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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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Sansolo Speaks: Different Strokes for Greater Success

by Michael Sansolo


We’re all loaded with opinions. Whether it’s Mac vs. PC, iPhone vs. Android, Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton (or Ben Carson vs. Bernie Sanders, or whoever), we know what we like and we believe our opinion is correct.

However, when it comes to successful business relationships, either with trading partners or customers, our likes and dislikes matter less. The reality is that we must work with our partners and sell to our customers even if they are carrying what I perceive as the wrong smart phone. Or even if they wear a Yankees cap.

Our personal styles and methods of communicating go way beyond opinion and choices. Some of our issues are built into our DNA. Unless we learn to work against our own type we’ll surround ourselves with only like-minded staff, serve only similar customers and our businesses will likely fail.

Connie Podesta, the rare speaker who combines stand up comedy with human resource guidance, offered a glimpse into the pitfalls of our powerful personality traits in her keynote session Monday at this year’s NACS Convention in Las Vegas.

Podesta’s approach was both funny and instructive. She asked audience members to select their preference among four shapes and then proceeded to assign key personality traits to each of the groups. One-by-one she showed how the members of each group would find themselves incredibly discomforted and put off by the traits and behaviors of other groups.

Her point was simple: we work with people of all types, including many whose styles really irritate us. Some of us demand punctuality, while others put a premium on creativity. Some of us like need lots of personal space in any discussion, while others are comfortable with casual contact.

Success, as she explained it, requires us to work through these issues and understand that our own approach isn’t the perfect or universally accepted one.

Her example is especially significant today as more generations than ever collide in the workplace, and again she used humor to make a point. Podesta, who is clearly a Baby Boomer, pulled a 20-something audience member on stage to show the difference in how the two generations tell time. Podesta was wearing two watches; the Millennial used her smart phone.

We might tell time differently, but we need to work together especially at a time when the skill sets of every generation are so different. (Another Podesta point: if you aren’t on social media and don’t use text messaging you have no chance of communicating with your staff, customers or family members from the younger generations.)

Understanding differences helps us understand how and why consumers behave so differently in the exact same conditions. In one workshop on Sunday at the NACS show, Lisa Wollon, head of consumer insights and brand strategy at Wawa, spoke about how her company is using data to better understand customer decisions.

Wollon showed how different specials offered on sandwich purchases yield highly different results depending on the store and the demographics of the shopper and how they perceive value. Her point is powerful: properly analyzed data can vastly improve results. Plus, careful attention to those same results can help companies recognize when a program isn’t working, which in turn can lead to a quicker change of strategy and less financial pain. (To quote a chapter from my book Business Rules, “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap.”)

Wollon also made the point that Wawa, a highly regarded company, looks for ideas everywhere, not just from other convenience stores or even simply other retailers.

To quote a Boomer era song: "Different strokes for different folks" are both essential and a great way to learn and grow. In fact, there’s really no choice.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.

Tuesday Morning Eye-Opener: Top Down Changes

by Kevin Coupe

Times really have changed.

The New York Times reports this morning that beginning next March, Playboy no longer will feature pictures of nude women. There will be photos of women in provocative poses, but the story says they will be largely PG-13.

To be clear, the decision is pragmatic, not moral. While Playboy pretty much created the notion of an adult magazine for men that included nudity, these days nudity isn't that hard to find - it is as close as any device that is connected to the internet. By adhering to an old formula, Playboy only appeared to be confirming its own irrelevance. In order to appear modern and relevant, the magazine needed to reinvent itself to appear to younger readers. That meant moving beyond the old business model.

And ironically, the Playboy website eliminated nudity more than a year ago.

In reading about the new Playboy, the magazine sounds like a combination of GQ, Esquire and Men's Health ... and it is hard to know whether this new approach will allow Playboy to succeed, or whether it will meet the fate of the old Playboy Clubs.

But the decision to eliminate nudity - the very thing that differentiated and defined the magazine when it started in 1953 - highlights a competitive reality that faces every company.

Reinvent, or risk death. Disrupt from within, or be disrupted by the competition.

It is, quite literally, an Eye-Opener.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

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From MyWebGrocer...

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Kroger To Offer Full Transgender Health Benefits

Forbes reports that Kroger has announced that it "will now offer its transgender workers full benefits, including surgery and drug therapy for gender reassignment, as part of its employee health plan," becoming, as the nation's fifth largest private employer in the US, "the largest retail chain to offer trans-inclusive health coverage to its workers."

According to the story, Kroger made the decision after consultations with its LGBT associate resource group.

The story also makes the point that Walmart, McDonald's, and Yum! Brands do not offer trans-inclusive health plans. And, Forbes writes, "While moves like Kroger’s could help tip the scales, transgender workers continue to face discrimination when it comes to securing equal benefits ... there are no laws banning health insurance discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in 41 states. And still, in 2015, 3 million gay and transgender adults live in states that offer no protection from workplace discrimination."

