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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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Sansolo Speaks: Moving Forward by Mentoring In Reverse

by Michael Sansolo

There’s little chance you’ve heard of Phyllis Korkki or Talya Minsberg, but I’m betting nearly all MNB readers can learn a ton from something they recently experienced: the power of reverse mentoring.

That’s the kind of experience that becomes increasingly necessary in today’s workplace where the endless arrival of new technologies is overwhelming so many of us. But as you will see it’s a process that requires some bravery, so read on because the lesson is incredible.

I’ll start with Korkki because her perspective and her age (she’s in her mid-50s) are far more similar to mine. She is an assignment editor at the New York Times, a fairly high-ranking position in the newsroom, yet Korkki needed to learn a new and increasingly important skill.

Korkki’s wanted to learn how to use Snapchat, a particularly popular social media app with young adults - a group the Times is trying hard to reach. Korkki sought out a mentor, a wise approach to learning a new skill only her target was hardly usual.

Korkki walked across the newsroom and a few generations to seek out Minsberg, a twentysomething, for help. As the two explained in a recent full-page article, it was a strange moment for both. But they got over the age gap and the fact that a senior employee was asking someone very junior for mentoring.

Instead they approached it as someone lacking a skill seeking help from someone with that very skill and as a result, the Korkki developed some important skills for the new day of business.

Here’s the thing: even though the Times is widely considered the nation’s premier newspaper, it is suffering from the same problem of the entire publishing industry. Younger readers are getting news elsewhere. So put aside whatever you think of the Times editorial positions and admire how an industry leader is constantly looking for reinvention to remain relevant.

And that’s why veteran journalists at the paper are learning Snapchat, to create quick hitting videos to draw readers into stories and to enhance the telling of those same stories. As Korkki explained, Snapchat was harder to learn than some other social media apps, which might explain why younger adults find it so appealing. In short, their parents aren’t following them there as they did on Facebook.

So now bring this story home and think about what it means to you. If you are like Korkki, you are loaded with accomplishment and experience and might correctly question why you need to learn all these new technologies. However, you really have no choice. Like them or not, these technologies are reshaping business and the entire consumer experience.

Simply put, you need to learn and you might be surprised by what you find. Some of these tools could boost productive (yes, it’s not all for fun). Learning these new skills might well make you better at your job and make you and your company more relevant.

But you can’t learn if you don’t ask. That may mean reaching out to younger, less experienced and less accomplished co-workers, which based on the Times article will freak out both of you.

And yes, younger workers, you need to handle these moments properly even if you are suddenly teaching someone your parents’ age. Mentor the way you wish to be mentored with respect and seriousness. You likely will both win from this new relationship.

The journey across the generations may feel strange at first, but apparently it’s well worth taking.

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.

Tuesday Morning Eye-Opener: Parental Guidance

by Kevin Coupe

It is a nice synergy that, coming after Michael Sansolo's column this morning about reaching across generations to gain greater knowledge, this morning's Eye-Opener concerns an event that Amazon sponsored in Seattle to do sort of the same thing.

It was the company's first "Bring Your Parents To Work" day.

According to the Washington Post, "In a twist of the decades-old 'bring your son/daughter to work' day that has been popular for thousands of companies, Amazon opened up its doors to the parents of its employees last week. And it turned out to be a hit. More than 5,000 parents attended the event at its Seattle-area headquarters, some from as far away as China and India. Mom and dad got the chance to explore special exhibits, listen to speakers, have a bite of lunch, ask questions about their child’s workday and, of course, check out all the latest company initiatives, from drone-delivery to warehouse robotics."

While Amazon joked that it hoped the day would encourage employees to clean up their desks, the fact is that not only does such an event serve to impress employees' parents, but also connect them to the company's vision and strategic implementation.

It isn't the kind of thing that Amazon had to do ... but it was a very smart idea.

And an Eye-Opener that perhaps more companies ought to emulate.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

From ProLogic Retail Services...

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Amazon Prime Membership Grows, As Does Search Usage

Amazon Prime continues to be a significant engine for the company's growth, Business Insider reports, even as consumers are turning to the e-commerce site increasingly when searching for products.

Business Insider writes that a new estimate says that "the percentage of US households that only pay for Prime membership has more than doubled over the past four years, from 7.1% in 2013 to 16.2% in 2016."

The impact seems to be on the nations' membership club stores, with "households that only use either Costco (from 14.9% to 9.8%) and Sam's Club (from 16.9% to 9.7%)" dropping "noticeably. "

However, "households that pay for both Prime and Costco memberships jumped from 4.8% to 11.3% in the past four years, while the same trend is seen among households subscribing to both Prime and Sam's Club (from 4.8% to 8.5% in 2016)."

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports on a different study saying that "fifty-five percent of those surveyed go to Amazon first when searching for products, an increase from 44 percent a year earlier ... Search engines were the starting point for 28 percent of those surveyed, declining from 34 percent a year earlier. Specific retailers were the starting point for 16 percent, down from 21 percent."

