business news in context, analysis with attitude

Three deaths yesterday in the world of popular culture struck me as offering a business lesson to retailers…

Paul Sorvino, perhaps best known for playing gangster Paulie Cicero in Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas," passed away at age 82.

David Warner, best known for roles in the original "The Omen," "Titanic," and multiple iterations of "Star Trek," passed away at age 80.

And Bob Rafelson, who in addition to co-creating "The Monkees" was the director of "Five Easy Pieces," passed away at age 89.

As I was scanning the various obits for these men, it occurred to me that they had something in common.

Sorvino and Warner were character actors with long careers and impressive résumés.  And they all had moments that defined some of the projects they were in…Sorvino slicing garlic while in prison in "Goodfellas," for example … or Warner terrorizing Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard in an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" that explored the effects of physical and psychological torture.  And yet, while audiences knew their faces and voices, they may not have known their names or the range of their talents.  They just got the jobs done.  They delivered.

And Rafelson … well, he didn't have an impressive directing career over the long term, but "Five Easy Pieces" is one of the most influential movie of its time.  And a company he founded produced some impressive titles:  "Easy Rider," "Stay Hungry," and "The Last Picture Show" among them.

And it occurred to me that a lot of companies, especially retailers, have people like these in their ranks.  Even though they may not have a "C"in their titles, these people get the job done … they deliver … they are, indeed, influencers … they make a difference, often defining a store's value proposition.

Not everybody can be a star.  But often it is the people who form the background, who create context and color and texture … these are the people who make the difference, who define excellence.

And I think that's worth thinking about.