Archive for June, 2009

Branding is key to success

Steve Koonin knows branding. You should, too.

The president of Turner Entertainment Networks believes in it so much that he even brands the meetings he calls.

“Twelve at 12” is how he refers to the weekly strategy meeting he chairs at noon with 11 other company executives.

Koonin, a former sports marketing expert at Coke who went over to Atlanta-based Turner nine years ago to help turn around TNT, uses branding to build or repair a business.

(He’s such a believer that he once wanted to etch Coke’s logo on the moon. But that’s good material for another column. We’re talking Turner now.)

Koonin, a 52-year-old Atlanta native, says a clear vision and game plan helped re-establish TNT and later, TBS, in viewers’ minds. The result — higher ratings and more ad revenue for the networks.

He calls his recipe “The Three Ps”:

» Position the networks: TNT got a new tagline, “We know drama.” For TBS it’s, “Very funny.”

» Program to the positioning: That …

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Power Breakfast: Hartsfield, nursing, Coke, homeless, college

The paid security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport are shutting down.

AJC staffer Kelly Yamanouchi is reporting that Clear, the company that has been operating those lines since last fall, failed to reach an agreement with a key creditor.

Clear members paid up to $199 for an annual membership and it’s unclear what will happen with that money.

After undergoing a background check, members could access special security lanes.

It’s also unclear what effect this will have on the free, regular security lanes. Airport spokesman John Kennedy said the shutdown should not impact the lines since checkpoints have been expanded at the airport.

We’ll see.

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MARTA: Will you pay more?

It’s not a pretty choice. Pay more for MARTA or sit in traffic congestion with average gas prices of more than $2.50 a gallon.

AJC reporter Ariel Hart reports today that MARTA’s board of directors approved $2 fares starting Oct. 1, up from $1.75. It’s the first increase since 2001.

Also, both trains and buses will run less frequently. But rail service will keep going until 1 a.m. It will not be cut back at midnight, as had been proposed.

What do you think of MARTA’s decision, given its budgetary constraints?

Will you change your commuting habits?

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Retirement report: Quarter of employers eliminate match to 401(k) plans

Retirement is not a pretty picture right now.

Reuters is reporting that nearly a quarter of U.S. employers have eliminated matching contributions to employee 401(k) retirement plans since September to save money amid the economy’s downturn, according to research released on Monday.

A quarter of U.S. employers also have limited enrollment to the plans rather than open them to all employees, according to the study conducted for Charles Schwab Corp. by CFO Research Services.

Although the study showed 23 percent of companies have eliminated 401(k) matching contributions, Reuters reports that most see the move as temporary, said Steve Anderson, who heads Retirement Plan Services at Charles Schwab, a financial services provider.

“Most view that as a temporary step. They don’t see that as a long-term approach,” he said.

Hopefully, he turns out to be right.

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Home Depot: Which way for international growth?

Today, Home Depot’s 30th birthday, is a time for reflection — as all birthdays generally are.

AJC reporter Rachel Tobin Ramos traced the company’s history and the issues it faces in a solid Sunday story about an Atlanta chain that has grown into the largest home-improvement retailer and Georgia’s biggest company.

But as CEO Frank Blake continues to try to improve sales and profitability in its existing stores, there will be a limit to that type of growth down the road.

The company only operates in three other nations — Canada, Mexico and China. And in Mexico and China, its presence is small, given the market sizes.

Contrast that to Georgia’s other large companies, such as Coca-Cola and UPS, which operate in some 200 nations.

But the home-improvement business is NOT the same as selling carbonated soft drinks or moving packages.

So, the question is, how aggressively or not should Home Depot seek international growth? And when?

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Power Breakfast: Health care, property values, foreclosure, MARTA, GM, Chrysler

Regardless of your views on a government option for health-care reform, the system needs some fixin’.

And one of the key reasons can be seen in Sunday’s AJC story about what consumers have to go through to get individual coverage if they lose their employer-sponsored insurance.

It’s a sad story of paying a lot for a little — assuming you don’t have a pre-existing condtion and can get coverage at all. If you haven’t had the chance to read it, try to. It’s worth it.

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GE vice chairman doesn’t see ‘green shoots’

General Electric Vice Chairman John Rice said today the economic recovery is not around the corner.

“We are in a tough, tough part of the economic cycle,” Rice told reporters in Atlanta. “I’m not particularly of the green shoot group yet,” he said, referring to those who think favorable signs are emerging. “We don’t see the rebound in our order patterns. … We’re preparing for 12 to 18 months of rough sledding.”

Rice, who lives in Atlanta, heads the $46 billion segment of GE called Technology Infrasture. It includes health care equipment, aircraft engines and locomotives.

He said the credit restraints still being imposed on “good consumers with good credit” are hampering a turnaround.

“Until that changes, I don’t think you’re going to see a consumer-led recovery,” said Rice, former chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

He also spoke about health-care reform, which is dear to his heart because of all the equipment and information technology GE sells.

GE recently …

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Report: Execs at banks receiving bailout use company jets for personal trips

In case you haven’t had enough of excessive executive compensation reports, here’s another one.

Chief executives of some banks that received federal money, including Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley and Regions Financial Corp., used company jets for their personal use, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Once again, it pays to be a top banana. And it’s this kind of scrutiny that drives some of the big banks crazy. It’s one of the reasons some of them are rushing to return the bailout money.

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Power Breakfast: TARP, F-22, WellStar, SunTrust, Hartsfield

Georgia has been hit very hard by bank failures, partly because some financial institutions relied so much on the real estate market to fuel their bottom lines.

Now comes an interesting story by AJC reporter Paul Donsky saying that many banks receiving federal TARP money may hold on to the funds for years. It will help them ride out the recession.

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Local entrepreneur’s gamble: Women’s soccer in Atlanta

Atlanta entrepreneur Fitz Johnson knows there are wiser financial moves to make than investing $2.5 million in a women’s pro soccer team.

After all, the last such Atlanta team, along with its entire league, went bust.

But Johnson, armed with money he made when he sold his defense contracting business last year, believes young women, including his twin daughters, need pro sports to broaden their horizons.

“I coached my girls,” he said. “I love this game. … It builds leadership strength. … It reaches all the way down their core.”

So the 45-year-old from Marietta announced today that he would be the new owner of the Atlanta Beat — the ninth franchise in the fledgling Women’s Professional Soccer league.

He paid $1 million for the expansion franchise, which will begin play next year. And with another $1.5 million in initial costs, including for 18 players, Johnson knows it will be a challenge to make money.

A recession is not the best environment to launch any business, let alone …

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