Company Blog

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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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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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

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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

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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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No, no. Thank YOU

by Adam Zack — August 1, 2018

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Rejection is a tremendous learning opportunity.

We’ve all been rejected. Some more than others, but our journeys are dotted with failures, almosts, woulda-shoulda-couldas, next-times, nos and kiss-off-mans.I’ve touched before on how if you’re not failing at least some of the time you’re not trying hard enough. To get new customers you have to go out of your way to show them how you can meet their needs. You listen, learn and give them what they need to better their lives – through food, business growth, creativity, differentiation and more. You partner with your customers. It’s a long-term commitment to mutual success. And sometimes you’re going to think you know what they need. And they’re not going to agree. You can fervently show them how if they did it one way, they’d be better. If they used a different ingredient, they’d love it. But sometimes even though they ask you for your input, they really don’t want it. Maybe they are just humoring you. Maybe they didn’t like the way your breath smelled. Or maybe you had a stinky butt. Whatever the case, rejection is hard when you do your very best to contribute to their success. But as I have learned over and over again, rejection is a tremendou...
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Lucky, Blessed, a Miracle or It Doesn’t Matter?

by Adam Zack — July 25, 2018

Was I just lucky?

This. Is. A. True. Story.I take the train from near my house to my office 4 or 5 days a week. It’s about an hour train ride each way, but compared to fighting San Diego traffic it’s proven to be a savior. I keep an old 1995 Nissan pickup at the destination train station to drive the 3 miles from the station to the office. I make it a terrible practice to really push the timing to the point that I am often actually running from the car to the train. And I hate running. It’s a bad habit and it’s stressful. I don’t know why I can’t break it. So a couple weeks ago on a Friday afternoon I was running late and threw my briefcase in the back of the truck and sped off towards the station. I got there just as the train was pulling up, locked the truck, grabbed my briefcase and ran for it. I made it with about 15 seconds to spare and was happy to be heading home for the weekend, the truck staying behind in Old Town San Diego until Monday morning. Around Sunday morning I asked my wife if she’d seen my wallet. Nope. I looked in my briefcase in the pocket I usually keep it. Nope. All through the briefcase. Nada. In the drawers and in the other car. No sign of it. Tracing my steps I was convinced that I had left it sitting on the truck seat, and I...
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Who cares about what they think?

by Adam Zack — July 17, 2018

I love comedy. Whenever we need something to watch on TV our fallback is always some standup comedy. Demetri Martin. Tom Segura. Chad Daniels. Old Kevin Hart (not the new stuff – too over produced). Mike Birbiglia. Jim Gaffigan.

We are 100% dependent on the scrutiny of our customers and employees.

Dave Chappelle. The joy that hearty laughter brings is the best. Great comedians are smart. Really smart. I was watching the sometimes funny Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee and Dave Chappelle was Jerry Seinfeld’s guest. In the course of their conversation Dave said “Not caring about the scrutiny of others is the hardest thing to do.” Man, that hit home. And I thought the hardest thing to do was to be a good listener. But truly not caring about what other people are saying about you takes more than just thick skin. I think that you have to be some kind of ass to not care about what other people think. Maybe the truly arrogant couldn’t care less. Or the truly rich. Because especially in the food business we are 100% dependent on the scrutiny of our customers and employees. We are sensitive and competitive by nature and constantly seek feedback and approval. “What do you think?” “How was it?” “How are we doing?” “Did you find every...
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