Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Category Archives: Walgreens

“We’re Onto Cincinnati”

Clarifying Clinical Cannabis

Too much has been written on the concept of people leaving managers, not companies. While I’m sure people do in fact leave organizations they love, because of their managers, we need to be careful not to paint with such a wide brush. In my career, it’s rare that I’ve left an organization because of a manager. I’m wise enough to know how fortunate I’ve been to have had amazing managers, over the past 20 years.

My time at Walgreens has come to an end. I made the decision to leave the organization. I certainly didn’t leave because of my manager. Deepika Pandey, is unequivocally, one of the smartest digital marketers out there. Don’t take my word for it, just look at what Google has to say about her. She will push you, make you rethink what you think you know and coach you to be better. You’ll get autonomy and direction, along with accountability and trust. I learned more in the past 4 years than the previous 10 years. I grew more. I changed more.

I leave Walgreens, ready for the next adventure, better prepared to succeed and far more enabled to lead teams with individuals who have far more subject matter expertise, in an area, than I do.

The hardest part about leaving an organization, is the people. It’s always the people. You form bonds. You build relationships. You learn. You teach. And, if you do it all well, the gravitational pull that tries to keep you, because of them, is almost impossible to counter.

I wanted to share what I wrote to my team, on my last day, at the corner of Happy and Healthy.

Dang. You’re the best. No two ways about it. I thought a lot about what to write in a “farewell” email. Then, I realized, it’s probably not farewell. This is a small bubble we work in. The likelihood we’ll cross paths as colleagues, partners, competitors or team-members is incredibly probably. So with that, rather than pen a farewell email, I decided to craft one built on advice that I hope you take:

  1. Your word is your bond. Your integrity is everything. Always err on the side of being honest, forthright, direct and transparent. The sting your words may have will never last longer, than the feeling of betrayal that stems from a half-truth or boldface lie.
  2. You are not, order takers. Ask, “why.” Ask, until you feel comfortable. If you don’t understand the question or request, you are doomed to fail. Through asking, “why”, you may uncover a new path forward.
  3. Choose to play, “take it or leave it” sparingly. When you draw a line, realize there are only two options. There’s a 50/50 chance you walk out with what you want. But, through compromise, generally, via discussion and education, you can discover new approaches and options.
  4. For the most important topics, meet face-to-face. Email leaves far too much to interpretation. Furthermore, you will form better relationships through frank discussion. You can’t manage, let alone, lead, via email.
  5. Take your earned PTO. And when you take it, don’t answer your emails. Put your faith in your team, to cover for you, while you’re out. I promise to get this right one day.
  6. 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.

I have, in so many ways, enjoyed working with all of you. Early mornings, late nights, fire drills, the office banter, celebrating our successes, dissecting our misses and debating the tough decisions; they made good days better and the hard days, just a little bit easier.

Thank you all. Don’t be a stranger. If you need anything and yes I mean anything, reach out.

An embarrassment of riches. That’s how I would describe my team. Thankful to have had them for as long as I had them.

Onto Cincinnati“…and by Cincinnati, I don’t actually mean I’m moving to Cincinnati. It’s a lovely city, but our future plans won’t be taking us there.

2 Years Back At Walgreens And It’s All Still New

Walgreens Logo

Last Monday, February 3rd, I celebrated 2 years back at Walgreens. As I start my 3rd year, I find it remarkable how much things still feel new. And, I say that, in a good way. In the last 2 years, I’ve seen 3 areas of change that have kept me on my toes:


  1. We’re now a global company, following the completion of our merger with Alliance Boots
  2. A new CEO and virtually a brand new C-suite
  3. Sona, our CMO and one of the main reasons I came back, departed for a COO role at Kohl’s
  4. Coming out of 1 – 3, we have a brand new org structure and report through completely different leadership
  5. While not officially completed, we did announce our intent to acquire Rite Aid

