Sales and Leadership Lessons from J.C. Hall

Many people downplay the legitimacy of Valentine’s Day as a true holiday and derogatorily refer to it as a “Hallmark Holiday.” This is actually a compliment to the company considering US spending celebrating February 14th reached approximately $18.2 billion last year. The fact that Hallmark has the brand clout to be credited with creating a holiday and encourage spending on that level is worth exploring.

Of course we know that St. Valentine’s Day began long before Joyce Clyde (J.C) Hall ambitiously launched his business with nothing more than two shoeboxes full of postcards and a wildly entrepreneurial spirit.  It is now estimated that 150 million cards are exchanged on February 14th each year. This makes it second only to Christmas as the most popular card-sending holiday. Just think about that!

This success did not come easily for J.C. and his brothers. They grew up poor, had no formal education, and faced adversity as they sought to make their dream a reality.  J.C. was once quoted as saying, “All I was trying to do was make a living. In those days, if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. And I liked to eat.”

After finally selling enough product door-to-door, the brothers were able to establish a storefront, only to lose it to fire. This wiped out their inventory and left them in major debt, but they had the drive, passion, and vision to rebound.

What stands out about their business strategy is their understanding of their audience’s needs as they switched from postcards to greeting cards concealed in envelopes, providing more privacy for the sentimental exchanges. The company encouraged innovation and new avenues to impact the market. Today they are known for decorative wrapping paper, unique ornaments, and even their movie channel. Ultimately it was J.C.’s great leadership that cemented their success. During the Depression, he refused to lay off any employees, and was one of the only employers who actually hired during this time.

J.C. Hall also relied on his instinct and determination. He wasn’t afraid to go against conventional wisdom to better his company, as evident in his decision to ignore advice and investing in advertising. Now Hallmark is one of the most recognizable brand names in the industry. After all, you don’t hear that Valentine’s Day is an “American Greetings Holiday,” do you?

Follow your passion and instinct. Couple that with determination and vision and you will find success.

"If a man goes into business with only the idea of making a lot of money, chances are he won't. But if he puts service and quality first, the money will take care of itself."

~J.C. Hall~


"I had already seen that the difference between failure and success was making the best use of time. I never could sit around waiting for things to happen; it's more fun making them happen."

~J.C. Hall~


"Selling ideas is the most critical of all jobs."

~J.C. Hall~