The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
A Cautionary Gift Giving Tale
Are you planning to hand out corporate holiday gifts during the holiday season? If you aren't, that's fine it's not expected in many industries. Are you considering giving anything else to your customers such as a discount or special offer? What about suppliers? Have you ever considered giving your most valued suppliers a gift by way of a thank you? And then there's your employees; do you do anything to acknowledge their hard work throughout the year?
If you do nothing by way of acknowledging the season, you may miss an opportunity to cement your relationship with clients, customers, suppliers, and staff. It's worth considering recognizing the people who make your company the success it is, however, it can come with challenges.
This article is less about the value of gift giving per se and more about the gift itself. One would think that a gift is a gift and as such anything would be gratefully received. If only that were so.
Here is a story about Janet and Jim who moved into a new house and decided to hire an established contractor to build a high-end library, bar, and barn door for their new home. The work took several months leading up to Christmas and the final bill was almost $30,000. The company did a good job and by and large Jim and Janet were very satisfied with the work, with the exception of a problem with the barn door that occurred a month after completion. The company owner came to the house just before Christmas to check out the door and assured them he would fix it early in the New Year. At that point everything was good. Even though it was Christmas, Jim and Janet did not expect any sort of corporate gift; in fact, it had not even occurred to them that they might receive something.
The problem occurred when the company owner did give the couple a gift; a bottle of wine, a cheap bottle of wine. And, that is where he made a serious mistake. Giving them nothing would have been far better than giving them a $15 bottle of wine. The problem lies in value. First, he was putting a value on the business they had given him ($15 is half of one-tenth of one percent of the value of the contract). Second, by giving them a cheap bottle of wine he indicated that he thought that even though they'd had an expensive cocktail bar built, they enjoyed cheap wine. If on the other hand he had given them a hand painted Christmas tree bauble for $15 from an artisan they would probably have been over the moon at how thoughtful he was.
Gift giving can be fraught with danger, but rather than avoid it altogether simply give it a little thought. First, think value and meaning more than price. Second, consider buying the best you can afford of a less pricey item rather than the cheapest of a higher priced type of product. The $15 bauble was expensive for a bauble, given that you can probably purchase 24 standard baubles for that price. It would also have been a thoughtful gift, assuming Janet and Jim celebrated Christmas. The wine on the other hand was at the very low end of its category.
The business owner in this story had the best intentions, but he ended up doing more damage to his relationship with his customers than good.
Separate the gift from its monetary value—thoughtfulness contributes more than you might think to overall value and in the message you want to send.
Hiring a Coach in These Difficult Times
We are all living through emotionally difficult times due to the pandemic. On top of this, but also as a result of COVID-19, many of us are suffering from serious business stress. There has never been a better time to seek coaching help to assist you through these unprecedented times.
There are many different coaches out there and what coach you choose will depend on where your pain is most severe. Here is a short description of three coaches that may be of immediate help to you and your business.
Choose an executive coach if you are looking to clarify your goals and objectives, improve your performance, and become more self-aware. They will help give you perspective and assist you to identify the things that are holding you back. These are the people that help you reach your potential. Having an executive coach should be a long-term commitment, probably no shorter than six months, and you should see them at least twice a month. Preferably they should also be readily available via email for feedback between sessions. When choosing an executive coach you should ensure the person has been certified through an accredited executive coaching program.
Business coaches focus mainly on the business, not your performance. In this way they are somewhat of a cross between an executive coach and a business consultant. They take a far wider view of your entire operation than an executive coach would. They usually work directly with a company's owner, top executive, or sometimes the general manager. Although they focus on the business they will also look at how you personally operate, as it pertains to the business in general. Unlike executive coaches, these individuals should understand your industry and have direct experience of running a business. They have to be expert in strategic and business planning and have a great deal of financial acuity. When choosing a business coach ensure the person has relevant background and experience in your industry.
Given that the biggest stressor in your life at the moment is probably COVID-19, it makes sense to hire someone to help you analyze your current situation. A life coach can bring perspective and identify what beliefs you have that are limiting your personal and business growth. They can help you come up with a personal action plan for how you might move forward in spite of all the challenges you face, whether they are emotional, physical, personal, or business. They are the big picture coach. They will help you recognize the things that are holding you back and encourage you to look deep and grow. If you feel that you are not reaching your potential in your personal and/or business life, consider retaining a certified life coach.
Before You Start
Okay, we've got your attention and you are considering finding someone to help you navigate your way through the pandemic. Good decision! Before you search online for coaches, or pick up the phone, take a look at the following checklist. If you can say yes to each of the 5 statements then you are probably ready to take the next step.
- Yes, I am ready to make the time commitment. This is not something you can do half-hearted, you need to be all in and never miss, or postpone a meeting—even if it gets tough. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
- Yes, I am ready to make the financial commitment, Although not an exorbitant expense, coaches do cost money. One thing to bear in mind is that although the rewards can appear intangible they are not. Whichever coach you choose, your bottom line is almost definitely going to improve, or perhaps in these bad, bad, times it'll not get as bad as it might have done without help.
- Yes, I will bear my soul. You will need to be honest, upfront and willing to delve deep into your challenges and issues.
- Yes, I am open and willing to change or adapt the way I think and act. If you go into this with a negative approach and a belief that you are doing everything right, then why bother?
- Yes, I am willing to accept the possibility I am wrong. If you are going to get anything out of coaching you will need to admit to your shortcomings. If you don't believe you have any, then you may need more than a coach. Just saying.
Coach's Corner - Looking Back and Looking Forward
As we approach the new year, it may be helpful to reflect on this past year. It was a year with many challenges and hardships throughout the world. Although we do not want to experience it again, we may have learned some lessons that are helpful in moving our business and personal lives forward. Consider the following questions as you look back and look forward.
What lessons did you learn from your experiences in 2020? Did you discover how well you work more or less in isolation and from home, or did you realize that you really miss the camaraderie of the office or store? It may be that you felt you became more efficient and effective with your time. You may even feel that you were more productive with your meetings on Zoom or whatever platform you used.
From what you know now, what would you have done differently? Yes, 20/20 hindsight vision may indeed help you look to the future. If faced with similar challenges in the future, how will you respond?
What is your most important resolution for 2021? Resolutions are about forming habits. When you have too many resolutions, you try to form or rid yourself of too many habits at once. Focus on the most important thing you want to change or accomplish. Having one important resolution in a number of areas of your life is far more realistic and attainable.
How ready are you to take action? This speaks to your commitment and willingness to take risks and it leads to further questions. What is holding you back? What are some of the obstacles in front of you?
What do you need to be successful? As you start to figure out your resolution for 2021, other questions will arise that help clarify how you can be successful. For instance, what resources do you need and which are available? Who can help you with this?
What is the first small step you can take? Sometimes a resolution may seem overwhelming. If it is, you need to break it down into manageable steps and most importantly, get started. Ask yourself, what are three different ways to reach my goal? When will I start?
How do you stay inspired and motivated to keep your resolution alive and successful? This is about keeping your focus on the resolution until you have succeeded. Celebrate the small successes or achievements along the way. How are you going to stay accountable? With whom have you shared your passion for this resolution? Share it with your family, friends, a coach or mentor and ask them to help you remain accountable.
Whatever the resolution, you need to keep it front of mind every day— you need to make it a habit.
Paul Abra, Certified Executive Coach, Motivated Coaching