23 Great Ideas for Growing Your Business During the Holidays

If you’re not in retail, the assumption is that December is a black hole for growing a business – we might as well just relax and make peace with it, right? That couldn’t be more wrong.

Grow Fast During The Holidays

Almost every business-to-business owner claims the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s causes their business to fall off significantly. But it’s actually more often just a self-fulfilling prophecy. When I started Crankset Group in October 2006, I got all the appointments I needed, even between Christmas and New Year’s when B2B businesses can usually hear a pin drop. It was one of the best pushes I ever did to get a new business off the ground.

 

Expand Your Business, Not Your Pants

Would you like your business to expand over the holidays, instead of your pants? The holiday truth is that everyone is busy after work and on weekends, so it appears they’re more slammed than usual. There really is something going on almost every night, but during the day, very little business is being done. Why? Because everybody thinks everybody else is busy, so nobody is connecting. Except you.

Getting Their Undivided Attention

For four years straight I used the holidays to push my business forward significantly while other businesses were focused on opening and throwing away fruitcakes. I had very little problems getting appointments during the day. In fact, between Christmas and New Year’s I had three to four high-quality appointments every day, and in most cases, I was the only business activity those people had on their calendar the whole day. They were glad to get out of the house for a cup of coffee and I had their full, rested attention.

23 Great Ideas

So if you’re building aggressively right now, don’t slow down after Thanksgiving, speed up. You’ll be the only one vying for attention (remember, only ask for time during the day). Here are twenty-three great ideas to keep things moving or growing even faster during the holidays.

1. Sales—start now and fill up your calendar right through New Year’s. You won’t miss a beat while everyone else is in a tryptophan stupor.

2. Thanksgiving party—don’t get lost in the December party shuffle. We always host a well-attended party before Thanksgiving to express our thanks to key people in our business.

3. The Holiday Hello forgiveness factor—Have people in your database you’re embarrassed to say you haven’t connected with forever? The holiday hello is a great excuse to reconnect—“Just wanted to say happy…” and you’re off and running again.

4. Teach your key business partners to do the Holiday Hello with their stagnant connections. They’ll appreciate the idea.

5. Give a box of chocolate bars with THEIR Name/logo on it, for them to give out to their strategic partners. You can put your name/website on the back of the wrapper as the “chocolate supplier” or something. Here’s how.

6. Let your clients know they can come by anytime for a couple weeks and you’ll wrap a gift for them (limit the number and size!—us guys would bring the whole freaking tree).

7. Funky Calendars. Yep, old school, but they still work. Be the first, or be the funkiest—they’ll have it up all year.

8. Credit Card Debt Seminar—a friend told me about a guy who sponsored a seminar on December 22 with an expert on how to manage all the credit card debt you’re about to pile up. With only two weeks of planning, he had a hundred people there (during the day, people, not at night!).

9. Annual Planning Event—All kinds of opportunities for strategic planning, tax planning, financial planning, insurance, fitness. You get the idea. You can do these before or right after New Years, but start recruiting for them now (3-4 weeks out is plenty of planning time for most people.)

10. Do charity work as a company and get everyone involved. A local plumbing company asks everyone to work for sixteen hours for their favorite charity, and pays them. TV and radio shows like these kinds of things and just might feature your biz.

11. Make a charitable donation in the name of a particular client(s) and let them know with a nice card or pic.

12. Press Release—Connect a newsworthy idea about your business to the holidays—it’s called “piggybacking” in fancy PR terms. News organizations are notoriously slow during this time—you just might get it picked up by them as well.

13. Give something back. Offer an award for someone you admire, courageous kids, notable givers, create a scholarship—dinner and a ceremony (before December 1).

14. TurkeyCam—CallingDucks.com has a wild turkey cam. You could pardon a turkey or other “dinner” and put up a live video link to watch it being pampered. Come up with a clever slogan and YouTube it. Could be a sensation.

15. Holiday poll—Do a simple poll to your clients, or on Facebook, Google+, etc., and announce the results. Survey what small business owners really want for the holidays, or maybe their biggest pet peeve about holiday shopping.

16. Hand-deliver gift cards to your clients from a local coffee shop or restaurant. Get an appointment to spend it with them.

17. Send a cheap watch as a gag gift, with a note that says, “Happy New Year! It’s about time we did some business together.” Argh.

18. Send a New Year’s card—don’t get lost in the Christmas card shuffle. And everyone celebrates New Year’s.

19. Send a nice, small crystal office candy bowl with THEIR name engraved on it. Then send refresher candies three to four times a year at other holidays.

20. Offer gift certificates at X% discount for the “slow” time. This is a great idea for photographers, carpet cleaners, etc. Sell the slow time now!

21. Tie your product or service to the holidays—What do people need from me during the holidays? Do they need more balance, a time to relax, a plan for how they’re going to do something better in the coming year? Insert yourself!

22. Organize a shopping trip for elderly clients and let them bring a friend of their choosing. Rent a van or two. This has been a wild success for some CPAs, financial planners, bankers, real estate agents, etc.

23. What great idea do you have to use the holidays to build your business? Share it here!

Hit The Ground Running In January

Bonus points. Most people wait until January 2 to begin calling people and setting up appointments, which means they’re not back in the full swing of things until January 15. Set those appointments up in early to mid-December and you can hit the ground running with a full slate of business the day after New Year’s.

Have a great time growing in December!

Article as seen on Inc.com

Why You Need to Become a Prisoner On The Road To Business Freedom

Want freedom? First, you must become a prisoner to your business, which is why most business owners never achieve freedom.

Research published in Harvard Business Review reveals something very telling about the way we work; we’re too busy to follow the rules. And ironically, that has a profound impact on whether we will ever stop being so busy.

 

Don’t Kid Yourself, You’re a Hostage

Almost every founder, CEO and business owner I know is a hostage to their business. I was through six businesses until I learned to move from hostage to prisoner.

Six months as a hostage can have more lasting negative effects on someone than years in prison. Why? A hostage is not in control of anything, the rules are always changing, others seem to be calling all the shots, all we can do is react, and worst of all, a hostage never knows when it will all end. Welcome to owning or running a business.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Want Freedom? Become A Prisoner

In Simple Rules for a Complex World, Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt make my case on why we need to become prisoners if we truly want freedom. They found that companies that flourish through hard times, do so because they are following a few, simple rules while others are flailing around with what I call the Random Hope strategy of business.

It makes sense. A prisoner has a few simple rules they need to follow, and most importantly, they know when it will all be over. It’s difficult for a hostage to be encouraged and have hope because the future is a big unknown.

Just a Few Specific Rules

Simple Rules says the fewer the rules, the better. Here are my four simple business rules, which I published in my first book, Making Money Is Killing Your Business. We call them the Four Building Blocks of success:

1) A Big Why—Your Big Why is something you can never check off as completed; being a lifelong learner, being a great mom, giving back to business owners, solving poverty. A Big Why motivates a business owner to filter daily decisions through how they help solve problems and create freedom.

2) A Strategic Plan (not a business plan)—A Strategic Plan will keep you clear about where you want to end up three years, twelve months or three months from now, and will motivate you to figure out the one or two things you need to do this month to obtain the freedom you’ve described.

3) Freedom Mapping—this is where the rubber meets the road. Everyone in our business (especially the founder or CEO) needs to get the brilliance out of their head and onto a piece of paper so others can do it. There have been many copies of famous paintings, like the Mona Lisa, that were so good that art experts couldn’t tell the difference. If Da Vinci can find someone to paint the Mona Lisa for him, you can find someone to train to be better than you.

4) Outside Eyes—You can do the above three on your own, or you can get help and accelerate the whole process exponentially. I was an 18-20 handicap in golf for twenty years. Then I got a coach and in two years I was a two. I can’t imagine how much time and money I wasted doing it myself. I’m talking to you, Mr. Rugged Individualist.

I’ll Get To That Tomorrow…

Here’s the kick in the head. You can go an entire forty-five year career and never do any of these four simple things, and most founders do just that. They don’t know why they are in business, how they plan to use their business to accomplish that, or how to create the Freedom Maps to get them off the treadmill. And they aren’t about to ask for Outside Eyes to accelerate the process.

