Jack’s Vermont: Ain’t Spring…yet

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Wed, Mar 17, 2010

This Past Sunday, 4:00 AM

The clocks have just been reset to Spring Forward, and I’m never sure of my reaction to this process. Am I pleased because we’re leaving behind five months of really tough sleddin’, or am I disheartened with the once-again plunge into darkness for the next two months as we retune our solar clock? With Vermont days like today, Door #1 is an easy decision to make: I need winter to end!

I love snowboarding, but I’ve had it with this winter, plus this morning’s delivery of incessant hail, sleet, and rain all accompanied by a howling wind will keep the gondola shut down until later this morning and, therefore, leave me happily working in the office. Not such a bad day since I have tons of work to do, and yesterday’s snowboarding experience on the hill was what we euphemistically called, “just a bit firm”. Actually, more like bulletproof with “death cookies” (another technical ski-only term) mixed in.

Just two weeks ago, the snow was getting thin, bare spots were finally opening up in my yard, the battle- scarred doves were gathering every morning after a tough winter on hawk alert, the boys on the bench at the general store were talking about “tappin’ the sap”, and the temp most days was actually creeping into the 30’s.

For me, spring was definitely peeking around the corner reawakening images of what the outside deck and gardens used to look like five months ago and started getting me excited about mucking around ankle deep in the mud of early spring gardening.

Then came the back-to-back storms two weeks ago which dropped four plus feet of heavy wet snow and required the front end loaders to plow out the driveway creating 10 foot piles of snow blocking out the light on the bottom floor of the house. We’re back into the thick of another month of winter in the mountains. 30 miles south in The Big City of Brattleboro, there’s no snow-zero, zippo, nada. Here in the hills, it’s waist high in the backyard. In like a lion, I guess, and, right now, I’m desperately searching for that lamb.

Assessing the overall winter since January, until two weeks ago, it wasn’t too bad. The temps have not been brutal. Very few days below zero, and only a couple below -10 mornings on the hill. The woodpile has held up-in fact too well, and it looks like I’ll spend the better part of an April Saturday hauling two cords back into the woods to season for another year. Before this recent storm, the glorious Vermont mud had begun to ooze out of the road completely engulfing my car resulting in early Monday morning car washes as the first item on my agenda in my weekly commutes to Boston. All in all, it’s been a pretty good start to the year.

The same goes for our business, and I would confidently say the same for the businesses of every one of our customers. Is everyone out of the woods yet? Absolutely not. Does everyone know where the bottom is? Absolutely yes. Is this the new normal? Definitely not. It’s going to be a long recovery, but it will get better in 2011.

What this past six months has provided is a strong conviction that a seasoned management team can create positive results in an unknown environment. Typically that achievement has come about as a result of very detailed planning, a stronger-than-ever consolidation and integration of the team, and a return to the basics of Sales and the overall operating of the business.

My expectation is that Q2 is going to result in more of the same, but since we’re far from having a robust economy, and we’re all living under the Damocles sword of crushing federal debt, we’ve posted a couple of tactics in the accompanying column which may be helpful as you plan for next quarter.

In the meantime, good luck in closing Q1 on Plan !