A Christmas Carol Lesson

Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” is one of the best and most original business books you can read. It’s full of valuable lessons that apply to all facets of business, even today, one hundred and eighty years after it was written. You all know the story. This time of the year you can watch any version you like; from the 1938 Reginal Owen version to the 1951 Alastair Sim version to the Disney version and others from the Muppets, to Mr. Magoo, to Bill Murray, there is a version for everyone. And I am going to assume that everyone knows the story.

But you probably have not ever thought about it as a business story. I bet this is one of those books that everyone thinks they have read but they actually only watched the movie.

So now here to put us all in that end of the year holiday spirit are six things we can learn from A Christmas Carol.

Content is King: First of all, the reason the book was written in the first place was to point out the cruelness of poverty at that time in England. Dickens wanted the readers to realize how hard things were for those who did not have any money. As Scrooge himself points out, and I am paraphrasing here, “there are  debtors’ prisons and workhouses and my taxes pay for those. So I’m doing my part already;  leave me alone. In short, I’ve got mine, the heck with them.” 

The cleverness of Dickens is his ability to wrap this terrible message about the state of things in this warm and fuzzy wool blanket of a wonderful Christmas story. This is a perfect example of using good content to get your message out in the most effective way possible.

Resiliency: Okay, so Scrooge had a rough childhood. The visit with the ghost of Christmas past shows us that his old man wasn’t that kind at one point, but as sister Fan says, “father is so much kinder now.” So, get over yourself Scrooge. Don’t let your history define your future. You have a choice, you can learn from your hardships and start doing good, or you can let them affect you forever and mess up your life. No matter what life throws at you, the ability to bounce back is what makes you a successful person in the end.

All business is people business: And speaking of success, how successful are you if all you care about is making money? Business is about finding ways to help people in ways that will earn you a living. Scrooge might have been very rich, but he was never going to be successful.

Treat your employees well: This is what business is all about and we are feeling this more today than ever before. For the first time in decades, it is an employees’ market. They are picking and choosing where they want to work. They are evaluating potential companies they can work with and if they don’t think those companies treat employees well, they won’t be hiring on. 

Not to mention that the better you treat your employees the more productive they will be and the better they will treat your customers.

Old Fezziwig proved this with his wonderful Christmas party for his entire staff and family. That’s another lesson Scrooge did not learn as is exemplified when he ends up seeing old Fezziwig going out of business and the phrase “nice guys finish last” is etched in his business brain.

Change is great: Those who embrace change with open arms will succeed, those who do not will keep making the same mistakes over and over again. It’s pretty safe to say that old Scrooge hated change. He wanted things to stay the same…miserable. He liked miserable. We all know people like that, don’t we? Even today some business owners would rather let their businesses die, than find and accept a new way of doing things. If you need an example, think how many times a day you hear someone say things like, ‘this social media stuff doesn’t work.” And “I tried Linkedin once. I set it up and it didn’t work, I did not get a shred of new business.” Or “Don’t get me started on those Google ads, a friend of mine did that and he didn’t get any business at all.” Show me a company that hates and rejects change, and I will show you a company that is slowly dying. “Scrooge & Marley” was a walking dead company as the ghost of Marley points out.

Purpose: Finally, a company has to have a mission and that mission has to go beyond making money. Scrooge was a money lender. I am sure his lending company was what we euphemistically call an “alternative lender,” that is one that charges what they want in terms of interest rates and lends to those who have no other choice. Those companies are in the money business, not the people business. Business is all about people and helping to meet their needs. Whether it be lending money or building products, your company’s purpose has to be to help people meet their needs. Do that and money will come your way.

To end on a good note, we learn that Scrooge, after learning his lessons from his mentoring visiting ghosts, “kept the spirit of Christmas in his heart every day of the year.” And from what I can see by the smile on his face in every single version of the movies, he was a very happy fella, and a real success. So, this year when you watch your favorite movie version of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” don’t think of it as goofing off, instead think of everything you’re learning to improve your business and that’s a good thing. It’s only common sense.