Readers Who Will
For the Teacher:
You can use "Santa" to
develop case challenges for business
students at all levels. The obvious
fiction and frequent humor in the main
volume provide a somewhat whimsical
change from the ordinary business case
material. With a properly presented
case, students will see the "Santa
Challenge" as an opportunity to
have some fun with the business concepts
they've been presented.
But underneath all the fun they'll
be doing some serious learning. "Santa"
does not pretend to have the answers
to the tough questions facing business
today; it will likely raise more questions
than it answers, and it will challenge
even advanced students. You and
your class will raise additional questions
on your own. "Santa"
can be as rich as your imagination will
let you take it. These companion
pages provide plenty of material, but
you and your students are encouraged
to explore every aspect of the Santa
business, and to share your results
For the Beginning Business Student:
Sure, it may sound crazy at first:
Study Christmas as a business?
But you're guaranteed plenty of
fun discussion, and at the same time
you'll have an opportunity to exercise
the basic concepts to which you've been
exposed. You'll experience first-hand
the collision of concept and reality
(yes, there's reality at the North Pole,
what did you expect?). How do
you manage all those reindeer? How
do you keep everything secret? How
do you manage 40,000 delivery routes on one
night? How do you keep your cash
flow moving through a pipeline that
really takes off (pun intended) only
once a year?
I'm sure you can think of many more
questions around running this magical
business. Just remember, for every question,
you'll have to come up with an answer.
Some may not satisfy you fully,
but--well, that's business!
For the Marketing Specialist:
At first glance, it ought to be a
cinch: "Santa" has to
be one of the most well-known, most
beloved of brands. But think a
minute: In the novel, Santa is
initially presented in a business suit.
What happened to the traditional
red suit? Worse yet, even though
the novel emphasizes this version of
Santa, what about extensions of the
brand worldwide? Befana in Italy?
Joulupukki in Finland? How
is the brand managed there? Or
consider how the brand has changed over
time. Does "Santa" evoke
traditional Christmas? What impact
has the dot-com revolution had? How
do you solve the struggle between Santa
(commercial), Saint Nick (traditional
/ religious), and Christmas as the birth
Oh, there's more, and you'll have
fun figuring it all out. There's
distribution and channel management,
media issues, what to do in the dry
season from January until October, on
and on. "Santa" may
be an amusing marketing exercise, but
it will be far from a dull one.
For the Business Ethicist:
You'll certainly have your work cut
out for you here. Aside from the
age-old traditional Christmas vs. commercialization
struggle, there's plenty going on in
the story. Was Santa's ouster
ethically right or wrong? How
should the business respond to pressures
to diversify and accelerate? The
book describes situations in which workers
feel "hollowed out," losing
purpose, overwhelmed by paperwork. Are
these simply business challenges, or
do they have an ethical dimension, and
if so, what is that ethical dimension, and how should it be addressed?
Are the actions of the "schemers"
(Groomer, Silvertongue, Oiler - you'll
meet them in the story) entirely without merit,
or can they ever be justified? Is
Baylor's direction for the business
flawed, as Santa would state, or is
there some merit to it?
Santa, CEO can
be seen as
a novel about the tension caused by
trying to determine the right path through
a world beset by pressures and challenges.
When the "right path"
is skewed, we end up with an implosion
such as what happened at Ford, or a
public disaster such as Enron. If
the stimulus for each is maximizing
investments or shareholder returns,
these are hardly served in either case.
And in the Enron case in particular,
ethics clearly fell by the wayside.
You may find the path through
"Santa" frustrating, but there
will be a lot to learn.
For the Business Strategist:
You might have the most fun of all.
As its title implies, Santa,
CEO is about corporate governance.
You'll get inside the head of
someone who is obviously magical, but
both his magic and his long years of
experience help him little as he struggles
against the machinations of a Board
he himself set up. Is Santa taking
the business in the right direction?
Or is he, as he calls himself
late in the novel, a "dinosaur"
like Easter Industries' Rabbit? Even
worse, is he nothing more than a "paper-tiger"
chairman, to use scheming elf Groomer's
words? Is the ouster wrong, or
necessary? How do you know? Where
would you take the business?
So roll your sleeves up, remember
every scrap of business acumen you've
been taught, and go to it. I'd
love to see what you come up with. I
think you'll have a blast.
For Someone with an Idle Interest:
There are plenty of reasons why you
might find yourself wandering through
these companion pages. You might have enjoyed Santa,
CEO and now find yourself hungry
for additional information about Santa's
world. You might have an interest
in business, without the formal grounding
in a business curriculum, and you want
a deeper understanding of the struggles
facing the characters.
Or perhaps you're not familiar
at all with the business world, and
you'd like to learn more.
Whatever the reason, you'll find
both answers and questions on these
© 2004 David Soubly