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Think Inside the Cup

I am concerned that the concept of thinking outside the cup could cause Starbucks to forget what makes its experience so good ("Listening to Starbucks," July). The article pointed out how it was positive for the company to have a large crowd of people listening to music in their stores. Many of us go to Starbucks to enjoy great coffee in a quiet place where we can relax with friendly people and great service. The last thing we want is to fight through a crowd and listen to loud music. These distractions from what made it great are a "grande" mistake.

Bill Nicholson
President
AutoLogic LLC
Sussex, Wisconsin

Anarchy Doesn't Rule

A year ago, I was Whole Foods' biggest fan ("The Anarchist's Cookbook," July), brainstorming with mid-Michigan developers who also frequented its store in Ann Arbor (100 miles south) to figure out how we might pitch the company to build one here. Then Whole Foods Ann Arbor moved to a mammoth new building and became an unpleasant Whol-Mart. It still has terrific food, bountiful vitamins, and a helpful and knowledgeable staff, but it's too big and too loud. Its parking spaces are as badly designed for the big crowds it draws as its one-stall washrooms.

Meanwhile, a Trader Joe's now occupies the old building. It seems to feature more organic food each visit. If Whole Foods has erroneously bought into the bigger-is-better philosophy, it's forgetting that smarter competitors are ready to eat its lunch.

Mike Mosher
Bay City, Michigan

Fishing for Compliments

I enjoyed Ryan Underwood's article ("The Fable," July), where he takes an easy but creative shot at popular story-form books. Having developed a rather thick skin over the past five years, I will limit my remarks to what I believe is a factual error of some importance. Underwood suggests that books like Fish! are purchased but not read. Much to my chagrin, I find they are purchased and passed around schools, Starbucks, nursing homes, villages, and among families. I have been asked to sign books already read by a dozen employees of a small business trying to transform its customer experience. Such behavior isn't good for royalties, but it's a point of pride. It is my experience that emotionally intelligent story-form books get read far more often than the books written for CEOs and carried around in a conspicuous manner by would-be CEOs.

Stephen C. Lundin
Author of Fish!, Fish Tales, Fish Sticks, Fish for Life, Feedback Is a Gift, Personal Accountability, and Your Path to a Rewarding Work Life
Charthouse International
Burnsville, Minnesota

Finally, someone brave enough to expose the fraud! Ryan Underwood's "The Fable" was completely dead-on. Each one of those fables could be a chapter in a $12.95 trade paperback, but they insist on full freight for a hardcover book that can be read in one or two trips to the executive reading room. The real idiots are those who drink the Kool-Aid and make the purchases that let these "books" ascend the best-seller lists, further perpetuating the fraud.

Tim Haraden
General manager
G&K Services
Tampa, Florida

Feeling the Love

"How Do I Love Thee?" (July) made my heart race! For those companies and brands that "get it," this is indeed the best of times. The old model of brand building and one-way brand monologue (blah, blah, blah) is dead. Building great brands must come from the inside out, understanding with great clarity the deepest and richest emotional connections of those most passionate consumers.

It's not new that today's consumer expects—no, demands—an entirely different relationship with his brand. What's new is that the relationship must be truly dialogue-based, where empowerment resides squarely in the consumer's hands and where the role of the brand is to be a part of the scene rather than the scene.

Douglas Shouse
President and COO
Coyne Beahm Shouse
Greensboro, North Carolina

Value Judgments

Your article on Douglas Smith ("We, Incorporated," July) leaves out the "first thing": the value center of the individual. Corporations and organizations are not going to do the right thing if they are full of people who don't know what that right thing is. We need to teach the next generation values by getting involved where it will see us living right—at home and in our immediate community. The challenge to us individually is to slow down, get acquainted with people around us, and get involved in caring for our "place."

Rodney Lover
President
Lovers atWork Office Furniture
London, Ontario

Publicly Disappointed in Privacy

How depressing that corporate executives feel that they have to spy on their workers ("The Privacy Arms Race," July). Research shows that for a company to be able to embrace innovation, a culture of trust and inclusiveness for all employees must be engendered. Moreover, some of the best new ideas are often triggered by external events and can be suggested by anyone in the organization. Discouraging employees to surf the Web for stimulation and knowledge amid an environment of mistrust is hardly the way to tap an organization's full intellectual power. With innovation now recognized as the most important key for sustained competitiveness, use of spy software seems an excellent way to ensure that the company will wither away.

Anthony C. Warren
Director
Farrell Center for Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation
Smeal College of Business, Penn State
University Park, Pennsylvania

Soul Food

I was touched by John A. Byrne's "Eulogy for My Father," (July), which captured what I feel has been missing from Fast Company for a long time—soul. Under Byrne's direction, Fast Company's editorial pages express a renewed vitality, edginess, and heightened sense of purpose. The last few issues have restored my faith in the value of Fast Company.

Rosemary Brutico
Principal
Quintessence Communication
Burlington, Massachusetts

What a tribute to your father and what images: hand-in-hand meanderings, time to play endless games of Parcheesi, railroad tracks and flattened pennies, among others.

His legacy was possible because he gave you the one thing that is most needed in today's 24-7 world: his time. Your poignant writing speaks volumes for all of us. What will it take for too-fast companies to give people permission for a life outside work? What will it take, in our overheated housing market, to make sure an hourly wage is a household living wage? What will it take to cap mandatory overtime and carve out space for renewal? I just wonder, if you were a little boy today, would your dad still be able to give you the gift of his time? Please accept my condolences.

Eileen McDargh
President and chief transformer
McDargh Communications and
The Resiliency Group
Dana Point, California

Customer Service Starts With Customers

I appreciate that Shoshana Zuboff ("Small Insults, Heavy Toll," July) was trying to illustrate how we as consumers, who are already overloaded in our lives, have to do more of the "legwork" for many of the services that used to be provided to us. But customer service starts with the customer. Just like the rest of us, the people who provide services to us are overworked, overtaxed, and have personal lives that continually pull them in all directions. I know that I tend to receive less-than-stellar customer service when my attitude is less than stellar. When I am not upset and when I treat reps with some respect, I get my problems solved with little or no frustration. Is this a 100% guarantee? No. But I have the right not to use their services, as well as the ability to encourage others to do the same, rather than just whine.

Beth Butler
Solution consultant
PeopleSoft Inc.
Dallas, Texas

The CEO Stays in the Picture

Contrary to your claims ("CEO See-Ya!" July), Fannie Mae's chairman and CEO, Franklin D. Raines, has so far had a remarkably successful five years leading our company, with spectacular performance for our affordable housing mission and our business.

Under his leadership, Fannie Mae posted double-digit growth in core business earnings every year. We more than doubled our earnings per share, whether measured in core-business EPS (from $3.23 to $7.29) or GAAP EPS (from $3.23 to $7.91). During this time, we have posted record-breaking business volumes, near record-low credit losses (in spite of the recession), strong growth in portfolio net interest income (in spite of record interest-rate volatility), and provided more than $2 trillion in home financing for more than 18 million lower-income, minority, and other underserved families.

You may believe that our business is as easy as "wake up breathing, earn fee." We are pleased that, among others, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan has said he thinks we manage our operations "rather well."

Chuck Greener
Senior vice president, communications
Fannie Mae
Washington, DC

Courageous Leaders, Eager Readers

If you'd like to discuss this special issue of Fast Company and related topics with other readers, business leaders, and innovators, the Company of Friends can help. Members of Fast Company's readers' network (www. fastcompany.com/cof) regularly organize discussion events, workshops, and other activities, and readers also gather via the Fast Company Book Club Meetup (www.fcbookclub.meetup.com).

For a schedule of upcoming CoF events — addressing this issue and other themes — visit the global events calendar on the Web (www.fastcompany.com/keyword/cofcalendar).

Fast Fix

Our July feature story on Starbucks ("Thinking Outside the Cup") listed 2003 same-store sales growth as 9%. The correct number is 8%.

How to Give Feedback

Send us an email (loop@fastcompany.com). Submission of a letter constitutes permission to publish it in any form or medium. Letters may be edited for reasons of space and clarity.

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