Since Charles Dickens first published it on 19 December 1843, A Christmas Carol has been reimagined countless times in literature, theatre, and film. Now, 180 years later, it is still a prominent cultural touchstone during the festive season.

The story of miserly businessman Ebenezer Scrooge, and his encounters with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future is retold around the world every year. The story concludes when Scrooge realises the error of his selfish ways and vows to change for the better. 

This redemption arc serves as a reminder of the importance of compassion and generosity, especially during the so-called “season of giving”. But what can this cautionary tale about a selfish villain learning the error of his ways teach us about some of the most common business mistakes?

Read on to learn about five business mistakes to learn from Ebenezer Scrooge.

1. Failing to learn from your past mistakes

At the beginning of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge receives a visit from the ghost of Jacob Marley, his deceased business partner, who tells him that three spirits will contact him. The first is the Ghost of Christmas Past, who arrives to show Scrooge how his mistakes led him to where he is now.

When he sees that his former fiancée left him because of his obsession with money, he begins to realise that his greed is his downfall.

As a business owner, it is important to do the same and look to the past to see where you went wrong, so you can avoid the same mistakes in the future. 

For example, if you recently launched a new product, you might look back and see that the design and development process was efficient. Yet, your marketing campaign was not as successful as you hoped, and your sales reflected this.

If you fail to learn from this mistake, you will likely repeat it in the future. Conversely, if you are aware that this is an area you need to focus on, you would potentially see a better outcome next time. 

By learning from past mistakes in this way, you can continually improve your business.

2. Not considering alternative perspectives

Scrooge spends every single Christmas in the same way, shunning the festivities and staying home alone. As a business owner, it is easy to fall into a pattern like this, doing the same thing repeatedly.

But, when the Ghost of Christmas Present arrives and shows him his family and employees enjoying themselves, he sees a different perspective. He does not have to spend Christmas alone, but could share it with others instead.

In an ever-changing business world, it is important that you are open to alternative perspectives. Just because you have always done things a certain way does not mean that it is still the most effective way to operate.

That is why it is important to regularly review internal processes and business practices, and consider different ways of doing things.

3. Not looking ahead to the future

The Ghost of Christmas Future is last to visit Scrooge and show him a depressing depiction of his own funeral. His selfish ways have left him isolated, with barely anybody coming to pay their respects.

This projection of his future demonstrates that he needs to make changes now, and this is often true in business.

Projections of your spending and estimated revenue, for example, can tell you whether the business is likely to be profitable in the future. If the numbers do not add up, you know that it is time to make some adjustments.

Looking ahead also helps you plan and adapt, so your business stays relevant. As such, it is useful to pay close attention to any developments in your industry and prepare for them ahead of time.

If you do not look ahead to the future, you may be unprepared for potential challenges in your business.

4. Taking your employees for granted

After his visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning a changed man.

One of the first things he does is send a large turkey to Bob Cratchit, his previously underpaid and mistreated employee. He has learned one of the most important business lessons there is: always take care of your employees.

Your business runs on the strength of your team, and if you invest in their personal development and provide good benefits, they are likely to stay with you for longer. 

This means that you benefit from their expertise, and you reduce your recruitment costs, too. They are also likely to be more productive if you create a positive work environment.

5. Being resistant to change

By the end of the story, Ebenezer Scrooge is unrecognisable. The selfish, bitter old man who mistreated his employees and hated Christmas is gone. Instead, he is generous and compassionate to all, as he fully embraces the new version of himself.

Sometimes, businesses need to go through a drastic change like this to survive. In these situations, do not be resistant to change. Instead, embrace it, and relish this new chapter of your business.

Amazon is a prime example of this. The company started as an online bookshop, but in the years since, has completely changed its business model. By abandoning the bookshop niche and embracing change, it has arguably become the most successful company in the world.

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Please note

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.