Living Today

The new year has arrived and we’re almost a week in! I love that we have life divided into days, months, years and lifetimes. It helps us to process better and plan both short-term and long-term goals which give us small and large victories throughout our lives.  Each one is filled with a different set of opportunities for us to live and love and build relationships and be successful.

I don’t always go with a year theme, but lots of people do. I’ve seen lots of different words this year including spaciousness, time, intention, substance, experience, purpose, promise, change and clarity. This year I’ll be doing something different and not doing monthly themes for every month as I’ve done in the past, but instead going with a yearly theme. This year’s theme is going to be ‘today.’

Why ‘today’? Not because of how fast-paced our world is, but rather because I want us to take a step back and live in today, accomplish things today, appreciate today, learn from today and enjoy today. Yes, we’ll still talk about goals, planning, the future, and the bigger picture, but I want to focus on appreciating, enjoying and acting on each day.

As we’re constantly reminded of in the news each day is a gift. What you do in that day may make or break your future. It can overcome what you’ve done in the past. You can end the day satisfied with what you got done that day or feeling like it was all a waste. It may be one of your last days, will you look back and know you lived it well?

What will you do with today?

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Thoughts for Business in 2019

We’re in a new year, and you’ve probably seen a couple of those posts about trends for 2019 and what 2019 may hold for companies. Today I thought I’d share a few thoughts about where I hope or see or hear business may be going in 2019. Don’t forget though, the year is just beginning and almost anything is possible if you’re willing and able to put the time and effort in.

Websites: I think that we’re going to realize how important websites are if you want to stay relevant in 2019 and finally prioritize keeping it updated and helpful to visitors. If you don’t have a website, now’s the time to get one, even if it’s one that you design yourself or a more basic one that doesn’t cost thousands. Make sure that you’re able to update it on a moment’s notice or you’ve got the access to a tech team and they’re able to do it.

Market Specifics: I don’t really think it’s possible anymore to claim you sell to “everyone.” Even if you look at the big guys (big box stores/sites), they’ve got some pretty clear haters who would never shop with them, even if they sell the exact same product as everyone else (i.e. a name-brand paper towel roll available at a grocery store in every town or most comparable websites). Whether you call it your niche, tribe, community or something else, it’s time to really dial in on who you sell to the large majority of the time (if not all the time).

Context: whether we’re talking marketing in general or specifically with emails or social media or other types of publications in line with the previous point it’s time to be more specific and helpful with what you’re sending out. Make sure it’s clear why people would be interested in it (what’s in it for them) and don’t be afraid to ask them to join specific groups or newsletter subscriptions to narrow down the focus of what they’re receiving from you, especially if you do speak to more than one specific audience.

Love: your audience and potential customers should love what you can bring to the table. This means working on your brand, having a clear brand, and showing that brand consistently in all you do. It’s also about having mutual respect and appreciation for all people at the table from suppliers to customers to employees to the management team.

What else will be big this year? Some of the more obvious ones are improved and increased focus on metrics and data, collaboration, innovation, tech and AI allowing us to focus more on what only humans can do, and more planning and strategy (and implementation).  What do you think will be big or lead the transformation in business this year?

The Story of Success

One of my favorite things about the holidays are all the fun stories that we read from year to year. While I’m not in love with all of the new holiday stories that have been written, some are cute and the kids certainly seem to love them, and one has become almost on par with some of the traditional icons. Last week we talked about some of the figures that make the holiday season what it is, but behind each of those figures is at least one incredible story, stories that we read from year to year and share with our kids, and you may be able to recite or at least get close to telling perfectly. It’s these stories that have allowed the figures to become such enduring parts of our lives and holidays.

One of the things that has become a topic to talk about is the story that you’re telling in your business, through your marketing and with your customers. One of the biggest reasons I support story in a business is because it instantly humanizes it. It reminds the business and employees that they’re selling to people and it lets the [potential] buyers know that there are real people behind the products and marketing. Story is also can bring incredible life and depth to products, helping to differentiate a product from others similar to it.

So how is story shared? Well, it can be a video on your website Home page, it can be pictures and text on the About Us page, it can be behind the scenes glimpses on social media, you can share pictures and details on product listings (some products like this one on Amazon are a good example), and it’s in the words that you use to tell people about your products, services or brand.

Don’t think you’ve got much of a story? Well, the most classic Christmas stories are both relatively short and simple. There are lots of stories that have spawned from Santa’s classic story by Clement C. Moore, but that intial story is simple and straightforward. There’s a lot more after the initial Christmas story of Jesus’ birth, but again, the initial story is simple and relatively short. That doesn’t mean that they don’t include some really specific details like the names of reindeer or the exact types of gifts baby Jesus was presented with, because they do. Just adding a few descriptive sentences that bring some life to the presentation along with the relevant details can make all the difference in the world between people choosing to work with or buy from you or someone else.

Between now and the end of January take time to reevaluate the story you’re telling and make sure to begin communicating an authentic and clear story with your customers (ask me, I can help!). So what story is your business telling?

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?

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?

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.

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.

The Drive of Success

This month one of the big stories in the US has been about the lottery. Two jackpots were extremely large numbers, in the hundreds of millions and above, and it took a good couple of draws before anyone won the big pots. Friends and I have talked about how unbelievable it was that no one won until someone did, and that the pots could get as large as they did. Someone said that maybe it got that large because it is as random a draw as they say it is.

So each time that no one won people bought another ticket, and with the pots as large as they were people who don’t usually play were buying tickets too. I know that the likelihood of winning is extremely low (almost impossible), but the fact is someone has to win at some point in time, and people eventually did. Although it’s not the best thing to do with your money I thought there were some interesting lessons that could be learned and applied to our success from the lottery craze these past few weeks.

These two most recent pots both showed the importance and value of perseverance. Lottery in general means you buy a ticket for the upcoming draw and that ticket is only good for that specific draw, not all future ones or any in the past. Also true is the fact that if you don’t buy a ticket you can’t win. If you want to win sometimes the only way to do so is to try, and keep trying.

The other thing these large pots speak to is hope.  People don’t work for success unless they’ve got something they’re looking forward to as a result of that success.  Maybe it’s more time with family, a better life, or making a difference, but people don’t apply themselves to something that they don’t have even a sliver of a belief that it could come true.

You may not have won the lottery this past month, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have success in your life.  Success is something that almost anyone can achieve, especially those who believe in themselves, put their minds to it, and make the effort.  What is driving your success?

Grand Slam Success Secrets

Today begins one of the biggest events in baseball each year, the World Series.  It’s an event that’s happened since 1903 and this year it’s between the Dodgers and the Red Sox.  Baseball has fascinated and attracted sports fans and even those who aren’t sports fans for over a century, from little leagues to the World Series and several rivalries that raise lots of attention and conversation.  Today I thought we’d talk a little about some of the success insights we can learn from this big event.

It’s a competition of up to 7 games, or whomever gets 4 wins first.  I like that there’s not a one-and-done requirement, that one game decides the ultimate winner of the 162 games teams play each year.  Some years the team that wins sweeps the series, other times they play all 7 games and it’s neck-and-neck the whole time.  Life is like this; it’s rare that we’re only allowed or given one try to get it right.  So if you’re dealing with a failure don’t give up yet, move on to the next chance.

There’s a chance that any one of the 15 National League and any one of the 15 American League teams might end up there.  There’s no rule that a team has to be there, or any rule that says a team can’t be there again.  It’s totally up to each team to have the best players and play their best if they want to get into the World Series.  It’s also up to each of us to determine our future and do what we need to do to be successful.

Teams play the games but they’re made of individual players who each bring their skills and talents to the field.  There’s always a MVP and there are always standout players on a team, but each team is exactly that: a team.  There can’t be just one or two players on a team, it wouldn’t be physically possible for them to do all of the work themselves.  So the next time you find yourself trying to do everything, don’t be ashamed to reach out and ask for help.

More than just the team though, baseball is made up of hundreds of thousands of fans who cheer the teams on.  Baseball wouldn’t be what it was without all the fans who watch/attend the games, buy the gear and talk with their friends, family and even strangers about the games.  We celebrate our team’s wins and encourage them and cheer them on even when they lose.  Everyone needs a cheering section, to celebrate their wins and encourage them through their struggles.

So what about you? What have you learned from baseball?

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?