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satelliteThere’s this really cool site that lets you follow Santa as he makes his deliveries. You can start watching early Christmas Eve (around noon or so, I think) and see literally where in the world Santa is and follow him as he moves from continent to continent. Once he gets to America you can view it by state. Way cool!

You can get the link to the site and the rest of the story here.

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Oklahoma City Jeweler, BC Clark, used the same jingle for their Christmas promotion year after year. Then a few years ago, they got to thinking that maybe the market was tired of this jingle, because they were getting tired of it, so they decided to change it. They quickly learned it was a big mistake because their customers let them know! They very quickly changed it right back. You can get the whole story here.

While some might consider this a “strategic hiccup,” it’s actually quite a story in the power of their brand, and a profitable lesson for us all. If a customer is so attached to any aspect of your business they’d miss it if you changed it, you know you’ve got a loyal following. Any time your customers will take time to speak up and let you know they’re unhappy, that’s a golden opportunity to fix it. You’ll likely keep and grow a customer relationship, and you may even impress them so much with your handling of the situation that they’ll tell all their friends about it and your net result will be even MORE customers and more profit!

Keep in mind that customers you get from referrals have no acquisition costs attached to them, so the margins are that much better! Strong customer service is a critical component of effective branding!

It also reminds us precisely When We Should Change A Strategy.

The wise person isn’t the one who makes the fewest mistakes. It’s the one who learns the most from them.” – Harvey Mackay


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Last summer I attended the funeral of a very respected Christian leader. I had the honor of driving my 82 year old Uncle Russell who was a close friend of the deceased. At the funeral we ran into Dr. Phil Lewis and I had the privilege of introducing the two of them.

I might point out here, just for the sake of background, that one of the reasons I so enjoy my Uncle Russell’s company is that it makes me feel young – like about 9 years old young -  because I sometimes get the idea that he still thinks I’m about 9 years old! Growing up I wanted to be a mechanic and my Uncle Russell, who had worked for over 25 years as a mechanic  and shop foreman for Cummins Diesel, had shared a stack of mechanics manuals with me over the years while also encouraging me NOT to become a diesel mechanic! So I settled for being a college professor in later life and in that role I got to work on Dr. Lewis’ team.

Anyhow, I introduced my uncle to Dr. Lewis and they started chatting. My uncle asked Dr. Lewis, “What is it that you do up at the college?” To this question Dr. Lewis replied, “I work with Burt in the school of business. ” Dr. Lewis didn’t mention that he’s not only the dean of the college of business, that he’s dean over three other colleges on campus, that he’s the author of 14 books, or any of his many accomplishments. Or even that he was my boss. And notice he very generously said he works with me even though I work for him. He went out of his way to be so gracious to my uncle and I appreciated his unnecessary humility very much. As you may have gathered, there’s still a little bit of that 9-year-old in me who wants to look good in the eyes of his uncle!

Dr. Lewis’ simple but powerful act brought to light something I’ve heard several times: A real leader doesn’t derive his or her power from anything as superficial as a “title.” What is most important to a real leader, I believe, lies in a thought offered by Dwight D. Eisenhower years ago: “A leader is one who has earned the right to have followers.” I can think of many other examples like the one I shared above where Dr. Lewis has demonstrated that he has indeed done that.

Dr. Lewis shared his leadership philosophies and those of other successful leaders in his book, From Boardroom to Whiteboard. You can get a copy for yourself at Amazon.com or at the Full Circle Bookstore. You’ve got time before Christmas to get yourself a copy and one for the leaders in your life.

I’ll even use my vast influence to help you get it autographed,if you like. He does work with me, after all!



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Do you recall…?

By Dr. Burt Smith December 6th, 2012

I love this story more and more every year, so I run it every year. I have yet to research whether or not it is true, because I really don’t care whether or not it is true! Enjoy!

A guy named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.  His 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing.  Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer.  Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home.  Barbara looked up into her dads eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?” Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears.  Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger.  It had been the story of Bob’s life.  Life always had to be different for Bob. Being small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys.  He was too little at the time to compete in sports.  He was often called names he’d rather not remember.

From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.  Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression.  Then he was blessed with his little girl.

But it was all short-lived.  Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.  Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.  Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas gift.  But if he couldn’t buy a gift, he was determined a make one – a storybook!

Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope.  Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.  Who was the character?  What was the story all about?  The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form.  The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was.  The name of the character?  A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day.  But the story doesn’t end there.  The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book.  Wards went on to print Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.  By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph.  That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.  In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May.  The book became a best seller.  Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn’t end there either.  Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph.  Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas.” The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning to bless him again and again.  And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad.  In fact, being different can be a blessing!

It’s choice–not chance–that determines your destiny.” – Jean Nidetch, entrepreneur & founder of Weight Watchers”


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I’m still hopeful that Steve Earle will do a Christmas album one of these days. Man, can he ever belt it out!

Meanwhile, because it was such a big hit last year, I’m opening our holiday season with Steve Earle’s version of “Nothing But a Child.”

Crank it up!

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