Empowering Through Sales

It’s September so of course I’m thinking about lots of education topics and about the next generation.  Last week we talked about something that kids are known for: asking questions, but we talked about it with regards to building a better business.  Something that we may talk about in other contexts later this month or next month is the topic of bullying because it’s a serious topic that affects people of all ages, not just kids, but it’s most discussed with regards to kids.  What I want to talk about today is something that relates to bullying, is actually in some ways the opposite: empowerment.

The way I see it businesses are in the business of empowering their customers in one way or another.  Whether they offer a product or service they empower their customers through the solutions they offer to problems in their lives (darkness, coldness/heat, hunger, transportation, infertility, crazy kids, divorce, loneliness, sickness etc.).  The dictionary defines empower as “to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means, to enable or permit.”  By putting whatever you sell in their lives you’re giving them the power to overcome the challenges in their lives, to make living life a little easier or better, and you’re giving them the opportunity to make the right choices for their life.

So the question we ask often is how can we make our customers and employees happier?  Logic, systems, leadership, training, testing, communication, marketing, good people and customer service are all ways that we as business owners can give our customers and employees can make their experience with us better, longer, and more satisfying.  Make sure that what you offer and what you tell people make sense.  Make sure that you’ve got good systems, leadership, training, hiring practices and communication in place to support and guide your employees. Make sure that people can find you, know what you offer and are able to understand what you offer and how to use/apply it.  And make sure that the experience they have with you and what you offer makes them want to come back for more, even if their initial purchase with you isn’t the greatest.

By choosing to go the extra mile with preparing your products and services for customers, giving your employees the tools they need to be successful and support your customers and giving your customers an experience that reinforces the great product or service you’ve sold them, not only are you more likely to be more successful as a business, you’re empowering your clients and customers to solve their problems and enjoy their lives.

How do you empower your customers and/or employees?

Joy in Seasons

Can you believe another month is almost over?  Today is our last post really looking at our topic of the month: seasons.  What I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the joy that can be found in each and every season.  I know, you’re mentally complaining about at least one season in your head right now, like how much snow there is in winter, how much rain there is in spring/the rainy season, how hot summer/the dry season is, how cold fall gets and miserable it is to watch the leaves fall off the trees etc.  You don’t have to like every season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some joy in each of them.  For example,  I don’t like snow but still find joy in watching kids go sledding, or sitting in a comfy chair watching the snow fall with a cup of hot tea and a good book.

Like so many things, the seasons are really what you make of them.  Last Wednesday I talked about what to do if your business is heading into a slow season for the summer.  Just because you may not be making many sales, it doesn’t mean there is nothing you can, could or should be doing during this time.  Just because it’s raining out today doesn’t mean that you have to do nothing because your outside plans were cancelled.   Just because you have a broken arm or leg doesn’t mean there’s no summer fun to be had.

I really believe that life is what you make of it a majority of the time. If you are feeling miserable, that’s the life situation you’ll create around you.  If you’re feeling like a winner, that’s the situation you’ll create around you.  If you want to enjoy your least favorite season, I believe you’ll be able to find reasons to do so!  But it only happens when we choose that path.    So what path will you choose this summer? Will you choose to find some reason for joy in each and every day?

Life Beyond Fears

This month we’ve been talking about fears. The thing about fears is that they hold us back more often than they help us.  Yes, they’re there to protect us, but many times they’re more over-the-top than helpful.  Today I wanted to share about one of the drawbacks of fear: what you miss out on.  When you’re busy looking over your shoulder you’re too busy to look in front of you and see life’s potential.  You’re missing out on the cool things, the weird things, the things that make you laugh and smile, the things that cheer you up, the things that challenge you and the things you fall in love with.  Fear means that you’re too busy looking back to appreciate all that you have or could have.

So while I can’t magically poof your fears and issues away, I want you to take just 5 minutes to really see the world around you this weekend.  Stop and check out the leaves changing colors, stop and smell the crisp scent of fall in the air, stop and see what the people in your world are doing, stop and see the changes going on all around you as stores prepare for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and see what has become of your life.  Take time to see the world around you and be grateful for all you have and all those who are part of your life.

This week on the Spirituality and Life blog I shared about overcoming your fears (part 1, part 2), and sometimes the thing to do is to face them and work on overcoming them.  But sometimes what your fears, your life, and the people in your life need is more thanksgiving, love and joy.  When we learn to focus on those things, and not the fears and challenges that seem to be taking over our lives, we’re able to see life from a whole new perspective, and often be freed from our fears without having to do anything.

