Tag Archives: Christmas

There’s Plenty of Room in this Market

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

-Charles Dickens

Last Thursday, I spoke as part of a panel discussion at the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) conference. I spoke about the role of leadership in management and my colleague, Dr. Maxwell Rollins, spoke about Servant Leadership. After we spoke, someone in the audience asked us to identify well-known servant leaders that everyone would recognize. That was tough. We could offer very few examples of well-known servant leaders. This question got me thinking.

On Saturday, I took my kids to church. They spent the morning making Christmas ornaments out of popsicle sticks and glitter. Then they put on a Christmas play for the senior citizens of the church. The play was exactly what you would expect from children. The acting was bad, the costumes were makeshift, and the sound was terrible, but the senior citizens in the audience loved it.

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After the Christmas play, we went caroling to shut-ins who could not get out to the Christmas luncheon to see the performance. All of the seniors, at Church or at their homes, received Christmas ornaments that the children created that morning.

It was Covey’s Win/Win scenario. The kids learned to serve; the seniors enjoyed the performance. More importantly, to the kids, service was enjoyable. They made crafts, they got to perform, and many talked about what a good feeling they had when they served others. My oldest daughter said that it felt like she got to be a missionary for a day.

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My Daughter’s Place of Service

Everyone could find a way to serve. My 5-year old was the youngest child in attendance. She was not the best ornament maker, and she did not have a speaking part in the play, but she found her place of service. Before I describe her place of service, let me describe her. If she was a movie character, she would be a minion. If she were a song, she would be Happy by Pharrell. If she was a color, she would be yellow. If she was made of food, she would be popcorn. If she were a puppy, she would be a Chihuahua. You get the picture.

She couldn’t do some of the jobs the older kids could do, but she was stationed as the first child to greet the senior citizens when they arrived at the Christmas Luncheon. Her job was to shout: “Welcome to the Christmas Party!” or “Merry Christmas!” when the seniors arrived. I don’t believe that any of the other children could do that job as effectively as she did. In spite of being the shortest child with the worst hand-eye coordination for crafts, she found a place where she could shine.

My Place of Service

I hate arts and crafts. I recognize that some people like them, and that is fine, but I could feel my batteries drain every time I stepped into the room where 22 kids were painting ornaments. So, I did my best to avoid the arts and crafts room, not by running away, but by serving every other need that was imaginable. I got more chairs when more kids unexpectedly showed up. I got glue from the supply cabinet when it was needed. I washed paint out of paint brushes, much to the relief of the instructor. I helped set up for the Christmas play. It was great. I completely avoided what I didn’t want to do by self-deploying into service.

It made me think about Jimmy Collins, the former president of Chick-Fil-A who succeeded the founder, Truett Cathy. In his book, Creative Followership, Collins explained:

My initial strategy when I went to work for Truett Cathy went something like this: ‘If I do the things Truett does not like to do, there might not be a limit to what he would be willing to pay me!’ Getting ahead means doing what the boss does not like to do.[i]

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That was it. I was doing things that needed to be done. In my context, there were people who were interested in working on arts and crafts (and God bless those people). I don’t care to compete with them. I struck out on my own to stake out a place where I could serve on my own terms.

Your Place of Service

And herein lies the lesson. While others are jockeying for position, elbowing each other for the plum assignments, the field of service is not crowded. There is plenty of room for those who make it their ambition to serve. In addition, you can often customize your service, focusing on your natural strengths. You can write your own ticket, serving in a way that suits you. And, in a ironic way, those who truly focus on service are often noticed for their willingness to step into the breach.

What About You?

It does not matter if we are talking about servant-leadership, servant-marketing, servant-customer service, servant-selling, or servant-shouting: “Welcome to the Christmas Party!” What is important is that you focus yourself on serving others. How can you serve others in ways not yet imagined?


[i] Collins, J. L. S. (2013). Creative followership: In the shadow of greatness. Decatur, GA: Looking Glass Books, Inc. (pp. 16-17).


-Darin Gerdes



Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor of management in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

This post was originally created for Great Business Networking (GBN), a networking organization for business professionals where Dr. Gerdes is the Director of Education.


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What We Can Learn about Business From Disney.

On Christmas morning we had the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade on in the background as we relaxed at home.

