Inside Boardroom: Q&As With The Authors Part 1

Charting the changing food retail environment

Recently FMI, in partnership with global consulting firm Oliver Wyman, jointly released a compilation journal of strategic insights to help senior executives successfully guide their companies in this ever-changing food retail environment.

Boardroom is comprised of original perspectives from leading experts in food retail on a selection of the most critical issues executives must confront in boardrooms across the country and around the world. We are excited to share a series of Q&As with various authors from papers included in the journal that will give an expanded perspective on the key topics.

In this interview, I had a chance to speak with the two architects of Boardroom, Mark Baum, senior vice president & chief collaboration officer at FMI, and Mike Matheis, global industry association lead, Oliver Wyman, on how Boardroom was created and its importance to the food retail community

How did the Boardroom come to fruition?

Mike Matheis, Oliver Wyman: About one and a half years ago, Mark and I were discussing ways we could continue to improve the FMI member value generated from our Board and Senior Merchandising Executive (SME) Forum content we had delivered. We agreed that the insights from our meetings and forums were excellent and that while white papers had been produced for each and presentations had been made available on our SME Forum web-site, people are busy and can benefit from significant insight being neatly packaged and provided to them in an efficient and senior manner.  The concept of Boardroom was born!

Mark Baum, FMI: Exactly! FMI and OW have been collaborating as strategic partners for the last several years and part of what we do is to provide content to our board of directors, and we've created a community of senior merchandising executives (SMEs). Wed created a great deal of intellectual capital - webinars, white papers and frameworks for business building opportunities – and were looking for a way of bundling that up and presenting it to key professionals and other stakeholders. So we created an annual journal, which includes a lot of this information with an extendable shelf life and will provide great information for members throughout the year.

Can you both address the issues covered in Boardroom and their importance to food retail executives?

Matheis: Sure. While Boardroom covers many important industry issues pertaining to growth strategies, food waste and food safety, cyber and crisis management, and omnichannel challenges and opportunities, it is important to note that one of the key principles that we have operated under for all our Board and SME Forum content is that all is member-driven. We interview CEOs and SMEs throughout the year to make sure that any topics discussed are the most important issues for them and what they want to have peer-to-peer discussions about, leveraging the insight to improve their business performance.
Baum: The content here consists of the most important stay-awake-at-night issues for senior leaders today. And while we prioritize the issues they may and frequently do, shift. But if you think about the topics in this journal, the number one challenge for all companies is growth – as we like to say, “you'll never save your way to prosperity”. And the other topics, are timely and directly impacting our business today; for example, cyber security and crisis management are permeating our business in every facet. In the social and digital world of instant communication, crisis management is increasingly becoming just “management”. We want also provide “news you can use”. You're going to take this journal back to your company and apply it that same day, while provoking a lot of thinking from your management team.

Matheis: It’s also important for FMI members to know that when these papers were written following various events they contained additional resources available to the members at FMI. Some of that was removed in the journal, but when members read Boardroom, they should know that for those issues that are of are high interest, they can go to the SME forum website to access how FMI can further help them.

Which topic in Boardroom are you most excited about and/or what is it about this issue that most interests you?

Baum: I love all of these topics! But for me, most interesting and perhaps important are the articles around healthcare and the emergence of the consumer healthcare market place. Growth is the number one challenge – and opportunity - in our business today, and I can’t think of a more important area – healthcare retail.  It is literally a multi-trillion dollar opportunity, and food retailers are poised to claim a big part of that market place.  We believe healthcare will “go retail”, and FMI members have many if not all of the assets to make this happen. And if they are interested in approaching this marketplace, we’ve outlined how it can work for them in Boardroom by giving them a really clear look at what is required, how they can utilize their existing assets, and what will be required to have world-class capabilities.. This is such an extraordinary growth opportunity – that to me it trumps all others.

Matheis: While all the topics are interesting, particularly because they are the topics FMI members told us were most important to them, if I had to zero in on one or two, I would pick those topics where insights are coming from outside FMI’s current membership. Topics like fulfilling customer demand by leveraging click and collect in this case, France, or another topic that will appear in next year’s edition on the Rise of the Discounters, sighting lessons learned in this case, specifically from Germany and the United Kingdom.  These articles in particular help FMI and Oliver Wyman deliver the Boardroom promise:  “offer unique insights to help senior food retail executives shape strategies for success and improve performance throughout their organizations.” 

What do you hope readers of Boardroom will take away from it?

Matheis: Hopefully, they will see that the content and insights are truly delivering on the most important issues of the day, and continuously updated by their CEO and chief merchant peers.  The other take away I am hoping for is that if retail executives who are relatively uninvolved with FMI read these articles and understand these issues are presented at Board meetings and SME forums, maybe this will give them the incentive to be a more active participant in these key FMI Communities going forward.

Baum: I hope that when they read Boardroom, they gain some immediate benefit. Immediate action they can take within their companies. I also hope it is thought provoking and allows them to share this important information with their executive teams. In addition to our desire that it stimulates greater engagement, we want them to seek to seek more information and get smarter on these issues. They should know there are tremendous resources at FMI and OW to address these issues and grow their business in general.

Thank you both for your time. Any parting words?

Baum: Yes, at FMI we are so proud and pleased about our relationship with OW and are thrilled to be able to bring these resources to our FMI members, their trading partners, suppliers and their service providers.

Matheis: I couldn’t agree more. We are proud to partner with FMI on this journal and are excited about continuing to build this partnership.

*This post is the first of a six-part Q&A series between FMI executives and Oliver Wyman partners on the inaugural issue of our joint journal Boardroom.

By Heather Garlich, Senior Director of Media and Public Relations, Food Marketing Institute