The Year of You

I’m finding it hard to believe we’re about to cross over from one year to the next, but I’m super excited about all this year ahead holds for us!  I know that some people are concerned about the direction we’re going based on some of the events of the past year, but if you’ve really been paying attention you should have been having concerns for several years now, this should not be the (only) year that concerns you.  Today I wanted to end the year with a question that reflects on the year ahead for you to think about.   The question I pose to you today is:

Who will I be this year?

It’s a question that may not make sense to you, unless you’ve been feeling frustrated, lost, confused, dissatisfied or out of touch or place with what’s in your life lately, or even for a long time. If you’ve been struggling with these types of feelings you’ve probably also been struggling to keep things going in your life, keep up with things, feel happy, or accomplish victories in your life, family or business.  Or maybe you’re just ready to turn over a new leaf and do something different with your life, based on the lessons you’ve learned over the past year.

So with this new year you’ve got a choice to make.  Will I stay the person I’ve been, will I pursue new adventures, will I be the person everyone thinks I should be, am I really happy with where I am but haven’t accepted it, is it time to make some changes and show the world who I really am?

Who will you be this year?

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Unfinished Business

As we get closer and closer to the end of this year we’ve talked about what to do with this week and how you can get ahead for 2017. For this last business post I wanted to talk about something we don’t really like to talk about: the stuff that doesn’t get done.  Often we talk about this stuff in terms of numbers of unread emails or unpaid invoices or bills to be paid.  But there are tons of other things we’ve got on our “I really need to do…,” “If I have time I’ll do…” and “Sometime I’ll…” lists.  It’s those items that I want to talk about today, especially those you’ve been putting off for years or those that you put off each year (and partially complete later).

First, know that sometimes you can just pitch it all and be done with it and there’s a really good chance you’ll never miss any of it.  I know, you may wonder what you’re missing out on, but sometimes the best thing you can do is just completely free yourself from it.  With physical items I think it’s best to go through things super quick because there may be a treasured family heirloom in the pile, but especially when it comes to emails, if it’s 5+ years old and you haven’t read it you can probably get rid of it.

But what about those to do lists?  I would go over them because there are probably potential clients you meant to get back to but haven’t, suppliers or joint venture partners you’ve been meaning to reach out to, marketing you’ve been meaning to do, marketers who you were thinking of hiring to help you or even mentors you’ve been wanting to reach out to.  Take a look at those lists and decide which of those are still things that need doing, and make the time over the next few weeks to accomplish them slowly but surely, maybe setting aside a couple of hours a week to tackle it.

Why? Because I’m reminded every so often how busy we are.  We have so much going on personally and professionally, that often we’re just doing the very best we can to keep things moving forward and some things just don’t get done as a result, even if they’re important to do.  Also, most sales aren’t made with the first contact, it can take 20 or more contacts in today’s busy world to make a sale or get that published piece in the paper or on that industry website or blog.  So I would encourage you as we finish out this year to commit to following through on what you’ve said you would do with your employees, customers and opportunities in your personal and professional life more in the coming days and year.  No, you won’t be perfect and won’t get it all done, but I know I already feel better just committing to do it, rather than thinking about adding it to another list.

Christmas Carol Classics: Frosty the Snowman

“Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children know
How he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in
That Old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

O, Frosty the snowman
Was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh and play
Just the same as you and me.

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in
That Old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

Frosty the snowman
Knew the sun was hot that day,
So he said, “Let’s run
And we’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away.”

Frosty the snowman
Had to hurry on his way,
But he waved goodbye saying,
“Don’t you cry,
I’ll be back again some day.””

Frosty was first recorded by the famous Gene Autry (with the Cass County Boys) in 1950.   The year before Autry recorded Rudolph, which was also a big success.  As a result of the song’s success there were lots of TV shows and books and other materials made.  One of the things that made this song stand out and be so successful was the concept of it.  We’ve all made a snowman that we wished would come to life, or at the very least thought about how cool something like that would be.

While most versions never talk about Christmas, we typically think of it as a Christmas song, probably because of all the magic in it.  After all, how else would a snowman come to life? When it comes to this time of year it does seem like there’s a little extra sparkle in the world, a little extra something showing up in our days that just makes them a little better.  Maybe it’s all the cheer, maybe it’s the goodwill, or maybe it’s just the desire not to get caught doing bad things before Santa makes his famous run.

But the song ends with Frosty saying that he’ll be back again some day.  I love that the song ends this way because it’s a great reminder that as much as life is made up of individual days and moments, there’s a lot more to life than just the individual moments.  Each day is an opportunity to build on what the previous day accomplished or start over because you’ve realized a mistake you were making.  Of course there are special moments that come each year like Christmas and Thanksgiving that are important reminders to celebrate life and gather together.  So whether you’re anticipating the magic to return, leaving the magic behind for the time being or dancing and singing with that magic, find a way to add a little magic to your day.

