Archive for July 29, 2014

Why Entrepreneurs Make Great Modern-Day CMO’s… ‘That’s Me All Over Mable’

July 29, 2014 Leave a comment

My first Internet start-up  SagePORT Inc  was ready for an IPO in 2000 when The Dot Com Bubble Burst. As CMO then CEO (the last man standing), I turned out the lights, but not before settling with all our debtors for pennies on the dollar and avoiding Chapter 11. If you want to buy a shell it is still a legal entity in WA state.
Now almost 15 years later, I am again a CMO of a startup (AM4U Inc), but this time, by GOD,  we are going to make it!
Bud Robinson CMO
AM4U Inc

No longer does a company single-handedly dictate the direction and success of a product or service. The Age of the Customer is here, which means people like you and I are informed to make purchases before ever engaging with a vendor. According to Forrester, empowered customers are disrupting every industry and the only sustainable competitive advantage a company has is knowledge of and engagement with its customers. The most successful companies need to be customer-obsessed, like, Macy’ and are. And when it comes to making sure a business is customer focused, the modern-day CMO is boss.

The modern CMO is a data scientist, a social media whiz and has only one thing in mind—customers. In today’s customer-centric world, CMOs have more power to drive the success of a business than ever before. That’s why this new CMO is also visionary, a goal-setter and a forward thinker. In many ways, the modern day CMO is like an entrepreneur and as a former entrepreneur, I believe that the best CMOs either come from an entrepreneurial background or have that mindset going into the CMO role.

My first job out of university was right before the tech bubble burst. In May 2000 I joined a small Vancouver-based technology start up. We raised a $1M in funding and for a year we worked at building the product—for nothing. We built a product, but couldn’t get it out of the door. We failed at marketing and quickly learned that sales and the front end of the house are just as important as what’s built. After my first start up experience failed, the two co-founders and I decided to give it another go.

We moved the couches out of my Vancouver apartment, bought a domain name and started selling. We were selling software that didn’t exist, but we were successful. Our first two deals to a couple of large organizations resulted in over 200K. After we made the sales, we started building and in just a couple of years we had 35 people on our team. Shortly after, we sold the business to Active Network, which then turned into a $350M business and went public in May 2011. In just four years, I was part of a business that went from $30M to $350M—a huge accomplishment.

Being an entrepreneur was a fantastic experience, but it had its downfalls. Anyone who has tried it knows that much time is dedicated to back room process, payroll and accounting. It’s an all-inclusive mental, emotional and financial investment. The dead lift is exciting, yet extremely difficult–wishing there was already some momentum to work from. It also goes without saying that starting a business is incredibly risky. Three in every four start-ups fail. Given the appreciation I developed for sales and marketing and given the increased attention on the role of a CMO as businesses strive to loop the voice of the customer in their decision making processes, it was time I gave it a go. After going into my fourth year as CMO at Vision Critical, a cloud-based customer intelligence company that helps brands capture customer insight in order to make more informed business decisions, I can truly say that entrepreneurs make exceptional modern day CMOs. Here’s why:

  • Customers make or break a business: “Treat your customers like they own you, because they do,” said Mark Cuban, a well-known American businessman, investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Today, companies don’t have a choice but to cater to their customers—their success depends on customer happiness. Entrepreneurs understand that better than most. They’re on the front lines with customers every day, trying to sell and create profit. As innovators, they’re turning ideas into reality by setting the mountain and creating the steps needed to take in order to succeed. Marketing is a huge part of that staircase—it’s important, if not the most important part of entrepreneurship.
  • Entrepreneurs, like marketers set the path: In the mid-60’s when the space program and its future success were a hot topic, John F. Kennedy said with regards to the creation of a new space research center, “This Nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it.” The quote translates well to entrepreneurship. Company leaders set objectives and outline the needed measures to accomplish them. Business owners are often responsible for creating a story and delivering its promise—something marketers know all too well.
  • Brand is critical to both: As spokespeople, entrepreneurs care about how they and their products are represented. Everything that makes up a brand including messaging, customer experience, product marketing and public image is something CMOs drive. So when entrepreneurs move to CMO roles, they’re highly mindful of the elements that make up a brand and the reputation a business has to build and maintain.

In sum, if you’re an entrepreneur thinking about moving into a CMO capacity, now’s the time. And if you’re already an entrepreneur, you’re already a CMO.

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s About Time: Walmart’s U.S. CEO Bill Simon Unexpectedly Stepping Down

July 29, 2014 Leave a comment



Walter Loeb

Walter Loeb  7/25/2014

I cover major developments in the retail industry.

 It is about time. Poor domestic results demand a change of management at Walmart. I anticipate another disappointing quarter and I believe the responsible party is at the top. Bill Simon, (54), an affable person, is no merchant. While he has learned the retail language and is a dynamic leader, he was not schooled in the fundamentals of a discount retailer. He has risen through the management ranks at various companies and was a political appointee in Florida. He served 25 years in the Navy and Naval Reserves. Recent decisions to be more aggressive in pricing for back to school shows that again the company has lost sales momentum in their domestic Walmart stores. Dough McMillon, the recently appointed President and CEO of the company is impatient and has made sweeping changes, including senior management changes in Canada.

I think many Walmart stores are mature and management has focused on driving traffic with greater attention to consumables. The superstores have aggressive food prices to attract traffic. However, there is an over reliance on sharp prices on recognizable brands while customer services are lacking, and there is no emphasis on current family fashions.  Most recently some stores, like the one in Waterford CT., seemed to be notably out of stock in basics and cosmetics – possibly suggesting that the company is holding back on new deliveries until the next fiscal quarter in order to assure Wall Streetanalysts of very tight inventory control. One can suspect that Bill Simon wanted to have a good showing at the end of the quarter.  Of course, that is wrong. Sam Walton would never have broken the pencil of any merchant in order to stop deliveries of wanted merchandise for the purpose of pleasing analysts. Acting that way may have cost the company more than just lost sales; it may have affected customer loyalty.

I wonder about Greg Foran, (53), the new President and CEO of Walmart US. As Bill Simon’s successor he has a huge challenge in front of him to produce better results. He joined Walmart in 2011, became president of Walmart China in 2012 and was promoted this year to head up Walmart Asia. Prior to joining Walmart he was managing Australia’s Woolworth’s supermarkets, liquor and gasoline stores. Earlier he was general manager of Big W, the discount arm of Woolworth. He started his career as general manager of Dick Smith Electronics. Nothing in his background suggests any knowledge of fashion trends and innovative ways to attract young people to the store. He will have to learn quickly the American way of life and the sales cycles US consumers are accustomed to.

 Business is currently lousy for all retailers.  Customers have been reluctant to spend – earlier this year they were hampered by the harsh winter weather.  More recently, in the second quarter, economic concerns have held them back from spending aggressively. They are saving more. From The Container Store to Macy’s to Walmart, I sense a deep concern.  Inventories are higher than planned and I see promotions stepping up. Clearances, “lowest prices of the season” and “price breaks” abound. Designer apparel and accessories are being cleared aggressively to make way for fall fashions.

Next week is the height of the back to school season. Many states have a tax holiday to encourage shopping (see my next blog to be published next week) and primary schools in the Southwest will start soon. Schools in the Northeast are the last to open. The incentives offered by stores during these tax-free days have historically been successful at stimulating sales. This should prove to be a help to stores like Walmart, J.C.Penney, Kohl’s and Macy’s.

However, my worries about Walmart persist.  There are some profound questions that need to be answered.  Is Walmart too mature and too bureaucratic to be molded into a new model? Can store associates be retrained? Can stores become leaders again through innovative creative store managers? Greg Foran has an opportunity to show he is an inspired leader with creative skills.  But the opportunity will not last long as Walmart, and all of todays leading retailers, are being challenged by new entrants into the market place and by the Internet.  These challengers are relentless in their drive to offer great values, timely relevant fashions, and speedy, free shipping.

Categories: Uncategorized
%d bloggers like this: