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    Published on: March 15, 2015

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, coming to you this week from Southern California. Many of you will not be surprised by that, since MNB has been coming out early all this week - the Pacific time zone really works for me. I'm standing right now midway between Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach ... a stretch of the California coastline that I've always loved, since I went to college just a few miles from here, at Loyola Marymount University.

    When I was in college, it was fun to come down here, park the car and go for a long walk on the Strand - there used to be a great place where we could get these enormous $2 burritos, $1 beers, and then walk up the street to go to a move for $1.50. Those days are gone forever, I'm afraid; standing here on the beach, one can hear the waves breaking onto the sand from one direction, and from the other, the sound of hammers and drills as yet another mansion goes up, replacing the beach houses that used to run along the Strand. Life goes on.

    I'm in Southern California for three good reasons. First, there's no snow. We still have about 18020 inches of snow back home, and even though there's a thaw going on, it could take weeks to get rid of ... and me, I prefer sand and sun. The good news is that I have a business reason to be here - a speech that I had the opportunity to give this week.

    The third reason is kind of cool. My 20-year-old daughter is a criminal justice major and a junior at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut - she's a dean's list student, and she's beginning to toy with the idea of law school. So since I had to be here, and she was on break this week, I invited her to come with me, and we made a trip to see Loyola Law, just so she could get a taste of the experience.

    I have to tel you, we were both blown away - by the people we met, by the way in which the legal education is designed to meet the needs of the students and the needs of the community, and also by the Frank Gehry-designed campus, which is this wonderful oasis in downtown LA. When we were done, I was ready to apply to law school...

    Last night, my daughter and I were having dinner at a place in Manhattan Beach that we both like, called Simmzy's. It is just this small place just up from the pier - lots of regulars, always crowded, with interesting and really good food and a great beer and wine list. And she asked me, "Dad, if you were here by yourself, what would you be doing right now?"

    "I'd probably be here," I said. "I'd be sitting at the bar, but I'd probably be here."

    She thought that was really sad ... that I'd be sitting at the bar by myself, 3,000 miles away from home.

    But the truth is - and I told her this - that I have no problem doing that. As they say in The Godfather, Part Two, this is the life I have chosen. The other truth is that I'm never completely alone ... there always are people to talk to...bartenders, waiters and waitresses, other patrons ... and the experience is always richer for it. I get to hear their stories, wherever I happen to be, and that keeps me from being alone.

    Now, I'm lucky. I get to make my own hours and my own decisions, so I don't have to do what some people do - get off the plane, go to a meeting, go to the hotel, order room service, go to bed, and then do it all over again the next day. I've been doing this for almost 30 years, and I think I've ordered room service a total of three times ... there's always a reason to go out, and someplace to go.

    My daughter wasn't really convinced, so I tried again: "Y'know what's really sad? The people I see at places like this who are sitting there with someone else - maybe a first date, or maybe someone they've been married to for 40 years - and they don't talk. I've never really believed i that old line about 'a relationship so great that you don't have to talk'. To me a great relationship - and I have this with your mom - is that I can't wait to talk to her. There's always something to talk about, and that's my idea of a great relationship."

    I thought about it afterwards, and I think there's even a business lesson in here somewhere. (Go figure.) Part of being successful in business, I think, is being open to the new experience - the new conversation, the new story, the new person who can teach you something you didn't know before. When I walk out the hotel room door, my goal isn't just to eat and drink something that maybe I haven't had before (and sometimes to visit a place that may be 3,000 miles from home but where I feel like a regular, because that also has its charms). It also is to go learn stuff.

    Like I said, I'm lucky. Learning stuff is how I make a living. Stop doing that, and I'd die. Or, might as well die, because I wouldn't really be living.

    There's that great line from The Shawshank Redemption: "Get busy living, or get busy dying."

    I think it applies to life and business.

    That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2015

    by Michael Sansolo

    When examining the results of any survey it’s important to know the context of the question, the audience and the person asking the question. Consider what happened to me last week.

    In a presentation to the Food Shippers of America I was allowed to engage the 500- to 700-person audience in some quick electronic response questions. The last of the three responses gave me pause.

    I asked what percentage of food industry sales will own in five years and more than half of those responding voted for 15%. Think about that for a second: a group of industry professionals, many with decades of experience, predicted that essentially a company larger than Kroger is going to emerge in just five years.

    Let’s cut the group some slack. They had no idea what I was going to ask and were given only seconds to answer a question with no context surrounding it. Among their choices: 5% to 25%, 15% probably seemed reasonable. In essence, I set them up for the choice.

    And despite all that, we should still consider the answer. After all it is entirely possible that Amazon’s impact on food could be every bit as profound as its entry in books, movies and so many other categories. For all we know, 15% could be low.

    Plus no matter what the percent the reality is the competitive landscape is clearly about to change again. So every operator needs to consider the challenges such a competitive force would have. It challenges all of us to consider how to we sharpen operations more than ever, with a special focus on how to make the shopping experience more special than ever.

    But here’s the thing: not every statistic from the Food Shippers meeting was merely a guess-timate. In fact there was one number that the entire industry better consider with tremendous seriousness.

    According to current estimates the trucking community has 25,000 fewer drivers than are actually needed and because of demographics (the average age of drivers is mid-50s) the problem is likely to get worse in the coming decade. Considering how important drivers are to the entire supply chain, that’s a terrifying statistic.

    The people attending the Food Shippers conference understand the impact of this number, telling stories about postponing truck purchases simply because there is no one to drive the rigs. As a group they discussed some real challenges facing them including the need to better compensate drivers, better recruit women and minorities, and better use technology to improve travel times.

    But it isn’t just their problem. It’s also yours.

    Among drivers, the food industry has what could best be described as a terrible reputation. Drivers complain about poorly scheduled drop and pick up times, which result in long delays and waits. Worse yet is a contentious environment that at times results in cash fines for the drivers.

    As a result the best and most experienced drivers frequently request food industry-free routes, while some companies promise food industry-free routes as an incentive for new drivers. In other words, this critical part of the industry is under tremendous stress. Forget Amazon, this problem is here already.

    Fortunately, some of the discussions of the FSA meeting pointed up easy solutions many of which simply begin with cooperative discussions between supply chain partners to address these problems. And drivers say simply treating them better and offering benefits such as break rooms, showers and simple respect, can drastically improve the situation.

    Obviously it takes some effort and possibly some cost, but the result could be a better supply chain. On the flip side, doing nothing could create overwhelming handicaps for an industry so reliant on trucks.

    Especially if Amazon is on the way.

    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 on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    A story emerged out of one of the Sunday news shows yesterday that I think teaches a strong business lesson. Now, to repeat something that I wrote last week when I took shots at Hillary Clinton for not using an official State Department email address when she served as Secretary of State, therefore keeping all her emails on a personal account less vulnerable to prying eyes, let me just say for the record that I want to wade in a little carefully here, because the context is political ... but to be absolutely clear, I am not choosing political sides. But the example is too juicy to resist. Last week, when writing about Clinton, I wrote that she is just the latest example of a person who, believing that they can control the narrative, actually behaves in a way that subverts their best interests and hands control of the narrative over to others."

    All of which I believe, Fervently. And I think it offers a strong and relevant business lesson.

    But yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-North Carolina), who has said that he is considering a run for the presidency, said on "Meet The Press:" that there never will be a problem about looking at his email ... because he has never sent one.

    Not officially. Nor privately. Never.

    “I don't email,” Graham said. "You can have every email I have ever sent. I've never sent one.”

    Fox News writes that "Graham's lack of email use in a world -- both inside and outside of the beltway -- that essentially relies more each day on social media could ... pose a challenge for him if he becomes a presidential candidate."

    Referring to his lack of email experience, Graham said, "“I don’t know what that makes me."

    Well, I do. The word Luddite comes to mind.

    And the question I would ask is whether there is a board of directors anywhere in America that would hire a CEO that never had sent an email. (This isn't a generational issue...Graham is younger than I am.)

    I remember that when I started MNB more than 13 years ago, I'd occasionally run into a CEO who did not read the site online, but rather would depend on an assistant or secretary to print it out. (One of them actually suggested to me that as much as he liked MNB, he thought it would be a lot more compelling if it were in color. I had to gently tell him that maybe he should ask his secretary to use a color printer. True story.)

    I'm glad to say that this hasn't happened for a long time. And as outrageous as I find Clinton's actions to be, I find Graham's admission also to be remarkable ... and in its own way, an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus's three-rings will be a little less crowded in coming years, as the company has announced its intention to stop using trained elephants in its shows by 2018.

    The Daily Beast story says that this is is a reactive decision: "Jurisdictions from Georgia to California have outlawed the use of 'bullhooks,' goads that animal rights people decry as cruel but circuses insist are humane and needed to control elephants.

    "However humane present-day circuses may or may not be, the history of elephants in America is dominated by unconscionable cruelty. The Ringling ban can be seen as a kind of retroactive victory for the hundreds of elephants that were beaten, tortured, shot, and hanged over the years."

    In fact, the Daily Beast writes, Ringling Bros. may "simply ... weary of fighting proposed bans in ever more cities, towns, and counties."

    The circus folks may be weary of fighting legal issues, but I have to say, as a guy who used to love going to the circus (even going once or twice by myself when I was young and single, just because I liked it), I'm weary of what more and more seems to be the wanton abuse of animals. I'll never go to SeaWorld or any of its ilk again after seeing Blackfish ... not because I'm entirely convinced that everything the movie says is absolutely true, but because I'm tired of animals being manipulated for my pleasure.

    The world has changed. We know more now about how these animals are treated by these profit-driven businesses. The magic is gone, and a greater level of transparency is in place, which affects how people feel and how they spend money.

    Every business should pay attention. It is about who controls the narrative, and it is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    It is of ongoing interest to me when companies decide to color outside the lines of their own businesses, challenging traditions and even taking bites out of hamburgers made from sacred cows.

    Which is exactly what happened this week when HBO announced the details of the video streaming service it is about to launch, linking with Apple to initiate the new product. The move, the New York Times writes, serves to unite "two premium brands from the media and technology worlds in a quest to reinvent the way people watch television ... Called 'HBO Now,' the service does not require a traditional TV subscription and will be available exclusively on Apple devices when it makes its debut in early April."

    Essentially, what HBO is doing is acknowledging a major shift in consumer behavior away from watching on TV sets hooked up to cable outlets, and toward watching on computers, tablets and other mobile devices - a recognition that has compelled companies like Amazon and Netflix to adjust their own business models.

    According to the Times, "The new service is part of a growing wave of offerings this year from media, telecom and technology companies. Dish Network, the satellite provider, recently unveiled a new web-based service that includes ESPN and several other popular networks for $20 a month. CBS and Sony also are starting Internet-only subscription plans.

    "The companies are fighting to stay relevant to a generation of so-called cord-cutters or cord-nevers, who pay for Internet access but not traditional TV subscriptions. As its target audience for HBO Now, the network has pointed to the 10 million homes in the United States with web service but no traditional cable or satellite television subscriptions — half of which are estimated to subscribe to a streaming service."

    The story goes on to note that "the service will cost $14.99 a month and offer all of HBO’s original programming, past and present, as well as its movie offerings. People who subscribe to the service in April through Apple will receive the first month free ... The exclusivity with Apple lasts for three months. HBO also is in talks with other distributors, including traditional TV providers and digital partners."

    The argument here is very simple. The people who are cutting the cord from traditional cable or satellite TV services are almost genetically bred to look for every opportunity to cut the cords that bind traditional consumers to traditional businesses. It would be a mistake - even foolhardy - to think that this compulsion won't impact every part of their consumption experience.

    It seems to me that however you are doing business today, you'll be doing it differently - fundamentally differently - in five years time. Maybe sooner.

    Consider this an Eye-Opener. A Wake-Up Call. Or whatever it takes.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    It certainly has been a couple of weeks in which email has been top of mind.

    First it was revealed that when she was Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used a private email system, not the official State Department system ... which she explained this week as being a matter of "convenience," not an obsessive desire for secrecy. (She's about to be inconvenienced in a big way and give up a lot of her secrets. So much for obsession.) The business lesson here was simple - don't ever delude yourself that you can control the narrative by not being transparent. It doesn't work.

    Then, there was the admission by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a potential GOP presidential contender, that he could never find himself in a similar position, since he's never sent an email. I also found a business lesson in here ... as in, how many boards of directors would hire a CEO who had never sent an email? Wouldn't that at least create the appearance of being out of touch not just with modern technology, but with real life?

    Now, I've gotten some email on this subject, which you can read in "Your Views." But the New York Times had a story yesterday about how Graham is in a fairly sizable club, because there are a bunch of senators who use email rarely, if at all.

    Like ... Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona). Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York). Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware). (A bipartisan group, to be sure.)

    There was even a story this week about how former President Bill Clinton has sent only two emails in his entire life (though he a Twitter user). And the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts)? When he was issued a Blackberry by the Senate leadership back in the day, he handed it to an assistant and it was never seen again. (The Times coins a name for the politicians who are technology-challenged: The Flip Phone Caucus.)

    I have to admit, this has been an Eye-Opener. It never occurred to me that so many people leading this country would be so against the use of a modern and ubiquitous technology, and in some cases would even take pride in their disaffection.

    Different people will view this mini-trend in different ways. Some politicians say that the use of email would get them in trouble, because it would allow them to say what they think and feel without a filter. Personally, I'm a little concerned that public officials are willing to admit so openly that they need a filter to keep them from being honest ... that their stated opinions are far more calculated than that. (I always knew this was the case ... but I didn't expect them to admit it.) For me, this is less about politics, and more about being relevant to and engaged with the time in which you exist and the people that you are supposed to be serving and leading. (Just as in business, it is about being relevant to and engaged with your customers. Get that wrong, and you're out of business.)

    Again, it is all about controlling the narrative. Except that now, the narrative is gaining its own momentum ... and I have to wonder if there will be electoral consequences to be paid by all sides.

    I hope so. But then again, maybe that's just me.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    One of the questions I get asked most often by MNB readers with whom I find myself chatting is this: "Have you ever gotten up in the morning and had nothing to write about?"

    The answer, happily, is no. It's never happened. Not in the more than 13 years that I've been doing MNB. There's always something ... though some mornings are better than others.

    Consider, for example, today. It could've just been a regular morning, replete with stories that offered business lessons about strategic thinking, tactical movement, and smart marketing.

    But, no.

    Today, there was a story that ran in newspapers all over the UK. One of those papers was the North Devon Journal, which provided perhaps one of the best headlines I've ever had the pleasure to read:

    "Erection-inducing deadly spiders found in Tesco bananas by shocked wife"

    It's okay. You can go back and read it again. (I did when I first saw it.)

    This is, in fact, an actual story. Not something from the Onion, and it ran in newspapers all over Britain. Some papers emphasized the killer spider part of the story, some focused on the erection. The really good ones - and by "good," I mean the ones that really wanted to be read - managed to get all the elements into their headlines - the killer spiders, the erection, and, of course, the bananas.

    It seems that what happened is that a man bought a package of Costa Rican bananas from his local Tesco and brought them home, where his wife discovered that they were infested with Brazilian Wandering Spiders, which are also known as Banana Spiders. (Apparently, the Brazilian Wandering Spiders are common to Costa Rica, which explains, if nothing else, the whole "wandering spider" thing...)

    According to the story, "It is considered the world's most dangerous spider. They are aggressive and venomous spiders which can lead to death and serious injury - including a painful four-hour erection."

    The woman reportedly called Tesco, where a representative said she should bring the bananas back to the store where they were bought, so that the local manager could decide on the proper course of action.

    Really? That's the best they could come up with?

    I find myself wondering what the options might've been, other than taking the bananas back, killing the spiders, and offering both a full refund and an apology.

    Perhaps the spiders could've been repackaged, priced higher, and marketed to murderous and/or dissatisfied wives in the "marital aides" section. (It's been a bad run for Tesco, you've got to grab the opportunities when and where you can.)

    Of course, if Tesco did this I assume it would have to offer all the usual caveats to customers. Like, "normally when a man finds himself with a four-hour erection we would urge him to call a doctor, but in this case a mortician probably would be the better course of action..."

    In fact, the North Devon Journal writes, Tesco probably could've sold the spiders to the scientists who actually are studying the Brazilian Wandering Spiders to see if their venom can be adopted for erectile dysfunction treatments. (Can't wait to see the good news/bad news fine print on those drugs...)

    I also find myself wondering about the wife. Was she really shocked? Or, for at least a few moments, did she consider the possibilities and offer her husband a banana? The bad news, or maybe the good news, is that I'm going to end up a widow. But the better news is that the last four hours of the marriage are going to be one hell of a ride.

    So there you have it. Some mornings on MNB are better than others, and sometimes we get a gift, in the form of an Eye-Opening headline that reads, "Erection-inducing deadly spiders found in Tesco bananas by shocked wife".

    It's true. There will always be an England. And sometimes it'll be known for more than a stiff upper lip...
    KC's View: