business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to last week's interview with Matthew Lee Sawyer, author of "Make it In America: How International Companies & Entrepreneurs Can Successfully Enter & Scale in US Markets," MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

Great interview, both in terms of content and insights.  The failure of most of the examples discussed were the result of what I would call “corporate exceptionalism”…but the negative side of it, maybe better labeled as “ego-driven blindness”!  This is the same problem that causes many (some say as high as 70%) of mergers and acquisitions to fail.  Senior executives just can’t believe they could fail or that anyone could do it better!

I have been involved in a number of big ones as an employee at FedEx (when they bought Flying Tigers in the 1980’s), with Kroger in the late 90’s when they acquired Fred Meyer, and then as a consultant on a number of smaller deals including on the periphery of the disastrous Safeway/Albertsons divestiture of stores to Haggen.  In all cases, while I was blessed to work with a number of great people, there was executive hubris that drove ridiculous decisions and shareholder expectations for some impossible results.  I was always amazed at how the senior executives and the Board of Directors toasted the completion of the deal when the documents were signed!  That is a kin to popping the champagne in the Super Bowl immediately after winning the coin toss.

But the real eye-opener…no one ever seems to learn from history?  But maybe new, more focused government oversight will minimize some of the usual collateral damages.  Let’s hope so…we will know by the outcome of the Kroger/Albertsons deal…many years from now!

And from another reader:

Interesting conversation that reinforces applying cultural views, practices and standards from other countries can have its challenges. When Bel Brands, the hugely successful French cheese company, decided to make a go of it here, they wisely hired a U.S. executive team led by the former head of the specialty cheese division at Kraft Foods. Moreover, they allowed the team to make decisions and pursue market development initiatives that were respectful of how the U.S. dairy aisle cheese business operates. At the time my agency was representing Sargento Foods and I distinctly remember being in a Nielsen category review meeting when suddenly Bel came out of nowhere to take significant share in snack cheese. They did it by investment spending way ahead of what early volume numbers would warrant. Snack cheese had always been the red headed stepchild of dairy aisle cheese, and Bel as a focused specialist with a unique product in Laughing Cow and Babybel. They ran the table on the category ahead of other domestic brands. The key to victory was the right management team, and a willing parent company to back and support their aggressive plans. It was a huge win for them, and set them up for expansion success. Importantly they didn’t try to impose French sensibilities on a marketing environment that’s distinctly unique to American packaged foods strategy. Snack cheese was ripe for the taking and that’s where they invested. Had they attempted to take on Sargento in their core slices and shreds business it would have been a disaster.

We took note last week of a Business Insider report that Amazon has an invitation-only Ad Verification program that pays users $2 a month to share their mobile phones' traffic data.  According to the story, "Amazon is tracking what ads participants saw, where they saw them, and the time of day they were viewed. This includes Amazon's own ads and third-party ads on the platform."

One MNB reader responded:

Please allow me to adjust my tinfoil hat while I tell you that I wouldn’t do this for ANY amount of money…

I did a FaceTime the other day about evolving EV technology, which provided a business metaphor.  And, as you know, I'm a sucker for a metaphor.

One MNB reader responded:

I am by no means an expert, it seems to me, the drag on the wheels to recharge the battery while accelerating would hinder the acceleration process and cause the battery to work harder.  Love the thought though, I drive an electric car.  

I'm no expert, either.  Obviously.

MNB reader Carl Jorgensen wrote:

Love it when you make a video while driving. Nice to recognize downtown Norwalk out the window.

Thanks.  I get grief occasionally when I tape FaceTime videos while driving by the coastline, so I thought it was important to do one in a less affluent area.

On another subject, MNB reader Chris Connolly wrote:

Thanks for your mention of the passing of Bob McGrath.   His hometown and mine are 12 miles apart and Ottawa has long been very proud of him, as they should be.  

And finally, last week we had a piece about CVS pharmacists working remotely, which prompted this email from another MNB reader:

For the sake of clarification, someone needs to point out to the folks at CVS as well as the Wall Street Journal that there is absolutely not a shortage of pharmacists in the United States today.  

There is, however, a shortage of pharmacists willing to work for CVS and Walgreen due to the fact that they use metrics-based performance to determine the level of success in their pharmacies; rather than judging their staffs on the basis of the number of positive patient outcomes or lives saved, pharmacists and technicians are expected to produce better results with fewer people and more and more pharmacists are not willing to be subjected to that standard.   In addition to filling an ever increasing number of scripts, chain pharmacists and their staffs are expected to administer vaccinations and conduct other activities that prevent them from actually speaking to patients at length and providing required counseling to them.

In addition, the pandemic illustrated that neither company could demonstrate compassion toward its pharmacy staff members based on their efforts to ratchet up doing still more with less while pharmacists and technicians struggled with keeping themselves healthy, not to mention their patients.    It’s not a coincidence that both firms are offering large hiring bonuses in many markets for both pharmacist and technician positions because they cannot find applicants otherwise.     

Community pharmacists who wish to practice at the top of their licenses will not be applying for openings at either of these firms until they are being judged by more than just numbers.

We had an email last week on this subject that read:

Kevin, I had to laugh while the reading the story about CVS Remote Pharmacists “while still meeting patient-privacy requirements”. The pharmacy techs at my local CVS continue to announce to me and the long line behind me the medications I am picking up. Geez…

And I responded:

Agreed.  Worst nightmare:  I'm at CVS, and the pharmacist shouts out, "Coupe, double order of Viagra!"

Prompting MNB reader Fred Horowitz to write:

I clearly read to the bottom on the right day, Mr. Viagra!

I like to think it is always worth sticking around until the end…