A Monthly Publication from Citrin Consulting
December | 2011


IN THIS ISSUE

Courageous Leadership

TED Talks

Absolute Citrin

 
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Courageous Leadership

It only seems reasonable to assume that a 300 year old closely held family business must have a courageous CEO holding the reigns of the corporate leadership. After all, any company that has been around that long has created a global brand second to none. It must engage a loyal workforce along with a network of followers who believe deeply in the product offerings. A company like this surely has many lessons to teach the rest of us.

The Santa Workshop, Inc's modern day heritage is traced back to the early 1700's although his history dates back to the 4th century when he was known as St. Nick of Myra (a pseudonym still used today) where he served in the non-profit religious sector and honed his skills in gift giving. In the 11th century he was named a patron saint thus setting the stage for a global and perhaps universal presence. When opportunities came along to grow the business through mergers, the company jumped at the idea and partnered first with a German firm led by a God-like figure known as Odin. Odin had developed the holiday concept of Yule in which he flew great distances in the sky powered by an eight-legged horse that needed nourishment along the way and received it from children who left food offerings near their family fireplaces, and in exchange, Odin rewarded the children with candy. The Odin firm provided amazing logistics that continues to drive the company to this day. The second great partnership was with a Dutch company that provided the marketing punch. Sinterklass (translated as Saint Nicholas) created a buzz when he arrived every year by steamboat carrying a book with the names of kids who had been good or bad during the year, and delivered chocolate goodies to all the kids that were good and was actually quite mean to children who were not. The Santa Company decided to remove that aspect of the Sinterklass offerings! Sinterklass was dressed up in a red cape, had a flowing white beard and no doubt had a jolly laugh, although there are no audio recordings of his early days.

Thus with the pieces in place, the Santa Workshop Company could complete the business model with just a few additional steps including a work force and location for his business. First the location. The CEO, Mr. S. Claus cleverly avoided issues of nationalism by his choice of the North Pole for his global headquarters. By positioning himself at the top of the world he not only makes a statement of his importance but also provides a quiet and out of the way location for production of his major products—toys for kids—away from other competitors that might try to mimic his model. In addition, since most transcontinental flights use the Great Circle Route over the North Pole, he has quick access to many parts of the planet. This was a model later duplicated by United Airlines and American Airlines who moved their corporate and flight headquarters to Chicago and Dallas, respectively so as to be located in the center of the country. It's actually surprising that Santa has not set up a satellite location at the South Pole but given his obsession with quality, it would be difficult to find someone to manage that operation. Perhaps the only person to head that office would be Mrs. Claus but their centuries long love affair would prohibit that.

As for his workforce, the "elf" team comprises the bulk of the labor for Santa's Workshop, Inc. Dressed in their traditional green and red uniforms they've been a loyal group of employees for centuries although there have been rumblings of resentment over the years. It seems like many of the elves feel underappreciated and while they often get numerous months off after the Christmas holiday, the work pace after the summer really picks up and gets absolutely crazy from Halloween to Christmas Eve!

There is no arguing with success, however, and the Corporation has achieved that. They are advertising geniuses, getting free TV and print ads sponsored by major companies such as Coca-Cola, JC Penny, BMW, Apple, Norelco and Budweiser, along with many others. And Santa knows his customers really well. In fact, he hardly has to talk with them since he already knows who's been naughty or nice—so he gets the right product to the right customer every time. Year after year, Santa Claus and his Santa's Workshop, Inc team have provided an amazing experience for the world to share and a lot for us to emulate; his generous goodness, jolly lifestyle, and business savvy.

 

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TED Talks

I spend several hours every week practicing with my wife's Interplay Improv group, Wing and A Prayer Pittsburgh Players. Our troupe uses Interplay as a creative performance art form to bring simplicity and enjoyment to our lives and to enable organizations to tap into their creative processes for personal and professional gain. While our group has not tried out Charlie Todd's "Improv Everywhere" group, I do know that life is really just one big improv in which we are often required to make things up in the moment. Check out this video for some spontaneous laughter, and a gift you can send off to your family, friends and co-workers.

 

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Podcast Series: "Absolute Citrin"

I've just completed my first Podcast series about Personal Stress Resilience. This will be a part of my ongoing Resilience series that will next look at Building Team and Organizational Resilience. I've listened to all the podcasts and have to tell you that even I am impressed with the content and quality; and those of you who know me would agree that I am my worst critic! You can find the series on your local iTunes store (search for Citrin Consulting) or on my website. Take a listen and let me know if these ideas are helping you to be more resilient.

 

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