business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got several emails responding to yesterday's piece about Mickey Drexler's rules for corporate creativity.

MNB user Chuck Jolley wrote:

I have three rules that tell me when a company is doomed to failure.  They usually work.

• Check their web site.  Is it led by copy about corporate governance or investment opportunities?  They are ego driven and not concentrating on building a good product or service.

• Are the top "C" level officers people with a financial background?  The company will spend too much time trying to drive costs out of the system and not enough time building a good product or service.  Bean counter should count the beans, not make product or marketing decisions.

• Do they have someone or (worse) a department devoted to 'risk management'?  The company is absolutely protecting its status quo and it will be killed off by when another company reinvents the market.

MNB user Pat Patterson wrote:

After reading your Mickey Drexler piece I am struck by a singular thought.  That thought being Drexler is successful at building a business and doing so with concepts that have been around for years.  A good idea is a good idea regardless of its age.  Military folks would not still be studying Sun Tzu's The Art of War from about 500 BC if it weren't so.  The whole concept of store site analysis is based on work done in 1931.

To address a couple of the ancient management thoughts presented in the past used by Drexler:

Companies Are In The Stone Age Organizationally - in 1970 Robert Townsend authored Up The Organization offering the concept of trying to call yourself from the outside to see how many layers you have to go through just to reach your desk.  How many hoops has the organization placed between you and the "doers" in the company.

You Can Drown in Data - in the middle 70's I attended a retail seminar in Columbus, Ohio presented by a think tank style research firm.  There were several hundred of us at the opening session and one of the Ph.D. type presenters told us there are X number of phones in the lobby.  When we break for coffee there will be lines at every one of those phones, people calling to get the latest numbers.  His posed question was what are you going to do from several hundred miles away to make a significant change in a days worth of activity.  Sure enough, at break they were five deep. The point is that unless there will be an action it is a waste of time to stay that current.

There is always room for new ideas, but that doesn't mean we should forget proven axioms that have proven themselves historically time after time.  Along the way it appears that Mickey Drexler picked up on that idea and has blended new and old.

Regarding Wakefern's $1 million gift to St. Joseph's University, MNB user Glenn Cantor wrote:

As anyone who lives in a market served by a Shop Rite store will attest, Wakefern’s Shop Rite stores are far and away the best supermarkets in their neighborhoods.  Wakefern’s commitment to The Academy of Food Marketing at St. Joseph’s University, in Philly, validates the forward-thinking training that dozens of their current leaders have received from this school.  One of the reasons for Wakefern/Shop Rite’s continued meteoric growth is their dedication to progressive training for young managers.  Wakefern is always out front of every advancement in the food industry, including “Shop Rite from Home,” shopper loyalty marketing, and community involvement.

If appropriate for this space, recognition should be given to Richard George and John Stanton, two food industry professionals who have dedicated their lives to educating future leaders in our industry.  Rich and John’s classes were always the best in the program because they challenge students to move from their comfort zone and explore new ways to “delight” shoppers.  The thinking they instilled remains with me.
Thank-you, Wakefern, for your commitment to progressive education of the leaders of our industry.

But Steve Kneepkens wrote:

Wakefern: An amazing gift, and the kind of donation that will not be forgotten; it will resonate in the lives of young people for many years to come.

But you could not give Walmart credit without some snarky / cocky remark. Sitting on the judgment thrown is a tough place to reside.

Also – if people are going to write in and comment – PUT YOR NAME ON IT.

Life is about ownership. If you want to speak do it in the light – not in the dark. Take responsibility.

Like I said the other day ... snarky is what I do. Not all the time, but often.

As for people who do not put their names on their emails, while I get your point, I firmly support people's right not to have their opinions attributed. I decided 11 years ago that anonymity sometimes would have to be protected if that meant we could have a more robust dialogue.

Since I think, immodestly, that MNB has the most robust and differentiated ongoing conversations around, I think I'm going to stick with that. (And as I've said before, sometimes I will take people's names off their emails if I think their opinions might get them fired. That wouldn't do them any good, and it doesn't do me any good. We're all in this together.)

Yesterday, MNB took note of a New York Times report that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been "flooded" with calls to propose new disclosure rules that would "require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations, a move that could transform the growing world of secret campaign spending."

There's a lot of debate about this.

I commented:

For a moment, let's forget the politics of this. And trust me, this has the potential to turn into a partisan hairball.

I cannot help but think that the people and organizations that do not want this information divulged, and do not want regulations that require that such information be made available, are deluding themselves. These days, the internet makes pretty much everything knowable and findable. And what cannot be found on the internet inevitably gets revealed by people within organizations who have a problem with certain political positions and financial contributions.

To try to prevent such information from being made public is to fight the last war. It doesn't make sense. People should look at this potential regulation and see it as an opportunity to be up-front and transparent with investors, rather than as an obstacle to be avoided or overcome.

That all said, I have to admit that I think that such information should be public, regardless of whether the SEC mandates it or not. My feeling is that there are certain companies in which I will not invest, just as there are some companies that I will not patronize because of positions they have taken. It ought not be permissible to obfuscate such information from the people who are thinking about investing their money in such companies.

One MNB user responded:

Only if the unions are under the same rules of disclosure.

Absolutely. I have no problem with that.

Another MNB user wrote:

I don't think it's tenable to "forget the politics of this" [proposed SEC regs that would require full disclosure of publicly traded companies' political donations] because, at the root of it all, I think this drive is about nothing but politics.  Nominally, a proponent of this sort of regulation could say that they're only looking out for current & potential future investors' interests, but that strikes me as barely believable.  Rather, this drive seems more likely motivated by a desire to put a visible target on certain companies' chests so they can be (further) demonized in the press and elsewhere.  Interesting, in fact, that this drive was conceived so as to apply solely to publicly traded companies, overseen to whatever extent by the SEC which would enforce the rule, which conveniently excludes other major power entities like labor unions and trial lawyers, just to name two.  Why?  Is there somehow less public interest in the political leanings of those groups than there is in same for publicly traded corporations?  Don't know why there would be.  Fair's fair.  Or at least, it ought to be.

I firmly believe that publicly traded companies, unions, trade associations - in fact, any organization that takes in money from members or investors - ought to be required to make their political donations public. All of them.

We have a political system that is being corrupted by the corrosive power of money. One of the ways you can deal with that is to make everything as transparent as possible. If I am an investor, or a union member, or a member of any association, I'd want to know how they are distributing my money to exercise political power.

If I largely agree with their decisions, I'll stick with them. But if I don't, I may consider moving my money and support elsewhere.

But I am really sick and tired of people telling me that there are things I don't need to know, usually because they have a rooting interest in me not knowing.
KC's View: