Tour of Missouri–Stupid Is as Stupid Does

tour breakaway
tour pelaton

I had planned to write today about the Tour of Missouri, the world-class bicycle race that began in Saint Louis yesterday and ends in Kansas City next Sunday. The 600 + mile race is developing into one of the top cycling events not just in the USA, but in the world. Several major riders passed on a race in Spain this week to participate here in the midwest.

I was going to write about persistance and determination and planning and how important they are in racing and in business. Sadly, something else happened that marred the day and made me rethink the direction of today’s post.

Downtown Saint Louis is really quite beautiful. The city has done an amazing job in beatifying the area in preparation for this year’s Major League Baseball All Star game. There is a new public park in the heart of the business district with flowers, sculptures, and pools. In the median of Market Street, downtown’s major east-west thoroughfare, they’ve planted beautiful flowers and shrubs.

plaza flowers 2

Alas, there’s the problem. To get a better view of the race a few dozen pinheads decided that it was alright to stand on the flowers. In spite of requests from the race announcers to respect the plantings and not risk the city’s support of the race in the future, these geniuses must have thought they meant some other flowers as they failed to move and were joined by others.

IDIOT_MO

You would think that bicycle people would be more respectful of nature seeing as how we spend so much time outdoors.

It’s been said that no one ever went broke underestimating the American people. Sad, but true.

Note to visitors:  These people are not representative of the typical Missourian.  Most of us are pretty nice people.  If you’re within reasonable driving distance, the Tour is something that you should experience, either this year or next.

Hot Stuff in Gatlinburg

fed_beagleOK, I’ll admit it.  I’m a hot sauce addict.  I have two shelves in the fridge and a cabinet under the sink full of the stuff.  Like one of those beagles in the green blazers that sniff out contraband at the airport, I can smell a hot sauce shop a block away.

It’s a good thing, because the Pepper Palace in Gatlinburg, TN isn’t easy to find.  It’s on the third floor of an enclosed “mall” on the town’s main street.  But we did find it and I’m glad we did.  What the store lacks in walk-by traffic it more than makes up for in selection and service.  pepper_palaceThe picture displays just a small percentage of the products the store offers.  There are the familiar national brands like Tobasco, but much of the merchandise is private label, produced locally by Pepper Palace.

To sell a product like hot sauce, you really have to let people sample it.  This store does sampling right.  There are dozens of things for you to try with the appropriate tool for transporting the sauce from the sample container to the mouth.  Mostly tortilla chips.  Not tiny pieces of chips, mind you, but actual chips.

That would be reason enough to check out the store, but the lady behind the counter knows every sauce, how it’s made, what kind of peppers it contains, and how to use it.  She was like a wine steward of salsa.  She greeted us as we came in with the current special, “Buy four and get the fifth one free.”  Naturally I bought five and even went back the next day to buy a sixth item that I had originally passed on.

You might think of condiments, especially exotic ones, to be something that might be off most people’s budgets in a recession.  But pepper-heads must have their fix and this is a company that’s more than ready to provide it.  They’ve grown from one store to three and are looking for franchisees to expand even further.

Rhonda, the lady who waited on us is the company’s “Marketing Manager”, an unusual position in a small retail business.  Obviously she’s doing a good job marketing the company and taking care of customers.  You can see her in action in the video which is one of seventeen Pepper Palace has posted on You Tube.  Of course they have a web site.

Watch the video and ask yourself, “How can I use instructional videos to promote my business?” Don’t say you don’t have the capability to do it.  As you can see from Pepper Palace’s videos, big-buck production isn’t required.  If you have an interesting or entertaining story to tell, you should be sharing it on You Tube.

Do You and I Really Have Freedom of Speech?

Interestingly, in yesterday’s post I wrote, “When small-business-damaging laws are being considered at the national and local level, we have to speak out.” In today’s local paper there was a story about John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods.  In a recent op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal Mackey offered his suggestions for health care reform.

Mackey’s comments have stirred up a firestorm because they have been perceived by some of Whole Foods’ liberal customers as being anti-Obamacare.  As you might imagine, a company specializing in organically-grown foods does attract a lot of liberal customers.  Some of them are threatening to boycott the chain.

I’m not going to dive into the health  care debate, at least not today, but you have to admire Mackey’s courage to offer a counter proposal knowing the make-up of his company’s customer base.  But, here are some things that I find interesting:

  • The President has solicited suggestions regarding health care reform.  Mackey’s comments seem to be answering that call.
  • Proposing a different plan from the one that’s currently on the table doesn’t seem to be such a terrible thing, especially in a democracy where the right of free speech is guaranteed.
  • Mackey may be CEO of Whole Foods, but his words don’t necessarily represent the company.
  • Do WF’s liberal customers really want to punish a company that seems to be so in touch with their views and life style?  After all, if the company were to go away, where would they find the same selection of organic and specialty foods?
  • I didn’t read all 4,000 + comments on Mackey’s blog, but if the first couple of pages are any indication, he has a lot of support.

Like I said, this blog isn’t a referendum on health care reform but as I wrote yesterday, don’t business owners and executives have a right and a responsibility to speak out on subjects that are important to their companies?  Obviously Mackey feels strongly enough about the subject to put his name on an article in a national publication.  As a responsible CEO you have to believe that he feels an alternative to the current health care reform bills floating around on Capital Hill would be best for his company, his employees, and his customers.

Where does that leave small business owners?  Don’t we have the same right and responsibility?   Should we back off on important issues for fear of adverse customer reactions?

Personally I think Mackey did the right thing.  What do you think?

Here are some other points of view:

What can John Mackey and Whole Foods learn from publicizing their views on health reform?

“Health Care Stirs Up Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, Customers Boycott Organic Grocery Store” from ABC News