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Apple’s and Orange’s

by Adam Zack — March 22, 2017

Adam Zack

Black Grapeless Grapes $1.48

The three most important keys to great sales are: 1. Presentation 2. Presentation 3. Presentation. Customers buy with their eyes. If food doesn’t look great, no matter how it tastes, they are far less likely to buy. You can always let them taste the delicious Ugly Rice Salad and get them to purchase it, but with hundreds of choices of fresh foods you can’t even sample 10% of the delicious but hideous items that may be put out. Fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, salads, hot foods – they all need to look tempting. That’s why packaging and signage is a billion dollar industry. It tells the story of the beautiful food. But how about what is written on the packaging and signage? Because so much of our commerce is food, everyone can relate to it. And since it’s so widespread, nowhere is the misuse of grammar and punctuation more prevalent. These are real signs seen in our grocery stores:
  • Banana’s 59¢
  • Open Sunday’s 11:00-4:00
  • Jam’s and Jellies
  • Black Grapeless Grapes $1.48
  • Pop Tards 2.69
  • Yumbo Jams 3 lbs/$1
  • Rot Chicken 7.99...
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Can I be honest with you?

by Adam Zack — March 15, 2017

“Does this dress make me look fat?”

I’ve been obsessed with speech phrases, responses and habits lately. Someone finishing my sentence before I finish drives me nuts. Responding with “I know” makes me crazy. “Perfect” – really? Contradicting every statement with “No” and a correcting comment: Put me in a straight jacket. It’s me, I know. I’m a grammar and speech lunatic. So the latest one that I keep hearing over and over is “Can I be honest with you?” Think about it. What’s the right response? “Um, no. I really prefer to be lied to.” Or “Why would you, I’m never honest with you.” I suppose if I asked “How does this shirt look on me?” or “Does this dress make me look fat?” when answered with “Can I just be honest with you?” might be appropriate – and at the same time make me (or someone, I don’t wear dresses) feel sad. But in the course of everyday conversation it’s a waste of words – one of those automatic responses like “perfect”. I think it came from some guy who was always a yes man. “Yessir” and “I just do what I’m told.”, who one day got sick of it and said to the boss “Can I just be honest with you?” The boss, thinking this guy had always been honest in the p...
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The Little Things

by Adam Zack — March 8, 2017

Adam Zack

Treat little things like they are important

I’ve maintained for years that it’s the little things that matter most – in relationships, in business, in families and in everyday life. The little kindnesses shown consistently add up to great appreciation. Little problems solved, questions answered and efforts made greatly reduce the probability that a big problem will have to be dealt with. Consistent awareness of what your partner, or your customer, values most makes the need to something big. Treat little things like they are important and there’s no need to buy that diamond bracelet to make up for your thoughtlessness or to send that customer who stopped shopping with you a $100 gift card to return. It’s easy to tell someone that the little things matter. They will agree wholeheartedly every time. They’ll say “I know, right?” And although they agree, they’ll never do the little things consistently that add up to make the big impact. I don’t even think you can teach someone to do little acts of kindness. You either get it and do it or you don’t. The more selfish the person, the less likely they are to do the little things for their spouse, their friends and family and their customers. So when you see that employee that alway...
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Worth The Wait?

by Adam Zack — March 1, 2017

Waiting can be so excruciating

Waiting can be so excruciating

Waiting is a two edged sword. I don’t think anything besides waiting can be so excruciating or satisfying, with little, if any, leeway in between. I say this as I wait at the Oakland airport as the result of a cancelled flight and having to wait three hours for the next flight out. Excruciating. Even with a bar in sight. Each minute seems like a dozen. Waiting sucks. It’s the same in our grocery business. Every minute a customer spends in line seems like a dozen. Waiting at the deli counter for a sandwich seems like eternity. Take a look at the people waiting in line at your store. They look at their watch. Repeatedly. 12 times a minute. They roll their eyes and give an half-hearted, half pissed-off “thanks” when their order finally is ready. Waiting sucks when you’re a customer. Is waiting ever good? How about “Good things come to those who wait.” Or “Worth the wait.” Do they? Is it? Convincing a customer that the two months it took to build their website or the extra day it took to build the ad was worth the wait is a tough job. Telling a customer to hold their horses and just be patient usually does not help, except when dealing extremely patient people (of whic...
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The Best Expense

by Adam Zack — February 22, 2017

Adam Zack

The excitement is contagious

It seems like it’s the grocery industry trade show season.  It’s kind of like the Movie and Television award season, but just pushed back a tiny bit.  From the Fancy Food Show in January, NGA in February, Natural Foods Show in March and many supplier food shows (UNFI, Unified Grocers, Tony’s Fine Foods) in the next couple months, the opportunity to see what’s going on in our industry is abundant.  But with grocers increasingly busy with daily operations and trying to control expenses and out-duel competition, many see attendance to these shows as just not important enough, too inconvenient or just too expensive to pay employees to attend. That’s where they get it all wrong.  Attending one or more of the most relevant shows for your store with some key employees is an investment that pays big dividends. You are constantly looking for ideas to increase sales and energy in the store, so let the employees do that work for you by exposing them to new products and idea that they will actually implement. After the show, have a 30-minute meeting with those that attended (and some key employees who may not have) and have them present the three best products they saw. The excitement is contagious and their enth...
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Listen Up, part 2

by Adam Zack — February 15, 2017

“Can I finish my story?”

