RETAIL PERILS

Retail industry experts expect a tumultuous summer for many retail chains, as they struggle with cost and convenience competition with the larger industry providers. Many are not well positioned in the online sector or even have a viable strategy. Others simply struggle to maintain connection to core customers, while chasing the ever-important millennial.

The increasing number of retailers owned and operated by hedge funds and venture capitalist firms may expedite their downfalls. While many might see improvements in available capital and cashflow, the short-term focus on delivering results on Wall Street will overshadow the need to improve the performance for Main Street. Investors want better returns, but customer need better experiences and reasons to spend their limited time and money in your stores. While investors will flock back to the stock if EPS and other measures improve, customers may not if too many poor in-store experiences consistently occur.

Improving the customer experience is difficult task for the returns minded leadership, as many states increase minimum wage. Therefore, the same sales associates contributing to issues in the experience become more expensive and harder to replace. A big focus needs to be on reducing the reliance on sales staff by improving the natural layout of the store and the ease of item location. Self-checkout should be expanded with the needed security enhancement.

Another area of opportunity for retailers with investments in a network of brick and mortar stores is connecting online purchases with in-store pickup. Providing discounts or other perks for in-store purchases related to an online order picked up at the store will increase revenues and engagement. The goal should be having online customers walk in the door and peruse the aisle for items they might not have thought about previously buying.

Competing against retailers with better established online channels will be difficult and expensive. But, the ability to leverage a well-crafted in-store experience with online experiences may prove viable. The online channel is a must for all retailers. But, improving the in-store experience may be vital to ensure the current customer base chooses the same retailer in both delivery channels.

Advertisements

GOING PRIVATE

Barnes & Noble Nearing Deal to Be Acquired by Elliott Management – The Wall Street Journal

Barnes & Noble is set to go private. The interesting part will be the change in strategy that Elliot Management may implement. The largest physical book retailer in the United States faced many years of decline, despite catering to the tech needs with the Nook devices and app.

The perpetual growth and expanse of technology severely impacted the viability of making bookstore chains and libraries. While some people enjoy the feel and smell of an actual book, others gladly trade away the experience for the convenience associated with digital books, possessing numerous books on a single device. Moreover, the availability of programs that read the book aloud is something hard to pass up.

Some libraries countered the trend by adapting their services and space utilization to better serve their communities. Many provide classes, worker assistance, tax services, and other services  beyond book and video rental. In addition, many provide convenient spots for people to study or work in quiet and semi-comfortable environments.

A path forward for Barnes & Noble may include some similar elements. One may suggest adopting an internet cafe model to some degree, reducing inventory cost by trading bookshelves for tables and chairs. Additionally, it might want to provide access to certain content exclusive to the in-store experience or subscriber network. Balancing the dwindling market for physical books with the desire for convenient spaces to work or surf the web may be appealing and profitable.

Barnes & Noble has partnerships with some colleges for supplying books and operating the related stores. Also, it has partnerships with Starbucks for on-site cafes, which could help expand the internet cafe idea. Barnes & Noble has many opportunities to avoid the fate of Borders and others if it makes strategic choices.

The public will wait and see.

ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERSHIP

There are some companies that all workers aspire to work for and others that struggle to find qualified candidates to fill openings. The difference largely resides around whether a firm is successful in growing revenue, retaining talents, and providing opportunity. Successful organizations tend to be ones that have strong leadership structure and maintain effective leadership values. These companies effectively identify leadership candidates and shape behaviors through programs that integrate corporate values with strategy development and management philosophy.

There are some people that want to alter the stigma around the term “bossy” and somehow make it appear as leadership potential. Regardless of gender, the trait of one being bossy is not a characteristic of a true leader. There is a clear distinction between a leader and a manager. A leader is a person that others inspire to emulate and hold in esteem, while a manager is simply a task master. Leaders make those around them perform better and aspire to be the best form of themselves.

Some feel like leadership qualities are naturally attained but people can develop and improve their leadership skills. Some people are naturally more assertive, but that does not necessarily make them good leaders. Others are accomplished but may lack critical people skills to manage subordinates.  Good leaders are people who passionate about what they do, can influence the behaviors of others, and seek to make teams better for everyone involved. Too many organizations hope to find good leaders when they need to work on programs to develop them.

Every organization should require new managers and supervisors to read the books written by John Maxwell, who provides useful frameworks of leadership and its different stages. In the book, The Five Level of Leadership, Mr. Maxwell explains how one can go from the basic level of leadership, a person with a title, to evolving to the highest level of leadership, which is organizational icon or pinnacle. The process requires development of functional performance, interpersonal skills, and forward thinking to maximize impact to positively change those around them and the entire organization. Although few may achieve the fifth level, all those lucky enough to gain a leadership can work to improve their ability to influence subordinates and inspire them to be the best versions of themselves.

Many organizations do not provide adequate frameworks or support to adequately develop the additional levels with some personal motivation and outside exposure. Many will need to invest in advancing their education by pursuing an MBA or expanding professional development with leadership seminars. Others may need mentorships, learning how to emulate productive behaviors of leaders they respect and value. For some, a combination of both will be useful. Many organizations do not have internal programs to help bridge the gap. The ones that do tend to be organizations that create leaders for internal needs as well as external entities.

Consider General Electric (GE). Despites its current struggles, the iconic American conglomerate maintained strong leadership and professional development programs, where leaders worked with subordinates to groom future leaders. While the organization typically demonstrates loyalty to the lead person at the helm, candidates for the top spot typically have little trouble finding C-suite opportunities elsewhere. Many organizations emulate the programs that started GE to develop leaders as well.

Why do so many organizations not create effective leaders? Many companies empower people to manage workflows and people around them with little consideration for process and quality. Managers are created simply to fill the need of taskmasters, checking off tasks from to do lists. Productivity and performance are important, but how susceptible is the team to turnover or technological advancement. Stereotypically, a manager is hired based on performance and skill set. Over time, without further development, the manager will struggle to retain talented employees, which may prove to threatening to their career.

Going back to GE, what made them successful for decades was the ability to select strong candidates for leadership opportunities and develop them. Changing how organizations evaluate worker performance to attain a complete picture of value created can help identify true talent. The traditional dogma is performance statistics, but other factors should be considered. Workers who effectively coach others and develop process improvements are ones that should attract the attention of leadership. Provide new challenges and expand their organizational acumen to these employees.

Identifying the right candidates is the first important step. The next step is developing programs that help shape the leadership styles and behaviors of these potential candidates. Potential leaders need to understand what standards their organizational will hold them to. Furthermore, frameworks need to be consistent across the organization, ensuring workers experience equitable opportunities regardless of function. Good leadership development programs can create long-term benefits for both the firm and candidates.

Successful organizations are ones with good leadership structures and create leaders. Struggles with employee retention, satisfaction, and turnover can be resolved by developing workers and affording them opportunity. People want to work for companies that value their contributions. Be that company.

Moved from The CRC Review

INDUSTRY STANDARDS

The Problem for Small-Town Banks: People Want High-Tech Services

Small and medium businesses, especially new operations, have the challenge of matching service standards in competing for customers against industry leaders. Industry leaders benefit from brand awareness of not only their name, but their product lines. New players must generate both.

In many industries, there are minimal performance expectations that producers must meet to qualify as a viable option for consumers. In the above article, community banks struggle to meet the convenience standards big banks established in the minds of consumers. Online banking capabilities makes people less likely to go into a branch.

Community banks need to find strategies to provide similar convenience if they want to avoid bank runs.

IN NEED OF A LIBRARY

What if you can’t raise $90k for a library? In Philly schools, there are haves and have-nots (PHILLY.COM)

crc cpA call out against bad public policy combined with a bit of class warfare. In the article from the link above, the journalist writes about how a Philadelphia community overcame the lack of a publicly funded library. Through fundraising efforts and development of a non-profit, community members secured the needed funds to start a library.  In contrast, the journalist points out the inability for high poverty areas to achieve a similar feat. Also, the public policy failure of local elected officials not securing enough funds from the state to have performing libraries. While there are clear disadvantages in varying economic environments, the narrative overlooks a personal and social responsibility demonstrated by one group that provides a pathway for other groups, regardless of economic prowess.

There is no disagreement that areas with high poverty rates lack social networks with excess income for donations. The lack of proper education funding does places these communities at an economic disadvantage, not of their own choosing, compared to wealthier counterparts. Ideally, all communities would place greater value in maintaining quality education programs than using taxpayer dollars on programs better suited for the private sector. In this case, neither rich nor poor areas were set to receive the needed funding. The people that see it as an obstacle to overcome rather than a point of contention will be the ones that find solutions.

Richer communities do have an advantage in fundraising, being able to bring people seeking tax write-offs together. In spite of this, other communities may need to seek unconventional targets for fundraising campaigns. Many corporations and business will readily donate if advocates have the persistence and people skills to cultivate relationships and make a reasoned case for providing funds for schools. Also, geographic barriers should not restrain fundraising efforts. There are many people and organizations that will help outside their own domains if people can make them aware of the need.

There needs to be a champion willing to advocate for these programs. Our current society has numerous tools to crowdfunding endeavors, which should be utilized to attain needed funds. The task is obviously difficult, but not impossible by any means. Americans need champions not complainers. Advocates not wayward activist. Problem solvers not problem creators. Government may not be able to provide solutions, but that does not mean there is not one available.

EXPANDING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES

EXPANDING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

crc cpThere is great economic potential in many communities that get typically overlooked by public and private sector investors. Because of local demographics, people lack access to good paying jobs, quality education, and opportunity that better managed areas readily have.

In the above link, ideas for how to change the status quo and expand economic opportunities by removing biases that exist and making communities more attractive for investment.

Please click on the link above to experience the content and more on The CRC Review.

DIVERSITY AND PERFORMANCE

Future of black NFL coaches a concern after round of firings (ESPN)

The NFL should ensure that the limited opportunities to lead and shape the football activities of its franchises are available to all those who have the qualifications and resume. The recent firings of certain NFL coaches reduces the number of minority to coaches to 3, which is not statistically aligned to the percentage of minorities that make up the players that play for them. 

The most qualified person should get any job, whether it is leading an NFL team, a business, or an organization. But, the process where decision makers source candidates may not be inclusive for all those with the resume and experience needed for the job. Ideally, decision makers would build a diverse enough pool of candidates for consideration to ensure they truly found the right candidate. 

From an outside perspective, many NFL teams appear to identify a select few of head coaching candidates and focus efforts to land the top ranked candidate. For instance, the Miami Dolphins went all in on bringing in Adam Gase, a candidate many across the league had on their short list. A mere three years later he is once again available. In reality, the only coach still employed in the class is Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who was the least heralded hire and only Super Bowl winning coach.

For the four coaches listed in the ESPN article, there should not be any surprise with the teams’ decisions. The coaches clearly under-performed and did not produce the desired results. There really is not a strong argument for continuing the relationships when Super Bowl victories are not in the forecast. While the results are not completely up to the coaching staff, the head coach is the one burdened with responsibility of the outcomes. The job security risk comes with the job description. 

The focus needs to be on identifying effective ways for NFL teams to diversify their candidate pools so that minority candidates have fair access to elite positions. There is difficulty in forcing organizations to not zero in on a single candidate, but more likely than not, that person will not be the right one. The NFL needs to find ways to prevent teams from giving token interviews in favor of substantive evaluations of candidates record and potential. 

The best people should get the jobs. The process needs to ensure organizations are able to see the best candidates. 

STADIUM SURPRISES

Health inspection reports find critical violations at NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB stadiums – 2018 ESPN Outside the Lines

The health and sanitation issues surrounding our sports facilities is quite troubling. This is not the first time ESPN raised the concern and probably won’t be the last. The study did not include college facilities or other arenas not used by the big 4 sports leagues.

What is the big fuss? The food vendors at many stadiums either improperly store or handled food or do not adequately maintain cleanliness of facilities to meet requirements. Given the crowd sizes, the potential for outbreaks of food related illnesses is significant.

People want to attend games for a positive experience for their families, friends, or other groups. Sports executives should ensure that the fan experience does not involve sickness and death.

CLIMATE CHANGE

U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy- NY TIMES

The updates on climate change continue to paint a dark picture. Despite past policy changes, progress does not appear effective. Industries were disrupted, employees destined to longterm unemployment, but still climate change still continues.

There really needs to be a better approach to fighting the effects of carbon. Proactively capture and storing carbon might be an effective way of mitigating climate change and somewhat protecting our economic progress. Being able to directly eliminate externalities with production will create the needed balance.

Producers need to continuously implement green manufacturing processes. Consumers need to continue to prefer cleaner goods and services. Instead of leveraging climate change for political purposes, instead use free markets and private sector solutions to solve climate change.