Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Author Archives: adamkmiec

The Worst Thing About The Pharmacy Experience

If there’s one thing I know a lot about, it’s the pharmacy patient experience. After working on the Rite Aid business for years and working at Walgreens for some time, I’ve seen a significant amount of research, patient feedback and other data about the pharmacy patient experience.

Imagine this situation. Your kids are sick. They’re miserable. The flu has completely knocked them out. You’ve been up for days watching what you thought was a cold, become the full-blown flu. Except that it’s not just the flu, nope, you got lucky, it’s all bronchitis. You take the day off and bring your kids into their primary care physician. They indicate yep, these kids are sick. They send you on your way with some instructions about rest and hydration, but also call in some prescriptions to your local pharmacy. Now, you know that it usually takes about 15 minutes to have your medication ready and you’re relieved that those scripts will be ready by the time you show up from the doctor’s office.

All good right? Not exactly. You get to the pharmacy, provide your name and the pharmacist comes back with bad news. Unfortunately, your prescriptions are not ready because they required prior authorization and as such, they need to get in touch with some combination of your insurance company and your physician. That relief you felt is replaced with anger and disbelief.

I’ve seen the above situation play out all too many times in customer feedback and I’ve also been that patient. It doesn’t have to be that way. Seriously.

PreCheck MyScript is a new product that doctors can use to make it quicker and easier for patients to get their prescriptions. It effectively takes the guesswork out of the experience. Not only do you avoid the painful experience I outlined above, but you’ll also know the medication cost before you even leave your doctor’s office. No, it’s not magic or some type of sorcery. It’s just PreCheck MyScript, another way UnitedHealthcare is making the patient experience smoother, while providing even more transparency.

I’m really thrilled with the video my team created to help create awareness about PreCheck MyScript. They knocked it out of the park. For those of you in the industry, you know how challenging it is to simplify something complex. They absolutely delivered on that challenge. More to come from.

Make The Experience Distinct And Memorable

John and Cheryl with Jimmy Butler.

I’m a Chicago Bulls fan. I should be a Knicks fan, given I grew up in New York. But, it was hard not to root for MJ as a kid. I grew up with MJ and MJ lead me to the Bulls. Even when the Bulls were bad, I backed them, like a true fan should.

Fast-forward many years later and I moved to Chicago. The Bulls were horrible. They were coached by Tim Floyd, who had no business coaching a professional NBA. As bad as the product was, I still rooted, I still cheered and I stayed loyal to the Bulls.

I lived in Chicago, 3 different times. I went to so many Bulls games. I watched Bulls teams that were good, bad and on the cusp of greatness. Not once did I ever consider becoming a season ticket holder. I loved my Bulls, but the combination of cost, location and product never lined up. If you’re going to become a season ticket holder in the NBA, you really need to gear up for 41 games. Despite my love for the Bulls, I didn’t see myself making that commitment.

This past Summer, we moved to Minnesota. Over many a margarita to celebrate the house we had just found, Nichole and I agreed, we should get Minnesota Timberwolves tickets. Wait, “what”, you’re saying. I know, I know. Let me explain.

  1. There’s a big-time Bulls connection. On the Wolves roster, you have Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jamal Crawford and Aaron Brooks. Oh, and they’re coached by Thibs. Even if it was to root for Jimmy, a classic Bulls player, it seemed worth it.
  2. The product, so to speak, looked great. They have a young core of homegrown players, in a newly renovated stadium and with new uniforms.
  3. The location is great. Getting in and out of the Target Center is a breeze.
  4. The kids would love it. I tried to get them to be Bulls fans, but given they’re growing up in the Twin Cities, it makes sense they’d root for the Wolves.
  5. The price was palatable.

So, we got 3 seats. I’ve never been a season ticket holder for any sport or team. Thus, in fairness, I have nothing to compare my experience against. However, I’ve been to a lot of games across all the major sports leagues. I can honestly say, I’ve never seen a team so committed to its fans. They’ve made a clear commitment to creating a distinct and memorable fan experience. There are the little things, like how they pick season ticket holder’s child to bring the ball to center to court and how they pick 2 season ticket holder children to be honorary captains who get to meet the captains for both teams. Season ticket holders also get to access the arena, up to an hour earlier than the general public. This allows you to see the players shoot around. Very cool.

Then, you have bigger things, like hosting a season ticket holder Christmas event where there was a fan lead Q&A with 3 players and the ability to take a Christmas photo with Crunch. I can tell you, my kids STILL talk about it. There are also adult events like a private tour of Surly Brewery, complete with food and free beer. I’d, of course, be remiss if I didn’t also mention that season ticket holders get a discount on merchandise. That leads to both kids owning shirts and jerseys, not to mention Christmas gifts.

I could wax on and on about all the things that the Minnesota Timberwolves organization does to make sure little moments and big moments are distinct and memorable. It’s that total fan experience that makes you want to go watch the team play instead of heading out to dinner, going to a movie or some other activity. Make no mistake, people vote with their wallets. We’re voting 41 times to spend an evening with the Wolves and that’s just the games. With all the season ticket holder events they also have, I’d say, we’ll spend 20% of the year (as measured in days) with the Wolves. That’s a serious commitment. But, when you have a business focused on creating distinct and memorable experiences like this moment, earlier in the week, when John got to meet Jimmy Butler, it’s money well spent.

Add 3 New Things Every Year

Never Stop Learning

A few years back, just after I turned 30, I realized the need to find new ways to refresh my brain. There are several studies that show the how learning new skills like painting, helps fight off Alzheimer’s disease. I wondered if I could apply the concept at an earlier age. I also wondered if the brain could be trained and worked out, like a muscle. There’s a significant amount of data that shows muscles stop improving if you keep training them the same way. The experts call it muscle confusion.

In my first year I took up:

  1. Snowboarding: after years of skiing, I made the switch. This was more than just a challenge. In solidarity with my kids, we were going to take on something new together. They were learning skiing and I promised to fall down with them as I learned snowboarding.
  2. Boxing: still til this day, one of the best workouts you can have. It’s high octane and the sweat is real.
  3. Target Shooting: bought a pistol after a grueling Illinois background check process, took some classes and hit the range.

Over the years this concept of learning and trying 3 new things every year, lead to my new found love of soccer (a success) and my attempt to understand Snapchat (a failure).

This habit has been incredibly rewarding and fun. The pursuit of knowledge acquired from experience can be a lifetime quest.

This year I’m investing my time into 3 areas:

  1. Carbonated Beverages: Pepsi, Red Bull and I have a long-term relationship. At my most recent annual physical, which I passed with flying colors, I asked my doctor what more I could do. He suggested giving up white food, like bread and giving up on sugary carbonated beverages. I said, “Doc, I’m not going to lie. The bread thing ain’t happening.” But, I knew carbonated beverages would just be a battle of willpower. Challenge accepted.
  2. Social Media: In 2018 I’m eliminating all social media from my diet. No Facebook. No twitter. No Instagram. The “connection” I once found through social media barely exists. My feed, once filled with interesting, joyous and meaningful moments has been replaced with partisan politics, the narcissism of the “selfie”, armchair experts and one-upsmanship. I wonder if my health and sanity will be better without it. We’ll see.
  3. Building: I’m not sure what it will be, but I intend to improve upon the horribly designed shelf I made in 6th-grade shop class.

Maybe 3 is too many for you. Maybe 3 is too few. Either way, I highly encourage you to look for new ways of retraining your brain. Not only will you learn something new, you’ll have fun. An easy way to start is to ask your kids, nieces and nephews what they want to see you try. A child’s imagination is second to none.

The Modern Workforce

Work From Home - Image Credit, OboLinx.com

No doubt, the “modern workforce” is changing. We’re seeing a rapid evolution of what it means to “work.” Yes, there are still some salaried industries that rely on coming in by 9, leaving by 5 and taking your negotiated 1-hour lunch break. However, that approach is becoming the exception, not the rule.

Some 10 years back, when I was living in Omaha, Nebraska and working in digital marketing for ConAgra Foods, a senior exec educated me on “office space.” He explained, in a perfect world, the organization would have no office space. Physical space is an incredibly expensive liability on the books. With physical space comes rent, insurance, maintenance, overhead, taxes and a host of other line items. As he explained, if the company cooks fully eliminate its physical space cost, it could reinvest into compensation, R&D and other areas.

Fast forward a few more year’s and I’m at The Campbell Soup Company. Our CIO was light years ahead in thinking. Not only did the concept of world with zero real estate make sense, he argued companies should go a step further and embrace a full being your own device model. BYOD is often used for cell phone. You bring your phone, you pay for the service and the company lets you access your corporate email on the device. He wanted to embrace a concept where the organization would provide the “software”, but the employee brings the hardware. If you want to use a Mac, cool. ChromeBook? Fine. What happens in this model? Well, the cost of the device shifts to to the employee, as does maintenance, repairs, etc. The company wipes a great deal of liability off its books.

As we step into 2018, we’re not just ready for these two concepts to collide, we’re already seeing the value of it. This sponsored advertorial in Inc lays out a lot of the benefits of organizations that embrace a work from home model. At UnitedHealth Group, we’re routinely a top employer for remote and work from home staff. More than 40% of employees across UHG and its companies are remote. We’re at the forefront of this evolution and have been for some time.

Work from home, for a number of reasons, will become the default, instead of the rarity. Now, as Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, with great power comes great responsibility. Marissa Mayer famously found out, quite easily, that remote workers, were, well, not working.

When you’re remote, you need to be even more present than when physically in the office. You can’t be “that person” on a conference call, clearly tuned out. A work from home model can quickly go sideways. For example, regardless of the reality, the optics of a situation where someone “works from home” on Friday and Monday, are never good. There will be a portion of the employee population that assumes they’re simply taking a 4-day vacation, every week.

Then, you have a situation, I’ve unfortunately seen too often. Combine a loose work from home policy with employees who basically take 2-week vacations every other month, by “working from home” at their vacation destination, and you have a powder keg. Rarely is this successful. We may be embracing the future, but old habits die hard.

I’ve also seen the very best in remote workers. At Walgreens I had employee who lived more than 4 time zones away, but was not only one of the most engaged employees, was also one of the best performers.

The challenge with the new modern workforce environment is that each person is still unique. I could never thrive in a fully work from home model. I enjoy the face to face human interaction. I also think I’m more effective presenting and collaborating in person. However, other team members function better in isolation and seek it.

Having a high functioning team is, to me, more important than having a single high performing team member. No person is above the team. If a single person’s work-style preference negatively impacts the sum of the team, their preference is rarely worth it. Opportunities should be given to make work style preferences, well, work. However, there’s a difference between providing meaningful opportunity to succeed and being asleep at the wheel. Candidly, some employees are not cut out to succeed I’m working from home.

What Will Happen In 2018, Maybe

Looking at the Eclipse, Sourced from NASA

2017 was a bounce back year for my predictions. After a dreadful 2016, 2017’s predictions were good considering how risky some of them were. With 2018 just around the corner, it’s time to gaze into the crystal ball and outline what I think is going to happen. As I have in years before I’ll be using some basic principles for the 2018 predictions.

  • My predictions generally cover the marketing, advertising and technology industry. On occasion, I veer into pop culture, poilitics or other areas that interest me.
  • I try to avoid softballs. The mainstream media already takes the role of Captain Obvious.
  • I never use any so-called “insider” knowledge. I simply state what I think will happen.
  • Just because I think something is likely to happen doesn’t mean I want it to happen.
  • Come next December I’ll grade myself. Every prediction I nailed gets 1 point, the ones I miss receive 0 points and a partially correct prediction garners .5 a point. Where possible, I look to avoid awarding .5 points.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get on with it.

