business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Gail Nickel-Kailing:

I’m a regular reader of Morning News Beat and your piece today on New Seasons’ multiple constituencies sent me looking for something I first read about at least 20 years ago. It was a good test of my memory because I didn’t think I would be able to remember the name of the group that outlined these stakeholders (i.e., constituencies) to which every business is responsible. The Caux Round Table, originally founded at and still connected with the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul MN, is "an international network of principled business leaders working to promote a moral capitalism.”

In their business principles, they outline six stakeholder groups - in this order - that every business has and to which they are responsible: customers, employees, owners/investors, suppliers, competitors, and communities.

All companies have this same responsibility - too bad morality is out of favor in so many segments of our business and economic systems. (Not even going to start on our political system…)

Keep it up, Kevin; my mornings are just not the same when your newsletter doesn’t arrive in my inbox!

I mentioned last week that I haven’t been to a Chipotle since it started having food safety issues, leading one MNB reader to write:

I’m with you.  I haven’t been to Chipotle since the food safety/health issues.  However, after hearing James Marsden, Ph.D. and Executive Director of Food Safety for Chipotle speak at the Meat Summit in San Antonio last month, I have a renewed confidence.  I feel like the steps they have taken make them a leader in quick serve restaurant food safety/health assurance.  They, like all food processors, are walking the careful line between fresh and natural high quality less processed food and food safety.

The things that we as an industry have put into place to protect people are the things that most people are shunning, or more accurately revolting against.  This consumer shift has and will continue to spawn innovative approaches to meeting a new set of expectations.  The changes that Chipotle has implemented are innovative and world class in my opinion.  Food for thought on thoughtful food.

We had a piece last week reflecting on a Financial Times story connecting Jeff Bezos with Winston Churchill, essentially saying that they both subscribe to the notion that clear writing reflects clean thinking, and that clear thinking begets clear writing.

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

I couldn’t agree more that the art of telling a longer, functionally-connected story is missing in today’s CPG corporate environment.

But, in all fairness, clear thinking doesn't make everything a success at Amazon. Amazon Destinations, Amazon Local, Amazon Wallet and Amazon Local Register come to mind. The biggest failure might have been Amazon Fire Smartphone, which wouldn’t sell at under a dollar.
I feel the real success at Amazon is the willingness to try, regardless of failure.  The 6 page memo definitely gives confidence to the initiative and informs leadership when to walk away.  Many major CPG’s can’t stand any failure (e.g. any loss of capital).  Everything has to be "proven".   In this period of low growth, many CPG’s are more adventurous out of necessity, albeit through acquisition.

it is important to remember that while the Fire smartphone was a failure, much of what Amazon learned in that experience informed its Alexa initiative, which has been an enormous success.

On another subject, MNB reader Stacy McCoy wrote:

As I have been reading your articles on Best Buy, I wanted to share my recent experience with the company. I would encourage you to go into a store to check them out. I think they are putting up the good fight. In the past, whenever we “had” to go to Best Buy, it was for something that we had to have, that we weren’t able to find anywhere else. We braced ourselves for poor service, disorganized stores, non-existent sales floor staff, and long checkout lines (granted, we were shopping a lot at the holidays).

I recently became a bit overwhelmed with technology and had to call in reinforcements to assist with some WiFi network set ups for my home and home office. We called the Geek Squad. I was so impressed with the technician’s professionalism and patience with me… when he recommended another piece of equipment to purchase for my set up, I went first to his competitor (because I really didn’t want to go to Best Buy). However, they of course did not have the piece in stock, so I begrudgingly went to Best Buy. As soon as I walked in the door, I was amazed at the difference.

There were no cash registers at the front end of the store. I paused momentarily to wonder how I was going to pay for my item, but decided I would deal with that later… moving through the store, I saw a large in-store Geek Squad section with lots of customers getting in-store support (similar to an Apple store). There were tons of employees in the store – at least 1 per section, and they were actually knowledgeable and helpful. I was directed to the section I needed, and then approached by another employee who asked if I needed assistance, since she was in charge of the section I was in. I had a question about the piece that I needed, so she looked up the information on a computer kiosk in her section, just a few steps away from where I picked up the equipment. With my question answered I made a purchase decision and looked tentatively toward the front end, starting to wonder where I needed to take my purchase, when the employee said “May I check you out right here?”. Boom. Done.

I walked out of the store an amazed and happy customer, nothing like in the past where I was just grateful to be out of the store. I will be back. And my guess is that the many customers that were also in the store at the same time I was will be back too. Because that was the other thing that I noticed. Not only was the store staffed with a lot of employees in blue shirts ready to help you out… there were also a lot of customers in the store… looking for help.  Go check them out… I would be interested to read what you think.

I will.

Finally … we’ve had a number of stories lately about racial bias being demonstrated at retail, which has created problems for companies such as Starbucks and Nordstrom Rack. At one point, I commented:

I do think … that most retailers have to be aware that this could happen to them. They need to have plans in case it does, and they need to do what they can to create a company culture where it is less likely to happen.

One MNB reader responded:

It would be a lot less likely to happen if there weren’t so many Blacks who DO steal from stores.

I debated long and hard with myself about whether to post that comment, but decided in the end to do so because “with attitudes like these, it is no wonder that companies get into trouble. The problem is, no amount of sensitivity or diversity training may be able to correct Neanderthal thinking like this.”

Another MNB reader wrote:

Thank you for calling this out.  I am appalled this attitude still exists, but certainly not surprised. Personally, after reading the books:  Just Mercy and The New Jim Crow, I have a better idea of just how thinking like this is still prevalent in our country.  Thank you for reminding us.

Of course, the person who wrote the original, repellent comment also wrote to me again, to say that he’s just being realistic.

I, too, am appalled. But not surprised.
KC's View: