Gifting and Giving

It has arrived!  No, I’m not talking about any of the items I ordered on Black Friday, I’m talking about Giving Tuesday!  You may have rolled your eyes, but I’m serious.  I’m glad that someone realized that non-profits and charities need a day like Black Friday as much as for-profit businesses do. They’re as concerned about their bottom line as all other businesses out there.  Just because they’re not looking to put money in their pockets the way that for-profit businesses do, it doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to increase their funds so they can better work towards fulfilling their mission.

I know that some people donate around the year end for one reason or another, I personally donate all year long (I love recurring payments on a credit card, it makes it so easy!), but during this season it does seem like non-profits and charities get the remainders of whatever is left after the holiday gifts have been purchased and the transportation for holiday celebrations and holiday food is paid for too.  If you think about even one of the best known holiday non-profits, the Salvation Army often gets shortchanged (no pun intended).  They stand outside shopping centers with their red buckets ringing for the change left over from shopper’s purchases.  Non-profits and charities certainly won’t say no to any size donation, but it’s sad that we tend to give them our leftovers rather than being part of our shopping lists.

Of course non-profits and charities would love if you donated all year long because it would mean that they would be in the black before year-end, but I know it doesn’t always work that way for any business.  This year I did hear about several businesses who chose to donate their Thanksgiving profits to non-profits and charities, which I thought was a great idea.  Another great thing I’ve seen this year more than any other year is the number of for-profit businesses suggesting a non-profit or charity that they support or recommend that their customers could support, or choosing to donate in partnership with you on Giving Tuesday (or just the holiday season), through a matched gift or some other arrangement.

Today is a great opportunity to donate to causes and organizations that you personally feel passionate about.  In my work I run across hundreds of people trying to make a difference, right a wrong or give people an opportunity that they would not have otherwise.  I encourage you to support at least one business today, or spread the gift around to a few non-profits and charities.  What is your chosen non-profit or charity?

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Selfless Giving

I hope you had a good Day of Thanks, and that you were able to celebrate with some of your favorite people, people who make you smile and laugh and dream big dreams.  We’ve got a little more than a month left in the year and I really want to make it a good one.  Today I want to talk a bit about Thanksgiving yesterday and the first Thanksgiving all those years ago.  We remember the first Thanksgiving as a time of joining between the Native Americans and Pilgrims who had recently arrived in America.  For the Pilgrims this day was a celebration of life and new friends.  For the Native Americans they also celebrated new friendships. It’s unfortunate that in the generations following things got really screwed up between the settlers and the large people group they would become.  Not only were settlers famous for “gifting” diseases that native populations had no defenses for, they ended up taking land and resources from them.  This wasn’t just a problem in America but in all countries that were settled by people from Europe.

It’s sad that what was such a happy event turned into something so challenging and tragic, and it’s sad that we didn’t learn our lesson from it, but people all over the world are still hurting each other without thinking about it or taking the time to consider what might happen if they made such a huge change (no political talk today, promise).  We’ve got a long way to go before that’s the default practice, but I have hope that someday we may get there or at least get closer to being more considerate more of the time.

But what I really wanted to talk about today was the amazing gift that the Native Americans gave and what we can learn from their generosity.  These people didn’t have to help the Pilgrims as they did.  They didn’t have to build the relationships with them that they did.  But I think their heritage and culture taught them that it’s the right thing to do and the best way of living, especially if you’re aware of Mother Earth/Mother Nature’s role in your life as many of them were and are still today. These people were willing to give to the Pilgrims without necessarily expecting a lot back, regardless of what the Pilgrims were really able to bring to the table like weapons or knowledge of the world at large.

