Meghan Tells It

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Santa, The Christmas Spirit, and Business? December 23, 2014

Filed under: Business,Family,Thoughts — Meghan Hamilton @ 5:03 pm
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We celebrate several holidays this time of year.  As a Christian, Christmas is very important to me as it’s the day we celebrate Jesus’s birth.  (Yes, historians, I know it isn’t the actual day, but that isn’t very important to me.)  My husband has all but formally converted to Judaism, so I also celebrate Hanukkah.  I have Pagan friends and wish them a blessed Yule.  “Happy Holidays!” is a very appropriate greeting around here, gladly received and warmly given.  No one is trying to take away anyone’s right to say “Merry Christmas!”  Wish me what you will and I will accept and return the warm wishes.

As for Santa, we invite him over every Christmas Eve.  To us, he represents that spirit of giving that seems to go around this time of year.  I’ve heard several reasons for parents to not invite the jolly guy to their house.  Some of them I understand. He’s tied to Christmas and you don’t celebrate Christmas for religious reasons (You aren’t Christian.  You are Christian, but wish to focus exclusively on Jesus rather than Santa.  Etc…).  Perhaps you feel that lying to your child about a magical man that can fit through chimneys and unlock doors while everyone sleeps is hypocritical as you try to teach your child not to lie.  Maybe you just don’t want your kids to be very disappointed when they inevitably find out he isn’t real.  These sorts of reasons make complete sense to me.  These are the reasons that I have some reservations about keeping the Santa Myth alive here.

romeo-and-juliet-salzburgThere is one reason to deny Santa that I will never understand.  There are some parents who want to make sure their children know that they are the ones who worked hard to make the money and spend the time acquiring those gifts.  They don’t want there to be any mistake about the origin of those presents.  To me, this is the exact opposite of giving a gift.  This is providing yourself with a stage for people to glorify you and give you attention.  When I give a gift, it’s because I want someone to have that item.  It isn’t because I need thanks or the adulation.  When I receive a gift, I am grateful and express my thanks.  But I hope that people are giving because they want to give, not because they need to receive some sort of glorification.  I’d rather give anonymously and simply let the recipient enjoy the gift without the pressure to thank me or feel like they need to reciprocate.  For me, Santa is an avenue for an anonymous gift.  Alex can simply sit back and enjoy those presents.  Then, when he gets older, perhaps he’ll have a taste for wanting to give for the sake of giving.  Isn’t that part of the original Saint Nicholas story?  Selflessly taking care of people and sharing what you have?

Selflessly sharing.  People have shared so much with me over the years with absolutely no expectation of anything in return.  I can’t thank them enough.  We have gotten through some difficult times with the help of family and friends reaching out in love.

imagesWhat does this have to do with business?  I am very turned off by typical corporate operating procedure.  While I understand that the point of a business is to be profitable, thus you must take in more money than you spend, there is so much greed.  Many gifts to charity are less about giving because it’s the right thing to do and more about saying, “Look at me!”  Additionally, many “successful” businesses look upon employees as expendable tools rather than people.  Some seem to look at customers this way as well.  “Oh, you want information or help?  Pay up!”  I want to do this differently.

One of the people that caught my eye a number of years ago is Marla Cilley of FlyLady.  I originally went to her site because I am not a natural born housekeeper.  I’m still not, but that’s for another blog.  What I like about her business model is that all of the information is free.  Perhaps it’s because she didn’t start out with the intention of starting a business, but information and access to the website is free and open.  You don’t need any sort of account to look at any article.  She supports herself and a growing staff by selling organizational books, cleaning tools like sweepers, and various other things they simply enjoy using.  It isn’t about getting attention.  It’s about her compulsion to share what works for her and if people want to try it, she makes it available.  That’s what keeps me going back to her site.  That’s what keeps me buying things from her site.  From what I can tell, her staff is more than cogs in a machine to be replaced whenever they break.  They are people to be cared for.  This is what I want.

How does that apply to a completely different business?  I’ll gladly share my knowledge.  If I learn how to make something from an online tutorial, I’ll share it.  If I find a supplier that I love, I won’t keep it a secret.  Would I like you to buy my products?  Of course.  Some of you do.  I hope more of you will in the future.  I hope to have a staff one day.  But I refuse to force people to pay for information.  I refuse to treat potential employees like machinery to throw away when I’m finished with them.  As my business expands, I want my advertising to stay in step with current markets and how things work.  I recently watched this video on YouTube.  It struck a chord in me.  Matthew Santoro has over 3 million subscribers on his main channel and over 300,000 on his vlog channel.  That’s a lot of people watching him.  I watch grav3yardgirl review products for her millions of subscribers.  She doesn’t get paid by those companies.  There are countless others.  They don’t want sponsors telling them how to talk about products to their audiences.

But what does that have to do with Santa and giving?  The products that these, and other YouTubers, are most likely to review were simply sent to them by the companies or were purchased by them independently.  There was no expectation of a review.  There was a package sent and if it made it onto their channel, it did.  Even sponsored reviews where there is an agreement to talk about the product are risky.  The reviewer may find it’s a faulty product and give it a negative review.  In this video, only a few of the products sent were even mentioned.  Makes you wonder what else was in the package that maybe wasn’t so awesome.

Word-of-mouthAnd again, how does this apply to selling soap and crocheted items?  Word of mouth still seems to be the best way of gaining new customers.  I have given things away to people because I think they will like them.  Some of it has gone as extras to paying customers.  Some of it has gone as samples because I wanted the person to have it.  Some items have been steeply discounted because it seemed like the right thing to do.  I don’t want to be stingy.  I don’t want someone to be forced into my script when they speak about products to their customers.  If you love my soap, tell your friends, customers, family, etc… in your words.  If you love a scarf I made, wear it, give it away, tell people.  This blog isn’t my stage, it’s my vehicle for connecting with people and sharing my knowledge and my opinions.  I don’t expect anyone to whom I give a product to reciprocate.  I give for the sake of giving.  Whilst I have no proof, I believe that this attitude is what has gotten me some very generous gifts over the years when I least expected them.

Happy Holidays!  May you freely give and receive love.


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