It doesn’t matter how old I get, I’m still a child when it comes to watching Charlie Brown cartoons. Every year, I faithfully watch every Thanksgiving and Christmas specials as if I’ve never seen them before. And I know I’m not the only one. I saw you Facebook-ing lines from the story while you watched it too.
There is no doubt, Charlie Schultz was a genius, and I’m grateful for the Charlie Brown stories he wrote for kids of all ages. This year, as I finish mapping out goals for 2013, I watched with a different perspective – from that of a business owner.
Here’s what the all time favorite classic cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas, taught me about business:
1. Get your message out early.
Although this is a Christmas story, it aired in November. Take away: Even though Christmas is 3 weeks away, it’s important to get your message out early. Whether you’re advertising a holiday special, a New Year’s promotion or simply offering a coupon, be timely and early with your message. Yes. One of the messages of the story is how “commercial” Christmas has become – from Lucy wanting real estate to Snoopy wanting to win money for the best Christmas decorations to Sally being just fine with taking the cash option in lieu of presents this year. But let’s look at this through the eyes of a business owner. The fact is, you are not in business if people are not buying your products and services. However, if you are positioned to serve people with your product or service when and where they are willing to spend money, those visions of sales and profits dancing through your head can be a reality. Gallup Poll data shows this is THE biggest buying season of the year. If people are looking to buy something, why not give them the option to shop with you?
Zig Ziglar was right when he said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”
2. Learn how to work with the Lucy’s in your company.
Lucy can be nothing short of a tyrant at times and she drives everybody peanuts! But don’t be so quick to shut her down. The fact is, she is very passionate and passion is a good quality to have. I’ll take passion any day over someone who is indifferent, insecure or too timid to make a decision or speak up. And then there are the passive aggressive ones that have something to say but manage to mask it behind phony-ness. Yuck!
At least no one has to guess what Lucy is thinking. She comes right out and says it! So I’ve learned to work with “the Lucy spirit” in other people by working with their passion and encouraging them to steer that boldness in the right direction to accomplish a common goal. It’s not easy and it takes work, which is why most people would rather choke Lucy than work with her. And if you are the Lucy in your company, it helps when you know how to tame your passion so that people can appreciate the fact that you care so much and you’re willing to take charge and get things done. No matter how much you yell, if people are not responding, it’s not working. You may need to try a different approach to get what you want. Because after all, isn’t that the point? Every leader needs people skills, even the wildly passionate ones.
3. It’s not the tree or the play that make Christmas.
It’s important to remember the reason for the season. All the “good grief” around the Nativity play and the “Charlie Brown Tree” became major distractions. The real reason Charlie Brown, Snoopy and friends wanted to celebrate had nothing to do with having one more play or getting one more tree. It had everything to do with being together and taking time to remember the birth of Christ, the reason for Christmas. In the end, none of that other stuff mattered.
For the business owner, every day, not just Christmas, is about your relationships with customers, referral partners and people in your community. What is it that makes your business really special in the eyes of your customers? What is your business about? It’s so easy to get distracted by outside influences by focusing so much on what other people are doing that you lose your own identity. Don’t get away from the real meaning behind your business. When you get back to your main purpose, your customers will thank you and gladly do business with you, especially during the holidays.