Business Lessons from Classic Christmas Films

From putting your customers first to embracing what sets you apart, these movies have hidden morals for business owners.
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Celebrating employees' unique talents and believing in your brand are two things that business owners can take away from their favorite characters in these Christmas classics.

During the holidays, avoiding Christmas specials on TV is about as easy as dodging falling snowflakes. As an entrepreneur, you might be surprised to discover that some of the holiday classics actually offer some useful lessons.

In celebration of the season, we’ve highlighted a handful of films with inspirational messages for both the business and personal sides of life.

‘Miracle on 34th Street’: The customer comes first

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(Photo: 20th Century Fox)

When a manager for Macy’s flagship New York City store unsuspectingly hires the real Kris Kringle to be their holiday Santa Claus, she’s initially dismayed by his unusual style of customer service. When children ask him for a hard-to-find toy, Kringle helpfully points their parents toward a competitor that has it in stock. When a question of quality over ice skates arises, Kringle tells a mother that an arch rival carries a much better pair.

This kind of strategy may sound counterproductive to a small business’s bottom line, but as “Miracle on 34th Street” shows, such transparency may end up generating customer loyalty.

Honesty in business demonstrates ethics, integrity and caring, which build relationships as well as sales. Customers feel at ease interacting with a business that’s interested in them as a person, not just a dollar sign. Follow a customer-first attitude, even if it means swallowing a little pride, and you’ll likely receive loyalty, appreciation and priceless word-of-mouth marketing in return.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’: Treat your customers like individuals

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(Photo: RKO Radio Pictures)

George Bailey inherits a family business he never wanted, but he makes Bailey Building and Loan succeed — thwarting the rich, money-grubbing Potter and his would-be monopoly — in large part because he stands up for the little people, his customers.

He creates Bailey Park, a housing development with small but pretty homes financed by loans from the Building and Loan, rescuing countless community members from their only other option: Potter’s slums.

Those community members later come to his rescue, donating money from their own pockets to keep the Building and Loan afloat when George’s absentminded uncle misplaces a deposit.

The moral: Treat your customers well, play a valuable role in your community, and you’ll reap rewards.

‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’: Leverage what makes you unique

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(Photo: NBC Universal)

“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” offers such powerful lessons that you can’t help but feel inspired after watching the red-nosed reindeer “go down in history” yet again.

It’s Rudolph’s one-of-a-kind nose, of course, that allows Santa to drive his sleigh in the storm — a fact that should remind business owners to know their value differentiator, and promote it to set themselves apart.

Then there’s the movie’s “believe in yourself” message. Hermey the elf always knew he wanted to be a dentist. Despite discouragement from others, he eventually embraces his true calling. If your heart’s passion is vested in the small business you’ve built or are thinking of building, trust those feelings. And be sure your brand storytelling reflects that passion.

‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’: Leave the crowd behind

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(Photo: CBS)

When it comes time to choose the Christmas tree for the school play in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” our eponymous hero settles on the only living tree on the lot. It’s small and lacks the glamour of the shiny aluminum trees around it, but Charlie Brown considers it beautiful.

His friends ridicule him for his choice — but eventually the tree wins everyone over. The lesson here for any small business owner is to never be afraid to go against the crowd. In fact, in a crowded market, standing out from your competitors with an original approach is much better than blending in.

‘Scrooged’: Make time for family and friends

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(Photo: Paramount Pictures)

“Scrooged,” a playful retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” features an executive who dedicates all his time to work and forces his employees to do the same. A timely visit by three spirits ends up making the difference between a miserable life and a life well lived.

The lesson here is obvious but often overlooked by small business owners: Make time for life outside of work. A great business is built not only on sales but on relationships and on enthusiasm. Overworking your employees or suffering burnout yourself will impact not only the wellness of your team but your business’s long-term growth.

Make time for activities outside the office, including exercise. Be flexible with employee schedules, and work hard to create a positive, low-stress environment. You’re not only likely to retain valued team members but also add value to your company’s overall mission. No spooky visit from the spirit of Christmas future required.

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