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Penny for Your Thoughts

by Adam Zack — January 17, 2018

Success or failure is literally built on pennies.

Would you stop to pick up a penny if you saw it on the ground? How about a nickel? Quarter? Everyone I know would stop to pick up a dollar, that is certain. But back to that penny… I was thinking about it when I saw a penny in the parking lot yesterday. I picked it up, put it in my pocket, forgot to take it out when I put my pants in the hamper and now it will probably come out in the washing machine or dryer and be clanking around while the dryer turns. You know the clack-clack-clack of copper on the metal dryer drum as it tumbles around. I should have just left that penny on the ground. It struck a nerve, though because grocery success or failure is literally built on pennies. In a business where a good net profit is 5 cents on the dollar, that penny that I didn’t pick up reduces my profit margin 20%. My dad is a old school grocer to his soul. I remember about 40 years ago he saw one of his supervisors had some product that had been mismanaged and was on the ground. It would have to be thrown out. He went up to that supervisor, took a dollar out of his pocket and threw it on the ground. “You see that? That’s the same thing you are doing with that [whatever the product was, I can’t remember.] Point made. O...
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LEGAL EXTORTION

by Adam Zack — January 10, 2018

It’s capitalism 101

I’ve written before how everything we do in business, every day is ultimately about the money. We may love our job, our co-workers and our customers, but when it all shakes out if the business isn’t profitable, there is only a matter of time until the cash to provide the arena for the things we love about our job runs out and there is no place left to love. We work hard, innovate and serve and in return our customers reward us with payment so that they can prosper from us. It’s capitalism 101. In this age of technology, however, there is a new troll going through the grocery and food industry looking for photos that you may have used in an eblast, a website and on social media that they own the rights to. Once their algorithms find that image, no matter how innocently it’s used, the information goes to their troll law firm who sends of a demand letter for thousands of dollars and threatens imminent legal action if payment isn’t made – conveniently by credit card – within a short period. It’s really a form of legal extortion. We don’t like it, it’s not fair, and it sucks. But it’s not going away. It will only get much worse as these firms see that we get worried about lawsuits and want to just make i...
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Inspire Thyself

by Adam Zack — January 3, 2018

2018 is the ideal time to look inward for inspiration.

I’m sitting here waiting for some type of divine inspiration for a blog topic and I’m getting nothing. Zippo. Zilch. Nada. Then I get the encouragingly prodding email from DW reminding me to remember the old blog and my writer’s block becomes intense. The pressure starts to build and my neck tightens up with the pressure of a ticking time clock tightening its talons around my neck. Ouch. Then the answer comes in another reassuring email that only a wise master can deliver: “In Reality, everything is spontaneously manifesting the inherent destiny of its essence; it doesn’t need any external help to do this.” That sounds like something a philosopher might say. In fact, some of you (and me) are thinking “What the hell does that mean? This isn’t a secret college masters exam, is it?” Well it did make me think, and my brain and heart (no courage required this time) followed the yellow brick road of translations and came up with: “Everything you were looking for was right there with you all along” from the Wizard of Oz. Inspiration to do, to create, to change and to affect change is really right inside of us. We look for new ideas to grow our business and often the search ...
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If You Had to Choose

by Adam Zack — December 27, 2017

Would they choose our store?

Do you ever play out the scenario “If you had a gun to your head and you HAD to choose…” followed by something like one food to eat the rest of your life, or one album to listen to, or which kid is your favorite? Kind of like Sophie’s Choice*, but without the death consequence for the child you didn’t choose. When it comes to shopping, a loathsome chore in my book, I used to have discussions with my two daughters about shopping and my strong aversion to malls. I told them that I could be happy for the rest of my life with only two stores – Jensen’s (our grocery store) and Target (for clothes, entertainment, housewares). Home Depot might be a close third. The scenario would never play out in real life, but it got me thinking about the question that if someone had a gun to my head and I could only choose ONE grocery store to shop at for the rest of my life, what would it be? All things would have to be considered – prices, selection, quality, service. No longer would I be able to get paper towels and foil at Costco and potstickers at Trader Joes and fresh meat at Jensen’s. It would be all in one til death do us part. The more interesting part of the question would be what...

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The Name Game

by Adam Zack — December 20, 2017

 

Susan was just too lazy to pass those potatoes to Pa.

Nicknames have been part of our culture forever. John Smith was called Smitty. His son, John Smith, Jr. was just called Junior, or sometimes “Little Smitty”. My brother John, who likes to play football, is Moose. I have a brother who is sometimes hard to find nicknamed 007. We used to torment my youngest brother until he’d get so ticked off at us we’d start calling him Ticker, which ticked him off more. My youngest daughter was small, so she was Teenie, and her sister was bigger, so she was Biggie. My wife is funny and weird sometimes, so she’s “Weirdo”, which I suppose are traits we both share so I am “The Weirdest”. Like most stereotypes, there’s some kind of truth or connected story with the nickname and the actual person or thing. I never really liked to have a nickname, but if I was “Ace”, “Chief”, “Boss”, “Megatron”, “The Hawk” or “Black Mamba” I suppose I’d be on board. So I got to thinking just how did the Lazy Susan get its name? I imagine a big family sitting around a table and Pa saying: “Susan, pass me the potatoes.” Susan goes: “But pa, my arms tired. It’s too far. I’m too weak. I don’t have the energy.” ...
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To invest, or not to invest, that is the question