KC's View: I hadn't even thought about it, but upon reflection after reading this story, I've realized that my Costco shopping has gone down a lot in the last couple of years .... and I'm pretty sure the vast majority of those dollars have gone to Amazon.

And, as for product searches ... I'm not sure why anybody would start elsewhere online when looking to buy something.

These trends could slow down now that Walmart has acquired Jet, but they also could create a fairly sizable barrier to their ability to put a dent in Amazon's ecosystem.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

From ReposiTrak...

A Note from the Content Guy...

One of the real pleasures - and privileges - over the past 15-plus years of doing MorningNewsBeat has been being able to make connections with some wonderful and progressive businesses that share our mindset and goals about retailers and consumers, strategy and tactics, transparency and technology. Park City Group's ReposiTrak is one of those companies, especially because of its focus on and approach to food safety - which have made it the fastest growing food safety platform in the industry, with more than 20,000 supplier connections.

If we've learned anything in the recent past, it is that every single retailer and supplier up and down the food chain is susceptible to food safety problems. Just ask Chipotle. Just ask Blue Bell. And so ReposiTrak asked me to go to Southern California recently to talk to two smart, progressive CEOs - Bristol Farms' Kevin Davis and Frieda's Karen Caplan - about their shared commitment to the internal organizational disciplines necessary to insure a safe food supply, and to the expanded and improved record keeping necessary to comply with the dictates of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Those three videos, which have been running in rotation over the past few weeks on MNB, are below ... and are just the first in what we hope will be a continuing series. I hope you find them illuminating. And if you want more information about the ReposiTrak solution, click here.

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Schnucks Employees Reject Contract Offer

KMOV-TV News reports that unionized Schnucks employees have soundly rejected a new contract offer from the retailer, with 89 percent of those represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) saying "no" to a three year contract that would affect 52 of the company's Missouri stores. However, the union also said it would like to return to the bargaining table, and that the rejection would not assure a strike.

According to the story, "Many who voted 'no' said they are concerned about the potential loss of healthcare benefits and potential problems for part-time workers. Even though they are concerned about what a strike would bring, they said they are ready to fight for their benefits."

In a prepared statement, Chairman/CEO Todd Schnuck said, “Our goal remains the same - to deliver a proposal that meets the needs of our teammates while keeping our business competitive against non-union grocers and stores that sell food, and this includes some of the world's largest companies."

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

From MyWebGrocer...

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

E-conomy Beat

• The New York Post reports that as part of e-grocer FreshDirect's raising of $189 million in investment capital, the company plans to "rev up its one-hour delivery service, called FoodKick ... The fledgling FoodKick operation, which launched this year in Brooklyn, delivers smaller orders via bicycle and mopeds within an hour and is aimed at folks who absolutely must have a few crucial items for the dinner party or special occasion."

The story notes that FreshDirect is "aggressively moving into the space occupied by Instacart, which delivers groceries within an hour for Whole Foods, Fairway and Costco." And, it is positioning itself to compete more effectively with Amazon Fresh and Amazon Prime Now, each of which is offering one-hour service.


• The New York Times reports that a federal appeals court has "ruled that American Express could stop merchants that accept its cards from encouraging customers to use rival payment cards that charge the stores lower transaction fees. The decision reversed a lower court’s 2015 ruling that such restrictions violated federal antitrust law."

The lawsuit that challenged Amex's rules maintained that it was restraint of trade for the credit card company to prohibit retailers from pushing for consumers to use other forms of payment. But the appeals court's position was that while Amex's rules may have been bad for retailers, it was not proven that they were bad for consumers, who, after all, generally know that Amex fees are higher than those for Visa and MasterCard. (The ruling only affects credit cards, not debit cards, fees for which were regulated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.)

The story notes that "the decision is a major victory for American Express, which wants to ensure that its customers, who pay higher-than-average membership fees, do not encounter any barriers to use. The ruling means that American Express can continue to enforce provisions in its contracts with merchants that prohibit them from steering customers toward other forms of payment."

• The Chicago Sun Times reports that ConAgra has acquired the packaged foods business of Chef Rick Bayless' Frontera Foods. Terms were not disclosed.

ConAgra said that "the Frontera brand is a preeminent gourmet Mexican food brand in North America," and that "it provides a tremendous platform off which we can build."

AFP reports that Aldi plans to ramp up its British expansion, investing the equivalent of $389 million (US) to "refurbish more than 100 stores in 2017 and ... also open 70 new branches, under plans to increase the number of stores from 659 to 1,000 by 2022."

The story notes that Aldi's plans seem unaffected by Brexit, the word used to describe the UK's vote to leave the European Union. And, AFP notes that discounters, which "enjoyed soaring demand in Britain during the sharp economic downturn," have managed to "remain popular despite the economy's steady recovery."

