How not to be a leader

A leader is responsible for understanding the parts that make a sum, and making them work as one. The stronger the leader, the stronger the parts, and the stronger the team.

Monday night, after watching the most despicable football in some 16 years, I can clearly illustrate why teams lose because of lack of leadership. With Michael Vick and Andy Reid sleeping on the job, an enthusiastic 10-yr old could have led the team better than those two did.

Michael Vick, Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles

— Michael Vick and Andy Reid sleeping on the job.
Eric Hartline-US Presswire

Trailing by two scores with 7:00 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Eagles had the ball and plenty of time to try and defeat the mighty Drew Brees and New Orleans Saints. A great team would have immediately started running their no-hurdle offense, thrown the ball to the outside in an effort to score quickly and save valuable time on the clock. A good team would have used a timeout, or tried to slow the clock down as they attempted a comeback. A ridiculously awful team such as the Eagles would throw the ball 5 yards down the middle, play after play, and casually walk up to the line of scrimmage as if they just left a quiet, little café in Amsterdam after a dessert of special brownies.

The entire Eagles team is to blame as not one of the 11 players on the field hussled to the start the next play, but as was reaffirmed with the Concordia disaster, the blame for failure always falls on the team’s captain. In the case of Eagles, Michael Vick is the captain on the field and Andy Reid as head coach is supposed to be the brains behind the operations running the show on the sidelines. But neither of them cared about the rest of the team, the fans, or to be successful that night. Every time the camera would show Andy Reid on the sideline, all the viewers saw was a motionless man who looked as if he were nothing more than a standing, mummified statue. He just stood in place, no passion, no drive, and seemed to forget how to blink. Same with Vick, who on the field looked as if he were trying to lose on purpose.

For this, Vick should be benched and Reid should be fined by the Eagles’s owner as their actions are unacceptable. And for those of you reading this, to be a successful leader, do the exact opposite of what Vick and Reid did that night.

 

FAIL: Soda ban in NYC

Talk about “big government”. The Board of Health in New York has approved Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to ban soft drinks over 16 oz. Before they approved it, they should have read the news that came out of Denmark last week:

Last week, the Danish government announced plans to scrap the tax it instituted just last year on foods high in saturated fats. The reason for the decision: Businesses are bleeding jobs and profits because Danes are crossing the German border to buy their sinful snacks more cheaply.”

Although New York’s plan is different than Denmark’s, the outcome will be similar. The reason being, restaurants and shops that are regulated by the city only are affected. That creates an unfair advantage for those that aren’t, like 7-Eleven. Now you can purchase a Big Mac from McDonald’s and walk to the closest 7-Eleven to purchase your 50oz “DOUBLE GULP”, which is not affected by the ban. But a soft drink over 16oz at McDonalds – that’s banned.

There are some other loopholes to the ban, for example if you add your own Sugar to a drink (like coffee) you can still order as large of a size as an institution offers. Also, if drinks contain more than 50% milk, those are fine also – including the 32oz Coolatta from Dunkin’ Donuts that contains 150 grams of sugar.

Furthermore, it’s understandable that the government would implement policies to protect us, like offering police and firefighter services – but this crosses the line. No one is being forced to by a drink larger than 16 oz, it’s by choice. This is an exaggeration, but what’s next, they will limit the size fries I can order? A better solution is to require restaurants to serve a 16 oz drink as the one that comes with the “main” order.

Excellent video explaining the ban:

Capital One: What’s in their wallet? Your money.

FAIL: Capital One.
WIN: President Obama and the US population.

Capital One was ordered to pay $210 million for deceptive marketing tactics. Allegedly, credit card customers – specifically those with poor credit, where misled and tricked into purchasing credit card add-on services.

Who is responsible for putting an end to this deceptive tactic and help curb corruption? President Obama. It was his consumer watchdog agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), that flexed its muscle in order to protect customers.

According to federal officials, “The bank’s phone-sales operators told customers that services like payment protection and credit monitoring were free or mandatory or offered more benefits than they did”.

Most of the $210 will go to customers. Capital One will pay up to $150 million to 2.5 million customers, $25 million to the CFPB and $35 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a separate federal agency that oversees its banking operations.

“Consumers deserve to be treated fairly by their credit card issuer,” CFPB director Richard Cordray told reporters. He said the problems are not isolated at Capital One and said he expects announcements about other companies.

Although this is one example in an economy owned by banks, this is a step forward. Looking forward to more news like this in the future.

Thanks Obama!

Chipotle stock takes a massive beating

Taking a look at the chart below is painful. So painful, it makes you want to pity Chipotle. Today, Chipotle (CMG) announced Q2 earnings that were lower than analysts expected, and their stock price took a burrito to the face as a result. Down 20% in one day and still falling Chipotle, investors are dumping the stock. This comes as no surprise, especially if you have read the previous BusinessJad article, Make money in the stock market.

Chipotle’s stock price today after it announced Q2 earnings.

The Denver-based burrito and taco restaurant chain posted second-quarter revenue of $690.9 million, up 20.9% from the same period a year earlier, but on average, the analyst expectation was $704.8 million, according to FactSet. The range of estimates provided by research analysts was $664 million on the low end, with a high of $723.1 million. Same-store sales were up 8%.

Earnings for the second quarter rose to $81.7 million, or $2.56 a share, from $50.7 million, or $1.59 a share, in the same quarter of 2011. The mean projection was $2.30.

Next week is going to be a wild ride for some major companies, as they announce their earnings:

— July 24: Apple Inc., AT&T Inc., Netflix Inc.

— July 25: Zynga Inc.

— July 26: Facebook Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp., Amazon.com Inc.

— July 27: Samsung Electronics Co.

FAIL: United States Postal Service

As companies like Apple continue to post record profits, the United States Postal Service (USPS) continues to report record loses. Last week, USPS reported a $3.3 billion dollar loss for the quarter ending December 31st, 2011 – typically its strongest period. At this rate, the USPS will run out of cash by this October.

It’s sad to see a staple of American history at such a low, and to watch it continue to deteriorate. USPS is one of the oldest establishments in America, inaugurated when Benjamin Franklin appointed the first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress in 1775 – that’s right, even before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Why is this happening and how can the post office fix it?

Why is USPS failing?

(1) USPS positioning: Personal vs. Business Mail:

There was a time when USPS was the only major mail courier in America. That time is long gone and now USPS is struggling to adapt. In the past, personal and business mail was handled at USPS. Today, much of the business mail, which is the most profitable mail delivery segment, is handled through other couriers such as Fedex, UPS, or DHL. Although USPS has developed a business model to cater to companies, such as scheduling a pick up from a business, creating an account online to manage shipments, the other three providers execute these services better.

(2) Digital Technology:

With regards to personal mail, no longer is the world’s population required to communicate through mail. Advancements in technology, from fax machines to the internet and email allow the world to communicate instantly, and for free. As a result, the sale of stamps and the number of letters sent are assumed to have decreased significantly, and will continue to do so. The only letters USPS delivers on a regular basis are bills, and credit card offers.

(3) Government run:

It is a sad truth, but USPS is a stereotypical government run organization; a provider of basic services, weak, inefficient, understaffed, lack a vision, and an overall hassle to deal with (think of the perception of the DMV). Government run organizations do not work to maximize profits, or even maximize service – they always seem to lack drive.

Have you ever visited the post office at lunch? In most cases, you will lose 45 minutes of your day waiting in line to mail letters/packages. Though the self-service machine does reduce the wait time, if cannot help help with all inquires and therefore is not effective on a consistant basis. For instance, if you are sending a package over 13 oz., you can pay for the package at the self service machine, but you are not allowed to place it in the self service bin, and are then required to wait in line which defeats the whole purpose of the self service machine.

On a diet? Skip the food and spend your lunch waiting in line at the post office to ship your letters and packages.

Have you ever visited the USPS website (www.usps.com) website? It looks cool, but does not function well. The “tab” functionality doesn’t work logically, it’s easy to get lost within a page due to the design, and there are many missing pieces with regards to product descriptions. Worse of all, if you call customer support through the website, they cannot help you. 30 seconds on the call with customer support, and it is clear the representative on the other end of the line is not an employee of USPS. USPS outsourced their customer service to a 3rd party, whom are unable to answer all your USPS questions by phone.

(4) USP: Flat-rate package:

Every company has a “USP” or unique selling proposition. An USP should differentiate a company from its competitor, and help answer the question, “why should we do business with you?”

Well, with all the negative components that have been mentioned, what could the post office’s USP be? It’s the flat-rate package. The flat-rate package allows you to ship anything, of any weight, anywhere in the USA, for one price. “If it fits, it ships.”

Sounds cool, right? It is. And USPS is the only mail courier to provide a service like this. Do you know why USPS is the only one to provide this service? Because it’s a dumb idea – from a customer perspective, and also from a business perspective.