The Magic Kingdom | What We can Learn about Business from Disney | Disney Christmas Parade

Photo Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Magic_Kingdom_castle.jpg

Disney is a Comprehensive System

I am always impressed with Disney as a business juggernaut.  I marveled as I watched my kids become more and more excited as each new character was introduced. As I considered what  was happening, I realized how brilliant Disney is for hosting this parade.

1. It is not like Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. It feels the same, but it is a wholly owned Disney production. Macy’s gets to say “Macy’s” repeatedly. Disney puts one Disney product after another out in front of you over the course of the two-hour program.

2. Disney has mastered vertical integration for the human being. They start with a “commercial free” morning on the Disney channel, which is also one large advertisement. Then you grow into the after school segment (remember Hannah Montana when she was a harmless pre-teen?)

As you get older, you have warm fuzzies  when you remember your childhood. When you have your own kids, you think the greatest thing you could do for your kid is take them to Disney for a vacation.

3. This integration was clear through the parade. Disney characters, movies, and resorts for various ages were highlighted. When the parade paused for commercials, Disney movies were front and center.

Disney Packages Advertising as Entertainment

4. Disney sells advertising as  entertainment. We would never have sat and watched a two-hour infomercial about Disney resorts, but because the characters are dancing down the street singing our favorite Christmas songs, we perceive it as a free show. They have graciously provided us this valuable walk down memory lane.

5. My focus group: As I wrote this post, my children  were cheering in the background “Oh, it’s Captian Hook!” and “Anna and Elsa, Anna and Elsa, Anna and Elsa!” (from the movie Frozen). Disney knows what it is doing.

Disney Uses Culture as Much as Systems

6. Everything my three-year-old daughter got for Christmas was in some way related to one of dozen or so Disney princesses. They own mind-share in the princess arena.

7. If you want to learn how Disney does it, I would recommend Lee Cockerell’s Creating Magic.

It is a great book that illuminates why Disney is so good at what it does.

Disney has a strategy, supported by a culture that produces iconic assets.  Every movie adds to their portfolio that make them stronger.

Thanks for taking time to read my musings about an iconic brand on my days off  for Christmas break.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

Dr. Gerdes is the Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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How Do You Celebrate Christmas?

I am writing on Christmas day. Why? I love what I do and I am a nerd. I am really interested in the question of how YOU celebrate Christmas.


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The majority of Americans celebrate Christmas but the reality is that Christmas means different things to different people.  I am not writing to tell you how to celebrate Christmas, but to ask you how you celebrate it.

Let’s use a simple formula:

Christmas is about ________________________.

I celebrate Christmas by ____________________.

For example:

  • Christmas is about family. I celebrate Christmas by going to Grandma’s house where the entire family gets together for Christmas dinner.
  • Christmas is about forgiveness. I celebrate Christmas by making a list of all the people with whom I need to reconcile.
  • Christmas is about toys. I celebrate Christmas by shopping.
  • Christmas is about Jesus. I celebrate Christmas by remembering the birth of our savior and singing hymns at the Christmas eve service.
  • Christmas is about celebrating the holiday season. I celebrate Christmas by having a good time (especially under the mistletoe).

So How do You Celebrate Christmas?

The purpose of this article was to ask YOU what YOU believe Christmas is all about and how YOU celebrate Christmas. I sincerely want to know.

Quirky Traditions?

I would also like to know about any quirky Christmas traditions you might have. For example, I have a friend who orders pizza every year on Christmas because when he and his wife were young and broke, that was all that they could afford. I have a relative who breaks out green polyester “Christmas pants” from the 1970s.   I am not judging. I have my share of Christmas ties.

Our quirky tradition is to  ___________________.

So what is Christmas all about? How do you celebrate Christmas? What are  your traditions? I would love to hear what you have to say.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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A Modest Proposal to End the “War on Christmas.”

As I write, Christmas is just weeks away.

Frosty the Snowman

Each year the drum beat seems to get progressively louder. Secularists clamor to  water down Christmas displays with gaudy arrangements that must include Frosty the Snowman and candy canes. Then they call for the outright removal of manger scenes and even the Christmas tree. Conservatives have dubbed this the “War on Christmas.”

