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    Published on: September 24, 2010

    Got game?

    In a recent Forbes piece, Christine M. Riordan, the dean and a professor of management at theUniversity of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, writes about the importance of mental toughness, equating the kind of toughness needed by a CEO with the kind needed by championship athletes.

    In speaking with business leaders, Riordan found that “just as with athletes, they don't rely only on knowledge, skills, ability or past success to traverse difficult situations. They draw on an attitude, a toughness that allows them to push through hard situations and face adversity with confidence. As businesses look to the future, their top people need to think about whether they have game-ready leaders who not only have technical skills in business but mental toughness as well.”

    Riordan suggests that “there are at least six markers of mental toughness from sports psychology that apply equally well to business situations.” They include:

    Flexibility - “the ability to absorb the unexpected and remain supple and non-defensive ... Just like a quarterback faced with a broken play, a leader may have to decide quickly on a different way to get the ball down the field.”

    Responsiveness - “Game-ready leaders are able to remain engaged, alive and connected with a situation when under pressure. They are constantly identifying the opportunities, challenges, and threats in the environment. They understand that they need to think differently about how their environment and business operate.”

    Strength - “Game-ready leaders are able to exert and resist great force when under pressure and to keep going against insurmountable odds. They find the strength to dig deep and garner the resolve to keep going, even when in a seemingly losing game.”

    Courage & Ethics - “Game-ready leaders do the right thing for the organization and the team. They suppress the temptation to cut corners or to undermine others so they come out on top. They have the courage to make the hard but right decisions for the organization.”

    Resilience - “Game-ready leaders rebound from disappointments, mistakes and missed opportunities and get right back in the game. They have a hardiness for enduring the downs of a situation ... They resolve to make things better and are experts at figuring out ways to do more with fewer resources.”

    Sportsmanship - “The behavior exhibited by game-ready leaders after losing or being attacked by others or the situation sets the tone for the rest of an organization.” In other words, civility wins.

    Riordan closes, “We all need these same markers of toughness to succeed and lead in today's business environment. We cannot succeed on technical skill alone ... Game-ready leaders go into today's business environment with their best mental game and with the attitude of ‘Bring it on!’”

    And that’s my - actually Christine Riordan’s - Friday Eye-Opener.

    - Kevin Coupe
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 24, 2010 reports that “a Maine court has ruled that victims of the 2008 Hannaford data breach cannot sue for damages if they didn't suffer financial losses or other tangible harm, ending the lawsuit against the Scarborough-based company.

    “The Maine Supreme Judicial Court yesterday ruled that consumers whose credit card numbers were stolen during the breach could not claim damages based on the time and effort it took to straighten out their accounts.” The breach in question exposed more than four million credit and debit card numbers to potential fraud, and close to 2,000 fraudulent charges were made because of the problem.
    KC's View:
    This seems like an entirely appropriate decision. Lesson learned, damage minimized, bad guys caught and jailed. Sounds like justice to me.

    Published on: September 24, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Casey’s General Stores shareholders voted yesterday to re-elect all of the company’s incumbent directors, rejecting the alternate slate put up by Alimentation Couche-Tard, the Canadian retailing company looking to acquire it.

    At this point, Couche-Tard has a $38.50 per share offer on the table, and 7-Eleven reportedly has bid $40 per share. Casey’s management has said that both offers are inadequate, but negotiations with 7-Eleven reportedly are ongoing.
    KC's View:
    hort of big boost in its offer, hard to imagine that Couche-Tard is going to be successful here.

    Published on: September 24, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that there are some farmers’ markets in the Pacific Northwest that are annoyed by the fact that Safeway and Albertsons have begun “posting store banners advertising displays of tomatoes, corn and other items as farmers' markets.” (Safeway actually has responded to complaints by changing the signs to say “Outdoor Market.”)

    According to the story, “The chains haven't had much impact on local farmers' markets yet. But there is a fear on the part of farmers' groups that the term could become so diluted that the public no longer feels the need to visit the real thing. At the heart of the dispute is a disagreement about how far the definition of a farmers' market can be stretched. Supervalu spokesman Mike Siemienas said the Albertson signs were justified because all the produce advertised came from local farmers.”

    The story goes on, “Some states have come up with legal definitions for farmers' markets, and California even certifies farmers and markets that only sell growers' own produce. But the state can't prevent an event or store from using the term ‘farmers' market’.” Because of the controversy, “the board of the Farmers Market Coalition, a national trade group for the events, in May approved a formal definition: events that consist ‘principally’ of farmers selling their products directly to the public.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 24, 2010

    Bloomberg reports that Borders, seeking relevance in a retail world that seems dominated by Amazon and where even Barnes & Noble seems to be struggling, has hit upon a strategy that it hopes will work.

    CEO Michael Edwards says he wants to mimic Indigo Books & Music in Canada, which revitalized its business by becoming “a cultural department store” that can “feature items like Pilates balls and wine glasses along with copies of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’.”

    According to the story, “In the next two years, Borders will fill its superstores with stand-alone sections, such as areas where people can craft stuffed animals through the Build-a-Bear Workshop Inc. brand, that will differentiate it from Barnes & Noble, Edwards said.

    “‘You create more shops within a shop, so you really know you are in a unique part of the store,’ Edwards said.

    “Edwards chose this route because he expects half the chain’s books to be sold online in three years, and other items can boost profits because they have higher margins than books. His time working for defunct computer retailer CompUSA also showed him the wisdom of diversifying, he said.”
    KC's View:
    It is my impression that Amazon already is a kind of cultural department store ... so I have no idea whether this will work, and I’m not sure that CompUSA would be the model that I’d be citing.

    However, Borders clearly has to do something to differentiate itself. So it might as well take a shot.

    Published on: September 24, 2010

    The Chicago Tribune reports that “banks and credit card companies think it might make sense for your phone to take over the functions of credit and debit cards. Bank of America, which recently tested what's known as mobile-payment technology in Charlotte, N.C., just began a bigger-scale pilot in New York City.”

    According to the story, “While consumers have embraced mobile payments in Japan and Korea, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston says in a recent report that it doesn't expect widespread acceptance in the United States for at least three to five years, when phones are replaced and more merchants buy devices that interact with the technology.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 24, 2010

    Bloomberg reports that “once 3G Capital completes its purchase of Burger King Holdings Inc., the Brazilian-backed investment fund and the fast-food chain’s franchisees may face a $3 billion tab to renovate aging U.S. restaurants.

    “Last month, Chief Executive Officer John Chidsey told analysts that 85 percent of Burger King’s 7,200-plus locations in the U.S. need to be remodeled. Modernizing stores with the company’s new ‘20/20’ redesign will cost about $500,000 each, he said in June, with some going as high as $1.1 million. That could push the cost past $3 billion.”

    According to the story, “Among Burger King designs still in use is a 1999 layout featuring metal chairs and bright blue booths. That compares with newly remodeled McDonald’s Corp. restaurants that showcase low lighting, cushioned stools and bossa nova music played through ceiling speakers.”
    KC's View:
    I thought their bigger problem was hamburgers that were blue and tasted like metal chairs. Maybe that’s just me...

    Published on: September 24, 2010

    Dow Jones reports that Walmart and Sam’s stores yesterday were “unable to process some credit- and debit-card transactions...for a time Thursday morning.”

    According to the story, “The problems stemmed from a failure of a breaker while the company was doing maintenance on its data system, the retail giant said in a brief statement. The system resumed normal operation within 90 minutes.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 24, 2010

    The Washington Post has a story about Yes! Organic Markets, which has seven stores in the DC area, catering to neighborhoods “where large retailers wouldn't go and listen to customer input on which products to stock.”

    Despite ample competition in the marketplace, owner Cary Cha says he has thrived by adhering to one core value:

    “If we're playing their game, we'll lose,” he says. “You want to do something else that they don't do well.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 24, 2010

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and LearnSomething announced the release of the Food, Drug and Mass Career Preparation Programs. The programs provide pre-employment training for job applicants and performance training for current retail workers. To ensure that the programs have continuing value to completers, FMI and LearnSomething are developing programs only for those career positions projected to have increasing and long-term demand.”

    According to the announcement, “The first program available - the Pharmacy Technician Preparation Program - includes the preparation course for pharmacy technician certification. Soon to be available is the Retail Associate Preparation Program, with specialization either in Food or in Health, Beauty and Wellness. Both programs provide an overview of retail operations and can be used as a launch point for pursuing management roles.”

    • The Chicago Sun Times reports that McDonald’s is testing a super-sized version of its snack wrap. calling it a Chicken Grande Wrap that is burrito-sized and features “diced cucumber, shredded cheese, sliced tomato and lettuce and come in three varieties -- Garden Ranch, with ranch sauce; Roma Pesta, with tomato pesto and garlic aioli; and Santa Fe BBQ, with barbeque ranch sauce, black beans and corn.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 24, 2010

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 24, 2010

    There was a wonderful piece in the Financial Times the other day by Lucy Kellaway, who defines herself very early in her column that she is a little tired of all the Apple adoration, and that the company’s long line of successes has become a little irritating. “When the iPad came out, I prayed that it would be awful,” Kellaway writes. “My prayers were not heard: like all Apple products, it is sleek and gorgeous, and in due course I shall go to one of its wondrous temples of consumption and grumpily buy one.”

    But then Kellaway makes a point that I love:

    “Now I find that Apple has succeeded in an area even more revolutionary than designing beautiful products that are easy to use. This time, though, I feel no discomfort. Apple has discovered something that other companies have long forgotten, if they ever knew: language can also be beautiful and easy to use. Words can be fun to read. They can look elegant. They can make you laugh.

    “Earlier this month it published a set of guidelines for apps sold at its App Store. According to the laws that govern this sort of thing, this document should have been doubly unreadable. It was a list of legal requirements and was aimed at techies. Instead, it was funny and clear, and I found myself reading it effortlessly, even though I barely know what an ‘app’ is.
    “‘We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.’

    “The tone is direct, comic and elegantly threatening.

    “‘We will reject apps for any content or behaviour that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, I’ll know it when I see it. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it’.”

    I know there are a lot of people who see this as a kind of censorship. Maybe I’m just getting older, but I don’t think so. It isn’t like there is any dearth of diversity - of images and language and pretty much everything else - on the internet. All Apple is saying that it has certain standards of behavior, and it expects people who use its stuff to behave with a certain level of elegance and propriety.

    I’m okay with that.

    I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road recently, and often listen to the radio as I’m going from place to place. I’m amazed - specifically on sports radio - how use of the language as devolved. When did it become okay to say “ass” on the radio? (I know it’s legal, but that’s not what I’m talking about.) I was driving by myself, but all I could think was, what if I were driving around with little kids in the car, listening to the radio?

    There’s nothing wrong with standards. As a culture, we’ve somehow fallen out of love with the beauty and precision of words.

    Tom Stoppard once wrote a wonderful play called “The Real Thing,”which I saw in its original Broadway production starring Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close. The play is about a writer named Henry, and at one point in the play he speaks about the connection between words and ideas:

    “This thing here (a cricket bat), which looks like a wooden club, is actually several pieces of a particular wood cunningly put together in a certain way so that the whole thing is sprung, like a dance floor. It’s for hitting cricket balls with. If you get it right, the cricket ball will travel two hundred yards in four seconds and all you’ve done is give it a knock like knocking the top off a bottle of stout, and it makes a noise like a trout taking a fly. What we’re trying to do is write cricket bats, so that when we throw up an idea and give it a little knock, it might travel ... I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you’re dead.”

    It is, like in so many things, a matter of the lowest common denominator and reaching for something better, higher, more beautiful, of greater consequence. Why would we shoot for anything less?

    Here is excellent news.

    Clear is back. Or at least, coming back soon.

    For those of you who do remember, Clear was the airport screening system that allowed frequent travelers to register, get pre-screened, put our biometrics on file, pay a fee, and then get access to express lines through security. When the company went out of business for funding reasons almost two years ago, it must have been in a couple of dozen US airports, and most of us who used it, loved it. (It was especially great in places like the Orlando airport, which seems perpetually clogged by people who never have flown before and therefore are completely oblivious to the rules about what you can bring on board an airplane. Clear allowed us to bypass all those folks, get through security quickly, and get to an airport club where hot coffee and free internet awaited.)

    This week, I got an email. Clear will be back soon, acquired by an equity firm, and will have installations up and running soon in Orlando and Denver. And the more than 600 days left on my membership will be respected by the new company.

    I hope that they have the economics figured out, and that Clear will be around for a long, long time. It is a wonderful concept that should achieve broad acceptance in a security-minded world.

    I haven’t had the chance to go to the movies in a couple of weeks, so I asked my son, David - a young actor and writer living in Chicago - to contribute a film review this week:

    “The Town,” Ben Affleck’s sophomore directorial effort, is a movie about the leader of a Boston-based group of bank robbers who, because of a relationship that develops with a bank manager that one of his team kidnapped, tries to break free from his dark ways... but of course not without one, or maybe two, of those "final jobs."

    While not as morally complicated and thoughtful as his first film, “Gone Baby Gone,” Affleck’s second film shows that the triple bill actor/writer/director can bring an incredible amount of nuance and integrity to what is essentially a mainstream action film. The acting all around is terrific: Affleck reminds us that there was a reason he was a movie star to begin with, while Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm make the most out of what could've been one note parts. 

    For me, the movie sings when Affleck develops heaps of tension in scenes as small as a lunch date and as big as a major action set piece located at Fenway Park. “The Town” is impressive; there are people who already are comparing Affleck to Clint Eastwood, and while that seems a little presumptuous at this point, it is clear that Affleck is not just in command of his skills, but also of his career. “The Town” is worth seeing.

    Thanks, Dave.

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

    KC's View: