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    Published on: September 19, 2022

    I had the opportunity the other day to spend some time at the Willamette Valley Vineyards winery and tasting room in Turner, Oregon, and got a lesson in storytelling ... but not the one that you might expect, considering the venue.

    Published on: September 19, 2022

    by Kevin Coupe

    An ongoing subject here on MNB over the years has been the necessity for business leaders to adapt to the changing needs of younger generations, which have different priorities, different skill sets, and different ways of absorbing information and acting on it.

    This became clear this weekend when two stories presented themselves.

    One was in the Wall Street Journal - a piece about how "more viewers, especially younger ones, are using tools that transcribe dialogue in the content they’re watching online."  They're not doing so because of hearing loss, which is traditionally why older viewers have used closed captioning to understand what is being said;  rather, they're being used for "helping them better understand the audio or allowing them to multitask."

    The Journal writes:  "In a May survey of about 1,200 Americans, 70% of adult Gen Z respondents (ages 18 to 25) and 53% of millennial respondents (up to age 41) said they watch content with text most of the time. That’s compared with slightly more than a third of older respondents, according to the report commissioned by language-teaching app Preply."

    Tech companies are aware of the shift, which companies ranging from Apple to Netflix improving their captioning game, making them more accessible and easier to read.

    The other story about how information is taken in by young people was in The Atlantic, which has a piece about how many young people have no idea how to read or write cursive - a fact that the author became aware of when he was teaching a college course in which two-thirds of his students couldn't read cursive, and even more couldn't write it.

    Some context:

    "In 2010, cursive was omitted from the new national Common Core standards for K–12 education. The students in my class, and their peers, were then somewhere in elementary school. Handwriting instruction had already been declining as laptops and tablets and lessons in 'keyboarding' assumed an ever more prominent place in the classroom. Most of my students remembered getting no more than a year or so of somewhat desultory cursive training, which was often pushed aside by a growing emphasis on 'teaching to the test.' Now in college, they represent the vanguard of a cursiveless world."

    Which led the writer/teacher to ask his class:

    "What did they do about signatures? They had invented them by combining vestiges of whatever cursive instruction they may have had with creative squiggles and flourishes.

    "Amused by my astonishment, the students offered reflections about the place - or absence - of handwriting in their lives … we found ourselves exploring a different set of historical changes. In my ignorance, I became their pupil as well as a kind of historical artifact, a Rip van Winkle confronting a transformed world."

    The decline of cursive has happened in fits and starts, with society moving away from requiring it and then mandating it, often in fits and starts;  Mrs. Content Guy, who was an elementary school teacher for 20 years, saw these shifts in her own classrooms, as curricula changed, sometimes from year to year.  (For the record, she thought it was incredibly important for kids to be able to read and write cursive.)

    However, as The Atlantic points out, "the decline in cursive seems inevitable. Writing is, after all, a technology, and most technologies are sooner or later surpassed and replaced."

    To me, these stories are a necessary reminder to businesses about how they communicate to both customers and employees.  Especially now, when shoppers have a plethora of choices and labor is increasingly hard to come by, business leaders have to understand that they need to adapt their communication tools to make them relevant you younger people.

    On the one hand, they can't read cursive.  On the other, they want to use subtitles so they don't need to listen quite so closely.  Eye-Opening trends, and business leaders ignore them at their own peril.

    Published on: September 19, 2022

    From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "More workers across a range of industries are going on strike, seeking pay raises to catch up to inflation while the tight labor market has taken away some of the risk of walking off the job.

    "In the past few weeks, thousands of teachers in Ohio and Washington, nursing-home workers in Pennsylvania and mental-health therapists in California have walked picket lines after contract negotiations broke down over wages and other issues. Other workers have held daylong walkouts as they try to unionize coffee shops, distribution centers and other workplaces.