The more a package weighs, the higher the cost USPS incurs to ship the package. Ok, we get it: if everything costs the same to ship, then on certain occasions, let’s say – if one were to ship two bricks across the country, USPS would lose money. But, USPS would make money if one replaced the bricks with popcorn. Right? Theoretically, yes, this is correct. But in reality, customers will not pay a higher price to ship a package. Why would anyone pay $7 to ship something that would cost them $3 – especially when the $3 service is available in USPS?

 

How to fix it:

First, USPS should address all the problems mentioned above. Second, there are some aspects of why USPS is failing that cannot be fixed. For example, it will always be government run, and the day governments can efficiently run their organizations will come after toads evolve into birds. Also, technology continues to innovate faster than ever. Today, there are applications on smartphones that allow users to send virtual postcards. The more technology innovates, the less of a need there is to use the post office for personal mail. So, what can the post office do?

(1) Extend post office hours:

Starting from square one, USPS needs to make some basic changes to improve its bottom line. First on the list, extend the post office hours. The post office opens the same time most people get to work, and closes as they leave work. How the heck are people supposed to go to the post office conveniently?

(2) Fix website:

Another basic change, fix the website. It is very easy to use, but not at all easy to follow. Plus, it seems to have a lot of bugs. Have a good QA team scrutinize it and make the changes needed. Also, provide more information on the site – or better support.

(3) Reposition organization:

Get rid of the flat-rate and focus on the business segment/account management. As the world moves to paperless delivery methods, receiving personal and business letters will soon be a pleasant surprise. Magazines will stop mailing to homes, companies will enroll as many customers as possible into online billing, and credit card companies will stop (thankfully) sending credit card applications. Good thing there will always be Valentine’s Day and other holidays for people to send cards and letters to each other.

Since personal mail and letters are on the decline, the best plan for the post office is to focus on streamlining the packages process (allowing customers to place a package more than 13 oz. in the self service bin), proper account management including username/password that can be completed with every transaction (would also store credit card information for customer convenience), and marketing their services to businesses.

FAIL: Polar Bear Coke cans

The special polar bear Coke can

Traditional Diet Coke can

Can you tell the difference between the new Polar Bear Coke new and a traditional diet Coke can? On your very nice monitor, probably – but in real life, you don’t realize it until you have already opened the can.

Coke’s decision to change the color of its best selling can from red to white/silver is nominated for one of the biggest marketing fails of 2011.

There is no logic in changing the look and feel of a successful and established product, for any product, in any industry. An organization would be hurting no one but themselves and for the second time in Coke’s history – they had to learn the hard way.

It is admirable that Coke decides to support animals, in this case the biggest predators in the Arctic, polar bears. I’m just saying – why not penguins? Penguins at least don’t kill people…

Coke could have changed the look of their cans with success if they created and implemented the right marketing campaign.

What should Coke have done?

It’s always great to launch a campaign, especially in a B2C market around the holidays. The timing of Coke’s launch was perfect, considering Pepsi did not invest in a major, visible winter campaign this year. But their marketing strategy was off point. They butchered their best selling product by completing changing how it looks, and frustrating customers who now had to think twice before opening any Coke can.

What Coke should have done is keep the traditional red color of the Coke can, and simply add polar bears onto the can. Furthermore, to entice consumers to purchase more cans, make them feel positive emotion when they see the Coke can or box. How should they have done this? A quick solution is to put a Santa hat on the polar bears. Or make the polar bears smile. In reality, a polar bear, or any bear, will eat you alive. But what’s cuter than a smiling bear wearing a Santa hat during the holiday season?

See Coke, it wasn’t that hard.

FAIL: Gatorade G Series: Prime 01

The Gatorade Prime 01 product is one of the most unsanitary products on the market today. Regardless of what the product does, and how well it actually works – the way this product has to be consumed is what makes it unsanitary.

In today’s world, when you buy a beverage from a market it typically comes with a cap. One of the major purposes of the cap is to keep the area of the bottle that enters your mouth, the most susceptible part of the human body to catch diseases, clean. An alternative to a cap is what a juice box supplies you with, a straw that is concealed in plastic until it is used; all for the sake of being clean.

The Gatorade Prime 01 product does not have a cap, or a straw – instead, the same part of the product that must enter your mouth, is the part that is exposed to the air, to the cleanliness of the truck or wrapping they are delivered in, or even the hands of the person packaging it on the shelf.  Prime 01 is consumed by tearing the malleable bottle at the dotted line, and then sticking it in your mouth.

Why did Gatorade do this?

I expect that Gatorade did this because of the location that Prime 01 appears in markets, which is in the same area at the rest of the beverages. There is only 4 oz. of liquid in each Prime package, compared to the 17 oz. in a “standard” bottle, so fitting it in smaller, 4 oz. bottle may cause Gatorade to keep this product separated from the rest of the beverages, or cost Gatorade extra to create special promotion displays near the beverage section.

What can Gatorade do to fix this?

Easy, put a cap, or straw on it. Even a piece of plastic that peels off will work as well. The third option is best, since a cap would be quite expensive on bottles such as those and annoying as the material for the bottles is too malleable, and a straw may not be “manly” enough to maintain Gatorade’s branding in the sports world.

Wake up Gatorade! Fix your product!

FAIL: Salvation Army

A Salvation Army employee this holiday season.

Before reading the analysis below, answer this question: would you feel comfortable giving money to someone that is dressed like the person above?


“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” by Andy Williams is likely one of the most played songs throughout the holiday season. And it’s true, the holiday season is great – for just about everyone and everything besides turkeys. The holiday season, which begins in November and lasts through the celebration of the New Year, is the time of the year when consumers spend the most money, and companies and charities look to capitalize on all that spending.

Something just as overplayed as Andy Williams’ song is the sound of the bells coming from the Salvation Army donation stands. Every year during the holiday season, the Salvation Army sets up stands on almost every corner in every city in America to collect as much money as possible from pedestrians. The stands are always accompanied by a Salvation Army employee, who rings a bell to get pedestrians’ attention and hopefully their money as they walk by.

But there was something different this year. Most of the “employees” I saw next to the stand did not look like employees at all, they looked homeless! I bet they were, I bet that the Salvation Army wanted to give back to society and hire/pay those that are less fortunate during the holiday season. But there was a major issue with the Salvation Army’s decision to do this and that issue was the quality and standard most people were used to in previous years was non-existent this year.

As you saw in the photo above, which is a representation of the population of Salvation Army “employees” I saw this holiday season, it would be fair to say most people would be scared to pull out my money in front of a person that looks like that.

Salvation Army, couldn’t you have done some better quality control on your employees? You would have probably raised more money. At least give require them to wear a Salvation Army apron or a Santa hat. How about not letting them wear a thug jacket like the one in the picture above? I do not know the amount that the Salvation Army raised this year, but from the caliber of employees I saw this year, I would expect they could have raised a lot more.

FAIL: Ford and GM advertisements

Hi,

My name is GM and Ford. We are failing car companies that needed a loan from Big Brother just to stay in business. Our cars are awful and even with billions of dollars in aid, we can’t get it right. Even our advertising is awful. When other companies are talking about great gas mileage, more leg room, better, durable cars, what do we do? We toss a car out of an airplane and play music as it falls through the air.

REALLY? Your cars are that bad you can’t find one USP to differentiate yourself from the market??? For a failing company, how much did it cost you to throw a car out of a plane? What a waste of money for a dumb marketing campaign. Sad. Whoever does your marketing, fire them. And fire your internal marketing people as well. And what Chevy (a subsidiary of GM) had to say about this:

“We believe Sonic will attract youthful customers who are eager to have new experiences, such as tasting foods from five different countries in five days or simply giving blood, but in a vampire costume,” said Kevin Mayer, director of Chevrolet advertising and sales promotion.  “This campaign will help our customers celebrate some of the experiences that make life interesting.”

Yes, when people buy a car, they do so because they are eager to have new experiences. In the kindest way possible, you guys are idiots. And Ford, you are no better. You should learn from your international counterparts.

Chevrolet Sonic commercial vs. Toyota Venza commercial

Dear Siri

Dear Siri,

It’s not me, it’s you. Don’t get me wrong, you are different than the rest, but not what we are looking for. I think we should talk to your father, Mr. Jobs (RIP). He pushed you too hard, too early. You just weren’t ready; still a fruit that needs to ripen before being picked off the tree.

Instead of being released now, your dad should have waited until the next version of the iPhone to introduce you to the world, when you would have been ready. Instead of putting you on stage too early, what he should have done is offer the iPhone in a multitude of different colors, like he did with your cousin, the iPod. Remember when he would set a press conference about a new press announcement, then unveil different color iPods, or announce that you can now purchase the Beatles music on iTunes? All these initiatives worked flawlessly, and more importantly, did not give critics something to bash on the company for.

Without you the iPhone was already significantly improved, with a better camera, ability to run on any multiple networks with one phone, faster processor, updated iOS, and so forth. And people are right when they say, “how can anyone know I have the latest iPhone when they look the same”? Apple is better than this, and I’m surprised they did not compensate for this. How hard would it have been to offer the new iPhone in purple, or green, or yellow, etc? I imagine not too hard…