business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: March 13, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    Online food ordering and delivery has come to Major League Baseball spring training, as one Florida stadium has installed a system that allows fans to avoid having to stand in line at concession stands.

    According to a story in the Palm Beach Post, Roger Dean Stadium there, which is where the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins train, "this year features a new system, called GeeBo,at all 7,000 seats. Go to a website, type in your order and an attendant delivers the goods in about 10 minutes. Or it can be picked up at a special concession stand on the first-base side."

    The story goes on to explain how it works:

    "Baseball fans download an app and scan a QR code — a baseball-card-sized symbol adhered to the back of each seat at Roger Dean — into their smartphone. They can then order from a list of beer or other drinks, food and snacks. After typing in their credit card information, users click on a box for a tip of either 15 percent or 20 percent, or leave nothing. There is an additional 39-cent service fee per delivery.

    "Fans can also order online from eight kiosks inside Roger Dean. Kiosk users pick up their items, and get coupons from local restaurants."

    The Post writes that "Jupiter-based JCS Enterprises Inc. is providing the equipment and software. The company earns a profit from the service charge and the monthly fees advertisers pay them to post their logos on the kiosks and issue coupons to customers ... Since opening day earlier this month, usage is increasing.
    The first few games, about 50 people ordered food and drinks at each game. The total has increased to about 200 and is expected to grow as more people learn about it."

    It makes perfect sense. I'm surprised that it is not being done in more places. And it is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2013

    Reuters reports that is running into resistance to its request to own new internet domain names, including ".book," ".author" and ".read". Barnes & Noble, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have all registered their objections to Amazon's efforts, which they said would be anti-competitive.

    According to the story, "last year the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers began a process to allow organizations to register for new Web address suffixes, other than '.com' and '.edu.'

    "The ambitious plan to liberalize Internet addresses attracted 1,930 applications, almost half of them from north America, with Amazon and Google Inc applying for dozens of domains including .cloud, .buy and .book."
    KC's View:
    I'm with Barnes & Noble, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers on this one. Not only should Amazon not get these domain names, but no private company or organization should have them.

    I've been on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers website, by the way, because I was curious if perhaps Amazon might also be interested in domains like ".food" or ".grocery." Because it would not surprise me...

    Published on: March 13, 2013

    The Los Angeles Times reports on what wineries are doing to attract younger drinkers to their products - and much of it has to do with coming up with unusual names and labels designed to demystify the category.

    Here's how the Times frames the story:

    "Veteran wine collectors might turn up their well-trained noses. But the wineries promoting such brands aren't targeting those buyers. With many of their best customers nearing retirement age and starting to cut back, American vintners are going after younger consumers in a bid to keep their $33 billion industry growing.

    "That means more irreverent labels, easy drinking wines, singles events and laid-back tastings - all aimed at demystifying the elite atmosphere surrounding wine while grooming the next generation of oenophiles."

    The story goes on to note that "Baby Boomers have been the main driver of the U.S. wine market for years, making up 40 percent of the customer base today. They tend to have more sophisticated tastes and are more inclined to buy expensive fine wines." But as they retire and cut back on their wine purchases and consumption, "the youngest drinkers, 21- to 34-year-olds known as Millennials, are looking more appealing.

    "For starters, there are a lot of them - roughly 70 million. But many young drinkers already are being wooed by the craft beer craze and the rise of cocktail culture, conditioned by celebrity endorsers and targeted marketing to gravitate toward sudsy brews and hard liquor.

    "The wine industry wants to convert Millennials to Malbecs and Moscatos while they're still young, hoping to create a lifelong clientele."

    While "Millennials tend to be more price sensitive and less knowledgeable than older buyers," the story says, but they are embracing the subject meaning that "wine magazines are doubling the number of young writers and reviewers. Napa wineries are creating special tours for young guests clad in jeans, yoga gear, flip flops and even Mohawks."
    KC's View:
    I must have missed the memo about how I'm supposed to drink less as I get older.

    I may not be attracted to any of the techniques being used to cater to younger drinkers, but that's okay. Just as long as we keep the vineyards open and the industry vital.

    Published on: March 13, 2013

    Advertising Age has a story about how Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison is seeking greater innovation and nimbleness by encouraging "company staffers to break down into smaller cross-functional groups to develop new product ideas," and has even rebuilt company headquarters to create "open spaces" where these teams can meet.

    According to the story, "To get inspiration for new ideas, Campbell often looks outside the company. The idea of working in smaller groups, for example, came from a consulting company called Ideo. Morrison also cited Apple founder Steve Jobs and his willingness to take risks and challenge the status quo."

    Morrison also says that in order to get a better understanding of how Millennials might engage with its products, Campbell sent teams out "and they lived and they shopped with Millennials and they ate with them and they cooked with them. They went to pop-up bars; I couldn't get them to come back to work. It was really something. But listening to the consumer and getting inspired by what the consumer needs before they know they want it is a big spur for innovation."

    She says, "There's such a gravitational pull when you're a 140-year-old company to do things that you were comfortable with, that made you successful in the past. So, we came out with this mantra when I became CEO [in 2011] of focusing forward—focusing outward to consumers and ahead to create our future. So, we had to think outside the can."
    KC's View:
    I've actually found that I often do my best thinking and innovating when I'm in the can ... but maybe I'm talking about something different.

    I would point out here that while all of these efforts make sense, the proof is in the execution. Tesco, for example, sent teams of people to live with consumers in Southern California and the best it could come up with was Fresh & Easy ... which I think is fair to say has been an enormous disappointment. Watching and listening to consumers is important - in fact, it is somewhat extraordinary that doing so can be seen in any marketing organization as breaking new ground - but you have to see the right things and then make the right moves in response to gained knowledge.

    I also think the challenge to Campbell cannot be underestimated. Saying you want a culture that takes risks and challenges the status quo is one thing, but the status quo has way of smacking down innovators and outliers. Vigilance - and a system that rewards fresh thinking - are necessary.

    Published on: March 13, 2013

    The Boston Globe has a terrific story about how Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry's went out of its way to deal with some customer complaints - by bringing eight disgruntled customers to its factory in Waterbury, Vermont, "where they could weigh in on what happened and whether their concerns had been addressed."

    The journey and visit were an “attempt to say, ‘We heard you and you are right,’” Kelly Mohr, a Ben & Jerry’s spokesman, tells the Globe. “We didn’t want to just take the complaint; we wanted to move it further."

    You can read the entire story here. What it illustrates is how to treat customers correctly and why, especially in this age of transparency, it is important to embrace every criticism as an opportunity to turn the game around.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2013

    Retailing Today reports that Walmart has introduced a new smartphone application for manufacturers, called "SPARC" - which stands for "Supplier Portal Allowing Retail Coverage." According to the story, "The goal behind the app’s development was to allow real-time data sharing and bring process improvement to the in-store environment. It does so by enhancing the ability of suppliers and third party service organizations to access inventory held in back rooms and take action at the shelf as warranted by in-stock levels.

    "Suppliers and employees of third party service groups who receive appropriate training from a merchandising firm soon will be able to use their smart phones to perform many of the functions that currently require assistance from a store associate armed with a bulkier handheld device known as a Telxon."

    The story says that "prior to the rollout the program was piloted 28 stores in four markets with several major suppliers including L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Kellogg, Unilever and ConAgra ... The app was developed by Wal-Mart’s digital partner Rockfish with funding provided by several major suppliers."

    Reuters reports that Walmart-owned Asda Group in the UK "is considering a bid for collapsed music retailer HMV." Asda is said to be interested not just in the physical locations, but also in the brand and CD/DVD/video game business.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2013

    Reuters reports that the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project is out with a new study saying that "about 37 percent of Americans ages 12 to 17 tap the Internet using a smartphone, up sharply (from 23 percent) in just a year."

    According to the story, "About three in four teenagers, or 74 percent, say they access the Internet on cell phones, tablets and other mobile devices at least occasionally.
    The survey showed that 93 percent of teenagers have a computer or have access to one at home ... But 30 percent of teens living in households earning less than $30,000 a year mostly access the Internet using cell phones. The percentage is higher than for teens in households earning more than $50,000."
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2013

    ...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

    Advertising Age reports how how Unilever has developed a "Real Moments" ad campaign for its Dove Men+Care brand, built on real-life fatherhood scenarios that it hopes will make it stand apart from other campaigns that often depict men as falling in one of three categories - "alpha males with chiseled abs driving high-powered sports cars, guys obsessed with winning the affections of women or buffoon dads."

    Says Unilever's Rob Candelino, "We hear from 73% of men that they're falsely or inaccurately depicted in advertising."

