Posted December 20, 2023

An unexpected encounter with a jolly friend

In early December, I was in Fort Worth Texas for a Distributor Advisory Council meeting. My early flight landed me in town about six hours ahead of the meeting time. Waiting for early check-in, I relaxed at the hotel cafe, sipping coffee, checking emails, and prepping for my meeting.

Santa flying over a city

I grew restless after about an hour as the sights of downtown Fort Worth beckoned me. As I walked, I was drawn to the brass plaques and historical motif pictures near my art deco-style hotel. The weather was a beautiful 60 degrees and there was an astonishing number of others out enjoying the day––so “people watching” was the order of the day.

I approached a lovely square with a giant decorated Christmas tree. The area was abuzz with folks making their way to the shops and offices dotting each of the streets coming into the area. It was an interesting cityscape.

Glancing down one of these side streets, something caught my attention. Off in the distance, I saw someone I would characterize as “straight out of Lonesome Dove” and cowboy to the core. He wore a big broad-brimmed cowboy hat, boots, a Western-cut coat, and a large rodeo-style belt buckle. The Western theme is probably an everyday style in parts of Texas, but this look was unusual. The boots and hat were blazing fire truck red.

Adjusting my glasses for a better view, I noticed this fellow had longer white hair. Understanding that Fort Worth has interesting and notorious characters, with its historic stockyards and oil field millionaires, I did a quick check of my surroundings.

The area seemed safe and respectable. The guy was only about a block away so I thought I could probably catch up with him before he ducked into a building or headed down another side street. I moved into a quick walk, then accelerated to a bit of a jog. I came closer as he turned down a side street. I moved even quicker.

I caught up with him, and he suddenly did a quick about-face and greeted me by name saying, “Hey Frankie boy, you are kind of huffing and puffing. What’s up with this jogging stuff? Have you finally decided to get yourself into shape?” I am not sure if it was his long white beard or the familiar voice, but I instantly realized that I was face-to-face with Santa Claus.

Stunned? Surprised? You bet I was. I blurted out, “Santa, I didn’t recognize you with the hat and boots. What are you doing in Texas?” Santa gave me the look; you know the one. It could best be summed up as, the “Are you drunk or just stupid?” glance. But Santa was understanding. He explained that Texas deserved his attention and pointed out that our first meeting took place in the toy section of Foley’s Department Store in Houston.

After an awkward moment, Santa invited me to join him for a quick chat in an obscure coffee shop around the corner. As we made our way to the back table, I found it a bit surreal that no one even noticed my strangely dressed friend. It was either magic or the locals were used to seeing Santa and thought nothing of the experience. Further, without ordering, the waitress automatically placed two cups of steaming hot chocolate in front of us.

Our conversation went like this:

Me: Santa, pardon me for sneaking up on you, but you seemed a bit out of place without the big chair, and elfin helpers around.

Santa: Well, Frankie boy (he always calls me that), believe it or not there are lots of nice children in Texas and even Santa needs a bit of exercise before a long day of listening to kids ask for Switch games and Squishmallows. But our meeting was not purely chance, I was looking for you.

Me: Looking for me?

Santa: Yep, I noticed you were heading south for a meeting and decided to look you up.

Me: Why Santa, did I do something? Did I find my way onto the naughty list again?

Santa: Ho, Ho, Ho – not the Naughty or Nice question again. I know what you are up to and wanted to use you as my personal conduit to all your distributor friends.

Me: Well Santa, your wish is my command. What’s up?

Santa: I can’t help but notice a lot of distributors are struggling to find good help. And this is a problem that your pal Santa has faced for years.

Me: Santa, I thought the elves had you pretty much covered on the helper end. How is this an issue with your organization?

Santa: Do you know how hard it is to find an experienced toymaker up at the North Pole? Or someone who has experience with the modern electronic stuff all the kids are asking for? We are perpetually plagued with worker shortages. Getting a knowledgeable Naughty and Nice List Manager is a real issue with millions of children, ever-changing conditions, and don’t forget the dozens of languages needed. Some days, it’s enough to make retirement and sunny beaches look like the way to go.

Me: Santa, I thought all that happened by magic.

Santa: Magic, are you kidding me? You sound like a lot of those distributor friends of yours. For some reason, they think something magic is going to happen in their business.

Me: Santa, it sounds like we have a common problem, but what’s your advice?

Santa: Let me spell it out for you. P – R – O – C – E- S -S.

Me: Process?

Santa: Yes, there must be a process to efficiently get new people, or in my case, elves up to speed.

Processes have three important points: written documentation, coaching points, and measures of success. Armed with a process, new elves can be successful in a shorter time with fewer cookie breaks. Back when we didn’t use a process it often took 50 years for a new elf to learn how to manage incoming mail and dozens of years just to get the electric train assembly down right. Plus, we could never quite tell where they were in their education. The whole thing was frustrating enough to drive me to the bourbon-spiked eggnog bowl.

Me: Geeze Santa, that does sound like the predicament at many distribution companies. Tell me more.

Santa: Most folks don’t realize processes are interactive. That means the Naughty and Nice process helped with those piles of crayon stains called “letters” to Santa. Why even bother reading a long-winded letter from a known naughty-lister? We could also streamline our inventory using a process involving the letters. Why stock kewpie dolls when the early letters to the North Pole, thanks to that darn movie, were wall-to-wall Barbie?

Me: Santa, that makes great sense. In distribution, a sound pricing process interacts with customer segmentation, which makes e-commerce work better.

Santa: Ho, Ho, Ho – Now you’re talking my kind of language. Now, get busy and share this with your distributor friends.

Me: Gotcha Santa. Anything else?

Santa: Before I get back to the chair down at the mall, let me tell you this. That new book of yours really sets the stage by laying out a process for new sales guys.

Me: You mean The New Sales Guy Project?

Santa: You bet. I can see that showing up under the tree for a lot of the new sales managers even if they are on the Naughty List.

Me: Santa, tell your elves we have the printing covered. All they have to do is go to Amazon and search for that guy from the Nice list: Frank Hurtte.

Santa: Ho, Ho, Hmm – the Naughty or Nice question isn’t settled for sure, but the reports indicate I may be able to overlook things if you get the word out.

Me: Cut me some slack Santa… Please; pretty please?

As the last please flowed past my tongue, Santa was gone – red cowboy hat, boots, and all. He also stuck me with the bill for the hot chocolate and a six-pack of cookies to go. As I made my way back to the hotel, I heard a strange swoosh and a Merry Christmas echo through the streets of Fort Worth.

A couple of days later, as I returned to my office after the trip, I found a mysterious red bow on the door handle. That Santa guy gets around.

Want to Read More from Frank Hurtte about Sales and Process?

Frank will be writing about process in the inaugural edition of a new column called Wired for Sales appearing exclusively in Industrial Supply Magazine. Each subsequent edition of the magazine will feature Hurtte’s take on timely topics impacting the customer-facing side of distribution.

Look for “Wired for Sales” exclusively in Industrial Supply starting in the January-February issue.


Frank Hurtte

Straight talk, common sense and powerful interactions all describe Frank Hurtte. Frank speaks and consults on the new reality facing distribution. He is the author of, “Plan on Breaking Through – Strategic Planning for Accounts.” He is a new regular columnist for Industrial Supply magazine beginning January 2024. He can be reached at:, (563) 514-1104 or at