Success Strategies for Global Expansion: Including Hot Markets in 2018

Global Expansion: I’ve seen too many companies go at it the hard way. They decide they’re going to expand globally and then try to go it alone. They don’t start by trying to find out what they don’t know. They don’t look at how other companies succeeded and failed. You can save yourself a lot of agony if you learn from the experience of others.

IKEA is an excellent example of a rocky start to expansion. When IKEA first entered the United States in 1986, people loved the design of the furniture but felt it was too tiny for American living spaces. IKEA’s (literally) one-size-fits-all approach, which works well throughout Europe, needed to be adapted in the US market, which wasn’t as easy as it might sound.

IKEA redesigned the furniture, but then it also had to reimagine the warehouses where the furniture would be stored and the retail spaces where it would be sold. Everything had to get bigger.

IKEA made a mistake many companies make: It thought that what worked in one country or culture would translate to another one easily.

Executives must start by asking and answering two vital questions as they form their expansion plans:

  1. What kinds of markets make sense for us?

What are the characteristics of markets where we’re more likely to be successful? Further in, I’ll give you a list of things to consider, but the fundamental question will stay the same. Analyze your company, with your strengths and weaknesses and experience. Consider your strategy. Then look for markets where you’re more likely to succeed.

  1. What’s a reasonable level of risk and reward for us?

Companies have different tolerances for risk. They have different expectations of reasonable Return On Investment (ROI). And remember that for most global expansions you should expect ROI to increase as you do businesses successfully in a new country.

Here are a few of the hottest markets to consider in 2018:

Malaysia

Singapore is still a booming market, but its less well-known neighbor, Malaysia, has been named the number one place to invest by US News Report. Real estate opportunities abound, and there is well-educated, multi-lingual, workforce. Additionally, the government is foreign investment-friendly creating incentives and eliminating barriers to doing business there.

The Czech Republic

$125 billion has been invested in the Czech Republic over the last 20 years. The government offers training and job-creation grants, and the workforce is young, dynamic, and multilingual. Many tech companies are expanding there, too.

Sub-Saharan Africa

If you’re looking for moon-shot growth potential — and have a huge appetite for risk — then an attractive area might be the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is abundantly rich in commodities such as oil, natural gas, copper, iron ore, and gold. Governments are becoming more stable. And, the area has the youngest workforce in the world.

More Traditional Markets

Many companies are still expanding to cities in what we consider traditional markets: Ireland, Denmark, and Canada. These are markets are “easy” in that they hold more available and modern infrastructure, and there are large, hungry talent pools.

And, of course, there is the United States, which is still the world’s largest economy. In my book, Market Entry in the US: Why European Companies Fail and How You Can Succeed, my co-author, Ralf Drews, and I connect the buying psychology driven by American beliefs and values with a company’s go-to-market strategy. Remember: The cultural values of a particular country and region have a profound impact on the business environment.

As you consider global expansion for your organization, bear in mind: The “hot” market of today won’t stay that way forever. You have to decide if the market is right for you. You should analyze several critical issues for every market you consider.

Take these actions first before expanding globally:

Do your due diligence and market research.

Use all the sources and all the tools at your disposal to learn as much as you can about yourself, your company, and the market you’re considering.

Travel to the location to which you’re expanding.

 Reading is not enough. Video helps but isn’t sufficient. You won’t get a real feel for the place you’re considering unless you go and spend some time. And, when you do go, don’t just talk to other businesspeople who are staying at your hotel. Get out and spend time with local people and listen to how they describe their country and its business climate.

Do something different.

I don’t know what that will be for you, but you will. Make it something beyond what we’ve talked about here. Come up with a way that is uniquely yours to learn more about the country where your company may expand. Only you can come up with something that fits your style, your organization’s corporate culture, and helps you understand this new country and its culture.

Have questions about planning global expansion for your company? Here are some additional ideas. Need more? Contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com

Women, Don’t Be Too Busy to Lead!

