Thousands of Thank You’s

“. . . my obsession with gratefulness. I can’t stop… I’m actually muttering to myself, ‘Thank you. . .thank you. . . thank you.’ It’s an odd way to live. But also kind of great and powerful. I’ve never before been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.”  A.J. Jacobs

I’ve talked over and over about how each and every one of us have a choice to make each and every second of the day.  It’s always my hope that you choose to make the conscious choice for good and not for bad, to choose the best for yourself and others, not just the easiest, to choose to be thankful rather than greedy.  Life is all about the choices we do or don’t make.

As we stand on the precipice of a new year we’ve got choices to make: will I choose to be the same person I was in 2013 in 2014?  Will I choose to love my family more and spend more time with them?  Will I look for ways to improve the world or hurt it?  Will I choose to make this my best year yet or just get by?  Will I choose this year to be more thankful for the people in my life, who they are and what they do for me?

What if being more thankful was all that it took to significantly improve your life?

The hardest part of all of this is how unconscious or subconscious our lives have gotten.  We’re not as conscious about our blessing of electricity until there’s a big storm and the power goes out.  We’re not as conscious of our partner’s amazing talents around the house until they’re working double shifts.  We’re not cognizant of our health until we’re struggling.  As we step forward into 2014 together I encourage you to make this the year of open eyes and ears.  Let’s be thankful together.

Christmas Celebrations

Yes, it’s Wednesday, and I usually share business building thoughts, but seeing as it’s Christmas, I promise to keep this short.  Since Christmas is about being together and celebrating, I wanted to make sure that you knew that you’re being celebrated this year.  People have come to your business and spent extra money this month with you, or will today if you’re open.  Whether you’ve struggled or succeeded this year people have recognized you and you’ve become part of their lives.

Whether you’ve succeeded or not this year, today should be a day of celebration. Maybe you’re celebrating an end and a new beginning.  Maybe you’re celebrating a very successful and profitable year.  Maybe you’re celebrating a fresh start.  Maybe you’re celebrating the knowledge that you have much to improve on next year, or the beginning of a new chapter and adventure in your business.  Maybe you’re celebrating that you didn’t kill any clients this year for their rudeness and ambivalence about your amazing work.  Maybe you’re celebrating the amazing transformations you’ve helped your clients accomplish, or just the smiles you’ve seen on happy patrons.

Whatever you’re doing today, make sure you’re celebrating.   Merry Christmas!

Christmas is for Families

“I’m glad he took our presents. You can’t hurt Christmas, Mr. Mayor, because it isn’t about…the gifts or the contest or the fancy lights. That’s what Cindy’s been trying to tell everyone… and me. I don’t need anything more for Christmas than this right here: my family.”  From “How The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”

Dr. Seuss’ “How The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” is a great take on the tale of Dickens’ Scrooge.  The lesson that both the Grinch and Scrooge learn is that generosity, kindness and love are not only real, but essential parts of life. Their individual experiences teach them that there’s more to life than they’ve known, and open their hearts to receiving all that is part of the Christmas spirit.  Each week as we talk about families and relationships, I hope that together we’re learning how to learn to get along and work better together.  Our differences can’t be fixed in one night like in the story of Scrooge, but starting to fix our differences, or at least admitting we need to work on our differences is possible.

The perspective from “How The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” is especially touching this time of year as we consider the people we’ve lost this past year, both in our own lives and those who were public figures like Nelson Mandela and Paul Walker.  The holidays make us wish we could be with our loved ones, and remember those who have gone on before.  It’s sad that many of us don’t appreciate those we have in our lives until it’s too late, which is why the stories of the Grinch and Scrooge are so important in our culture: they teach us that change is possible and it’s not too late to make changes happen.

This holiday season, whether you’re spending time with biological, adopted or chosen families, make sure that you tell the people closest to you that you value them and the relationship you have with them.  The holidays are a time for being honest, and what better honesty to offer than to let people know what they mean to you.

