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.

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The Potential Problem with Taking a Holiday Break

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.

The Value of a Painting

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.

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.

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.

The Mess of Christmas

I’m a bit of a neat freak.  It’s not that I believe everything should be put away at the end of the day or perfectly neat and tidy, but I do like things cleaner and everything always has a particular home it belongs in.  As we head further into the month of December and the holiday parties start happening and we work our way to the actual days of Christmas and Hanukkah I’m thinking about one of the things that makes this time of year special: the mess.

I don’t know anyone who really enjoys the mess of the mall or the cars on the road, but there is something special about everyone bustling about looking for those special gifts for the people they care about, and being stuck in traffic this year makes me think of holiday road trips in years past to visit family, something that was always favorite part of the season.  Of course there are the messes of baking cookies and other Christmas treats like edible presents for friends, teachers and coworkers, not to mention the mess that’s made each night of Hanukkah or around the tree on Christmas as presents are gifted and unwrapped.

Yes, it’s a lot of work to clean up, yes it’s a lot of work to think of all the presents and recipes and pick up the ingredients and the gifts, but there’s something satisfying in the whole process.  As adults we don’t do the whole “rip the paper off and throw it everywhere in excitement” thing like we did when we were kids and our kids do today, gift giving is a lot more civilized than it used to be.  But I’m reminded this holiday season that the mess is part of the joy and that there’s something satisfying knowing that you made all those cookies and you can see all your efforts around the kitchen, and there’s something satisfying in the scattered paper having seen the smiles and hearing the shrieks of joy when wanted presents were opened.

This holiday season give yourself a break if you’re a bit (or a lot) of a neat freak.  Take time to enjoy the emotion behind the mess and the people you’re celebrating with, I know that the mess will be there for you after the celebration.

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”  Andy Rooney