    I think that Unilever is absolutely right in this observation about how men often are depicted in advertising, and I applaud the decision to try something different. I get frustrated all the time when I see ads that use stereotypes to sell product ... such ads represent lazy thinking and a lack of creativity, in my view. (And yes, I would point out that the ad business, long dominated by men, has been equally lazy or even more so in how it has depicted women in ads. If this is what they mean by equality, I'll pass.)

    One recent commercial that I actually like a lot is the one that shows a father playing catch with his young son ... but it ends up that the kid probably isn't going to be very good at throwing a baseball because his father isn't, and is teaching him all the wrong things. I like this commercial, even though it has an unexpected joke at the expense of the dad, because it shows him out there, playing with his kid and trying his best. It is funny without being condescending, and I admire that. The only thing I can't figure out is how it is selling Volkswagens...though maybe it says something that I remember the name of the product being advertised, which I can't say about a lot of ads and commercials.

    Business Insider reports that JC Penney is denying that its CEO, Ron Johnson, is on the verge of quitting.

    The rumors emerged - and sparked a stock rally for JC Penney - as the retailer continues to lose market share and sales and Johnson faces growing criticism because of his attempt to turn the company around via an EDLP program that pretty much eliminated sales and promotions.

    • The New York Times reports that Twinkies manufacturer "Hostess Brands, the now bankrupt owner of the cream-filled confections, agreed on Tuesday to sell the snacks — along with Ho Hos, Sno Balls and Dolly Madison Zingers — to two investment firms with a shared history of corporate turnarounds."

    According to the story, "The new owners will be Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Company, which owns Pabst Blue Ribbon and Vlasic pickles. C. Dean Metropoulos, the food industry veteran who leads the firm that bears his name, is expected to become the chief executive of the snack business.
    The deal includes five Hostess factories, which the buyers hope to restart so to begin restocking shore shelves by the summer. And the new company will almost certainly feature the Hostess name."

    The deal is worth $410 million. The two firms submitted their joint bid several months ago, and other companies were then able to compete with their own offers. But none did, and Apollo and Metropoulos won the day.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2013

    • Weis Markets announced the promotion of Mike Mignola, vice president of Store Operations, to the position of Senior Vice President of Store Operations, and said that "in this position, he will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Company’s 165 stores."
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 13, 2013

    Got a number of emails responding to the Whole Foods decision to require its suppliers to list on all packaging ingredients that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a move that I think will lead to other retailers mandating the same thing, and manufacturers falling into line, even though many of them hate the idea.

    I wrote, in part:

    Maybe people on both sides of the issue will stop trying to demagogue it, and instead will embark on a mutually advantageous program of real and reassuring education.

    To quote the Borg, "Resistance is futile." People and companies may not like this Whole Foods move, but they're eventually going to have to get with the program. I'd suggest embracing it.

    MNB user Daniel Drotning wrote:

    The first mover cost will quickly be spread over all markets as few manufacturers will want to produce more than one printing for the packaging.  Love the “Star Trek” reference, or was it “Star Wars”?  Does not matter they are the same any way aren’t they?  Persistence is nimble.

    I agree with you, except that you should be careful about suggesting that Star Trek and Star Wars are the same thing. They are anything but ... and such observations are bound to rouse the ire of devotees of each franchise.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Mr. Gallo and Mr. Robb have every right to require their vendors to label any products their suppliers sell that contain any GMO ingredient. That Whole Foods believes it is what their customers want and are responding to that perceived “want” is a commendable action.  What is amazing is they did not ask their suppliers for their opinions. That is short sighted and revealing about the Whole Foods attitude towards its suppliers.  It is a can of worms now opened and it will be interesting to watch what happens.

    Will the large national brands say “Okay, Whole Foods we will do that for just you”?  Will these large national brands say, “Sorry we can no longer supply you.”  Or will these brands say “It is the tip of the ice berg and better for us to define the labeling before any government regulations define the labeling.”? 

    I think there will be pushback and resistance. But in the long run, I have to believe that manufacturers will do what they have to do in order to maintain a relationship with Whole Foods, and they will accede to the inevitability of such transparency, deal with its consequences and implications, and maybe even eventually see it as a marketing advantage.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I applaud you for addressing this issue, and for taking the stand that you have, even though much of your audience base either is against labeling or unaware of the issue.