Today there are still men and women who are giving selflessly of themselves, or giving because they see a need.  You’ve probably heard of CNN Heroes and shows like Extreme Home Makeover, not to mention countless service men and women and other men and women, boys and girls who are making a difference around the world without a national stage or recognition.  These people are willing to give without knowing if their gift and/or generosity will ever really be appreciated.  They’re willing to give because they saw a need and were able to fill it.  This weekend as you’re out shopping I encourage you to look for opportunities to give.  Maybe it’s a little money in the Salvation Army buckets, maybe it’s a little extra spent on someone special or picking up an extra to donate to a shelter or food/clothing/toy drive.  What will you give?

Happy Holiday Businesses

We’re switching things up a bit this week with the holiday on Thursday and talking about business today, and we’ll be talking about Small Business Saturday and holiday sales and selling.  In the last business post I mentioned that part of social selling is being involved locally.  I know that many businesses would say that they’re not a ‘local’ business because they sell online or they sell in many locations and so they’re not part of just one local community or technically any local community.  But I believe that each and every business can be involved locally and that being involved locally can be a big benefit to every business regardless of whether or not you have a physical location that you sell from.   And technically every business is a local business because you, the business owner, have to live somewhere!

More people are thinking about buying local and say that buying local is important to them. Why? Because not only are local products a great way to keep the money in your community and build up your local economy, often local products are healthier for you or created or grown with more consideration to things like pesticides and sustainability.  So if you’re not involved in your local community yet, it’s something I recommend you check out.  Of course being a business without a physical location you still can sell locally by selling your products through other stores that are local.  One of the other ways that I recommend you get involved locally would be to sponsor teams, do booths at local events, and donate to local charities.  You can also use your local community as your testing group and get their feedback on your products easier and with less expense and more interaction.

So what about holiday sales and selling?  There are lots of people buying now, so it’s super important to make sure that your website is updated, you’ve got your available products on the website and clearly described, it’s clear if you’re running low on a product, and your special offers are clearly displayed.  Now, I know that not every business likes to do sales or discounted prices, and I can understand that, sometimes there’s not a whole lot of ways to discount things, especially when it comes to services.  But there are other ways to add value if you can’t or don’t want to discount like including a little free gift or bonus or extra time with you.  It’s also a great opportunity to do joint ventures and cross promotions by giving products from other great local companies as the gift or bonus.  For example if you sell health products you can include a free sample or two or if you sell food you can include some recipes from local chefs that work with the products they purchase.

What are your business plans for this holiday season?

Thankful for Relationships

I’m super excited to be looking ahead to Thanksgiving and wanted to take time today to talk about being thankful in our relationships. Relationships are full of challenges, sometimes heartbreaks, and often opportunities for joy.  They’re not for the faint of heart and take work if you really want them to be successful.  But there are also plenty of reasons to give thanks for them.  Relationships mean that we’re not alone in the world, they mean that we’ve got someone there to support us, they challenge us and help us grow, they give us a helping hand in raising kids and in fulfilling our dreams.

One of the things my partner says to me is “thank you for loving me.”  It sounds like a very simple phrase but it’s got so much power and says many things.  First, it’s an affirmation of our connection, he recognizes that I love him and am invested in our relationship.  Second it’s him admitting that he’s not perfect and may be difficult to love sometimes.  Now, if you’ve been reading along for a while you know that I don’t see a point in being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t ‘click’ with you, so even on his most challenging day he’s still someone I want to be with.  So the value in him admitting that he’s not perfect is in part him wanting reassurance that I do love him regardless or in spite of his faults, and a promise to do better because he’s as committed to us as I am.

It kills me when I see so many hurting, hurtful and broken relationships because some of them could be healthy relationships if some steps were taken sooner, while others I’m amazed that they’re still hanging in there for some unknown reason when they could very possibly be happy with someone else.  Being that this is the holiday season now I’m going to say that the glass is half full today and encourage you to take time this holiday season to rip off a few band-aids and really talk with your partner about how you can make your relationship healthier and more fulfilling.  Stop looking elsewhere, stop with the threats, stop faking it, stop lying to yourself and start talking about the problems and how you can resolve them.  Take time for just the two of you this season and build on the good that you have or rebuild the good you once had.

