The Scandinavian vacationsPosted: September 12, 2007
Every summer I run into the same phenomenon of "summer vacations". In dealing with Europeans you have to accept the fact that everything shuts down for a full month. For the Nordics that month is July, before the fall rains begin. For central and southern Europe that period tends to be August, when it is a bit cooler.
The myth in Europe is that US employees only have a few weeks of vacations each year, where as the Europeans have four to five. After working for a few years at a company the US employee has the equal ability to take a European style summer vacation, but chooses not to. US employees rather spread out their vacation days through out the year in smaller increments. This helps to stay refreshed throughout the year and doesn’t leave long gaps of inactivity.
How can a company say that they are serious global player, when they feel they can afford to virtually shut down all operations for a full month? As an example, the US federal government closes it’s fiscal year at the end of the third quarter, making the summer months the most lucrative for sales. When a federal sales rep needs help the most the vital resources at European HQ’s are not available. US corporations start budgeting for the next fiscal year in early Q4. The last chance to prospect for the following year’s budget cycle is during the summer months. It takes a few months to set up a road tour of meetings and it will take a good month to move to a pilot. No one is going to start a pilot after mid November.
Projects in Europe are generally postponed until late August. No new initiatives are started after the beginning of July. For Europeans summer vacations are untouchable and only the die hard read emails during their time off.
My advice to US companies entering European markets is to take this phenomenon into consideration when writing up your sales budgets and when evaluating sales forecasts for the summer months. Making big announcement during July and August is a waste. For Europeans looking to enter US markets my advice is not to shut down during the HQ’s vacation period, but to maintain the needed staffing to support your global operations… maintain the momentum. The summer months are key prospecting months for fall sales. Build programs during spring time to be run locally during the summer months. Don’t plan any major product launches before the vacations. They are always rushed and the time lag to fixing x.0 version bugs will be too long. Remember your global sales team will be pushing, piloting and feeling the pain while you are enjoying your "summer vacation".