Scope And Focus

  1. As I wrote about in January, I learned a lot in 2015. In particular I’ve started to learn how to manage team members that are heads and shoulders above me in their level of subject matter expertise.
  2. When I first joined Walgreens in 2011, it was to lead Social Media. When I rejoined in 2014 it was to lead Social Media and Content. These days, I oversee our efforts in Social Media, Content, Mobile Marketing, SEO, SEM, Affiliate and Digital Strategy. It’s been fun, interesting and at the same time, daunting.
  3. One of the things I’ve consistently been asked to do, throughout my career, is build organizations. Building an organization is very different than growing an organization. The decisions you make, the people you hire and the partners you choose, all change. For example, in a growth model, where the organization is mature, I’m more concerned about disruption than in a startup/build model. You start to favor continuity, but have to always be cautious in letting continuity lead to complacency. If you only focus on 2% growth, eventually you get lapped by something shooting for 20% growth.

Personal Growth

  1. A few months back at Walgreens, a colleague I’ve worked with for years, said to me, “who is this kinder, gentler Adam Kmiec?” – Good question. I think a lot of my change is philosophy and approach comes directly from the shift to growing an org, instead of building one. Maybe I have softened. It’s possible. I think the biggest thing I’ve figured out how to do is to care about and think about the intent behind what people say and the decisions they make. Maybe they were up all night, with a sick kid. Maybe, they’re getting unrealistic pressure from their manager. Maybe, it’s just a bad day. When you start thinking about the intent, your perception and subsequent actions change dramatically.
  2. “What focus means is saying no to something that with every bone in your body think is a phenomenal idea, and you wake up thinking about it, but you end up saying no to it because you’re focusing on something else.” Said differently, saying no, may not win you friends and it’s more difficult to say than, “yes.” However, saying no is what keeps you focused on the things that matter most. That level of discipline is something I’ve never really had to have. It’s work in progress, but that’s a big change.
  3. Toyota helped pioneer and make famous, the power of asking, “why.” In particular, it’s asking, “why” 5 times. A major element of the Walgreens Leadership model is to seek to understand. It’s hard, when presented with a problem, not to jump immediately to a solve. With all the experience we have and the number of situations we’ve encountered, it’s easy to want to start answering the problem, before truly understanding what the root issue really is. Much like a child, I’ve learned to embrace the upside in being the annoying person who asks, “why?”

You have to get accustomed to change. Nothing stays the same. Being back at Walgreens the past 2 years has been invigorating. The pace of change is side-splitting. Learning to keep adapting, while staying focused is equal parts challenging and exciting. I’m glad I came back home, to Walgreens and I’m still thankful for the opportunity, 2 years later. It’s been a heck of a ride and I can’t wait to see where we’re headed next!

The Incredible Difficulty Of Focusing

Steve Jobs Quote, Credit Tribal Rain Makers Club

Think about this for a second. In a given year, you have 1800 hours to allocate, at work. 1800 hours? Do the math. A “traditional” work week is 40 hours, with 1 hour of lunch each day, which means 35 hours a week. A traditional vacation time, is 2 weeks, which means, you’re working 50 weeks a year. 50 weeks a year X 35 hours is 1750 hours, rounded up, is 1800 hours.

Now, yes, I realize, the typical person doesn’t work 1800 hours. Many of us work north of 2000 hours. But, for all intents and purposes for this blog post, let’s call it 1800 hours. Each one of those hours is precious. An hour chasing down a really “cool” idea, while invigorating and exciting, might be time poorly spent, if it takes you away from your core focus.

This is something that sales staff members on LinkedIn, who spam your inbox, don’t comprehend. If I have an extra hour (which never happens) and my choices are to listen to a random cold call pitch or spend an hour reviewing progress against goals, meeting with my team, etc. – I can tell you the cold call pitch, won’t be at the top of the list.

Additionally, it’s why, over the years, I’ve pared back the number of conferences I attend. There’s no shortage of great conferences to attend, but with each one you eat into those 1800 hours. That 3 hour flight is expensive; maybe not in actually dollars, but in time. The 3 days at the conference, while beneficial, needs to be weighed against, what else you could be doing.

