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Platonic Leadership

by Adam Zack — January 22, 2020

Fetch me a bucket, and if you don’t like it, off with your head. 

Forever we have heard about natural born leaders. Guys who seemingly straight from the womb emerged directing their siblings on a divide and conquer plan for their parents, manipulating the kindergarten teacher into increased nap time and ended up as student body president in high school, naturally. Guys like Steve Jobs, Jack Welch and George Patton were born leaders, right? The best leaders in history surely were born to lead. Well I came across a whole different view of leadership from our old homeboy Plato. The guy who inspired “Let’s just be friends” had a terrific insight on who would make the best leader. Traditional leaders dating back to the beginning of time were motivated by self-interest and the innate need for power. These were the guys who were widely considered tyrants, and didn’t really care about their subjects. Fetch me a bucket, and if you don’t like it, off with your head. Plato felt that the most important qualification for a leader is to not want to be a leader. Philosophers (Philisophia; Greek meaning lover of wisdom) are naturally the best and most effective leaders, as true philosophers have the four cardinal virtues of wi...
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My time is your time

by Adam Zack — January 14, 2020

Adam Zack

He is on time to the minute, every single meeting without fail.

I was watching the documentary “Inside Bill’s Brain” about Bill Gates. I know what you’re thinking – “Does this guy just watch TV all the time or what?? Does he ever work?” Anyway, Bill Gates is a fascinating dude, and after he gave up his daily duties running Microsoft in 2008, combined with his $100 billion dollars of wealth, you’d think he’d pretty much have all the time in the world to play Bridge with Warren Buffet and just tinker around the mansion and watch Netflix. But no, Bill is one very busy guy. From his charity work to being an industry advocate, he’s busier than ever.I have always valued being on time. When someone is late and holds up a meeting, it wastes everyone’s time and is disrespectful to the group. I’m not one of those idealists that says something like “If you’re not there 10 minutes early, you’re not on time.” On time is on time, period. So when Bill’s secretary is listing his typical very busy day, she says: “He is on time to the minute every single meeting without fail. Time is the one commodity that he can’t buy more of. It’s a limited resource. It’s finite. He’s got the same 24 hours in a day that the re...
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Revisiting Why

by Adam Zack — January 8, 2020

Lets first start by asking why.

2020 marks the fifth anniversary of writing this blog.  Yay!  Happy Anniversary!  Five years goes by so fast.  I was talking to a 20-year old employee the other day, and we talked about how 20 was kind of no-man’s land of ages.  Too young to buy booze or smokes, but too old to blame it all on being a teenager.  I, on the other hand, as I turn a seemingly ancient 56 a few days ago, think back to how fun my 20’s were.  So I thought about how this blog has evolved over the last 5 years, and decided to look back and see just what the hell my ramblings conveyed in the early years of blogdom.  This one below, my third blog ever, struck me as still being very relevant and I decided to re-blog it.  Our recipient list has increased by about 1,000 people since then, so I felt it was relevant to share again. The Most Important WMost of us who went to school remember the 5 W’s. Who, What, When, Where, and Why. In this age of equality for all words, letters, colors and numbers, is there really one that is most important? Is there one word that proves that there is a master word among the millions of words available? I assert that when it comes to our field of marketing and branding the maverick gro...
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Less Is More

by Adam Zack — December 31, 2019

Adam Zack

You are evolving, offering new products and services.

Every year at New Year’s I hear and read about people who have died during the year. Actors, musicians, famous people. It makes me reflect on the year and how fast it went. According to Credit Suisse, more than 7,600 retail stores closed in the United States through October of this year. That’s a mournful number. That’s also a record number of closings through that point, ever.  Even during the Great Recession, which we all lived through. To make it even more alarming, it happened during a very prosperous economy. The S&P 500 department stores index dropped 30% this year. Yikes.So what are great grocery retailers like you doing to not be a statistic of losers? You are evolving, offering new products and services. You are solving “What’s For Dinner?” and giving lunch options that nutritious and a good value. You are taking a “Less is more” approach and streamlining operations and maximizing what you offer in limited space. And you’re not giving them a reason to go somewhere else or order online. So, here on December 31, 2019, I will raise my glass to you, the independent grocery retailer. You’re not a statistic and you make me hungry every time I visit, and t...
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Everyone’s a Critic

by Adam Zack — December 23, 2019

On weekends we read the old fashioned real paper…

I was reading the Los Angeles Times newspaper (usually on my ipad, but on weekends we read the old fashioned real paper, which has become thinner, narrower and radically more liberal over the years – still I like the Sports and Calendar sections). On Thursdays they have a Food section, which was recently “reinvented” with much more photos and two new restaurant reviewers. It’s OK. Just OK. So we got talking about the days where restaurant reviewers went to great pains to hide their identity. Wigs, fake names, never doing anything in public – things like that kept their anonymity so the restaurants they visited wouldn’t know who they were, thus giving them preferential treatment over what the average Joe Schmo like me would get. It’s a nice thought, but a little flawed. I learned of some great restaurants over the years, trying several just based on the review I read. Especially a decade or more ago, many of the published reviews were really horrible.The restaurant might be called out for undercooked pasta, bland fish or indifferent service. I always hated the negative reviews because I wanted to read about someplace to go, not somewhere not to go. Absolutely nothing positive resu...
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year?

by Adam Zack — December 18, 2019

Adam Zack

I’ll be thankful for the friends and family that I do get to see.

Just before Thanksgiving a friend was telling me how Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday. More than Christmas, I asked? Yeah, he said, because it didn’t involve the stress and craziness of buying gifts, decorating, making sure everyone is happy and the pressure that came with it. To him Thanksgiving was about family and friends sharing a big meal and, well, just being thankful. As we close in on Christmas, I really have given his opinions some thought. The hosts of Christmas gatherings have the pressure to make sure everyone is happy. Guests have to decide where to go, when to go, who to go with. Lists of gifts and recipients to be fulfilled, who to see, what to cook. Combine that with the hectic and extremely busy season that befalls grocers, and it gets almost overwhelming for some people. I love Christmas, and this year I am going to try and take my friend’s view of Thanksgiving and apply it to Christmas.I’ll be thankful for the friends and family that I do get to see. I’ll take their desire for us to be together on the holiday as a compliment and not an obligation. The focus in our house is going to be one of gratitude and appreciation. I’m getting all ...
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Who’s the favorite?

by Adam Zack — December 11, 2019

Adam Zack

It’s OK to express your favoritism. 

At the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was saying goodbye to each of her traveling partners – the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion (talk about a nickname you’d like to shake!). She tells each how she is going to miss them as she heads off back to Kansas and when she gets to the Scarecrow, she tells him she’s going to miss him most of all. Right there in front of the other two. I don’t think her world was the politically correct one where you couldn’t say what you felt because you might hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel left out. She didn’t have to call him aside and whisper “Don’t tell those other two, but YOU are my favorite and I am going to miss you most.” It’s OK to have favorites. My brothers know that I am mom’s favorite. After all, she has great taste and judgement. My daughters know I have a favorite. We have favorite flavors, movies, colors and employees. Our favorites make us happy and comfortable. They bring us joy, amusement and love. So this holiday season, it’s OK to express your favoritism. Life is not a sport where everyone who plays gets a participation trophy. Some people suck, and some people rule. Just like there can on...
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Taking one for the team?

by Adam Zack — December 4, 2019

We win as a team and we lose as a team.

Sunday I was putting up the Christmas lights at our house. There’s a particularly high apex over the garage that I really have to stretch to get the string of lights to. My ladder is 8’, and I am 6’ 1”, so when standing on the top rung of the ladder and stretching my arm up with the light string makes it about 14-15 feet off the ground. It’s fairly precarious, but I’m not scared of heights, so no big deal. Suddenly the ladder shifted and slipped, and I knew I had to move quickly or I would fall, grabbing the clay drain pipe that extends from the house should have helped, however it was not a clay pipe at all, just a styrofoam decorative piece painted to look like clay that broke off in my hand. I moved down a couple steps as I started to fall and was able to avoid the trees below, escaping without injury.It made me think about how, in moments of having to make a split second decision I would react to danger around me when others might be affected. We all talk about taking one “for the team”, and the ultimate example of that was by a Marine in WWII named John D. New from Mobile, Alabama. During the intense fighting against the Japanese on the island of Peleliu, Private New threw himself on a Japanese hand grenade...
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Embrace Weird

by Adam Zack — November 26, 2019

Adam Zack

Good weird isn’t creepy or gross.

Weird: of strange or extraordinary character : ODD, FANTASTICI love weird. Weird is unique, interesting, funny, quirky, different. I have two daughters that have pretty much called me weird from the time they could talk. I think it was in the top 10 first words. I’m sure that when I was feeding Holly as an infant, and gave the dog a taste of her baby food, then back to her, she was thinking “This is weird. Am I getting the dog’s food or is the dog getting my food?”Being a weirdo is a badge of pride to me. I don’t want to be the boring old dad that just acts like every other dad. I don’t want to be the brother, son or husband that is predictable, with no spikes on the radar. Weird is fun, and I search out products (like our new Bacon Flavor Lip Balm, Ruth Bader Ginsburg ‘Dissent Mints’ and Mac & Cheese flavored Candy Canes) that will leave an impression on people. It’s a great opportunity for independent retailers to do something that will get people talking, taking photos and sharing with their friends. Weird is youthful energy that I want to mai...
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Painfully slow or…

by Adam Zack — November 20, 2019

Old brands that just didn’t take care of themselves.

There’s a few things that can kill your business overnight. Especially if you’re not a huge corporation. I’m not talking about a physical event like a fire. I’m talking about things you have control over and that the vast majority of independent retailers are diligent about. Overnight killers include food poisoning that emanates at your store. The community finding out you have rats in your storeroom. Or roaches in your kitchen. E-Coli that is traced to your meat department. In 1993 an E-Coli outbreak was traced to undercooked hamburgers at Jack In The Box. Four children under age 10 died from it. Many lawsuits resulted and the company, had they not been so large, most likely would have failed. Chipotle faced similar problems recently, having repeated incidents of food poisoning originating at their stores. Sudden death is almost always preventable. Diligence and care are pretty much all that is needed to keep your store healthy. The real killer of conventional retailers is more like a slow death. Like heart disease, you feel mostly fine. Maybe you get tired a little faster or sometimes don’t feel good, but hey, we’re all getting older, right? Stores like Sears, K-Mart and Dominick’s were old brands that j...
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