  1. The Apple HomePod will flop. The launch delay was the first sign. The significant ground it has to make up with Google and Amazon are another. But, it will be Apple’s walled garden approach, combined with price, that will ultimately make it dead on arrival.
  2. The AT&T – Time Warner merger will not happen at all or will only happen if they choose to make significant divesturers.
  3. The contrast of #2 is that the Fox – Disney merger will happen without issue.
  4. This will be a big year for M&A, mostly out of necessity. I predict 3 large deals beyond the above, from lands of media, retail and CPG.
  5. Augmented Reality with plateau in interest and adoption. It was always a gimmick and the slow death knell of Pokemon Go is the tip of the iceberg.
  6. The concerns over Net Neutrality will be for naught. There will be at least 1 major initiative that shows how deregulation leads to innovation.
  7. Facebook growth slows, but Facebook the company continues to see enormous growth, buoyed by WhatsApp and Instagram.
  8. Tesla and Netflix will have down years. Netflix’s debt will be a problem for investors. That debt combined with continued growth from Hulu, YouTube, Disney and others will force changes. With Tesla, they will once again miss shipments, over-promise, under-deliver, but this time, it will catch up to them.
  9. Bitcoin and all its variants will see a massive fall off in valuation. This will happen as traditional monetary institutions continue their assault on Bitcoin and a massive data breach / hack / fraud / theft will take place.
  10. Robert Mueller’s probe will conclude and will yield nothing of substance. Substance will be evaluated as yielding something that would have grounds for am impeachment vote. There will not be an impeachment vote.
  11. There will be a backlash against the #MeToo movement, when false accusations are made and found to have been made for poltiical or coporate gain.
  12. Twitter will have a better year than Snap, as measured by stock price change.
  13. Amazon will face a large government inquiry. It won’t antitrust, but it will be something in that area.
  14. Three things will happen in the gaming world: Nintendo will have a bad year. They will struggle to grow with a walled garden model, inferior hardware and a poor understanding of how gaming works on phones. The uproar over EA’s approach to micro-transactions for Star Wars Battlefront II will shape the industry at large. Specifically, there will be an effort to curb or eliminate micro-transactions all together. Microsoft will announce the next evolition of the Xbox. This won’t be a minor upgrade like the “S” or the “X”, it will be the next generation.
  15. A major sports league will adopt technology on field to assist with calls. For example, FIFA will adopt replay or the NFL will add chips into footballs to determine if they break the goal line.
  16. Whiskey will have a down year, with gin and rum seeing a resurgance. Star Wars: Episode VIII, the Last Jedi will go down as the worst fan rated Star Wars movie, as measured by Rotten Tomatoes.
  17. Harley Davidson will introduce a mass market electric motorcycle.
  18. A major motion picture will be released simultaneously in the box office and for streaming.
  19. There will be 5 states that will legalize / introduce recereational marijuana laws. The tax money is simply too good to pass up.
  20. Pinterest will IPO. It will be succesful.
  21. The lesson from Mashable will be repeated. So called “new media” companies, once considered darlings, will start to implode. I see bad years for Vox and Buzzfeed.

That’s a wrap. We’ll revisit this mid-year to see how things are shaping up and again at the end of the year to see how I did.

What Pep Guardiola Can Teach Us About Management

Pep Confidential

For my money, the three greatest non-traditional books on leadership are Tribes, Patton and His 3rd Army and Sacred Hoops. Tribes is the closest to being a traditional leadership book, because of it’s core theme. However, when I think of traditional leadership books, I’m referring to books like the over-recommended ‘Good to Great’, ‘Blue Ocean’ and ‘The One Thing You Need to Know.’ Meanwhile, ‘Patton and his 3rd Army’ is such an insider’s view of the decisions leaders are faced with, under duress. ‘Sacred Hoops’ is nothing like any “management” book I’ve ever written. Yes, there are management tools, so to speak, in the book, but it’s more about the soft skills needed to lead.

As many of you know, I’ve recently gotten into soccer. In doing so, I picked Manchester City as my team. Last year they brought on Pep Guardiola, widely considered to be one of the best futbol managers ever. He gets results with incredibly distincy and unique methods. A couple of weeks back I ordered, ‘Pep Confidential: The Inside Story of Pep Guardiola’s First Season at Bayern Munich‘, by Martí Perarnau. It’s a good read, if you’re a soccer fan or someone focused on continually learning new leadership and magement skills.

While I don’t think the book is as well written as Sacred Hoops, I will say it’s a heck of a page turner. The author’s access to Pep, his team and the players is astonishing. I learned a lot about soccer and leadership.

My 5 takeaways from the book, as it relates to management and leadership:

  1. Organizational design / philosophy is not that the same as an org chart. In the context of soccer, a philosophy to dominate possession is not equal to a playing formation like 4-4-2. You can have that philosophy in a number of tactical lineups.
  2. If you want an organization to change, you have to change as well. Pep comes to Germany, bringing a new system, staff and ideas. What does he do? He learns German and provides instructions in German. He also works on his English, which he knows is also widely understood in Germany.
  3. Everyone deserves the chance to buy in, but if someone doesn’t buy in, you have get rid of them or take them out of the equation. That someone can be a star player. When Zlatan wasn’t playing as instructed, Pep benched him. To make the system work, no star can shine brighter.
  4. Ignore positions and labels. Players are told and accept that they are fullback, midfielder, striker, winger, etc. This is limiting. Instead you must look at competency. Does someone have the ability to play multiple positions? It’s quite possible they can. As a Manchester City fan, I’m seeing that happen every day. He’s taking midfielders and making the fullbacks. He’s taking strikers and having them play as wingers. He’s brilliant in this approach.
  5. It never hurts to get the band back together. Part of the reason managers bring in people they’ve managed and worked with in the past, is not blind favoritism. No, it’s because not only do they not need to learn the system, they can also help others learn the system. There are a number of people I’ve hired and rehired for that same reason. It really does make a major difference.

There’s probably a lot more I could have added, but I think these were the ones that spoke to me the most. I suspect they spoke to me the most because they validated a lot of my own thinking. Of the 5, the emphasis on organizational design and philosophy is the one that I believe is the most important. If you bring a philosopy and mindset to an organization instead of a preconceived notion about how to well, organize the organization, you’ll be better off. Org charts, if anything hold us back. Once you eliminate the concept of management through org chart, you can then start to apply #4. And if you can combine #1, #4 and #5, you’re usually going to be doing something amazing.

There’s a follow up to the book called ‘Pep Guardiola: The Evolution‘, as you might have suspected, it’s next up on my reading list.

How I Did With My 2017 Predictions

Snapchat Stock

We’re in the home stretch of 2017. I don’t foresee anything dramatic happening between now and the 31st that would impact the assessment of my 2017 predictions. I’m using the same rules as I always do. Each prediction will be evaluated critically. An accurate prediction will garner 1 point. A miss, earns a fat 0. I try to avoid the middle, but if a situation should arise where a prediction could be considered accurate by some, it will generate 1/2 a point.

For a recap of my 2016 predictions, click here. The headline for 2016 was 8.5/15 or 56.7%. This was even worse than, my 2015 predictions where I scored a 6.5/10. I’ve been treading downward since the high of my 2012 predictions where 90% were right. The 2014 predictions had an 80% success rate, but that was better than my 2013 predictions, which scored 60%.

So, let’s get on with it! The original prediction from 2017 is listed first and in bold font. The analysis follows.

