Christmas Traditions

What do countless holiday movies, my own family and many years of Christmas past have in common (besides Christmas of course)? Tradition! From the lights to the trees to the gifts to the cookies to the Church services, there are traditions and memories all around. One of the things I love about the holidays is that we can each have our own traditions but find lots in common with others as well. For example many families have a Christmas tree, but some decorate with simple tonal balls, some decorate with stars, some decorate with handmade decorations, some like white lights and some make a big production out of the decorating. So I may not decorate my tree like yours, but we can all talk about and enjoy the trees we all decorate.

Tradition is one of the ways we create memories, the ways we make the holidays special for our kids, it’s also a big part of the magic of the holidays, what makes us love them so much. Without the traditions and loved ones to spend the holidays with, it’s just not as magical or special. Yes, sometimes it can seem like a lot to pull together or do, but it’s always worth it when you go back to think about the memories and time spent with those you love.

The good thing about traditions is that you can keep traditions you’ve had going, and/or you can start new ones. Maybe you don’t enjoy those you had as a child, or you’ve got new joys and celebrations in your life now that you want to incorporate and keep going forward. Whatever you choose isn’t important, as long as you make the effort to celebrate those traditions for your family and for your own holiday spirit.

Traditions are a gift we pass on to the next generation and share with each other.  It’s something we enjoy doing and sharing each year, being part of and incorporating into our remembrance and celebration of Christmas.  What traditions will you be sharing this year?

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A Stocking Full of Success

One of the oldest traditions during the holidays is the tradition of hanging stockings. Since at least the early 1800’s people have been hanging stockings to wait for gifts on Christmas. I think Christmas stockings have lots of great lessons for business owners as we journey through the holiday season and reflect on the new year beyond.

Stockings are fun because everyone can get involved and the cost to participate can be a lot lower. Yes, you can easily put some expensive jewelry in a stocking, but it’s also fun to put little knick-knacks in, gifts of candy or fruit, or those unique odds and ends that are posted all around the checkout registers this time of year. Yes, some businesses only offer big products or services (and are typically expensive) but most businesses offer large and small products at a variety of price points. The smaller/less expensive products/services can be a way of getting a customer to initially purchase from a business, they can also be impulse purchases, and they can be little add-ons that lead into or connect with your bigger offerings.

The concept of many gifts in one package is also a great opportunity for businesses. You can package up some of your most popular offerings, and you can also partner with other local or related businesses to create a combined offering that brings you all exposure. Whether you offer a package deal (aka discount) on several offerings when purchased together or just make it easier shopping for people by packaging things often bought together into one joint offering, multiple offerings put together can help to clear off someone’s gift list (or needs list) quick. The holidays are all about being together, sharing and caring and there’s no better way to celebrate what you offer and what other great businesses and business owners offer than by putting together a “stocking” of an offering from each of you that could either compliment each offering or are just a smörgåsbord of offerings that have something in common like for a specific career (nurse, business owner etc.), locally sourced, or other passion (dog lover, traveler etc.).

Finally, the packaging matters. Stockings have become a special, treasured memory for people. They’re often adorned with special scenes, made by hand or personalized with names or initials. Year after year we’re proud to hang the stockings and excited when we can add another one to the family when someone else becomes a permanent member of our Christmas gatherings. The packaging and presentation of your offering also matters. From the marketing to the website to the physical packaging to delivery there’s a lot to consider and attend to with regard to the appearance of your offerings (including the people involved), and it’s important to do so. The presentation tells a lot about how you feel about what you’re offering as well as is the initial introduction to what you’re offering and can create a positive or lackluster first impression.

So go ahead, make the holidays a little merrier with a stocking of gifts from your business to your customers. How are you helping your customers celebrate?

Giving with Generosity

One of the lessons we’re reminded about this time of year is that of generosity. The story of Santa is always one of generosity, the story of Scrooge is one of generosity, and we give gifts not because people deserve them or for any reason other than it’s a time of year that we’re called to be generous to one another. What does it mean to be generous? The dictionary says it means to be “liberal in giving or sharing” or “abundant” We often determine generosity by amount or cost, but that cost or amount isn’t always by society’s standards, your generosity simply means giving above and beyond what you usually do.

There are some other lessons to consider along with the overarching one of generosity from these holiday stories too. Santa’s generosity comes with a bit of a catch, because if you end up on the naughty list you’ll get a gift but it will be coal in your stocking. Scrooge’s story reminds us that sometimes we can get wrapped up in our lives and forget about the blessings of being generous to others. And when we gift others we don’t give things that we would like or what we want, we give what we think they would appreciate.

Ultimately though generosity isn’t about going bankrupt to give to others, it’s about giving from your heart. Sometimes the best gifts are those that we can’t attach a monetary value to like a conversation with a friend, a hug, a timely arrival of a coworker to help pick up papers, a helping hand at the grocery store, a donation of old (but gently worn) clothing or blankets to a local shelter, or baking cookies for shut-ins in your neighborhood.

So as the official holiday of Christmas draws near, I encourage you to give with generosity. Give to your employees and customers with generosity, give to your family with generosity, give to friends with generosity, and even be generous with those you meet in line with the holiday spirit, in whatever form generous giving looks like for you.

The Love of Christmas

This time of year is really about love. It’s in Jesus’ story, it’s in Santa’s story, it’s in countless stories recorded by Hollywood, and there’s many a couple that will tell you they fell in love over the Christmas season. Love is many things: it’s giving, it’s forgiving, it’s endearing, it’s celebratory, it’s rewarding, it’s difficult, it’s educational, it’s life giving, it’s challenging, it’s attractive, it’s exciting, it’s work, it’s fulfilling, and that’s just for starters.

Love has highs and lows, but I believe if we’re talking true love (regardless of whether you’re talking romantic, family or friends), the highs and rewards far outweigh the challenges and difficulties and hold true to the statement ‘it’s better to have loved and lost than not loved at all.’ The challenge of the journey doesn’t make you love them any less, and you can work through just about everything that is thrown at you as long as you do it together.

Christmas isn’t the time to be discouraged about the love in your life, it’s time to celebrate it and commit to being more loving from here going forward. Even though it’s a story that’s grown over the years, why would Santa deliver presents around the world if not for love? It’s a lot more factual that Jesus came to earth some 2000 years ago as a baby, and it’s been said many times and in many ways that it was because of love. Why would we give gifts each holiday season if not for love?

So be encouraged that love is really all around. Will you welcome love into your life and heart this holiday season?

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?

The Light of Christmas

I’ve really been enjoying the journey to Christmas this year.  It’s been fun to play the Christmas music, talk about Christmas memories, plan Christmas events and buy gifts to share with others.  Even though Christmas comes along with some challenges and logistics to work through, I always look forward to the magic of this time of year, especially all the lights that come along with Christmas and the other holidays celebrated at this time of year. Christmas alone comes with lights on trees both indoors and out, lit candles, advent wreaths and door wreaths, and all kinds of blow-ups and other lit decorations. Add in the Menorah for Hanukkah, the Las Posadas celebration, Kwanzaa’s lights, and all of the lights that are lit simply because it’s December and dark in much of the world for most of the day/night and it’s clear that lights are everywhere.

All of this light speaks to me on several levels. First, it’s a guide. Countless stories and stories of miracles have had a connection to seeing a pinprick of light off in the distance that made all the difference. Today we can work anytime and anywhere thanks to the advances of technology that allow us to have all kinds of safe, artificial light. The light chases away the shadows and mysteries and allows us to see clearly where we’re going and what’s going on around us, helping us make the right decisions about which way to go and what to do.

Second, the light is an encouragement, inspiration and reminder. There’s a lot of darkness in the world, especially during this time of year in the US, which can be discouraging and depressing to many. I know I enjoy seeing the light of the sun rather than the dark of night, but the way nature works we get both light and dark, it’s part of the rejuvenation cycle. The extra lights of the holiday season give us the encouragement we need to get through this dark time of year. They’re also a reminder to us to be a light to the world and spread light wherever we go.

Third, it’s cheerful! Above all I find this time of year an opportunity to spread cheer. It’s acceptable and expected to spread cheer and be cheerful and have fun during this month, something that we don’t do during the rest of the year. I know that being serious and dealing with life’s challenges is part of our day-to-day lives, but what happened to cheer being part of them too?

How are you celebrating with light this year?

Holiday Leadership Lessons

One of the things that stands out about the December holidays are the individuals who are primarily talked about at this time. During the other holidays we don’t really have one person or figure that we focus on, but in December we’ve got Santa and Jesus for Christmas, and Judah the Maccabee as the leading figure of the Hanukkah story. Santa and Jesus are seen everywhere throughout stores and TV and churches and homes, on gifts and in songs and stories. Are there supporting characters? Of course, but the stories are based around these 3 figures and their work.

They do more than just look good, these figures guide us in our celebrations during December and offer up some special and important lessons for people to learn on multiple spiritual, human and cultural levels. They’re inspirational and fun yes, and they’re also leaders that people have learned from for hundreds and even thousands of years. They teach us the importance of giving, of working together, and of being a compassionate yet focused leader.

This holiday season, as with other holiday seasons, we are beginning with a loss of a leader, the death of the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. If you’ve been around my blog(s) for a while you know that I’m not big into politics, but even I can’t deny that he was a great leader, one deserving of respect and remembrance. Born in 1924 he lived through some of the most challenging times in US history, led through some of them as well as both Vice President and President of the United States, and continued to be a cultural and political leader until his death.

There are many components of a business, but one of the deciding factors of the success or failure of a business is the leadership. Especially in recent years there has been a lot of turnover in business leadership because of ethical failings or poor decision making. No leader (with the exception of Jesus) is ever perfect, but for leaders to stand the test of time like Santa and Jesus have, like Abraham Lincoln and George H.W. Bush have, they have to show that they’re wise, good communicators, capable of making hard decisions well, and that they have an eye for the people.

So as you take in the funeral proceedings for President Bush Sr. and listen to all the holiday stories, think about how the leadership shown in this special season can impact you as a leader, supporter and inspiration for the people who look to you for products, services and guidance. And I encourage you to choose goodwill and good leadership this holiday season.

The Season of Gifts

We’re officially in the holiday season and this month we’ll be talking about all things holiday. We’ll be taking a look at some different holiday topics and how they connect with business, family, relationships and success. Today we’re going to start off talking about gifts.

The word gifts has many meanings, around the holiday season we talk more about giving gifts, but during the rest of the year a popular definition has to do with the gifts or talents, skills and abilities that we each have. I would also say that there’s a gift some people have for giving gifts and picking out ones that will really be special to the recipient, too. The practice of giving gifts not only shows that we care about others, it brings a sense of fulfillment and joy to the giver as well.

The holiday season itself is a gift because it’s the time that most of us take a step back from letting life run us and we choose more of where we go and who we see. We also typically slow down duirng the holiday season and do some reflecting on life and what’s important to us. It’s also the time we spend mentally wrapping up the year and preparing for the next.

With this gift of a holiday season what are you planning to do? Will it be the time of year for you to get things organized at your home or business? Will it be the time that you work on repairing or growing your relationships? Will it be the fresh start you take for your personal growth or physical health? Will it be the time you rededicate yourself to spiritual growth? What gift will you give this holiday season to those you love as well as yourself?

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?