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?

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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?

Back to Business

With schools around the country back in session today I thought we’d talk about some of the basics that will help you be successful today and in the future in your business.

Supplies:
From the basics like paper, pens and envelopes to wrapping and packaging to computers and online accounts there are lots of supplies that most businesses need in order to run most successfully. The choices you make at this first and most basic levels of business can be absolutely crucial as they are the tools that you use to connect with customers and your team, as well as present your business to the world.

Teachers:
Part of being successful is about what you bring to the table, but you can jump start and leap frog your success if you take time to learn from others too. Having a mentor or several someones you can turn to both personally and specifically as well as from a distance gives you the ability to grow your business into a stronger business.

Questions:
In school you’re asked to answer questions on tests and in class, and in business you’re asked not only to answer the questions, but also often to come up with the questions. Questions not only help you make sure that you’ve got your bases covered, they also help you explore different opportunities and perspectives into how you can better serve customers and how you can grow your business.

Learning:
Whether you call it a trial period, beta stage, or growing pains, if you’re building and running a successful business there will be learning. You’ll learn what your customers want, how to speak to your customers, how to better address problems, how to work with employees, and how you can bring a better product or service to market. You won’t just learn these things once though, they’re things you’re learning throughout the life of your business.

So what are the basics of your business that are keys to your success?

Labor Day Reflections

Monday here in the US is Labor Day. It’s the day that we honor and remember all the contributions that the American people have made for and towards the economy and success of our country. I think it’s important to still celebrate this day because even though we’ve made some really great strides in making work accessible and safer for all, there are still some serious issues in the work place today.

When you look at the statistics about how many people are employed vs. unemployed, they don’t take into account how many people are miserable in the job they have. It doesn’t register how many people dread going to work the next day. It doesn’t consider how many people feel threatened, frustrated or ignored by their bosses and superiors. It doesn’t take into account the number of workers who have no clue what they’re doing or why they do what they’re doing. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of improvement still needed in many workplaces.

The first step to improvement is for the leadership to remember that they’re working with people, not magicians. Most staff members won’t read minds, can’t decipher gibberish, and can only do what you’ve told them to do. So when they’re not doing what you need them to do, aren’t truly helping customers, aren’t being as productive as you want them to be or keep doing things wrong, take a step back. First look at what you’ve told them to do (do your messages/requests/instructions even make sense?  Are they detailed and specific enough?). Second, look at how you’ve trained them and if you’re continuing to give them education to improve their skills. Third look at the resources available to them (can they do the job you’re asking them to do, let alone do well?).

Once sufficient and clear communication, expectations and resources have been established, only then can things improve dramatically for both workers and businesses. Are you the reason your employees are miserable and unproductive? What can you do to be the reason that you’ve got employees who look forward to coming into work, share about job openings with your business, and are happy and capable of fully supporting your customers?