Focusing is hard, because it requires you to say no to the wrong thing, so that you can say yes to the right thing. And often times, saying no, can make you come across as difficult or not a team player. Saying no, also means, you may not pursue something that excites you. It requires discipline.

5 years ago, my point of view, on focus, would have been much different. As it would have been, 10 years ago. A decade back, all I wanted to work on was the interesting, sexy, cool and of course, potentially award winning, projects. I raised my hand for every would be, could be, might be, fun project.

Today, that’s just not possible. There are so many cool, fun and interesting initiatives, that I’d love to participate in. Even if only to listen to how my team is going to tackle the challenge. But, realistically, it’s just not possible. To get something, you often have to give up something. To stay focused on the objectives I have, unfortunately, I miss out on many things that stoke the flames of my interest. That, however, is a conscious choice.

I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but there are 3 things I do to keep me focused:

  1. Have a clear understanding of my objectives and how they ladder back to the division and company objectives. But, equally important, is understanding how you’ll translate them into something meaningful, tangible and measurable for your team members. Every week I chart the progress towards those objectives and every month I manage up by asking if they’re still relevant and if there are any new objectives, that we haven’t accounted for. You can’t set and forget your objectives. They aren’t written once at the beginning to the year and then evaluated at the end.
  2. I create filters to manage requests. I’m sure your inbox is filled with meeting invites, “quick questions”, so-called “emergencies” and 1-off projects. If you say yes to all of them, you’re doomed. But, you can’t say no to them all, either. When I get a request, I ask myself 2 basic questions: 1, will this help drive my core objectives? 2, will this make the organization better. Ideally, the answer to both, is yes. If, however, you have something that, isn’t part of your core objectives, but could improve the organization, that’s a conversation worth having.
  3. I find an hour every day to do two things. I make sure to “walk the floor” and check-in with my team and my colleagues. Sometimes just stopping by, opens up a dialogue, where I can be helpful. Walking the floor, also gets me out of my office, provides a well needed break in the day and provides accessibility to my team. Additionally, I make time to work on pet projects. This could be something I’m pursuing on my own, or something I’m helping someone else with. Either way, I make sure to plan for these types of initiatives in my 1800 hours.

That’s it. Simple as they seem, it’s incredible challenging to stay to the plan. There’s always something vying for your attention. But, remember, you can’t get something, without giving up something. It’s all about choices. No one is busy, they simply have a priority that’s more important than your priority.

A Peak Into How Walgreens Creates Great Content

I’m truly fortunate to have an incredible culture, amazing team members and clear support from leadership, at Walgreens. I’ve often remarked, to be successful at a large organization, you have to be equal parts the blue sky thinker, capable of providing strategic direction, and the blue collar worker, interested in rolling up your sleeves to make things happen. You can’t be successful, doing only one.

Recently, I had the privilege to sit down with News 360, to talk about our approach, at Walgreens, for creating great content. While the nature of the discussion was focused on our efforts with tumblr, we definitely discuss, at a broader level, how we think about content.

Being Healthy Can Make You Smile

Walgreens is at the corner of “Happy” and “Healthy.” Too often we see these at mutually exclusive. Health is something we talk seriously about. It’s a topic we aren’t supposed to have fun with. But, with the growth of companies like SoulCycle, it’s clear you can enjoy and dare I say, become happy, in your quest to be healthy.

Our internal social, creative and content team is fantastic. This is a great example how we can reinforce how easy it is to be healthy at Walgreens, while delivering it in a way that makes you happy.

Also, if you haven’t already, download the award winning Walgreens app, sign up for Digital Health Advisor and check out Pharmacist Chat. Let me know what you think via email. Thanks.

