Finishing the Business Year Strong

I’m still working on the plans for December’s topic and talks for the blog, but I thought it would be appropriate anyway today to talk about doing the last month of the year right and finishing strong. I saw a statistic recently about how businesses focus a lot of their advertising on the Black Friday time period but don’t put much to the end of the year, when the reality is that people are still shopping and shopping strong in the last 2 weeks of the year.  It’s a shame that businesses miss out on those sales, so here are some suggestions for you to capitalize on the opportunities that others are missing out on.

Let’s start with the holiday shopping experience first. Ship items promptly and do an even better job than usual packing them so nothing breaks or spills and you have to deal with issues. Have extras of the standard and favorite items that your customers buy as well as keep bringing in or revealing new special holiday and seasonal items all the way through the new year. Have extra elves on hand to help with customer needs and encourage them to hold onto their patience and holiday spirit.

Second, don’t slack on the regular stuff just because you’re busy with the holiday and seasonal stuff. Keep up with your newsletters, social posts, employee education and training, marketing and regular events. The holiday season is a great time to add to your loyal following and really begin (or continue) developing those relationships.

Finally, keep moving forward. Yes, it’s important to celebrate the holiday season with your employees and customers. No one wants the holiday season rushed through. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be making plans for the new year, teasing what’s coming and customers can spend their holiday gift cards on, and looking into innovations/advances and new products/services.

How are you going to finish this year strong?

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The Success of Giving

We’re at the tail end of the official start to the holiday season, we’ve done Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  Today has been Giving Tuesday.  I’ve gotten over 300 emails requesting donations today, and I’m sure you’ve had quite a few as well.  I donate every month to a number of organizations, so it’s not the reminder to donate for me that it is for so many.  I think Giving Tuesday is a great way to finish off this official start to the holiday season, and get us back into thinking about what it’s really all about, and that’s giving to others.

In business and the study of the economy we talk about numbers a lot, and each year the spending on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday has increased, which makes many business owners happy.  But we don’t really talk about the numbers as far as what’s given each year to non-profits, so here’s one for you: already over $45 million has been raised on this Giving Tuesday.  That’s $45 million more veterans, children, and women being helped.  More people with disabilities given the support they need.  More faith-based organizations spreading their message around the world.  I would say that’s a successful day of giving.

As I was thinking about Giving Tuesday and the whole concept of giving in the holiday season, I was reminded that we really give all year long.  We choose how much we give of ourselves to our careers, our families, our communities, our planet and even ourselves every day.  Some days we give more than others because the numbers line up.  Sometimes we’re more passionate about something or someone so we give them more of ourselves.  And of course on other days and to other people and projects we give very little because we don’t approve or just don’t have anything left to give.

Ultimately, if we don’t give there won’t be success.  Our jobs won’t get done, our partners won’t be loved, the earth will fall apart, our children won’t be taught, our bodies will suffer, our communities will decline and there won’t be much hope for the next generation.  So I would encourage you to check in with yourself today and this week and see what kind of giving you’re doing on a regular basis.  Are you giving to the people and things that matter most to you, things that you would be sad to see gone if they weren’t successful?  How can you be a better giver today?

Raising Kids to Do The Right Thing

This week there was an incredible story in the news about a girl who wrote a note to someone whose car was damaged by a bus that fled the scene. It was incredible because accidents happen every day, and all too often there’s not any way to get compensation for the damage because you don’t know who was involved. But thanks to this girl and her note, the driver is able to get his car repaired by the bus company.

I was really impressed by this story because it said something important to me about how at least some of this next generation is being raised. The fact that this girl wanted to write a note and return to the scene with it says that someone taught her that sometimes something as simple as telling the truth can make all the difference in the world. She didn’t have to write the note, she didn’t have to get involved, and she wasn’t involved in causing the accident and wasn’t even on the bus. She just happened to be passing by, was familiar with the bus and knew that someone would be upset when they got back to their car.

Her good deed also speaks to the importance of being aware of what’s going on around you, and the skill of giving attention to detail that seems to be a dying art. Knowing the small detail like the bus number, something not everyone would know, meant she could not only give the car owner the story, but also the details that would help him get the situation resolved.

There are lots of things that parents try to teach their kids today, especially about navigating this rapidly changing and technologically advanced world and all the people we share it with.  But this girl and the story shows that it’s not always about the new and advanced, something as simple as a hand written note, the truth, and a willingness to speak up are all that this girl needed to save the day.   This girl’s story gives me hope that parents and teachers are imparting to at least some of the kids how to help others.

Are you teaching your kids to do the right thing?  This holiday season is a great time to remember and support the community you live in and the people you share it with.  So whether it’s volunteering at a food bank, donating to a coat drive, donating toys, or just saying “thank you” even the kids can help make someone’s holiday season special.

Let’s Talk About Shopping Small

We’ve just had Thanksgiving, Black Friday was today and it’s just a few hours to Small Business Saturday! It’s a chance to recognize, thank, support and celebrate the men and women who are making a difference in communities around the US through their businesses. With the internet and technology today many of those small businesses are able to expand outside of their physical community, but it all started with celebrating the small shops that dot towns across the nation.

The US used to be built on all these little businesses, that’s how your town or city would run. Now we’ve got products and services that we can tap into outside of our little circles, and often without interacting directly with any people, but I still think there’s an incredible value to be found by shopping small. One of the best reasons to shop small are the relationships you can build with people, people who can give you a more personalized service and an experience that typically can’t be created online with the internet separating the buyer from the seller.

Are small businesses perfect? No, of course not. Just like many businesses they most likely have room for improvement too, and some don’t measure up to the quality or value that they could. But unless people get out there and try out those businesses, they’ll never know what kind of treasure is just around the corner from them. And unless small businesses spread the word about their existence the people won’t be able to experience them.

This weekend I would encourage you to visit at least one small business in your community, whether a restaurant, seasonal shop, coffee shop, or seasonal activity, and an online small business. When you check out or pay if you’ve got the opportunity let them know how thankful you are that they’re part of your community, part of the small business community, and that they’re sharing their passions, skills, experience, and knowledge with their community through their business.

Giving Thanks for Success

Thanksgiving is tomorrow here in the USA.  It’s one of my favorite holidays all year because it’s not a religious holiday that only some celebrate depending on their religion, or political/military holiday which, while universal, some may choose not to recognize because they don’t support the war/military actions (even though I think we should support those in the military even if we don’t agree with all military actions and campaigns).  Thanksgiving is a holiday that we all celebrate.

It’s a time for family and friends to gather over something we can all get behind and don’t get disappointed by: food.  While there are some traditions around the food that’s typically served, it’s less about the exact food that’s served, and more about the importance of gathering around the table together and taking time to celebrate all the things you’re thankful for, including those people around you.

The original Thanksgiving was a celebration of life, of staying alive for another year, even having hope that the next year would be better than the last and that the pilgrims might even be able to thrive in Plymouth.  Thanksgiving is a reminder that sometimes your successes come with challenges, that it’s not always easy to make success happen.  There were pilgrims who didn’t survive to see the First Thanksgiving or beyond, and some of the other early settlements were completely wiped out without any real success to show for their hard work.

That you’ve made it this far in 2018 is reason to celebrate and be thankful.  Maybe your year hasn’t gone the way you hoped it would or wanted it to, but I have a feeling that you’ve had at least a few victories that you can celebrate this Thursday.  I encourage you to share about and celebrate the successes that you’ve had this year on Thanksgiving with friends and/or family, you never know what doors could open because you share about what you’re thankful for.

Teaching Thanksgiving

One of our greatest responsibilities is to teach the next generation. Yes, that’s something that their parents and school teachers should take the primary role of, but to an extent it’s something we all have a responsibility to do. How do the rest of us teach them, the kids who aren’t our own? We teach them by being responsible, by how we treat them and their parents if we interact with them, by using manners when speaking with them, by how we drive, and in countless other ways that they’re exposed to or may hear about. In some of these situations the kids may not see us, but our actions will have a direct impact on their parents, for example if we’re a bad driver, or the words we have for their parents that hurt or stress them will trickle down to impact the kids.

The other side of that is true too: that when we do something kind, considerate or generous we can teach kids too. These types of interaction teach kids that not everyone is mean or angry, that there are supportive communities throughout the world, and that not everything about life is stressful or challenging. Even when we’re not in a situation to remember or be reminded of the kids someone has, just about everyone has a family and your words and actions can impact them, so it’s always smart to think before you act or speak, or just choose to do the right thing and treat others with respect all the time.

As a parent it is important to teach your kids how to handle life’s challenges absolutely. There are families around the US who aren’t going to be in their homes this Thanksgiving because of the mess nature has handed them from water or fire damage and destruction. But you also have to teach them that life is so much more than that. There are manners to use, relationships to build, people and pets to love, things to learn, goals to achieve, victories to create, dreams to realize, and blessings to celebrate.

How do you teach them to be thankful? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity because it’s a day that we often share what we’re thankful for.  In addition to teaching your kids manners and to recognize and appreciate blessings, you can have a thankfulness jar that you all add slips of paper to on a regular basis throughout the year to reinforce giving thanks and then read them on Thanksgiving or throughout the year when you all need a bit of encouragement.  You can go around the dinner or homework table each week and share what you’re all thankful for.  You can make a point of giving thanks before bed or sharing what you’re thankful for.

Will you teach your kids about giving thanks this Thanksgiving?

A Simply Successful Holiday

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are a week away, so it’s time for last minute plans and considerations for your business. There will be a record number of businesses participating this year, already businesses are reaping the rewards of people looking to spend on holiday deals. It’s also a reminder of how much competition there is for all the money being spent. Which brings us to some important questions: Do you try to stand out? Is there anything you can do to get a better hold on some of those potential customers? How much work do you have to put into this weekend or will people just be shopping and you take what you can get? Do we do anything different than we usually do?

With so many people shopping it is a great opportunity to introduce people to your business, and part of that has to do with being there when they’re shopping and/or having what they’re looking for. For business that sell products, yes, that means having the trendy items but it also means having the go-to that lots of people shop for every year. For businesses that sell food and beverages, it’s an opportunity to offer some special grab-and-go meals or sets, and adjust your hours to be open early and late to serve the shoppers out at all hours.

Can you choose to go above and beyond? Absolutely. It’s a great opportunity to throw a holiday party and really start things off right for the holiday season. It’s the season to celebrate, right?! It’s a great opportunity to have one or more very desirable loss-leaders that you promote along with lots of other great products at special prices. It can be a great opportunity to wow people who have never bought from you, as well as really reward your most consistent customers.

But it’s also a great opportunity to just show how amazing you are in general without any real bells and whistles. Help your customers with a smile and holiday cheer, have employees there just for the purpose of keeping the store clean and helping answer customer questions, have your stock well organized so you can refill easily and quickly, take special requests, have a shipping station with packing materials and cards they can purchase so they can send your products to people who are far away without going to a post office, and offer free boxes to people who are buying gifts.

The best decision you may make this holiday season is to just offer the absolute best, most polite, most patient level of products and services you can. Let the holiday cheer you add just be a cherry on top, not an excuse or distraction from a poor business experience. What are your holiday plans?

From Failure to Success

When you talk about success there are several ways you can go about it and many definitions of success. There are big successes and there are small successes. Someone that many people have followed over the years in terms of a success journey is Martha Stewart. Starting really with cookbooks in 1982 ever since then Martha has been building an empire that now includes TV shows, websites, cookbooks, magazines, and food and home products.

But if you’ve followed her story you know that she spent several months in jail in 2004-2005 followed by several years of probation for being convicted of conspiracy and other non-violent offenses. This is a huge blow to anyone who is trying to build a company, and a reminder that anyone can be so caught up in their success that they can make bad decisions. And she paid the price for her bad decisions.

Like anyone else Martha Stewart then had to make a decision about what would happen next. She probably could have retired from public life and quietly run one or more smaller private companies and done OK. But instead she chose to stand tall and let her talent and passion shine. I see her on many channels around the TV listings these days, from cooking shows to shopping shows to news shows, around the internet and making all kinds of partnerships with businesses and celebrities. From all appearances she’s happy and doing well, and just as passionate and dedicated as she has always been.

Most of us will make a couple of mistakes or have some failures in our success journey, few of us are able to do it without screwing up. Often success is a question of how we recover after our failures, not just how well we do the success journey. If you’re struggling with your success journey today know that you can push through or turn things around, it’s a question of how passionate and dedicated you are to making it happen.

A Community for Veterans

November 11 is Veteran’s Day here in the US, a day when we honor and remember the men and women who protect our country. Sometimes that means going to fight in a war, sometimes that means dragging a boat through flood waters to rescue people, sometimes that means helping a nation rebuild, sometimes that means protecting dignitaries, sometimes it means sitting behind a computer, sometimes that means speaking to high school and college students.

But being in the military is a high risk career, one that carries physical and mental risks for the soldiers as well as relational ones. Whether you know any veterans or not, you hear stories and see commercials on TV about how people lost limbs and marriages due to their military career. They don’t really tell you what it’s like to have a TBI or try to return to civilian life after you’re done when you sign up.

But a veteran is a lot more than just someone who goes out for the country and does stuff. They’re people who are part of a family, they’re people who live in our communities, and they and their families need our support. Veteran’s Day is an opportunity for us as a community to stand up and do more than just thank them for their service, although that’s a good start. It’s an opportunity for us to help them build businesses, help raise service dogs for them, donate to organizations that help them navigate returning to civilian life, help build adaptive houses for them, and give them flexible but reliable job opportunities.

So today I encourage you to not only thank a veteran and their family, but also step up for them in some way in your community or in the veteran community as a whole.

The Business of Holidays

I love holidays, from the wandering through stores to see their decorations, to perusing holiday catalogs to holiday movies to holiday commercials to the food to holiday shopping for loved ones.  We’re just about 2 weeks away from Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and closing in on the holiday shopping season and special deals.  This year something different happened, instead of getting the Black Friday ads a couple of days before Black Friday, they started sending them out this week!  I was a little surprised but I think it makes good sense knowing how people like to shop around during this time.  So today I thought I’d share a few ideas for how you can tap into the holidays successfully for your business.

First, sneak peeks and early bird specials are a great way to get shoppers in the door early, and hopefully make it more of an even stream of customers rather than a crush.

Second, take advantage of all the holidays. Have special offers for Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and even the first day of winter.  Whether you’re an online only, a mixed online and local, or only local business you can tap into all of these holidays and events.

Third, don’t forget to give back.  Recognize a charity that is in line with your business, or you’ve spoken about before, or is well-known in your community (and your customers will know) and donate some of the proceeds of November 27 to them, or at the very least encourage your customers to donate or shop with them.

Fourth, it’s hard to like a last minute (panicked) shopper, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of all the spending that happens and the gifts that are given in the season and offer special last minute offers, gift baskets/boxes, or packages.

Fifth, make sure you reward your most loyal customers from throughout the year.  Yes, the holidays are a time when many people spend, but some of your customers have been buying from you all year long.  Reward them for their patronage with some extra holiday cheer.

Finally, make sure to celebrate the holidays and let your customers know that you know there’s more to the season than just spending and gifting.  Share some behind-the-scenes looks and holiday stories from your employees and don’t forget that the holidays are about coming together and celebrating.

What are your holiday plans for your business?