retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Let’s give the “Emotional Maturity Award” to Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn, who said this week that he would not fire the Missouri store employee who made fun of the company and its customers in a series of videos posted on his website and on YouTube.

According to the Star Tribune, the videos made by Brian Maupin mocked what he perceived to be as blind and mindless trend followers in their allegiance to smart phones. Several mentioned Best Buy, but several did not. The ones that mentioned his employer have been taken down, while the others remain.

In a statement on his blog, CEO Dunn wrote that the "diverse experiences, opinions, passions and beliefs" of its workers are "vital to our future growth,:” but added: "At the same time, we need to let our company's values guide us in matters that directly involve Best Buy, our employees, customers and shareholders. The videos in question did not illustrate 'humility, respect and integrity,' and that's unacceptable to me, our customers and our employees. We are a values-based organization and I'm relentless on issues or situations that contradict our values."

Best Buy said that Maupin would not be fired, and that it is "important for us because it involved balancing our social media guidelines with a commitment to creating a supportive environment for our employees ... We're always looking at how our social media can evolve as technology and channels evolve.”

Ironically, Maupin is saying that he may take a leave of absence to consider his options before returning to work.

I believe that Best Buy is taking precisely the correct approach - drawing the line on what is acceptable and what is not, but acknowledging that technology and modern communication tools create new situations that have to be evaluated in context. Better to keep this guy on the payroll and figure out how to adapt his talents for the company’s good than just fire him and potentially create a bigger problem.

Good for Brian Dunn for realizing that this is business, not personal ... and that some of the rules of good business are changing. That kind of emotional maturity is not always shared by other people in corporate executive suites.




I really liked the interview that the New York Times did the other day with Linda Heasley, CEO of The Limited, in which she said the following about her approach to team-building:

“I believe that my associates can work anywhere they want, and my job is to re-recruit them every day and give them a reason to choose to work for us and for me as opposed to anybody else.

“So it’s about making it fun. It’s about making it exciting. It’s about keeping them marketable. I encourage people: ‘Go out and find out what the market bears. You should do that and then come back and help me figure out what you need in your development that you’re not getting, because we owe you that.’

“I’ve been told by my associates that’s a countercultural approach to leadership: ‘You’re telling me to go look for another job?’ But my point is that I should be able to re-recruit them. I should be able to get them convinced that this is the best opportunity for them. That’s my philosophy.”

Again, a remarkable level of emotional maturity emanating from the executive suite.

Too many senior executives believe that they owe their employees nothing other than a job and a paycheck ... and that especially in the current economic environment, people should just be thrilled to have a job.

At some level, that may be true. But Heasley gets big points in my book for believing that it is part of her job to 1) create an environment that nurtures and grows great employees, and 2) re-recruit her employees regularly, convincing them that The Limited is the best place to realize their potential.

Good for her. She sounds like she’d be a terrific person to work for.




I have to be honest. I am less that thrilled with some of the changes made at the Wall Street Journal since it was taken over by Rupert Murdoch. It just seems to me that some of the distinct and differential advantages that the Journal used to have are being watered down. But, hey, what do I know?

Of this I am sure, however. If there is one thing that I miss in the new Journal, it is the weekly wine column by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher that ran for 12 years until being discontinued, for no apparent reason, last December.

Gaiter and Brecher were entertaining writers who made wine accessible, and let readers see how wine intertwined with their lives. We got to know them, we got to know their kids, and we got a real sense for how wine can make life special. And they created a real legacy by urging people to “open that bottle” one night a year, to celebrate wine by uncorking that one bottle sitting in the rack waiting to be enjoyed.

It has been more than six months, but I continue to miss Gaiter and Brecher. A lot. The Journal is diminished by their absence, as are those of us who enjoyed them for a dozen years.




Readers on MNB know thatI have been an enormous fan of Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser series, who died earlier this year of a heart attack at age 77.

There was a lovely piece in the New York Times about his widow, Joan H. Parker, entitled “Death and the Private Eye,” which looked at how she was coping with the demise of her spouse of more than five decades. The piece describes the familiar outlines of their unconventional marriage, but also reveals that Parker had suffered from heart disease for years, and that he actually seemed to suffer from a kind of depression as he realized the end was near, even as he continued to turn out 10 pages a day and published three novels a year.

Great piece. You can read it here.




In Parker’s honor, I have a beer to recommend to you this week: Palm Ale from Belgium, which is simply wonderful - refreshing and delicious.




That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

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