  1. “Voice” will be the new battleground and by the end of the year, we will see Amazon, via Alexa as the clear cut #1, in the category. As part of this, Apple will release a Siri home product, but it will not succeed in besting Amazon or Google. Ding, ding, ding! In June, Apple announced the HomePod. Originally scheduled to launch in 2017, it’s now been delayed til 2018. Apple has a long way to go to catchup with Amazon.
  2. The prevailing theory is that the iPhone 8 will be a revolutionary step forward for phones in the way the original iPhone was. It won’t be, as measured through new hardware and software features. Despite that, the iPhone 8 will outpace iPhone 7 sales, globally. This is the classic case of earning 1/2 a point. The iPhone 8 was not a revolutionary step forward, but it has not outpaced iPhone 7 sales. However, this comes with the caveat that I, nor did anyone else see the iPhone X coming.
  3. In a similar way to how vinyl is propping up music sales, we will see a renaissance in real books. Yes, books, the kind with actual paper, will see growth. Since this is supposed to be the “clear cut” section, I believe as a %, books will outpace the sales growth of digital/ebooks. This definitely happened. Per CNN, “The same trend is on display in the U.S., where e-book sales declined 18.7% over the first nine months of 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers. Paperback sales were up 7.5% over the same period, and hardback sales increased 4.1%.”
  4. The term “predictive analytics” will displace “big data” as the buzzword du jour for marketers. This will happen as companies realize they already have lots of data, but they need to start using it in a way that isn’t about looking back. We will measure this with Google Trends. This did not happen, was not even close. Epic fail. I actually do think this is happening at organizations, but it hasn’t become mainstream enough for Google Trends to pick up on it.
  5. The Verizon-Yahoo merger will continue as planned. It will be the 1st of 3 large such mergers that will be announced or close in 2017. Consolidation is the only path forward, when 99% of the digital ad growth is split between Facebook and Google. This happene. Verizon and Yahoo! became Oath. What were the other 2? Well the AT&T – Time Warner merger was announced, but hasn’t closed. The other? Well, that’s the hotly debated Sinclair – Tribune merger.
  6. We will see a significant decrease in social media sharing, but not necessarily usage. There will be more consuming of “content” than there will be in sharing that content. This drop in sharing will be fueled by 3 reasons. First, with the continued rise of “gotcha journalism” and social justice warriors, people will think before they tweet, so to speak. The fear of retribution for posting something, initially thought of as innocuous, will decrease the willingness to share. Second, the rise in the combination of “pay wall” type approaches to content with “fake news” will make people less inclined to want to share. Third and last, as Facebook and others becomes more and more of media/content creators, the walled garden approach to building networks will stunt cross platform and network sharing. 20%!!!! That’s how much sharing is down on Facebook. Dang! Yeah, I nailed this one.
  7. Facebook will see the wrath of the new administration. In a similar way to how Microsoft was seen as monopolistic and anti-competitive, Facebook will be targeted for the same reason, in addition to being targeted for their perceived control over how what media is consumed. The attempts by Facebook to curb “fake news” will backfire. Fiscally it was a good year for Facebook. But, reputation-wise, it was not a good year. My prediction accurately forecasted that Facebook would be targeted by the administration and the attempts to fix fake news, did not work.
  8. In 2016 we saw a handful “startups” get acquired by the legacy companies they compete against. For example, Dollar Shave Club’s purchase to Unilever and Jet.com’s purchase to Walmart. In 2017 we are not only going to see more of this, but we’re going to see it happen in unique and unexpected ways. For example Whole Foods acquiring Instacart or Target purchasing Refinery29. So, yeah, this happened A LOT this year. Take your pick. We have Amazon buying Whole Foods. Then we have Ikea buying TaskRabbit. I still expect Instacart to be purchased by a retailer at some point.
  9. Twitter will sell to an unlikely buyer. For example, Bezos (not Amazon) will buy it and then bolt it on to WaPo. Another unlikely buyer would be someone like Microsoft, who would then integrate it into things like LinkedIn and Yammer! An example of a likely buyer would be Google. Fail. Total swing and miss.
  10. I’m bringing forward a prediction from 2016. I think I was spot on, but a year early. Snapchat will IPO, but the IPO will flop. Did I say flop? I should have said crashed and burned. The IPO started at $17 and then rose to $24. It sits below $15 now and the future does not look bright at all.

