A little Black Friday history. 

The earliest known use of the term “Black Friday” occurs in the journal Factory Management and Maintenance in 1951 referring to the practice of workers to call in sick the day after Thanksgiving in order to have a 4-day holiday.  Around the same time, the terms were used by police in Philadelphia and Rochester to describe the terrible traffic congestion and crowds starting the Christmas shopping season.

The use of the phrase spread slowly.  It first appeared in The New York Times on November 29, 1975, referring to the “busiest shopping and traffic day of the year” in Philadelphia.  And even though the use of the term spread, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1985 that retailers in Cincinnati and Los Angeles were still unaware of the term!

Over the years, there have been attempts to rebrand Black Friday into more positive terms such as “Big Friday,” but much like the UAV industry attempting to stop the widespread use of the term “drone,” alternate terms never caught on. 

You don’t need me to tell you about how the Black Friday idea has morphed from stores opening a few hours early on Friday to 4 AM to midnight and backing opening times right up against your turkey dinner.

And my inbox!  If my inbox is to be trusted, the start of the “Black Friday” shopping season has been well underway for a few weeks.  Online retailers forgot to wait for Cyber Monday this year.

Retailers, big and small, box stores and online, are offering deep discounts, doorbuster items/limited amount items, extended hours, amped-up marketing and email campaigns to maintain an edge (or to just try to keep up with the competition).  Businesses are trying to squeeze the most they can out of a limited shopping season.

And isn’t this what we are all trying to do in the wild west of the unmanned and robotics industry?  Squeeze the most we can out of limited resources?  Limited funding.  Limited customers.  And, primarily, limited people.  You need to hire additional talented people, but in the meantime, you still need to get the most productivity out of the team you currently have in place.

What lessons can we learn from Black Friday?

Be creative.  Offer incentives.  Vary your hours.  Use technology.  Acknowledge the stress.  Make work fun! 

Whether you prefer to elbow your way to the front of the crowds or catch the deals while lounging in your pajama pants on your laptop, there’s a different energy to shopping this time of year.  Let’s use these lessons to create different energy in our work environments so we all finish with a strong 2019!

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