KC's View: Well, there ought to be such protections. And it won't be too many years, in my opinion, before our children will wonder why there were not.

Kudos to Kroger for this progressive decision which will make it an employer of choice not just for people in the LGBT community, but for people who want to be supportive of this community.

It is interesting that even as Kroger makes these sorts of decisions, there are other companies out there that are wondering if they should hire people with tattoos or people with piercings. I'm not saying that companies are wrong to be thinking about these things ... but I do think that it is amazing how far the country has come and how much it has changed. Amazing, and encouraging.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

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From ProLogic Retail Services...

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Survey: Millennials Grocery Shop, Prefer Private Label To Brands

Media Post has the results of a survey of Millennials, reporting that "84% of 18-32-year-olds grocery shop, and 56% of those who shop say they do most or all of the grocery shopping for their household. Four in ten tell us they are grocery shopping about once a week, and over 20% are going more than once a week."

In addition, the survey reveals that the responding millennials prefer private label products to virtually every national brand listed in the questions.

"'Store brand' or 'generic brand' were the top mentioned responses, and three store brands (Walmart/Great Value, Trader Joe's, and Kroger) also made the top ten list," the story says. "Their reasons for going with store brands is pretty clear: less cost for what they feel is the same quality ... Those who are not loyal to brands have a few reasons ... Some said that they don't have a favorite food brand because they mostly buy produce or proteins when they grocery shop ... Others aren't as aware of brand name as they are of health."

KC's View: I don't find this terribly surprising, since I think millennials generally have a different mindset toward almost everything than their elders. They just see the world differently, with little allegiance to traditional ways of doing and seeing things.

That's something that CPG manufacturers have to think about as they create and market products, and something that retailers need to think about as they create and market their stores.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

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A Note from the Content Guy:

For the past five weeks, MNB has featured videos in which respected industry leaders discuss the importance of immediately implementing procedures and policies to put their companies in compliance with regulations being issued by the FDA as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

It is important that industry leaders - like AWG's Jerry Garland - are behind this effort, because they understand that CEOs and General Counsels need to meet with their food safety teams and understand their responsibilities under FSMA. Companies have to be prepared to comply with the new rules and regulations, and C-level executives will be held responsible if they aren’t.

Now, we're providing all of these videos in one place ... and you can watch them below.

I'm glad we had the chance not just to provide these videos to the MNB audience, but to produce them ... recent events have demonstrated just some of the food safety problems that continue to face the industry. FSMA puts companies squarely on the spot, requiring them to be far more proactive in terms of record keeping as well as procedural and operational demands.

These are subjects that we talk about a lot on MNB ... and it is has been a nice fit that ReposiTrak decided to sponsor these videos, which focus on initiatives and technology endorsed by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Every company needs to be ready. Every executive needs to be ready. Now.

You can find out everything you need to know about your compliance requirements under the FSMA regulations, as well as info on the ReposiTrak solution, at

CEO Engagement Is Critical

For Whom The Blue Bell Tolls

Hope is Not A Strategy

Just The Beginning, Not The End

Retailers In A Bind

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Whole Foods Invests In West Coast Sandwich Chain

Reuters reports that Whole Foods has made " a minority investment in Mendocino Farms, an 11-unit, upscale sandwich chain known for its indulgent sandwiches and salads made from ingredients such as humanely raised, antibiotic-free pork."

The retailer did not reveal the size of the investment.

According to Reuters, "Mendocino Farms said the partnership will include testing Mendocino Farms venues inside select Whole Foods Market stores and new value-priced 365 by Whole Foods Market stores in California, as well as using the proceeds to prepare for its expansion into the San Diego and San Francisco Bay Area markets in late 2016."

David Lannon, executive vice president of operations at Whole Foods, said in a prepared statement that "Mendocino Farms is one of the best sandwich and salad concepts coming out of Southern California and we believe it’s one of the top emerging restaurant brands in the country. We are always looking at trends in the food industry, especially those that complement our existing offerings. Aside from offering delicious, high-quality products we think our customers will love, Mendocino Farms’ core values align well with our own, and that’s very important to us.”

KC's View: Whole Foods has had a bad few months, and at some level, this may be a way of spreading its bets around a little bit. I'm also intrigued by the idea that Whole Foods could brand the sandwich shops inside its new 365 format with an outside brand concept ... which would seem to be at odds with what they've said about the concept, and even the name, which is taken from its private brand line.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

There's Good News, And More Good News

From MNB, May 29, 2015:

USA Today reports this morning that "companies are scrambling to hold on to workers amid a tightening labor market and higher turnover, doling out bigger raises, expanding benefits and providing more training and other perks ... The U.S. unemployment rate last month fell from 5.5% to a near normal 5.4%, helping shift the labor market's balance of power to employees. In March, 2.8 million workers quit their jobs, largely to take other positions, the most since April 2008.

"Companies are responding. Wages, salaries and benefits jumped 2.6% in the first quarter, the most since 2008, according to Labor's Employment Cost Index."

This is just the beginning...and it is both good news and good news. It means that there is competition for great jobs at great companies, and that great people can find great opportunities. But they can't do it alone.

Samuel J. Associates currently is engaged in dozens of searches, matching exceptional talent to great companies that are both national and regional, chain and independent, bricks-and-mortar and online. And we have a singular reputation for identifying and recruiting winners - people who are focused, motivated, savvy and determined to excel.

If you are looking for a change, and for fresh opportunities to make a contribution and embrace new challenges, contact Samuel J. Associates today.

It's time to get to work.

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Antitrust Concerns Could Derail PetSmart Purchase Of Petco

Reuters reports that "PetSmart Inc's talks to acquire Petco Holdings Inc have stalled over disagreements about sharing the risk of getting the deal approved by U.S. antitrust authorities, people familiar with the matter said on Friday."

According to the story, "The risks for the deal, which would create a company that accounts for 30 percent of U.S. pet specialty supplies stores, stem largely from how the FTC would define this market.

"If the FTC chooses to restrict its definition to specialty pet retailers, the deal would likely require more concessions to the FTC. But if it also includes other retailers that sell pet supplies, such as Walmart Inc, or websites, such as, the market

KC's View: Again, as in the case with Staples and Office Depot, it seems to me that federal antitrust authorities have to begin to think about competition in terms other than the traditional. They can't fall back on old models, because it is the new business models that are finding prominence and determining the way that the competitive landscape is shaped.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

Happy With Your Digital Marketing?

Webstop provides comprehensive grocery websites with advanced integration of mobile features, digital coupons and other award winning marketing tools for grocers. To talk to us, call 727.942.2797 or just email

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...


• Published reports say that Anheuser-Busch InBev has submitted yet another bid to acquire SABMiller - this one $410 million higher than the $104 billion informal bid that SABMiller rejected just last week.

• The Examiner reports on the slow but steady growth being experienced by ShopHouse, an Asian food fast casual restaurant owned and operated by Chipotle, which "has ten other locations throughout the U.S. and is slated to open two more in Illinois before 2016." It is seen by consumers, the Examiner writes, as "perfect for those looking for an alternative to the mystery meat found at the typical fast food joint."

The story notes that "using a similar serving format as Chipotle, ShopHouse allows customers to pick from Southeast Asian recipes or create their own custom bowls. However, the real draw for customers has to do with the actual ingredients. Offering entirely gluten-, wheat-, and dairy-free ingredients; the menu features meats free of hormones and antibiotics as well as food made with non-GMO ingredients."

Executive Suite

Fortune reports that Chipotle has hired Curt Garner, formerly Starbucks chief information officer, to be its new CIO.

KC's View: It'll be interesting if Chipotle starts to get as aggressive in its digital investments - and as successful - as Starbucks has been.

Your Views

... will return.

From The MNB Sports Desk

In the National League Divisional Series, the New York Mets spanked the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-7, while the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-6. This gives both the Mets and the Cubs a 2-1 advantage in their best-of-five series.

Over in the American League, the Kansas City Royals beat the Houston Astros 9-6, and the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers 8-4 ... which means that both series are tied at 2-2 each, with the teams scheduled to face off in fifth and deciding games on Wednesday.

And, in Monday Night Football, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the San Diego Chargers 24-20.

Finally, a word from our sponsor...

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The Reviews Keep Coming In...

"Your presentation was well-received, very thought-provoking and was a great lead-in to the overall theme of our show."  - Tim Myers, CMO, Affiliated Foods Midwest

"Your presentation was unbelievable – everything we hoped for and much, much more!  Thanks for making our customers (and us) better!"
- Joe Himmelheber, Director of Marketing and Merchandising, Caito Foods

"Both of your presentations kept the audience engaged ... This was a difficult subject, but you made it easy to understand - and learn from. Everyone who has not yet seen one of your presentations, should know how informative and to the point your program is and how it will definitely enhance their event. "
- John M. Dumais, president/CEO, New Hampshire Grocers Association

"Kevin is an engaging speaker who really brought the content to life.  He customized his program to meet our needs to ensure our event was a success!"
- Kim Richardson-Roach, Network of Executive Women (NEW), New England Region

"The response to this session was overwhelmingly positive. The audience appreciated the lively and enlightening exchange between the moderator and panelists ... the spark you added to the panel as moderator contributed to the flame of excitement this event engendered ... Thank you for helping ground the material in a reality readily recognized ..." - Leslie G. Sarasin, President/CEO, Food Marketing Institute (FMI)

With a uniquely fast-paced, provocative and entertaining approach, Kevin Coupe identifies the ways in which consumers are changing, the reasons behind these changes (technology, the economy, culture, demographics), how new and unorthodox competitors are altering the marketing landscape, and what companies need to do to find and exploit differential advantages.

Want to make your next event unique, engaging, illuminating and entertaining?

Start here: Or call Kevin at 203-662-0100.

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