From page to stage to screen, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” remains a favorite holiday story – and for good reason. The struggle between commerce and relationships is as real today as it was when Dickens wrote his novella in 1843. Scrooge, an old miser, sees no reason to disrupt his business to celebrate Christmas—or the few people in his life.
Dickens’ plot relies on visits to Scrooge from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Christmas Yet to Be, to bring the audience along as Scrooge reflects on his life and emerges a changed man by the end of the story. Scrooge accepts the invitation to Christmas dinner that he previously rejected and finds it in his heart to give his underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, surprise Christmas Gifts, a raise and ongoing funds for Tiny Tim. Scrooge’s actions are totally unpredictable at the beginning of the story.
“The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” is a variation on the same theme.
During an EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization) conference four years ago, the CEO’s were asked, “What would have the biggest impact on your business?” An overwhelming majority responded, “Highly skilled, motivated and engaged employees.” A year later, only a handful of those CEO’s had taken action to improve relationships with their employees. Why? It seems that for some, it’s easier to work with numbers than people.
‘Tis the Season to take a different approach and celebrate the ways commerce and relationships are intertwined.
Gig Harbor is home to many outstanding businesses owned by local people who work hard for the people they serve. Business thrives when we focus on relationships, not only with clients, customers or patients, but with employees, other business owners, our families and the community. When it comes to relationships, 1 + 1 can = 11 rather than 2—when we look at all the ways we add value to one another.
Businesses enjoy three major forms of relational value.
Intellectual value. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers and tend to handle many parts of their business themselves. Contracting vendors, hiring employees or bringing in additional agents is a big decision for a business owner. Finding the right person or people involves more than filling a position. When done well, you hire knowledge that complements your own and frees you to focus on the areas of the business you’re good at. Service expands and the business grows. When done well, the value is far more than 1 + 1 = 2.
Financial value. Entrepreneurs create partnerships that increase the financial value of the business. This may take the form of a traditional business partner, a venture capitalist, one or more premier clients, collaboration with a complementary business and so forth. The list is as broad as the imagination. When these transactional relationships are constructed so that everyone benefits, the value exceeds 1 + 1 = 2.
Social value. No business exists in a vacuum, and social value takes many forms. This includes the support of family or friends, loyal customers or a good referral. Business owners support one another through networking groups, the Chamber of Commerce, Business Associations and so much more. Businesses return support to the community not only through their products and services, but through donations of time and money to many worthwhile causes.
While commerce creates some natural tension, I hope you’re thinking of the broad tapestry of relationships vital to good business. If you’re a business owner, the holidays are a great time of the year to remember those who support you and your business. If you support local business, it’s a great time of the year to thank the business owners for all they provide to you and to our community.
‘Tis the Season to notice that it’s through honoring relationships and appreciating the people in our lives that 1 + 1 most often equals 11. Happy Holidays!