I’m Rejoining Walgreens

I’m thrilled to announce I’m rejoining Walgreens in the newly created role of Sr. Director, Social Media and Content. When I left Walgreens nearly 2 years ago, it wasn’t an easy decision. Walgreens was and remains a tremendous organization with a leadership and culture, few can rival. During my first tenure, they enabled and empowered us to create an award winning, best in class Social Media organization, that I’m proud to rejoin and lead.

During my time away, Walgreens has continued to be one of the most digitally fit organizations in the world, with a leadership that’s truly invested in succeeding in an increasingly digital and omni-channel world. It’s rare that you get to join such a tremendous company, let alone rejoin it. I’m humbled.

I'm Back

Thomas Wolfe, wrote, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” With all due respect to the brilliant award winning author, in this case, you can. The expectations the organization has for me and that I have for us are lofty. The bar was high when I first joined; I know it’s much higher now. But, that’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about rejoining Walgreens. The other reason is the people. I’m looking forward to collaborating with exceptionally talented forward looking leaders.

Change, especially in this space, is a given. The Campbell Soup Company is a great organization, filled with talent and lead by a phenomenal CEO. I’m thankful they gave me the opportunity to build their digital organization. The friendships created will be long lasting and the mentors I found will play an ongoing role in making me better. I’ll continue rooting for my many friends there. Watching their collective continued success, will bring a smile to my face.

More to come soon. Be Well.

Printworthy Inspires You To Print Your Photos

We take a photo. We share it. We collect it. We upload it. We email it. We put on Facebook. Yeap, we do a lot of things with our photos. But, one thing we don’t do a lot of, is printing those photos. My hats off to the team at Walgreens for bringing Printworthy to market.

There are two projects, when I look back on my career, that I was present to see kick-off…there to see it take shape, but wasn’t around to see it launch. BMW Films was one. The other is Printworthy. I was in the meetings with the Facebook and Photo Teams when this went from a whiteboard to a deck to a sales pitch and to a statement of work. Since leaving Walgreens, I’ve been dying to see Printworthy launch. Well, it launched and it’s freaking killer.


For the first time ever, you can print a photo from Facebook that includes the comments left by your Facebook friends. That’s amazing. Think about it, when you post a photo to Facebook, there’s nothing better than seeing the globe in the header light-up with notifications telling you that people “liked,” commented or shared the photo. There’s a sense of pride that swells. With Printworthy, you get to turn those social and virtual kudos into an element that makes the photo a keepsake.


Well done Zach West, who drove this project from day 1. He pushed, he pulled, he fought for the right idea and he lead a comprehensive team of wicked smart people to create Printworthy. There’s no better feeling in the business world than seeing those who worked with you, reach and exceed their potential.

I think Printworthy is killer and can’t wait to see how my friends, family and colleagues use the platform. It sets a high bar for those in the photo printing space and also reminds us that photo printing isn’t dead…we just needed a reason to print.

Does Pinning Equal Winning?

So have you heard of Pinterest 🙂 Everywhere you look, someone is talking about pinning or actually pinning. Yes, pinning has become part of our lexicon, just as tweeting, liking and checking in have. And this isn’t just anecdotal. Check out the hockey stick traffic growth from Compete.com:

Scary. But, it also means significant opportunity. When you see something like that in terms of growth, you have to pay attention, even when you’re not sure how successful the site/platform will be, long term. But, just because something is big, doesn’t mean that it’s the best for your business.

There’s no shortage of social signals to listen to. From tweets to check-ins and everything in between, we’re constantly looking to find a strong signal amid the noise.

While looking and listening for signals is one part of the equation, providing reasons for people/customers to interact with you is another part. Pinterest is unique in that it provides a solve to nearly the entire formula.

When we evaluate which networks and platforms to invest our time in and focus on, we look to see where are customers are, where they may eventually be and are there signals being created that help drive our business. We also need to carefully consider which part of our business will benefit from that investment and which parts of our business are a natural fit to how people will be using the platform.

With that in mind, we’ve launched two different presences on Pinterest.

