Inside the Performance Chain: An interview with Red Mango's Jim Notarnicola
To introduce Jim is difficult because he is not one thing, he is many things. He is not with one company, he has involvements with several. Brock Capital where Jim is a Senior Managing Director describes Jim as an “Expert in retail and restaurant marketing and franchise operations. Former EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Blockbuster, Inc., 7-Eleven, Inc; Currently President, Nicely Bros. Ice Cream Distribution; and a Partner in J&B Restaurants, Inc. (Red Mango).”
Jim says in his typically understated way, “I’ve bounced around a lot. Consider me a retail marketing guy and an investor in both retail and distribution businesses.” I interviewed him for ROAR. Following is a taste of that conversation.
Describe your passion for retail businesses
“Retail is immediate response. You go to market on a small scale and you either find a market or don’t. If you do, you scale from there. You can scale your business with direct interaction. I enjoy working in this kind of performance chain.
“I’ve dealt with retail at every stage of retail evolution. Way back with 7-Eleven, we were in a robust business where there was huge consumer demand. C-stores started adding groceries. As long as consumers were stopping for gas, the stations might as well sell them other stuff as well. At 7-Eleven, we didn’t have the real estate to bring in gasoline. If we could have seen the long-term trend, the store strategy would have been completely changed.
“From this experience, one of the things I always think about is something (Peter) Drucker wrote about: how companies miss changes over the long run. Even companies who are cheetah like — fast, or coyote like — flexible, tend to react to things right in front of them but fail to step back and see the changes in the long view.”
What about a situation where you do understand the shifting marketing dynamics?
“You see it time and again: companies hold on and hold on to their operating model or performance chain until others do them in or force a change. My question is, ‘How do mature companies summon the will to adapt to the point where they out-compete their core business?’”
You’re right, we see this all the time. Do you have a thought or answer for that challenge?
“Companies need to try to keep their focus way out to the outer-edge of customer experience. We need to underscore being customer-driven, to get around the customer experience of the business we are already in and pay attention to what customers are telling us is coming and needed.
“Online businesses and all subscription businesses, talking from my retail perspective, carry a heavy burden. All the things these companies did to make the online businesses wonderful, are the same things that make the customer extremely angry when the company does something heavy handed and without regard to customer concern. And customer retribution is swift. In the online world there is total authority at the point of the end customer. You have to be listening to what is said and unsaid. Ignore the signs at your own peril. It is the global and virtual version of the watering hole and everyone knows instantly what is in and out.”
Where is customer experience going and how it will impact business performance chains?
“An interesting theme that runs through all the business experiences I’ve had is letting customers ‘do it for themselves.’ As consumers, we’ve all concluded that we’d rather do it for ourselves. Even in the frozen yogurt business, we started by serving the customer. We were doing the presentation. Now we’re turning the machines around and letting the customers serve themselves because that’s what customers want. They want their own special twist and through their direct involvement, they help us co-create new ideas or improvements. Maybe you have a reason for wanting to do something for the customer (serve them) but there is more potential in setting up the performance chain so they can serve themselves.
“Imagine a whole globe of customers empowered to do for themselves: build my own retail company, make my own tools, develop my own processes and have the ability to access unlimited resources and information. How do you set up your business performance chains to enable that? I see that this open sourced creativity is where the next great innovations will come from to drive businesses and economies.”
Read more of my conversation with Jim Notarnicola in ROAR: Strengthening business performance through speed, predictability, flexibility, and leverage. www.roarthebook.com
Pragmatic optimist with over 20 years of leading meaningful change. Sees every performance chain through lenses of speed, predictability, flexibility and leverage. Gets excited when smart decisions align with what customers value and generate stronger business performance. More about Chris.
"ROAR does an excellent job of making complex business models easy to understand and accessible. Through the skillful use of metaphors, Mahai breathes life into business concepts that tend to be very dry. I would recommend ROAR for any organization looking for innovative ways to engage in understanding and implementing best business practices." - John Foley, author of "Balanced Brand"