Simple Seasonal Success Starts

As we come to the close of September I’m thinking about the months ahead, and all the holidays! As a business owner you should be getting ready for the holidays and planning to wrap up this year in the best ways possible. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably got a laundry list of things you want to cover before the end of the year, so as I was thinking about the holidays and about business success, my mind took a step back and thought about something else. What if instead of adding to the craziness that is the holidays, we made it simple?

What if we worked on offering the traditionals like turkey, pumpkin pie, hot chocolate with marshmallows, or mulled cider/wine and didn’t try to put a spin on a classic but instead offered the classic? What if we made it simple for our customers to understand how holiday shipping and pricing worked? What if we focused on making this the best holiday season for our customers rather than just focused on getting into the black?

If you’re thinking holidays and want to keep things simple or make it easier for your customers, here are a few ideas for both businesses with a physical address as well as those who only sell online. Everyone should make sure that their website has good desktop and mobile page loading speed so that all potential customers can not only visit the site but it doesn’t load too slow to keep them from becoming a customer. Everyone should have a dedicated page on the website that talks about the holidays answering FAQ’s, sharing featured products and news and includes a sign-up for a newsletter so visitors can get updates now and in the future. Everyone should have a content strategy planned out for their social media account(s), blog, podcast and/or newsletter for the rest of the year that includes consistent updates.  Everyone should plan extra hours and/or staff for addressing customer service questions and sales.  Everyone should offer some holiday special items or services, from simple products to extravagant experiences.

For those with physical locations make sure that your website clearly lists your current and holiday hours and physical address. Everyone who ships products should have a clear shipping page on their website that answers FAQ’s about shipping and pricing, and includes special holiday shipping options (with higher fees) if that’s not something you regularly offer.

What are your holiday plans for your business?

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Choose Your People Wisely

Yesterday here in the US we took the time to honor and remember the moms in our lives. As I was thinking about Mothers Day, it got me thinking about the other holidays throughout the year, and I realized that many of them help us do something important: recognize the people in our lives. Valentine’s Day is about you and your significant other, Mother’s Day is about mom, Memorial Day is about remembering those who have died while fighting for our country, Father’s Day is about Dad, the Fourth of July is about remembering the people who founded our country, Labor Day is about honoring the people who work hard around the country to keep us going, Veteran’s Day is about honoring our veterans, and Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the people in our lives.

I’ve shared many times about the importance of communication to our lives and our successes, but as I was thinking about Mother’s Day this weekend I was reminded that it’s not just about the communication, it’s about the people we’re communicating with as well. I received an email from someone the other day asking for advice about increasing the sales in their business and I gave them some advice, but either they didn’t like the advice or something because they replied back “yes, but how can I make more sales?” What did I tell them? I told them to fix the spelling and grammar mistakes in their listings (and there were many). It’s one thing to say you want help, but another when you don’t do something with that help when it shows up.

Typically, the only way for someone to change or transform their life is if they want to, they won’t usually do it if you tell them to change and they’re not interested in changing (something couples and families struggle with). And think about the last time you were with someone who you just can’t stand, what did you do after you were with them? Probably complained about them to someone else, just like you do every time you interact with them. With over 7 billion people in the world, there’s really very little reason to spend time with people who treat you disrespectfully, you don’t like or doesn’t like you. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t work on fixing relationships or making a relationship last, because you absolutely should for those relationships that matter the most like with your kid’s other parent or your family. Just that life’s too short to spend much time on or spend it with people who aren’t on the same page as you. Choose your clients, coworkers, bosses, and friends wisely, every day is a gift, and it’s up to you how you spend that gift.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Today in the US we’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo, so I thought I’d share a few fun ideas that you can craft, create and play with your kids!

Fringed party favor bags

Punched tin napkin rings

Ribbon lanterns

Straw flowers

Crepe and tissue paper flowers

Cupcake liner flower crown

Neatly folded napkins with maracas

Cactus balloons

Foam stamp cacti artwork

Stenciled southwestern welcome mat

Piñata napkin rings

Cinco de Mayo place cards

Fan drink stirrers

Sombrero headbands

Fiesta pattern bowls

Cactus pillow

Cactus mini cupcake stands

Tissue paper lantern

Colorful flatware

Piñatas:

Miniature Mexican star piñata 

Chili pepper piñata 

Mini piñata garland

Donkey piñata

Sugar skull piñata 

Emoji piñata 

Pizza piñata 

Owl piñata 

Watermelon piñata 

Alligator piñata 

Mini cactus piñata 

Unicorn piñata 

Taco piñata 

How are you planning to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

Easter Egg-Citement

Today is the official celebration of Easter. You’ve probably seen the ads and your kids have probably begged you for Easter candy, even if you don’t celebrate for religious reasons. Growing up one of my favorite activities was the Easter egg hunt. Yes, we were a religious family, but there’s something special about looking for hidden eggs, just like there is about Santa at Christmas. Why have an Easter egg hunt with your kids?

For one, it’s fun your kids will want to do more than once. You’ll be filling and hiding, or at the very least hiding, eggs for the next few months. It’s one of those gifts that keep on giving. If you don’t want to fill individual eggs you can give the child with the most eggs found a prize.

If you’ve got slightly older kids who get easily bored or don’t have the same interest as younger kids in looking for eggs, just hide a few, maybe even some of the same color, around the house. It will be a bigger challenge for them and keep them interested for longer.

I do have a vote for the religious aspect, even if you’re not very religious. Giving your kids the knowledge, or letting them choose whether to believe or not, is empowering for both you and them. It’s great to be able to say to your kids “because [God] made it that way” when they ask you a particularly tricky question that you just don’t have an answer to. It also helps kids understand why things don’t always go their way and why not everything makes logical sense. Knowing there is something bigger, stronger and loving out there can help allay fears and provide reassurance of answers when there don’t seem to be any.

Finally, I love the whole concept of eggs. You’re looking for something, you’re discovering what’s inside and you’re celebrating that discovery. Just like kids learn, discover and grow as they get older, these steps are important for them to be aware of, especially in this instant age. Sometimes the good stuff is wrapped in a little mystery, surrounded by a little work, but no matter how you get there, it’s important to celebrate what you learn.

This Easter and this week ahead, hide some eggs with your kids, and discover the fun you can have together.

The Business of Respect

We’re getting into another holiday season, with Good Friday today, Passover starting tonight and Easter on Sunday. With some of the recent events and these holidays coming up I thought it would be a good idea to talk about something we as business owners can struggle with: the human side of things. I get it, we all want sales, we all want to grow our businesses, but I don’t think that has to happen at the expense of others, or without regard of others. Let’s talk about a few specific examples.

Easter/Passover: there’s a large percentage of the population who will celebrate one of these holidays, and anytime there’s a holiday it means increased stress levels, even if you don’t celebrate the holiday personally because many other people around you will be stressing out. A little more patience and a little consideration can go a long way to diffusing potential tensions and reducing the general stress level.

Social media: I was talking recently with several people who have used social media for their business but really didn’t get it or know how to use it for their business. Yes, businesses do get sales from social media, but it can’t be ignored that it’s social media, not sales media, and that the social aspect is often the missing link between the engagement numbers they have and those they want.

Facebook’s data issue: in some ways it may not seem like a big issue, because “they’re just numbers” but behind that data is a lot more than just numbers on a page, they’re little bits of many people’s lives. At this point the mistakes have happened so changes should be made as a result of the issue and the companies involved need to take responsibility, and then apologies should be issued, with sensitivity to the fears, frustrations, and concerns that people are experiencing.

Feelings and relationships: I was reading an email from one of the business coaches I’ve connected with and she was sharing about her birthday last year and last few months with her father before he died. It was a sweet email and reminded me about the stories and relationships that each of us have, and how as businesses if we’re able to build even a fraction of that kind of relationship with our customers we’re lucky.

No, not every moment in business is a touchy-feely one, there’s a lot of business that is very cut and dried. But behind each and every sale there’s a person, someone who will use the product you’ve created, someone who will share that product with someone they love, someone who will apply your wisdom to their life, someone who will use your service to help someone else, which means it’s not just something you’re creating for and selling to one person, it’s something that can affect many. So how can you make this weekend special for the people you help in your business?

A St. Patrick’s Day Legacy

Today is St. Patrick’s Day! I’m excited as always, it’s one of my favorite holidays each year. Over the last day or so I’ve been checking out some Irish companies and looking at products made in Ireland and was struck by the care, consideration and effort that’s put into each product. No, no company is perfect, but when you think about truly Irish products and companies many of them have stood the test of time and consistently offer fantastic products. I’m not one to spend tons of money on things like jewelry or clothing, but I’m willing to spend those extra dollars to get such a quality product and support the families who are behind them.

No, this post isn’t really about running a business or offering a quality product, it’s about the quality and character of the people behind them. As parents and those in charge of the next generation we have a choice in what we want to teach the next generation, and hopefully what they’ll learn from us. Do we want to teach them to value the world, put their best foot forward, take pride in their work, leave a legacy that can be appreciated for a long time, and make a positive impact on the world? I know that’s what I want to teach the next generation and encourage them to value life and their talents.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a sweater or piece of jewelry from your local big box store, I’ve got some of them that I absolutely enjoy very much and were on low clearance prices even (prices that couldn’t get me anywhere near something from Ireland). So there’s nothing wrong with finding shortcuts and doing a quick job of something (as long as it gets the job done), but there’s value to be found in being a person who does more than just meets the status quo.

No one else can be who you are, no one else can be who your kids are or will grow up to be, no one else can be the neighborhood kids or who they will grow up to be, each and every one of us are unique and have the ability to bring something awesome to the table. In the case of the many families in Ireland who craft gorgeous products those families are teaching their next generations about leaving a legacy, honoring your heritage and sharing who they are with the world. What are you teaching your kids?

Making an Impact in 2018

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?

Customer Consideration

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?

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Christmas

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?

Forgiveness for the Holidays

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.