Social for Success

Today I’m thinking about a word that challenges some people and excites others: social.  It’s something that comes up especially in the holiday season, but it’s also something we hear about a lot in marketing and even just life these days. What does it mean to be a social business? What does it mean to use social media?  Why is social important? These are just a few of the things we’re going to discuss today.

Social to most people means enjoying gatherings with friends and family, going to events, or being with other people.  Some people add in that you are outgoing or comfortable with strangers or able to strike up a conversation with anyone. Those aren’t typically things I add in, but they are part of being social as a larger definition.  The social we’re talking about today is interacting with others, whether they’re strangers, new acquaintances, friends, family, employees, partners, suppliers, existing customers or prospective customers.

When people hear the word “social” these days they tend to think of social media like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  One of the questions I get asked way too often given how focused we are on social media is “what does it mean to be social?”  I take being social back to one of the classic lines “do unto others as you would have them do to you.”  In other words, if you want people to interact with you, you have to interact with them; comment on their posts with a relevant (non-promotional) comment, like their posts, share them, and recommend them to others.

What does it mean to be a social business?  One definition (Wikipedia) says: A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being.  I believe that social businesses are those who interact with their customers, employees, suppliers, local community and world in a considerate, open, conversational way that creates opportunities to learn together and support each other.  A social business can’t be just about sales and the bottom line, they consider more factors than just those two into how they do what they do and what they consider to be success.

The most important question you may have today is why.  Why do we even care about being social? Why do we try to be social?  Why has ‘social’ media taken off with such success and totally transformed our world?  I think there’s a really simple answer: because deep down even if we won’t admit it we like to be around others and don’t like to be alone.  We’re not created to be alone, we’re not at our best when we’re doing everything all by ourselves, rather we’re created to support each other, to ask questions of each other, to learn together, to cry together, to challenge each other to be better, to make each other’s lives easier or better, and to find joy and freedom because there are others around the world doing what they do best to help everything move forward.

This week and upcoming season are great opportunities for you to be more social in your business.  Where will you start?

A Call for Change

As we look back at this past week some of us are feeling really challenged and surprised by how things have turned out. Throughout the US people are reeling over the dramatic wake-up call that was the Election on Tuesday night. Some of us are surprised that our candidate actually won and others of us are surprised that our candidate didn’t win and people picked the other person. There were several “upsets” throughout the different races around the US, the presidency being just one of them (but the one that affected everyone). I’ve been reading lots of different responses over the past week, some I’m surprised by because I never thought the person who wrote them would feel that way, some I cringe over because of how much hate is being thrown around, and others impress me with their willingness to really dive into things that are painful and challenging with sensitivity and wisdom.

I’m a big Christmas person. I love the cheer, the celebration, the happiness, the love, the gifting, the giving and the togetherness. I have to be honest and say that I’m OK with Christmas decorations being up in stores and showing up around the towns I go to and even on some houses as early as Halloween. While I don’t know if I could live in a “Christmas village” where it’s Christmas all year long, there are things about the concept that are appealing. However, as awesome as it might be to be in a Christmas mood all year long I don’t think it would change who we are as people and the mistakes we make, failures we have and challenges we have that we should work through but often put aside during the holidays.

But what the holidays each year do remind us is that together things are better. The next few months and year will probably be filled with lots of adjustments, and some of them will be more painful and difficult than others. The election has shown us exactly how divided we are as a nation with about half of the people who voted voting for each candidate. We’ve been hearing over the past months and years how isolated minorities have been and felt, we’ve seen the ways that people generalize and make assumptions (and bad actions/reactions) based on qualities of age, race and belief systems. Change has been called for over and over with varying degrees of success. But as the definition of insanity states (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results), if we really want change, we actually have to change. The victory of a non-political candidate for the biggest leadership role in the nation is a big indication to me that people really do want change (even if the elected individual seems to not be the right one for the job because of some things they’ve said) and are willing to work with the challenges that will be present to make that change happen.