So, how did I do? 7.5 out of 10. I missed on Twitter selling, predictive analytics over taking big data and the while the iPhone 8 was in fact not revolutionary, it did not outpace iPhone 7 sales. If we go back to 2012, my 5 year total to 71% (42.5/60). This was a good rebound year. Over the next few weeks I’ll be working on my 2018 predictions. There’s going to be a lot chew on for next year.

“What’s The Toughest Part About Being A Dad?”

Recently, we had some our best friends in town. As we were out touring Minneapolis, one of them asked me, “What’s the toughest part about being a dad?” I had to think on it. Talk about a meaty question. After a few seconds, I said, “well, I guess it’s the wondering that you haven’t done enough, or you could have done more. What keeps me up at night is the tension that comes from not knowing if I should have given one more hug, said one more thing, spent one more minute or read one more book and if it would have made a difference.”

Those thoughts keep me up and make for the toughest part of the “job”, because we want the best for our children. I got a bit introspective on the subject, the other night. Then, by happenstance, as I was researching videos for an internal presentation, I came across this great speach by Robin Williams, in the movie, ‘Jack.’

I’m a huge Robin Williams fan and I can’t believe I’ve never seen the movie. The full text is as follows:

You know, as we come to the end of this phase of our life, we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad times, and we find ourselves thinking about the future. We start to worry, thinking, “What am I gonna do? Where am I gonna be in ten years?” But I say to you, “Hey, look at me!” Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day…make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.

Parents, god bless you. Your “job” is so hard. I applaud all of you.

Tough To Find Whiskeys That You Need To Try

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

In 2017 I sampled some amazing whiskeys. From old, rare and collectible to new, limited in production and seemingly impossible to find, there were so many drams to try. Before I get into my list of thought to find whiskeys to try, I want to start with the one I missed out on. The white whale, if you will, was Bainbridge Yama. Never heard of it you say? You’re not alone. What first drew me to this dram was the description:

Bainbridge Yama is the first-ever non-Japanese whiskey to be aged exclusively in hand-crafted barrels made from rare Mizunara oak harvested from the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Tell me more…Ok, will do. So, then, I found out it was Whiskey Advocate Magazine’s 2016 whiskey of the year. Say what? How did I not hear about this? I tried unsuccessfully, 5 different times to purchase it on the secondary market and missed out each time. Definitely a bummer.

With that, here’s what I tried, in 2017, that’s hard to find (but can be found).

Booker’s Rye

Jim Murray anointed it the 2017 Whiskey of the Year. I concur. It blew my mind. Booker’s, in general, is a favorite of mine. The Rye took it to a whole other level. The right amount of spice. A wonderful finish. And, a killer color. Just about everything you want in a whiskey.

Westland Garryana

You’re saying, huh? My friend Eric turned me on this and I was not disappointed. Drinkhacker describes it best:

Who or what is Garryana? It’s short for Quercus garryana, a species of oak native to the Pacific Northwest, where Westland Distillery is based. While American oak barrels are traditionally formed form Quercus alba, a species of oak common to the midwest, Westland, as you might have guessed, aged part of this limited edition release of its single malt whiskey in so-called Garry oak, where it spent three years slumbering before hitting the bottle.

Intriguing, right? I don’t have a better way to describe it, other than, funky. It’s incredibly unique and unlike anything, I’ve ever sampled.

Ichiro’s Port Pipe and On The Way

I’m a big fan of Ichiro Akuto and his whiskey. I’ve yet to have a bad one. My first introduction to Ichiro was his “Chichibu The First.” For such a young whiskey it was full of flavor and complexity. This year I tried On The Way and Port Pipe. They couldn’t be more different and yet, both, awesome. Port Pipe is rich, flavorful and almost sweet. On The Way is assertive, layered and warm.

