Celebrating Each Other This Holiday Season

The holiday season is in full swing, with kids writing letters to Santa asking for piles of toys, houses with lots of lights and decorations, cookies and foods being cooked and gatherings of people at home and in restaurants (and I’m so excited!). And the season is all about these things. It wouldn’t be the same if it was just quiet scripture readings and no decorations, food or gatherings. But it is about things like love, joy, peace and hope too. That’s what the decorations, the lights, the food and the gatherings are all about: coming together to celebrate the emotions of life.

The holiday season is a time for celebration, reconciliation, blessing and community. It’s a time for peace and not for war, to resolve your issues and bless those in your life, and one of the first places many of us need to start is in our relationships. All too often we’re trying to one-up our partner, trying to outdo them as the parent, trying to be the parent the kids love, trying to be right, and trying to be in charge and in control of everything, and everything turns into a shouting match or fight. I’m amazed how challenged it seems we are to see the truth about power in our relationships.

As it turns out though, the holiday season can teach us a lot on this topic. We’ve been deceived to believing that the holidays are about gifts and spending, when they’re really about the people you’re spending for. A relationship isn’t about who is in control, who’s the boss, or who’s the favorite, but about loving each other to the best of our ability. Will you join me this holiday season in spreading love and joy, rather than celebrating spending?

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix

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4 Ways to Thank Your Customers

Tomorrow is the celebration of Thanksgiving here in the USA. It’s a day for us to eat, reflect and celebrate all the blessings we’ve experienced in the past year. As a business owner I have so much to be thankful for over the past year, and hopes that the upcoming year will be filled with just as many blessings. I hope you can say the same thing. As business owners we’ve got the unique position of being on both sides of the buying fence: we know what it’s like to deal with bad products and services and we know what it’s like to have unhappy buyers. The bad experiences can really hurt, but when you have a really good experience it’s amazing. Often, just knowing that your purchase was appreciated is enough to make an average experience into a good one. So today I thought I’d share just a few ways you can show your appreciation to your customers.

Sales/Specials: yes, this is a way to get more business, but it’s also a way to show your customers that you appreciate them. If you’re really out to just get the money and don’t care about your customers you’ll have everything at full value all of the time. But offering sales is one way to show them that what you do is about more than the money to you.

Existing client discounts: Kohls is a great example of a business that does this: if you’re part of their member program you get special discounts throughout the year, discounts that others don’t get and are on top of the regular sales that they offer. It’s a step up from the sales/specials because it’s more relationship oriented, you’re trying to build a relationship with these clients, one that they’ll buy from you fairly consistently over time, so you offer a bit of incentive as well as appreciation to them.

Immediate purchase discounts: this is a little newer and usually more of a web-based opportunity. If you’ve recently checked out on a site that uses this tactic you’ll be offered a discount on a related or different product/service that may interest you, but only as long as you’ve got that screen open from the purchase. It’s a way of immediately reinforcing that you the business owner know they the customer could take their business anywhere but are glad that they’ve chosen you.

Thank you notes: this is by far the simplest and least expensive. It’s as simple as putting a “thank you” on the receipt, sending a heartfelt email or even a card in the mail to let them know that you appreciate them for choosing you and always love to hear how you can better serve them and improve their experience with your product/service.

What ways do you say thank you to your customers?

Giving Thanks

Just a few days remain between us and the celebration of Thanksgiving. I’m already working on my list of things I’m thankful for, and I am so thankful that the list is so long! I know that there are many people around the world who cannot claim that, so that makes me extra grateful. In thinking about Thanksgiving this week and the topic of being thankful over the past month I’ve shared that thanksgiving is about receiving and giving thanks. What I’ve found is that those who are most grateful aren’t those who have things like being alive (without relationship to serious illnesses), having a job (which they hate), or having people in their lives (who they can’t stand) on their thankful lists. No, those who are truly able to experience the fullness of Thanksgiving are those who have worked hard to achieve the victories they’re celebrating this Thanksgiving.