Three Ways Women Can Rise to the Challenge of Leadership

In her speech at The 2018 Golden Globes, Oprah said that things are changing. Girls have more women role models, and there are more examples of leadership to follow. Actors like Reese Witherspoon and Elizabeth Banks have created and head film production companies, knowing that their roles are limited if they leave up the casting and directing up to others. Michelle Williams brought #MeToo founder, Tarana Burke, with her to The Golden Globes, and Meryl Streep brought Ai-Jen Poo, the founder of The National Domestic Workers Alliance. Geena Davis heads an institute focused on gender bias in the media, continually reminding us where our blind spots are with regards to gender equality.

After hearing the powerful messages delivered around the world by leading women in Hollywood last week, I believe we’ve turned a corner on gender equality. The issues are out, they’re being talked about, women and men are taking action. Hollywood has been turned on its head, and I think other industries will follow.

Don‘t be too busy for leadership. Women leaders work hard. We are perfectionists. We believe the value we bring is in a job well done–that is when we’ve led our employees to complete their tasks efficiently and effectively. We even work alongside our teams. And those are all excellent qualities.

The problem is, many men approach work differently. Male leaders will spend more time delegating, networking, self-promoting, making deals. They are hard-wired to think more high-level. They don’t mess with the nitty-gritty as much, trusting others to get it done. And if a task is only 80 percent complete, they see it as better to move on than waste a lot of time and energy on it.

Men see women who are very busy, who stay in the weeds, striving for perfectionism, taking on projects that are for the good of the team or company instead of their immediate sphere of influence (or themselves!) as… I don’t know how else to say it… “icky.”

In my workshops on gender balance in leadership, men tell me that they don’t understand why women are so “hectic” and “busy.” One man actually said, “She kept her head down in her laptop so much I didn’t even know she wanted a promotion!”

Always be looking for opportunities. I hear from many women that they are simply too busy to look for opportunities. Too busy to network, too busy to look at job boards, too busy for social media… This has to change! We have to get our heads out of our laptops and start making time to network. We have to think about what we want in our careers, decide on it, and start asking for it. We have to create and use every coffee corner, company event, meeting with our boss, or extended team as an opportunity to let people know who we are and what we want. Now, I know that may sound “icky” to some women. But the truth is,

If we don’t promote our own self-interest, we can’t truly promote our team or organization

So keep your head up and look around, that’s where the leadership roles lie.

Ask for more money. Recently, I was chatting on a plane with a CEO of a construction company. Using the opportunity to do some research, I asked him what he sees as a big difference between men and women in the workplace. He said, “Men ask me for more money, women don’t.” He went on to say, “I always give them [the men] more money just because they asked me. It might not be all of what they want, but at least 50 percent.” I then asked, “So if women don’t ask you for more money, what does that mean to you?” Without skipping a beat, he said, “They’re not leadership material. If they can’t advocate for themselves, they can’t advocate for the company.”

I shouldn’t have been stunned, but I was. It made total sense.

Advocacy. That’s really what Hollywood said at The Golden Globes, and what the #TimesUp movement is all about, and what I’m saying here.  As women, if we don’t advocate for ourselves, and our own self-interest, if we don’t strive for more leadership roles, we can’t make the change that’s needed. So go for it, whatever “it” is.

If your head is up, you can see it.

For more on my coaching program exclusively for women leaders, click here.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.

3 Steps to Globalizing Leadership Development Programs

In January I wrote an article for Training Industry that addressed the importance of globalizing your leadership development programs. If you’re doing business in a global environment, you probably already know what is needed: Leaders with a global mindset who can lead international teams, conduct business across time zones and borders, think creatively, communicate cross-culturally, and leverage new technology.

These aren’t skills many of us learn naturally in the American workplace. More often, we develop them through trial and error, expatriate assignments, or customized training curricula. Moreover, research shows that many leadership development programs don’t prepare leaders with the skills they need to excel in a global environment—which is a puzzle, considering that increasing productivity and entering new markets top most companies’ wish lists.

Having said all of that, I’d like to share three essential steps that will help you globalize your organization’s leadership development program. Click here to read my article, 3 Steps to Globalizing Leadership Development Programs.

Need more information? Contact me.

5 Best Reads for Leaders in 2018

Best reads for Leaders

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to read more. Leadership development is a demanding field, and my list of “must read” books for 2018 continues to grow. In fact, thought leaders like Simon Sinek, believe that individuals who read at least twenty minutes a day are more successful than those who don’t.

But finding those extra twenty minutes? That can be challenging for many of us. It will require things like forgoing that extra episode of Survivor, not checking emails first thing when you wake up, and possibly using some of that lunch hour to read books instead of updating your social media.

It will be worth it! I know this because I always use what I read. Sometimes I integrate it into my own tool-set, and sometimes I speak about what I’ve learned at work, at home–even at cocktail parties. If you, like me, decide you’re going to spend more time reading, you’ll look, seem and actually be a little smarter. And there are lots of advantages to that.

Since my expertise is in growing leaders, bridging cultures, and empowering teams,  I’d like to offer my list of the top five leadership development books to read in 2018 (not a ranking):

1. Lifestorming: Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and LifeAlan Weiss and Marshall Goldsmith

Weiss and Goldsmith have written hundreds of books out between the two of them. They are considered two of the best leadership coaches out there. Now, after long careers in business consulting and coaching they have teamed up to write a book about “meaning,” which is very relevant today. Many leaders struggle to inspire and motivate their teams globally, and the Gallup polls show that the number one reason why people stay in a job is that they feel like they’re making a difference.

2. Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge and Build Confidence, Andy Molinsky

Andy is a colleague in the intercultural world. He’s written quite a bit on cross-cultural communication, and I enjoy his writing style. This time he’s come out with a book to help leaders feel more comfortable in uncomfortable situations. That is, he examines what it means when you’re managing or leading outside your comfort zone and need to react quickly to solve a problem or negotiate with others.

3. The EQ Leader: Instilling Passion, Creating Shared Goals, and Building Meaningful Organizations through Emotional IntelligenceSteven J. Stein

Although the concept of Emotional Intelligence has been around since 1989, the Emotional Quotient or EQ is simply the most important skill any leader can possess. Particularly in today’s digital age, technical needs will be more and more automated and what managers will have left is people interaction. We see EQ when it’s there, and we feel it when it’s not. What I find fascinating is that EQ can be taught and learned. Leaders can practice it; it’s not only innate.

4. Quiet: The Power of Introversion in a World That Can’t Stop TalkingSusan Cain

The Power of Introversion is a well-known book at this point, but if you haven’t read it yet, it is a must, particularly if you self-identify as an introvert. Susan is reassuring and has lots of practical advice on how to navigate in an extroverted world. She makes it clear that it is a question of energy, not a ‘shy’ problem. Introverts recharge by being alone; extroverts source energy from being with people. It’s crucial to know how to interact and manage those with a preference for introversion and extroversion.

5. Radical Business Model Transformation: Gaining the Competitive Edge in a Disruptive World, Carsten Linz, et al

These days, pretty much everywhere you turn, there’s talk of digitalization–in how we travel, the products we buy, and how we pay for them. The trend is sweeping the world, many industries at a time. Linz breaks down the complexity of digitalization, disproving myths and making sure the reader truly understands its significance and application to the business world. This book will eliminate fear and prepare individuals and organizations for what’s to come.

There are so many books to support great leaders out there–but my preference is to follow leading concepts in managing diversity, practical business advice to motivate teams, and cutting-edge data on true developments making a difference in the business world. I have found each of books listed above invaluable, and I hope you will too.

If you decide to join me in reading more, give me shout and let me know how it’s going. What are you reading now?

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.

Image Credit: Sam Greenhalgh, CC 4.0

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Lamson is the CEO of Lamson Consulting, Founder of the highly popular leadership program for women, Advancement Strategies for Women, and creator of award-winning management programs for SpaceX, LinkedIn, and SAP. As an author, consultant, and speaker, Melissa accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing a global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross-cultural communication.  More About Melissa Lamson

How to Become a Thought Leader in Your Organization

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In today’s work world, leaders need to define their areas of expertise—and stand out. I’m seeing a growing trend for individuals who are creating their own niche inside their organizations. By doing so, they are standing out as thought leaders; pioneers and advocates on particular topics, which builds their visibility, their reputation as experts, and attracts opportunities inside and outside their company.

