Jeff Keller

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On December 1, 2017, Jeff Keller commented on Isolationist Trade Policy Drives General Motors to Narrow its Scope :

Great article! The last point about restrictions on labor is particularly interesting. In an effort to drive up US wages through immigration restrictions, we may very well drive companies out of the US. It raises an ethical question of whether sinking or stagnant wages for many is better or worse than rising wages for fewer.

The car companies have a harder public perception battle to fight. Iconic American companies take more heat if they’re seen as shipping jobs overseas. It seems to be a tough time to be a planner at GM.

Colgate-Palmolive seems like an ideal candidate for a modern and efficient supply chain. They sell low-price, high-volume goods in a number of different countries and can benefit tremendously from small improvements in efficiency across the supply chain.

One of the last questions raised about future hires is an interesting point. It seems that nearly every company is refashioning itself as a tech company these days, and not unjustly so. Will Colgate-Palmolive be able to convince highly-skilled technologists to work on their supply chain? The shift towards being more of a tech company requires a simultaneous shift towards being a company with a greater focus on human resources and talent development. It will be interesting to see how CPG companies handle the transition.

On November 28, 2017, Jeff Keller commented on Tesla’s War on “King Coal” :

Dave Chan raises a number of good points about the feasibility of Tesla achieving its goals. Elon Musk is known to be aspirational, and has hit his targets in the past, but is this time different? The numbers on cobalt production seem to suggest it would be nearly impossible to do all that he describes.

The other interesting takeaway is that electric cars can be more or less eco-friendly depending on the location of the owner. It would be interesting to know if Tesla targets their sales efforts at areas that may have stronger environmental benefits.

Elon Musk has laid out his lofty goals, but I wouldn’t bet against him.

On November 28, 2017, Jeff Keller commented on “Are We There Yet?”: Solving the Los Angeles Congestion Indigestion :

As a native Californian, I can attest to Cindy’s description of traffic. I think the Waze partnership and other initiatives are a step in the right direction, but it seems that congestion pricing and public transportation are the only long-term ways to reduce traffic. The issue is that both are very politically unpopular, particularly in a community where driving is so ingrained as a part of life.

The other solution to this issue is autonomous vehicles. It is encouraging to see that California is trying to pave the way (pun intended) for the technology to take hold. Hopefully Los Angeles does the same.

This article touches on a key technological question: how important are humans to customers? As a younger consumer, I’m inclined to answer that they matter very little. Hotels do seem particularly outdated in some of their infrastructure. I don’t think anyone complains that they can now access their boarding pass on their phone–or for the technophobes, they can print it at an automated kiosk at the airport.

CR’s question of privacy is the more controversial one to me. Knowing my behavior in a hotel room is akin to knowing my behavior in my home or my bedroom. Do I want Marriott to know? I err on the side of full disclosure but perhaps that’s because I can’t yet see where it may lead. Hotels will have to walk a fine line between personalization and privacy.

On November 28, 2017, Jeff Keller commented on It’s time for Red Lobster to be a little less shellfish :

Should companies engage in sustainable practices when their customers don’t care about sustainability? Implicit in the IKEA case was the notion that its consumers responded at least somewhat positively to the company’s eco-friendly policies. I’m not sure that is the same for Red Lobster.

One of the clients I worked for in consulting was Red Lobster. In 2014, they were acquired by Golden Gate Capital and brought in a team of Bain consultants to overhaul the business (I left before we saw the results of this heroism). My recollection is that Red Lobster’s core customers would not be impacted by messages of sustainability. They would, however, respond negatively to higher prices or changes in certain offerings.

Shalei’s suggestions of sharing information is particularly compelling. It seems low risk and relatively easy for the company. But I think her better question is whether this business can survive in its current form. If activists start to push the company to source their fish differently, it may raise prices and their customers may not care that they’re helping the environment.

On November 28, 2017, Jeff Keller commented on Holy Guacamole! Your Super-Bowl snack is about to get pricey. :

This article highlights the potential dangers of political ineptitude on people’s everyday lives. Certainly there are more substantive issues around NAFTA that get the lion’s share of attention, but who benefits if avocado imports are shut off? Who benefits if there is an additional tariff to ship avocados to the US? Surely nobody went to the polls on this issue, and yet many would notice if the price of avocados increased.

This discussion also highlights that there are often issues outside of the control of a company that can significantly impact operations. Managers can plan for all sorts of scenarios, but sometimes your business gets caught up in political fights.