“The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”  Henri J M Nouwen

Holiday Helpings

October is really the start of the holiday season in my mind.  These 3 months are when some businesses make the majority of their sales, often led by the “Black Friday”/”Cyber Monday” sales days.  If you’re a summer business it may not affect you (unless you can get on board with “Giving Tuesday” somehow or offer deals for next summer), but for the rest of us there’s a lot of potential in these last 3 months that so many businesses waste.  So today I wanted to address the holiday season and help you kick it into gear if you haven’t already.

To start we need to answer the really big question: why bother?  I believe that most businesses, especially those who change or tweak what they offer on a regular basis, have a great opportunity to participate in the seasons and holidays and offer some really fun and creative options that aren’t available all year long.  Starbucks is really great with this, offering seasonal drinks and treats depending on the flavors and foods that are grown or celebrated at that time.  Also, while they always bring back some customer favorites there are always at least a couple of completely new options they try.  Restaurants, artists, musicians, family care services, cleaning services, event locations, grocery stores, beverage companies, bakeries, business consultants, marketers, travel companies and TV/radio stations are just a few of the businesses that can tap into the seasons and holidays and add a little something special to surprise their customers and interest new ones too.

So, assuming that you’re going to jump on the opportunity this holiday season presents, no later than the 2nd week of October should you have your plan for the rest of the year nailed down and be able to start celebrating the holidays.  This starts with planning the products and services you’ll be offering for the next 2.5 months and, if necessary, getting the designs shipped off so testing and creating can begin.  It also includes sketching out your website and marketing designs and ads for the rest of the year and planning who will make those changes and when, interviewing extra staff, considering special events you’re going to offer or participate in, if you’ll be doing a charity drive of some sort, and any other little things that you and your team can do to make the holiday season a little more unique and special.  Completing this planning stage by the second week of October means that you’ll just have to deal for the most part with serving your holiday specials to your customers for the rest of the year.

Offering seasonal/holiday options are a great way to stand out from similar businesses and let customers and potential customers know that you’re not just about the bottom line, but that you recognize changing needs and desires customers have, and that you know how to have some fun too.  I would love to help you plan the next 2.5 months of your business with special holiday offers, stop by my website and let’s talk!  If you already have holiday plans I invite you to share your ideas in the comments.

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.

Plans with Popcorn

Today I’m sharing lots of popcorn recipes to get you ready for the World Series, scary Halloween movies, or just a yummy afternoon snack.

Chili Lime

Cheesy garlic

Mexican chocolate

Sage

Chocolate almond

Sweet and spicy crunch

Macadamia butter crunch

Kettle corn

Sweet and nutty

Sesame ginger

Aztec chocolate and caramel

Cranberry orange caramel

Herbs de Provence and asiago cheese

Carmel apple monster munch

Slacker jacks

Grandma Paul’s caramel corn

Theater style butter

More Treat Ideas

Chewy caramel popcorn and pretzel bars

Golden popcorn squares

Toffee almond popcorn balls

Gooey Halloween popcorn balls

Candy corn popcorn balls

What toppings have you tried and enjoyed with popcorn?

Awesome Apples

Today we’re celebrating a delicious fall food: the apple!

Breads:

Cinnamon apple twist bread

Cinnamon apple pull apart bread

Apple muffins

Apple cranberry spice muffins

Apple dumpling slices

Fresh apple cinnamon scones

Apple cinnamon pull apart rolls

Cinnamon apple flat bread

Apple cranberry toasted bread pudding

Double apple walnut bread

Cake:

Old fashioned apple cake with brown sugar frosting

Apple upside down cake

Apple skillet cake

Fresh apple cake from Georgia

Caramel apple cheesecake

Apple coffee cake with crumble topping and brown sugar glaze

Pie:

Classic apple crisp

Cranberry and apple crumble

Crusty apple pie

Flat apple pie with perfect pie crust

Treats:

Apple tortilla bake

Slow cooker apple butter

Apple strudel

Apple phyllo triangles

What are your favorite apple recipes?

Are You Proud of Your Business?

School is in session, people’s lives are returning to normal and business should be getting back into more normal schedules, even while it gears up for the holidays of the next few months.  Before we get into that rush I want to talk about something really important, kind of in response to what we’ve talked about the last two weeks.

