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    Published on: June 17, 2008

    by Michael Sansolo

    There’s probably not a thing I do in life as well as Phil Mickelson plays golf, so it’s hard or me to criticize an athlete with his level of skills. But every now and again, athletes say and do things that just remind all of us in business of the thin line between good and great or victory and defeat.

    Unless you have been living on Mars for the past week, you are probably aware that Tiger Woods just won another major golf tournament. It wasn’t so much that he won it; it was how he did it. Grimacing in pain after many shots thanks to recent knee surgery, Tiger managed to win when it was clear he was struggling to play his best.

    Even if you hate golf, you owe it to yourself to watch Tiger.

    And along the way, you have to watch Phil Mickelson. Mickelson is arguably the second best golfer on the planet, which is no small feat. He makes shots that others can’t even imagine and plays with a level of excellence and flair way beyond nearly all his peers and far beyond us mere mortals.

    So it struck me that at the beginning of this recent tournament he reviewed the golf course by predicting no player would get a score close to even par. (For the non-golfers out there, par is the score you get if you play the course exactly as designed. Playing below par is golf is a good thing because you took fewer shots.)

    Much as he predicted, Michelson struggled to get close to even par. Had his prediction been correct, he might have won the tournament. Instead he finished 19th. Golf fans might blame it on specific bad choices he made on the course, but the bottom line is this: he performed exactly to the level he predicted it would take to win. And he lost.

    Tiger (and one other golfer) shot better than par. I don’t recall any predictions from Tiger. His predictions are usually pretty limited and his results are anything but. For Tiger, the impossible always seems possible. No doubt it has a great deal to do with training, discipline, practice and unnatural person gifts. And no doubt, Mickelson has all these same traits. He probably practices and trains just as hard.

    It’s highly unlikely that Mickelson actually lived up to his prediction, but then again, that’s what self-fulfilling prophecies are all about. How often in business do we approach problems by carefully measuring all the things we know can’t happen? How often do we start out with diminished expectations of success? And then, how often do we achieve exactly what we expected?

    I was reminded of this by a pretty bright operator recently, who was bemoaning a discussion he had with some fellow retailers. These other retailers, he said, have basically given up, deciding they no longer can compete with today’s competitors or keep pace with the rush of challenges they have each day. Instead, they are just playing out the string instead of trying to improve.

    In short, they are beaten before they start. They’ve looked at the odds and determined that they will lose.

    Whatever criticism you could have a Phil Mickelson, he never plays to lose. In fact he usually plays great. It’s just sometimes he seems to forget what he’s up against.

    It makes you wonder if the same can be said for all of us. To paraphrase the ads for one major consultant: ask yourself, are you a Tiger…or a Phil?

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at .
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 17, 2008

    The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the rains and floods that have ravaged the American Midwest also are resulting in high corn prices. According to the story, “the floods have the dual effect of reducing supply from damaged acreage and intensifying demand as nations that need grain rush orders to ensure they have enough.”

    The paper notes that “corn prices reached records Monday at the Chicago Board of Trade as Midwestern floods caused investors to bet the market will head higher to the detriment of consumers … At the CBOT, corn futures for December delivery shot up nearly 4 percent to approach the $8 per bushel mark for settling back unchanged for the day at $7.65. The July corn contract also gave up the day's gains before finishing less than a penny higher at $7.324.

    “The price of corn is up 20 percent this year and more than 80 percent over the last 12 months. Monday's session was the eighth straight of record corn prices at the CBOT. After the market's close, the USDA issued a report saying the condition of the nation's corn and soybean crops deteriorated from the prior week. The agency said 57 percent of the corn crop was in good or excellent condition as of Sunday, down from 60 percent a week earlier and from 70 percent for the same time last year.”

    KC's View:
    Sounds bad, but not nearly as awful as what the families are dealing with in the Midwest…as so many people watch their homes, jobs and lives get washed away.

    Published on: June 17, 2008

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Tyson Foods is suing the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), charging that the government’s decision to stop it from claiming that its chickens are raised without the use of antibiotics was arbitrary and capricious.

    According to the story, “Earlier this month, the USDA required Tyson to remove its hot selling Raised Without Antibiotics chicken label after the department said the company was using antibiotics in its hatcheries two to three days before the chicks were hatched. The USDA concluded that Tyson's chicken was therefore not raised without antibiotics … Tyson contends that the USDA is misinterpreting the word ‘raised’ to mean chicken that was raised with antibiotics ‘in ovo,’ or ‘in the shell before hatching.’ Instead, Tyson says the correct interpretation of the word ‘raised’ should mean ‘the period between hatching and slaughter’.”

    The USDA previously had approved the use of the label, and then reversed itself. Tyson has said it will not use the label until the rules are clearer…and the lawsuit seems aimed at forcing the government to be specific and accurate in its definitions.

    Meanwhile, Tyson itself is being sued by two competitors – Perdue and Sanderson Farms – that claim its advertising of the antibiotic-free chickens has been false and misleading, costing the two companies millions of dollars in sales.

    KC's View:
    In terms of simple English, Tyson would appear to be correct. But if we are actually talking about scientific and regulatory jargon…then, who knows?

    Published on: June 17, 2008

    Retail Week reports that as Tesco tweaks its Fresh & Easy format in the western US during its voluntary three-month time out – which was instigated after it had opened some 60 stores in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona – the goal is to create a “warmer” shopping environment that has better lighting, more color and better signage.

    Fresh & Easy reportedly plans to open a new store on July 2 in Manhattan Beach, California, that will reflect the changes.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 17, 2008

    Excellent piece in the LA Times in which Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s who built it from a single store in Santa Barbara in 1970 to a chain with more than a thousand locations that was sold to FedEx for $2.4 billion in 2004, bemoans the fact that the new owners are changing the chain’s name from FedEx Kinko’s to FedEx Office.

    Saying that the decision hit him hard, Orfalea says that Kinko’s used to be about "shared power, shared profits, and shared knowledge," but that the Kinko’s he created "has been gone for a very long time."

    KC's View:
    My perception would be that Kinko’s – while it remains a vital concept for small businesses – has lost more than a few steps since FedEx acquired it. And if FedEx thinks that changing the name will rescue the brand, it is sadly mistaken…because changing the name just further diminishes whatever brand equity and consumer loyalty remain.

    It should be pointed out, in all fairness, that Orfalea made the sale and, I assume, cashed the check. So I don't feel too sorry for him.

    But it always is a shame to watch the decline of a once-great brand.

    Other retail brand names should pay close attention. And learn.

    Published on: June 17, 2008

    • Chalk up another exclusive artist contract for Wal-Mart. Teen singing sensation Taylor Swift reportedly will release a new CD/DVD called “Beautiful Eyes” exclusively through Wal-Mart on July 15.

    Swift’s first CD sold more than three million copies.

    KC's View:
    I have to admit that I really like listening to Taylor Swift. But since she’s 18, and I’m 53, I somehow feel weird about downloading her songs.

    So I listen to her on my daughter’s iPod.

    Published on: June 17, 2008

    • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Coca-Cola plans to start “testing new bottle shapes for the 2-liter versions of its most popular soft drinks in a pilot program starting Monday in Chattanooga and Birmingham.

    “All Coca-Cola trademark brands, such as Coke Classic, Diet Coke and Coke Zero, will be available in a version of their ancestral contoured bottles. Meanwhile, Sprite will be sold in bottles with the original ‘dimple’ shape and sodas like Fanta and Fresca will be packaged in larger versions of their traditional packaging.”

    The company said that initial testing has shown that shoppers prefer the new shapes … and now it is going to market to see if those tests were accurate.

    CNN reports that McDonald’s announced yesterday that it plans to return sliced tomatoes to its menu items during the next 10 days, saying that it is convinced that while federal authorities have not yet identified the source of tomato-related salmonella poisoning that sickened more than 200 people, enough is known to be able to choose safe tomatoes and assure customers that they won’t get ill.

    • Delhaize Group announced yesterday that it is becoming a member of the AMS buying alliance, which is described as “sourcing commodities on a European and global scale,” with the objective being “to deliver its members the best possible quality products at the best possible price.”

    The decision takes effect in January 2009. Until then, Delhaize Group remains a partner of European Marketing Distribution (EMD), the European buying alliance it joined in 2001.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the Illinois State Medical Society is pushing for legislation there that would restrict the growth and operation of in-store medical clinics. The bill would require special permits, curb advertising and mandate more physician involvement, according to the story, which notes that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opposed the legislation as being anticompetitive.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 17, 2008

    • Sam's Club has named Dex McCreary, Wal-Mart’s national wine buyer, to be its Merchandise Director of Wine, Beer and Spirits.

    • The California Grocers Association (CGA) announced that Karla Seijas has joined the organization’s government relations department as Manager, Government Relations. Seijas came to CGA from the Consulate General of Israel office in Los Angeles, where she was a community affairs specialist and political aide.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 17, 2008

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 17, 2008

    As alluded to above in Sansolo Speaks, Tiger Woods won his third US Open yesterday in an 18-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate that ended in a tie, and finally went to a 19th hole that Woods won by making par.
    KC's View:
    I don't hate golf. I just know nothing about it and don't play. But I have to admit to being glued to the coverage yesterday, with my stomach tied in knots during the back nine and then the final hole…watching as Mediate, a journeyman player, kept coming back for more…and then as Woods, playing hurt, refused to be anything less than great.

    I was shocked by my reaction. But I enjoyed the experience immensely.

    Published on: June 17, 2008

    I’m leaving for Munich, Germany, today, where I will be providing exclusive reporting and commentary from the annual CIES World Food Business Summit. As always, MNB will be filed each day….the time zones will be in my favor, so hopefully there won’t be any interruption of service.

    But I wanted you to know about the trip in advance. Just in case.
    KC's View: