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    Published on: November 15, 2011

    by Michael Sansolo

    There was a time when the word “sully” meant to vilify or demean something. So it says something special about a person whose actions are able to change the meaning of a word. Now, when people hear “Sully,” they think of heroism ... thanks to a now-retired US Airways pilot.

    When we hear “Sully” we should also think of great management. Because while Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is forever in our memories for successfully landing a stricken passenger plane in the Hudson River, his story is actually about great technique in crisis management.

    First, an explanation for this sudden burst of hero worship: A week ago I was given the happy assignment of interviewing Sully on stage at the 2011 Retalix Summit. It was a request Retalix didn’t have to make twice as I was delighted to do it. But that was before I met Sully; now my admiration is even greater.

    Sully, who now is making a nice living as a motivational speaker, is the genuine article. He’s self-effacing, measured in his speech and spectacular. He tells the story of how US Airways Flight 1549 from LaGuardia Airport ran into a flock of Canada Geese about one mile above New York City. He describes the sickening sound of the birds getting sucked through the engines and the even worse sound of those same engines suddenly powering down. And then he recounts the incredible moments when he tried to find a place to land his plane, realizing that the Hudson River was his only option. It was a flight that could have ended in tragedy, yet thanks to Sullenberger all 155 people on board survived.

    Of course, he’d argue with that description. As Sully says, the credit goes to ground control, his first officer, the flight crew, the passengers and the Hudson River ferry operators who sped to the downed aircraft and evacuated every last passenger. Spreading out the credit is just one of the lessons from this incredible event. There are many others.

    For instance, as Sully explains he had no training for landing a passenger plane in water. In fact, there’s not even a pilot simulation for that procedure. As happens to so many in business, Sully was faced with a situation that no one had ever anticipated. He knew time and gravity were enemies so his first realization was the need to stay calm. Overreacting was a sure path to death.

    Sully also had a sound understanding of his situation. He admits to being a big stickler for details well beyond the usual checklist pilots always review. For instance, he always insisted on a complete passenger count even though it never mattered until that famous Hudson River landing.

    He also knew his people. Sully met his co-pilot Jeff Skiles only days before the January 2009 flight. He knew that Skiles was experienced, but not in the Airbus 320 they were flying. That critical piece of information meant that Sully was best suited to take control of the plane, which he did quickly and without argument.

    He understood that his words had to convey clearly the situation. He recalls that the ground controller recognized that too, skipped the usual questions that follow a distress call and instantly moved to find a landing place in the densely populated New York City area. Likewise, his messages to the passengers had to convey both urgency and calm. As Sully says, the phrase “brace for impact” is simple, direct and gets the job done. There was nothing else to say, nothing else to explain.

    But what caught me most was the pilot’s willingness to listen for any source of help. As the plane was only 300 feet above the Hudson, Sully can be heard on the flight recorder asking his crew, “Got any ideas?” Sully says he didn’t expect an answer, but any thought was welcome. There was no time for hierarchy, no time for hubris. It was time for openness and communication.

    One last story struck me. Landing the plane correctly in the Hudson took aviation skills that I cannot comprehend. Yet once the plane landed and began to float, Sully and Skiles looked at each other and simultaneously said: “That wasn’t so bad.” Having a sense of humor never hurts either.

    Just like that, Sullenberger saved 155 lives and changed the meaning of a word. His lesson is something we shouldn’t easily forget.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 15, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Okay, I didn’t see this one coming.

    The Associated Press reports on a new use for dairy products.

    Anke Domaske, a German fashion designer, has developed a “new textile made entirely from milk that's environmentally friendly as well as soothing to people with skin allergies. Called ‘Qmilch,’ it drapes and folds like silk, but can be washed and dried like cotton.”

    Domaske has a line of dresses made of Qmilch, and plans to mass producing the fabric and licensing its use to other designers and manufacturers.

    While this might put greater pressure on cows, which now will find their byproducts being used for a whole udder industry, it also is seen as potentially taking some pressure off the oil industry. According to the story, “Currently, apparel depends heavily on byproducts from oil, or natural resources such as water — used in the thousands of liters (gallons) to produce just a bolt of cotton.”

    No word on whether the fabric can be worn by people who are lactose intolerant.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 15, 2011

    Advertising Age has a piece about the coming battle between Walmart and Amazon, saying that Walmart “could use a bigger dose of what gave Amazon 44% top-line growth last quarter,” while at the same time “playing defense against Amazon's increasingly aggressive moves into packaged goods.”

    Some excerpts:

    • “Walmart would love Amazon's top-line growth, but isn't about to settle for its profits. Building staff and infrastructure to support the growing general-merchandise business and rising media-content costs produced disappointing third-quarter profits and projections for a possible loss in the all-important fourth quarter at Amazon. That has some Walmart suppliers believing that while Amazon presents a growing threat, Walmart is better positioned to grow profitably in e-commerce.”

