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Help!

by Adam Zack — May 22, 2019

Adam Zack

Often we avoid asking for help.

There’s a movie from 1958 called The Fly. It starred Vincent Price and is the story of a scientist who invents this machine that teleports objects from one place to another. Not wanting to stop with just objects, he experiments with animals and finally people. The story goes terribly wrong when a common fly gets in the teleporting chamber as it’s about to teleport the scientist and the result at the other end is a man with a fly’s head and a fly with a man’s head. The most memorable line is the fly-bodied tiny monstrosity screaming in a tiny fly-sized voice “Help meeee! Help meeee!” It’s a phrase that’s been repeated in reference to the film for decades, and you always picture that tiny fly with the human head. Of course, by then, it’s too late to help the fly-man, and the only help that could possibly be given is a quick smack with the fly swatter.More often today, asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness. Very often in our grocery business (and pretty much in any business) we avoid asking for help. Even when help is offered – “Let me know what I can do to help.” “If you need any help, let me know.” “How can I help?” – it’s by far more likely that it will be met with...
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Owner vs. Renter

by Adam Zack — May 15, 2019

There are scores of employees that treat your store like it was their own.

We bought a house exactly one year ago in Oceanside, CA. Since moving to the beach in 2011 we had rented a home. And we were good renters. Kept it very clean, took care of repairs, and treated it like our own home. Well, not exactly like our own home. There were little things – a missing baseboard piece, cleaning the upstairs windows, replacing some torn screens – that we just didn’t do because, well, it wasn’t our house. We were renting. As the owner of the house we now live in we take care of all the little things. We are fully invested and committed. While we were good renters, there are renters out there – probably 10-15% who are just crappy people, and therefore crappy renters. They don’t give a #$@% about your property. Their mentality is that they pay rent and their obligation ends there.I look at employees and can really relate them to renters. We give them a safe place to work, pleasant conditions, fair wages and benefits, respect and appreciation. But they’re still renters. How do you get renters to treat your store like they own it? Is it even possible without actually giving them an ownership stake? It’s possible, but it’s rare. When they clock out and end thei...
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Closed Minded – Not Black and White

by Adam Zack — May 8, 2019

Adam Zack

I have long been a wine aficionado.

It sounds so simple. Either you’re open minded or your closed minded. Open minded people are pro-change. They welcome new ideas. They don’t take criticism personally and they are the leaders and innovators. They empower their people and are not threatened by the success of their colleagues. There is no ego in open mindedness. Closed minded people are, well, just the opposite.It all sounds so easy. You choose to be open minded or you don’t, right? As much as I like to think I am open minded, I’m not nearly as much as I’d like to be. I realized the other day that being closed minded comes not from being stubborn, which I am very well versed in, but from past experiences that make me (or you) choose a position before even evaluating what’s before you. I have long been a wine aficionado. It’s not just been a job over the past 30 years, but it’s turned into a hobby and real interest. I love it. I have developed biases over the years that certain wines and wine regions produce crappy wines. Show me a wine from Southern California, and in my mind I automatically know that I won’t like it. It comes from past tasting experience. I have already made my judgement even before sampling it. I’d...
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The Arrogant Bastard

by Adam Zack — May 1, 2019

“This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.” – Arrogant Bastard Ale label

Success proves you’re among the best

Is arrogance ever OK? Is it even ever acceptable? Or understandable? Or relatable? I have always despised arrogance. Remember back in school when the pretty cheerleaders and the football jocks were so “stuck up.” The good looking rich kids who thought their “s*#t didn’t stink.” I’ve met business owners who look away as they shake your hand. People along the way who just think they’re better than you and don’t give two craps about anyone that may be beneath their lofty standards.Then a couple weeks ago we were watching Sportscenter, and I can’t remember exactly who came on – maybe Christian Yelich or James Harden – showing highlights of their amazing ability in their sport. My wife and I got talking about it and how some players (and people in general) are just so smug and how arrogance really is so ugly to her. “Wipe that smug look off your face” is a phrase I am familiar with. As we went back and forth on the subject, playing our usual ver...
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The Axe

by Adam Zack — April 24, 2019

Adam Zack

It’s not how hard you chop, it’s how effective your chopping is.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham LincolnOne of my favorite teaching stories is the one about the woodcutter who got a new job and really wanted to impress his boss.Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter asked for a job with a timber merchant and he got it. The pay was really good and so were the work conditions. He really liked his new boss and the company. For those reasons, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees. “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!” Very motivated by the boss’ words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he could only bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees. “I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked. “Sharpen? I had no t...
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The Massage

by Adam Zack — April 17, 2019

Simple communication is something we just can’t take for granted.

My dad has always loved a good back rub. The stress of running a grocery store would build up and his back and neck muscles would tighten. He’d ask me or my brothers to occasionally rub his back. But he never got professional massages until we were grown. And I don’t mean a Robert Kraft-style professional massage. When we started going to food shows – FMI in Chicago or Fancy Food in San Francisco, we got the idea to get massages in the hotel spa. The stores were successful and running smoothly, and the indulgence of a professional masseuse was well deserved. We were at the Omni hotel in San Francisco, each in separate massage rooms. I had a female masseuse and about half-way through the rub down she started crying. I kid you not. I hadn’t said “Ouch”, “A little to the left.” or “Harder, please.” I hadn’t said anything. She just starts sobbing. I went to say something, looked at her, and discovered that she was deaf and mute. And, it turned out, had just got her massage license and this was her first job. It was awkward at best.So why hadn’t the receptionist given me the heads up? It would probably have been helpful to know that the person working...
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My Favorite Thing

by Adam Zack — April 10, 2019

Adam Zack

I LOVE my bed.

What’s your prized possession? It can’t be a person, a feeling, a place or a pet. An actual thing that you bought or were given. I think generally the people I hang out with are not overly materialistic, so we’re not talking a lot about stuff. About food, and wine, yes, we get enthusiastic. Probably too enthusiastic. I understand how some might have an antique car that they’ve restored, an exceptionally meaningful piece of jewelry, or super cool big screen TV as a prized possession. I get it.What made me think about my prized possession happened on a Sunday morning a couple weeks ago. The blinds were all shut tight, I didn’t have to work or be anywhere, and I slept in until almost 8:00. Normally up at 5:40, the two-plus extra hours sleep felt so great, and as I woke up slowly, I thought “I LOVE my bed. It’s my prized possession.” And it has been for the last 10 years or so since I got it. I lovingly rotate the mattress 180 degrees every three months to keep it from getting old and saggy and we make it up every day out of respect for the rest and support it gives us. When I am away from it traveling, I miss it. When I get in it with its comfy sheets each night, I am thankful, and rest com...
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The Slow Change

by Adam Zack — April 3, 2019

What can I do today that will help me tomorrow?

I’ve beat the topic of necessary change nearly to death. Beat it like a rented mule. Like a redheaded step-child. Like an expense account rental car. I believe in necessary change wholeheartedly, but, come on man, move along. So I am not going to write about change, I am going to write about the effects of change. Because whether we are choosing to be proactive about it or just ignore it, the long-term effects are going to be there. Long term change (think of it more as evolution) is not a young man’s concern. He thinks of what can I do today that will help me tomorrow? Immediate change and gratification are the concern. I think our business is a lot like that too. We want to effect change through our actions, and we want to see and measure the results right away.As a young man I never thought the slow change of evolution would affect me. I looked at my grandpa and wondered why his earlobes were so big? He always had a receding hairline, right? I didn’t know him any other way. And how about that hair growing in his ears? Gross. To me these weren’t changes, it was how he always was. Surely he’d always used Brylcreem on his hair and Old Spice aftershave. He didn’t change, he just was what he was. Constant. Wel...
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Lazy?

by Adam Zack — March 27, 2019

Adam Zack

Lazy Adam over and out.

Lazy Susan: A turntable (rotating tray) placed on a table or countertop to aid in distributing food.I smirk every time I see a Lazy Susan in action. I can just see some dad at the dinner table asking his weak armed fat daughter Susan to pass the gravy. Pass the potatoes. Pass the carrots. Sick of passing food, one night she’s doodling in her room and playing with her marbles and a Frisbee, and shazam! she gets the idea for the first Lazy Susan. (Although she thinks of it as a food distribution platter.) She’s a smart girl and puts one together in woodshop out of a wooden top from a whiskey barrel and some ball bearings. She puts it on the dining room table discreetly and that night when Pa asks for her to pass the gosh darn yams, with a flick of the wrist she spins the food distribution platter and bam! yams are in front of Pa. No more tired weak arms for Susan. When kin comes as dinner guests they ask just what this new device is, and Pa explains that Susan is just too lazy to pa...
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I’m With the Band

by Adam Zack — March 20, 2019

A great band combines creativity, excitement, collaboration, longevity, practice and hard work to produce success.

Teamwork is the most frequently used word when people talk about their business success, as it should be.
  • “Teamwork: Simply stated, it is less me and more we.”
  • “There is no I in TEAM.”
  • “Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.”
  • “Teamwork requires that everyone’s efforts flow in a single direction.”
  • “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan
It’s a lot of catchy analogies and idealistic thinking. Most often, business teamwork is compared to sports teams. A championship season, a string of winning seasons, a record setting performance. But very rarely is the team of players the same from season to season. There are usually some constants in great teams, such as the coach, like John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Belichick. Or the best players, like Tom Brady, Derek Jeter and Bill Russell. While we all (OK, not all – my daughters are ...
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