retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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 yet again from the campus of Portland State University in Oregon.

Tonight is my last class of the summer here at Portland State, and, alas, my 2015 "adjunctivity" will come to an end. Except that it won't, not really, because I'm lucky enough to have a continuing relationship with this school, Tom Gillpatrick and the folks who have turned the Center for Retail Leadership into a remarkably vibrant player in the area's food and retail scene, and with the students, who still send me emails from time to time. Besides, tonight may be my last class of this semester, but there still will be exams to grade...

Part of what makes this class, and the Center for Retail Leadership, so special is the connection to the local community. For example, tonight we're actually doing our class in a New Seasons store, and I want to thank CEO Wendy Collie for making it possible. Our feeling was that you can only learn so much in the classroom...and I'm really looking forward to our time there tonight.

When we're in the classroom, we've been lucky enough to have some fascinating folks come in to visit with us ... people like Mike Burrington, who has forgotten more about e-commerce than i'll ever know; Erik Wolf, who practically invented the concept of food tourism); Todd Cornwell of Franz Bakeries, who came in to talk with us about branding; and Bruce Silverman, who might be best described as a born-again entrepreneur. All great folks who taught us a lot ... and, by the way, if you'd like to join us in class next summer, just drop me an email.

As it happens, the first guest we had in class was David Howitt. I wrote about David a couple of months ago after he appeared on a panel I did at PSU's annual executive conference, but since then I've had a chance to read his book, "Heed Your Call," and I want to recommend it to you. You can find it on Amazon here.

"Heed Your Call" is a fascinating work, mixing in philosophy, spirituality, art, commerce...and even some movies. (I love that he references Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, among others.) His premise is that business can be purpose-driven beyond just making a profit ... though make no mistake, he is a capitalist and believes in profit. But Howitt also believes that businesses can change the world for the better, and he takes us through his own journey from what he calls "the abyss" of being a lawyer through his own discovery of entrepreneurial talents and abilities he didn't even know he had, which has allowed him to help shape businesses of consequence.

I loved this book, and I loved that David came to class to share his philosophy with us. To me, what he is doing ... and certainly what Tom Gillpatrick and I tried to do with our students each week ... is summed up in a story he tells in "Heed Your Call" about a grandfather talking to his grandson.

"There are two wolves living inside each of us," the grandfather says. "One is good, living in harmony with the earth, hurting no one, and will only fight when the fight is good and just and right. He believes in hope, generosity, and empathy. The other is evil, and survives on anger, arrogance and jealousy ... he is filed with hate, and will fight for the sake of fighting. And these two wolves inside us are constantly fighting for domination."

"Which wolf wins?" the young boy says to his grandfather.

The grandfather smiles. "The one you feed," he says.

In class each week, and here on MNB, I hope we're feeding the good wolf.

That's what is on my mind this Wednesday morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

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