Published on: March 28, 2013
Regarding this week's Supervalu layoffs, one MNB user wrote:While I feel the pain of the associates whose positions are being eliminated at Supervalu, at least they are being treated somewhat compassionately. When Supervalu laid off associates in the banners that were being sold to Cerberus, they were notified by telephone. They were told to expect a call within a certain amount of time … if they didn’t get a call, their jobs were safe. They were also told to print out their own severance packages, that it was no longer necessary to report to the Store Support Center, and that they could mail their laptops back to Supervalu.
Sort of leaves you with a not so warm and fuzzy feeling.
In commenting about the layoffs yesterday, I noted that someone I know said that you can tell a lot about a company by how it conducts itself during such a time.
Which led another reader to write:The above statement is very true. I would be reluctant to go back to my former company because of the way I was told about my departure and the manner in which it was handled (not that they are asking). After 23 years of service, I was left feeling unappreciated and undervalued. As much as I respect many of the people still with the company and I left on as good terms as you can when you have been laid off, it did leave a bad taste in my mouth. I would work again for one of my former supervisors (he was not the one who laid me off), but not while he is with this company. Good Luck to all the departing Supervalu employees, it can be a positive thing, leading to new opportunities. That is my experience, use the transition to figure out what you want to do and move forward with your head high.
I would add to that the fact that I think F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong, and that there are
second acts in American lives. My career is testament to that. I've been laid off four times in my life ... and each time, what followed was better. Because I was determined that it would be.
From another reader:It’s very difficult seeing so many employees losing their jobs and those of us who have survived to date wish our fellow employees the best in their search for new opportunities. I know from experience that the road won’t be easy, but that many will land in places that will give them a renewed energy and much success.
I also want to commend Sam Duncan in removing the unnecessary layers of upper management compensation that have drained Supervalu during a time when many lower level employees were let go and not given raises. From my minimal perspective to date, it seems we will be a more lean company with the ability to do what’s needed to survive and prosper. Supervalu has seemingly unnecessarily spent millions of dollars on outside consultants over the years whose cost-reduction recommendations never looked to reduce the many tiers of upper management and now we’ve accomplished that.
We know we have a tough road ahead of us, but when we see a CEO who is willing to do what Sam Duncan has begun to do, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s a comfort knowing the company‘s long-term success is his focus.
Several people asked the other day if all Supervalu's problems can be laid at the feet of former CEO Jeff Noddle, which led one reader to offer:I am a retired Supervalu associate with 32 years of service. The majority of my career was spent with a company that was driven by sales, generated by the most important and valued of resources, the employees. The Supervalu meltdown cannot be laid entirely at the feet of the Noddle regime. Jeff was a visionary, who was looking out for the long term health of Supervalu and it's associates with the 2006 acquisition of Albertson's. He recognized the growing threat from Walmart, Costco, Target and Sam's Club and believed as we all did, that the additional buying power of a national organization would allow Supervalu to remain price competitive in the new world. The coordination and structure of the deal with CVS and Cerberus was near genius. Enter Albertson's "Talent Acquisition Team", this was the beginning of the end. The vision was lost. Albertson's executives and their cronies, including Craig Herkert, manned the key positions that determined the direction of the enterprise. They hired a cadre of excellent people, very few of whom were from Supervalu, most from "the outside". This group , due to poor, shortsighted direction, changed the culture from a sales driven enterprise, in which the vendor community partnered to generate sales and reasonable cost of goods, to one that was selling promotional opportunities to vendors that sold little product. ALBERTVALUE was born! Retails were raised to generate profit, and the demise was very predictable, advice fell on deaf ears. How did that work for Albertson's before the acquisition......?
Had a story the other day about the possibility of flexible, name-your-own-price-for-tickets pricing at movie theaters, which led one MNB user to write:We have 2 movie complexes in our town, one is quite new w/stadium seating; the other is the original one---still nice but older. All new movies go to the new one at retail prices. Once a movie has run its initial opening (time depends on how long it takes for the crowds to dwindle), it is moved to the other theater complex where all tickets are $3.00 for all ages, all times. In addition to making sense in keeping the new one full, it's really a nice treat for families struggling to take their kids to anything w/o getting a loan from the bank. Yes, they have to wait until the rush is over, but it's then, say, $15 for a family of 5 to see the same movie, only later.
Finally, yesterday MNB took note of how Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, got much applause at a shareholders meeting when he was criticized by one stockholder for supporting legalized same-sex marriage on the grounds that it hurt sales and profits by alienating some customers. Schultz replied: "If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much."
In yesterday's piece, I took no position on the gay marriage debate. I've done it before, but it was irrelevant to my point yesterday ... which was that when companies and business leaders take cultural and political positions, they have to be prepared for consequences ... though sometimes, taking those positions can reinforce loyalty among the core customer base, which is probably what happened at Starbucks.
However, Steve Kneepkens - an MNB reader who grew so annoyed at my coverage and commentary about how this issue plays out in the workplace that he cancelled his subscription - happened to read MNB yesterday, and decided to once again take issue with me:Although I stopped reading Morning News Beat, I received a number of emails stating that I should continue our dialogue. Evidently somebody thought having a counter argument to the cultural issues that are presented on your website was a good idea.
Sure enough, the day I come back there is still a discussion regarding marriage. First let's be clear – there is no hyphenated marriage. There is marriage. Period. Marriage is not built solely for the purpose of adult pleasure. Marriage is a sacred union bound together with the intent of creating families. This is where you interject and tell us not everyone can or wants children. That is the exception. Families are the pillar and rock in which society is formed.
Schultz’s support of same-sex marriage is very much about dollars and cents — or at least about brand value and employee retention, which both affect the bottom line. For many big companies, the fear of losing out on talented employees or loyal customers who support gay rights is even greater than the fear of losing out on the dwindling number of those who don’t.
Fantastic – this is really the heart of the issue. Marriage being redefined is all economics – and has zero to do with the family or relationships. The new proposed definition is about inheritance, insurance and taxes. This is about “getting what is mine” and no one will stop me.
Here is another way to look at redefining words.
What I would like to do is receive benefits for being “native American”. I think we should redefine what native American means. I was born in this country and so were my parents. Why should I not be considered native to this land we call America? Well, we have standards for the definition (although Elizabeth Warren took that to the extreme). By definition that is what a definition is – a standard!! So I would like to receive a check for being Native the USA. Ridiculous right?
Be careful because they will come for you someday – and there will be no one left standing.
Ahhh – nothing like napalm in the morning.
Where do I start?
Well, first of all, I'm thrilled that you are getting emails urging you to continue reading MNB and respond to my coverage and commentary. This is the nature of community, and precisely what I hope MNB engenders.
I never worry when people unsubscribe. There are plenty of places to get news and commentary out there, and MNB is designed not to be plain vanilla. Most other sites in this B2B space eschew a strong and provocative editorial voice because it makes them nervous. Here, I like to think that we thrive on it ... and when I say "we," I mean the 25,000+ subscribers, a list that grows by 50-100 names each and every week
. If people want to read something else because they don't like MNB, that's okay. No worries. Some people prefer McDonald's to Cajun food. But I'm not cooking for them.
As for your criticisms ... you certainly are entitled to them. But they are your opinion. I have my opinion (which, I repeat, I didn't even state yesterday, because that wasn't the point.)
It is nice that you are willing to tell me what I would interject before I even do it. Saves me the trouble.
I would never dispute that Starbucks' position on this issue is about dollars and cents, but I don't think it is all
about dollars and cents, nor is it rooted in fear. I think Schultz's position is rooted in feelings of fairness and tolerance and compassion and an understanding that the diverse culture of 2013 is the culture that is his customer base. This is a good thing.
While I respect your position, I do think that in the end, this point of view will be on the wrong side of history. In many ways, the war is over. I think most people under 25 cannot even understand why we're having this discussion. There still will be skirmishes and battles, but it seems to me that the end is in sight and it is clear. Just ask Senator Rob Portman.
As for me, let me be clear about my position. I actually think that it is none of my business if gay people marry. I have no right to object to or approve of such a legal arrangement. It has nothing to do with me ... it has to do with whether they want to make that commitment to each other.
But again...that's not what yesterday's piece was about. My piece was about the consequences for taking positions. Sometimes it is worth it. Sometimes it is not. For example, in your business, you may find that there are consequences for being perceived as anti-equal rights for a specific group of people. Or not. Or maybe the consequences are positive. My point is that these things need to be thought about. Carefully.
I do think, to be perfectly honest, that your Native American metaphor is a little silly, and a reach. You're desperate for things not to go the way they seem to be going, so you cling to a desperate metaphor. But that's okay. I feel your pain. But your desperation is made clear when you say that "they" will be coming for me. Nothing like paranoia and fear to cloud one's thinking.
I also think that, unconsciously, you hit on something important ... because I would argue that, in fact, much of marriage is about economics. A good marriage is about Return on Investment. In a month and a couple of days, I will celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary, and we have only succeeded because we both invested ... and the dividends have been wonderful.
One final comment. You're not using napalm. With all due respect, you're shooting blanks.
BTW...because yesterday's commentary was about business, not my position on gay marriage, it only generated two emails. One from Steve Kneepkens, the "former" MNB reader. And this one, from a current subscriber:What continues to amaze me, is our collective lack of considering history as a learning tool for today.
And I feel the same is happening with the arguments against Gay Rights.
History has shown us that the oppressed will always and I means ALWAYS fight for their right to be free or to be equal. We have seen this fight with the Israelites from the Egyptians, with the Emancipation Proclamation, Suffrage, Civil Rights, the Women's Movement and now Gay Rights. Equal is equal - regardless of anyone's personal interpretation.
So, for those of us who feel they own the moral compass, or are endowed with more rights than others - remember, we are all born the same way and we all die the same way. And, in between, you can bet that the struggles will continue until a sense of equality and personal freedom is felt by all.