Leading by the way you live gives you credibility and integrity.
You lead by the way you live. I love that saying. It’s like the [true] cliche. “You can’t talk the talk if you don’t walk the walk.” As a leader, what you do matters and is closely watched and scrutinized by your peers, employees and associates. You can’t initiate a healthy lifestyle program for your company while you are supersizing your Big Mac combo and burning through a pack of cigarettes a day. Leading by the way you live gives you credibility and integrity. And integrity is inspiring and contagious. We have to apply that integrity to the companies we do business with as well. Business relationships that don’t at least partially align with your core values need to be examined closely. After all, you are partners, and good partners always have an interest in each other’s success. It should always be a matter of pride that you do business with suppliers and firms that make you successful. You should be able to brag about it. The day that you would rather not disclose a business relationship for fear that your customers would [correctly] not approve is the day you need to find a new partner.
Great leaders have the instinct and ability to make everyone they lead feel special.
Grocers not only are essential workers as classified by the pandemic guidelines, they are essential for everyone to live and eat every day, crisis or not. It’s stressful work being on the front lines and coming in proximity of hundreds (or thousands, depending how big your store is) of customers every day you work. We reward them with extra pay, gift cards, pizza, donuts and words of encouragement and thanks. Those things matter to them, without a doubt. Thank yous go a long way, but the words you use to personalize the thanks and praise can make a lasting impact that “Thanks for your hard work” or “Good job!” can never do. Last week my boss DW (also my friend and mentor) called to specifically thank me for my efforts. His words were very specific and very personal. He touched on my talents and contributions and just how sincerely he was grateful to work with me. It was humbling and gratifying at the same time, and I’d be lying if I said it did not bring me to an emotional level that made my eyes well up with tears. Words matter. Our employees are not one-size-fits-all. Great leaders have the instinct and ability to make everyone they lead feel s...read more
Multitasking is not a positive trait for a great leader
I always thought multitasking was a positive thing. I’m so good I can read emails, talk on the phone and clip my nails at the same time. I can feed the dog, watch TV and bake cookies all at once. I can drive and text and listen to music while also scratching that itch on my foot. It’s a great thing to be able to do multiple things at once, right? It’s efficiency. It saves time. And it’s never boring, right? About six months ago I was going through emails and talking to DW at the same time. Somehow it came up in the conversation that I was multitasking. Wasn’t I a good employee, being able to do several things at once! He stated that he wasn’t a fan of multitasking. I didn’t understand why, nor was I present enough in the conversation to ask, but it did stick with me.It wasn’t until a recent Heart of Leadership conference that I finally learned why multitasking is not a positive trait for a great leader. The instructor pointed out that when you are doing multiple things at once, nothing gets 100%. In fact, it’s impossible. I can’t be a good listener if I am doing something else. I can’t effectively solve problems, or do my best work when I am not 100% present ...read more
So all us grocers have been unbelievably busy these past six weeks. Duh. Grocery, meat & produce sales are WAY up. Customer counts are down because other non-essential people aren’t working around you. (It must make them feel bad to be considered non-essential, right?) No lunch business for the deli, salad bar, hot food bar and the like. But basket size has doubled and tripled. It’s kind of like the old days when people would come in and shop for the week. You have been their trusted source for feeling safe while they buy provisions to feed the family. Their nerves are a little frayed and irritability is high as stir crazy starts to set in, but you are their refuge. For some, besides taking the dog for a walk, it’s their only outing. Despite fears from your own employees, they have stepped up in a brave way. Offering behind the mask smiles, greetings and human interaction that won’t be forgotten. One day (please baby Jesus, make it soon) they will be able to resume most of their shopping patterns of the pre-Covid-19 days. But you will be on their mind as a hero and real first-responder, and that inspires some loyalty. The key is to keep them coming back. Plan promotions and sales now. Have them in the playbook and ready to launch a...read more
As we head into the sixth week of the new normal with Covid-19, I have been reflecting on the increased mental and physical stress for pretty much all of us has risen. Like everyone, I miss the interactions of normal life. For the workers who have to stay home, those daily conversations about movies, TV, music and hobbies leaves a void. One of the greatest joys in my life is laughing. That good old deep belly laugh when I see or hear something funny. Now with everyone wearing masks you can’t even tell if someone’s smiling! So I was thinking about a moment in my life that happened that every time I think of it I can’t help but smiling.I was about 19 and would go down to Rosarito, Mexico with my brothers and dad because my youngest brother would ride in motorcycle races. We’d camp on the beach and eat tacos and just hang out. They were fun guys’ trips. One day my brother Mike and I were walking down the beach and these two girls were walking towards us, one clearly more attractive than the other. As they got closer, I turned to Mike and said “Mine’s cute, yours is kind of fat.” He responded right away “She’s not that fat.” Cracks me up every time.Here’s a couple more tha...read more
I’m a member of a charitable community club called the Optimists. It mainly consists of a bunch of funny old retired dudes that raise money through dues and events to help the youth in our community with scholarships and school support. Good guys doing good things. So with everyone staying at home, there are no weekly meetings, the annual fundraiser was cancelled and all these old dudes are just staying home and having cocktails. One had the idea for Optimist members to share the story of your first job. I love storytelling and know that telling the story of your stores is the key to differentiation. It made me think and reflect and I hope it does the same to you.My first real job was a dishwasher at a family owned Italian restaurant called Sala’s near Lake Arrowhead. The minimum age to work at our grocery store was 15 ½, so I’d have to wait six months to begin my illustrious career as a bagger. I was 15 and it was 1980, so my parents had to drive me to work and pick me up. I was saving for my first car, and they were incredibly supportive. Great parents. I’d work Thursday and Friday nights until about 10:30, and Saturday I had a day shift making pizza dough and forming the crusts for the upcoming week. I made $2.15 per hour. Like most act...read more
My wife and I are so boring. We have our daily routine. Just the word routine sounds boring. Unexciting. Uneventful. Blah. Our evening routine consists of me getting home from work about 6:15. I pour us a drink, we have a sit down and have our “debriefing”, which consists of talking about how our days went, what’s up with the family, etc. We then cook dinner (always something delicious, after all we are in the gourmet food business), clean up, watch one of our programs (currently Homeland, Top Chef, Better Call Saul and Ozark), then wrap it up with maybe a little Sports Center with Scott Van Pelt and head to bed. 5:40 the next morning, the start to the routine begins again. But we love our routine. And during this Covid thing, it’s pretty much the only part of our day that’s normal. Masks and distancing, product sourcing, sanitizing, accommodating and protecting. Nothing’s routine in the grocery business today. I miss hugs. I miss handshakes and high-fives and fist bumps. I miss pats on the back and standing closer than 6 feet to you. I miss normal, routine, boring. And I think, in fact I know, our customers do too. As we get a handle on our business operations, I think it’s important to get back to our rout...read more
May leadership be for you a true adventure of growth.
These days the heroes are medical personnel and first responders, sanitation workers, transportation workers and the teams that keep our grocery stores running. Forget celebrities, athletes, politicians, and business titans. We are down to the necessities to get through Covid-19 and you are the leaders who will get your communities through this. But being a leader who is also a hero comes with great responsibility. You have to provide wise answers and direction to your customers and especially your staff. You need to think of the “what ifs” and have a contingency plan for every scenario. Like I said, it is a great responsibility. The best, most impactful words about leadership I have ever had were given to me a couple years ago at a course called Heart of Leadership by the always thoughtful and wise Amba Gale. I think it’s just the right time to share it with you all.“For A Leader” by John O’DonohueMay you have the grace and wisdomto act kindly, learningto distinguish between what ispersonal and what is not.May you be hospitable to criticism.May you never put yourself at the center of things.May you act not from...read more
Dear Fellow Grocers. This is very impactful.WISDOM FROM MR. ROGERSRemember Fred Rogers’s famous advice: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.‘“ We are the helpers.As stress levels and uncertainty remain high during this Covid-19 crisis, it’s very important to let your workers know that the work they are doing is extremely important to our communities. Without the grocery stores, the soul and backbone of every great community, there would be chaos. Without the comfort of knowing that the families can come to you and find a calm and confident staff willing to help, the crisis would be unbearable. For “thinking outside the box” and taking precautions such as passing out disposable gloves, for taking extra sanitizing procedures and doing everything in your power to remain the seemingly one thing that even has a slight resemblance to normal, here’s to you. Cheers, my friends.Special thanks to my wonderful wife who got this Mr. Rogers quote and sent it to me with a note: “Made me think of...read more
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
I’ve never liked the phrase “Think outside the box”. It’s such a cliche. For business leaders and innovators there is no box. There is no border. The limits are only what physically and realistically is impossible. There are lots and lots of “no box” independent retailers. They rock. There are also lots and lots of conventional grocers who operate within the box. Their stores literally are a box with long aisles and hard borders. During this unprecedented COVID-19 coronavirus times, the no-box guys are finding ways to keep products on the shelves and the box guys are bemoaning the shortages on their orders from their wholesalers. Last week, one very sharp operator in Northern California told me he met with his team and planned for what was coming. He told them to not just have a plan B, but to have a plan C and D. What can you substitute for the products that are in short supply or out of stock?A huge resource is the companies that supply restaurants – Sysco, US Foods, Shamrock – and many others. They carry many retail adaptable products – pasta, toilet tissue, paper towels, juices. And eggs. Yeah, they sell them in cases of flats with 36 eggs on each flat – but you can sell the whole flat, or cut them ...read more