Five Business Lessons from Three Ladies and An Elf

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the owners of Elf on a Shelf. This was soon after the Christmas when I spent hours traipsing across Manhattan looking for the elusive, sold-out elf for my granddaughter. The popularity of this burgeoning Christmas tradition intrigued me but the leadership team for the company captivated me.elffamily900Their warmth, authenticity and passion made a deep impression as I made notes of five key points gleaned from their message.

Five Business Lessons from Three Ladies and An Elf

1. It’s Never Too Late to Birth a Dream

In 2004, Carol Abersold was suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome and  brain-storming with her daughters  about what she could do to re-direct her energies. They decided to write a book about their family’s Christmas tradition of an elf sent from Santa that moved in at Christmas time. They took action on the idea. Action was the operative word.

2. Tell Your Story – No One Else Has the Same One

The story behind “Elf on a Shelf” is not smashingly unique, but it is enchanting. Each of us have a story. They have done an awesome job marketing theirs. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s been an easy journey. You can read “the rest of the story” on their site.

3. Believe in the Power of Your Dream

Their idea was rejected by publishers. Among other things, they were told by experts that their product would find space only in the clearance bin. They refused to be deterred and went around that obstacle by self-publishing.

3. The Bigger the Dream, the More Important the Team

The fact that the family became the corporate team most likely made it harder, not easier, to navigate the hard places. It takes incredible commitment to a relationship to be in business together.

4. Honor One Another’s Gifts

You can’t be in control all the time and you can’t be right about everything. Learn to concede when necessary. Back off and give others space. Recognize the gifts and talents in your team and honor others by not trying to micromanage.  Carol, the mom, is totally involved in the business but there is a carefully orchestrated division of responsibilities. Daughter Christa Pitts is the CEO and handles sales and marketing.  Her sister, Chanda Bell oversees new product development, product design and manufacturing. They emphasized the importance of careful hiring and communicated some of their costly mistakes when they brought the wrong people onto the team.

5. Revisit Your Core Values Daily

Vision, mission and core values are foundational to success. They have their core values framed on the wall of the office. More importantly, they use the acronym “FIRE” as the measuring stick for every decision.  They don’t FIRE until the action has  passed through the FIRE:

These ladies are the real deal and their success is inspiring. Armed with an idea and a dream, they launched out on an incredible journey. They lacked any business, publishing or manufacturing experience and didn’t have start-up funds. With sheer determination and a lot of faith, they have built a remarkable business. They are living with passion and purpose while making a profit.

I didn’t expect to learn much from an elf. But the one on the shelf surprised me.

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