I have never understood why people who claim not to believe in God are so troubled by others who believe in His existence. It doesn’t trouble me when people believe that Elvis is still alive.  To borrow from Hamlet, the atheist “doth protest too much, methinks.”


Last year Governor  Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island renamed the Christmas tree a “Holiday tree” in the name of inclusivity. So in order not to offend anyone, Chafee ignored the obvious fact that the 87.5% Christian population of his state might be offended by this politically correct shot over the bow.  Only 6% of Rhode Island self-identifies as non-religious (thanks, in large measure to Brown University).

“O Holiday Tree, O Holiday Tree” just does not have the same ring. This year, Chafee did it again, but he was smarter. To avoid last year’s protests, he gave only 30 minutes notice before the tree-lighting ceremony. Nothing suggests that public sentiment is on your side more than surreptitious behavior. Never mind that the White House “Christmas tree” was lit just a few days later.

4 Ways We Can Handle the Christmas Holiday:

1. Leave it alone

I celebrate Christmas. Jews celebrate Hannukah or Chanukah (and they can spell it however they like because it is THEIR holiday. They cash in on Christmas shopping deals and I got a day off from public school on Yom Kipper and Rosh Hashanah.

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I may have inappropriately said “Happy New Year” on the Day of Atonement, but my Jewish neighbors didn’t seem to mind. In fact, they appreciated that I was trying to be respectful of their tradition.  This is the way most people feel about the holidays.

2. We have competing holidays at the same time.  

In this scenario, you can’t be satisfied unless Kwanzaa is more popular than Hanukkah or Ramadan (or Ramadan gets more attention than Hanukkah depending on your persuasion). Moreover, all minority holiday celebrants must envy Christmas.

Borrowing the Marxist narrative, Christmas is bad because it is celebrated by the majority, where all of the smaller [proletariat] holidays are self-evidently virtuous.

Festivus for the Rest of Us

Seinfeld-Season-9-DVDFestivus_PoleFestivus has sprung up a humorous alternative to the traditional Christmas holiday.  In the last season of Seinfeld, George’s father celebrated Festivus “for the rest of us.” Festivus is celebrated on December 23. It includes a plain aluminum pole (to distinguish itself from the Christmas tree) and the “airing of grievances.” This was a funny Seinfeld episode, but it highlights the adversarial thinking I am talking about here. Can’t we just be respectful of each other?

3. We have only one standard holiday

This seems to be what the president of the American Atheists wants.

As our society increasingly unhinges from its mooring, someone will always be offended by what another person does. Our default solution is to make it accommodating for all, as if doing that will somehow satisfy all parties. More often than not, this solution leaves everyone dissatisfied.

What would one standard holiday look like? Cross the efficiency of the post office with the effectiveness of the public school system and I think you will have a sense of how bland the Winter Solstice holiday will feel. Just be sure not to bring religion into it–that is not polite.

4. Add a holiday.

Maybe we  should add an extra holiday in January for the rational free-thinkers who are offended by Christmas as a Federal holiday. Sure it will be one more lost day of productivity for the economy, but when we spend billions on non-productive bailouts, this will be a drop in the ocean.

Moreover, free thinkers will have their holiday or “Reason-Day” or whatever they want to call it. And, it should take the edge off of the silly argument that the government is “establishing a religion” by creating a Federal holiday that acknowledges that no one wants to go to work on Christmas anyway.

This is my olive branch to the politically correct atheists and it actually might be a good idea.

We can position Reason Day in late January when most people have already broken their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, get out of debt, and generally be a better person. Reason Day will be a stark reminder of our need to be better humans.

Moreover, another highly commercialized holiday would be great for business. If we have learned anything about economics from the mainstream media, it is that shopping helps the economy.

This would be a win-win scenario. The only reason that the Atheists wouldn’t embrace this generous offer would be if  the “War on Christmas” was not about “equal rights,” but about something else–the removal of Christianity from the public square.

I just hope the Reason-Day cookies taste good.

What are your thoughts? I would like to know.

Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.


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If You Do Not Read This Article, You Will Simply Hate How Much Money You Will Lose.

