Do You Trust Your Bank? Do Employees Value Their Jeans Over Making Money? Will Consumers Keep Spending?

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FINANCE

Do you trust your bank? Lou Mosca, a friend of the Morning Report who also happens to be COO of the consulting firm American Management Services, is more than a little skeptical: “I recently came across an article titled ‘Small Businesses Must Demand More From Their Banking Relationship.’ Although I, for the most part, agree with the sentiment, about halfway through the article the writer suggests finding and working with a bank you trust. A bank you trust? Excuse me? In my opinion you should never, ever, trust a bank!

“If you’re an owner who wants to get more out of your banking relationship, my best advice is to have a strong balance sheet, so you have more negotiating power. To do that invest in your people, pay down your debt and maximize profit. If you feel like you’re not as liquid as you desire, and your debt is too high, don’t think for a second that a bank is going to want to work with you on your terms!

What do you think? Agree or disagree, let us know by emailing Millennial Matt: mattg@oxfordcenter.com. Or you can take it up directly with Mr. Mosca: louismosca@amserv.com.

MARKETING

Doritos is betting snackaholics will still recognize the brand, even though its latest ad campaign removes the logo: “Doritos is the latest brand trying to reach a new generation of young consumers who have grown up on ad-free digital content and are eager to escape corporate pitches. Brands are working hard on ways to make their marketing less promotional—from embedding their products in popular shows that stream on platforms like Netflix, to creating useful apps and entertaining social media content. … The brand is renaming its Doritos.com website as LogoGoesHere.com, as well as removing all existing digital content that mentions the brand or shows the logo. It will encourage consumers to create and share content related to the campaign theme on social media channels. For example, it created a Snapchat lens that lets users turn their faces into triangles.”

HUMAN RESOURCES

A lot of employees would choose being allowed to wear jeans to work over a $5,000 raise: “A new study from Randstad released Tuesday finds that one-third of US workers would forego an extra $5,000 in salary in favor of an informal dress code. Even more surprising was the finding that the same number of people—33 percent—are so opposed to formal workwear that they would quit their job or turn down an offer if they were forced to follow a conservative dress code. ‘The nature of work—where, when and how it gets done—has changed dramatically over the past several years, and many of those changes have ultimately contributed to a less formal workplace,’ said Traci Fiatte, CEO, non-technical staffing, Randstad US, in a statement.

Here’s how Caliva adapted to regulations mandating delivery drivers be given minimum wage plus benefits: “Caliva treated them as a business opportunity. If competitors were going to simply meet the regulations, Caliva would exceed them. … The company had tried using contractors for deliveries in the past but wasn’t happy with the results, so it was already employing its own drivers as well as partnering with a delivery service, Eaze. But now its competitors would also be employing drivers—which, in a tight labor market, means recruitment would become tough. … So Caliva upped its offer. It would start drivers at between $15 and $17.50 per hour, well above the state’s $12 minimum wage. Full-time drivers receive health insurance, vacation time, a 401K, stock options, and the chance to purchase more stock during the company’s investment round. Some of that would be available to part-time employees, too. … It appears to be working. This year Caliva saw a more than 300 percent year-over-year revenue increase in the first quarter of 2019…”  

Podium, a Utah-based software company, fosters communication and problem-solving skills among its employees by encouraging them to play Fortnite: “On a spring Monday in 2018, one of Podium’s executives told his colleagues about a video game he’d played with his kids all weekend. The entire leadership team promptly downloaded it, and soon they were killing time at San Francisco International Airport by playing a rousing round of Fortnite Battle Royale. … The game has become ‘the unofficial video game of Podium,’ [CEO Eric] Rea says. ‘I think we just started to realize that when we’re playing Fortnite, we’re learning to communicate with each other.’ Rea says Fortnite’s hierarchy-flattening helps here, too, because it encourages employees to feel comfortable discussing problems with leadership. And problems are always easier to resolve when they’re out in the open.” 

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THE ECONOMY

So far, consumers are still willing to spend: “Americans’ view of the economy is the most favorable it’s been in 19 years as a strong job market has offset some concerns about the trade war between the US and China. The Conference Board said on Tuesday that its Present Situation Index, which evaluates consumers’ near-term view of the business and labor-market environment, rose to 177.2 in August from 170.9 in July. ‘While other parts of the economy may show some weakening, consumers have remained confident and willing to spend,’ Lynn Franco, the senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement.”

OXFORD STRATEGIC ADVISORY DEAL OF THE DAY  

The We Company, a provider of a shared workspace community and office services, has acquired Spacious, a provider of co-working spaces in restaurants during the hours when the restaurant is not used. “The We Company positioned the acquisition as a means of adding more flexible options for those with a We Membership, the company’s on-demand service that allows individuals to book office space for the day.

RETAIL

Canadian furniture retailer Leon’s is using technology to attract online shoppers to its brick-and-mortar locations: “‘My challenge to the team was: how do we take 80,000 square feet of merchandise and put it in a 15,000-square-foot store?’ said Mike Walsh, president of the Leon’s division at Leon’s Furniture Ltd. … Walsh explained that when he sought new technology, the priority was on innovations that had a practical purpose. The store includes a giant wall of flat-screen TVs on which customers can, for example, project life-size versions of Leon’s merchandise, such as sofas, in every available colour … They can also use a separate iPad that is equipped with an app Leon’s developed that enables augmented reality … This way, the customer could see if the table looks good next to a sofa that they intend to buy … Other advances are aimed at buoying the efficient operation of the store. Electronic price tags, for example, cut down on paper and toner-cartridge use but, more importantly, staff do not need to spend time changing prices.”

After more than 50 years, Maria Merola is closing Maria’s Pastry Shop in Boston’s North End: “Merola immigrated to Boston’s North End when she was a teenager in 1968, and started working at the pastry shop in 1970. She bought the business in 1982, but does not own the building—something that ultimately led to the shop closing instead of being sold. ‘I have no idea what my landlord will do with the space over here,’ she said. ‘Unfortunately, my landlord would not give me a lease, and no one would buy it without a lease.’ Merola also blamed the location, pointing out that several businesses on the block have shut down in recent years—and stayed vacant. ‘It’s just the real estate,’ she said.”

STARTUPS

Natalist delivers pregnancy kits where they also serve as an educational resource: “The monthly ‘Get Pregnant Bundle’ subscription box ($90 for a one-time purchase; $81 monthly) changes as one progresses through the fertility journey and continues on until birth. (Customers can cancel at any time.) The first month, for example, includes an illustrated Conception 101 guidebook complete with the basics of human reproduction and practical tips on getting pregnant. In addition, buyers can expect a range of items ranging from ovulation tests to prenatal vitamins, the majority of which physicians recommend during a preconception visit. The cost is on par with drugstore prices, if not less.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE

A Southwest Airlines gate agent cheered up grumpy passengers by turning a flight delay into game night: “‘My flight to Washington DC has been delayed for almost two and a half hours and I was getting HEATED until this gate agent started playing games with everyone waiting to pass the time and now I’m like I’ll wait all damn night if you keep this up,’ [passenger Kristen Dundas] tweeted Thursday. The tweet included a video showing a gate agent hosting a contest for the ‘worst driver’s license picture.’…The agent also hosted a paper airplane contest…‘This video is another great example of how we encourage our employees to have fun with customers,” Dan Landson, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines, told CNN. ‘Our employees are known for these types of fun activities all across our system and they’re designed to help make flying fun for everyone.’”

CLIMATE

Brazil’s government will reject millions in aid pledged by the G-7 to stop the Amazon fires: “The Brazilian president, who previously claimed without evidence that NGOs may have started the fires in order to discredit his government, suggested the West was trying to gain access to his country’s natural resources. ‘Look, does anyone help anyone … without something in return? What have they wanted there for so long?’ he said.”

LITIGATION

For the first time, a court found a drugmaker at fault for the country’s opioid epidemic when a district judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $570 million: “Johnson & Johnson sells opioid products, which experts say helped fuel particularly the first wave of the opioid crisis starting in the late 1990s. The state argued that Johnson & Johnson marketed the products irresponsibly, even as the proliferation of opioid painkillers led to an increase in drug misuse, addiction, and overdoses. … The hope is to not just hold Johnson & Johnson, Purdue, and others allegedly involved in the opioid epidemic accountable for the crisis, but also force them to pay for addiction treatment that could help combat the epidemic.” 

GOING PUBLIC

Peloton, the maker of Internet-connected stationary bikes has filed to go public, and guess whatit’s losing money: “Peloton reported $915 million in total revenue for the year ending June 30, 2019, an increase of 110 percent from $435 million in fiscal 2018 and $218.6 million in 2017. Its losses, meanwhile, hit $245.7 million in 2019, up significantly from a reported net loss of $47.9 million last year.”

And that’s what’s ahead.

Please send comments and suggestions to mattg@oxfordcenter.com and lfeldman@oxfordcenter.com

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