The Story of Christmas

“Maybe don’t call it social media.  Maybe don’t call it anything.  Just be human and tell your story.”  Gary Vaynerchuk

These words by Gary Vaynerchuk, wine and marketing maven, reveal one of the greatest challenges and opportunities for business owners: our (social) story.  One of the easiest and smartest ways to connect with customers is to tell a story, a story that gets them emotionally and personally involved in what you’re doing and creates that connection with them that tells them you’re the right person to help them and they need to hand their credit card over immediately.  Of course, the biggest aspect of the story is the communication of it.  If you don’t tell the story, or don’t tell it well, you’re sunk.

One of the stories related around the world at this time of year is the story of Santa, or St. Nicholas.   On the subjects of stories, communication and St. Nicholas Kevin D. Hendricks said:

“We talk about marketing, strategy and communication plans. Those are all good and important. But communication has to be more than mere words. We don’t remember the words of St. Nicholas. His sermons didn’t inspire a tradition of giving, his actions did.  It was the extreme generosity of St. Nicholas’ actions that brought his story to life and captured the imagination of the world. So much of our December mania is rooted in his act of sacrificial giving. That’s one heck of a story.  A story requires plot, movement, action. It’s more than words.”

What story is your business telling people?  Are you telling people you’re a Scrooge? Is your “home” (aka office, website or store) shouting at people that you’re failing and don’t care?  Are you marketing the interest out of people?  Or are you being human and connecting with them on a personal level, telling them a story they’ll never forget?

A Season of Stress

December, ironically enough, is Stress Free Family Month.  So today I thought I would share 3 tips for easing the stress in your life.  They will take a little work to get into practice on, but once you’ve gotten into a rhythm you’ll find you’re all less stressed.

1-a calendar: I don’t know how many families I talk to that don’t use a calendar and wonder why their lives are crazy.  Not writing down commitments and plans means that other people don’t know and therefore can blame you when you expected them to remember something or be somewhere.  Yes, you can use an online or app calendar, but I also advise a physical one that everyone can write their stuff down on for all to see in a central location at the house.

2-weekly family meeting: yes, these can be painful.  It’s hard to convince the whole family to sit down at the same time and discuss the upcoming week.  But if you take just 30 minutes each week to sit down as a group and discuss what is on the calendar and schedule for each person that week and who will be responsible for transportation, who will be getting/making meals, when people are working, things people want to attend, projects coming up etc., rather than having issues mid-week with things you’ll be able to figure it all out ahead of time.

3-food: for this there are two suggestions.  First to make a meal list for dinners that upcoming week, and second to do all of the food shopping on one day, not a little bit each day as needed.  Yes, this takes time again to sit down and plan things out.  But taking the time to make a dinner menu schedule and a really good shopping list means that you’ll not be running all over getting supplies and you’ll not be feeding your family not so good dinners.  The first couple of weeks will be more difficult, but once you get the hang of not shopping each day and planning meals ahead you can ease a lot of stress.

What about you?  What are your tips for having less stress in your family?

Bah Humbug Businesses

Yes, today we’re taking a look at Scrooge’s business practices and considering some of the business practices in today’s world that definitely could use a visit from a few ghosts.

1-being stingy with employees.  I totally agree that if and when possible money should be saved.  I’m not a big believer in frivolous spending, but I do believe that it’s essential to properly reward those who work for you, especially if they go above and beyond.  It’s not just about making sure they’re (relatively) comfortable at work, but letting them know you know they’re more than just employees, they’re people with lives and families too.

2-reputation.  Scrooge’s business with his 2 dead business partners wasn’t known for being the friendliest or most caring.  In the past 20 years or so we’ve seen many businesses with decent reputations only to eventually discover that they were really fronts and stole lots of money.  In today’s world businesses with not so nice business practices and reputations don’t make it long, or are vehemently protested.

