Thursday, November 11, 2010

Season of Change

Fall has arrived. In many parts of the country leaves have changed colors and there’s a briskness to the air. Most of us “gained” an hour through the now provincial notion of “saving” time. As nearly all of the farming done in modern society is automated and run by big agro-business, I’m not sure there’s much of a reason for futzing with the clocks. But then again I’m not in the oil business. With darkness descending earlier in the day, it’s a signal of a change in season especially when weather isn’t a traditional indicator of seasonal differences. Here in Los Angeles I call it the season of Santas. We get the Santa Ana’s in preparation for Santa Claus.

For many weeks the stores have already had Christmas merchandise available for purchase. Candy canes are on end caps and decorations stand in contrast to the Halloween and Thanksgiving motif’s that are the bulk of store shelves. This season sales are expected to generate $447 billion. That’s a lot of money and for many retailers this season represents the majority of their income and profit for the year.

Managing businesses that are seasonal in nature carry their own challenge. Having run businesses where this season did make the bulk of the profit required military-style precision in planning and execution. The biggest scaling that a business has to do is on the staffing side. Companies must have staffing that is proportional to their sales needs – and with seasonal businesses it means that for 2 to 3 months out of the year the majority of the staff is temporary.

The permanent staff that is relied on during the year to maintain quality, consistency and brand effectiveness must adapt to an influx of people who are looking for additional spending money, perhaps even as an ‘audition’ to become permanent; putting the regulars on edge. Managing the different agendas of staff is critically important to insuring that the core constituency (customer) is served.

Nationally this Season of Change is best reflected in the results from Election Day 2010. Much in the blogosphere and the media in general has been made of the Republican “shellacking” of the Democrats. The opposition party will indeed control the House of Representatives and have more representation in the Senate. There are still some races being counted – but the results so far show that Republicans gained 64 seats in Congress and 8 seats in the Senate. To me the statistic that is more interesting and helpful is that in Congress 15% of the seats changed and in the Senate 21% (of the 37 seats up for grabs). Looking at it another way 85% of Congress stayed the same and 79% of the available Senate seats stayed the same.

There will be some different leaders and tactics may change. Will there be much of a change in policies? Probably not. Just like the tinsel moving from 2 shelves to taking over an entire aisle during the month of November I expect that there will be continued rhetoric and disagreements. The focus may become more like the tinsel transition, but there will not be a wholesale takeover. How can there be? The vast majority of people and policies were re-elected.

It’s important to remember that the electorate has supported the status-quo. Usually the support runs closer to 90%, so this election cycle does represent a big drop in that support and that is indeed noteworthy. President Obama may follow the Ronald Reagan model after that mid-term “shellacking.” He may follow the Bill Clinton model of still being “relevant.” More likely he’ll follow his own hybrid version.

Just like the Santa Ana winds lead to a chilly rainy winter … or falling leaves to snow … when the majority stays the same so will the politics. So enjoy the additional hour of sleep, but don’t be surprised when it’s taken away come Spring.

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