As Daniel W. Rasmus writes, for Fast Company, “Amid the cacophony of corporate voices, those found to be additive to the dialogue, rather than distracting, can be considered thought leaders.” These thought leaders have become known for something—hopefully a passion of theirs—and this perception of them helps open doors, and provides career and job security.

“The best thought leadership helps people in an industry, or more likely, in a role within an industry, do something better or gain insight that helps them better understand their market or their job,” writes Rasmus.

I’ve been following, interviewing, and coaching internal thought leaders for a long time now and realize there are common strategies that make these leaders successful. Employing these strategies in your own life can help you ascend to the next level in your career, and become a leader yourself. “Becoming a thought leader isn’t just a process. It requires a passion for and a commitment to spreading ideas that can help others,” states Ned Ward, vice president of Sterns & Associates, in an interview with says Inc. editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan.

“Thought leadership is commonly discussed in the business world, and to the average person, it may sound like another annoying corporate buzzword,” says Nicole Fallon, of Business News Daily. “But behind the jargon is the honest and admirable ambition of being viewed as a credible industry expert, one who cuts through the “noise” and offers something worth listening to.”

How You Can Become a Thought Leader

You may be wondering how you can become a thought leader. You’re in luck. I’m sharing these special secrets in a webinar on February 9th at 11 am PST/noon MST / 2 pm EST for 60 minutes. This webinar will analyze those who have successfully become thought leaders in their organizations. It will also deliver a step-by-step guide to creating a plan for your own thought leadership.

During my webinar you will:

  • Decide on your thought leadership topic
  • Design messaging and create a brand for your subject
  • Develop a step by step plan to launch your own thought leadership campaign
  • Learn how to expand and sustain your thought leadership reach both inside and outside your company and your professional networks.
  • Discover how to leverage your network to support your topic

After this information-packed, one-hour session you’ll leave with:

  • A topic of focus, passion
  • Clear branding and messaging around your topic
  • A plan for creating broader visibility for you and your subject
  • Unique ways to promote yourself and your topic
  • Ways to speak, write and use social media to promote your topic

What do you want to be known for? How high do you want to climb in your career? The thought leadership tips and coaching you will receive in my webinar will help you answer those questions—and more.

Remember, being perceived as a thought leader is an excellent form of career insurance; one that will open doors to new levels of professional opportunities and job satisfaction. Join us for my thought leadership webinar on February 9th at 11 am PST/noon MST / 2 pm EST. Register today!

Header Image: Wesley Fryer,  CC 2.0

_________________________________________________________________________________

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Lamson is the CEO of Lamson Consulting, Founder of the highly popular leadership program for women, Advancement Strategies for Women, and creator of award-winning management programs for SpaceX, LinkedIn, and SAP. As an author, consultant, and speaker, Melissa accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing a global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross-cultural communication.  More About Melissa Lamson

 

 

An Open Letter to Men in the Workplace

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Men,

With the recent events in the media, I can imagine you’re a little confused. I feel for you. How can you authentically and naturally interact with women without concern you’ll offend? What words can you use? What actions can you take?

What does it mean when a woman asks you for “support”?

There is professional protocol in business, and most of us do our best to follow that. However, men and women interact very differently—and most of the time we’re totally unaware of that. What happens when we unintentionally slight someone, offend or hurt them? Especially in the workplace.

Here is a list of things I’d like you to consider. How often do you:

  • Thank women regularly for their contribution.
  • Praise women for their competence and a job well-done.
  • Ask open questions to understand a problem, before offering a solution.
  • Say you’ll jump in and help on something.
  • Ask if anyone needs coffee or water before a meeting starts.
  • Refer to a female colleague in a meeting as a “go-to expert.”
  • Give credit in a public forum, “Susan had a great idea when we talked last.”
  • Use names when you’re speaking about or to women.
  • Ask questions, like, “I’d like to offer specific support, what can I do?”
  • Follow through with what you say you’re going to do.

If you’re doing all of these things, women in your organization most likely respect you and enjoy working with you. If you’re doing some of these things, you will be seen as harmless. If you’re doing none of them, I can guarantee women have a problem with you.

Luckily, I’m offering you a complimentary webinar full of “how-to’s” to keep you from making these mistakes, and better yet, to help you turn into a superstar team player that all women will want to work with and for.

The session will explain the differences in men and women’s communications styles. The meaning behind words like “support.” You’ll learn the secrets to advocating for your female colleagues, how to work in mixed teams most effectively, how to read non-verbal signs, and what to do when women are upset.

I guarantee you’ll improve your relationships with women in all aspects of your life and work.

With respect,

Melissa

To sign up for this session click here.

A version of this post was first published on LinkedIn.

Image credit: Jose Hernandez CC 2.0

Work-Life Balance is an Outdated Concept, So What Now?

Beach chairs on the evening sea coast.

Work-life balance became a buzzword a couple of decades ago. Everywhere you turned there were presentations, articles and self-proclaimed “experts” all promising to help the overworked find a better balance.

The thing is, I’m not so sure work and life are really separate concepts anymore.

More and more, work and life are intertwined, especially when working remotely, or traveling for work. And to increase engagement, more companies are making workplaces feel like “home.” “Work-Life Integration” is probably a more accurate term today, and people work every day to try to do this well. It isn’t as much a balancing act as it is an act of acceptance that balance doesn’t exist. Something will always have to give; your time in the office, your kid’s soccer game, time with your partner, or travel abroad. If you want successful work-life integration, you will need to sacrifice something.

Sure, there are still the no-holds-barred leaders out there whose commitment to work eclipses everything else and there are those who think that’s the way it has to be if you want to be successful. Some of these people might even be happy with their life this way, who are we to judge? Many experts today still proclaim it is possible to have it all. However, what exactly does “all” mean?

As leaders, we need to become aware of what’s important to us and the individuals in our team, we need to set an example, be a role model, and help them create the right situation and strategy for themselves. In my opinion, work-life integration is about setting boundaries. If you clarify what you want, create a plan, set boundaries, and manage it well, fulfillment in one’s personal and professional lives can easily be a reality.

It’s all about boundaries.

To achieve life balance, you have to set these boundaries both in your personal life and your work life. You’ll want to make deliberate decisions about what’s going to be the priority. And it has to go both ways to work out. At work, we often have to respond instantly to crises and sudden situations. Then again, sometimes your personal life is more important—your preschooler is in a theater production, a parent is diagnosed with an illness, or your eldest is graduating from law school.

The fact is, when a situation with enough importance emerges (in business or life), we make time. And you know what? The world doesn’t end. This just shows that having boundaries and stepping away is possible. Planning is key and with proper boundaries in place, it becomes easier to give attention to all areas of your life. (Nigel Marsh has a wonderful TedTalk on boundaries.)

Here are five steps to creating excellent work-life integration for yourself and your team. Share these steps with those you manage and hold a conversation about their relevance:

Define “balance.” First, you have to know what you want out of life, then you can create a clear plan to achieve those goals. If working a lot right now is important for your career growth, then that’s ok. If spending more time with your partner is a priority for your relationship, then do that. Maybe your kids need more or less attention at this point in their lives.

Communicate proactively. In some ways, this goes hand-in-hand with the above point. Talk to your family and significant other about what’s coming up on the calendar at work and speak with your team about what types of personal situations may require your attention no matter what. This can help avoid partner, manager or team resentment when various life or work events arise.

Know your own resilience level. You may be the type who can sleep little and work a lot. Or you might require eight hours and need to let your brain rest in between productive spurts of work. Maybe you burn out without regular vacation time or maybe work gives you so much energy, you don’t need many holidays. Listen to what your body and mind need and honor that.

Walk the talk. Don’t preach work-life integration and then send emails in the middle of the night, regularly stay late at the office, and text your team members at off hours. Managers are often unaware how their own behavior unintentionally sets the standard for the team. People may feel they have to respond in the middle of the night, stay late until the boss leaves, etc.

Introduce your personal life into your work life. Back in the day, talking about your personal life at work was a big no-no, but now those walls are coming down. You see more and more amusing family anecdotes or personal stop-and-think moments being integrated into presentations and speeches. The more you make your workplace feel like home (as much as your company will allow), the more balanced you’ll feel at work.

Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage says, “When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive.” The idea of work-life integration isn’t just corporate lip service anymore, but it isn’t really about having perfect balance either. It’s about creating an ideal situation for yourself – accepted at home and at work – so that you can thrive both personally and professionally.

For a workshop, webinar, or speaking engagement on How to Set Boundaries and Be Happier in Life and Work, contact Melissa.

A version of this post was first published here.

 

3 Tips for Launching Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility

As the holidays come to a close, many companies all over the world are doing two things: Reviewing their 2017 performance and selecting charities to receive their official nod to holiday generosity. It’s worth asking how many of them have connected the two in developing their 2017 strategies. Corporate philanthropy isn’t just an obligation, after all; along with helping others, corporate social responsibility (CSR) offers an opportunity to inspire employees and attract new customers.

A few decades ago, no one expected companies to play the Good Samaritan. But in today’s era of “compassionate capitalism,” it’s almost de rigueur for companies to demonstrate some level of altruism, whether it’s promoting green initiatives, improving their local community, or lending their support to a global cause. Corporate social responsibility has become so hardwired into our business culture, in fact, that enterprise brands can look stingy and uncaring if they lack a robust program.

Of course, there’s something else typical of big corporations today, and that’s global expansion. And the intersection of global market entry and CSR can be a tricky one to navigate, given the different cultural priorities regarding these programs. Leaders often follow the saying “people, planet and profit” when it comes to investing in CSR but that can be a bit too simplistic on an international scale. To launch an effective program, global leaders must consider the following factors in their approach.

Figure out which buyers care about your initiatives.

While there’s been some debate on how profoundly CSR programs influence buyers, one Neilsen report showed in Italy Millennials, and Generation Z would pay more for products that were organically grown and ethically produced – And this is the trend globally. While retail slows down in Europe and North America, consumers are looking towards those products which focus on personal wellness and sustainability. In the developing world, it is still essential to ensure research and development, manufacturing and other production considers the community’s needs. Government officials and locals can block the success of global entry if specific environmental and societal criteria are not met.

Design a strategy that will ignite your workforce.

The Gallup Report for 2017 shows only 15 percent of the workforce engaged and actively engaged— a disheartening statistic. The data states that manufacturing and production are the primary cause of a lack of morale. A Corporate social responsibility program may interest your customer base, but it could indeed act as a morale booster for your workforce. The importance of a sense of meaning at one’s job has been proven time and again – and participating in a global mission can be even more galvanizing. This sense of meaning is extraordinarily powerful for remote teams, as sharing the same purpose can deepen connections between far-flung colleagues and dispersed offices.

For instance, each region might contribute toward a different local cause, such as rebuilding from a natural disaster in a struggling community – everyone will post photos and updates to the same internal site to educate and inspire others. Another option is having everyone adopt the same internal initiatives. Going green is obviously a popular one; offices can hold contests on reducing waste and packaging materials, exchange ideas on setting up carpool systems or show off their new energy-efficient lighting. Employees in Hong Kong who ordinarily might never interact with employees in Toronto will enjoy common ground that ultimately fosters deeper engagement for everyone.

Shift from CSR to Social Impact.

Particularly in today’s political and environmental climate, we need to ensure our efforts are not abstract. In touting CSR as making a social impact, everyone can relate. Leaders become advocates; employees care about making a difference. Alice Korngold wrote, “A Better World Inc.,” where she talks about how companies can make a positive social impact where governments cannot. We’ve seen this recently with the Paris Accord Agreement where hundreds of corporations have said they will uphold its principles even during the political debate.

Sometimes companies must commit to CSR that holds a personal significance for their partners. Ultimately every global company should consider the impact of corporate social responsibility initiatives on its workforce, its customers, and its communities before making a significant investment. The wrong program can go ignored by both employees and customers.

But the right program can put a halo of appeal around a brand image, inspire your workforce—and make a real global impact at the same time.

For a list of the top 20 CSR programs in 2017 and the companies they belong to, see here

Image Copyright: trueffelpix / 123RF Stock Photo 

A version of this post was first published here. 

Gift Ideas for the International Jet-Setter

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Secrets of buying for the most difficult gift recipients.

My nephews have every kids’ dream–they’re from a family of mixed religions, so they celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas. Needless to say, they get a lot of presents. So many, in fact, that they often forget to even open them all.

Thus, it’s often hard for me to give gifts that they will find special amongst the plethora of Xbox games, sports equipment, and train sets they receive. Last year, though, I nailed it.

I was in South Africa and saw these handmade drums. They were beautiful, so I knew they wouldn’t be stuffed in a closet by their parents but instead put on display. And, they were functional. I could see the boys having jam sessions for hours. And, (bonus!) the money I spent went back to help a local community in South Africa.

I’m sure we all have those people that are difficult to buy for–including family, friends, colleagues, and clients. Instead of trying to buy the latest gadget or trend, try opting for something with meaning, sends a message, or has a positive impact.

Here are a few international gift-giving hints for the notoriously most challenging people to buy for.

People who have everything.

People who have everything don’t need more stuff, so don’t even try.

Instead, give a gift that gives back. Here are a couple of ideas–give a microloan in that person’s name. You can loan a small amount of money to someone in a developing country to help jumpstart their business.

A hundred dollars can help a woman in Africa, for example, open a store in her community. The recipients have to pay the loan back over time, but the small amount can make a huge difference in helping them self-sustain.

You can also make a donation on someone’s behalf to a cause they care about or to a charity that supports global issues such as Oxfam or Children International.

Gifts for people who care.

Many people are becoming more aware of where their goods are coming from and are careful not to support unfair labor practices or production that negatively impacts the environment. Thankfully, it’s easier now more than ever to consume responsibly.

There are many companies out there that share where their products are sourced and have a mission to not harm the environment, like Uncommon Goods, for example.

Also, most cities have stores that only sell sustainable and organic products. (I love my hometown of Phoenix’s Local Nomad shop which sells jewelry, clothes, and collectibles). Go this route, and you’ll feel good instead of guilt with the things you buy.

Gifts for the people who want unusual things.

Not everyone wants to be part of the latest trend. They want something that’s unique and different.

To get ideas, tap into the experiences of your friends who travel. Ask them what they’re seeing on their trips that may be popular in other cultures or indigenous to other lands. If they’re close enough friends, they may even be able to make some purchases for you that you can reimburse them for later.

Gifts for the globetrotter.

Speaking of people who travel a lot–it seems like they can get anything they want since they seem to go everywhere.

Instead of trying to dazzle them with something unique, make what they do more pleasant.

This holiday, I’m giving essential oil sniffers as stocking stuffers to my fellow global travelers to help revive themselves when crossing many time zones. Other ideas include lightweight travel blankets, compact luggage, and silky soft pillowcases. Check out this past post for more ideas.

Gifts for everyone.

Finally, food is always a crowd pleaser. To add a twist, go international.

Shop at a local foreign restaurant or food market to assemble a basket of interesting treats from around the world. I like to hit a local Mexican restaurant to share with friends the Mexican Christmas tradition of tamales (knowing they can enjoy them during the holidays or freeze for later). Even chains like Trader Joe’s feature special European cookies and chocolates that you can sort and share with colleagues or clients.

When in doubt, go for the stomach. Food is a gift that is universally enjoyed. It can be fun, neutral, and shareable.

Make this holiday season special, fun and unique with gifts that give back or presents with a multicultural flair. Your colleagues, friends, and family will appreciate the extra effort and thought put into your holiday giving.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

8 Secrets to Getting Organized This Holiday Season

stay organized this holiday season
These tricks will help you have more time for what matter this holiday season.

Almost every holiday season, I often find myself feeling less than merry.  And, I know I’m not alone. With all the extra responsibilities on our plates, both personal and professional, it’s easy to feel more like curling up on the couch than caroling with your cousins.

But after talking with my dear friend and professional organizer Lori Krolik from More Time For You, I’ve learned the secrets to solving 8 common holiday-induced problems–and they all have a common theme, organization.

As my gift to you this holiday season, I’m sharing her wisdom so you can have more time for what truly matters, especially this time of year.

Your Christmas list is freaking you out.

The list of gifts you need to get is beyond daunting. You can’t remember who you bought what and who got you something last year.

Enter, The Christmas List app.  This handy tool allows you to manage all your gift recipients. You can import contact information directly from your iOS device, plan gift ideas, create shopping lists, set budgets, share your lists, create gift lists by categories, and more.

What a great solution to ensure you don’t double buy items, overspend, or (yikes!) forget someone.

You’re out of money–and time.

Everyone has limits. Figure out what yours are NOW and stick to them. Set a predetermined amount for what you will spend on gifts and the number of people you will be buying for.

Apply limits to your time and efforts, as well.

This means, when you are looking for gifts for your kids’ teachers, ask yourself, is it really worth driving to five different stores looking for the perfect sweater?

You are ready to wrap gifts and realize you have three bags of bows but no paper.

Before you start buying, wrapping, decorating, baking, et cetera, take inventory of what you do have on hand. This includes decorations, wrapping paper, and holiday cooking supplies.

This way, before you head out to the store, you’ll know what you have on hand, and won’t make the mistake of buying more than you need.

You’d rather get a root canal than to untangle Christmas lights.

Getting in the holiday spirit often comes with a lot of stuff. It looks so festive when it’s up, but what about the rest of the year? Do yourself a favor and head to the store and buy tons of containers–and use them. They will prove invaluable when it comes to packing up all that holiday décor.

Create categories for storage–entertaining, kids’ books, or organize by room. Then store them all together in an out-of-the-way yet accessible place. This way you won’t waste time hunting for something rather than spending time with family.

And, remember when you are taking down lights or wrapping up ornaments to take a little bit of extra time now to do it right so that it’ll be easier next year.

Your holiday cards are taking over your house.

We all love receiving holiday cards from family and friends, but what do you do with them after you oogle over how big Cousin Billy has grown or how cute Susie’s family looks?

There’s lots of clever ways on Pinterest as how to display these cards or turn them into photobooks but if you don’t have the time to do that, make cuts.

Get a container for each year and apply the 80/20 rule to who makes it into your holiday card photo archive. Lori suggests keeping those from close family members and friends (especially those with personal messages or photos) and recycle the ones from your real estate agent or dentist, for example.

Unneeded gifts are cluttering up your house.

Lori has some shocking yet sage advice–Just because you receive a gift does not mean you need to keep it.

To quote Marie Kondo, “The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not things, but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.” Embrace the joy you feel when you receive a gift, but don’t keep it out of obligation.

On another level, don’t be a “spreader of gift clutter.” Many of our friends and family members are fortunate to have enough stuff. Experiential gifts like trips or concert tickets can go a long way in terms of creating lasting memories.

You’re stressing over what to do for co-workers.

Speaking of being a “spreader of gift clutter,” talk in advance with your workplace team about how to handle the holidays.

Set standards for a gift exchange, a Secret Santa, or holiday cards. Or, in lieu of gifts, host a little celebration with the team, inside or outside the office.

Of course, for managers cash bonuses for individual team members are always much appreciated if a viable option.

The new year is giving your team anxiety.

There’s always high hopes for a new year. To get started off on the right foot and with a clean slate, initiate a team “clean up.”

Whether emotional, physical or both, encourage your team to purge bad feelings, hash out and resolve grudges and clean up work spaces. Give them some space and time to organize common areas, supply closets or break rooms, clean off surfaces, trash old papers, and clean up their desks.

Making it a team effort will inspire collaboration, buy-in to commit to sustaining it, and set you up for success in 2018.

*This article was originally posted on Inc.