3-charitible giving.  Scrooge learned what it meant to contribute with charity to the community, and more businesses today are being built with charitable giving written right into the business plan.  Giving has always been part of who I am as a person and business, I don’t believe that we can pretend that we’re not part of a community.  You can’t sell to anyone if there isn’t a community literally or figuratively around you.

4-(holiday) spirit. Scrooge got a surprising awakening when he learned that people liked to have fun and enjoyed spending time in each other’s company.  But that’s not just a social practice, it’s a business one too.  When we hire or keep individuals who interact with paying customers or potential customers in ways that are rude, dismissive or belittling, we’re doing our business a great disservice.  No customer wants to be treated as a 2 year old, and while you don’t have any control over how the customers act, you do have some say in how you and your employees act.

This holiday season, I encourage you to learn from Scrooge’s lessons and apply them to your business.  Don’t just apply them for the holiday season, or take them out once a year, they’re practices that should be in place all year long.

Magical Disney Wisdom

If you’ve got kids, or if you were a kid once, you’ve heard of Disney.  From movies to cruises, the Disney name seems to be everywhere.  Since yesterday was creator Walt Disney’s birthday I thought I would share some Disney movie wisdom with you.

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.” The Emperor of China, Mulan

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Christopher Robin, Winnie The Pooh

“Always let your conscience be your guide.” Pinocchio, Pinocchio

“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.” Rafiki, Lion King

“You’re mad, bonkers, off your head! But I’ll tell you a secret: all the best people are.” Alice Kingsley, Alice in Wonder Land

“Even miracles take a little time.” Fairy Godmother, Cinderella

“I am on my way, I can go the distance. I don’t care how far, somehow I’ll be strong. I know every mile, will be worth my while. I will go most anywhere to find where I belong.” Hercules, Hercules

“You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.” Pocahontas, Pocahontas

“Take it from an old spectator. Life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’ is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without ya.” Laverne, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

“All it takes is faith and trust.” Peter Pan, Peter Pan

What wise lessons have you learned from Disney movies?

Lessons of Lists

Have you made your Christmas lists yet?  You know, the one for Santa of all the things you want under the tree this year?  Some of our lists are pretty far-fetched, but that’s part of the magic of Christmas: being able to wish for something you can’t or wouldn’t get yourself.  I’m a fan of both electronic and written lists, or reminders, in my business.  I don’t always make a to-do list each day, but just about every day I use one list or another that I’ve written in the past to remind me how or what to do. So in the spirit of the season I thought it was important to talk about different lists we should read or consider each year, or more often than that.

1-financial lists. You can have several different types of lists here: a list of goals, a list of expenses, or a list of income.  All 3 are important lists to have and regularly review.  Ignoring them won’t increase your bank account, but it certainly could decrease it.  You should review you income and expenses on a regular basis; my suggestion is to review the basics each week and do a more thorough review each month.  Don’t pretend you can pass this off on your accountant and get away with it: you can’t. However, your accountant can print out an easy to understand list of the numbers that are most important for you to review each week.

2-marketing lists.  This is one of my favorites to make each year.  Why?  Because I get to sit down and dream up all the amazing ways I want to connect with people and let people know I can help them.  From a monthly theme list (this months’ theme is thankful), to daily and weekly content on social media and my blogs, I plan it all out so I have to spend less time on coming up with ideas and more time on getting it done and done well.

3-company and culture lists.  These type of lists include things like employees who greatly add to your company, employees who need more training, areas of your business you want to improve, and things that are going well (and things that are not).  You’ll definitely want to review this on a yearly basis, probably even a quarterly basis.  These lists can be the most painful, but they’re some of the most insightful as to why you are or aren’t doing well.

This week I encourage you to sit down and make a list of the things you want to improve in 2014 (contact me if you need help!).  Don’t just say “do better marketing” or “make more money”, be specific about your goals and even some of the tasks you will have to do to get them done well.  It’s been said that without a plan, you plan to fail, so what plan will you make today?