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    Published on: December 10, 2021

    KC hates to give this guy any more attention, but Better.com CEO and co-founder Vishal Garg continues to offer lessons in how not to be a CEO, how not to lead, and how to make things worse after you've already behaved in a way so egregious that you've forced a delay in the company's IPO.

    Published on: December 10, 2021

    The New York Times reports that "employees at a Buffalo-area Starbucks store have voted to form a union, making it the only one of the nearly 9,000 company-owned stores in the United States to be organized and notching an important symbolic victory for labor at a time when workers across the country are expressing frustration with wages and working conditions.

    "The result, announced on Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board, represents a major challenge to the labor model at the giant coffee retailer, which has argued that its workers enjoy some of the best wages and benefits in the retail and restaurant industry and don’t need a union.

    "The union was leading in an election at another store, but by a margin smaller than the number of ballots the union was seeking to disqualify through challenges. The challenges must be resolved by the labor agency’s regional director in the coming days or weeks before there is a result. Workers at a third store voted against unionizing, according to the board, though a union lawyer contended that some ballots had been delivered to the agency and not counted."

    The unionized employees will now join Workers United, an affiliate of the giant Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

    KC's View:

    Let's be clear.  This is symbolic.  It is one store out of more than 15,000 in the US.

    But … symbols are important.

    Starbucks argued that unionization would disrupt what it characterized as the unique relationship that it has with its store employees, but clearly there is at least one store where workers thought they could do better.  

    Now we'll see what happens next.  How does Starbucks respond?  To what degree dopes this vote light the fuse on a broader unionization effort around the country?

    It has to be pointed out that this all is happening at a time of enormous labor upheaval.  Workers have more power than at any recent time, people are quitting jobs because they are dissatisfied with treatment and compensation, or just want something better.  And more companies than ever are upping their game, simply because they have to.

    I don't think that unionization is going to solve all the issues that Starbucks' employees may have with the company, and I think it is fair to say that union representation will straitjacket Starbucks to some degree.

    But here's the deal.  Some companies have opened the door to unionization efforts by not creating stakeholder cultures that nurture and invest in employees.  Unions know an opportunity when they see one, so expect this trend to gain greater traction.

    Here's a prediction:  Within the next year, at least one Amazon facility will vote to unionize.

    Published on: December 10, 2021

    The Washington Post reports that Publix Super Markets has been compelled to be more explicit in distancing itself from the political activities of Julie Fancelli, the 72-year-old daughter of the company's founder.

    Fancelli has been implicated in the insurrection that took place on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC, through her financial support of organizations that helped stage and promote a rally there that directly led to the attempted to the violent march on the Capitol.

    "Fancelli is facing public scrutiny as the House committee investigating the insurrection seeks to expose the financing for the rally that preceded the riot at the U.S. Capitol," the Post writes.  "Fancelli is the largest publicly known donor to the rally … After an initial report a few weeks after the rally that Fancelli had donated about $300,000, Publix released a statement saying that she was not involved in the business and that it could not comment on her actions."

    But now, as reports emerge that Fancelli donated more than twice that much, Publix management has gone further, "saying it 'cannot control the actions of individual stockholders' and issued an unusual rebuke of a member of the founder’s family. Because the company is privately held, Fancelli’s stake — if any — is not a matter of public record."

    “We are deeply troubled by Ms. Fancelli’s involvement in the events that led to the tragic attack on the Capitol on January 6,” Publix said in a statement to the Post.

    Some more context from the Post story:

    "Fancelli has never served on the Publix board of directors or as a company executive. She previously owned a business that sold millions of dollars worth of food to Publix at a time when family members were running the chain, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Fancelli left that company, Alma Food Imports, Inc., in 2017.

    "Publix declined to disclose how many shares Fancelli owns in the private company. She does not appear in recent SEC filings that list individuals who own at least 5 percent of the company’s shares. The majority of shares, which are not traded publicly, are owned by employees, from store cashiers to truck drivers.

    "The company temporarily stopped making campaign donations after survivors of the mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school protested Publix’s contributions to the 2018 gubernatorial campaign of Republican Adam Putnam, an outspoken National Rifle Association supporter.

    "As Fancelli’s involvement in the Jan. 6 rally has emerged this year, some Publix shoppers have threatened boycotts on social media."

    KC's View:

    I'm not sure that Publix has to worry too much about boycotts in markets where it is entrenched, but this is a company with expansionist plans.  It may be that the company could be more vulnerable to political attack as it moves into new markets, though that also depends on the degree to which the current environment persists or worsens … not to mention the degree to which Fancelli commits her resources.

    This is complicated, and I have some degree of sympathy for Publix - it isn't the company's fault that someone closely linked to the company - even if they have no operational or leadership roles, and even, it appears, a limited financial interest in the company's performance - gets connected to a violent assault on the nation's Capitol.

    There have been other companies around the country that have found themselves dealing with these kinds of issues to varying degrees.

    For example, in Louisiana, Rouses co-owned Donald Rouse Sr. found himself on the defensive because of his presence in Washington on January 6, though he quickly emphasized that he only attended the rally that preceded the attack on Capitol Hill, and he condemned the violence that took place that day.

    I've actually been a little surprised that Meijer, the iconic Michigan-based retailer, seems to have avoided any blowback even as Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Michigan), scion of the family that founded the company, has taken a lot of grief for his vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump and his criticisms of some members of the GOP as well as those with insurrectionist impulses.

    Like I said, it is complicated.  What companies have to realize is that they have to make choices, and that it is increasingly hard to stay on the sidelines as issues of enormous and existential import seem to emerge every day.

    One other note … Publix also has been dealing with another founding family issue this week, though this one is sadder.   Carol Jenkins Barnett, the daughter Publix founder George W. Jenkins, passed away this week at age 65;  five years ago, she had been diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer's disease.

    Fox Business notes that Barnett "began with Publix in 1972 as a cashier at Grove Park Shopping Center and later worked in the company's corporate marketing, research and development department. She earned a bachelor's degree in business and marketing from Florida Southern College in 1979.

    "In 1983, she was elected to Publix's board of directors, where she served for 33 years, and in 1991 she was named chair and president of Publix Super Markets Charities. In 1998, she received the doctor of public service honoris causa from her alma mater.

    "Both Jenkins and her husband Barney are well known for their philanthropy work, giving back to nonprofits, including United Way, Florida Partnership for School Readiness, and Family Fundamentals and funding community projects, including Barnett Park and the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children at Lakeland Regional Health. Her final philanthropic gift was the founding of Bonnet Springs Park."

    Published on: December 10, 2021

    The Boston Globe this morning reports that "executives at CVS Health told investors Thursday that the company believes sales will increase as it expands primary care and other health care services in its stores, which they claim will be more affordable and convenient for consumers.

    "Dr. Troyen A. Brennan, the company’s chief medical officer, told investors that the company’s target consumers for their expanded primary care services are seniors and seniors at risk. In the future, he said, some specialty services will be added as well as an expansion made in mental health services."

    The story goes on:

    "The drugstore chain will focus on priority areas in its new strategic plan, which will include advancing primary care delivery by guiding consumers across the care continuum to sites and to providers that will meet their needs, both in the store and virtually through. CVS will launch a new all-payer health products and services such as home health services, the launch of health-related subscription models for broader populations, the commercialization of analytics and insights, and establishing all-payer and provider enablement services.

    "Executives said the company plans to drive a digital-first, technology-forward approach that will expand the company’s reach with its more than 35 million online members, which they said will 'launching new consumer-centric services and offerings, enhancing the customer experience and streamlining business operations — leading to higher customer satisfaction levels and lower costs'."

    At the same time, CVS announced that it is "advancing its commitment to addressing maternal health disparities with a $1.74M investment. The funding will support initiatives led by America’s Essential Hospitals, Every Mother Counts, and the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics."

    The company points out that "according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women in the U.S. are three times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related causes compared to white women. Overall, the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries; 60 percent of those deaths are likely preventable."

    KC's View:

    I think this is all laudable and, I'd guess, entirely appropriate in terms of how the company should strategically position itself in terms of health care needs, technology advances, and consumer trends.

    That said, I find it a little difficult to reconcile CVS's vision of its future with some of the CVS stores that I've been into, which almost seem schizophrenic in their approach - a little bit about health care, a little bit about convenience retailing, and very little about customer service.  Is this a place that I can see as providing primary care services?  At the moment, hard to imagine.

    Big dreams - and big value propositions - have to be supported by reality.  Methinks CVS has some work to do if it is narrative is to be both compelling and authentic.

    Published on: December 10, 2021

    Another delivery service is offering ultrafast service in New York City.

    Istanbul-based Getir said yesterday that it has launched operations in New York, having completed what it said was a successful test in Chicago.  Boston is next on the company's list of target cities, with plans to do business in coming weeks.

    Here's the Getir pitch:

    "The company revolutionized last-mile delivery to customers with its 10-minute grocery delivery proposition, offering approximately 2,000 everyday items from chocolate to soft drinks, dairy to cleaning materials, and chips to pet food. Getir was founded in 2015 as the world’s first ultrafast grocery delivery service in Istanbul and has grown rapidly in recent years. With the company’s launch in the United States, Getir is now operational in nine countries worldwide, paving the way for further global expansion of the ultrafast grocery delivery category. Getir’s delivery model and emphasis on prompt service helps customers save time so they concentrate more on the things that matter most to them. This year alone, Getir has raised over $1.1 billion in funding, valuing the company at $7.7 billion.

    "Getir offers its riders and pickers both full time and part time job options. The company is committed to offering employees exemplary working conditions and making safety a top priority, and riders are provided high quality helmets and protective equipment along with their ebikes and emopeds. Additionally, riders receive comprehensive training and driver safety courses."

    Getir says it will be operating in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and parts of Queens, with continued expansion in the coming weeks;  its hours are 8 am to midnight.

    KC's View:

    In the words of the great Jimmy Durante, "Everybody wants to get into the act."

    (And yes, I realize that I instantly date myself with this reference.)

    I get that everybody wants to offer faster service than the next guy, and everybody thinks speed will be the great differentiator.

    While I still think that too many people are confusing "speed" with "frictionless," and that the latter is more important than the former, my even bigger issue in this case is that it is hard to imagine that any of these people evert have driven in New York City, much less bicycled its streets or navigated its sidewalks.

    Published on: December 10, 2021

    The Los Angeles Times has a piece about health food grocer Erewhon, describing it as "a cultural phenomenon (and occasional spectacle) that customers, critics and industry analysts joke could only exist in L.A. Company executives, in the midst of an ambitious expansion plan to bring Erewhon stores outside Los Angeles County for the first time in decades, to as many as 20 locations in all, hope that’s not the case.

    "Before it became the land of $21 superfood smoothies, mushroom tinctures and organic-raw-vegan-sugar-free-gluten-free key lime pie, Erewhon had dwindled to a single store on Beverly Boulevard, cluttered and wholly unremarkable in a city not exactly hurting for health food grocers … One decade and six more stores later, Erewhon has morphed into something far beyond successful regional grocer. It’s also a cafe, celebrity scene, tourist destination, date-night spot, post-workout hangout, selfie backdrop, seller of $150 branded merch sweatpants and obligatory stop on the way to or from Los Angeles International Airport."

    You can read the piece here.

    Published on: December 10, 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…

    •  Here are the US Covid-19 coronavirus numbers:  50,535,791 total cases … 815,269 deaths … and 39,879,448 reported recoveries.

    The global numbers:  268,899,887 total cases … 5,306,333 fatalities … and 242,025,119 reported recoveries. (Source.)



    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 76 percent of the US population age five and older, and 71.5 percent of the total US population, has received at least one dose of vaccine, while 64.3 percent of the five-and-older population and 60.5 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated.

    The CDC also says that 24.9 percent of the total population, and 26.9 percent of the 18-and-older population, has received a vaccine booster dose.



    •  The Boston Globe reports that "the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has signed off on the Pfizer COVID-19 booster for 16- and 17-year olds, clearing the way for millions more to receive the additional dose of the vaccine six months after their second shot."

    “Today, CDC is strengthening its booster recommendations and encouraging everyone 16 and older to receive a booster shot,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky wrote in a statement. “Although we don’t have all the answers on the Omicron variant, initial data suggests that COVID-19 boosters help broaden and strengthen the protection against Omicron and other variants. We know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and I strongly encourage adolescents ages 16 and 17 to get their booster if they are at least 6 months post their initial Pfizer vaccination series.”



    •  The Associated Press reports that "companies of all sizes are rethinking their plans to send workers back to the office as the new omicron variant adds another layer of uncertainty.

    :Alphabet's Google and the nation's second largest automaker Ford Co. are among those once again delaying their return-to-office plans, while other businesses whose employees have already returned are considering adding extra precautions like requiring masks. Officials in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway and Sweden also have asked people in recent days to work from home if they can because of concerns about the variant.

    "Meta, formerly known as Facebook, and ridesharing company Lyft separately announced Tuesday that they're letting workers delay their return when offices fully reopen early next year. Meta still plans to open its headquarters at the end of January but will allow workers to delay their return as late as June. Lyft says it won't require workers to come back to its offices for all of next year, though they will fully reopen as planned in February."

