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    Published on: September 10, 2008

    Content Guy’s Note: Last year, MorningNewsBeat had the privilege of posting a guest column by the well-known consultant and motivational speaker Art Turock in which he wrote about his experience at USC’s fantasy camp for over-the-hill-but-still-willing football players, and spoke about some of the business lessons he learned there. Well, Art apparently is a glutton for both punishment and enlightenment – not necessarily in that order – because he attended the camp again this year and came back with some new ideas and revelations.

    We’re thrilled that Art wanted to share his thoughts exclusively with the MorningNewsBeat community…and since we’re just at the beginning of the football season, this seemed like a good week to do it…

    Last month, I embarked on my annual pilgrimage to play in the USC Trojan Flashback Football Camp, an opportunity to participate in a culture committed to pursuing great achievement, and to fortify my denial of my status as an aging Baby Boomer. Flashback Camp provides an authentic experience for players (average age 25-45), to live the daily routine of a Trojan football player, from practice field drills, classroom strategy sessions, and playing at the LA Memorial Coliseum.

    Following my first Camp, I began delivering a speech/seminar on “What It Takes to Be Great: Self-Management, Coaching, and Culture-Shaping Practices for Producing Breakthrough Performance,” especially for supermarket managers and CPG sales professionals. Consequently, this year I arrived intent on picking the UCC coaches’ brains to understand their culture-shaping process.

    "There is a way to have great discipline, and have great intensity and have people compete on a level that is hard to match and enjoy every minute of it,” says Pete Carroll, Head Football Coach. On the surface, this outlandish statement captures Carroll’s coaching philosophy. He embellishes this philosophy with unwavering principles like “always compete,” which to many businesspeople rings like an unhealthy, hyper-pressurized workplace, and “win forever,” which sounds wildly unrealistic. However, when a team wins 85 percent of its games over seven years, this philosophy commands attention from aspiring high achievers.

    Managers who dismiss USC’s philosophy as impractical, also risk discounting a body of research on conditions that produce elite and expert performance in fields like surgery, sports, performing arts, writing, firefighting, and financial planning. Turns out that achieving greatness has no shortcuts, but requires rigorous practice and summoning a level of effort that “wanna -be” great performers consider unreasonable—precisely the type of philosophy espoused by Pete Carroll.

    The elite performance research concludes that experts are made, not born. While superior talent may launch an initial spurt of unusual accomplishments, many genetically-gifted individuals eventually fall behind less naturally-endowed colleagues who constantly engage in “deliberate practice.” Deliberate practice departs from the way most business people treat practice - mere repetition of what we already do well or have fun doing. In contrast, deliberate practice focuses on mastering tasks beyond one’s current level of competence and comfort and with the relentless intent to improve the current skill set and expand skills.

    In study-after-study, these elements of deliberate practice are validated:

    • Commit to the long haul, without demanding shortcuts. Greatness takes time, approximately ten years or more in most fields.

    • Approach each practice occasion with an explicit goal of making small performance improvement.

    • Get plenty of unflinchingly thorough feedback from a coach/trainer. Imagine a deli clerk who gets nightly sales results following her PA announcements to publicize special buys, and then listens to a recording of the presentations while her manager offers feedback.

    • Practice regularly not sporadically. Many professional skills can be practiced at work simply by holding the intention to continuously improve rather than going through the motions. Delivering sales presentations, negotiating a deal, sharing performance appraisals, order selecting in a warehouse with speed being measured, all can be practiced.

    • Reinvent practice regimens in ways that seem to require unreasonable effort or invite risks of failure, when performance plateaus. Imagine a CPG company reinventing the customary Top-to-Top Meeting protocol, by replacing the 6-month progress monitoring review in favor of inquiring into vital issues for which neither party has solid solutions, and require deeper collaborative study and innovative thinking. Far riskier to break with precedent and maybe look inept. But great performers fear they won’t get better far more than they fear making mistakes.

    Pete Carroll preaches, “Practice is everything,” and the team implements these five elements of deliberate practice. USC’s goal is create the ultimate high energy, spirited, and competitive practice of any sports team. A typical college football practice consumes 3 hours and ends with wind sprints to insure sufficient aerobic conditioning. USC practices are so well orchestrated and energetic that they compress 1hour 45 minutes to accomplish the teaching and conditioning objectives, with no closing wind sprints tacked on.

    Feedback is ongoing from USC coaches. For instance, in speed and acceleration drills, players instantly get their times for sprinting 10 or 20 yards, so they make adjustments within a given workout. Accordingly, any practice session becomes an occasion to improve just noticeably better in speed, strength, flexibility, play execution, where the cumulative effect means attaining the level of readiness and requisite capabilities for gridiron success.

    In studying game film, USC defensive coaches grade each player based on effort, production, technique, and fulfilling assignments. The defenses goal on any series is not to simply prevent an opponent’s first down, but to cause a fumble or interception. Individual players and the defensive unit are graded for desired results (takeaways) and undesired results (called “loafs” like failing to swarm toward the ball carrier, failure to administer a hard hit/tackle).

    Extraordinary practice plays a significant role in winning recruiting battles. After witnessing a USC practice, a vital message is unambiguously communicated among blue chip prospects - for players who desire the best opportunity for maximizing their football potential, there is no better choice than USC.
    Vital questions for you to answer with ruthless honesty:

    • How does your organization create such a rewarding professional development experience, so talented job candidates with lofty aspirations will seek the privilege of receiving profound support for their ongoing growth?

    • Which description sounds more like your organizational culture: a) Tolerate coasting so a 25-year veteran employee might be repeating their fifth year 20 times, OR b) Employ performance monitoring that requires continuously improving skills sets and expanding skill repertoires.

    • When you initiate a team sales presentation, do your colleagues have specific goals to improve performance? When you exit, do you immediately exchange feedback and analyze your thought process underlying significant choices? Do you elicit feedback from retail buyers and category managers?

    To receive a complimentary copy of the complete USC self-study white paper Art wrote for the USC Coaching staff that applies the elite performance research, with additional adaptations to business, call Art at 1-800-473-8997, or email him at:
    KC's View:
    It has been my experience that getting out of the office and immersing oneself in another discipline – and looking for metaphors that can help in the practice of one’s life and work – is rarely a waste of time. It’s one of the reasons I hit a local boxing gym at least three times a week…because the balance of power and speed and timing is critical not just to how one hits a heavy bag, but how one goes about pretty much everything else.

    I learned the same kind of lessons when I learned to drive a race car…an experience that I chronicled here, at:



    Published on: September 10, 2008

    The Financial Times reports that Walmart has plans to open one of its new small-format Marketside stores in San Diego – just two miles from a new Tesco small-forma Fresh & Easy store in Vista, California.

    Until now, Walmart had only confirmed that it was going to open four Marketside stores in the Phoenix area, and the company maintained that it was just a test. The first of the units are scheduled to open in just a few weeks. However, there have been reports – most of them from FT - that Walmart envisioned the Marketside fleet to eventually grow to more than a thousand and generate more than $10 billion in annual sales.

    FT suggests that Walmart at some level needs to play catch-up with Fresh & Easy. Despite mixed reviews in the media and from shoppers, Tesco has been opening the stores at a fast clip – there are 75 open at the present time, and plans are for the company to have several hundred up and running by the end of next year.

    Marketside has been described by Walmart as a 15,000 square foot store that will cater to “the needs of a time-starved, higher-income consumer that is interested in convenience and premium fresh, natural and organic offerings.” This would distinguish the format from the company’s Neighborhood Market format, which has always been more along the lines of a traditional supermarket.

    KC's View:
    And it isn’t just Tesco and Walmart. See the next story…

    Published on: September 10, 2008

    The New York Times this morning reports that “like cars and homes, grocery stores are beginning to shrink. After years of building bigger stores — many larger than a football field and carrying 60,000 items — retailers are experimenting with radically smaller grocery stores that emphasize prepared meals, fresh produce and grab-and-go drinks.

    “The idea is to lure time-starved shoppers who want to pick up a few items or a fast meal without wandering long grocery aisles or paying restaurant prices.”

    In addition to Tesco’s Fresh & Easy and Walmart, companies building small stores include Safeway, Jewel-Osco, and Giant-Eagle…and even Whole Foods is reported to be considering a smaller store concept.

    According to the Times story, “The big grocery chains are not thinking about closing their larger stores, which have been a success. But they hope to capture new business with the smaller stores, appealing to consumers on days when they do not have time for a long shopping trip.”

    KC's View:
    Not only that, but the small store formats can help companies get around the objections that some communities have to big box stores.

    The modern customer wants what she wants, when she wants it, how she wants it, where she wants it, at a price she believes is appropriate. It simply makes sense for retailers to offer a variety of options, ranging from different-sized stores to online shopping…because to not offer a variety of venues is to concede at least some opportunities to another retailer.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that…there is such a thing, after all, as the intelligent loss of business. But for many of these retailers, it isn’t an option.

    Published on: September 10, 2008

    In Massachusetts, the Patriot Ledger reports that Ahold-owned Stop & Shop has withdrawn its trademark infringement lawsuit against Whole Foods, saying that the matter had been “resolved amicably.”

    Last July, Stop & Shop filed suit against Whole Foods, accusing the natural/organic foods grocer of stealing its “Real Deal” ad campaign and promotional strategy, which Stop & Shop was using to highlight discounted items in its stores.

    According to the suit, Stop & Shop and its sister chain, Giant Food, launched its “Real Deal” campaign in May, while Whole Foods rolled out its version in June.

    After the litigation was initiated, Whole Foods renamed its campaign “The Whole Deal,” which laid the groundwork for a resolution to the dispute.

    KC's View:
    The Dalai Lama says that “if you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.”

    It’s good to know that Stop & Shop and Whole Foods are paying attention.

    Published on: September 10, 2008

    Westport, Connecticut, has become the first town in New England to ban the handing out of plastic shopping bags by stores, though residents are allowed to use their own plastic bags. The ban does not cover small plastic produce bags or large plastic garbage bags. It goes into effect in six months.

    Merchants found to be violating the ordinance will be fined $150, and the law encourages the use of reusable bags.

    The Hartford Courant reports that most stores in Westport already provide or sell reusable tote bags, and notes that “San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and the island of Maui, Hawaii, have various forms of a ban. A law setting a price on the bags in Ireland has drastically reduced their use there. China, Australia and Germany also require merchants to charge for the bags.”

    KC's View:
    I was talking to a New England retailer the other day who told me that plastic bag usage is down 20 percent in his stores since the introduction of canvas bags – and, perhaps more importantly, since signs were put up in the parking lot reminding people to bring their canvas bags. The impact is going right to the bottom line…so this isn’t just about environmental purity or ecological altruism.

    More and more, when I bring my canvas bags into various stores, I look around and see that the people in front of me, behind me and in adjacent aisles are using canvas bags.

    Published on: September 10, 2008

    The Los Angeles Times reports on what appears to be the salvation of Corti Brothers, the Sacramento gourmet grocery icon that looked like it was going to be forced out of its location and replaced by “Good Eats,” a gourmet bistro-market partly owned by Michael Teel, the former Raley’s CEO.

    According to the Times, “A petition to keep the store in its current location was started and quickly amassed almost 1,500 signatures. Mayor Heather Fargo got involved in the effort. Then, when a who's who of the area's chefs gathered last week for a press conference to protest the closing, the event turned instead into a celebration when it was announced that the seemingly unprepossessing market -- home base of Darrell Corti, chief provisioner of the 1970s California food revolution -- would remain where it is, at least for now.

    “The competing gourmet business that had leased the building even took out an ad in the Sacramento Bee to announce it was abandoning the site and to explain its side of the story.”

    The key, the Times says, is the store’s unabashed commitment to being a food store. “Corti's role in the food world went well beyond mere merchant. He is deeply knowledgeable on a wide variety of culinary topics and always willing to share that knowledge. For many food lovers, before there was Google, there was Darrell … Corti is a true connoisseur -- always discriminating but never snobbish.”

    KC's View:
    I love stores like these, but let me sound a sober refrain for just a moment.

    Reprieves only come every so often. I’m not entirely sure why such an institution would find itself to be at risk. At some level, it seems to be because Corti’s business acumen is not as sharp as his knowledge of food.

    But to stay viable in 2008 and beyond, you have to be good at both, you have to be able to marry business smarts with food intelligence.

    Published on: September 10, 2008

    Responding to Michael Sansolo’s column yesterday about Google, MNB fave Glen Terbeek wrote:

    One reason for Googles success is that they expect employees to spend 20% of their time on any project that they believe will help the company long term. So 80% of their time is doing their normal work, and the rest is exploring new ideas. Sounds like a good idea.

    Maybe the supermarkets could learn from this!

    On the subject of the FTC scheduling an administrative hearing into Whole Foods’ acquisition of Wild Oats for next February – a year and a half after the deal was closed – and my comment that the FTC seems like a rabid dog with a hunk of raw meat, one MNB user wrote:

    They are delusional. The only other explanation besides that one: Someone is greasing some palms somewhere. These are the only two explanations that would motivate this action and waste of tax dollars.

    Lots of reaction to yesterday’s piece about Aldi. One MNB user wrote:

    Having been in the grocery business 41 years and working for the supermarket, club and mass trades, I would tell you that Aldi is what Price Club was in the 70-80's. Aldi has done a great job of staying under everyone's radar just as Price Club did in the early days. Aldi more the Tesco will be the 3 largest chain and will have some pretty good quality in the next 5-8 years.

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    Last year I was on a plane next to a man who designs shopping centres in Holland. He explained that they always want an Aldi and an Albert Hein to drive traffic in each development. That way shoppers can come to Aldi for the prices and to Albert Hein for the things that Aldi doesn’t stock.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Right now, Walmart seems to reaping the benefit of the loss-of-home-equity induced economic slowdown. With their home as a piggy bank, people felt prosperous and thought they deserved the niceties of places like Target and Starbucks. The piggy bank is gone and , so far, Walmart is the big beneficiary. It would seem logical that a hard discounter like Aldi should also benefit. After all, where does the life loyal Walmart shopper go to save money ? Aldi, unlike its sibling Trader Joe’s, doesn’t seem to worry about things like “shopping experience,” “category depth” and “brands”. It is a bare bones shopping environment that basically says, “you just get the basics, but they’re really cheap”. It was a formula born in Germany as it emerged from the rubble of the Second World War. Given that we are in another stressful time, it may be a formula whose time has come, again.
    KC's View: