As a longterm resident of Vail and someone with a deep love of skiing and mountains, I am consistently impressed by Vail Resorts. Yes, they are a profit driven company aimed at getting more people to the mountain and capturing as much value as possible from each person. But at the same time, they recognize the importance of caring for the environments they rely on – from taking care of the mountain to taking care of the communities they are a part of. The introduction of EPIC was controversial to locals; on one hand, they did not want their home overrun by tourists, but at the same time, most locals rely on the tourist industry for survival. Vail Resorts did an excellent job of engaging locals and aligning its decisions with local residents and companies such that everyone is better off with many of the decisions they make and ultimately there is little controversy. They invest in small local businesses, help develop school programs for students to learn about the unique mountain environment, and at the same time have really disrupted the ski industry with the introduction of EPIC. Obviously since Vail owns “the whole mountain” they capture more value the more people (skiers or not) come to their resorts. I wonder if similarly “low” priced season passes are an option at ski resorts that own fewer of the restaurants, lodging, and realestate around their resorts.
As a consumer, the Wegman’s experience is always a good one! I never realized how well it compared to both ends of the supermarket spectrum – the every-day-low-price strategy of Walmart and the extremely high-quality shopping experience of Whole Foods. Learning more about it through your post, I wonder if it actually is positioned for increased growth or if it has reached its maximum size to maintain its strategy. Will they be able to control costs and have such high quality if they have a larger geographical footprint? Will their private label still be as high quality if they need to source from farms across the country rather than only in the northeast? It seems like the best way for them to grow outside the northeast (if they determine that is their goal) might be to merge with or acquire other Wegman’s-like grocery chains in other geographies.
Zenefits turns the traditional HR model on its head. The most interesting part about Zenefits to me is the value capture: Zenefits has slipped into the industry without anyone feeling like they are paying for the product, yet Zenefits makes $450/employee/year. The customer has never paid for insurance brokerage services (they did not pay insurance brokers) and they are still receiving it for free with Zenefits. Customers are actually getting incredible amounts of value on top of brokerage service – entire HR functions from onboarding to training to ID badge printing – is done for free. The insurance companies have alway paid brokerage fees, so they do not perceive any change in cost as they pay Zenefits the same 2-10% they pay other listed brokers. The person who loses – who is “paying” for this innovation – is the traditional insurance broker who has now become obsolete. I wonder if there will be backlash from this kind of disruption to the industry, or if insurance brokers will always have a job with companies who want to keep an in-house HR team and in-person contact from their insurance brokers.