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10 reasons why COO hates Xmas

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The COO or Operations Director is the one who keeps the wheels turning, no matter how much grit is thrown into the innermost workings. He is Chief Elf to Santa the CEO.

So why do COOs hate Christmas?  It all revolves around two things – more work and fewer people – with an artificial, yet unmovable deadline set some 2000 years ago in a stable. Here are 10 reasons that the COO hates Christmas.

Reason #1: Staff illness:
With colds, flu and coughs going around, often germinated at school and brought home, the run up to Christmas is the time when staff illness is least welcome.  When I was IT Director at a major UK Government Department I was stunned when I was told by a member of staff that she was planning to take the following Thursday off as sick leave to go Christmas shopping because “she hadn’t taken the full 11 days sick leave that year”.

Reason #2: Staff vacation:
Staff are forced to take remaining vacation; following on from the previous point, vacation policies often force staff to take unused days by the end of the year.

Reason #3: Xmas period shutdowns
Depending where Christmas falls anything from 3 to 10 days are lost, and often little is achieved in the week before Christmas

Reason #4: Offices closed due to weather
Winters are starting to be more extreme and whilst we don’t suffer the power cuts I remember as a child, snow often closes offices and schools, disrupts public transport and makes roads dangerous.

Reason #5: Year end sales peak
If you are in the B2B world you are trying to close deals and deliver projects in a month which is often half the length of other months.  This is made worse by clients who have a December year end and hold off making purchases so that they get a last minute discount. If you are B2C then you probably have an increased volume of work which again is compressed into a shorter working month.

Reason #6: Year end discounts
B2B clients know that you have targets to hit and savvy procurement teams will wait to extract the best deal possible. They know that by hanging on to the last few days of the month they can get huge discounts, which will be given. I know one software sales guy from a major international company who sells 85% of his target in the last 2 weeks of December.

Reason #7: Xmas opening hours
Retailers are forced to stay open for longer in the run up to Christmas that means additional staff need to be recruited, trained and paid.  Poorly trained staff are more likely to make mistakes, give unnecessary discounts, damage customer reputation and raise the risk of credit card fraud.

Reason #8: Xmas rush delivery logistics
For those retailers who are online the pressure is put on the logistics and courier companies to deliver on time, often with a backdrop of appalling weather conditions.  If they don’t, then the retailer’s reputation, fairly or unfairly, will suffer.
After Xmas products are returned or warranty claims are made. This is pure cost for the retailer, but if managed efficiently can improve customer satisfaction dramatically.

Reason #10: Post-Xmas morale blues
If December gives the highs, then January is the lows. Expect staff absenteeism.

Not a lot to be cheery about, I am sure you will agree. Especially, if the company is kept alive day-in day-out by the heroics of the staff.  If there were more a process-led culture you might find a very different picture. Fewer mistakes to be cleared up which means fewer surprises and a calmer, more pleasant working environment.

What can you do right now?
▪ First review your core processes; Order to Cash, to make sure staff are up to speed and it is as easily understood and efficient as possible
▪ Do you need to change/uprate your credit card processing at a time when there is increased fraud?
▪ What about your Recruit to Retire processes for the seasonal / part time workers. You want them recruited and up to speed and integrated into the company culture as soon as they join.
▪ Equally the exit process needs to clear and fair. You can have them leaving with an armful of laptops, just because you have no track of them.
BTW All those who love the buzz of constant firefighting and the feeling that they are important have probably checked out by now.

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