As I was visiting the History website the other day, I noticed an article about the holiday of Kwanzaa, which is celebrated each year at the end of December. While it has ended for this year I thought that the lessons and reasons behind Kwanzaa were something we could start the year off talking about. Let’s take a look:
The Facts: -It was begun in 1966 to bring African-Americans together as a community. -“Kwanzaa” is taken from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which can be translated as ‘first fruits.’ -During Kwanzaa families gather together for 7 nights of celebrations including singing and dancing.
The 7 Principles of Kwanzaa: Unity Self-determination Collective work and responsibility Cooperative economics Purpose Creativity Faith
Can you tell why I wanted to talk about Kwanzaa as we start this new year? Because many of the things that make this holiday what it is are things that could have an incredible impact on 2018 if we’re willing to take them on and apply them to our lives and the world we share. Over the past few years we have seen community develop, but we’re still miles away from where we could be. There are also more people than ever working towards a win-win-win world and win-win-win relationships, but there are still tons of people who are self-centered and not open to supporting others or helping them get a leg up in life.
Will this be the year that we really conquer the concept of community? Will this be the year that unity becomes a reality? Will this be the year that we incorporate purpose, creativity, faith and cooperation into all aspects of our lives? What will you make with this new year?
While there are some things I don’t always agree with when it comes to the “rules” in business, I do agree that if you don’t have customers you can’t stay in business. The other thing I know about business is that almost every business owner (some 95%) that I talk with says “I need more customers!!” And I can talk with them for a few minutes and take a look at their business and almost always come up with a couple of suggestions on what they can do immediately to get more customers.
We’ve talked over the past several weeks about the months of November and December and how essential they are to some businesses for making it ‘in the black’ for the year. Most businesses would tell you that they would be happy to get some more customers, even if they do decent during the rest of the year. Many businesses also would say that they do some different things to take advantage of the people who have their wallets out in these 6 or so weeks. So imagine my surprise when I went to go to a store yesterday and was met by the employee closing the store and they told me it was closed. With less than a week before Christmas this store chose to close at normal business hours. They didn’t extend their hours to welcome the guests that are out after work shopping, they didn’t say ‘we’re sorry we’re closing, but you can visit us online for a great selection of products,’ they didn’t say ‘we’re sorry we’re closing, but we open at 9am tomorrow morning.’ No, all they said was that they were closed.
Last week we talked about how customers feel about your business, being treated that way made me feel less than important as a potential customer and could impact whether I go back and shop there in the future. I’m not here to badmouth a specific store or brand, I’m just questioning whether this company is really interested in having more sales and more customers (their shelves looked full to me), or not.
You can get all the advice in the world, you can even give it a little attempt with some token changes or additions, but if you really want to get more customers, it won’t happen without really taking action to make your business the best it can be. I’m not suggesting you do something outside of your range of specialty, like serve Greek food at an Italian restaurant or grow Christmas trees when you grow medicinal herbs. All I’m suggesting is to be a little more open to what your customer may need, like extended hours for holiday dinners or recipes to make using your herbs. Of course, if you want to move in a direction like serving Greek food at an Italian restaurant, or opening a sister restaurant a town over, that’s something you could consider as well.
So before you say “I need more customers” or the next time you catch yourself saying it, think about what you’re doing to support your customers and if you’re really serving them the best you could be. What have you done this holiday season to support your customers and potential customers?
We’ve all been there, the Christmas that we’ve all spent alternating time in the bathroom or unable to get out of bed. It’s not the way we want to spend the holidays, but between the sometimes dramatic weather changes, the foods we’re eating that we’re not used to eating and all the people we’re exposed to, it’s almost surprising that we’re not sick over the holiday season more often. I can remember a couple of Christmases that I spent sick or someone else in the family was sick, you probably can too. It’s annoying that the average ones don’t really come to memory, but the really good ones and the bad ones do.
In some ways this is a reminder of our humanity, that as much as we try to make things perfect or be perfect, it’s just not possible all the time. Of course there are things you can do like making sure you’ve planned things in advance, you’re getting plenty of sleep, and eating well whenever possible. It’s also a reminder that as much as we want this time of year to be special, life is still moving on and part of life are the challenges.
