Groundhog Day: a Business Lesson?

Groundhog, eatingGroundhog Day. It’s a quaint little superstition we still entertain, despite our modern, scientific outlook. We decide that if some specific groundhog comes out of its burrow and doesn’t see its shadow on this day (i.e., it’s cloud), then spring is right around the corner. Whereas, if it does see its shadow, we’ve still got six more long weeks left of winter.

This superstition stems, I suspect, primarily from the fact that we find January so depressing after all the hype of the December holiday season. We’re sitting deep in the dungeon of winter, and yearn for something – anything – to promise that we won’t be stuck there forever. But why the groundhog? Why don’t we look for signs from a shooting star, or the flip of a tarot card?

I think the groundhog has stuck in our psyche because it’s firmly embedded in nature. We don’t see the groundhog experience as “chance,” but feel like that small animal is just one part of a harmonious, natural whole. After all, animals seem to “know” the seasons in ways we don’t. Their coats thicken in preparation for cold weather. They gather nuts or fatten up to get ready for hibernation. Despite all our scientific knowledge and manipulations, we still, underneath it all, trust that nature is somehow wiser than us.

But once we turn from superstitions like Groundhog Day and get back to our real lives – say, in our business dealings – we’ve stepped away from nature. We’ve gone back to our artificial, manipulated world.

Or…have we?

Does nature still have anything to teach us, even in our business dealings?

I think it does. I think we need to remind ourselves that as we look for customers, we’re not dealing with demographics, statistics, or target markets. We are dealing with people. And if we are to be really effective in the services we provide, we must work with people and respond to how they really are. Even if we wish they were different, it is a violation of integrity – and even of nature – if we try to manipulate them for our own convenience.

What will bring people running to use our services and buy our products is our ethical, human treatment of them. Answering real needs with organic, human solutions that fit real, very human people as they really are.

This is something we all need reminders about, from time to time. Probably a lot oftener than once a year, but Groundhog Day is a good time to re-evaluate how we approach potential clients.

And if the Groundhog sees its shadow and dashes back to its burrow, leaving us buried in six more months of cold, dark winter — maybe it’s hinting that we’ve still got a lot to learn about working with nature rather than against it.