business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

One complaint I hear occasionally about MNB is why we write about a wide variety of topics from politics to movies to cheeseburgers, as opposed to staying within the traditional lanes of business reporting and commentary. My response is simple - we believe there are both straightforward and unexpected business lessons to be found almost anywhere and that’s why our scope is so wide.

Well, get ready for it to get wider.

This past weekend, I briefly attended the Washington, DC, Capital Pride parade and saw how many businesses are finding new and creative ways to reach out with a positive voice to the LGBTQ community. The business lessons were clear, useful and educational.

Let’s remember that all business rests on people. We need people to connect with us as shoppers and, almost as importantly, we need them to want to work for our companies. As the representative of one bank at the festival told me, a company can’t afford to overlook any group when it comes to finding quality staffers. Diversity can be both a strength and a pipeline for new and needed talent, especially today with unemployment at near record lows.

Most of the businesses (from banks to travel destinations) exhibiting at the festival were clearly focused on one goal: turning the LGBTQ population into customers. The community, after all, is made up of potential shoppers who largely have decent incomes and generally lower-than-usual expenses related to child rearing.

Among those businesses were many local food retailers with some interesting messages. Giant Food (the Ahold division) had substantial traffic at its booth thanks to a wide array of giveaways and prizes. Food Lion (now a cousin of Giant’s thanks to the Ahold Delhaize relationship) made a clear statement about feeding economically distressed populations.

But two stood out. Wegmans was the only business of any kind that I encountered that was talking about people as both shoppers and prospective employees. The Wegmans’ team at the festival was clearly well chosen and eagerly talked about the company’s inclusiveness.

The other was Amazon, which found a way to make itself seem simply cooler than anyone else. The e-commerce giant billed itself as “Glamazon” and handed out assorted paraphernalia pushing that name. I’m sure my wife wasn’t the only one to ask if packages could be delivered to that very booth. And somehow, Amazon missed that opportunity.

It was ironic, by the way, that this festival was being held - and embraced by local businesses - at the end of a week when a Colorado bakery owner went to the US Supreme Court and won the right not to do business with the LGBTQ community.

But let’s come back to why I write about this.

At MNB we believe we can cast a wide net to find all kinds of ideas useful and increasingly relevant to businesses facing an ever-increasing range of challenges. Sometimes that means going places I wouldn’t otherwise venture - like the Capital Pride Festival. And frankly, I would go back again to be part of the energy and warmth of the entire crowd.

Just like us, you need to cast your net wider than ever, as it might be a new way to find important people such as prospective shoppers and staffers. To paraphrase some old political wisdom, “It’s the people, stupid.”

That means all the people.

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