December 06, 2011
Santa's Cheerful Guide to Business Development


"Necessity," it is said, "is the mother of invention."

It is.

But it is also the father, aunt, uncle, grandmother, cousin, and in-laws. Indeed, for most of us, unless there is a proverbial fire under our proverbial butt, we remain victims of the status quo. Objects at rest. Bumps on a log.

Allow me to be more specific.

The year was 1998. Although the U.S economy was in good shape, my business was flabby. The pipeline was clogged. The marketing plan was a mess. And our cash flow wasn't.

Semi-fearless leader that I was, I bought some muffins and called a meeting. It took us all of 20 minutes to realize we had three choices if we wanted to survive: cut costs, find new clients, or reinvigorate old clients.

Cutting costs wasn't an option. Costs were already cut. Finding new clients sounded good, but it also sounded like a truck load of work. Reinvigorating old relationships, on the other hand, had a nice ring to it.


We decided to focus on local clients -- companies no more than two hours away. Singapore was out. New York City was in.

Being in the creativity business, we knew we'd have to walk the talk. Besides, Christmas was only two weeks away.

And so we decided to practice one of our own techniques and look at our challenge through the eyes of another, in this case -- Santa Claus. "How would he approach a major cash flow crunch?" we asked ourselves. "What would Santa do?"

The answer -- in an on-Dasher-on-Prancer-on-Vixen sort of way -- was obvious. Santa would take to the road. He'd visit people! He'd give out gifts!

The costume rentals cost us $300. I was Santa. Elizabeth was Mrs. Claus. Val was Rudolf. And Tiffany was the Chief Elf.

Our plan was simple.

We'd drive to Manhattan and pay surprise visits to three of our high flying ex-clients: MTV Networks, Met Life, and Pricewaterhouse. Once past security, we'd give away presents (that included our marketing materials) and get recipients to promise not to open them until Christmas morning.

Fast forward three hours...

There we are, the four of us in full Christmas regalia, standing in the tastefully appointed and very marble lobby of Pricewaterhouse. Behind the imposing front desk sat three very large security guards, none of them named Prancer.


"I'd... er... uh... like to speak to Donna Chandler," I announced, doing my best to channel my inner Santa.

Clearly, the security guard was not in the holiday spirit. His belly was not shaking like a bowl full of jelly.

"And who shall I say wants to see Ms. Chandler?" he replied with a scowl.

I just stood there, saying nothing, hoping my long white beard and general joviality would be enough to grant us access.

It wasn't.

"Don't you recognize me, my friend?" I exclaimed. "It's me, Santa!"

"I'll need your real name, sir," the guard replied.

"My real name? It's Santa. Santa Claus."

The guard, now mumbling something under his breath to the equally oversized guard sitting next to him, was not impressed. Scroogily, he paged his way through a company directory and dialed the phone.

"Hello," I heard him say. "This is lobby security. There's some guy here who wants to see you. He's dressed up like Santa Claus and won't give me his real name."

Other people came and went. Other people were given name badges. Other people walked merrily to the bank of elevators.

The four of us just stood there, lump of coal in our imagined Christmas stockings.

And then, unceremoniously, the very large security guard with no visions of sugar plums dancing in his head called us forward.


"OK, Santa," you and your little buddies can go up."

Deck the halls with boughs of holly! We went up!

The moment we got off the elevator, on the 27th floor, everyone flooded out of their offices. Everyone wanted to see us. These weren't auditors at a Big Six accounting firm. These weren't MBAs, number crunchers, or tax geeks. These were big kids in business clothes.

Three very cheerful women led us to their office. Boldly, they sat me down in an overpriced executive chair and, one by one, sat in my lap.

"Have you been good little girls," I asked.

"Oh YES, Santa!" they giggled.

"And what do you good little girls want for Christmas?" I said.

"Better cash flow, Santa! Promotions! Vacations! And a cappuccino machine in the lounge!"

I reached into my bag and pulled out a beautifully wrapped gift for each of them.

"Will you promise Santa not to open your presents until Christmas morning?"

"Oh yes, Santa!" they exclaimed.

And then, with a shake of some strategically placed jingle bells, we were off.

On Dasher! On Rudolf! On Cash Flow!

Out of the office, we turned right at the fire drill sign, took the elevator to the tastefully appointed lobby and skipped out the door to our next former client, spreading Christmas cheer and marketing materials, ho ho hoping like children the night before Christmas, dreaming of clients dreaming of first quarter results and calling us the first day back on the job after the holidays...

Guess what? They did.

1. What can you do differently this week to get a huge result?
2. How can you infuse your marketing efforts with a little fun?
3. What bogus boundary are you willing to cross?
4. Who else is willing to join forces with you to take a risk?
5. What is your next step?

Excerpted from my forthcoming book: WISDOM AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of Life

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at December 6, 2011 12:19 AM


Well done. Run-in with security sounded like "Miracle on 34th St" when Kris Kringle insists he is Kris Kringle and goes to court to prove it.

Posted by: ekirsch72 [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 19, 2010 12:42 PM


I was laughing like a bowl full of jelly! What a fab idea! It certainly creates a reframe for me from 'more of the same'. And if you are still taking orders, Santa, I would like a little 'Mitch doll' in my stocking this year to keep me moving in the creative direction please!

Happy Holidays,

Posted by: lisa murrell [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2010 09:53 AM

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