Crooked Water Kings Point

I move to Minnesota and my buddy Kasey, a Minnesota native says, “you have to try Crooked Water bourbon!” Ok, I’m in. Not the easiest to find, but I’m glad I hunted for it. The Whiskey Wash describes it well:

It is described by Crooked Water as a two-year old bourbon that was finished for over six months in a used port barrel imported from Portugal from a 100+ year winery.

I always applaud distilleries that can create or extract flavor from young whiskeys. Crooked Water nailed it with the Kings Point bourbon.

Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon
I read about the hype. I read more about the hype. Finally, I broke down and took a flyer on a bottle. Initially, I was not a fan. It was not my cup of tea, I felt. But, After 3 or 4 glasses over a month, I became a fan. While not the best whiskey I’ve ever had, it’s very good and has an incredibly distinct taste. The boys in Texas really know what they’re doing.

There’s a lot of great whiskey out there. If you look hard enough you may find a sought-after gem.

I’m Joining UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare Logo

Our mission is to help people live healthier lives and to help make the health system work better for everyone.

That’s a mission statement designed to inspire and motivate. That’s what it did to me. I’m overjoyed to announce that I’ve joined UnitedHealthcare as Vice President, External Communications. In this new role, I’ll be leading Content and Social Media, our Regional Communications across the country and our External Corporate Communications. Additionally, I’ll be playing a role in our Corporate Social Responsability initiatives and of course, doing my part, every day, to help make the health sysetm work better for everyone.

I wrote to my world class Walgreens team, upon announcing my departure, “Be open to change. Consistency, while comfortable, will stop your growth. In fact, seek change. If you don’t drive the change you want, you are destined to be run over by change that’s less than desirable.” It’s a sentiment I’ve always believed. That mindset was instilled early on in my career by Pat Fallon. Pat was the pure definition of someone in perpetual motion. He boldly took Fallon into the future, before the future even knew what the future was. I learned a lot working for the agency the bore his name on the door. A willingness to seek, embrace and create change, was at the top of the list.

Minnesota Paddle State Fair Tee

Joining UnitedHealthcare brings about an enormous amount of change for me and the family. For starters, we’re leaving Illinois and moving to Minnesota. For our friends, yes, I know we just sold our condo in the West Loop, only to a buy a house in Evanston (that we loved) and yes, that means we’re selling the house in Evanston to buy a house in Minnesota. We Kmiec’s don’t make it easy. Try as I might to leave Minnesota, it continues to beckon me back. I’ll always be, just a kid from Brooklyn, but Minnesota has felt more and more like home, over the years.

Second, I’m leaving retail and CPG. For 15 of the 20 years I’ve been working, I’ve always been in the thick of retail and CPG. While joining UnitedHealthcare takes me out of that business, it keeps me very much in the middle of health care. There are few industries at the forefront of innovation that connect, touch and impact so many lives. UniteHealthcare, isn’t just in the middle of health care, they’re at the front, leading and embracing change.

The last big change, is my role. For the first time in the last 12 years I won’t be building or leading a digital marketing organization. This was actually one of the biggest draws of UnitedHealthcare. It’s rare that you get to reinvent your career, on your own terms, in a leadership capacity. To join a leading company like UnitedHealthcare, in a leadership role, working for an incredible leader, was an opporunity impossible to pass. If there’s one thing the Walgreen’s Leadership Model prepared me to do, it’s lead teams, where you aren’t the subject matter expert.

The team I’m joining is about as top notch as it gets. My peers are people I admire and respect for their accomplishments, thought-leadership and candor. The leaders across UnitedHealth Group, UnitedHealthcare and Optum come from ad-tech, retail, telecom and other fast-paced, dynamic and exciting verticals. Additionally, I’ve inherited a fantastic team. They’re bright, patient, collaborative and eager to deliver on our mission.

I’m humbled by the trust the organization has put in me and I look to pay it back for years to come.