    • “Key to Walmart's emerging e-commerce strategy is integrating store and online marketing like never before. That's meant removing barriers between Bentonville and the Brisbane, Calif.-based”

    “There are also changing incentives. As of the new fiscal year beginning Feb. 1, Walmart's store managers and employees will get credit for online sales from their territory, just like sales in the store. That will give them more reason to promote, the new iPad app, My Local Walmart Facebook app, and its soon-to-be-released refurbished iPhone app to the 140 million weekly in-store shoppers.”

    • “Walmart is also trying to use its 3,800 stores and 150 distribution centers as a logistical and marketing advantage over Amazon. Last month it rolled out ‘Home Free’ delivery, with free shipping on orders over $45 from its stores -- sans a $79 membership fee like Amazon Prime. And Mr. Anderson said in October that Walmart plans ‘next- day delivery at a very economical price’ using its stores as distribution centers and aimed largely at urban markets.”

    • “E-commerce may also help Walmart profit from the upscale shoppers it has had trouble appealing to since its latest strategic reversal. In the past year, to appeal to its core consumers in the $30,000-$60,000 income range, it added back 10,000 items and millions of square feet of display space, something it had previously cut to make stores more visually appealing to upscale shoppers. Predictably, trips and spending among wealthier households suffered, according to Consumer Edge Research.”

    Along these same lines, reports that Walmart Labs has acquired a company called Grabble, described as a company that started in an Australian garage and that now “produces a point-of-sale technology that integrates with mobile phones. With the rise in NFC-enabled devices, (this will) allow consumers to make purchases using only their phone or tablet.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
    KC's View:
    Not be snarky about this, but we’ve been making the point around here for quite some time that the ultimate battle will be between Walmart and Amazon, and we’ve talked about projections that in 2020, based on current growth rates, the two companies will be about the same size. And maybe earlier. So it is no wonder that Walmart hears footsteps...

    Ultimately, the biggest challenge to Walmart in this venue may be the fact that it is unwilling to sacrifice short-term profits in service of the long-term game. What Amazon has been able to do - and yesterday’s piece about how the company is willing to lose money while adding services to its Prime program, with the goal of increasing loyalty, is a prime example of this - is continue to identify and communicate with customers on a one-to-one basis. That’s been the ultimate goal, and despite the fact that Walmart clearly wants to play in this sandbox, I’m not sure we’ve yet seen the evidence that it is willing to do everything necessary to compete with Amazon’s approach.

    Now, Walmart’s feeling probably is that it wants to change the game - that its brick-and-mortar infrastructure, including the small stores it is building around the country that in part will serve as delivery depots, will help it compete effectively.

    But I believe that customer knowledge - not brick-and-mortar infrastructure - will be the winning formula in the long run.

    This all matters to companies not named Walmart or Amazon because this conflagration is going to suck up a lot of the oxygen in the retailing room, and help define how everybody competes - what prices they charge, what products and services they offer - sooner rather than later. It means that not only does pretty much everyone have to figure out how to compete online, but also how they are going to use their online offerings to distinguish and differentiate themselves, not just keep up with the big guys. You have to innovate, not just mimic. You have to invest, not just spend. And you have to play the long game.

    Published on: November 15, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal has a piece about Jeff Hansberry, the new president of Starbucks Channel Development, and how he sees the company’s new aggressive approach to CPG sales affecting retailers other than its familiar cafes.

    While he doesn’t offer specifics, for example, Hansberry “stood before three rows of Starbucks K-cups - coffee pods that fit into Keurig single-serve brewing machines - at a Seattle Safeway Inc. store last week and predicted that the space dedicated to single serve coffee products will double in size a year from now.

    “He described the coffee aisle of most supermarkets as being ‘stale’ and said something has to change to make the coffee-buying experience more enjoyable.

    “Glancing up and down the aisle, he pointed out that the company's bagged coffee, Via instant coffee, K-cups and Tazo tea are all separated, organized by product type instead of brand. ‘What we're looking for is a brand block—to get all of our items together,’ he says, hinting at a future coffee-aisle reinvention.”
    KC's View:
    MNB actually had a brief piece about Hansberry’s appearance at the recent Portland State University Food Industry Leadership Center (FILC) 2011 Executive Forum. You can read that piece here.

    I’d like to offer one thought here.

    I have no problem, conceptually, with the notion of reinventing the coffee section of the supermarket. I actually think most supermarket sections could do with some reinvention.

    I guess I just wonder if Starbucks would like to reinvent every supermarket’s coffee section the same way. If it does, won’t that lead to a kind of sameness that will get boring all over again, really quickly?

    I’d like to see individual companies planning this kind of reinvention so that it could give them a differential advantage over the guy down the block or across the street. I think that actually could be better for these companies, because the places in which they are different will define them more and better than the places in which they are the same.

    Published on: November 15, 2011 reports that a new survey by Wine Intelligence saying that “85% of the regular wine-drinking population now accepts screwcaps – compared to only 41% in 2003.

    “Cork remains the most liked closure, but affinity levels have fallen slightly over the past eight years.

    “While 51% of consumers say they actively like buying wines under cork, 42% like buying screwcapped wines – a figure that has increased sevenfold compared to eight years ago, when 6% of consumers said they actively liked screwcap.”

    The story also notes that “female wine drinkers in their 30s and 40s are the biggest drivers of screwcap acceptance, along with younger drinkers who have recently entered the wine category.”
    KC's View:
    I still love cork, given the choice. But I no longer see wine bottles with screw tops as the beginning of the end of western civilization.

    Published on: November 15, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Family Dollar will open its first four stores in California on Thursday, putting it into direct competition with 99 Cents Only Stores.

    According to the story, “The four shops — located in Fontana, Riverside, Ontario and Rialto — are the first step in a major push into California by the North Carolina company, which plans to open up to 50 stores in the Golden State by next fall.”

    The story goes on: “As the tough economy drags on, dollar store chains are looking to expand rapidly as shoppers stretching their money shower them with business. Another rival chain — Dollar General Corp., based in Goodlettsville, Tenn. — has recently been reaching west and plans to open its first stores in California next year.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 15, 2011

    The Chicago Tribune reports that a Target employee named Anthony Hardwick, “is protesting the Minneapolis-based retailer's decision to open its doors at midnight on Thanksgiving, saying the demand on its employees is going a step too far ... More than 6,700 people have signed his petition on advocacy website, calling for Target to reverse its decision. Hardwick, who works for Target in Nebraska, hopes to get 50,000 signatures.”

    The planned Target opening at midnight on Black Friday is five hours earlier than last year - though several hours later than Walmart is planning to open for the holiday weekend.
    KC's View:
    You go, Anthony.

    Thanksgiving is the one holiday that has not been tarnished by overt commercialism. There’s probably no way to tamp down on Black Friday, but this whole “open at midnight” stuff is for the birds.

    One other thing. These retailers keep trying to create a shopping frenzy by opening earlier and earlier with harder and faster promotions. Recent experience has shown that this can appeal to people’s worst instincts, and then somebody gets trampled in the madness. And killed.

    This happens again, especially with all the early openings going on now, and these retailers are going to bear at least some of the responsibility. IMHO.

    Published on: November 15, 2011

    with FastCommentary in italics...

    • The Associated Press reports that “a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report says sales of ‘local foods,’ whether sold direct to consumers at farmers markets or through intermediaries such as grocers or restaurants, amounted to $4.8 billion in 2008. That's a number several times greater than earlier estimates, and the department predicts locally grown foods will generate $7 billion in sales this year.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Ron Johnson, the new JC Penney CEO who used to run the Apple Stores, says that his goal is to “re-imagine” the department store.

    “I get more excited every day about the potential of J.C. Penney," he told analysts in a conference call this week, adding, "I'm here to transform."

    Johnson said that when he meets with employees, he tells them that “as America's first store, it is time to assert leadership, reclaim our birthright and become America's favorite store.”

    My normal, cynical response to this would be, “Good luck with that.” But the guy who helped create the Apple Store gets a lot of credibility in my book. I look forward to seeing what he creates.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Walt Disney Co. has acquired Babble Media, which has websites with blogs for parents written by moms and dads. The cost was between $40 million and $50 million.

    According to the story, “Disney will offer its own cache of parenting-related content for use as links in blog posts on the five-year-old site, which carries articles by some 200 bloggers, including a few celebrity moms such as Samantha Bee of ‘The Daily Show’.”

    First of all, what are the odds that on the same day, Walmart would buy Grabble and Disney would buy Babble. Makes me think I think should change the name of MNB to “Dabble.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 15, 2011

    ...will return.

    I thought it made sense for everybody to take a deep breath this morning, especially in view of some of the opinions expressed in this space yesterday, and the barrage of emails that I got in response to them.

    I would, however, like to offer answers to the questions I got asked most frequently yesterday.

    Yes, he’s serious.

    You should see the emails from him that I don’t post.

    Yes, I realize that his comments can be viewed as a kind of hate-mongering, and that I have the ability (and maybe even the responsibility) to not use them if they do not contribute to the dialogue. But in this case, and others over the years, I have thought that even when I find those views to be repugnant, it has been worth airing them because I thought they illustrated a perspective shared by other people, and also offered the opportunity to make a broader business point. And I also think I have the responsibility to sometimes air the points of view that make us uncomfortable, even if only because it makes us think.

    I find it reassuring that the MNB community generally seems to find his opinions to be intolerable. For some organizations, he would be considered part of the brain trust. But not here. We’re more enlightened than that.

    And yes, he’s a real person.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 15, 2011

    In Monday Night Football action, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings 45-7.
    KC's View: