6 Lessons Every Entrepreneur Can Learn From Santa

Santa Claus has run a thriving toy distribution business without a major rebrand for 1,800 years. He has to be doing a few things right.

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By John Rampton

REUTERS | Kacper Pempe

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When you think of history's greatest entrepreneurs your probably includes Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs but if you stop there you're leaving out a big name: Santa Claus.

Since the third century BC the man, myth and legend known variously as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, La Befana, Yule Tomten and Christkindli has been an amazing entrepreneur each and every startup founder can learn from.

1. Nobody tops Santa for customer loyalty.

Mr. Claus certainly picked on large market when be decided to embark on his annual journey. There are approximately 2.2 billion customers in the world. And even though not every child believes in Santa, one estimate was at 1 in 5, that's still a large market that any entrepreneur would love to have.

But, a large market isn't just enough to justify Santa's entrepreneurial spirit. He effectively segments his customers between who's naughty and nice. What makes this segmentation so successful is it's simplicity. If you want to be bad, Santa isn't going to waste his time on bringing you the toy that you've dreamt about all year.

As for the children who made the "nice'' list, Santa takes the time to listen to them. Whether it's a bicycle, game system or puppy, Santa listens to each and every one of his customers and delivers what each one wants every December 24th.

Why your business needs to do this: To become a successful entrepreneur you too need to have a large, targeted market that can support your business. Additionally, you should segment your customers so that you can make your loyal customers your first priority. Finally, and most importantly, you should always listen to the wants and needs of your customers.

As CD Baby founder Derek Sivers once said, "The single most important thing is to make people happy. If you are making people happy, as a side effect, they will be happy to open up their wallets and pay you." And, Santa, has certainly made his customers happy over the years.

Related: What Content Marketers Can Learn from Santa Claus

2. He knows the value of diversification.

One of my favorite holiday films is the "The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus." The movie documents Santa's humble start with just one simple toy -- a replica of his pet cat. When the children enjoy the figure, they want other presents. Santa makes good on this suggestion. He begins to diversify his operation so that he can offer children across the world a wide range of presents.

Why your business needs to do this: Don't paint yourself into a corner by only offering one product or service. You don't want to suffer the same fate as Blockbuster. Instead, look for ways to diversify your business by offering related products, opening up an ecommerce site, or tapping into overseas markets.

3. He takes breaks.

After spending much of the year preparing and delivering presents to children all over the world in just one night, Claus takes a much deserved break to recoup and recharge. Don't be surprised if you spot Santa surfing or relaxing on the beach and spending some quality time with Mrs. Claus following the holidays. The man works hard. He deserves a much-needed break from his workshop at the North Pole.

Why your business needs to do this: Entrepreneurs are notorious for working excessive hours and rarely taking any time off. In fact, according to a 2013 survey, 43 percent of small business owners are taking less vacation time than five years ago. It's gotten so bad that even I had to make a New Years resolution to take a vacation.

Taking a break from work should become a priority for entrepreneur. Without taking some take off, you aren't giving your body and brain to recharge. Stepping away from the business can also help you become more inspired and discover new perspectives on problems that have been blocking you from success.

4. He's recession proof.

Even turbulent economic times can't stop Santa Claus - not even the Great Depression. While children may not receive as many gifts as they would like, Santa is still able to give them a present when they wake-up in the morning. It's the magic of Santa that "keeps them from imagining the worst." Santa is a necessary part of the holidays, who doesn't have to rely on huge marketing budgets and is willingly to cutback on the number of presents he delivers when times get tough.

Why your business needs to do this: Recession proofing your business is a challenge, but if you want to prevent the economy from impacting your business, you should focus on selling an essential product or service and tighten your budget so that you don't spend money on items that aren't needed. You can also embark on a creative guerrilla marketing campaign - just like Jolly St. Nick who doesn't have to pay for all the free advertising that he is given during the holidays.

Related: How Much Would Santa's Salary Be?

5. He's been indispensable for a long time.

Why has Santa been able to remain relevant after all of these centuries? It's because Santa makes children happy and inspires them to become better people. Furthermore, children need to believe in Santa if they want to use their imaginations to be creative and solve problems. Jacqueline Woolley, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, conducted research that discovered believing in Santa "exercises children's deductive reasoning abilities and their use of evidence."

When it comes to a child's happiness and imagination, Santa has definitely cornered the market. That will continue to make him indispensable for generations to come.

Why your business needs to do this: How is your business inspiring its customers? What are you offering that makes you a part of their lives? What sets you apart from your competitors? Answering these questions will your business indispensable for its customers. Just like Santa has become one of the most important components of the holidays, your business should make it's way into becoming a part of your customers everyday lives.

6. Santa built a solid team that stays with him for the long run.

Santa Claus didn't become such a legend on his own. He has a skilled and talented team to backing him. There are the elves making the toys. There are the reindeer pulling his sleigh. Santa, like all successful entrepreneurs, surrounds himself with the right individuals to make his operation run smoothly. Additionally, he has a knack for using the unique talents of specific team members -- we all know the story of Rudolph. Without his helpers, there's no way that Santa could create and manage such an efficient business.

And, he also shows appreciation for his team members. He's known to share his milk, cookies, and carrots with reindeer while making his legendary global trek.

Why your business needs to do this: As a business owner, it may feel like the weight or the world rests solely on your shoulders because working alone has several drawbacks, such as decreasing productivity and morale. Having the right team in place ensures that you produce quality content and products, as well as reducing the pressure of meeting deadlines and goal projections.

Happy Holidays!

Related: 10 Funny and Heartwarming Quotes to Help You Survive the Holidays

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

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