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    Published on: January 17, 2012

    by Michael Sansolo

    Bad things happen in this world and sometimes those things involve people we know or even admire. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do about those bad things, but we can always take time to think about how we react and how we talk about those moments, especially when the conversation is extremely public.

    Allow me to explain. Late last week the New England Conservatory fired conductor Ben Zander. Many of you may know Zander if you have had the wonderful opportunity to ever hear him speak at a conference. His topic (following on his book) is about “The Art of Possibility;” essentially how to inspire those around you to strive for greatness. His speeches are a staggering moment that you can easily remember for years after seeing them. (MNB reported in a presentation he did to the old CIES at its New York summit in 2009.)

    And that’s not even what he’s best at doing. Zander is a world-class orchestral conductor who finds a way to bring the emotion of classical music to both his audience and his musicians. What makes Zander so incredible has been his work with young artists and that, sadly, is what cost Zander his job. According to numerous news reports, Zander helped bring a convicted child molester to the New England Youth Orchestra as a videographer. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

    The story gets even worse. Zander reacted with disbelief about the concern about videographer because he’s gone nearly 20 years since his conviction and incarceration. Zander was quoted saying the situation was tragic, but was referring to his own firing.

    Now there are many ways of looking at this and none of them are good. First, as business people we all need to learn from the tone-deaf quality of Zander’s reaction. He could have talked about the power of rehabilitation and redemption. He could have talked about the extra care he personally took to make sure none of his young musicians were ever in harm’s way. Instead, he reflected on his own dismissal. Every business should read up on this story to get a classic lesson on the wrong way to react. Ben Zander, one of the world’s most gifted public speaker, just showed how to find the worst possible words at the worst possible time.

    Second, let’s think about redemption and rehabilitation. I like to believe in both, but it strikes me that the single worst place for a convicted child molester is back in the company of children. People can reform, but I don’t think past drug abusers should become pharmacists or alcoholics should become bartenders. In the New England case, the “reformed” child molester could have found many places to shoot his videos that didn’t involve children. Again, this is a lesson for business: think twice.

    But I must conclude with a personal perspective. My son happens to be a classical musician who, six years ago, had the great honor of performing in a national youth orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York. When my son talks about that experience he says he loved the venue, the music (Tchaikovsky’s 5th) and the artists he accompanied. But what stands out most was the leadership of the conductor, who helped my son understand Tchaikovsky’s message as he drew the most incredible music from the ensemble.

    That conductor was Ben Zander.

    (In case you are wondering, there was no videographer.)

    And that’s why my perspective on the story changes. I can’t write about this remotely, like we all tend to do with bad news of all kinds. If I felt, even in retrospect, that Zander had put my son in danger, a blog would be my last option about this case. Rather I’d be looking for my Louisville Slugger to have a conversation about possibility.

    It’s a complex world out there filled with bad people. We can’t ever eliminate that, but we can do everything possible to make sure we make the good choices that keep the bad at bay. And when bad things happen, we need to find the words to convey our sadness, not our indignation.

    That’s not possibility. That’s the only way to go.’

    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: January 17, 2012

    Sources have supplied MNB with a memo sent by Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel and Kathee Tesija, the retailer’s Executive Vice President, Merchandising, to suppliers in which it lays out its “strategy for success” this year, which mostly seems to be focused on competing more effectively with online retailers.

    The missive reads as follows:

    “As we all know, the retail landscape is changing at a more dramatic pace than ever before. Due to the rapid adoption of new technology tools, consumers now expect a seamless cross-channel experience, want complete transparency on price, and are using technology to find the best deals regardless of retailer or channel.

    “We understand and appreciate consumers’ desire to find the best price, and we are absolutely committed to delivering the differentiated, high-quality merchandise Target is known for at low prices.

    “What we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices without making investments, as we do, to proudly display your brands, create a superior guest experience, provide hundreds of thousands of jobs, and support local communities.

    “As a result, we want to share with you our strategy for success in the ever-evolving retail environment and our expectations for your partnership with us.

    “First, although our multichannel strategy has been a key area of focus for Target for several years, we have recently committed to increase our investment in human and financial resources to enhance our multichannel capabilities.

    “Second, we will be challenging each of you, as our most important vendor partners, to work with us to develop an assortment that will allow Target to be competitive and profitable across all channels. The specifics of the programs will vary by vendor and category, but could include providing a differentiated guest-focused assortment from online-only retailers that still includes best sellers … pricing the same as online-only retailers without lowering our overall JBP margin … developing membership- or subscription-based pricing online to compete with online pricing models in the market. Our Merchandising team will contact you this month to discuss these plans in more detail.

    “Target has long prided itself on being a retailer that has truly collaborative vendor partnerships that are focused on the long term. You can count on us to work tirelessly toward mutually-agreed-upon goals that build your brands and business, and we ask that you help us deliver the best possible quality and prices for our guests.

    “Thank you for your ongoing partnership. We look forward to working together in 2012 to bring your products to more than 180 million guests and to deliver on Target’s ‘Expect More. Pay Less.’ brand promise, anytime, anywhere.”
    KC's View:
    Target would seem to have the right idea - having a differentiated assortment and experience that allows it to compete more effectively with online retailers. But actually accomplishing it will be something quite different.

    Some of its recently announced moves make sense, like opening boutiques and even mini-Apple Stores inside some of its locations. But I’m less sanguine about its long-term chances.

    Published on: January 17, 2012

    The New York Times reports on how the new federal health care law requires health insurers and employers to “pay the cost of screening children for obesity and providing them with appropriate counseling.”