Together doesn’t mean that we ignore things that are wrong, together means to me that we choose to work together to be better. Together means to me that we’re stronger when we’re together. Together means to me that we’ve got more minds to come up with more ideas. Together means to me that we have to be open to forgive each other because we will do and say stupid things sometimes. Together means to me that we’re not alone when we’re grieving or upset or hurt. Together doesn’t mean to me that we all have the same ideas or beliefs, we’re all different and that is to be respected and appreciated.

I don’t have all the answers, I never claim to. But I do believe that we will be a better nation and world if we work together. It won’t be easy for us to truly come together given how divided we are, but if we really are upset with how some people are treated, and how the future looks for some of our children and grandchildren and for some of the nations of the world, I think we have to put aside some of our differences and find the common ground that we can work with and build from.

The Story of a Veteran

You probably know that I’m a big reader. I love fiction as well as non-fiction and kids books too.  In November one of the days that are celebrated is Chicken Soup for the Soul day.  While it isn’t as talked about now as it was years ago, you’re probably familiar with the book series that swept the nation and the world, but to refresh, each book is filled with inspirational true stories about ordinary people’s lives.  What I love most about the book series is that they’re a reminder that the world and our past, present and future are made up of individuals with stories.  So often we hear about events or dates or places and it may not mean a whole lot to you, for example November 14, 1440, do you know what happened that day?  Probably not, which means that the date doesn’t mean much to you.  It’s one reason many people don’t like history or learning because they aren’t able to find a personal connection to what they’re supposed to be learning.   But when you add a face and a story to what seemed like a random date, event or place all of a sudden it becomes a lot more real and interesting.

Friday in the US was Veteran’s Day, the day that we take time to honor and remember the men and women who have put their lives on the line in one way or another for our country.  It’s not always easy to talk with kids about topics like war, fighting and dying.  We want to protect them from the reality that we worry about, but in countries around the world kids of their age are right in the middle of war zones and don’t know if they will see tomorrow.  That said with all of the devices and access to the internet that kids have today it’s a lot harder to hide the truth from them, and sometimes you have to ask if it’s really the right thing to do.  No, I don’t think kids should be exposed to the details of the horrors and hurtful things that people do to each other, but I do think they need to know that there is hurt in the world and they have to decide if they’re going to add to it or do something to change it.

But the point of today’s post is to not only thank the Veterans, but to give you an idea of how to talk with your kids about the men and women who face such horrors, especially if they’re killed in war and the kids never had a chance to know them.  Each and every Veteran has a story, they’ve got a life before they went to war, they have a family they left, and veterans have a life after the war.  Yes, the war changed them; you can’t see what they’ve seen and not be changed.  While most Veterans aren’t comfortable talking about what went on during their time in war, there are stories they are willing to share about their life or the war that aren’t about the horrors they saw.  Maybe they’ve got some crazy ship and travel stories, maybe they had some of the best food of their life from crazy little shacks in tiny towns that no one really knows exist, maybe they played cards with people from a bunch of other countries every night for months, or maybe they have stories about their lives before the war that they can share.  War can take a lot from our Veterans, but we can give them something back by asking for and sharing their stories, whether they’re stories of heroism, crazy drunk activities or sweet family moments, and reminding the rest of the country and the world that Veterans are people just like you and me whose life and choices have taken them down a very difficult path.

So this month as you think about Thanksgiving coming up, I encourage you to find some way to give back to the Veterans in your life and community.  Maybe you can invite a military family over for Thanksgiving.  Maybe you can donate a meal to a Veteran’s organization in your area.  Maybe you can give a military family in your area a gift of service from your business.  Or maybe you will just sit and listen to the stories they have gathered through their life and pass them on to future generations so they and their sacrifice aren’t forgotten.

