Published on: January 25, 2007To hear Kevin Coupe’s weekly radio commentary, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, or just go to:
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, your first stop for retail website design.
I am recording this from the annual Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Executive Conference in Orlando, Florida, where I’ve just spent a couple of days listening to a number of presentations. This is an event at which senior, c-level executives gather every year to discuss issues of change and leadership. If you’ve been reading my coverage the last few days, you’ll know that I’ve given many of the presenters good marks, with an A+ for Safeway’s Steve Burd, who blew me away with his speech about solving the national healthcare crisis.
At the risk of sounding cynical, I’d like to step back from the conference and note some of the major themes that were sounded:
• The food industry needs to pay better attention to the health and wellness of its employees and customers. In doing so, it is better if companies work together than separately.
• The most important challenge facing the industry is nurturing management talent, and senior executives have to embrace this responsibility if they are to develop organizations that are productive and people who have transformational leadership skills. To settle for less is to put their companies at risk.
• Because Americans are starting to pay more attention to the subject of sustainability – however this word is defined, and it can defined in many ways – retailers and manufacturers have to pay attention to it as well.
• Ethical behavior is better than non-ethical behavior.
• Stores should be laid out so that they are good for the customer, not good for the retailer and/or manufacturer.
• Finally, because women still do most of the shopping in America’s supermarkets, companies need to do a better job of leveraging the talents and insights that their female employees bring to the table.
I think it is fair to say that put in such stark and basic terms, none of these themes strike me as a take-your-breath away revelation. And while I’m certainly simplifying them, these were, in fact, the lessons that senior executives were meant to learn this week.
What worries me is that some of the companies represented in the room may actually have seen one or two of these as a breakthrough concept that needed to be examined and implemented by their people. With the possible exception of sustainability – which is pretty much a new concept here in the US, even though the notions of ethical sourcing and environmental conservation should be bedrock principles, not new-age theories – every one of these points should be foundational values on which the industry is built, and that serve as a launching pad from which to explore and cater to the 21st century consumer.
The question, I think, is whether the food industry is a 21st century industry. Not just in its use of technology, but in its willingness to reinvent the business model, to revolutionize its organizations, and to take the kind of chances necessary to succeed in 2007 and beyond.
We have to dream larger dreams, think bigger thoughts, and make a greater reality.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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