    "There were 180 strikes involving roughly 78,000 workers in the first six months of this year, up from 102 involving 26,500 workers in the same period a year earlier, according to a strike tracker created by researchers at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

    "More unions and employers are also entering into tough contract deliberations, with the potential for strikes looming. Workers’ demands include higher pay to account for inflation as well as better conditions, reflecting how the pandemic has reshaped jobs and many people’s attitudes about their work."

    KC's View:

    There are some retailers out there who have expressed their displeasure to me when I've suggested - simplistically, in their view - that retailers can reduce the threat of strikes and strife by paying attention to workers needs and demands preemptively.  I actually think that's a fair criticism - there are a number of retailers out there who have been progressive (not in a political sense) in their labor relations, and yet have been subjected to criticism and hostility anyway.

    I'm not sure how to address this, short of waiting for the pendulum to move back the other way.  But I do think the most sustainable way for business leaders to deal with labor in the long run is to invest in workers to the degree that they will feel invested in the business … and working to make sure that throughout their organizations, people feel that their work is meaningful.

    This may not solve all their labor problems, but I do think it might create the beginnings of a foundation on which to build.

    Published on: September 19, 2022

    Albertsons has made a deal that is designed to make its products and services more available to senior citizens and other residents of "affordable, mixed-income and market-rate housing."  The move is, the company said, a recognition that "many people in our communities face challenges that prevent them from shopping in our stores."

    The deal with WinnCompanies will "bring essential services directly to more than 133,000 residents across 520 properties nationally. The collaboration will provide grocery, prescription and vaccination resources to seniors and families, reducing accessibility barriers and further fostering the company’s commitment to support the health and well-being of the communities it serves."

    According to the announcement, "The services being provided on an ongoing basis will include prescription drop-off and mail delivery, grocery delivery and on-site immunizations by Albertsons Cos.’ pharmacy associates … In addition to the on-site clinics, residents also have access to care at Albertsons Cos. pharmacies, including those at Safeway, Albertsons, Shaw’s, Star Market and Jewel-Osco stores across the country."

    The partnership launched as a pilot in Massachusetts late last year, and now is being  expanded to all WinnCompanies communities where Albertsons Cos. serves including those in California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia.

    Published on: September 19, 2022

    The Wall Street Journal has a story about interim CEO Howard Schultz's "bucket list" for what are being called his last six months in the job, before Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC, takes over the job:

    "Mr. Schultz would like to ensure that the strategic revamp plan he and other executives developed is on track, he said in an interview, and he 'desperately' wants to get back to China, the company’s biggest international market, where Starbucks has struggled with a drop in sales given Covid-19 restrictions.

    "He also aims to imbue the next generation of leaders with Starbucks’s culture and history 'so that some of the issues that surfaced the last couple of years, don’t surface again,' he said.

    "The 69-year-old businessman said he would judge his work a success if employee turnover drops and customer service improves. The company also has to restore the trust of Starbucks investors, he said."

    Part of the strategic revamp referred to in the Journal story is examined in an Inc. piece, which notes that "the more interesting part of Starbucks plan is focused on the near future: a 450 million dollar investment in North American stores, which includes new, proprietary equipment the company has developed to assist baristas to make the increasingly complex and customized orders they receive.

    "This equipment includes:  A new brewing method that uses vacuum-press technology to brew freshly ground and brewed coffee in 30 seconds … A redesigned cold beverage station that allows baristas to cut down the time it takes to make frozen drinks by more than half … A new way of producing Cold Brew coffee, which Starbucks claims reduces the process from more than twenty steps to four, and reduces time to produce from more than twenty hours to only a few seconds.

    "Together, these new technologies have the potential to transform Starbucks and its reputation, taking it further away from its roots. Which is why current fans of the world's largest coffeehouse will either love it or hate it."

    KC's View:

    Regardless of who is sitting in the CEO's office, the moments creates a variety of challenges.  How does Starbucks adapt - culturally and infrastructurally - to a world in which it seen more as a quick stop than a third place?  The fact that 70 percent of its sales now are done in cold drinks, not hot, is just one reflection of how the company's world has changed.

