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    Published on: May 4, 2021

    by Michael Sansolo

    Considering that I never heard of him before his passing last week, I find Chuck Geschke to be inspiring on multiple levels.

    First off, his life’s work demonstrated the incredible power of thinking outside the box.  And his story reminds us of the potential of the potential of rule breakers and innovators and how great ideas can be too easily dismissed when they come from inside the house.

    In case you haven’t heard of Geschke (pronounced Gesh-kee) or missed his obituary last week (he died at age 81), there’s an extremely high likelihood that you have used his work very recently. Geschke created what we now all know as the PDF.

    According to his obituary in the New York Times, back in 1980 Geschke and a fellow researcher, John Warnock, created a way of sending documents between a computer and a printer. If you are old enough to remember what computers were like in 1980, you can remember what an unfathomable thought that must have been.

    Apparently, it was an impossible thought even inside their own company - Xerox. When the enterprising pair presented their idea, the higher ups at Xerox estimated the concept would take seven years to bring to market. Geschke and Warnock disagreed, left Xerox and founded a little company called Adobe.

    Unsurprisingly, the one person who did recognize the potential of their work was Steve Jobs, then little more than a start up guy himself. Jobs tried to buy the new technology, but was turned down, so instead licensed it for Apple and the rest is history.

    As I read Geschke’s story, I couldn’t help but think of other times great innovations that came from people inside companies that completely passed on what was being suggested, including, famously, Sam Walton suggesting a new approach to retailing to his bosses at Ben Franklin stores.

    Certainly, not every out of the box idea is going to be a grand slam along the lines of Adobe or Walmart, but there’s something worth considering in these types of stories. Management at any level, whether it’s a corporate powerhouse or simply a small team, should ask itself regularly if new ideas and innovations are welcomed or chased away. Are you creating an environment when your team members feel comfortable presenting an out-of-the-box idea or not?

    Phrases like “we’ve always done it that way” should be banned, especially when we live in such changeable and uncertain times.  More than ever you need innovative ideas, creative people and certainly an environment that encourages new thinking to resolve problems, needs and competitors unlike anything we’ve seen before.

    Perhaps you’ll find some rebels inside your company with some wild idea or solution that could pay off in unknown ways. 

    Geschke’s story is also worth celebrating for one other interesting tidbit. Geschke’s father was in the printing business and gave his son two sage pieces of advice. Avoid the printing business and the stock market.  All Geschke did was create a way to completely overhaul the printing business and as of last week, the company he created had a market value of $245 billion. 

    Father, it seems, did not know best.

    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 here.

    And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

    Published on: May 4, 2021

    by Kevin Coupe

    Bill and Melinda Gates, who together used his Microsoft fortune to build The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of $50 billion and has had an enormous global impact in areas that include public health and early childhood education, announced yesterday that they are divorcing after 27 years of marriage.

    They said in a statement that they plan to continue running the foundation together, but that "after a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage."

    Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is one of the richest people in the world, with an estimated net worth of about $124 billion.

    Now, I recognize that this is technically not a business story that falls within MNB's purview.  Though, to be fair, there is a component to this that could have repercussions throughout society and business.   The New York Times reports that Melinda Gates ":already has her own firm, Pivotal Ventures, which she has used to invest in issues related to women’s economic empowerment … Should she receive a portion of Mr. Gates’s Microsoft holdings, she could set up a new foundation or make direct gifts to other causes she supports."

    Some of the coverage of the breakup suggests that left to her own devices, Melinda Gates might actually be a more progressive and activist investor, following a path taken in recent months by the likes of MacKenzie Scott after her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

    It all is speculation, of course.  We have no more knowledge about how the Gates' divorce will play out across their various interests than we do about the circumstances that led to the breakup.

    I just know this (and since this is my soapbox, I get to use it):  When the news of the Gates' divorce broke yesterday, it was an an Eye-Opener.  And somehow, because of the impact they've had and the enormous good they've done together, almost ineffably sad. 

    Published on: May 4, 2021

    Dark Daily, which describes itself as a newsletter "serving clinical labs and pathology groups," reported yesterday that Walmart "plans to install 4,000 primary care 'supercenters' in stores by 2029 that will include clinical laboratory testing services. This is on top of the dozens of Walmart Health locations already in operation in Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Illinois, and Texas."

    It is expected that these healthcare supercenters would include "an expanded menu of clinical laboratory testing services - along with the EKGs, vision care, dental care, and more - that Walmart Health locations currently provide for children and adults."

    KC's View:

    There have been a number of traditional retail companies investing in healthcare services in recent years, including CVS, Walgreen and Rite Aid, as they seek - to varying degrees - to become players in the larger healthcare business.

    But the Walmart plans, if realized to any degree, would ratchet up the competition in a way that would seem to be highly consumer-centric and potentially create new paradigms in a space that many see as a major battleground in both the near-term and long-term.

    Published on: May 4, 2021

    The National Retail Federation (NRF) is saying that "with more businesses reopening and bringing employees back to work, the U.S. economy is on firm footing and could see its fastest growth in more than three decades."