Over the last two weeks I’ve shared about 4 things many businesses are struggling with or missing that is causing them to lose money: their website and their email list, and their social media and their customer service.  I read another couple of articles this week emphasizing how ridiculous it’s become for some businesses with customer service.  The bottom line in each article was that there is no way in today’s competitive and fast paced market that you can afford to lose customers because you’ve got bad customer service. It’s the simplest yet most important thing you can do to keep people coming back again and again and spread the word about your business.  But that’s a soap box for another day.

For many businesses the next 4 months are the months that put them into the black for the year.  If you just are breaking even or losing a bit throughout the rest of the year usually holiday and seasonal purchases can lift you over that line.  It can be tempting to just focus on making the sale and getting out of another crazy holiday season, but what if your performance and service in these next 4 months could totally change your success for the rest of the year?

It starts like this: when we get super busy we tend to let some of those little extras go.  We tend to slack just a tiny bit on our usual excellence.  We do just that little bit less than we usually do for our product or service because we think it necessary when trying to keep up with the demand.  When in fact we should be doing just that little bit more.  If we create the rave reviews now we’ll set ourselves up for success the rest of the year. No, we may never replicate or replace the extra sales of the last 4 months of the year, but we’ll have a lot less worry and pressure about money.

What it really comes down to is selling something all year long that you are consistently proud of.  If you’re not proud of it, if you’re past that proud mama/papa glow that new business owners get your customers can tell.  Often they’ll look for another similar business that does have that glow, just because it makes them feel that much better.  They feel welcome and know how excited you are that you can share a little bit of love with them.

“It’s not about working anymore, its about doing work I can be proud of.”  Paul Walker

Putting the Puzzle Together

We’ve reached another school season, another year of making new friends, playing with old ones and growing older and hopefully smarter.  There are lots of challenges kids face as they go back to school and work through another year, one of the biggest is the other students they meet.  Most parents like to believe that their kid is perfect and amazing and has very few faults.  But just as we know how unique the other adults in our lives are, the same is true for kids: they know they’re each different and those differences can be seen as threats or weaknesses depending on the child and the group they’re with.  What would be seen as a weakness by one group is seen as a strength by another group.  The teachers they interact with also play a role: the differences that make them unique and could give them a solid future will be supported, discouraged or ignored depending on the teacher.  Just because a kid is different doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable or special.  But it can be hard to teach that to kids, especially if we’re not living that way.

I’m not a big competition person.  I don’t like to sit and talk about how much more I made this year than you or how many clients I have or how much more awesome I am at this or that.  I don’t like to compare myself to others because I know I’m unique and special and there is no one else I can really compare to other than myself.  I know this isn’t true for everyone, lots of people thrive on competition, hence all the sports and reality shows on TV and around the world. I can appreciate that.  What I can’t appreciate is a lack of respect for other people or those that don’t engage in competition and hardballing.  The only thing that I believe should bring about a lack of respect is abuse or violence.

I’d much rather work together in our different ways to make the world a better place.  I love the world that we have but know that there is a lot that we could be doing to treat ourselves and our world better like recycling, not being wasteful, exercising and loving more.   My encouragement to you this week would be to see how you can fit your piece of the puzzle with someone else’s and make it work even though you’re different.

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
Albert Camus

Hannukkah Happiness

This week begins the 8 day celebration in which families light the Menorah and celebrate the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah.   While Hanukkah was not part of my religious or spiritual traditions growing up, light and miracles are two things we can all appreciate and every time I light a candle I take a moment to appreciate all that that little flame symbolizes.  If you’ve been without electricity for a period of time (with the natural disasters we’ve experienced over the past decade, and especially the past few years, who hasn’t?), you may forget how miraculous it is to flip that switch and have the room fill with light.  But it’s nothing short of a miracle that we have eyesight and light with which to see.  Yesterday’s celebration of Thanksgiving here in the USA always makes me extra thankful for all we have.  If you’re celebrating Hanukkah I’ve got a few ideas of food and fun to keep the kids busy while you shop.

Challah

Whole wheat challah

Challah french toast

Latkes 5 ways

Brisket

Roast vegetable tsimmes with apricots

Gold and chocolate cookies

Jelly doughnut holes

Foil Menorah

Star punched paper hurricanes

Egg carton dreidel

Etched glasses

Table runner

Charmed napkin rings

Greeting card

Birdhouse Menorah

23 more fun and decorative ideas!

Whether you’re Jewish or not you’ll be seeing lots of candles over the next month with the holidays.   I’ve talked about starting a thanksgiving practice in my newsletters and other places, one aspect of which is a reminder or trigger.  Candle flames are a simple reminder to think of one thing to be thankful for.  What are you celebrating today?