by Adam Zack — December 13, 2017

Investing in your store requires belief in yourself

Man, investing is a commitment. It’s sometimes scary and many times risky. It’s expensive and often takes years to recoup. And sometimes you hit the jackpot, and sometimes you lose your shirt. When we were young, my dad always encouraged us to stretch our financial limits to gain assets. He told us that if we wanted to get ahead, we had to take the risk – albeit a reasonable risk with due diligence done. And it’s mostly worked – except for the times we didn’t do our homework and got caught up in things like the tech bubble or things that just seemed too good to be true. Live and learn. Remember and don’t make the same mistakes again. But don’t stop investing. Saving is not investing. Investing in your store, or your future, or your house has a big upside in terms of payback. Saving keeps your money safe, but it does nothing to reward you besides being there when you want to look at it. Like being in miserable relationship but doing nothing about it, even when the cute single girl asks you for coffee, investing in your happiness involves risk and change. Some people have no appetite for investing, and that’s OK. Some of the best people in the world are safe and stable and ha...
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Everyone Wants to Play

by Adam Zack — December 5, 2017

Preparation is the hard part.

Mike Krzyzewski (pronounced Shuh-shef-ski, if you can believe that), also known as Coach K, is one of the top college basketball coaches of all time. He has won 5 national championships and has the most wins all-time in NCAA tournament play. He’s in the conversation for greatest coach in history, not too far behind John Wooden, the best ever. I was listening to him on a radio interview this week, and he made a statement that doesn’t just apply to basketball, or sports, but to our everyday work and even our lives in general. He was talking about his players, and he said that everyone wants to play, but everyone doesn’t want to prepare to play. Preparation is the hard part. Preparation is doing the homework, hitting the gym, eating right, not partying, practicing. The fun, the glory and the adrenaline is all in playing the game, but the key to winning is doing the prep work, which is work. The game is what you play. The work is what you do to win. Everyone wants to play, but winners do the work. When we were kids it was always “Come out and play!” It was fun, it was no consequences. We did the work when we had to study for tests, and it wasn’t fun, unless you were stu...
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That’s NOT what she said

by Adam Zack — November 29, 2017

Adam Zack

Once funny now offensive, and for good reason.

Most people have seen the TV show “The Office.” One of Michael Scott’s (Steve Carell) famous and most frequently used responses in conversations were “That’s what she said.” A few examples: “Wow, this is really hard.” That’s what she said. “I want you to think about your future with this company. I want you to think about it long and hard.” That’s what she said. You get it – it takes a perfectly legitimate and benign statement and turns it into something sexually related and out of context. I can remember the comment being said going all the way back to the movie Wayne’s World. And it was always funny. The key word is was. Change is good. Change is necessary. Change is inevitable. And let me tell you, change in the workplace environment where jokes and innuendo like “That’s what she said” were funny and happened every single day has come. And it’s come with the publicity and awareness that is almost unprecedented. The lawyers are ready to move in with lawsuits and what might have been tolerated in the past is now on the service and making uncomfortable situations in the workplace reportable offenses. What was once funny is now offensive. And for good reason. The bo...
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Thankful

by Adam Zack — November 22, 2017

Free Beer

I’m thankful every single day. For the blessings, the challenges, the successes and the failures. There’s a gift in every interaction, and something learned from every thing I screw up. Free choice, free speech, free love and free beer. Wait, there’s no free beer. Thanksgiving Day is one to especially reflect on how truly great we have it in America (and Canada, for you Canucks reading along). How lucky we are that we can sit down at our computer or look at our emails on our phone and our biggest worry is that our battery might run out of charge soon or your operating system needs an update. We pretty much have it that good. So as I look forward to Thanksgiving Day with family, friends, food, wine and football, here are 10 things I am especially Thankful for this year.
  1. I learned how to listen, and how not to be pissed when the person I am talking to doesn’t.
  2. It’s OK not to finish books 5 through 7 of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, even though I invested all summer reading books 1-4.
  3. The Simpsons. 28 years and still the funniest dialogue on TV.
  4. That I have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and the insight to know it when it presents itself.
  5. Any
    ...
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Get Out of Jail Free

by Adam Zack — November 14, 2017

Threat of failure looms large

My favorite part of Monopoly is the Get Out of Jail Free card. I could take risks with borderline crazy chances and hunches, and if they didn’t work out and I ended up in the clink I could produce that special card, and voila! No more jail. Not even probation or community service to do! I emerged a free man with a clean record, able to learn from my mistakes and forge ahead exonerated, my record expunged, a twinkle in my eye and an extra bounce in my step. Ah, if only there were such a thing in real life. There isn’t, is there? But wait, I have the power to make things happen and I want my employees to stretch for new ideas, to try different things, to use their creativity and ingenuity to make magic happen for our customers. But you know what? In a lot of companies employees are scared to death to try new creativity. Why? Because the threat of failure looms large and failure is seen by many employees as a jail sentence and they don’t have a get out of jail free card. We even set up the jail analogy by using terms like “probation period” for new workers. So what can you do about it? At your next manager meeting talk about the need for new ideas and the initiative it takes to move them forward. Like a sh...
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