Adults and children alike are all familiar with the Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol. The heartwarming story tells of a bitter, old curmudgeon named Ebenezer Scrooge who is taken on a self-reflective and redemptive journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Although this fictional adventure is full of imagination and fabricated characters there's a lot to be said about the hidden business principles buried within this fable.
Ebenezer Scrooge had a difficult time understanding how the world around him wasted their time and energy on ridiculous holiday festivities when there was work to be done and money to be made. He found it preposterous the notion of shutting down his company all in the name of celebration and merriment. In the end it took a visit from three terrifying ghosts to set him back on the right path. So what can we learn from each ghost in this famous tale to ensure our businesses stay happy, healthy, and prosperous?
The Ghost of Business Past
If you've been in business long enough you've undoubtedly made some costly mistakes and bad decisions. It could have been a client we accidentally neglected. Perhaps it was a financial investment that turned out to be far better on paper than how it played out in reality, or it could have been the mishandling of a transaction which cost you far more than time and money.
Business blunders happen but it's how we handle them that determines whether or not they come back to haunt us. What do you do when miscalculations occur? Do you take the time to assess what went wrong? Do you learn what could have been done to prevent a misstep or do you keep pressing full steam ahead in hopes that you'll be moving too fast for your past to catch up to you?
Our past doesn't have to dictate our future if we take accountability for our failures and make a determination not remain a prisoner of poor decisions. Don't let The Ghost of Business Past pay you a midnight visit. He'll ensure your thoughts are taken captive by negativity. The best way to avoid this apparitional encounter is to let go of what we cannot change and move forward with the knowledge we've gained from our mistakes.
The Ghost of Business Present
Are you in the midst of a record breaking banner year? Does it seem like everything you do turns to gold? Is your business expanding and thriving? Being a small business owner can be a daily grind but when our hard work, dedication, and determination finally start to pay dividends it can make all of those long days and nights seem well worth it. But why does your situation seem so prosperous? How have you been able to go from mediocre to meteoric in sales and profits?
When deficits begin to turn in to earnings it's easy for an entrepreneur to find themselves caught up in the enjoyment and excitement of a burgeoning business. Be careful not to lose sight of the founding principles that made your company flourish. The Ghost of Business Present will knock you off of your professional pedestal if you forget the essential and fundamental ideas that made your organization prosper.
The wise saying, "Bad times don't last" can also be said for the good times as well. By all means, stop and smell the roses when they are in bloom, but don't rest too long on your current accomplishments because The Ghost of Business Present can turn those fields of flowers in to meadows of marsh in the blink of an eye.
The Ghost of Business Future
They say the future is what we make it. So what does your business future look like? Do you set weekly, monthly, or even yearly goals for yourself and your company? If so, how easily attainable are they? Would someone interpret your company's future ambitions to be as fictional as this Dicken's classic?
I'd argue that any successful organization should have a combination of feasible and also far-fetched objectives. Ships were meant to sail not stay tied to shore! But when stormy seas are spotted it's also best to lay anchor and hold your position. The Ghost of Business Future can play games with those who consider themselves cautious and those that would abandon all reason for a chance at greatness.
The wonderful aspect of the future is that it's yet to be written. However, The Ghost of Business Future can often convince the hesitant that lofty goals are unattainable, and persuade the overachievers that no mountain is too high to climb. There's a balance to be had and a tight rope to be walked between confidently charging ahead and using prudence to guide our endeavors. We should absolutely look to the future with boldness and courage. After all, nothing great was ever attained by resting on our laurels, but fortunes have been lost by ill-advised and reckless ambitions.
The Human Element
Now that we've discussed the more chilling and spectral side of this time-honored narrative we can look towards the human elements to show us about who we are as business professionals and entrepreneurs. The differing dynamics between personalities depicted in A Christmas Carol may very well still describe similar traits among current day owners, bosses, and employees.
Do you have a difficult time understanding why others do what they do? Whether it's how they work, play, or handle themselves in a number of situations? Is it problematic for you to unwind and enjoy moments in time and in life that are precious and fleeting? More-so, do you find fault in others for displaying the ability to cherish occasions that deserve recognition?
Mr. Scrooge simply abhorred the idea of business being halted for any purpose and chastised those around him when they allowed themselves to find amusement in festive
moments. What type of business owner or manager are you? Do you go the extra mile in allowing your representatives and employees to celebrate birthdays, holidays, accomplishments, or achievements? Would you join in the revelry or stay hidden behind an office door?
There is a line to be walked that allows an owner or boss to still be seen as the authoritative figure they are, all the while permitting a window to be opened up in to their world so that employees can see a more personal side. Employees are the life-blood of any strong company. If you treat them with as much disdain as Ebenezer Scrooge had for his then your business could soon find itself without a heartbeat.
Bob Cratchit is a loyal, diligent, and resolute employee. Always seeking out the positive perspective in any situation, Mr. Crachit finds himself at the forefront of abuse and snide treatment from his employer. Juggling poor working conditions along with complications within his personal life each day seems to push him almost to the edge of disparity.
Are you an employee or small business owner whose work has gone unappreciated and unnoticed? Have you made a commitment to your craft but have yet to experience the dividends? Does each day seem to end in discouragement and disappointment. Well, much like Bob Cratchit, your story can also have a happy ending. Mr. Cratchit never gave up. Even in the darkest of hours, he still maintained a positive spirit.
Did your latest undertaking fall flat before it even began? Have you been consistently engaged in a business venture or plan that never seems to show signs of life? Take a cue from Bob Cratchit and never give up. Don't allow negative circumstances to dictate your attitude or prevent you from displaying a proper work ethic that is sure to bring about eventual success.
Timothy Cratchit, better known as Tiny Tim, has all the cards stacked against him. Physical ailments along with a lowly fiscal and social status paint a picture of an individual who is destined to be downtrodden. A robust spirit encompasses this young boy, however, his lot in life leaves him with little hope of a successful future.
Some of us can relate to Tiny Tim, if not the bodily affliction, at least in the sense that you didn't come from a prosperous platform in which to launch a career. Some of us can relate to Tiny Tim, if not the bodily affliction, at least in the sense that you didn't come from a prosperous platform in which to launch a career. You look at your societal position as one that isn't known as the best path to greatness. But just like Tiny Tim, better days can be ahead of you.
Although, as a child, Tiny Tim was shackled with an inability to earn a wage, he still found ways to contribute to his surroundings. Is your current job, business or employment situation considered by others as lowly or undesirable? Countless individuals have risen up the ranks by simply committing themselves to doing what they can where they're at no matter how dire or dead end the situation presents itself to be.
Tiny Tim couldn't change but the conditions around him eventually did. If you view your current circumstances as a stumbling block which inhibit you from achieving prominence then keep pressing forward. You could be one more day away from a breakthrough.
A Christmas Carol is full of anecdotal images that can define our businesses and characterize owners and entrepreneurs. Don't let The Ghosts of Business Past, Present, or Future inhibit your success. Take heed to also learn who you are and who you want to be known as throughout your career and profession. Those that apply these lessons will be far closer to the happy ending at the end of this story than the dreary picture presented at the beginning.