A Timely Holiday

This week I’ve gotten a whole bunch of emails from people and companies with different sentiments about the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays. They’ve all contained some sage advice, and I’ve been sharing what I’ve been reading through my blogs and newsletters as well as with friends and family.  The word that I wanted to share today is timely.  I do believe in a right time for everything, even if we don’t think it’s the right time.  So often we’re wanting things to happen on our time but that’s simply not how it works.  Time isn’t something we can control.  Sure we can do everything possible to expedite things, but sometimes there’s no way to push things through quicker.

I don’t know why some things take years to develop or why some things happen way before we think we’re ready for them or everything seems to happen at once.  I don’t think that’s life playing a joke on us, I think that’s just the way it works and part of how we learn and experience the life journey.  Sometimes it helps if you take a step back, other times it helps to push through and not keep looking back so much.  Sometimes you just have to be patient and let it do what it’s going to do.

This weekend as you gather with family and friends, consider the timing.  Is this the right holiday for some forgiveness?  Is this the holiday you should be taking extra time off?  Is this the holiday you should be giving extra? Is this the holiday that you need to step up for family and friends?  Is this the holiday that you do something for yourself?  Whatever comes your way this holiday I encourage you to reflect on what’s life trying to tell you and what opportunities life is bringing you.  And if life’s bringing you lots of blessings and joy make sure you share it!

Closed for the Holidays?

As we get closer to Christmas and Hanukkah the question comes up for businesses as to whether or not they should close or shorten their hours. There are many reasons that support this, because one, many customers that would visit your business aren’t spending money, they’ve already spent the money and are now celebrating with family and friends.  Of course if you’re in the food business it’s a different question as to whether or not you want to be open for the holidays and make that something you offer.

But most businesses do choose to change their hours, even if they’re strictly virtual businesses because, as I said, many people don’t spend a lot at this time and aren’t going out, or at least not until New Year’s Eve/the New Year.  The other big consideration is giving the hard working employees some time off and you as the business owner probably would like some time off too.

So what’s the answer? Do you close for the holidays?  I say that some closing or having limited support is fine.  However it’s super important then that you make sure your business is still available to potential customers.  You should provide extra information, explanations, descriptions and FAQ’s on your website, social profiles, and in your store front if you have a physical location, as to the changes and information that people need to know.  Just because you’re off it doesn’t mean you can’t make sales and that people won’t be interested in booking you for after the holidays and into the new year. Plus they may have holiday money that they want to spend with you, so you want to make sure they can do that.

If you are going to be open fairly regular hours I would suggest that you offer your employees a little more flexibility in the days and hours they work so that they can celebrate the holidays too.

So yes, I say that you should take some time off or adjust your hours so that you can take time to celebrate with family and friends as the business owner, give your employees the chance to be with their family and friends too, and show your customers that you value your employees and that it’s important to take time to be with family and friends and celebrate life.

Christmas Carol Classics: Jingle Bells

“Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh yeah”

Today’s song is the classic “Jingle Bells” and you can listen to a very classic rendition here.  I decided to include this song not because it’s such a classic and everyone knows it, but because of what came up in my research while deciding which songs to do.

It was originally published in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont.  Interestingly enough it wasn’t published as a Christmas song, but that’s what we know it as today.  Originally it was a drinking song and a reminder of the freedoms couples could have when riding on a sleigh unchaperoned.  And jingle bells were originally seen as a practical noise, whereas now we see them as a reminder of Christmas and Santa’s sleigh coming. The song is also one of the most famous to be recreated into another tune, Jingle Bell Rock.

That said, Jingle Bells is one of those songs that brings out the kid in all of us, something that the holiday season is notorious for doing.  Even the most serious of things need a little fun too, like the way in 1965 Gemini 6 astronauts decided to play a prank on Mission Control and told them that they were seeing a shape traveling north to south close to the earth and then used a harmonica and sleigh bells to send the melody of Jingle Bells back to Mission Control.  So let the song remind you to have some fun this Christmas.  Don’t worry so much about getting the right gift, instead, enjoy the people you’re with and the life you have.

Personal Marketing

We’re getting closer to Christmas and Hanukkah with each day, I hope that your business is filled with cheer and good will (and lots of sales!).  Today I thought we’d take a moment to talk about one of the challenges when it comes to marketing and business.  There are 2 general audiences and 2 sub audiences that businesses may try to reach: the general audiences are men and women, and the sub audiences are boys and girls.  No, everyone doesn’t fit into those neat packages, there are men who have no interest in football and women who love football for example.  But as I was thinking about the differences between targeting men and women in business it got me thinking about Christmas and making sales this time of year.

It struck me as interesting that many of the Christmas stories we know and love are based around men (or boys); think about Santa, Jesus, and Scrooge, not to mention more modern characters like Buddy the Elf (Elf), Jack Frost, Kevin McCallister (Home Alone), Charlie Brown, George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life), Clark Griswold (National Lampoon) and Ralphie Parker (A Christmas Story).  Yes, some of these were given the lead role because men are traditionally seen as leaders.  And yes, each of those stories has at least one female in a serious role too.   But I couldn’t name the women like I could the men that the story is based around.

The point is that it’s easy to stick a man in a lead role because that’s what we know, just like it’s easy to try to incorporate sports, sex, cars or success into your marketing to target men for example, or kids, love, relationships and beauty to target women because that’s what a large portion of them like.  But what more businesses are realizing is that there’s a lot more to men and women than just those blanket categories.  The recent Dollar Shave Club ads highlight this well with regards to men.  In the ads you’re shown a bunch of different guys who shop for different types of body wash or some other related product.  There’s Mr. Muscles, the Slob, the Cool Dude, the Clean Cut Guy, and the Average Joe.  Yes, all these guys use the same types of products (body wash etc.), but each product isn’t right for every guy (no matter what a celebrity spokesperson might say).

In this world of customization and numerous companies offering something similar yet different, it’s very hard to be successful with a blanket product or campaign that speaks to (or tries to speak to) one or more of the general audiences as a whole.  In those cases there’s a specific goal with the ad, and it’s usually more often about branding, not a specific product (think about some of the holiday ads you’re seeing for major companies).  I understand the appeal to selling to “everyone” but let’s face it, that’s not a reality anymore with all the options that are available in 2016.  Taking the time to really get to know your customers and their likes, dislikes and interests will help you get clear on how to target within the larger general audience to speak to your specific audience.  Don’t stoop to the old standby, easy answers unless they’re the right ones when it comes to your customers.  Take the time to customize your marketing and show your customers that they matter to you and you understand them.

Christmas Carol Classics: Deck The Halls

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the blazing Yule before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.”

Today’s carol is “Deck The Halls” and you can listen to it here.  This song was sung in the original Welsh in the 16th century and in English in 1862.  This is one of those songs that was meant to be sung as a competition between two groups of singers. It was also not originally sung around Christmas, but instead the New Year.

I share this song for many of the reasons that people sing carols to begin with: to spread good cheer.  This song is all about the cheer and celebration of the holidays. It encourages us to decorate the world and gather together and be merry.  Some of us decorate because it’s tradition, others do it because it’s for their kids, but it’s really an opportunity for all of us to celebrate life, being alive, making it to and through another year, and the ways that we’ve changed and grown over the past year.  What will you celebrate this year?

All I Want for Christmas Is You

There are lots of great sayings flying around on cards, on banners and around the internet as we approach the holidays.  Some of the ones you’ve probably seen include ‘”Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more”‘ (From The Grinch), ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year,’ ’tis the season to be jolly,’  and ‘Christmas is not so much about opening presents as opening our hearts.’  But the one I’m thinking about today is ‘All I want for Christmas is you.’

For fortunate couples this is the sentiment.  They’re happy to just have each other, to be able to celebrate another Christmas together and with family and friends.  They’re not concerned with how big the ‘rock’ is under the tree or in the stocking (or even if there is one at all), or if they got a cool toy or tool or memorabilia.  However, they may buy those things for their partner because they know they would enjoy receiving it.  What they’re most excited for is going to bed or waking up on Christmas and being there with each other.  This is not the case for every couple, some couples are very unhappy, or they let that ‘perfect’ gift overwhelm them and ignore what their partner is saying about what they really want for Christmas.

I know that what most people want is to be loved, feel appreciated and feel wanted.  It’s unfortunate that so many relationships reach the point where the love isn’t there, or even worse when hatred is there.  So this Christmas as you’re thinking about gifts and picking up a few last minute ones (or if you haven’t started shopping yet) I encourage you to really think about what would make that special person smile the most or feel loved the most. Maybe it’s as simple as spending a day or an afternoon alone with you.  Maybe it’s a commitment to leave your phone someplace else during dinner.  Maybe it’s a commitment to be do more around the house or spend more time with the kids.  Or maybe it’s the gift of listening and seeing a coach or counselor and working to improve your relationship.  Whatever it is I encourage you to let it be something that says loudly and clearly to your partner that you want them for your Christmas present.

Common Ground

I love the holidays.  No matter what holiday it is I enjoy seeing all the different ways people celebrate, even if they’re holidays that I don’t personally celebrate.  I still think it’s interesting to see what matters to other people and how they celebrate, honor and remember life, history and their culture.  I was reading an article recently about football and two guys who came from different colleges (rivals) but are now on the same team and read a really interesting quote.  It reads “We stopped talking about the things that separated us and found things that united us…”

There are a couple of things that just about everyone knows about businesses. One: they sell stuff.  Two: they want you to buy stuff. Three: not every business makes it.  Four: one of the reasons that not every business makes it because of the competition they face and that they’re not able to stand up or stand on their own.  It’s really easy to look at other businesses and think about how successful they are and bemoan the fact that you’re maybe not as successful, or think that they must be doing something sneaky if they’re that successful on social media or think that their successes are the reason you’re not as successful as you could be or even that because you’re competitors in one way or another that there’s no way you can work together.

I disagree, I think that even the biggest competitors can stand together for a good cause or good reason.  I think that they can also find common ground in the fact that they sell similar or the same stuff.  I think that in just about every industry there’s room for more than one business of the same kind and that there are ways that we can work together and support each others success, and be more successful together.  Some of the big companies out there are more open than ever to partnering with little companies and I think that little companies can work together as well.

So this holiday season I encourage you to not shy away from the other businesses in your area, but instead to see if there’s a way that you can support each other and build both your customer bases.  What  common ground will you try and find?