    Inc. has an interesting perspective:

    "So, what lesson can business owners take away from Starbucks' evolution (or devolution, depending on your perspective)?

    "Remember to run your business with intention. If the company grows, it's very easy to get caught up in what management expert and business author Jim Collins describes as the "overreaching, undisciplined pursuit of more." Of course, if that's your goal, then that's your choice - and Starbucks may actually serve as inspiration.

    _Otherwise, you'll want to view Starbucks as a cautionary tale.

    "Because the only way for your business to hold true to your vision, is to resist the urge to shape it according to the vision of others."

    Published on: September 19, 2022

    •  Kroger has officially opened its newest spoke distribution center in Birmingham, Alabama, which it says will serve "as a last-mile cross-dock location" and "operate as a seamless extension of the regional fulfillment center in Atlanta, making Kroger Delivery available to more customers in the greater Birmingham area … The approximately 50,000-square-foot facility will work in conjunction with the Atlanta fulfillment center," which is operated by Ocado, "increasing the network's reach to customers up to 90 minutes from the hub."

    Published on: September 19, 2022

    •  The San Antonio Express-News reports that "H-E-B will begin a $10 million remodel to its Uvalde location in October, focusing on upgrading the store’s refrigerators, according to news reports and filings with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

    "Uvalde's one H-E-B is located at 201 E. Main St., about a mile north of Robb Elementary School where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in May. 

    "The San Antonio-based grocer donated $10 million in June to help the city build a new elementary campus. That followed a pledge by H-E-B to give $500,000 to support victims and surviving family. Additionally, a trust associated with the grocery giant also committed $500,000 to nonprofits assisting Uvalde's community."

    •  Axios reports that "the supply chain crisis and an extinct volcano are spurring a new beer shortage."

    Here's the context:  "A carbon dioxide production shortage caused by natural contamination at the Jackson Dome — a Mississippi reservoir of CO2 from an extinct volcano — is forcing brewers to cut back.  Brewers across the country are reporting production delays in getting beer to market and drafting contingency plans to switch to nitrogen."

    However, Axios writes, "A handful of brewers are insulated from the shortage because they use innovative technology to capture natural carbon dioxide from the brewing process and store it for future use."

    Published on: September 19, 2022

    Last week, we took note of a New York Times story about Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, and how, "rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits - some $100 million a year - are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe."

    I was impressed.  I'm a big Patagonia fan, and I said that he seemed like "someone who is literally putting his money where his mouth is."

    One MNB reader disagreed.  Vociferously.

    Kevin, you’re kidding right? This guy is laughing all the way to the bank while rubes like you swoon over his altruism and anti-Capitalism. He is a self-avowed Socialist who found a loophole to bilk the US Treasury out of million in tax dollars and keep it in the family – something a dyed-in-the-wool Capitalist would admire! He’s nothing more than another tax cheat and, instead of being lauded, he should be prosecuted. But he won’t be because he says all the right things about saving the planet and being responsible.

    First of all, this may be the first time I've been called a "rube."  Been called a lot of things in my life, but this is a new one.

    It was interesting - some of the coverage pointed out the taxes he did pay (which was a lot), and some of the coverage pointed out the taxes he did not have to pay because of the way the deal was structured.

    Now, we can argue about the tax code and how it is applied differently to really rich people than it is to the rest of us.  I'm happy to have that conversation (though probably over a stiff drink and not here).  But … you accuse him of bilking the US Treasury and being a tax cheat … when it sounds like, at worst, he is simply following the law and the tax code.  I can take issue with the intricacies and inequities of the tax code but still admire his philosophy about the environment - I'm just happy that the money that he is not paying in taxes (again, entirely legally) seems to be going to causes that generally strike me as honorable.

    I'm not sure this makes me a rube - by definition, someone who is "awkward, unsophisticated, and inexperienced."  It actually sounds to me as if we probably agree about the inequity of the tax code but may just disagree about where the money is going.

