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The Cliché and You

by Adam Zack — October 10, 2018

Picture of Adam Zack.

Strike while the iron is hot.

“It is what it is.”
“All things being equal.”
“A deal’s a deal.”
“Better late than never.”
“Easier said than done.”
“Needless to say.”
“No guts, no glory.”
“Think outside the box.”
I use them all the time, yet I loathe clichés. They are overused and have really lost their meaning. I especially am tired of “think outside the box”. Yet I understand it and see it’s necessity. It’s the opposite of “Tried and true.” It pushes you to something new and exciting. Something unproven that involves risk. It’s not routine, and it’s not “Been there, done that.” Today I was discussing grocery sales with my friend Gary and how the day after Thanksgiving is one of the slowest days of the year for grocers. How can we get more business when everyone is food exhausted from Thanksgiving and there are lots of leftovers in the fridge? How can we do a promotion that’s as strong as an ox and sells like hotcakes? It’s especially difficult to rally the troops who have worked so hard during the very busy Thanksgiving sales. I started thinking outside the box and remembered a couple post-holiday promotions. Breakfast items was one, b...
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Perfect!

by Adam Zack — October 3, 2018

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Perfect needs to be something that can be touched and savored.

Perfect is the most over-used word in America.Example: “I refilled the toilet paper.”“Perfect!”Really? It’s such a standard response to any positive statement that I think it’s totally lost its meaning. To me, perfect is perfection, as in you can’t get any better. It’s as good as possible. The best. Flawless. Wouldn’t change a thing. No criticism possible. 100%. Every answer right. For our use today I think we need to redefine it, because for it to be useful, especially considering how it’s thrown around as often as “ummm…” and “you know”, it should be attainable by more than the smartest, best or luckiest. But it still needs to be special. We don’t want it to be the equivalent of the participation trophy. I propose the perfect will now mean “really, really, really good.” Maybe even “great”. I want to be able to tell an employee that the work they did was perfect without having to say to myself that it could have used a tiny tweak here or a small adjustment there. It doesn’t have caveats. We need to factor effort and enthusiasm into the scoring equation to keep getting great results from our employe...
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The object of your obsession

by Adam Zack — September 26, 2018

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Are you reflecting your retail soul?

“Obsess over your customer, never your competitor.” – Jeff BezosNo one can dispute that Jeff Bezos and Amazon have changed the world of shopping. What was initially just an online bookstore, dismissed by many as something that wouldn’t even be around for a few years, has become the largest seller of, well, about everything. (And made Jeff Bezos the wealthiest man in the world). It’s changed everything from ordering office supplies to how and what we read. Although I have very fond memories of taking each new Stephen King book to the beach to read, I can’t imagine not having my Kindle. Maybe that’s why my arms used to be so much stronger. So what? Everyone’s amazed what Amazon does – and will do. I think it’s their single obsession over their customers that has led them to be a trillion-dollar company. It’s the old school way for the founders of the modern grocery store business to obsess over our competitors. We pull out the ads from all the competition and curse when they beat us on chicken breast by 50 cents and beam when we feature strawberries that are 60 cents lower than them. But you know who’s not pulling out the ads and comparing them side by sid...
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Can You Relate?

by Adam Zack — September 19, 2018

Picture of a trophy.

Keep your customers tuned in.

We recorded the Emmy Awards last night and started to watch them after Monday Night Football. (Yes, I have a wife that would rather watch football than the Emmys.  So lucky!) Our conversation went something like this:Me: This is stupid.
Linda: Yep.
Me: This is not even funny.
Linda: Nope.
Me: This is the worst Emmys ever.
Linda: Yep.
Me: I bet this will be the lowest rated one of all time.
Linda: Yep.
Me: 95% of all Americans can’t even remotely relate to this %$#!
Linda: Nope.
After about 10 minutes of watching these people pretend that diversity is so difficult to attain and that their jobs are the most important thing on this planet we started fast forwarding, hoping for something funny or interesting. It did not happen and we switched to Sport Center. So why the hell am I even wasting your time talking about the television awards? Well it’s because I could not even remotely relate to any of those people, and to really have the support of your fans (customers) they have to be able to relate to you on some level. They have to feel that in some way that you are one of them. That you have things in common. They are hung...
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CH-CH-CHANGES

by Adam Zack — September 12, 2018

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“If you’re not falling, you’re not trying.”

“Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older” – David BowieMaybe the people most resistant to change in the country are conventional format American grocers.  I’m talking the old school, this-is-how-we-do-it-because-it’s-always-how-we’ve-done it grocery lifers.  The produce managers who grew up unloading 50 pound sacks of potatoes.  The meat guy who apprenticed breaking down sides of beef.  The baker who insists white bread is making a comeback.  The grocer who says “If they don’t like it, they can take their business elsewhere.”  Well guess what?  Quality potatoes don’t come in 50 lb sacks.  Carcass beef is virtually non-existent.  Milinneals like whole grain breads.  The American consumer has changed and is taking his business elsewhere.  Of course there are hundreds of exceptional grocers whose leadership has led their stores down the path of change.  No, they have actually blazed the trail of change, and many have followed.  Or at least attempted to.  We work with dozens of grocers who live the motto: Change is good.My uncle, who was an incredible water skier, once told me “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying.”  I’ve never forgot that ski...
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The Broken Trust

by Adam Zack — September 5, 2018

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Treat them like your trusted partner.

I’m a huge proponent of empowering your employees to take care of your business.Treat them like your trusted partner and share the successes and learn from the failures. It’s a philosophy that has allowed many forward-thinking independent retailers to rise above their competition and deliver a level of service that corporate chains can’t touch. Stores like Dorothy Lane Market and Town and Country Markets do it very, very well. It’s a culture that starts at the top and goes all the way to the courtesy clerks. They treat your store like it’s their own, with pride. But what happens when that trust you have in them is betrayed? When the most loyal, longtime employee succumbs to bad decisions and life’s pressures and instead of treating your assets like his own, treats them like, well like they are yours? It happened very recently to me and it really shook my belief and trust right down to the foundation. One store manager, a 24 year employee and one we considered to be another brother seems to always be having money troubles. It’s not because he isn’t paid well, it’s from consistent, extremely poor life choices. We tried everything from financial assistance to tou...
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At Least I’m Consistent

by Adam Zack — August 29, 2018

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Is it time for a closer look?

The word consistent usually brings to mind good thoughts. You naturally think being consistent is a positive trait. Our goal is to be consistent. A consistently good boss, partner, parent, friend. Consistency brings comfort and eliminates doubt. I think of Cal Ripken and his 2,632 consecutive Major League Baseball games played or Steve Nash with his over 90% NBA free throw accuracy. Consistency is a shoe-in. It’s associated with a winner. But what about consistently bad? This weekend my baby brother and his family were in town visiting and he did something – I’m not exactly sure what – maybe pouring me a shot of whiskey at 10:00 a.m. – something like that – and I told him “You’re a bad man!” (We consistently bust each others chops like that) and he said “Hey, at least I’m consistent!” Not that he’s a bad or evil person, not at all. It just made me think about how there are a lot of bad behaviors and performances that are consistently awful. The customer service experience at Walmart and Spirit Airlines comes to mind. Have you ever heard any good comment about either? Consistently you hear “I hate [insert consistently bad company name here]!” Take the time now to...
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Apostrophe

by Adam Zack — August 22, 2018

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It’s the details that matter.

I have been watching the incredible documentary Vietnam by Ken Burns (about 18 hours long, perfect to watch hour by hour on train commutes).I’m almost done, and episode 8 focuses largely on the protests in America over the war and the militant like organized protests of the Nixon administration and the war.  For those of you old enough to remember 1969, you’ll recall the marches of hundreds of thousands of people to show their opposition to the war and how they were largely organized at college campuses across America, especially in New York, Chicago, Berkeley and San Francisco.  For you youngsters who don’t remember Vietnam at all, it’s an enlightening and interesting history lesson.  As an American, I support everyone’s right to peaceful assembly and free speech.  I am a stickler for grammar and the one thing that really stood out to me on the footage of the protest marches shown was the pervasive misuse of the apostrophe on their protest signs.  “Bring home our GI’s!”  “We support our POW’s and MIA’s!”  “Bring our Troop’s home now!”  I mean these were college campus protests, largely supported by the liberal faculty, and they couldn’t get...
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Old’s Cool

by Adam Zack — August 15, 2018

Picture of Adam Zack.

They have seen good times and bad.

Seems like the millennials get all the attention.Everyone cares what they think, what they eat, what they buy, how much money they make, if they’re happy. The surveys focus on them – “90% of millennials had avocado toast with organic sea salt on it for breakfast in the last 30 days…” Don’t get me wrong, I love the millennials. I work with them, joke with them, am friends with them – heck, I even have a couple of my own. With all that millennial focus what I think has got lost is how the old dudes and broads get overlooked and taken for granted. No one really cares if we get our feelings hurt or what we think of the latest fashion trend. They know we will take care of ourselves. Where I think the old folks – and yes I put myself in that category just by using the word folks – need some appreciation shown is the workplace. People who have been with one company for 20 years or more are often the soul of the business. They have seen good times and bad. They’ve grown up with the company and seen the customers grow up with them too. You see government workers with extreme longevity, but they don’t count in my book. The ones that count are the private sector. They’re the cashiers, buyers, human ...
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Who’s Your Hero?

by Adam Zack — August 7, 2018

Picture of Adam Zack.

My heroes are my friends that I rely on.

There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He’s ordinary
– Foo Fighters When I was a kid my first hero was Batman. I was Halloween batman a few times. I made models of the Batmobile and watched the show religiously. It was especially cool that the actor who played him was Adam West. Not too many other Adams were around in the 60’s and early 70’s. As I got a little older my heroes became sports icons. Franco Harris and Terry Bradshaw from the Steelers. Roman Gabriel of the Rams. Steve Garvey of the Dodgers. Those were guys I aspired to be. I didn’t know much about them personally, but I loved watching them play. When I got into my 20’s I got some more practical heroes. Michel Richard was a French chef with a restaurant in L.A. that was incredible. I went to one of his cooking classes at Bristol Farms and was awed by the simplicity of techniques he used to create deliciousness. Hero. Paul Westerberg was a wild rock and roll game changer for me. A mess most of the time with the excesses of rock and roll, he wrote songs that changed my whole musical outlook on life. Hero. Harold Lloyd had (and still h...
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