Maybe this holiday season you’re feeling like it’s just not going your way. Maybe you’re without a job and can’t get gifts like you usually do. Maybe a family member is very ill or going to die soon, or a friend or family member died recently. Maybe you’ve gone through some major life changes like a divorce or big move to a new country. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that this isn’t going to be your favorite holiday season and that you’d rather stay low-key than go all out. Maybe you’re even going to keep the food in the freezer for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Sometimes the best ways to celebrate are the quiet ones. Maybe this won’t be one of the best Christmases, but it’s still early enough for you to decide how it’s going to end up, or at the very least the attitude you’re going to have about how it goes. What are your most memorable Christmases?
We’re a little under two weeks away from the celebration of Christmas and we’re a few days from Hanukkah. This month is so full of celebrations and gifting, something I’m so thankful for because it’s a good reminder that we’re not alone in this world and how important it is show our appreciation and love to those in our lives. If you’ve been thinking about whether or not to fight the crowds and get one last gift for someone or to skip it, I’d encourage you to go for it. Don’t let Scrooge win this year.
Let’s talk about one of the best gifts you can give yourself or anyone this year, or at any time: the gift of forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t something trivial that we throw around like we do the word love, in fact we’re pretty stingy with it, mostly because we’ve been hurt so many times, often by the same person, and it feels like it might be a waste of time to forgive them or anyone. So don’t feel bad if you’ve struggled to forgive before.
But what I’ve learned over the years is that it never pays to hold a grudge. Often it just becomes a distraction or sticking point that you can’t get over. You think about it over and over again, stopping you from moving forward and onward with your life. They may be moving forward in their life, whether you’ve forgiven them or not (and may not care if you have or haven’t forgiven them), while you’re still in the past withholding forgiveness.
Which means that usually the first person that needs forgiving is you. We’re harder on ourselves than on anyone else and we’re our biggest critic too. If you really want to be free to be all you can be this coming year, it starts with learning to forgive yourself, because without the forgiveness moving on to bigger and better things won’t be easy, if it’s even possible.
So go ahead and work on forgiving yourself or someone else this holiday season; it won’t be an easy gift but it will be the best one you’ve ever given.
One of the things I work on businesses with is helping them stand out. It’s easy in this day and age to set up an online store and sell some stuff, and it’s even pretty easy to set up a physical business and sell stuff (especially with all the open store fronts). Almost anyone with decent computer experience can sell online. Which is why it’s more important than ever to make sure that you’re unique, you’re likeable and you give people a reason to shop with you.
I love to read and I subscribe to over 100 daily, weekly or bi-weekly newsletters on business topics, not to mention the newsletters I get, as many people do, from my favorite stores and other interests. I know that over the past month the number of emails we’ve gotten has been increased, from the election to Black Friday to now the Christmas and other December celebrations. I know how busy people are and how many things we squeeze into this month.
But over the past week I’ve been getting some newsletters that have stated something along the lines of: ‘this is the last time you’ll hear from us until the new year’ or ‘this will be an extra short newsletter.’ Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important that we respect our customers and what they’re focused on, and we as business owners need to take time to be with our families and friends too. But if you’re doing things right you’ve got people who are anticipating, maybe even eagerly anticipating hearing from you, even though it’s the holidays. Hearing messages like these make me feel disappointed and sad that I’m not getting what I’m used to getting from the people and businesses I care about.
I would encourage you to really take time to consider what the right balance is between taking a break for the holidays and continuing to give your fans, readers, tribe and customers the quality and quantity that they’re expecting from you. You’ve worked really hard to get to this point in the year, don’t give up on loving and caring for your customers at this point.
This week in the art world something very interesting happened: a Da Vinci painting sold for $450 million. That’s just a few dollars, no big deal, I bet you’ve got that under your mattress for a rainy day, right? Not likely. However, as I was marveling over the fact that someone just spent that much money on a poster sized painting, it got me thinking about what it really means for us and our businesses.
In fact, it’s really great news for us. It means that there is money to be spent, people are buying, and people are willing to spend a lot of money. So the next time someone says that you’re not doing well in business because no one is buying anything, think again. That person or people who just bought that painting still need to eat and live somewhere and have clothes and probably watch TV and talk on their phones just like the rest of us. So take a moment to celebrate that and let yourself be relieved that there is money to be earned.
