Santa Claus has established a seasonal business which has an international reach and arguably one of the most recognisable brands in the world. Old Saint Nick himself sat down with us to discuss business and how he managed to become the recognisable figure he is today.
My company has expanded from a quaint self-operated business in my local village, whereby I sought to provide for the children, whether it was by providing toys, money or food, to a multi-national corporation with a global reach that has managed to evolve with the times. The Naughty or Nice List is now an application that I access on my iPad, it’s much more convenient that the ancient leather-bound book I used to own, but I will admit I am still sometimes nostalgic for that dusty smell.
When I was younger I liked to live by the words, ‘sell what you own and give the money to the poor’, and I guess my business just developed from there. I’ve always been a giving person, there is just something magical about the happiness in the eyes of a child receiving a gift.
It wasn’t the easiest business to start up, the profit-margin in a business of gifts is understandably minimal, and so I dabbled in other areas to find the money necessary to achieve my dreams. Merchandising and marketing is an area in which I am now surprisingly adapt. It’s not easy to market yourself to the mass audience, but through licenced products and celebrity endorsements I’ve managed to create a strong net-worth to support the expenses of my business.
What’s been your proudest moment in business?
The joy of children on Christmas Morning is hard to surpass as the moment in which I am most proud. The laughter and smiles as they rip through wrapping paper and joyously show of their gifts just makes me feel better than Mrs. Claus’ gingerbread cookies. Although, the time that Rudolph managed to squeeze down the chimney to bring me a gift that had fallen from my sack was a close second, I mean a reindeer fitting down a chimney seems impossible but by the spirit of Christmas he managed.
What mistake have you learned most from?
Christmas of 1973. Let’s just say that after my stopover in Australia where families tend to leave me beer instead of milk, I may have been caught sleighing under the influence. But in all seriousness, my biggest mistake was trying to expand my business before I had the resources to manage it. Having a global market, and a limited staff created huge pressure on me, and I fast learnt that I needed a dedicated staff who shared my vision to ensure success. Luckily, I now have my Christmas elves and reindeer and everything runs smoothly.
What would you say is the recipe for success in your sector?
I’m really sorry, the recipe for Mrs. Claus’ gingerbread cookies is a family secret! No, the real recipe for success in my sector is empathy. It might sound a little weird but this is essentially customer service, and it’s all about ensuring that the customer is satisfied. To do this you need to understand the nuances of every child, and without empathy, without the ability to understand what each child really wants, I would never have been successful. You also need dedication and strict time management, distraction will result in failure in a business that is so focused on the Christmas Eve deadline.
What have you learned about yourself?
I’ve learned that I can circumnavigate this world faster than any human made machine can. NASA is constantly pestering me for my secret but I don’t plan on letting them know the mechanics just yet.
What has been your biggest sacrifice for the business?
My waistline, could you imagine the disappointment of the children if I didn’t eat the cookies that they left out for me!
Given what you know now, what would you do differently?
Honestly, I wouldn’t change anything. The mistakes and sacrifices that you make shape how you develop, and if I was to change one of my mistakes in the past, who knows the person I would be today. For instance, what if I decided in 1939 that I did not need the young reindeer with the bright nose to lead my sleigh, or what if I had prevented my other reindeer from bullying him. I definitely do not approve of bullying, but the royalties from that song financed the business in the fifties!
Who would you most like to employ in your business – famous or otherwise?
Probably the Easter Bunny, we could probably be home by midnight with the two of us working together!
Best piece of advice to other business owners?
In an age of consumerism and consumption, never forget the simplicity of human emotion and the joy of giving.