Poverty and Santa Claus: What Every Business Owner Needs to Know

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For the past 15 years I’ve played Santa Claus at my Dad’s church in a low-income section of Philadelphia.  It’s a treat to see the children’s faces and their smiles. I really enjoy doing this, but it wasn’t always that way.

My first outing as Santa, found me interacting with the children, asking if they had been good, while handing out donated presents. At one point, after handing a child his gift, a mother looked at me scornfully and asked, “Is that all we get?” Another child complained as well. Now Santa is HOT! The cheap beard is not helping at all.

It really put a damper on the whole day. I couldn’t get over the mother’s comment.  My father, who is 77 years old, and drives 20 miles to this church, said “Vlad, you work with the best of the best.  You work with business owners and CEOs who have all that they ever wanted.  Many of the people here have nothing, so they appreciate nothing.”

What he really said is that a business owners view, more than likely differs from their employees. We work hard to make sure we are offering the best benefits and the best opportunities for our employees, only to hear them recite the same, “Is that all we get?”

Many business owners fail to realize that their view is very different from what their employees see. What is important to your employees is not necessarily important to you, the business owner, but the staff needs to know that you heard them………………..even if you decide on something different.

So on Santa Me’s 2nd outing, I decided to count every single complaint. I was ready to prove that the people in this neighborhood did not deserve these gifts. They are ungrateful, right??

Year 2 -75 kids 6 complaints

Year 3-136 kids 7 complaints

Year 9-1100 kids-10 complaints

Maybe we did do the party a little better? But maybe, just maybe, I changed my view and realized that we were doing good things. We were doing the best we could with what we had.

I really enjoy playing Santa now. The main difference is I don’t focus on the negative, I focus on the positive, though I am sensitive to the negative because I believe there is something behind it.

Everyone wants to be heard.  One of the best lines I’ve ever heard is from a business owner who said, “I don’t care if my employees bitch and moan, as long as they are not right.”

Get feedback, evaluate their impact, and make changes where necessary. This action can make a big difference in boosting the morale in your place of business.