    We reported on Friday about a Chicago Sun Times story saying that the Chicago City Council’s Committee on License and Consumer Protection has approved an ordinance that will enable two-year test of Starship Technologies' "robotic personal delivery devices described as 'beverage coolers on wheels' (that) will soon be delivering more restaurant meals and groceries in and around the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago."

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    Living in Modesto, we witnessed the first commercial test of the Starship delivery vehicles at out local SaveMart. Only had a few mishaps/collisions reported  .. however please report back to your readers, when all the test vehicles in Chicago have been stolen, and test ends there.

    If and when that happens, I'm happy to report on the decision, and the learnings.

    We took note the other day of an Axios report on new research from Bully Pulpit Interactive concluding that "fifty percent of employees are actively looking for new jobs," and that "only 30% of people are excited to tell others where they work."  The reason:  "The story says that "most leave because they don’t feel connected to the company’s mission, values or strategy."

    Prompting MNB reader Steve Anvik to write:

    Now! If Corp Boards can get out of their own way .. and have honest discussions with their C-suites - around really balancing accountability with opportunity for all employees - they may be able to retain disgruntled hard working long-timers, with real coaching and mentoring of new generations.  Education and a dose of reality, for Boards and C-suites = The biggest training opportunity in business today.

    We also had a story the other day about how Kroger said that it is engaged in "a new collaboration that provides financial counseling opportunities for its associates … piloting a new program to expand its work with Goldman Sachs Ayco to support associates seeking to achieve their financial goals."

    Very different reactions to this story…

    One MNB reader wrote:

    Instead of wasting money on a program that store employees won’t use, why don’t they stop cutting hours and culling employees with seniority???

    But another MNB reader wrote:

    I am curious why you had no comment on the article about Kroger is ramping up financial counseling for their employees. This is a bigger deal than it may first appear. While a lot of companies provide assistance and encourage 401K investing and the like, it seems like Kroger is building on that to provide consultations at no charge which not only teaches employees (blue and white collar) how to build financial security, it empowers responsibility, discipline and self-reliance. Something that is sorely lacking in our public discourse today.  I would have thought that would have warranted some commentary from you. 

    I would tend to agree with your assessment, though the other email would suggest that maybe there is some skepticism - to put it mildly - in the ranks.

    I didn't comment last week because to me, the story seemed to speak for itself - I like it when companies invest in their employees' futures.

    And finally, reacting to Friday's FaceTime, "Burrito Rhapsody," in which I spoke enthusiastically about the breakfast burrito served by a vendor named Enchanted Sun at the Portland State University Saturday Farmers, MNB reader Ray Hrovat wrote:

    Greetings, Kevin. Coincidentally, just moved to Portland area (Tigard), so took your advice on a breakfast burrito at Enchanted Sun. The line was long, so I questioned if it would be worth the wait. It was. Thanks!

    This makes me happy beyond words.  Next stop - Piazza Italia, in the Pearl District, where the Italian food is fantastic and the Pasta al Tonno is incredible.  And then, check out Willamette Valley Vineyards, which I talk about in today's FaceTime…

    Published on: September 19, 2022

    •  In Week 2 of National Football League action…

    New England Patriots 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 14

    Carolina Panthers 16, NY Giants 19

    NY Jets 31, Cleveland Browns 30 (not a typo)

    Indianapolis Colts 0, Jacksonville Jaguars 24

    Miami Dolphins 42, Baltimore Ravens 38

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20, New Orleans Saints 10

    Washington Commanders 27, Detroit Lions 36

    Seattle Seahawks 7, San Francisco 49ers 27

    Atlanta Falcons 27, Los Angeles Rams 31

    Arizona Cardinals 29, Las Vegas Raiders 23

    Houston Texans 9, Denver Broncos 16

    Cincinnati Bengals 17, Dallas Cowboys 20

    Chicago Bears 10, Green Bay Packers 27

    •  In the WNBA finals, the Las Vegas Aces defeated the Connecticut Suns 78-71 on Sunday, to take the best-of-five series 3-1 and earn the team's first WNBA championship.