    GMOs are untested and we don’t know the effect on human or environmental health. People have a right to know what’s in their food, whether it’s fat, sodium or GMOs. Sixty countries, including Russia, China and Syria, have either banned GMOs or require labeling. This is no longer a “fringe” issue, and conventional retailers and manufacturers can either stick their heads in the sand and wait for the bus to hit them, or take the lead to give consumers what they want—information to make sound decisions for themselves and their families.

    Still another MNB user chimed in:


    Down to Earth, a natural foods chain in Hawaiian Islands, followed suit the same day, and more will soon. It's about time.

    Labeling food that is GMO is the right thing to do.  Let the consumer decide.  Those who oppose with the weak excuse that it will confuse the consumer into thinking its somehow different - I ask them:  how do you explain patented GMO seeds!? Suing farmers when those patented seeds and pollen drift to non GMO plants, and traces are found?  Are they different, or not?

    Do you see the blatant absurdity to this argument?

    Research is public that shows animals fed GMO foods have digestive issues, increased tumors, and premature death.  In one study I read, rats refused to eat the GMO food, so for the study, were force fed.  They developed stomach lesions in 2-4 weeks, and a percentage died after that.

    Let the labeling begin!

    From another reader:

    It's about time we caught up to the rest of the world and labeled GMOs.

    And another:

    Again, Whole Foods finds ways to drive consumer costs up...! Thank God for chains like HEB who understand consumers better than anyone. They will get to the same end but with 10 times less pain to the consumer.

    And one MNB reader disagreed with my use of the phrase, "in the end, people have a right to know what is in their food":

    There is nothing "in" GMO food.  It is just FOOD!

    I get your point. If you prefer ... let's just say that people have a right to know what their food is.

    On a related subject, MNB user Brett Wing wrote:

    I'm about a third of the way through John Mackey's book "Conscious Capitalism". I'm a 36 year veteran of the grocery industry, and I love the book. At this stage in my career, the "purpose" becomes extremely important, as you advance through the hierarchy of management, purpose should become the driver.

    Yesterday, MNB reported on a New York State Supreme Court judge's ruling that New York City's planned ban on the sale of jumbo sized sugary soft drinks by some retail entities is "arbitrary and capricious," and should not be enacted. The ruling came one day before the plan was scheduled to go into effect, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration immediately said that it would appeal a decision that it called "clearly in error."

    I commented:

    Arbitrary? Sure. It always has seemed to me that too much of the jumbo soft drink ban did not make sense, especially in how it applied to certain venues and not others.

    But capricious? I think not. I think you can accuse Bloomberg of a lot of things, but he has been pretty consistent in his approach to public health matters and making New York a more livable city. He may have been arrogant and sometimes overstepped his authority, but I really believe that Bloomberg did what he did with authentic and heartfelt motivations. (This is Michael Bloomberg, for goodness sake, not some Socialist do-gooder with no feeling for the free market.)

    I'm not a lawyer, so I have no idea how the city's appeal will fare. I do think that in this case, education is better than outright bans, and so I will not be overly concerned if the judge's ruling is upheld.

    But let's be clear. New York is a healthier place to live because of the smoking bans, as are all the places that followed in the city's footsteps on this one. The city's consumers are more informed because of calorie counts on menus and menu boards.

    The big downside that I see to the judge's ruling is that it might encourage some clown to decide to launch a massive lawsuit to once again allow smoking in bars and restaurants, in public arenas and other places where the air has actually become safe to breathe. That would be a real tragedy, and I hope it does not happen.

    Ironically, this story broke at the same time as a new study from Beverage Digest revealed the nation's favorite beverage - water.

    And I commented:

    Sometimes, you don't have to try to legislate people's consumption habits. Sometimes, you can just let things happen.

    One MNB user wrote:

    Plain and simple, Bloomberg needs to spend the cities time and money on education, not bans as you stated. On your comment about a smoking lawsuit, it is not comparable my friend, smoking affects everyone in the area. Case closed, this court is dismissed.

    Another MNB user offered:

    There is an old adage that says “The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions”. Bloomberg may not be capricious in your view, but he is most definitely a condescending, pompous vaunter. Just how livable is NY City with an effective tax rate of 60% for high income earners? This nation has been on a road of good intentions since FDR and really skyrocketed under Lyndon Johnson.

