Monthly Archive for December, 2014

Hug a scrooge today; they need love, too

Some say I’m a scrooge - they might be right. But here are three exhibits in my defense:

1. The early part of my career was spent in retail, which is tough on the holiday spirit. There’s a syndrome for everything else; why not one for retail survivors? Let’s call it PTHSS: Post-Traumatic Holiday Shock Syndrome.

2.  Since I don’t wait until the holidays to give someone a gift, I just don’t get all worked up about holiday giving.

Not that the ladies mind getting stuff all year (let’s not lose our heads!) - it’s just that they want me to be giddy about giving at Christmastime. Giddy? Bah! Humbug!

Photo via ProZD on Tumblr

Photo via ProZD on Tumblr

3. As an avowed and devout contrarian it would be antithetical for me to feel obligated to do what everyone else is doing. And if there is one thing that has become part and parcel of the holiday season, it’s obligation. For example:

a) If someone gives my significant other and me a last-minute gift before Christmas, “Other” feels obligated to reciprocate. I don’t. I’ll do something nice for them in March.

b) After the Christmas cards have been sent, if an incoming card is received from someone not on your list, do you rush to get a card out to them? Not me. Maybe next year.

In The World According To Blasingame, giving should be voluntary, not obligatory.  In fact to a scrooge, not reciprocating is actually endearing.

It’s not that I don’t like the holidays. As a Christian, this is an important time in my faith life. As a capitalist, the importance of holiday spending to our economy is not lost on me. But I just don’t care for what we self-absorbed humans hath wrought on the holiday season; and if that makes me a scrooge, guilty as charged.

On behalf of my misunderstood scrooge brethren and sistren (I met a female scrooge once), let me clear up a few things.

1. Scrooges are lovable, huggable and, yes, even cute.

2.  It’s a myth that all scrooges are skinflints. Some are actually quite generous, but their generosity isn’t obsessive and doesn’t come with giggles.

3.  Scrooges can be quite caring and compassionate without saying, “Bless their hearts,” over and over.

As proof - and to influence my acquittal - I offer two challenges into evidence; one for me and one for us:

  1. I challenge myself to be more receptive to, and tolerant of, the silly parts of the holiday season and those who perpetuate the silliness. But, please, be patient; the mill of a scrooge grinds slowly.
  2. I challenge us to be more generous, loving, thankful and spiritual all year long, not just during the holidays.

Imagine what would happen if we all practiced peace on earth, goodwill toward everyone, every day. It might sound something like this: “Let’s help those people right now, in the middle of July!”

Write this on a rock … Peace to you and yours. Shalom.  Salaam. Que la paz este con ustedes.

RESULTS: How concerned are you about potential business damage due to racial tensions?

The Question:
How concerned are you about potential damage to your business due to racial tensions?

35% - Not concerned at all
49% - Not concerned in my market, but upset about owners who’ve been harmed
14% - Somewhat concerned and upset about owners who’ve been harmed
3% - Very concerned - if it can happen in Ferguson, it can happen here
Jim’s Comments:
As you can see, while most of us aren’t worried about being looted by racially-charged protesters, we do have empathy for those who’ve been harmed.

But we’ve got to stop acting like America has made no progress with race relations in the past half-century every time a single altercation happens. In America, where the rule of law is supposed to replace anarchy, how does what happened between Mr. Brown and Officer Wilson justify the destruction of neighborhood small businesses?

And shame on national leaders whose words and behavior give grievance-merchants license to incite riots that make collateral damage of innocent people, including Main Street business owners.

Accept due diligence to take action

Photo credit BreakThroughTraining.com

Photo credit to BreakThroughTraining.com (CC)

When the next step can be determined by acquiring information, conducting due diligence takes care of that. Sometimes the next step involves the other party in a transaction, which can be handled by negotiations. Often, finding the capital to fund a project moves us to the launching point.

But ultimately, the time will come when there’s nothing left to do but make the decision — go or no go.  And that decision, my entrepreneur friend, will be all yours.

When that time comes, if you’re normal, you will imagine the opportunity.  If you’re prudent, you will consider the risk.

You’ll definitely find out what you’re made of.  You’ll find out how much you trust your business acumen and instincts, and how much of a risk-taker you are.

Next time you’re poised on the brink of a decision, taking measure of yourself and the issue at hand, remember the words of the 19th century literary great, Alfred Lord Tennyson, who wrote, “The shell must break before the bird can fly.”



Results of my 2014 Crystal Ball Predictions

Here are the results of my 2014 predictions, what happened and my score.

Prediction: Five years after the Great Recession ended, the economy will average less than 3% growth. Actual: Although surging, 2014 GDP will be about 2.3%. Plus 1.

Prediction: Even with a slightly improved economy, small business (SB) optimism levels will still be below the NFIB Index’s 41-year average of 100 points. Actual: NFIB Index 2014 SB optimism is below 95 points. Unfortunately, plus 1.