    While there is a great deal of uncertainty about how fast and far this economy will grow in 2021, surveys show an increase in individuals being vaccinated, more willingness to receive a vaccination, increased spending intentions and comfort with resuming pre-pandemic behaviors like shopping, travel and family gatherings,” says NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.  "This feel-better situation will likely translate into higher levels of household spending, especially around upcoming holidays like the Fourth of July and spending associated with back-to-work and back-to-school.

    "The consumer is nearly always the key driver in the economy, and with the consumer in good financial health, a sharp demand is expected to unfold over the coming months."

    The NRF notes that "the $2.4 trillion saved by households during February alone was approximately twice the average monthly savings during pre-pandemic 2019 and comes on top of savings accumulated over the past year as consumers stayed home rather than dining out, traveling or attending sports and entertainment events.  In addition, use of consumer credit is up, with outstanding credit surging in February to its highest level since late 2017."  All of which suggests a consumer base with growing confidence, discretionary income, and a desire to spend money.

    Published on: May 4, 2021

    Apollo Global Management - which has investments in companies ranging from Smart & Final to Shutterfly, Redbox to Cox Media Group - yesterday spent $5 billion to acquire Yahoo and AOL from Verizon Communications, which is betting out of the media business.

    Verizon will maintain a 10 percent stake in the business.

    KC's View:

    This deal reflects a reality of modern competition - if you don't stay current, don't pivot when necessary, and don't make savvy investments in the business, then it is almost impossible to stay relevant and resonant.

    Think about it.  Both AOL and Yahoo were pioneers of the internet age.  For many of us, AOL was our original gateway to the internet, helping us understand its structure and possibilities and allowing us to learn to crawl before walking and running.

    And yet … in 2015, Verizon bought AOL for $4.4 billion.  In 2016, it bought Yahoo for $4.83 billion.  And now, it is selling them both off for a sum that is roughly half the original investments.

    Published on: May 4, 2021

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, we've now had 33,230,992 total Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 591,514 deaths and 25,908,684 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 154,286,794 total coronavirus cases, with 3,229,092 resultant fatalities, and 131,706,337 reported recoveries. (Source.)

    A note here.  Someone wrote in yesterday to ask what has happened to the people who haven't died and haven't recovered … with the implication that the numbers don't add up.  In fact, I don't find it hard to believe that many people still are suffering from the effects of Covid-19; there have been numerous reports about so-called "long haul" patients.  In addition, I suspect that "recoveries" are harder to track than "deaths" - and the statisticians are being careful only to include those recoveries that can be certified.

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says this morning that 56.3 percent of the population 18 years of age or older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 40.6 percent being fully vaccinated.

    •  From the New York Times this morning:

    "Medical experts welcomed the news that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine could be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for use in adolescents ages 12 to 15 by early next week, a major step forward in the U.S. vaccination campaign.

    "Vaccinating children is key to raising the level of immunity in the population, experts say, and to bringing down the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. And it could put school administrators, teachers and parents at ease if millions of adolescent students soon become eligible for vaccinations before the next academic year begins in September.

    "Pfizer’s trial in adolescents showed that its vaccine was at least as effective in them as it was in adults. The F.D.A. is preparing to add an amendment covering that age group to the vaccine’s existing emergency use authorization by early next week, according to federal officials familiar with the agency’s plans who were not authorized to speak publicly."

    • reports that the state of New Jersey has come up with a carrot that it is using to get the state's residents vaccinated.

    Except that in this case, the carrot is a beer.

    "Beer and a Shot" is the name of the promotion - "anybody 21 and older who gets their first shot in the month of May may take their vaccination card to a participating brewery for a free beer."

    There are a dozen New Jersey breweries participating in the promotion.

    •  The Los Angeles Times reports that "the Transportation Security Administration said Friday it will extend its mask requirement, which also applies to airports and train stations, through Sept. 13. The rule took effect Feb. 1 and was set to expire May 11.

    "The agency said that children up to 2 and people with certain disabilities will continue to be exempted from the mask rule.  Violations can carry fines of up to $1,500 for repeat offenders."

    •  The Seattle Mariners announced yesterday that it will be the "first team in Major League Baseball that will make COVID-19 vaccines available to fans attending games at T-Mobile Park.

    "The club announced plans Monday to do so via a partnership with the City of Seattle and Sounders FC, which began executing a similar process at its match on Sunday.

    "The plan is for this to be an ongoing availability at Mariners home games until further notice, beginning with Tuesday’s 7:10 p.m. PT contest against the Orioles.

    No appointment is needed. Vaccines will be offered on a walk-up basis at three locations inside T-Mobile Park."

    •  Maybe the world actually is getting back to normal.

    The Associated Press reports that LL Bean's flagship store in Freeport, Maine, which had been opened 24-hours a day since 1951, only to have to curtail those hours because of the pandemic, is returning to 24-hours-a-day operation.

    The AP said that "workers planned to remove the locks Monday as the store resumes year-round, round-the-clock sales … Returning to 24-hour operations marks an important milestone for the company during the pandemic," said Shawn Gorman, company chairman.