It’s true that most good things take work to achieve or attain. The shallow victories and accomplishments that some chalk up as great can’t deliver the feelings of pride and satisfaction that those who worked very hard to make happen experience. Knowing that you worked with your bare hands to create that amazing project or contribute to someone’s life in that way is rewarding in and of itself.

But as I said before, Thanksgiving, much like Christmas, is an action-oriented celebration. Thanksgiving is about giving (expressing) thanks for all you’ve been blessed with and about blessing (giving) others with even just a little of what you’ve received, often through an invitation to join you for Thanksgiving dinner, a Box of Love or donation to a charity.

This Thanksgiving I would encourage you to not wait for the good stuff to find you, but to go out there and bless others and give them a reason to be thankful.

I Dream of Christmas

One of the best things about kids is their intact imagination. As adults we tend to forget what it means to dream as we get wrapped up in the realities of our lives. Sure we can take a page from another person’s book and relive their (more interesting) life, but what if we were to take a page from our children’s lives and create a path all our own? I can remember as a child thinking of all the creative gifts I could give family and friends, now it’s all about what gift card, electronic item or equally simple something we can come up with. Where has all the creativity gone?

I get it, we’re all tired by the busy lives we lead, by the barrage of ads and lures of the internet, we have more going on in our lives and around us than ever before. It used to be fairly simple, just worrying about whether our crops would grow or when our children would get married or if we would get sick. Now we’ve got thousands of things demanding our time and attention, which makes it very hard to focus on anything but the simplest of solutions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about simple solutions; I can’t understand the people who think that things have to be complicated or done in as many steps as possible all the time. Why complicate what can be (and should be) very simple?

The holiday season is here, it’s a chance for us to be with friends and family, for us to dream about happy memories, of stories and tales on Santa and magical happenings, and to have a little more hope than usual that things will work out and work out well. I believe that if we unleashed our imaginations more than just in these 9 weeks between Halloween and the New Year that we’d be happier, healthier and freer people. We’d live lives of excitement, fulfillment and passion, if only we would be willing to dream a little dream again.

I encourage you to open up your mind and heart this weekend to the dream of what your life could be, imagine what the world could be just waiting to send your way in showers of blessings!

“I used my imagination to make the grass whatever color I wanted it to be.” Whoopi Goldberg

The Problem and Possibility with People

As business owners we face many challenges, one that we usually ignore or choose not to think about, but one that actually makes or breaks you: your customers and employees. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you’re not selling to a computer or robot, no matter what you’re selling, you’re selling to a human being who thinks, breathes, cares, doesn’t want to get ripped off, wants help and has dreams and goals in their life. It is very challenging to work with people, but as they are what stands in between you and success, it would behoove you to start paying attention to them.

The first thing to question with customers is whether or not you’re selling something they need. It may be the coolest thing in the world, but if no one wants it or needs it you’re not going to make the sale. They’ll tell you how awesome it is and leave it at that. Before selling your product do a survey, contact people, ask questions, and make sure that what you’re going to offer is actually of benefit to those who would buy from you.

The second question is what the response of your customers will be to what you’re selling. Have you explained it in a clear and concise way as well as offered additional, sufficient details that they know what you’re selling and why their lives would be better with your product or service in it, or is the genius buried beneath tech or science speak that no employee or customer understands?

The third question is about you and your employees. Is this something you’re passionate about and does that passion spread to the employees? Are they fully on board with what you do and who you are as a brand? If you’re not passionate and excited about it neither will your employees, and they won’t be able to pass that passion onto your prospective customers and chase away any lingering doubts they may have.

In today’s world making a purchase is a choice. There are usually at least 3 different companies that sell a similar product that you could take your allegiance to if one does not work for you. There are also a ton of options for employees that they could choose rather than working for you if you’re nasty or rude or not helping them meet their career goals. People are the lifeblood of a business, are you caring for yours?

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” Dale Carnegie

Choose Gratitude

I can’t stand being around miserable people. There, I said it. Miserable people make me grouchy; it’s like a cold or the yawns; you catch it from them. I have to be honest and say that I’m not really sure why people choose to be miserable. Yes, I believe they’ve chosen it. I know we can’t choose our circumstances all the time and sometimes we have no control over the situations that we’re put in or the people that we interact with, but we absolutely have a choice in how we respond to what goes on in our life journey.

There is nothing worse than being with someone who chooses to be miserable despite all opportunities to get out of their situation. Yes, I believe that just about everyone has a choice, usually several in how they get out of their situation. It’s just a matter of whether or not they choose to. There are so many people without jobs that choose not to start a business or get something part time to make ends meet until they can get the opportunity they desire. There are many people who are resigned to living the life they have with a disease or illness and don’t look for solutions or choose to live fully the life they do have.

Life will throw us challenges: there’s nothing we can do about that. We can’t deny them or ignore them or pass them. We have to face them, and the sooner we face them and choose a course of action the sooner we’ll be able to live our lives.

What about you? Have you been just letting life pass you by? Have you been letting your situations and the people in your life rule you? Are you ready to take control of your life, since it’s yours? Choose to live, choose to be thankful, choose to surround yourself with people who care, choose today.

“None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

Discovering the Whole Story

Every story has two sides, or at least those that involve just 2 people do.  I’m a big believer in the truth, I don’t like being lied to and I don’t really see the point of beating around the bush most of the time.  Yes, sometimes a little lie or partial truth is the way to go rather than being in your face honest about some things, but that’s usually because we’re not really good with our words and haven’t learned how to put things diplomatically, or we haven’t learned how to take criticism and honesty, but most of the time it’s just better to go with the truth.

But all too often we assume that things are true for everyone because they’re true for us. However I may believe that the world is better because dogs are in it and you may prefer casts.  Just because my belief is my truth, doesn’t mean it has to be your truth. Which is why it’s so important when you’re in a relationship that you learn not to jump to unfounded conclusions, but rather to check in with your partner and make sure you’re on the same page.

All too often it’s a difference of just a page or two that can cause the most difficulties.  Divorce rates are so high not because people have become completely different than they used to be when they first entered the relationship but because of the little things: the continued failure to communicate the little things, the chores that go undone, the requests that fall on deaf ears, the apathy towards the needs and desires of their partner.  It’s not desires to move to Alaska or Africa or become a Buddhist monk or stripper that breaks up most couples, it’s little things that just get piled on top of each other time and again.

If we really want our relationships to succeed and we really want to be happy together we need to spend more time in making sure that we’re hearing what the other person is saying and in need of.  When you’re able to work together and have come to compromises and created action plans on how the most important things will get accomplished you’re able to not only stay together but be happy together.  But if you or your partner aren’t willing to change or to accept that there is always another side to the story it won’t work.  Will you be brave enough to get the truth from your partner this week?

“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.” Walter Cronkite

Lessons from Failures

The season we’re in is usually all about success: with Black Friday and the amazing sales that happen for holiday gifts some companies rely on the last 8 weeks of the year to not only get in the black but make a profit as well.  So we don’t usually think about the failures that may happen during this time of year like running out of merchandise, bad customer service because we’re rushed, or not being prepared with staff to handle the rush.

But something that I’ve always taught my clients is that you’re only as successful now as you could be in the future if you lost everything and had to start over: if your social pages got shut down, if your website was destroyed, if you lost your customer list, if your business burned down, or if you moved and had to start from scratch.

We know that we’re successful when we’re doing well, but what about the successes from the failures?  It’s not something we like to talk about so we try our best to ignore it and hope it won’t be as bad as it could be.

From our failures we learn endurance: it’s not easy to be a success, despite how much of the world operates today success usually takes time and a lot of effort.  There’s a very low probability of becoming a household name over night.  Most people take years to really be successful.

From our failures we learn people: people are the only way we can be successful; when they don’t buy we can’t be successful.  If we don’t understand the people we’re selling to and what they need we could be providing the wrong things for them, and therefor not be as successful as we could be if we really understood what they wanted and needed and sold accordingly.

From our failures we become better: life is all about the journey and if you aren’t willing to do what it takes to be on that journey you won’t enjoy life very much or get very far.  There’s always an opportunity to learn from a failure, even if it’s that that try didn’t work.  But shame on us if we don’t try to learn but rather continue to do the same thing expecting different results (the definition of insanity).

The only way that you’ll be more successful in the other 10 months of the year is if you take this great opportunity of the influx of customers and learn what they really want so that you can begin giving it to them in the new year.

“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.George S. Patton

Living a Full Life

There are several different ways to live your life: you can choose to not live it, you can choose to half-heartedly live it, you can choose to give it an attempt, you can choose to do your best and you can choose to live life full out.  Choosing to live life full-out is not for the faint of heart; it takes a lot of courage to get up every day with a can-do attitude and carry that through the day while taking bold actions and fully loving everyone in your life.

While most of us won’t choose to be part of that small percentage that lives life full-out, there is a way to turn our lives that are attempted or being lived the best we can into lives that are just a little more: be grateful.   I’ve seen the results and impact that being grateful can have on a child or adult, and the difference that it can make in their future.  Simply letting someone know you appreciate them, recognizing them and their existence can have the biggest difference on someone’s life and future.  There are plenty of stories of those who were considering ending their lives but because of the kindness of another person they chose to give life another try and as a result did some amazing things.

The good news is that we don’t have to get to our end before we start really living, we can start today.  Every so often in the news you hear about people who are living their lives full-out because of a life-threatening condition like Brittany or Lauren, or Leah. A death sentence often changes our perspective on life, and is a reminder how special it really is.

But rather than get to that point I would encourage you to make today special.  Choose to live, choose to love, choose to be patient, choose to do a little something for someone or yourself each day that will make their day or yours just a little brighter or better, and make a point of finding one thing each day you are grateful for, you’ll be amazed at the transformation in your life just doing those two little things.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”  Melody Beattie

Working Well Together

We’ve entered the last 2 months of the year, months that are often fraught with frustrations for partners. We “discuss” (read: fight about) parties, family events, and amounts to be spent on presents. We’re really good at missing out on the reason for the season (and I’m not just talking about the spiritual portions of Hanukkah and Christmas but even the secular tales like Scrooge and Santa and what they stand for). Come to think of it, the rest of the year looks like a slightly less tumultuous version of these last two months. What have our relationships come to?

This is one of the biggest reason why I don’t like to call them relationships, and have even gotten my partner into changing his terminology about us.  I prefer, as you may have guessed or have read about in the past, to call them partnerships because this clearly indicates in the very name of it that there has to be action and effort by both/all people involved. One person can’t do all of the work, or be all of the emotional support or do none of it and have it be a real partnership, or successful one.

This is part of the reason that we have so many divorces: we don’t get involved with people that are willing to put forth their required effort and do their part to make the relationship work, or we aren’t. When one or both of the people involved are apathetic the relationship falls apart pretty quick. For love to be true and last you have to be willing to put forward effort to support your partner and be responsible for your own happiness.

Calling it a partnership isn’t about being politically correct, it’s about recognizing the true nature and needs of the people and how they work together.  In a true partnership everyone contributes something.  Typical business partnerships have money people, idea people and action people that work together to make it happen.  Our relationships are like that: we each must bring something to the table to be part of the partnership.  We each have physical and emotional contributions that we need to be making to keep our partnership alive.  What will you do this week to turn your relationship into more of a partnership and less of a one-sided struggle?

“There is no love where there is no will.” Indira Gandhi