    What this is really about, what you are seemingly ok with, is government managing every single aspect of one’s life so long as it agrees with your views and sensibilities. What if Bloomberg decided that New York was just a bit too dangerous and passed a law stating that everyone over the age of 21 must carry a side arm when in public? Would that be ok? Might just be that an armed citizenry would save more lives than regulating where one can smoke, or how much sugar, salt, or trans-fats they may ingest in one sitting.

    Just what does one get with and over intrusive government? Is the poverty rate lower than 1960? Are there fewer or more individuals sucking off the Government teet than there were 50 years ago, 15 years ago…10? We now have an effective unemployment rate of over 11%, but thank God one can go to New York City and be protected from indulging in too much salt, or sugar……….thank God. Perhaps the way for New York to go is to get the effective tax rate up to say 75% like the French would like to do; heck if the French can’t get it done, I bet New Yorkers can! That way no one can afford salt, sugar, or cigarettes.

    Wow. You went from the New Deal to bans on smoking and jumbo soft drinks and didn't even break a sweat.

    I guess if you want to argue that the New Deal and LBJ's Great Society were fundamentally bad ideas, you can. On the other hand, some would argue that FDR had some role in helping to guide the nation through the Great Depression, and that LBJ did some good things, too. Neither man was perfect and not everything they did was a) a good idea, or b) worked. And I would certainly make the same observation about Bloomberg.

    You make some reasonable points about New York City, but it isn't quite the uninhabitable place you describe. It remains, for many people and industries, the center of the known universe. It continues to thrive and grow. And yes, I would argue, on the whole more livable than it used to be. (And I've been against the jumbo soda ban from the beginning. Just to be clear.)

    MNB user Bill Welch wrote:

    You admitted it, “Sometimes, you don't have to try to legislate people's consumption habits. Sometimes, you can just let things happen.”  I am excited for you. 
    I would have substituted either “most times” or “always” for the word sometimes.  The government is overstepping its bounds in NYC in regard to large sodas.

    From another reader, responding to Starbucks' decision - pre- ruling - to pretty much ignore the ban:

    I applaud Starbuck’s non-compliance stance to Dictator Bloomberg’s ridiculous ‘drink size matters’ law.

    Was it not enough for Michael Bloomberg to steam roll a law through to approval, ending mayoral term limits, so he could continue on with his reign?

    In a classic drunk with power move, he is now dictating the size of drinks in an effort to stop obesity…really?!

    Let me get this straight: A vagrant can stumble into a bodega and buy a 40 oz. malt liquor, but a kid can’t buy a 20 oz. ice cold soda on a hot summer day after playing ball?

    Great plan Mike.

    Styrofoam ban is next on Mikey's agenda, citing it causes excessive landfill waste. Uh...we recycle it in my town, Mr. Mayor.

    Lucky for him nobody is yet pushing for a pedantic prig ban.

    Y'know, giant egos have a way of finding their way into the NYC Mayor's office. Ed Koch was no slouch in this department. And Bloomberg was preceded in office by an enormous ego named Rudy Giuliani.

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a Wall Street Journal report that Fairway Group Holdings plans an initial public offering (IPO) for next month, with some experts suggesting that it could raise as much as $172 million to help "fuel new store openings."

    I commented:

    For some reason, I find Fairway's moves in this areas troubling. The company still runs great stores, but I worry that the hunger for growth may stretch its culture beyond its ability to adapt to a larger scale. You end up trying to satisfy investors and shareholders before the customers, and that's always a mistake.
    MNB user Ken Wagar responded:

    Just had to say I laughed out loud when I read this, not because it isn’t true but because we see satisfying investors and stockholders 1st used as the justification for most of what major corporations and financial institutions do or don’t do almost every day and the majority of those actions are highly regarded by wall street. The cart is way out in front of the horse and with a few very noticeable exceptions the chance of the horse catching up is slim!

    And another MNB user wrote:

    Even an agnostic can say ‘amen’ to that! Now if only someone would heed your warning….

    I'm trying!

    We shared with you yesterday an obituary, written about a gentleman named Harry Weathersby Stamps, that appeared in Mississippi's Sun Herald. It was fabulous...and if you missed it yesterday, you can read the whole thing here.

    One MNB user responded:

    As someone who has the morbid habit of reading obituaries daily as a part of my practice, I can say without hesitation that I have instructed my family to follow this format in the event of my demise.

    From another reader:

    THANK YOU for sharing this!!!  Made me smile and laugh out loud.

    And another:

    I don't know where you find this stuff, but that made my day.  I think it needs to go viral and I, too, wish I had known Harry. Talk about authentic.

    It has gone viral. And I found it because one of my sisters, Amy, sent it to me. Just to give credit where it is due.

    We've had some discussion here on the site reacting to an email that described some front line workers as "useless"and arguing against the concept of a minimum wage - and certainly against any hike in the minimum wage - that rewards such people.

    We have yet another MNB reader weighing in on this one:

    Whether it be the "most useless among us" statement or other sentiments which conveyed that everyone under $20 per hour is basically a drain on society, one thing is clear - The same people who whine about "class warfare" and accountability simply have no interest in society, except for as it serves them.  If their statements in this space from last week aren't the best examples of class warfare, I don't know what else to tell you.

    They cry for "free markets" (and "freedom") like an involuntary reflex, but their freedom has no real purpose.  They care neither about their fellow citizens or the rule of law.  Long ago, they began to ignore society and the voice of their own conscience.  
    But don't worry -- there are more of us than there are of them.

    I don't know that such people have no conscience. That's a tough statement. But I would suggest that sometimes it is hard to find their compassion.

    As it happens ... yesterday we had a story about how LL Bean, having had a strong 2012, plans to give bonuses to about 5,000 full-time and part-time employees that are equal to 7.5 percent of an employee’s pay in 2012.

    I commented:

    Just think of what it will do for front-line personnel to know that they are being rewarded for hard work. As opposed to companies where CEOs don't seem to know that hard work by front line personnel is what makes them ultimately successful.

    Well, it so happens that the reader who made the original "useless people" comment wanted to comment on this story as well:

    I suggest, you make a visit to the LL Bean store just outside of Portland, Maine before you make any more uninformed cracks about front line workers.  Those workers do deserve a bonus because they are extraordinary, not less than ordinary.  You will see clean cut, good looking, hard working, knowledgeable workers that are a step up in class compared to the "front line" workers you see at cheap fast food or discount retail stores.  LL Bean does not reward mediocrity.  I believe most CEOs are well aware of the level of class their front line workers fall in.  Just as there is a difference between major league and minor league baseball players or Kentucky Derby contenders or bush track claimers.  Except for the most helpless, people should, and generally are, paid on performance, not existence.

    I'm not entirely sure what "uninformed cracks about front line workers" this person is referring to.

    But let me yet again explain my opinion on this issue.

    I think that there is an argument for an increase in the minimum wage, though I'm not sure what that number should be, and I think that keying future increases to the national cost of living seems reasonable. I think that this prevents people from being exploited, even unintentionally, and also helps assure that they can pay their rent, buy a car, raise their children, buy groceries and clothing, and yes, even pay taxes. (I would argue as a corollary to this that there ought to be no person in the US who does not pay taxes, even small amounts. Paying taxes is having skin in the game. If you write that check, you are more invested in making sure that government is both efficient and effective, and you are willing to vote your priorities.)

    Sure, it is fair to say that some front line workers are better than others. And that some front line employees are more motivated than others.

    Some of this may be in their upbringing, or in their character. But I also think that some CEOs understand that part of leadership is creating companies that nurture front line people, help them develop a strong work ethic, get them invested in their company's success, and connect with them in fundamental ways because they understand that their companies can only be as successful as the soldiers on the front line.

    I've been to that LL Bean store. Many times. And I think that one of the reasons that most of the people working there are so effective is that they understand that they actually are LL Bean. And that's a feeling that has been created through years of effective leadership and management. It didn't just happen because they are clean-cut, good looking, and hard working, and somehow better than the useless and mediocre people who work in many retail environments. If they are better at their jobs, it is because LL Bean has decided that it is more important for them to be better at their jobs, and has made that a priority.

    I know you disagree with me on this issue. And that's okay. We're all entitled to our own opinions.

    Let me draw a lesson from the movies, in this case, Babe.

    Babe is, at its heart, a movie about a pig that thinks it is a sheepdog, and actually is better at the job that most sheepdogs, because it has the courage to think outside its designated role in life. Because of this, Babe is able to lead ... not by yelling at sheep that the regular dogs just bark at, probably thinking them to be useless, but by actually leading them.

    But Babe is also about Farmer Hoggett, who is a strong enough and secure enough leader that he understands that we all are capable, given the right circumstances and even the occasional hand up (not handout), of exceeding expectations and achieving excellence.

    KC's View: