2020 has been a tough year for everyone – not just for us mere mortals on account of the COVID-19 pandemic and related financial stresses, but for Santa, too. His core business, the manufacture, production and delivery of toys and other goodies, has shrunk considerably. A general lack of disposable income is a worldwide phenomenon, so most people scaled down considerably for the festive season. My stocking size shrunk somehow and, sadly, could only accommodate a single digit number of very small sweets – quite unsatisfactory!

Tracking Santa’s progress with his reindeer and sleigh on my mobile’s flight radar application was quite revealing – I was expecting him to do the normal trip starting in the Far East, delivering presents throughout Europe and then making his way into Africa before doing the trans-Atlantic crossing to the Americas, but to no avail. Upon reaching the southern tip of Spain, including the Rock of Gibraltar, he turned around before passing over the very narrow strait of less than twenty kilometres which would have taken him into Morocco and the rest of Africa. Apparently, he decided that Africa was not going to be a profitable-enough market for him this year – very disappointing indeed. I mean, he could have just made the trip anyway and considered it a part-holiday for himself – imagine the thrill of fly over the pyramids, travelling up the Nile River to its source, experiencing the wild of the Maasai Mara, flipping over the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, travelling down to the thundering Victoria Falls (when in full flood) and finally experiencing the view of Table Mountain before making his trans-Atlantic crossing. He missed a lot. Maybe he didn’t want to sight-see in the dark?

Santa had to deal with other problems, too, this year:

  • Carrots for the reindeer were in short supply due to changing climatic conditions
  • He had to deal with change management and other human resources-related issues with the elves and keep their spirits up
  • He had to institute safety protocols for the pandemic – it’s not so easy washing your hands frequently at the North Pole as water freezes fairly quickly
  • He had to navigate the political arena with respect to border crossings and the prevailing lockdown in many countries
  • Visits to his manufacturing facilities and village by tourists and other friends and family diminished considerably during the period on account of the lockdown. This resulted in a substantial loss of valuable income

All in all, it was a tough year for the Santa enterprise!

So, now with depleted resources, how should Santa approach 2021? Should he just focus on his core business (the manufacture and distribution of toys and other goodies) or should he diversify into other value-adding services or, completely, into other activities? The much-quoted phrase “just focus on your core business” could be a set of mental blinkers, however, that disables you and prevents you from seeing other opportunities. “Absolutes” in times of change should be avoided.

Perhaps Santa should consider an inclusive approach where he taps into the creativity and innovativeness of his co-workers. After some well-earned rest for the elves and the reindeer, Santa could facilitate a strategic planning session where all avenues for contribution are considered. He shouldn’t diversify just for diversification’s sake, but should only diversify if activities still align to his corporate values and overall strategic direction – let me give you some examples:

  1. Value-adding services – adding additional services to the products that enhance the experience of customers and help retain them. These services could be charged or some could be free additions:
    1. Labelling and adding ribbons to gifts
    2. Customising a range of products for a particular company or organisation
    3. Delivering country-specific edible delicacies
    4. Week-long experiential holidays where tourists could participate in the production of toys and stay in the village hotel
    5. Sleigh rides for tourists (this assists the reindeer with keeping fit)
  2. Diversification into other activities:
    1. Sleigh hire much like rent a car
    2. Offering workshops on managing not-for-profit organisations, etc.
    3. Reindeer care as part of a veterinary or livestock college course or university degree
    4. Winning the distribution tenders for the COVID-19 vaccines (charging nominally for this service or seeing it as the North Pole’s corporate social responsibility contribution – after all, Santa’s supply chain and distribution network is already largely in place)

Approaching 2021 well requires curiosity and an open mind to new possibilities by those in top leadership positions. Organisations are packed with creative and innovative employees. The wealth that they can offer just needs discovery. Adopt an inclusive approach to the New Year – engage with your employees.

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