“Can I finish my story?”

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” –Stephen R. CoveyAbout 18 months ago I wrote about a guy who during any conversation just had to finish the other person’s sentences. It’s one of the most annoying habits – and it really is just a bad habit – that someone can have. I’ve noticed it a lot lately with a young guy and a lady I know. It’s a combination of incredibly poor manners and even poorer listening skills. I struggle with the urge to reach out with a quick smack to change the behavior. Or just roll my eyes. A good friend of mine actually gets this pissed off look on his face and says “Can I finish my story?” when people cut him off before he’s done talking. So the question here is how can you effectively and tactfully point out the habit and give the lesson that listening is one of the greatest skills and most important tools for success? How can we as managers be better listeners and teachers? In the Heart of Leadership class by Amba Gale, if someone in the group interrupted (or even got up to use the bathroom) during her lesson, instead of just ignoring the disruption and going on, she w...
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When To Say When

by Adam Zack — February 8, 2017

Adam Zack

There’s no shame in failure

New items, campaigns, programs and initiatives are the keys to growth in our grocery business. To be successful they need great planning, thorough communication, coordinated execution and the patience for it to get established and grow some roots. It’s not easy and it’s not inexpensive. Too often a great product is just put on the shelf or in the case with little or no signage, story telling or promotion. No one is surprised when 30 days later very few have sold, or it goes out of code and like that, it’s buh-bye, never to be seen again. If only someone had loved and nurtured it, it could have been rookie of the year, or at least been an alternate on the all-star team. But that’s not what this is about. Let’s assume that we do all the right things. We like the product, promote it, tell it’s story and to our surprise it still just sits there. It doesn’t resonate with the customer and we start feeling bad for it. It’s a failure. The shame. As leaders, we need to embrace failure like we do success. Well over 50% of the new items and programs we try won’t be around to see 2018. And that’s OK, because failure, when executed well, is the result of trying something new. There is no shame in failure when...
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Do You Hear What I Hear

by Adam Zack — February 1, 2017

Perpetrator of bad listening

Perpetrator of bad listening

Recently we were asked by a store to present our marketing, design and web capabilities. The presentation required flights and a rental car and a full day of travel. During a pre-trip phone call I heard the marketing director say, “Of course we know that there’s travel expense that we expect to get charged for.” The key word here is “heard”, because when we submitted the travel expense for reimbursement we were answered that they would never have thought of reimbursing travel expenses. Never. So DW wondered if maybe my hearing was going bad. Was there too much hair growing in my ears? Nope, I checked. A few stragglers maybe, but not enough to obstruct the ear canal. Maybe I was drunk? Nope, it was an 11:00 a.m. phone call. On a weekday. In winter. So maybe I was just the perpetrator of bad listening. Hearing, but not listening, jumping to conclusions and assuming (making a royal ASS out of U and ME). In any case, one of the takeaways of the experience is a thing that you NEVER do, which made my mind wander to things you never do (or at least should never do):
  1. Wash your rental car before returning it.
  2. Tug on Superman’s cape or spit into the wind....
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But what have you done for me lately?

by Adam Zack — January 24, 2017

Let them know how much you appreciate them

Let them know how much you appreciate them

It’s all about instant gratification, right? To quote the Ramones “We want the world, and we want it now.” Businesses and employees alike are under the constant pressure to please now. Right now. More and more, what you did last year, last month, last week and even yesterday is forgotten. As a business, we have invested thousands of hours and many years working on the little things that we hope will build a foundation of loyalty with our customers. But with the barrage of alluring messages from competitors, our years of effort depreciate pretty fast. Without constant reinforcement, reminders and exceptional service our customers memory becomes fuzzy and fades to black quicker than ever. You may have the best butcher in town but one disappointment raises an eyebrow. The second casts serious doubts and anything after that you have lost that customer no matter how long you have served the family. Employees seem to have an even shorter leash. For years you have given 100%, sparked innovation and ideas, helped with the evolution of your store and made substantial contributions to sales and profits. But due to the increasing pressure on financials, those year...
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Who’s your Rock Star?

by Adam Zack — January 18, 2017

Adam Zack

Many chefs are fickle?

Our rock stars have traditionally been, well, real rock stars. Musical idols that turn the girls knees to Jell-O and guys chartreuse with envy. Sports heroes who leave you slack jawed at their sight. Tiny actors that are bigger than life onscreen. Just this past weekend I was in San Francisco for a show by the rock star Rhett Miller*. So I’m coming out of the men’s room, open the door and standing there ready to come in (and cut the line, which you can do if you’re a rock star) is non other than Rhett Miller. I blurt out “Rhett!” like some kind of dummie, and he says “Hey, how you doing?” Great, now that I have got to hold the bathroom door for a rock star, thinking how jealous Linda is going to be when I tell her. Which she was.In our grocery business we have the opportunity to create rock stars within our organization. It’s an especially ripe opportunity with our chefs and butchers, and to a lesser extent with produce managers, wine and specialty food buyers. The Food Network turned a whole batch of chefs and home cooks into rock stars just by branding them. Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Ina Garten, Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri? All food rock stars that have done an incredible job of branding themselves...
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