Hope for Success

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.

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The Business of the Irish

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.

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.

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: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

This month one of the things we’ll be doing is looking at Christmas songs (we’re looking at some too on one of my other blogs).  Today I thought we’d start with a fun one, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus!”

“I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night
She didn’t see me creep
Down the stairs to have a peep
She thought that I was tucked up
In my bedroom, fast asleep

Then I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night

He saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
I did! I really did see Mommy kissing Santa Claus
And I’m gonna tell my Dad

Then I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night

Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.”

Did you know that this song was first recorded in 1952 by Jimmy Boyd who was 13 at the time?  Even more amazing, it reached #1 in December of that year as well.  One of the most famous recordings was by the Jackson 5 (you can listen to it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PITCmngiMfA ).

The big controversy over this song is whether Santa is dad or if the writer of the song (Tommie Connor) is actually suggesting that the mom in the song is cheating on the dad with Santa.  Since we’re given the perspective of the child who believes in Santa being real, it’s not easy to tell which it is.

Regardless of what you believe or think the writer was getting at, it’s a good reminder that sometimes kids don’t understand things and we have to be careful as the adults to set a good example for them, especially in high pressure situations or in times when they may be extra sensitive (like with Christmas and being on the hunt for the stash or shaking presents under the tree or staying up to listen for reindeer hooves).

But, if like many people believe, the Santa is actually dad in disguise, it’s a good reminder to couples to find time to play and make special moments even if things are hectic and crazy like they are during the holiday season.  Yes, there’s a lot going on and you’ll probably be getting sitters for the parties you have to attend, but one of the best gifts you can give yourselves as a couple is to take a night to be alone (if money’s a problem there’s probably another family you can swap kids with to give them a night off too).  The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and coming together with those you love, so make sure to commit some of your time this month to your partner.

Gifting and Giving

It has arrived!  No, I’m not talking about any of the items I ordered on Black Friday, I’m talking about Giving Tuesday!  You may have rolled your eyes, but I’m serious.  I’m glad that someone realized that non-profits and charities need a day like Black Friday as much as for-profit businesses do. They’re as concerned about their bottom line as all other businesses out there.  Just because they’re not looking to put money in their pockets the way that for-profit businesses do, it doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to increase their funds so they can better work towards fulfilling their mission.

I know that some people donate around the year end for one reason or another, I personally donate all year long (I love recurring payments on a credit card, it makes it so easy!), but during this season it does seem like non-profits and charities get the remainders of whatever is left after the holiday gifts have been purchased and the transportation for holiday celebrations and holiday food is paid for too.  If you think about even one of the best known holiday non-profits, the Salvation Army often gets shortchanged (no pun intended).  They stand outside shopping centers with their red buckets ringing for the change left over from shopper’s purchases.  Non-profits and charities certainly won’t say no to any size donation, but it’s sad that we tend to give them our leftovers rather than being part of our shopping lists.

Of course non-profits and charities would love if you donated all year long because it would mean that they would be in the black before year-end, but I know it doesn’t always work that way for any business.  This year I did hear about several businesses who chose to donate their Thanksgiving profits to non-profits and charities, which I thought was a great idea.  Another great thing I’ve seen this year more than any other year is the number of for-profit businesses suggesting a non-profit or charity that they support or recommend that their customers could support, or choosing to donate in partnership with you on Giving Tuesday (or just the holiday season), through a matched gift or some other arrangement.

Today is a great opportunity to donate to causes and organizations that you personally feel passionate about.  In my work I run across hundreds of people trying to make a difference, right a wrong or give people an opportunity that they would not have otherwise.  I encourage you to support at least one business today, or spread the gift around to a few non-profits and charities.  What is your chosen non-profit or charity?

Happy Holiday Businesses

We’re switching things up a bit this week with the holiday on Thursday and talking about business today, and we’ll be talking about Small Business Saturday and holiday sales and selling.  In the last business post I mentioned that part of social selling is being involved locally.  I know that many businesses would say that they’re not a ‘local’ business because they sell online or they sell in many locations and so they’re not part of just one local community or technically any local community.  But I believe that each and every business can be involved locally and that being involved locally can be a big benefit to every business regardless of whether or not you have a physical location that you sell from.   And technically every business is a local business because you, the business owner, have to live somewhere!

More people are thinking about buying local and say that buying local is important to them. Why? Because not only are local products a great way to keep the money in your community and build up your local economy, often local products are healthier for you or created or grown with more consideration to things like pesticides and sustainability.  So if you’re not involved in your local community yet, it’s something I recommend you check out.  Of course being a business without a physical location you still can sell locally by selling your products through other stores that are local.  One of the other ways that I recommend you get involved locally would be to sponsor teams, do booths at local events, and donate to local charities.  You can also use your local community as your testing group and get their feedback on your products easier and with less expense and more interaction.