Fresh Fruit Portal reports that the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has approved the selling of genetically modified Arctic Fuji Apples, "building on Canadian company Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ (OSF) already approved varieties Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden."

The story notes that the apples are mostly aimed at foodservice "due to their non-browning characteristics."

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

From Samuel J. Associates...Why Career Success Is Not A Shiny Car

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Executive Suite

• Federica Marchionni has been "forced out as chief executive of Lands’ End Inc., capping a tumultuous 19 months on the job in which she tried to fashion broad changes at the catalog retailer that roiled employees and turned off shoppers," the Wall Street Journal reports. Marchionni, a former Ferrari and Dolce & Gabbana executive who tried to make Lands' End more style-focused but in doing so seemed to reinforce the notion that she was disconnected from the company's core values, reportedly will get an exit package of $1.9 million.

The story notes that " the company posted a loss of $7.7 million for the six months ended July 29, compared with a profit of $9.2 million a year ago. Sales fell 7.6% to $565 million over that period."

Marchionni will be replaced by COO James Gooch and Joseph Boitano, chief merchandising and design officer, who will serve as co-interim CEOs until a permanent successor is found; she was the second CEO the company has had since it was spun off from Sears.

KC's View: A CEO friend of mine said that he believes that "cultural fit is ultimately as important as a strong strategic vision and flawless execution when embarking on a serious business transformation with a new leader." And I totally agree with that.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

From the National Grocers Association...

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...


Charles R. Walgreen III, former chairman and CEO of drugstore chain Walgreen and the grandson of the company's founder, died Monday. He was 80, and started out at the company as a stock boy before spending almost six decades with the retailer.

Your Views

...will return. I promise.

From The MNB Sports Desk

In Monday Night Football, the Atlanta Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints 45-32.

Finally, a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

Topical, relevant, engaging, thought-provoking...Who could ask for anything more?

When Kevin Coupe gets on stage in front of your company meeting, association conference, or any other event, the pace is fast ... the thoughts are provocative ... the focus is innovation ...the style is entertaining and interactive ... and the reviews are glowing...

"Kevin inspired our Stew Leonard's management team with his insights about the food industry and his enthusiasm. We've had the best come in to address our group, and Kevin Coupe was rated right up there.  He had our team on the edge of their chairs!"
- Stew Leonard, Jr., CEO, Stew Leonard's

"Our sales organization is a very skeptical bunch, and your presentation was both topical and relevant. The content was right on to address the meeting theme, and was presented in way that kept the audience enthralled. I had quite a few positive comments at the break, something that does not happen frequently. We appreciate the time and effort to help make this sales meeting one of the best we have had in several years."
- Jon Kramer, Chief Marketing Officer, WestRock Merchandising Displays

“Kevin’s presentation to our Phoenix group was very well received! The topic was very relevant to all the retailers in the room, with just the right amount of humor. The icebreaker at the beginning, and the personal interaction at the end was truly engaging!”
- Cathy Kloos, Director of Human Resources, Albertsons Safeway

“Kevin was an engaging speaker whose stories really brought the concepts to life. Although his lessons were focused on retail rules to achieve business success I found the lessons could be directly linked to enhancing my leadership style. “
- Jessie Thomas, Director Merchandising Solutions, MDM and PMO, Petsmart

And there's more...

"Your presentation was well-received, very thought-provoking and was a great lead-in to the overall theme of our show."
- Tim Myers, CMO, Affiliated Foods Midwest

"Your presentation was unbelievable – everything we hoped for and much, much more!  Thanks for making our customers (and us) better!"
- Joe Himmelheber, Director of Marketing and Merchandising, Caito Foods

"Both of your presentations kept the audience engaged ... This was a difficult subject, but you made it easy to understand - and learn from. Everyone who has not yet seen one of your presentations, should know how informative and to the point your program is and how it will definitely enhance their event. "
- John M. Dumais, president/CEO, New Hampshire Grocers Association

"Kevin is an engaging speaker who really brought the content to life.  He customized his program to meet our needs to ensure our event was a success!
-Kim Richardson-Roach, Network of Executive Women (NEW), New England Region

"The response to this session was overwhelmingly positive. The audience appreciated the lively and enlightening exchange between the moderator and panelists ... the spark you added to the panel as moderator contributed to the flame of excitement this event engendered ... Thank you for helping ground the material in a reality readily recognized ..."
-Leslie G. Sarasin, President/CEO, Food Marketing Institute (FMI)

Kevin Coupe uses his unique perspective as MorningNewsBeat "Content Guy" and more than 30 years writing about business, marketing and innovation to identify the ways in which consumers are changing, the reasons behind these changes (technology, the economy, culture, demographics), how new and unorthodox competitors are altering the marketing landscape, and what companies need to do to find and exploit differential advantages.

Want to make your next event unique, engaging, illuminating and entertaining?Start here: Or call Kevin at 203-662-0100.

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