But what you can’t ignore about this incredible purchase is that the reason that someone paid $450 million for a painting is because of the perceived value. Someone has an overwhelming desire to have this painting in their possession. Maybe your tax audits or websites or cups of soup aren’t quite as interesting as a painting by Da Vinci, but you’re not asking $450 million for them. So it becomes a question of have you communicated the value, the interest, the intrigue behind what you’re offering, and have you told anyone about what you’re offering?
Take some time this weekend before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday start next week Friday and make sure that you’re communicating clearly the value that you bring to the table.
Tomorrow around the world is the celebration of Easter. Whether you celebrate for religious reasons or just enjoy the abundance of colorful eggs and treats, there are a few lessons we can learn from it and apply to our success. I believe in celebrating and sharing life, not making things more difficult for each other or hoarding all the resources for yourself. I believe that together we can be better than we ever can apart, and while our resources aren’t unlimited, if we were all a little more conscientious about our use of them I don’t think there would ever be a lack.
Loss and failure are things that we have to deal with as humans and business owners. Not everything or everyone works out as perfectly as we want them to. We’re not all knowing so we’ll get some things wrong, two reasons being because we don’t have sufficient information and other times because we go against our gut. Sometimes though those mistakes and failures lead to bigger and better things than we ever thought possible.
Easter is all about new birth, rebirth, new life and hope. I know it seems more challenging than ever each year to talk about this topic because of all that goes on in the world, but the fact is when we give up hope and the celebration of things like Easter, I believe that things will only get worse. We can do our part in our businesses by making sure that they’re healthy; that the treat customers, employees and everyone else with respect and dignity; that we focus more on bringing solutions and support to the world than quadrupling our profits or getting the best deal from suppliers; and looking to support our immediate communities as well as others around the world. If we all did just a little to bring hope to the world, donated just a small percentage of our profits, and/or were a little more considerate towards the human side of things, the world would be a better place and the world would regard the business world with a little more respect and favor.
I encourage you to take time this weekend to celebrate your personal and professional life and all that you’ve accomplished so far this year and let that hope move you forward into the next few months and even the rest of the year with hope and spirit.
Today is St. Patrick’s Day, the day that, at least in the US (and of course Ireland), everyone is welcome to be honorarily Irish. I love that we take time out each year to celebrate this country that many people in the US do have genetic ties to, and the ancestors who came here in droves to help settle the country. It would be hard to miss all the green around the stores as I did my shopping today, it was in just about every store. But of course, there are businesses who choose to ignore it because they don’t want to make the effort or don’t think it fits in with their brand or maybe they just don’t care to interact with the people celebrating.
One of the big reasons I encourage you to get involved in holidays, especially those as big as St. Patrick’s Day, is because it’s something people are interested in. One of the best ways to encourage customer loyalty in this ever challenging market is to connect more personally with them. Celebrating holidays also is a good way to remember that you’re human and so are your employees, just like your customers are with their personal interests, passions and dreams. With all the parades and events it’s also a great way to connect with them where they live and get involved in your local area even if you don’t have a physical location for your business.
One of the other reasons I encourage you to celebrate St. Patrick’s is because of something you can relate with as a business: St. Patrick’s Day is about more than just drinking and leprechauns, it connects with the concept and brand of Ireland and the Irish. Just like you would say ‘let’s Google it’ if you and a friend were debating something, Ireland and all things Irish are very recognizable: you don’t ask for German or Australian soda bread, you buy Irish soda bread; there are iconic brands like Waterford Crystal and Connemara Marble; not to mention symbols like the Claddagh, the Celtic cross, the trinity knot (Triquetra), leprechauns, and even the clover leaf (“the luck of the Irish,” anyone?), all make just about everyone think Ireland and the Irish. It’s a recognizable, strong and lasting country, icon, brand, symbol, group and culture. Which makes this day, the Irish people and Ireland, not only worthy of celebration, but also of presentation and connection within your business.
So as you wrap up the work day, have an Irish whisky or hunt for a 4 leaf clover and maybe even do an Irish jig to start the weekend off and celebrate this great country.
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!
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.