The Choice of Quality

Quality.  It’s one of the things that we have to decide about as business owners.  The general belief is that the more expensive something is the better quality it is. But quality can be a subjective term because the “quality” that one person is looking for isn’t the “quality” that another is looking for.  A really simple example is when it comes to plates and other dinnerware.  Some people consider “quality” dinnerware to be that which is made of porcelain and very expensive.  Others consider “quality” dinnerware to be that which looks nice and is durable enough to make it through raising kids.  So how do we determine quality for our businesses and is it important?

I believe quality is something you need to consider.  Regardless of what quality means to you, it always means that you’re working with and trying to achieve a standard, typically a respectable one.  Most people and businesses don’t aim for the quality of junk because they actually want people to buy their products.  There are of course businesses who create junk and market it off as a quality product or service and try to hide the fact that it’s junk.  Those businesses don’t last very long.

Sometimes even businesses that have a quality product or service can make mistakes or find room for improvement.  There are imperfections that happen accidentally like e coli happening at the farm you get your produce from (and the farm has never had an issue before and doesn’t have another one), or bugs that are discovered in new technology products or upgrades to existing ones.  It’s one reason that it’s important to do quality control checks and be checking, testing and getting feedback about your products and services.

I believe that every business needs to define the standard of quality that they strive for.  Once the goal has been set, then the steps to ensure that quality need to be put into place.  If every business had a real quality commitment that they accomplished the majority of the time there would be more happy customers and customers would be more willing to stay with a brand.

What will you do this week to improve or reinforce your business’s quality commitment?

Vote for Yourself

As I write this people are voting and election results are coming in all around the USA.  I was talking with my devotional and newsletter subscribers about voting and shared about it on the Life and Faith blog over the weekend as well, and how important it is to vote.  One of the things that always frustrates me is how little information I can find or know about some of the candidates that I could vote for.  Politicians and those who want to be elected may have political ambitions and want to change the world, but they haven’t done the voters any favors with helping them know whether or not to elect them.  Only in the past few years have I been seeing more politicians develop websites and social profiles that actually have information about who they are, what they stand for and what they hope to contribute as a politician.

But still the majority of candidates don’t have any type of presence that allows us to really find out who they are, we’re just expected to guess.   So it’s not surprising when we choose to vote based on the person whose name we’ve heard the most, or the person our friends or family are voting for (or the opposite), or the person whose name our finger lands on first in the voting booth or on the mail-in ballot.  I know, it sounds really irresponsible to vote that way, but how else are you supposed to vote if you don’t know anything about them?

But my post isn’t really about voting today (although I do hope you voted today), but about being your own person.  Sure, you can go with the popular opinion, you can do what everyone else is doing, you can believe what everyone else is believing.  And sometimes it may be that your own opinion does line up with other the opinions of other people.  But I always encourage you to be your own person, think your own thoughts and make decisions that are really right for you.   Don’t be afraid to stand out, think for yourself, try something new or be a little different this week.

“If you want to find a deeper meaning in your life, you won’t find it in the opinions or the beliefs that have been handed to you. Rather than trying to be what everyone else expects you to be, live your life by your own rules to be happy and find inner peace.  Your imagination is your own fertile field for growing any seedlings that you choose to plant for a future harvest.” Wayne Dyer

Nuts for Nachos

Today I thought that with many schools around the US being off for teacher related stuff this coming week and the kids being home more that it would be good to share something to do during those extra hours, like making nachos together.  So today I’ve got some nacho recipes plus recipes for nacho components to try out.

Nacho Recipes:

Individual nachos

Picadillo nachos

Chicken chili nachos

Pita nachos

Chicken and black bean nachos

Spicy sausage, bean and cheese nachos

Triple pepper nachos

Tequila shrimp nachos

Seafood nachos

Mediterranean nachos

Chorizon nachos

Mole nachos

Pulled pork nachos

Greek pita nachos

Loaded sweet potato nachos

Breakfast nachos

Nacho turkey casserole

Nacho potato skins

Chocolate nachos

Make it Special:

Nacho cheese sauce

Guacamole

Charred tomatillo salsa

Tortilla cups

Tortilla chips

What do you like putting on your nachos?