Pearls of Wisdom


Recently I read an interview with Edward Dolman, Chairman and CEO of Phillips international auction house (contemporary art).  Below are some pearls of wisdom about leadership and management that resonated for me I would like to share these gems with my readership.  An early Christmas gift!

Read On:

Question: Who was the biggest influence in your life?  Answer: My mother, who was fiercely feminist, both tough and compassionate, taught me big lessons.  She never accepted the rigors of a rigid society and did not believe in the status quo.  She instilled in me an independent way of thinking and the desire to challenge the status quo despite criticism by those who cling to it.” 

Question: What makes a great leader?  Answer: “Great leaders inspire a different level of belief and support by their teams.”

Question: What would you tell a young person starting out?  Answer: “Always look for the path less traveled.  Have the confidence to take the path others may not view as the right one.  That is what disrupters do; deliberately look to do things differently.”

“The Obstacle is the Path.” – Zen Proverb

Interconnected Branding


Globalization fueled economic, social and cultural upheaval in 2016 – Brexit, the rise of far-right politics in Europe, Trump’s presidential election upset, an attempted coup in Turkey, etc.  Future Trend: Smart marketers will now work harder on communicating how their brands are interconnected to the world and their local communities.

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Two brands that are on trend in their communication of being interconnected to the world and their communities are Starbucks and Vermont Teddy Bear:

  • Starbucks – This past year, Starbucks launched Upstanders, a series of videos, podcasts and short stories that highlights individuals across the U.S. who make a difference in their respective communities (e.g., fighting homelessness, food waste solutions, etc.).  Starbucks has always practiced interconnected branding, dating back to their corporate commitment to 100% ethically sourced coffee.
  • Vermont Teddy Bear – #BeyondTheLastStitch is their new marketing movement that details how their superb craftspeople from all over the globe (e.g., Nepal, India, Yugoslavia, etc.) settled in Vermont to create their handcrafted line of unique Bears (Made In USA) that have bought joy and happiness to millions since 1981.

What are some of your favorite interconnected brands?

More Crop Per Drop™


Last month I wrote about the key issues foodservice will encounter in 2020.  I highlighted that consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about food thanks to the Internet. Consequently, storytelling will be essential.  One company that does a great job is Lotus Foods, winner of SMARTKETING’s seventh Gretzky award.

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Several years ago, at a conference I met Caryl Levine and Ken Lee, leaders of Lotus Foods.  Back in 1995 they founded their company with the vision to support sustainable agriculture, specifically handcrafted exotic rice grown on family farms in remote areas of the world.  Their story?  Certain varieties of their rice are grown using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the process of cultivating rice where small-scale farmers double or triple their yields while using 80-90% less seed, 50% less water, minimal chemical inputs.  These varieties of SRI-grown rice are called “More Crop Per Drop”  bring special attention to water, a diminishing resource in the rice-growing world; an opportunity for small farmers to produce more food under healthier conditions and make more income.  As a company, they have won numerous awards over the years and have been active participants in the Clinton Global Initiative to alleviate poverty.

Lotus Foods: Great story!  Caryl and Ken: Good people!  Two individuals I know are passionate about making this planet a better place.  Congratulations Lotus Foods, winner of SMARTKETING’s seventh Gretzky award – skating to where the puck is going to be!



The year 2020 is just around the corner.  Last week in Chicago, I pulled together a diverse group of industry professionals and moderated a roundtable discussing some of the key issues we will all encounter in 2020.  Below is a summary of those issues.


Read On:

  • Alternative Channel Competition – We discussed the recent restaurant shakeout. We all agreed that there are too many seats and not enough posteriors in foodservice, plus suddenly, quality, convenient food is now readily available in competitive venues like C-Stores, Retail outlets (Vetri pizza restaurants in Urban Outfitters), movie theaters (AMC), etc.  In addition, we are all concerned that unless Casual Dining reinvents itself, it will disappear as a segment.


  • Situational Eating – Even though we discussed the eating habits of the different demographic groups (e.g., Millennials), we all agreed that eating occasions are being determined by time of day and location as evident with breakfast 24/7 and snacking. In addition, guests are becoming more knowledgeable about food (e.g., labeling/ingredients, sustainability, etc.) thanks to the Internet.  Consequently, those manufacturers and operators who refine their story telling will come out on top.


  • Big Data – The number one current day to day challenge and in 2020 is how best to utilize all the data, customer insights that are available.


What is your foodservice vision for 2020?

Terms and Conditions

Blink:                                                                                                                                       Remember*

*Take time to read the fine print.

The above is the closing line to an old post titled Speed, On SaleThe spine of the post was about the effective marketing tools companies use to lure consumers into ownership.  Beware of Amazon’s subscription program.

Read On:                                                                                                                                      Amazon’s subscription program, Subscribe & Save was first introduced in 2007.  It enables registered consumers to have their favorite consumable items like household staples (e.g., coffee, paper goods, etc.) refilled automatically and delivered on a regular basis.  Buried in the terms and conditions is that the program’s 5 percent discount is applied to the price of the item at the time that the order is place.  Anyone that is an Amazon regular, knows their prices can fluctuate over time, especially for those subscribers that have utilized the service for a couple of years.  An example, is Folgers Coffee.  In June a 30.5-ounce tub cost $6.64, but by late August it had risen to $12.50.  Today’s price is back to $6.64.  Another example is a 3-pack of Lysol disinfecting wipes which were $8.95 at its lowest before it peaked at $17.91; an 100% increase.

Bottom-line: Amazon prices are always shifting.  Whether you save money through their subscription depends when your order is placed.  Regardless, Subscribe & Save is a classic example of a company’s marketing ploy to lure consumers into ownership.

Beware: Always read the terms and conditions of any marketing promotion before signing on the dotted line.




Blink:                                                                                                                                                 This month, I have been watching a series about our recent Presidents.  The latest has been about President Reagan and Reaganomics.  Reminded me of an article I read recently about Sushinomics.

Read On                                                                                                                                                         In English, the cost of sushi (e.g., spicy tuna and California rolls) has become an informal way to measure the spending power of Millennials.  No longer an exotic treat, but more of a grab-and-go lunch.  Some economic forecasters believe that Sushinomics offer a snap shot into the socio-economic landscape of our economy, especially for working middle-class young adults.  The index was conceived in 2011.  New York and Los Angeles are the most expensive cities for sushi; Seattle exhibited the greatest cost increase – an annualized 5.3 percent.

Sushinomics, sounds like a fishy new economic indicator.



No Bad Ideas

Blink:                                                                                                                                           Currently my company is working on a new geo-location technology project.  The end result would be increased volume for the participants, as well as consumer data documenting purchasing behavior.  Everyone I talk to has expressed interest in participating in a test, but…………

Read On:                                                                                                                                        Jimmy, I am interested, but:

  • “I must warn you that the management company is really stodgy.”
  • “It is really tough to get our IT department to implement something new.”
  • “Thanks for reaching out. We’re all set for now.” 

Yes, unfortunately the red flags have surfaced on my project.  I attribute them to the “status quo bias,” the spine of my blog post dating back to June 2009: The Waiting Place People/organizations, tend not to change an established behavior unless the incentive to change is compelling.  Consequently status quo is less risky.  Except for those organizations that embrace disruptive innovation (e.g., Netflix).

Referencing my 2009 post:  Stay away from the status quo, experiment and enjoy the places you will go.

There are no bad ideas!