    Published on: May 4, 2021

    •  PepsiCo is launching what it is calling a "fast beverage" virtual restaurant called Pep's Place that will position Pepsi's beverage products as food accompaniments …. but starting with the beverage.

    According to the announcement, Pep's Place "turns the traditional ordering process on its head. Consumers are invited to first pick their Pepsi beverage of choice, which then prompts curated food items based on that beverage, to enhance the overall meal experience. Pep's Place opens today in select locations around the country for delivery only available through and major food aggregators (Uber Eats, Door Dash and Grub Hub)."

    In other words, you order a Diet Pepsi, and then the website tells you what available entrees from local restaurant partners goes with it.

    The Pep's Place test has an initial 30-day time frame.

    •  Bloomberg reports that Amazon "will take over 'Thursday Night Football' from Fox Corp. a year earlier than originally planned, getting a jump on efforts to lure streaming viewers with the most popular spectator sport in the U.S.

    "The NFL said Monday it’s exercising an option to begin the transfer from Fox, so the 2021 season will be the last for that network’s Thursday night telecasts. The tech giant is paying on average about $1.2 billion a year over the 11-year life of its deal," giving it exclusive rights to the Thursday night package.

    “This expedited deal is an immediate differentiator for us as a service, as it gives Prime members exclusive access to the most popular sport in the United States,” said Marie Donoghue, vice president of Global Sports Video at Amazon.

    Published on: May 4, 2021

    •  Publix Super Markets said yesterday that its quarterly sales for the most recent period were $11.7 billion, a 3.9% increase from $11.2 billion in 2020.  Same-store sales were up 2.4 percent.

    Net earnings for the three months ended March 27, 2021 were $1.5 billion, compared to $667.3 million in 2020, an increase of 124%.

    Published on: May 4, 2021

    Responding to yesterday's FaceTime piece about how I drove 50+ miles for a lobster roll, one MNB reader wrote:

    Aw, man Kevin. I’m heading to New Haven on the 13th to see my child (at Yale). First trip in 14 months!  NOW, we have to go to get one of those scrumptious looking sandwiches!

    They are closed Mon/Tues, so I’d better do some planning.

    Thanks for the idea. Mmmmm

    First of all, congrats on having a kid at Yale.  Second, congrats on being able to take your first trip in 14 months.

    As for the lobster roll, they’re totally worth the trip.

    One suggestion, though - if you get the urge to go to the Chamard Vineyards in Clinton, CT, DON’T.  It is just awful … I’d rather go through colonoscopy prep again.

    MNB reader Garry Beaty wrote: 

    My son-in-law and I drive from Lenox, Massachusetts to Hoboken to get a ‘roast beef and mutz’ sandwich. Also pick up ‘mutz’ for 3 families.

    To be honest, I had to look up "mutz."  It is short for mozzarella … and I hope you tell me where in Hoboken you get what sounds like a spectacular sandwich.

    Another MNB reader wrote:

    This email doesn't have anything to do with your video this morning, 9ther than it reminded me of a documentary I just watched on Netflix  called "Seaspiracy".

    It was a very eye opening look at sustainable seafood, commercial fishing ,and the health of our oceans. I highly recommend watching it. I would love to hear your thoughts on it as well. I think retailers may have to look at this issue and maybe do the right thing for the environment and truly protect our oceans.

    You're not the first person to recommend Seaspiracy to me, but I haven't had the chance to catch up with it yet.

    I did see a piece by Mark Bittman, though, about the documentary in which he wrote:

    As most of you know, I strongly believe in part-time veganism, but given that billions of people around the world rely on animal products as a major, if not primary, protein source, my feeling is that militant, proselytizing veganism —as represented by both Cowspiracy and Seaspiracy— is a privileged and even racist stance. (In addition, nearly every expert and ocean protector interviewed in the film is a white Westerner, while Asians are overwhelmingly portrayed as the menacing bad guys. Letting this dynamic loom over the film is irresponsible at best.)

    Yes, industrial fishing must be better regulated: It’s a horror show, and its awfulness cannot be overstated. And at the same time, small-scale fishing is an activity many of our fellow humans perform to survive and provide for their families, neighbors, and communities. There is a big and important difference between these two things, and Seaspiracy, by blurring that difference, amounts to manipulative propaganda. Telling people they can't eat fish because you think it's cruel or unsustainable is like telling Indigenous Plains people they can't eat bison or Indigenous Northerners they can't eat seal or whale: That’s just not right.

    Not judging.  Just saying.

    Finally, yesterday I posted an email from an MNB reader that said:

    Whoever is trying to bring you down, is already below you.

    Everything comes to you the right time, Be patient and trust the process.

    I responded:

    I never think of the disagreements we sometimes have here on MNB as people trying to bring me down.  We're just having a free and largely respectful exchange of ideas.  And trying to have some fun.

    Prompting MNB reader Gregory Gheen to write:

    And this is why I read your Newsletter:

    Thanks.  That's also why I write it.