Published on: May 1, 2013by Michael Sansolo
The 2013 Boston Marathon will be forever associated with the tragic finish line bombing, yet it also provided a powerful metaphor for the increasingly challenging world of retail and management at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Future Connect Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida.
Kroger chairman/CEO Dave Dillon kicked off the conference with a solemn nod to the tragedy, leading a moment of silence for the victims, before making a business connection. In order to qualify for the 2013 race, he explained, runners had to post a marathon time of 3 hours and five minutes- a time that was faster than the winning time in the first Boston race back in the late 1800's. What was once good enough to win is today no longer good enough to even enter.
As Dillon explained, the bar of competition and performance keeps getting raised, whether it’s for the race or success in business. Today’s business leaders need handle challenges, difficulties and competitive pressure beyond what their predecessors ever faced, which is why Dillon sees FMI's Future Connect as such an important program.
The world of changes impacts even current leaders like Dillon. In a conversation prior to the event, Dillon detailed how Kroger now uses social networking for internal communications, including a weekly blog by the CEO himself. The internal network - called Yodel - was also detailed by Tim Massa, Kroger’s VP of talent acquisition in a special session on social networking.
Massa and Dillon both talked about the incredible reach and connections formed by these efforts that give the CEO a direct link to Kroger’s 340,000 associates, and how it allows those same associates to talk back.
Other highlights from Day One of Future Connect:
• Classical pianist Jade Simmons gave a rousing address combining her musical skills with a call to the assembled to find their special gifts and passions to raise themselves and their companies to new heights.
• Laurie Demeritt, president of the Hartman Group, detailed special research on the increasingly global nature of food shopping, cooking and eating trends. Demeritt explained how the global nature of business and the changing demographics of the US are combining to reshape meal and menu choices.
• FMI President Leslie Sarasin focused heavily on the growing power of consumers in the annual State of the Food Retail Industry presentation. Sarasin said the industry increasingly is finding that shoppers, aimed with ever-smarter technology, are increasingly knowledgeable about products, prices and shopping strategy. The result is that savvy retailers are recognizing that shopper power is now central to success at a level never seen before. Sarasin also detailed how most of the traditional supermarket industry has produced little or no sales gains since 1995, despite a substantial increase in overall square footage. Most of the sales gains, she explained, have gone to emerging formats over that period - principally supercenters and dollar formats.
Sarasin also peered into the future with predictions by industry leaders that on-line sales will grow to 11% of all supermarket business within a decade (a number she called extremely conservative) with about one-third of those sales coming in fresh products.
• And, FMI recognized the winners of the store manager of the year competition. Maggie McLaughlin, manager of Roche Bros. in Wellesley, MA, won for companies with fewer than 50 stores; Fernando Noriega, manager of United Supermarkets in Amarillo, TX, won for companies with 50 to 199 stores; Greg Giles, store director of Bi-Lo in Simpsonville, SC, won for companies with more than 200 stores; and Jun Oshima of Saltama, Japan, won the international competition.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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