So what about holiday sales and selling?  There are lots of people buying now, so it’s super important to make sure that your website is updated, you’ve got your available products on the website and clearly described, it’s clear if you’re running low on a product, and your special offers are clearly displayed.  Now, I know that not every business likes to do sales or discounted prices, and I can understand that, sometimes there’s not a whole lot of ways to discount things, especially when it comes to services.  But there are other ways to add value if you can’t or don’t want to discount like including a little free gift or bonus or extra time with you.  It’s also a great opportunity to do joint ventures and cross promotions by giving products from other great local companies as the gift or bonus.  For example if you sell health products you can include a free sample or two or if you sell food you can include some recipes from local chefs that work with the products they purchase.

What are your business plans for this holiday season?

Thankful for Relationships

I’m super excited to be looking ahead to Thanksgiving and wanted to take time today to talk about being thankful in our relationships. Relationships are full of challenges, sometimes heartbreaks, and often opportunities for joy.  They’re not for the faint of heart and take work if you really want them to be successful.  But there are also plenty of reasons to give thanks for them.  Relationships mean that we’re not alone in the world, they mean that we’ve got someone there to support us, they challenge us and help us grow, they give us a helping hand in raising kids and in fulfilling our dreams.

One of the things my partner says to me is “thank you for loving me.”  It sounds like a very simple phrase but it’s got so much power and says many things.  First, it’s an affirmation of our connection, he recognizes that I love him and am invested in our relationship.  Second it’s him admitting that he’s not perfect and may be difficult to love sometimes.  Now, if you’ve been reading along for a while you know that I don’t see a point in being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t ‘click’ with you, so even on his most challenging day he’s still someone I want to be with.  So the value in him admitting that he’s not perfect is in part him wanting reassurance that I do love him regardless or in spite of his faults, and a promise to do better because he’s as committed to us as I am.

It kills me when I see so many hurting, hurtful and broken relationships because some of them could be healthy relationships if some steps were taken sooner, while others I’m amazed that they’re still hanging in there for some unknown reason when they could very possibly be happy with someone else.  Being that this is the holiday season now I’m going to say that the glass is half full today and encourage you to take time this holiday season to rip off a few band-aids and really talk with your partner about how you can make your relationship healthier and more fulfilling.  Stop looking elsewhere, stop with the threats, stop faking it, stop lying to yourself and start talking about the problems and how you can resolve them.  Take time for just the two of you this season and build on the good that you have or rebuild the good you once had.

Candy Craving

Today I thought it would be fun to take a look at a little candy history. There are tons of great facts around the web so you can do your own research on your favorite candy, but here are some fun facts to get you started.

65% of candy bars were introduced more than 50 years ago including candy corn (1880’s), Reese’s peanut butter cups (1922), Milky Way (1923), Heath Bar (1928), Snickers (1930), M&M’s (1941), Mounds (1947), Dum Dums (1924), Life Savers (1912) and more!

Tootsie rolls:
-created in 1896
-named after the creator’s daughter’s nickname: “tootsie”
-Tootsie pops were created in 1931
-it might take 364 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop
-Solders in WW2 had lots of Tootsie rolls in their packs because of their ability to survive lots of challenging weather

Hershey’s
-kisses came around in 1906-7
-kisses were given colorful wrappers in 1962
-chocolate bar started in 1900
-almonds added in 1908 to the candy bar
-miniature bars added in 1939
-the theme park comes around in 1973 and decides to offer nutritional information on the wrappers

Even more candy fun:
-Life Savers started as just peppermint savers
-President Nixon used to eat a Milky Way for breakfast
-Heath Bars were originally offered only by delivery, sold by dairy delivery men
-Snickers were named after the Mars family’s beloved horse
-M&M’s went into space in 1981
-in 1949 Smarties were created, and nicknamed “candy pills”
-the first Valentine’s Day was in 1868, started by Cadbury (not by greeting card companies!)
-yellow Peeps are most popular
-it used to take 27 hours to make a Peep, now it takes 6 minutes
-75% of Americans eat the ears before anything else on their chocolate Easter bunnies
-Christmas, Easter and Halloween are the big candy days, with Christmas being the biggest
-both Sourpatch kids and skittles started outside of the USA and came to the US in the 1980’s.
-the word Pez is actually from the German word for peppermint (Pfefferminz)

What is your favorite candy?