all of church marketing. The best church ‘marketing’ sometimes happens in the small moments of life. When a member of your church lends someone a helping hand. Or gives a warm smile to brighten someone else’s day. Gives up their seat for someone else on public transport. You fill in the blank. The best ‘marketing’ happens when we move towards people, rather than just broadcast at them.” 

The same is true for any business, not just churches: we can’t define ourselves by our number of likes or pretty websites.  We have to be about more than just that.  No Facebook post can make up for a nasty employee or bad product.  Don’t get me wrong, there is incredible value in a good website and in having a healthy Facebook page.  But they are only part of the story.  This holiday season use the themes that people care about in your marketing like family, friends, love, warmth, caring for the environment and world, taking care of others, and joy to show them you’re about more than the bottom line.  A word of caution: people have become rather good at detecting BS.  They’ll know if you’re trying to save face or look pretty, or if you actually mean what you say.

Buyers are more likely to buy what they came to buy as well as more when presented with a clean package, a fresh made item, or from a nice display then they would with mess, chaos and poor quality.   As far as the rest of it goes, some of the best (and worst) marketing is done one-on-one between your potential customers and your employees (or yourself!).  In this world of technology and being followed by the second through our online posts taking the time to create a friendly human connection can make all the difference.

Make the effort to be friendly and helpful no matter how busy you are.  Take time this holiday season to put care and love into your marketing efforts, as well as your selling tactics, and be willing to be just a friendly face when the rest of the world is going crazy.  Your heartfelt celebration of the holiday themes will help attract others to you and your business.  Which theme are you going to focus on this year?

Vulnerable Relationships

This week I challenge you to stand up and ask your partner for some help, support or a favor.  I’m not talking about the things you always ask them to do like clean up the kitchen or put their clothes in the hamper, I’m talking about something that shows them that you need them.  Like asking them to pick you up a coffee when you’re not feeling well, or asking them to listen while you share about something troubling you at work, or asking them to set aside time for just the two of you to be alone.  Yes, you’ll be vulnerable because they’ll know that you don’t have everything together, yes they’ll hear the struggle you’re going through. But those are things that can make a relationship stronger if only you let them help you and you help them.  There are several reasons why this is important, and can really help your relationship.

First, it shows you’re not all strengths.  When you admit you’re not perfect it’s easier for other people to work with you and partner with you in life.  If you talk and act like you can do it all, people forget after a while that you may not be able to do it all and just assume that you can always do it all.  When you have sick days (which of course being a strong person you never do), the whole world seems to fall apart because everyone around you is so used to you doing and being everything.

Second, it makes for a partnership. I usually avoid the word relationship when talking with clients and friends and refer to these parings as partnerships because it helps people create different connections and associations in their minds.  A partnership cannot exist without two or more people working together.  A relationship can be more one sided, which leads to dissatisfaction, and often separation.  In this partnership it is essential to not only support each other, but intentionally ask how you can better support your partner and the partnership you have.

Finally, it builds trust.  Trust is something that everyone works towards and is hard to repair once it’s been broken.  Trust takes time to build because we’ve all had people lie to us and be underwhelmed by delivery of promises.  When you are open and honest with your partner it’s a chance to weave that relationship a little tighter and stronger.  Not only will that help in the long run, it helps with the present situations too.

Don’t hide your needs from your partner.  Being open and honest may be a little scary at first, but the more you do it the stronger both of you and your relationship will be!

Business Strengths

This month one of the topics we’re considering is strength.  When you chose to go into business for yourself you didn’t say “I have the hardest time with math, I think I’ll be an accountant.”  We don’t usually choose to do things that we’re not good at.  That’s not to say that you didn’t start your business based on something that was a weakness or a challenge in the past that you grew through and can now help others with.  Most of us start businesses on our strengths.  It’s certainly much easier to help someone with something you’re good at rather than something that frustrates you as much as it does them.  It’s also much easier to convince someone to buy if you’re confident that you can deliver what you’re selling. With that in mind, here are two tips on growing your business from your strengths:

Have a good team.  Even if you’re a solopreneur you should have people and systems around you that help you manage the business successfully.  Your team will make you far more successful than you could be if you tried to do everything by yourself.  Even a program like Hootsuite or a site like Facebook can dramatically free up your time from sharing a post when you want it published or doing endless networking events.  Having a VA or accountant helps you do the stuff that is most important and can only be done by you and let them take care of the stuff that isn’t part of your “genius zone”.  But your team shouldn’t be handling the same stuff you’re doing, that would be counterproductive.  Instead they should be doing the things that, while not maybe weaknesses, definitely aren’t strengths for you.

