My phone chimed and I looked at the text: “We need to talk” Uh oh. Has that phrase, whether it’s spoken aloud or written in a text or email ever conveyed a positive, optimistic tone. Nope. Even with an exclamation mark: “We need to talk!!” it delivers a sense of dread and worry. Something’s wrong. How about: “WE NEED TO TALK”. In caps, somebody is definitely in trouble. Add their name to it: “WE NEED TO TALK, STEPHEN” and the s%$# is definitely going to hit the fan for Stephen. Gulp, followed by a stomach roll and fear that something is going to change, and not for the good. Communicating effectively is vitally important in our business, and especially below par in the grocery industry. How many times have you asked, or heard an employee in a retail store a question they should know, and the response is “I dunno, nobody told us.” Or something along those lines. I’m telling you now that we need to talk, and we need to talk every day. To our employees and customers and vendors. When we do it, and really make the effort, the result is success for everyone. We need to talk, and we need to talk now, so we don’t get the text “WE NEED TO TALK!” later.
Some time ago I went on a rant about how “Perfect!” is the most overused response in America today. Everything you do – Perfect! It dilutes the word so much, that no one really has a real idea of what perfection is and if it’s even attainable at all. To me, perfection is more of a goal than actual results. Many people fall very short of even attempting perfection. Their attitude is more “Nobody’s perfect…”. They have compromised attempting perfection before they even start. The bar is lowered from the get-go for them. So while true perfection is rare – think a perfect 10 in Olympic gymnastics, a perfect passer rating in the NFL (158.3 – There were 5 in 2019 – Lamar Jackson (twice) Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson), or a wine that scores 100 points – attempting perfection is a character trait of your top employees. I think a more relatable way to aim is to be the best. And not in the “best of the worst” group.Being outstanding sounds much more achievable than achieving perfection. In the movie Ford vs. Ferrari (again with the movie references!) race car driver Ken Miles was explaining to his son his driving strategy to drive the perfect lap to win the race. ...read more
PONDER: to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeplyI’m thinking about how hard it is to be a good listener. I can kind of relate it to the person who wants to eat healthier. You do it for a while, focus and start to see results. Conversations are clearer and more meaningful. Interaction is mutually satisfying. The weight of having to speak and anticipate what your answer should be starts to drop off. You’re feeling good about yourself and those you interact with daily. You’re getting to be a good listener. That’s not so hard, right? Then when you’re getting comfortable, the unexpected double cheeseburger is before you. Just one, right? You listen to the guy explain what’s in the smoothie for breakfast, then you add ice cream (because it’s so delicious). A bag of chips here, Fettuccine Alfredo instead of grilled chicken and salad. Two cookies and a Bailey’s instead of no dessert. Your good intentions, initial success and great feelings are back the way they were not long ago. It’s the same with listening. You make that effort, see results, and then gradually (or sometimes suddenly) slip back into old habits. Becoming a Listening reverts to interrupting, finishing sentences and not hearing...read more
Looking forward to sitting on the couch and actually watching the whole game!
This Sunday is Super Bowl 54 – better known as LIV, for the youth of today who know their Roman numerals so well. (Can I even say Super Bowl? Do I have to refer to it as The Big Game so I don’t incur the wrath and punishment of the NFL legal team? For an organization that lives by our addiction to watching it, it’s silly to me that retailers can’t even use the words Super Bowl in their advertising. Hence all the Big Game references… ah, but I digress.)I am super excited that we are not having a Super Bowl party for the first time in about 10 years. And it’s not like everyone didn’t bring something to the party. Well, almost everyone did, or at least offered. I’ll miss Phillip and Lorena’s chile rellenos, Moose’s chicken wings, and Ro’s meatballs. I won’t miss Steve’s chili with beans. But I’m looking forward to sitting my butt on the couch and actually being able to watch the whole game. Not having a party got me thinking about what in life and business I actually bring to the party. Do I bring enough for the host to keep having the party every year, or are my contributions not enough to keep the party goin...read more
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...read more
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...read more
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...read more
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...read more
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...read more
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 ...read more