One for our Photo Business  and one for our Beauty.com business. Photo and beauty content are a natural fit for a platform like Pinterest that’s designed to provide rich visual stimuli and deliver inspiration. While both of those are key parts of our Pinterest framework, how we act on them is quite different for each presence.

For example, in our Beauty.com account, not only do we showcase products, but also the hot looks and how to recreate them using the products we sell. All of a sudden, we’ve evolved from just showing you product photos in hopes you’ll buy, to giving you a real reason to want the brands we carry. The easy thing to do for Walgreens photo would have been to simply pin every photo product we sell. Instead, we took time to understand our customer and how they were using Pinterest. That lead us to a content strategy that focuses on creative inspiration that’s served up in a fun and interesting way. We showcase not only what you can create with Walgreens photo, but also inspiration to help our customers become more creative in the photos they’re taking. With photo, it’s an end to end way to generate inspiration and creativity.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, being first is fun, exciting and often rewarding. But, it’s also hard being the company that’s leading the way. In this case, exploring Pinterest for Walgreens is not only aligned with our social strategy, but it also requires minimal cost and time investment to participate. That’s a definite win-win…low risk, low financial investment, but high upside.

John Bell, from Ogilvy has stated, “A lot of brands are running too quickly to Pinterest.” This was a similar rhetoric in 1997 when Yahoo, AOL and Google were just becoming household names and again a rhetoric in 2007 with respect to Facebook. Steve Ballmer, famously remarked with respect to Facebook, “I think these things [social networks] are going to have some legs, and yet there’s a faddishness, a faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people.” I think we can safely say, Ballmer was wrong about his POV on Facebook and brands who headed his warning ended up spending significantly to play catch-up to brands that bet on Facebook early.

It’s too early to say, if Pinterest is here to stay or if it will become a Quora, Loopt or Oink! It’s also too early to say if it’ll become the next Facebook, twitter or foursquare. But, one thing that history has proven is getting in late to a social platform sets you back significantly. First mover advantage has exponential acceleration in social media. That’s a big part of why we’re investing our time into Pinterest right now.

Walgreens And foursquare Make It Simple To Check In And Save

Check In, Scan and Save…Amazing!

In keeping with our concept of Return On Amazing, I’m excited and proud that today for the first time EVER when you check in at a Walgreens on foursquare, you’ll receive a scannable coupon for Arizona Iced Tea, directly in the check in. That’s right. 1 step. 1 click. No text to get a coupon. No print out an offer. No show the check in deal to the cashier. Nope, just check in, scan and pay. In the past a “coupon” or monetary value associated with a check-in involved a few extra steps. Not anymore.

So, what does the first time ever mean? Well, for starters, never before have you been able to do this in foursquare. As of today, we are the first and only retailer that foursquare is working with to bring instant coupons to check ins. It also goes without saying that this is the first time Walgreens has ever delivered an instant coupon via check ins.

Walgreens Arizona Iced Tea foursquare Coupon Deal

This is just another way Walgreens is making it rewarding to check in. From flu shot donations to free movies from redbox to Arizona Iced Tea Coupons, we’re looking to make check ins more meaningful.

This is also yet another example of how we’re innovating and investing in mobile. If you’re keeping track, these are all the things we’ve done in the past 6 months

  1. Offers included directly in our award winning Walgreens app
  2. Offers available through SMS
  3. Traditional foursquare check in offers/deals
  4. Tap and pay with Google wallet

Being first is hard. It’s also incredibly fun and insanely rewarding. At Walgreens a big part of our social media strategy is the concept of Return on Amazing. Don’t laugh. Yes, we made it up. But, we needed a way to articulate the concept that big, audacious, bold and amazing ideas are how you win.

Return on Amazing is a way to set the bar for our thinking. It means you need to think beyond the “like.” You need to think beyond the click stream of a “wall post.” Why? Because thinking in such a micro way, is a recipe for short term success…at best. But, ideas that qualify as amazing are often legitimate game changers. And game changers are long term business drivers.

I can’t take all the credit for this major initiative. We pitched this concept to foursquare several months ago. They loved the idea, but at the time it wasn’t on their immediate road map. But, our Return on Amazing philosophy and commitment to speed and innovation were key factors in having them re-prioritize this idea. Over the past 11 months we’ve proven to them that we are committed to innovation and are a partner they could rely on. The same could be said about how we feel about foursquare. Together we’ve brought some truly amazing programs to market.

Once this idea became a real concept, our social and Emerging Media team made sure the experience was simple, safe and secure. All we needed at that point was the right partner and that’s where Arizona came in. They moved as quick as we were and as quick as foursquare was. And in retail, that’s VERY fast. Kudos to the Arizona team for being able to move that quickly and investing in an idea that had never been done before.

As an old mentor of mine coached me, speed wins. In this case, that maxim was a major reason why we were able to be the first and only company to offer real time seamless check in deals. Give it a try. I’d love your thoughts on this initiative and how it compliments everything else we’re doing at the intersection of local, mobile and social.

Needless to say, this is going to be the first of potentially many future initiatives where we’re looking to find that perfect intersection of Social, Mobile and Local marketing to provide value and a fantastic user experience.

Walgreens Launches Social Care

One of the most gratifying parts of my role at Walgreens as head of social media is getting to see other people throughout the organization get excited about the value social media can bring to them, their team, our customers and our patients. When I first started at Walgreens there were so many ideas and so many areas we could prioritize. We needed a strong strategy; something we could rally around; something we could use as a litmus test to evaluate ideas.

As I’ve mentioned many times, for Walgreens, we believe that with social there’s a way to connect our 6 Million Customers with our 250,000 employees every day. Think about that. We have 6 Million customers every single day and we have 250,000 team members that wake up every day ready to help them.

“Connect” was a word we chose carefully. The beauty of the word is that it can enable a multitude of teams to deliver a wide variety of initiatives to keep Walgreens at the forefront of healthcare.

Well, in January, we launched Walgreens Social Care, a cross-team effort to bring even better customer care to our patients. Using the enterprise platforms we chose to manage and evaluate social AND the smarts of our most important asset; our team members we are scaling social across our organization.

We’ve been actively helping our customers in social for years. Even before I joined, our team was proactively reaching out to customers who had a question, wanted to provide feedback or needed help. But, this is a formalization of that dedication to customer care. Walgreens Social Care is just another example of how we’re helping customers by humanizing social media. With more of our customers choosing social media as the first place to turn for connecting with a brand, we felt it was important to launch a more formal destination for them to connect with our team.

Right now, Walgreens Social Care is only available on twitter. This isn’t because we don’t believe care can be provided on other social networks. It’s because we have a belief that insights are important. We leveraged insights from our social media monitoring tools and direct customer feedback. Those insights and feedback helped us understand that when we launched Walgreens Social Care, twitter was the first place to focus. Beyond insights, we also took into account that the twitter eco system is designed for real time personal communication.

Every day we learn something new, this program will impact future decisions about how we provide the best care to our customers. I’m excited to see how we continue evolving Walgreens Social Care and how we can continue to evolve social, as a whole, across our great company. I can’t say enough about our leadership. They continue to support initiatives like this…that we launch as a “pilot,” but a pilot that has a very clear visions for our end state.

Last June, just after I started at Walgreens, I wrote:

From the top to the bottom and across the organization, there’s a belief that social isn’t just an external initiative. We need to make sure we’re setup as an organization to embrace and leverage social. The scope of the role will include leadership across internal, external and supplier initiatives.

Walgreens Social Care is a very clear and honest demonstration of that sentiment. It makes me feel good to know that what I felt then is what I still feel.

We have a long road to go; we all do…any organization that continues to break new ground and boldly enter into social in an enterprise-wide way, has a long road. We can improve. We can get better. We make Walgreens Social Care something bigger, bolder, better and even more valuable. If you have ideas, thoughts or recommendations for how we can become the standard for customer care in social, email me directly. I’d love to get your thoughts.