Learn what you need to.  You have to have a grasp of the financial aspect of your business, as well as how to work with customers.  If you can’t do these two things you won’t be as successful in business.  The good news is there are lots of people and courses that can teach you about these two things.  Knowledge is power, and while it’s not necessary to know everything, knowledge of people and money will definitely improve your ability to manage and grow your business.

I encourage you today to take a look at your business and make sure you are operating from your strengths and letting others operate from theirs.  It’s OK to give some guidelines for how clean you want the office or how often you want to review your accounting, but it’s not OK to tell them how to do their job down to the last I dotted and T crossed.  What can you do to be a better leader?

Choices of Life and War

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”   John F. Kennedy

Veteran’s Day is Monday, so today we’re honoring the men and women who have laid their lives on the line for all of us and our children in the USA.  Even if it’s something you’ve always dreamed of doing, it’s not an easy choice to make to leave your family behind and travel to a distant land, and it’s tough on those of us who stay behind.  It may be easier for you to get up and go to a job you hate than start the business of your dreams.  It may be easier for you to go off and fight in a war than get out of bed in the morning.  It may be easier to start a relationship than end one.  But each day we’re faced with choices just like these that we have to make.  Some seem rather insignificant in the long run like choosing between the the salad or the sandwich for lunch, but our lives are a series of choices and the results of the choices we make.   What we don’t have is the choice to not make a choice.  For even then the choice is not to choose and we’re left to the schemes of fate for our future.  The question then is not will you choose but what will you choose?

I’m proud of the choice my grandfather made to be in the service, as well as a fireman.  I also loved his humor and love of nature.  These things all made his passing and the last few years of his life which were challenged with sickness more bearable and gave me something positive to look back on.  What about you?  Are you creating good memories with your children?  Are you teaching them how to make choices that they won’t regret later or will at least be able to apply the lessons learned?  Are the choices you’re making ones you’re proud of?  Don’t let the sacrifices the brave men and women of the armed forces make be in vain.  Live your life boldly, bravely and with honor.

Election Insights

Yesterday in the USA it was election day.  You may be tired of hearing about the elections and politics, but it does bring up some good points for us business owners to consider.

1-promise what you can deliver.

2-follow through on your promises.

3-stand up for what you believe.

4-everyone has skeletons in their past, don’t deny it.

5-choose to make a difference rather than a disaster.

6-sometimes simple is better.

7-focus less on the negative and don’t bring up the bad stuff about others just to make yourself look better.

8-other people have good opinions and thoughts, let them speak.

9-choose what’s best for the other person too, don’t just be selfish

10-be thankful for the opportunity to try.

I have to say that I think we business owners have done very well in improving our standards and living up  to them over the past few years, while the political arena has much work yet to be done.  Any time you try to bring two big groups of people like church and state or state and business together people tend to object.  But what if instead of objecting to each others presence, we learned how to work together and benefited from the lessons the other has learned?  I’ll be we business owners could learn a bit about speaking to people and truly connecting with them from politicians while we teach them the value of honesty and quality.

Have you learned an applicable lesson from this year’s elections?  If so, share them in the comments.

Adopted with Love

November is Adoption Awareness month.  It’s a topic that warms some hearts and hurts others.  I’ve always been in favor of adoption, not for consideration on the topic of abortion, but the topic of love.  No matter how you came into this world, who your parents were, each and every child, each and every human even, needs to be loved.  Some people who become parents don’t feel they have the capacity to give their kids the love they need, but there are tons of other individuals and partners who would be thrilled to share love with a child.  Those who are loving parents, those who grew up with loving parents or those who grew up with loving, large families know a few secrets about the importance of love.

1-love grows.  Love isn’t something that gets smaller as you spread it, rather it grows.  Love doesn’t die, but other things in life can crowd in and we can change as people too.

2-love changes people.  Even the hardest and most cynical people’s lives can be dramatically transformed by something as simple as love. I’ve heard countless stories of people who have been changed because of the love someone showed them.

3-love inspires other good things.  When love starts at the home it can inspire many acts of kindness and love towards others.  It tends to soften people and make them more compassionate.  It doesn’t crush any sense of justice or rightness, just gives more understanding in situations and circumstances.

4-love brings people together.  As I mentioned on Wednesday, people don’t like Scrooges.  They prefer those who are happy, even a little realistic.

If you’ve got an adoption story, or one about how love changed your life I’d love for you to share it in the comments.  I also challenge you to love someone else.  It will be the best experience of your life and maybe theirs too.