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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall


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(December 09, 2002) - Our little sports car is almost perfect for the climate. In Northern California, 'cold' is an evening when the temperature drops below 40 degrees. For 3 excruciating months, it's simply too chilly to drive over to the beach with the top down. The other three seasons, the car is a perfect piece of transportation. Nothing clears the cobwebs like a ride through Sonoma Valley with the top down. We complain loudly about the weather during the times that the car sits in the driveway waiting for warmth.

While folks in other places hear our complaints about temperature as 'whiny', it truly is cold here when the temperature dips. East-coasters laugh hysterically when they see how traffic stops when our local mountain gets a quick snow covering. It happens every ten years or so and people leave their cars to see the sight. We left the east coast a decade ago because we had shoveled our final bit of snow.

Lots of services have a similar seasonal quality. Some, like farm labor, vary wildly over the course of a year. Some, like recruiting and related offerings, vary over economic seasons. In other sectors, particularly transportation and tourism, this particular economic stretch is causing good businesses to fail and better businesses to limp. It's seasonality, just a different variety.

Imagine if we were to sell the car every rainy season because it wasn't a good time for a convertible. That tends to be how we make economic decisions during a downturn. What was exciting and important in the good times becomes excess baggage when we're looking for corners to cut. It's why the output of the top thee or four job boards feels like a firehose today while the niche players seem better at providing just the right service. When you need less, more seems like too much.

We took these pains to explain seasonality as a cautionary note. This is our first real downturn and it's very important to remember that the change of 'season' causes a very temporary change in perspective. Today, like our convertible sitting in the driveway, a firehose of data is not very useful while just the right trickle can be. That may not be true in the upturn. Heavy competition may well dictate the procurement of firehose quantities.

We'd caution the little operators that today's successes may be as seasonal as the pressure to reduce volume the big players are feeling. We'd offer an inverse caution to the big players: don't fix a seasonal problem with a permanent solution.

- John Sumser

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
Mill Valley, CA 94941

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