Choose

Founders and CEOs who employ the Random Hope strategy of business will never get off the treadmill. Those that create a very few, measurable, specific rules, and follow them slavishly, can create a business that makes money when they are not around.

He who makes the rules wins. What are your few simple rules? How are they ensuring you will experience freedom? If you have them, and follow them carefully, who knows, you even might get out early for good behavior.

_Article as seen on Inc.com

The 3 Critical Questions That Free You Up to Stop Managing

These three questions, along with The 50% Rule, will free up your time and get you off the management treadmill.

In a July 2014 Inc. article I made this statement, which I’ve used for a long time:

The art of leadership is to know how few decisions the leader should make.

In the comments section, mserra65 said, “I’d like to know what those few decisions are!” It’s a great question that deserves an answer.

 

What Are the Few Decisions A Leader Should Make?

Leaders will relentlessly pursue taking themselves out of the equation, and instead build a culture that engages other people to make decisions. Ricardo Semler is perhaps the greatest modern example of a business leader. He is materially involved every day in a billion dollar corporation of which he is the majority owner. But Semler celebrated his 10th anniversary of not making a decision—eleven years ago. That’s tremendous leadership.

Ask Three Questions

Here are three questions that can help you move from:
– manager (solving and deciding) to
– leader (training others to solve and decide)

1. Before making a decision, ask yourself, “Is this the highest and best use of my time?” There are so many people who could decide better if we just stopped deciding for them. Train others to decide, and then get out of the way as fast as you can. And with your free time, go do something that no one else can do. You’d be surprised how useful you could be by getting out of the way.

2. Before deciding, ask yourself, “Who is responsible to actually carry out this decision?” Give them the decision to make. If they don’t know how to decide, don’t do it for them; train them to do it, then get out of the way.
Those who are most involved in carrying out the decision have the most at stake and will almost always make a better decision than “the boss”. Discuss with them the required result and the resources available to accomplish it, and then let them figure what is needed to get it done. They will own the decision and if something goes wrong, they will fix it instead of blaming you.

3. If the first two questions don’t get you out of the way, ask yourself, “Who else will be impacted by this decision?” Some people aren’t directly involved in carrying out a decision, but will definitely be impacted by the decision, and how it is implemented. Give them a voice. They may not make the decision, but their input could be invaluable in arriving at the right one.

The Leader’s Goal For Others: Creating Ownership

When you solve and decide, all that is left is to delegate the task. But when you train others to solve and decide, you are delegating responsibility. This is critical because when we delegate tasks, people feel used (“put that nut on that bolt”). But when we delegate responsibility (“make a great washing machine”), people take ownership, and that is the most powerful motivator in business. Giving people their brains back and unleashing them to make decisions is key to them taking ownership, and the key to moving you from manager to leader.

The Leader’s Goal For Themselves: The 50% Rule

A great in-the-trenches metric to know you’re leading is The 50% Rule. I encourage every leader to eventually have 50% of their time unscheduled, and unavailable to be pulled into a crisis. The second part of that is key, otherwise your time is scheduled by crises. Even owners of very small businesses need to aspire to this because it is the key to them getting off the treadmill.

A Day a Week, a Week a Month, a Month a Year

The result? I have nothing scheduled on Mondays or Fridays, and have the last week of every month with nothing on the schedule. And I have a month a year to goof off or envision the future, usually a combination of both. That is 75% of the work year where I’m not in a position to make a decision that others could make better than me. This year I didn’t take the month off, which put me down to only 63% out-of-the-way. Next year we’re heading to Italy for a month.

I’m no Ricardo Semler yet, but I do have it as my goal to regularly not make decisions. What do I do instead? Ask questions, create vision, train, be creative, innovate, guide, make others successful, serve—in other words, lead.

Commit To These Three Questions

Management (solving and deciding) is a tiring treadmill. Leading (training others to solve and decide) is freeing and therefore, invigorating. Do you want to enjoy your business and focus on that which is the highest and best use of your time? Use these three questions every day to train others to solve and decide, and then get out of the way.

That’s leadership.

Article as seen on Inc.com