Prediction: Continued uncertainty for the sixth straight year will make SBs reluctant to invest and borrow money. ActualNFIB Index shows small businesses loan demand and investing at record low levels. Plus 1.

Prediction: Uncertainty about Obamacare’s impact will cause SBs to continue hiring reluctance. Actual: NFIB and other surveys shows SB hiring still negligible. Plus 1.

Prediction: Obamacare will continue to be an economic headwind in 2014. Actual: Owners and managers continue to identify Obamacare as a significant negative factor in business decisions. Plus 1.

Prediction: More significant than the media favorite U3 unemployment rate, the employment participation rate, currently 63%, will remain at a 38-year (Carter) record low. Actual: Current labor participation is 62.8%. Plus 1.

Photo by Garry Knight on Flickr.com

Photo by Garry Knight on Flickr.com


Prediction: The Fed will discontinue unprecedented quantitative easing (QE) that infused trillions of dollars into Wall Street since 2008 without benefiting Main Street. Actual: Fed ended QE in October. Plus 1.

Prediction: A combination of disruptions will produce a challenging year for Wall StreetActual: Nothing seems to impede the madness of Wall Street crowds. Can you say bubble? Minus 1.

Prediction: Obamacare’s constitutionality will be challenged by many lawsuits. Actual: Currently 104 lawsuits have been filed against Obamacare, including one before the Supreme Court. Plus 1.

Prediction: Democrats running for re-election in 2014 will run from the president. Actual: No Democrat wanted Mr. Obama anywhere near their campaign, but it still didn’t help. Plus 1.

Prediction: The GOP will regain control of the Senate and maintain a majority in the House in November. Actual: Republicans swept almost everything, from the Senator down to dog catcher at the local level. Plus 1.

Prediction: President Obama will prevail on immigration but will lose on minimum wage. Actual: Immigration win by Obama’s executive order but no minimum wage increase. Plus 1.

Prediction: Hillary Clinton will not announce her 2016 presidential intentions before the mid-term elections. Actual: Everyone knows she’s running; she just hasn’t announced yet. Plus 1.

Prediction: Auburn will defeat Florida State in the BCS Championship Game. Actual: Great game, but the Noles won 34-31. Minus 1.

Write this on a rock …

This year I’m 12 for 14, or 86%, taking my 14-year record to 73% (’08 was a rough year).

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

RESULTS: How is your business tracking in the 4th quarter?

The Question:

With one month to go, how is your business tracking in the 4th quarter?

15% - Way ahead of last year’s sales or budget
46% - A little bit better that last year
18% - About the same as last year
21% - Worse that last year
Jim’s Comments:
When we asked a similar question in early September, 65% of you said things were trending well for the end of the year. As you can see, our new poll question on the economy prompted just short of that response, at 61%.  And just as we’ve seen for almost six years, about one-fifth of small businesses are still struggling.
There are two things that might be making the economy trend upward:

1. Republicans will be in control of both houses of Congress for the next two years. Most people who make payroll consider a GOP-led Congress to be an improvement if for no other reason than they’re not anti-business.

2. Gas prices are down almost a dollar from a year ago. That’s like a huge tax cut for the folks on both sides of the cash register.

Here’s hoping the winter isn’t too bad and we can carry some momentum into next year.

Tackle obstacles one at a time for success

Small business owners always have more than their share of alligators chomping on them. We have them in spades; they eat away at our performance and create impediments to achieving balance in our lives.

Photo credit: The Spiral Spirit

Best-selling author, Marc Allen, offers a way to deal with alligators. He says whenever he has to tackle a difficult challenge, he repeats the following affirmation:

I will deal with this (cash flow problem, difficult employee,

life decision, etc.) in an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way.

It’s also a helpful affirmation to start the day, and it fits right into a prayer.

Clear your mind of other issues except the alligator at hand. Then close your eyes, breathe deeply and repeat the affirmation with emphasis on the key words: easy, relaxed, healthy, and positive.

If you’re going to survive in small business, let alone succeed, you have to learn how to manage alligators for the following two important reasons.

1. Your business
You are where the proverbial buck stops — the Alpha Member of your business. If you don’t make it nobody in your organization makes it. Your business depends on the ability to keep your head, as Rudyard Kipling once proposed, when all about you are losing theirs. To put a fine point on it, it’s your job to manage alligators.

2. Yourself
Specifically, we’re talking about your spirit — the force that drives your protoplasm around. You know, the only thing that’s different about identical twins. Like navels, everybody has a spirit and they’re all different (not sure about identical twins’ navels).

Anyway, you probably take care of your protoplasm: healthy diet, exercise, all that. But are you feeding your spirit? Alligators love an undernourished spirit. It’s their favorite food and they’re voracious eaters.

One of the best ways to nourish your spirit is to learn how to define success in terms other than money and stuff — like family, friends, (your idea here). Definitely not just stuff.

The good news is, feeding your spirit starves your alligators. Remember, you can’t kill all the alligators, but you don’t have to feed them.

Easy … relaxed … healthy … positive.





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