The Christmas season is here and it seems that everyone is having a once in a lifetime sale. Deals are everywhere. But listen closely to the advertisements and you will notice a funny trend. They all say: “buy now,” “limited time offer,” or “quantities are limited.” These companies are not out of merchandise. Instead, they are setting psychological traps intended to play on your fears of scarcity.

What is Scarcity?

Definition of Scarcity from Investopedia.com

Scarcity means that you cannot have everything you want.

Corporations understand that you desperately want certain items. Parents want to get particular toys for their children. Dad wants the largest TV possible. Mom wants some alone time (and for those of you who cannot get it, you truly know the meaning of scarcity).

Corporations Use Scarcity to Inflate Profits

Do you remember when cabbage patch dolls were all the rage?

It was the 1980s and I was in junior high school. I recall how difficult it was for Aunt Gail to get one for my cousin Amy. The lines at the toy store stretched around the block. People paid unbelievable prices, and they were thrilled if they could get one even at that price. Black markets formed where Cabbage Patch dolls were scalped.

I was only in junior high, but  I remember thinking that the company must have lousy executives to plan so poorly before the Christmas rush. With a little forethought, I thought, they could have produced plenty for everyone to buy.

Ah, but I was young and na·ïve. I did not understand that they were intentionally manufacturing scarcity in order to inflate profits.

I saw the same phenomenon repeat itself in 1996 with Tickle-me Elmo. The $29  toy was resold for as much as $1,500 because they were so scarce. Parents did not want to refuse their children the one toy that they most wanted.

Do not think you are immune. Apple uses this strategy when they roll out each iteration of the iPhone.

Scarcity Inflates Value.

This can be done in many ways: Producing fewer items produces scarcity Limited time offers create scarcity. As the clock counts down to Christmas morning–scarcity.

Get your MBA at Charleston Southern UniversityCorporations know how scarcity works and they use this understanding to manipulate you. They intentionally say things like “But you had better hurry. These deals won’t last long.” Then they have the After-Christmas sale, End of Year Clearance, and New Year’s Sale where they repeat the same line.

How To Protect Yourself From the Scarcity Mentality.

Understand what is happening.

1. Companies sometimes intentionally limit distribution in order to induce scarcity. Remember the Black Friday sales? Limited quantities drove consumers to camp outside in the cold for hours in order to purchase an artificially scarce item. Did the company have more in the warehouse? Of course they did.

2. Sales with limited time-frames also create scarcity. Companies want you to think that if you do not buy now, you will never have the opportunity again, at least not at this price.

3. Specific items that do not have substitutes are scarce. For example, when I was a kid, I wanted Star Wars action figures. These were more expensive than any alternatives on the market. To my dismay, I got Star Trek Action Figures. To my mom, it was all the same, but on the play ground Mr. Scott and Dr. McCoy were not welcomed on the Millennium Falcon.

Now, here is where parents get into trouble.  Remember the large TV dad wants? There are many brands and most have similar ranges of quality or substitutability. Dad will likely be as satisfied with a Panasonic, Sharp, LG, or Sony as long as the screen is 60 inches.

However, if your little darling desperately wants a Doc McStuffins Time for your Checkup Doll, there really are no clear substitutes. A knockoff simply is not the same, and Disney knows it. They have been selling Doc McStuffins through “commercial-free” Disney Channel cartoons all year. This is non-substituability.

What To Do

1. Recognize that if you are chasing a popular but limited item, the laws of supply and demand are working against you.

2.Do not be duped by limited time offers (e.g. Black Friday or Cyber Monday are the only times you will see great deals). Deals will ebb and flow.

3. If you simply must have the  Doc McStuffins Time for your Checkup Doll, you will pay dearly to have it. But you can lower your bill  for adult items by overcoming scarcity with substitution (e.g. a different 60 inch TV than the particular brand you want) or time (e.g. the After Christmas Sale).

4. Budget. The best plan is to know how much you plan to spend ahead of time. Do not exceed this total.

A good deal, such as 20% off, becomes a bad deal when you pay 120% because of the credit card payments.

5. Don’t believe the lie that your love can be measured by how much you spend.

6. Remember that scarcity is a mindset. Corporations attempt to inject it into the equation. You will pay less when you reject a scarcity mindset.

I am not a financial Planner, but I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, which I have used  in  my classes.

The Professor’s Recommended Reading

Financial Peace University

Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.


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