Pack Up Santa, But Keep His SOP

Happy 2011! I started off the new year — er, decade — packing away the Christmas decorations, and noticed how most of mine were figures of Santa Claus. It got me thinking about how ever-present Santa is in our lives, and I wondered how I could apply his attributes to business. Better yet, how you can apply Santa's SOP to your business.

Whether you believe or not, Santa's got the following going for him:

1. EFFICIENCY

Santa gets the job done in no time flat. An impossible ideal, but what you can take from this is that your customers rely on you to deliver — on your products, on your promises, on your ideas — and you need to aspire to maintaining that consistency as best you can. As a business-owner, you should constantly be striving to become a well-oiled machine, which results from careful planning. My colleague Tricia Okin from papercutny practices this by creating routines. Instead of saving her tax preparation, say, for one grueling sleep-deprived, workflow-interrupting weekend, she sets aside an hour a week to scan in her receipts, or at least to organize them. Incorporating routines Okin-style will streamline your operations so that big undertakings don't undermine business as usual.

2. DELEGATION
Santa doesn't do it all — he's got a workshop full of elves to make the magic happen! Not to mention swift-moving reindeer. It takes a team, and you've got to provide your team with discernible tasks to help reach your goals. Sure, it'd be great to have a fleet of elves to automagically get the job done, but don't underestimate the force of human power, which works best when you provide specific tasks with clear objectives.

3. WONDER
For children especially, Santa evokes wonder. As an entrepreneur, you need to have a bit of wonder about your vision. What you do has to have an element of curiosity, of awe, of passion. It has to astound you. It has to drive you to strive for those dreams you had when you first opened your business. No matter how stressful your operations become, try not to become disenchanted. Instead, when times are tough, work on getting back the magic.

4. GIFT-GIVING
Santa's got this one down to a science, and so should you. Your customers love to be rewarded, and from time to time you should give them a little something that shows your appreciation for the fact that they've chosen you among all the competition. Whether it's a BOGO (Buy One, Get One) promotion, a freebie everyday object with your contact info printed on it, an exclusive discount for your Twitter followers or a free download, work a little sumpin' sumpin' into your marketing plan.

5. JOLLINESS
I'm not saying you have to utter the words "Ho, ho, ho," but you've got to have a sense of humor about your work; otherwise, missteps will completely upend you and your operations. Understand that when things don't go as expected, the best you can do is learn from it, laugh at yourself and press on. Attitude is everything, and staying positive is often the only way to get through tough times.

What other attributes can you think of that help you with your business strategy?

Happy New Year,

Carla

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