    Published on: December 10, 2021

    •  Walmart this week said that it was raising "the bar on climate action by creating a supply chain finance program that not only enables greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, but for the first time, uses science-based targets to do so in a way that aims for a 1.5-degree Celsius pathway … the program will help Walmart’s private brand suppliers – particularly small and medium-sized businesses – by introducing enhanced standards, tools and capacity building to help them upskill and in turn align their operations with transparent sustainability objectives.

    "The announcement marks a key next phase in Walmart’s journey to avoid 1 billion metric tons (a gigaton) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its global supply chain by 2030. HSBC has been supporting Walmart’s Sustainable Supply Chain Finance program (SSCF) since 2019 – encouraging its suppliers through improved financing access and terms if they reduce GHG emissions in at least one of the six pillars that are a part of Project Gigaton."

    Published on: December 10, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Kroger said yesterday that it will build a new Ocado-powered, 200,000 square foot customer fulfillment center (CFC) in Concord, North Carolina, just a little northeast of Charlotte.  The facility is expected to be open in two years.

    Kroger currently operates CFCs in Groveland, FL and Monroe, OH and is slated to open sites in California, Dallas, TX, Forest Park, GA (Atlanta), Frederick, MD, Phoenix, AZ, Pleasant Prairie, WI, Romulus, MI (Detroit), as well as South Florida and the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, and West.



    •  Boxed Inc. said yesterday that it "has completed its business combination with a special purpose acquisition company and said its was further integrating with Google Cloud," Marketwatch reports.

    "The e-commerce grocery platform, which sells bulk consumables and licenses its e-commerce software to enterprise retailers, said Wednesday it completed its combination with Seven Oaks Acquisition Corp.

    The company said Thursday it will further integrate with Google Cloud.  As part of the updated licensing agreement, Boxed will be able to make use of Google Cloud's advanced cloud computing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence technologies."

    Boxed also let its customers know yesterday that it had gone public, with the following email:



    •  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "U.S. inflation reached a nearly four-decade high in November, as strong consumer demand collided with pandemic-related supply constraints.

    The Labor Department said Friday the consumer-price index—which measures what consumers pay for goods and services—rose 6.8% in November from the same month a year ago. That was the fastest pace since 1982 and the sixth straight month in which inflation topped 5%.

    "The so-called core price index, which excludes the often-volatile categories of food and energy, climbed 4.9% in November from a year earlier. That was a sharper increase than October’s 4.6% rise, and the highest rate since 1991.

    "The November prices trend came before the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, which poses a new threat from a pandemic that is well into its second year."

    Published on: December 10, 2021

    I got many, many notes from folks this week who liked my "MNB @ 20/In Conversation" segment with Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran, and I thank your for that.

    But there was one email that I thought I should share because the MNB reader took a contrarian position:

    These guys have no idea what is going on at store level. They're shielded from reality by the leadership at each banner's corporate level.  Every time there is a "visit" these understaffed stores run around like chickens with their heads cut off to make sure there is enough lipstick on the pig. Don't even mention staffing issues because they don't want to hear it.   

    I would disagree with the notion that Vivek doesn't know what is going on, and doesn't want to hear about the critical issues.  That was not at all my sense of the man.



    Got a fair amount of feedback after my original piece about Better.com CEO and co-founder Vishal Garg and his horrible treatment of employees;  the defining word in the criticism was "asshole."

    MNB reader Tony Bartys wrote:

    I absolutely concur. Who’s checking or should have checked his fitness for management.

    He's a founder.  I suspect the board's reaction will be minimal, since they're probably all hand-picked.

    From another reader:

    LOL! Call them like you see them! Appropriate description. 

    And another:

    Good mangers, CEO’s, presidents, etc. lead by example.  Clearly in this case this person is doing the complete opposite and he gets what he deserves.  This also seems somewhat illegal claiming employees “stole from him” by only working a few hours out of the 8 hour work day and lashing out and terminating them on a zoom call.  I’m wondering were there warnings?  Write ups?  No prior communication to address alleged poor work performance?  This is yet another example of why there is a worker shortage in our country right now.  Plain and simple people want to, and deserve to be treated with respect at the work place.  I agree, what an asshole.

    MNB reader Joe Axford wrote:

    I couldn't agree more, KC. And if I was one of those not fired, I would be looking for a new job immediately, knowing how he treated my coworkers.

    And still another:

    I once had a CEO that told his senior staff he wanted them to “Work like he had a gun to their heads”.  He didn’t last long….

    I once had a boss who, every time he said, "Things are finally turning around," we'd all get our resumes together because there was about to be another round of layoffs.



    One MNB wanted to chime in about the new Marc Lore food truck business that is about to be rolled out:

    Initially I found this idea intriguing but then started wondering about chasing trucks back and forth across town for individual orders. There seems to be potential for a lot of wasted time and effort when not pursuing the primary mission of the enterprise.

    Why not just do scheduled food trucks in neighborhoods instead?

    My Dad lives in a retirement community and that's what they do and it seems to be successful.

    As long as the truck owner can make a living, guessing they would be in favor of that so they could focus on their core mission of cooking and not driving around.



    Yesterday we took note of an Axios story about how "JPMorgan Chase Global Research says in a forecast to clients: '2022 will be the year of a full global recovery, an end of the global pandemic, and a return to normal conditions we had prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.'

    One MNB reader responded:

    In a related story, The Conference Board’s latest wage survey of 240 companies of 10,000+ employees, forecasts a 2022 base average wage increase of 3.9%, which is huge movement.  Going along with the JPM Chase outlook you also cited, could it be setting us up for over-heated acceleration of our economy?  As long as somebody is really watching at the Fed, it will be a generationally exciting moment to see.



    The Associated Press reported yesterday that "Italy’s anti-trust authority on Thursday fined Amazon 1.13 billion euros ($1.3 billion), accusing the company of exploiting its dominant position against independent sellers on its website in violation of European Union competition rules."

    One MNB reader observed:

    Guilty or not? Not for me to say. But fining them big money is actually the only way to get them to change bad behavior, let's face it no one goes to jail. Many times the fines are so much smaller than the profit they actually made from the bad deed, the fines will be happily paid. In the good ole USA we tend to under fine bad corporate behavior for a multitude of reasons. Mostly the argument goes, that it affects shareholders. If the shareholders are affected they may hold the board of directors accountable which in turn may hold the executives accountable. But I digress, just a pipedream to expect a board of directors to hold the executives responsible. After all, they sit on each other's board. Sounds kind of cranky doesn't it! 



    And finally, I did a piece yesterday - albeit reluctantly, since I am a NY Jets fan - that pointed to how the New England Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick, scored some serious business lessons during Monday Night Football this week.

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    As a Bills fan, it pained me even more.

    I feel you.

    Published on: December 10, 2021

    In Thursday Night Football action, the Minnesota Vikings beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-28.

    Published on: December 10, 2021

    Of all the movies and television shows that came out in 2021, there certainly was no documentary that earned as much attention and approbation as The Beatles: Get Back ,the three-part, 468 minute extravaganza that premiered late in the year on the Disney+ streaming service.  Get Back, as it happens, is the second go-round at this material;  there was an 80 minute 1970 documentary, using some of the same footage, called "Let It Be," which chronicled the making of The Beatles' 12th studio album of the same name.

    But Get Back isn't just more than five times as long.  Director Peter Jackson (who knows something about multipart extravaganzas, having given us the Lord of the Rings movies in the early days of the 21st century, has taken all the original footage, more than 60 hours worth, and fashioned something that feels remarkably like we're just hanging with the Fab Four during a particularly tumultuous time in their careers, not long before the group broke up.

    I have to admit that having watched the entire documentary, I'm not sure that it needed to be quite as long.  Maybe six hours instead of eight?  Of course, this is entirely subjective.  Fanatics probably will get to the end and want more (and may hope for a Director's Cut that features another couple of hours of footage).  Non-fans will be frustrated by the pace, if they watch it at all.  I'd classify myself as a fan - meaning I loved the Paul McCartney concert we went to pre-Covid, would do it again, but probably wouldn't go our of my way to go to a Ringo Starr concert.  But I love the music, play it often around the house and in the car, and if I found the documentary to be on the long side, I also found it to be a remarkable piece of work.

    To me, one of the most fascinating things about the film was the ability to drop in on the creative process.  People often say, "I wish I had been a fly on the wall…", but in this case, that's almost exactly what the experience is like.  Not to suggest that The Beatles were unaware of the cameras and microphones, but they seemed both aware of how they were being perceived and, in some ways, utterly unconcerned at that moment in their lives about public perceptions.  They were, after all, The Beatles - authenticity got them to where they were, and so authenticity was their default position.

    The Beatles entered these sessions knowing that they needed to write, rehearse and be ready to perform 14 original songs - and it was the first time that they'd gone into the studio without material ready to go.  The original plan was to finish up with a big concert that would be recorded for TV to support the new album, and so they were working with hard deadlines (though not as hard as some would've wished).  But watching the way they create is fascinating - they appear to be messing around a lot, riffing on their old songs and playing a wide variety of music from memory that has been written by other composers.  But the shagginess of the process hides the reality - this is how they warm up, loosening not just their guitar-and-piano-playing fingers, but also their imaginations.  And so, when they're workshopping both "Get Back" and "Let It Be," it is fascinating to see words and melodies emerge.  They're playing around, but they're also playing … and it is the ability to experiment and collaborate (especially Paul McCartney and John Lennon) that showcases their extraordinary musical genius.

    The Beatles: Get Back is not just an amazing experience that can be enjoyed either over a series of viewings (which is how I did it), or in one long substance-fueled experience (not my choice, but hey, if it works for you, let it be).  It is like a college-course-with-music in leadership and management, innovation and creativity.



    While King Richard isn't an overly complicated film, it does present  a complicated view of leadership, which makes it an excellent and provocative movie to think about when pondering such issues.

    King Richard is the story of Venus and Serena Williams, two kids from Compton, California, who, largely because of the relentless focus of their father, Richard Williams, managed to leave their inner city beginnings behind and ascend to the highest levels of professional tennis.

    When I say "relentless focus," that may be the understatement of the year.

    Richard Williams is portrayed by Will Smith in a deep-dive of a performance that reminds us of just how extraordinary an actor he can be (one of my favorite Will Smith roles is as Muhammed Ali in the 2001 biopic directed by Michael Mann).  Williams is a child of poverty who grew up in Louisiana with first hand experience of what is was like to be disrespected and abused as a Black person in the deep south.  Years later, the father of five daughters and married to a nurse (played by Aunjanue Ellis in an performance that in every way measures up to Smith's), Williams simmers with anger and bitterness over how he's been treated over the years, and his plans for Venus and Serena are specific, detailed and without room for compromise - he wants to mold them into champions.

    One of the problems with the movie is the inherent lack of drama - we know how it all turned out for Venus and Serena, though for some it may come as a surprise the degree to which Venus's achievements eclipsed those of Serena in the early years.  We know how it all ends, and it isn't like the Williams sisters faced enormous obstacles once the family - largely because of their father's  chutzpa - managed to escape Compton.  And so the film largely focuses on Richard's complicated and unwavering management style.

    To be sure, King Richard does appear to be a movie in which the real story's sharper edges have been sanded down a bit.  Both Serena and Venus Williams were involved in the production, and contemporaneous reports from their early days suggest that there were numerous times that Richard Williams did cross the line in his methods.  (Like, say, tearing the heads off dolls to make sure his daughters never contemplated motherhood as a life goal.)

    Because he comes from outside the traditional tennis system, it gives him the ability to take a big picture approach and ignore "conventional wisdom."  While many see it as a disadvantage, this actually gives him the ability to focus in on the things that matter.  And he may know more about raising champions than anyone in the tennis game:  "When I'm interested in a thing," he says, "I learn it.  How it works, how the best people in the world do it.  And that's what I did with tennis, with the girls."

    The planning, the broad perspective, the commitment to excellence, the ability to motivate - all positive attributes for any business leader.  If Richard Williams was a flawed leader because of his inability to take in feedback from others, which led to a level of untrustworthiness  - which can be a problem in any organization - it is still hard to argue with the results.  And if King Richard gives us a film somewhat lacking in drama, it does give us a film replete in business lessons worth discussing and applying to the everyday conduct of commerce.



    One of our favorite wines in the Coupe household is Albariño, which is largely unique to Spain and usually manages to be both tropical in nature and able to stand up to spicy food.  My son's girlfriend brought over a new one (to us) the other evening - the 2020 from Ninety+ Cellars, sourced from the Rias Baixas region of northwest Spain.  It was delicious … and fair to say that it was a savvy move for her to bring it. 

    The other evening we also enjoyed the 2020 Estate Rose from Willamette Valley Vineyards - their wines always are among our favorites, and sipping it made us wistful for the times we've spent at their vineyard and tasting room just south of Portland.

    Maybe next summer, we'll be back…



    That's it for this week.  Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

    Stay safe.  Be healthy.

    Sláinte!!