    Experts say that while such programs may be necessary because of high levels of childhood obesity in the US, it will be challenging to create them: “Other than intensive hospital-based programs, few proven models exist for helping children and adolescents achieve and maintain a healthier weight, and researchers do not even fully understand the factors that contributed to the rapid rise in childhood obesity in recent years.”

    Here’s how the story is framed by the Times:

    “While there are many community efforts aimed at getting every child to eat better and exercise more, including Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ initiative, there is also growing demand for programs that help children who are already seriously overweight. WellPoint and the UnitedHealth Group, another large insurer, are experimenting with new approaches, and even Weight Watchers says it is working to develop a program for children and teenagers. Drug companies and medical device makers are also testing some products on children ... Experts also say that to be successful, programs need to focus on the family as a whole, changing what everybody eats and how much time they are all active, not sitting in front of a computer screen or television.”
    KC's View:
    No question in my mind that childhood obesity is one of the most significant issues of our time (as former President Bill Clinton said at the National Retail Federation show in New York yesterday). And there is no question that a public policy response is required.

    But at the end of the day, no amount of public policy can replace the simple act of parents feeding their kids healthy foods (and eating such foods themselves), getting exercise, and going to fast food joints less frequently.

    Published on: January 17, 2012

    United Press International reports on a new survey of the mostly female members of the Allrecipes social networking site revealing that 54 percent admit to feeling “a bit guilty” and 16 percent say they feel “bad” after eating fast food.

    They must be feeling that way a lot. The study also showed that “more than 56 percent ate at fast-food restaurants at least several times a month and nearly 15 percent ate fast-food two or more times a week ... Half of the survey's respondents said convenience to accommodate busy schedules and faster meal availability were the top reasons for eating fast-food instead of cooking at home. To skip a fast-food meal and cook a healthy meal at home, 83 percent said it would have to be prepared in 30 minutes or less.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 17, 2012 has announced the “Top 50 Organizations for Multicultural Business Opportunities,” a list based on factors such as volume, consistency and quality business opportunities granted to women and minority-owned companies.

    Walmart topped the list. Other companies ranked by included Coca-Cola (4), Office Depot (6), PepsiCo (10), Kroger (15), JC Penney (17), Home Depot (18), Apple (19), Supervalu (26), Johnson & Johnson (28), Target (33), Nordstrom (34), Colgate-Palmolive (36), Accenture (42), OfficeMax (43), and Ahold (47).
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 17, 2012

    USA Today reports this morning that Food Network celebrity chef Paula Deen, who has long specialized in shows that celebrate Southern cooking and recipes rich in butter and sugar, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes three years ago - but is only going public now.

    Part of her new revelation, the story says, is tied to “the launch of a campaign, Diabetes in a New Light, in partnership with Novo Nordisk, a maker of diabetes medications. She uses the company's Victoza, a once-daily, non-insulin injection that may improve blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes when used along with diet and exercise.”

    Deen says she did not delay revealing her diabetes because of concerns that it would hurt her brand: "That was not why. My knowledge about the disease was very limited. But now I'm coming with good information, something that can help and bring hope to other people. It may sound cliché, but it's the God-honest truth."
    KC's View:
    I find this really difficult to believe.

    It certainly seems convenient that she does not talk about her medical condition until she has a product to sell.

    But maybe I’m just overly cynical...

    Published on: January 17, 2012

    Bloomberg reports that Supervalu is “moving their opening hours, adding products and revamping merchandise assortments as persistent joblessness pushes more shoppers to government support in buying groceries ... (its) Save-A-Lot chain opens some supermarkets at midnight, when government benefits are loaded onto food-stamp cards, and promotes higher-priced bulk items early in the month. The chain switches to smaller sizes later as money dwindles and customers make fill-in purchases.”

    “What we’re learning how to do is to merchandise to those events,” CEO Craig Herkert tells Bloomberg. “You have to learn, market by market, when is that, and you have to merchandise to it, and in some cases, run your stores to it.”

    The story notes that “distributions from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program rose 11 percent to a record $71.8 billion in fiscal 2011.”

    Supervalu isn’t the only the company, according to the story:

    • “Walmart adjusts staffing at midnight when benefits cards are loaded and makes sure stores are well stocked in produce and canned goods.”

    • Family Dollar “finished overhauling its checkout systems to accept food stamps in 2010.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 17, 2012

    • The New York Post reports on how company insiders at PepsiCo are pressing “for a split of its better-performing Frito-Lay snacks business from its beverage operations to unlock equity value,” and that Al Carey - who moved from the Frito-Lay snacks business to running Pepsi’s beverage operations last year - is likely to be instrumental in this shift.

    Indeed, sources tell the board that Carey has been “groomed by the board” to take over for current PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi if it is seen that she is not up to the task of revitalizing the company.

    • The Fresno Bee reports that “Family Dollar has confirmed plans to open seven stores in the Fresno/Clovis market, just as Dollar General is announcing plans to open stores in the area.”

    The story notes that Dollar General “is planning to open ‘a couple of dozen stores in the Central Valley’ as part of its 625-store expansion in 2012.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 17, 2012

    • Walmart said yesterday that it has hired Neil Ashe, formerly the president of CBS Interactive, to be its new president/CEO of global e-commerce for the company. He succeeds Eduardo Castro-Wright, who is retiring.
    KC's View:
    Or, as some people say about Castro-Wright, he is “retiring.”

    Published on: January 17, 2012

    Dan Evins, the founder of the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store chain, has passed away. He was 76. No cause of death was given.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 17, 2012

    ...will return.
    KC's View: