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Loyalty

by Adam Zack — February 21, 2024

Adam

“But loyalty only goes so far…”

loy·al
adjective
giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution.
“loyal service”
How loyal are you? I was thinking about how there are many levels of loyalty. A faithful spouse. A fan of your favorite sports team no matter how bad they are. A brand of automobile. The type of mobile phone you use. Even the type of barbecue you will buy. (I am a loyal Weber man.) The type of beer you drink. But how loyal are you to where you get your food? I think Amazon changed a lot of loyal shoppers because they brought something to the table that was easier, faster and cheaper than brick and mortar stores. We like to think we are loyal to our grocery store, especially if it’s independent and family owned. It’s us against the Krogers, Albertsons and Walmarts of the world, right? We gotta stick together! But loyalty only goes so far and so long unless you are giving your customers the intangibles like super friendly service, cleanliness, selection and quality. You may be a little more expensive, but the opportunity you have to make the connection that can influence generations to come. I saw a young mom and her two year old daughter in my store on Monday. ...
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The Dirty Work

by Adam Zack — February 14, 2024

We may have to do the dirty work ourselves

Every time I go to a public restroom, especially in an airport, sports stadium or busy restaurant, I think that the job of cleaning the bathroom would be the worst job ever. I hate cleaning my own bathroom, and I know the origin of those splatters. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? Not worst because the boss was a dick or it was super low pay, worst because it involved duties that were really disgusting. Back in the 80’s we had a maintenance man/janitor in one store named Jerry Hale. He worked for us until his retirement around 2011. One of Jerry’s monthly duties was to clean out the grease trap in the store. The grease trap captures and holds all the oils and solids that go down the sinks and floor drains. Now for those of you who have never smelled a grease trap when it’s being pumped, think of the very worst fart you have ever smelled and multiply it by ten. There’s a reason that grease traps get pumped at 4:00 in the morning: If your customers smelled that heinous aroma they would not be buying any food from you anytime soon at all.A life-long janitor, Jerry would get down on his hands and knees and scoop out that grease trap by hand, smiling and with a great attitude always. He had lots...
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Perfect Revisited

by Adam Zack — February 7, 2024

And not in the “best of the worst” group.

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.), 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. His son said “But you can’t drive the perfect lap every time.”, to which Ken replied “But I can try.” Be a be...
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Everyone’s Better

by Adam Zack — January 31, 2024

Adam

I would never be able to roll like her…

I learned a long time ago that every single person I know is better than me at something. Someone knows more about football than me. Someone ties their shoes better. Someone makes smashburgers better than me. (But not much better, I’m sure!). Someone is a better leader, a better manager, a better driver and brushes their teeth better. You get the point. I realized this when I was a 21 year old college junior and thought I knew it all. I was going to school in London for a semester in the winter of 1985. My roommate and I decided to take a bus to Edinburgh, Scotland for the weekend. The bus ride was one of those red-eye trips that left at something like 10:00 at night and arrived early the next morning. We were the last passengers to board the bus and there were only a couple single seats left. I sat next to this girl and Jeff sat further back next to some old lady. It was about 1:00 a.m. when the girl I was next to pulled out a pouch of tobacco and some rolling papers and rolled a cigarette right there on the bus. She was ready to light it (yes, on the bus!) and asked me if I wanted one. I didn’t smoke much – only sometimes late at night after too many pints at the pub – but I said, sure. I watched her ...
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Timeless Wisdom

by DW Green — January 31, 2024

“The cause of my irritation is not in this person but in me.”

In the mid-twentieth century, there was an Indian Jesuit priest named Anthony de Mello. Born in Bombay when it was still under British control, de Mello was an amalgam of many different cultures and perspectives: East, West; he even trained as a psychotherapist. It’s interesting when one sees timeless wisdom develop across schools, across epochs and ideas. Here is a quote from de Mello’s book, The Way to Love:“The cause of my irritation is not in this person but in me.”Remember, each individual has a choice. You are always the one in control. The cause of irritation—or our notion that something is bad—that comes from us, from our labels or our expectations. Just as easily, we can change those labels; we can change our entitlement and decide to accept and love what’s happening around us. And this wisdom has been repeated and independently discovered in every century and every country since time began.This wisdom or insight came to me quite unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago. I had been bemoaning my elder* brother’s negativity. It was making my conversations with him challenging, frustrating and well, just plain irritating. Then out-of-the-blue, I real...
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Health Checkup

by Adam Zack — January 24, 2024

Keep the body that is your business strong…

Like everyone, as we get old (but hopefully not too long winded) we require more maintenance. The warranty has long run out and instead of just changing the oil and putting the pedal to the metal like we did in our 20s we regularly need to be poked, prodded, scanned and tested. Colonoscopy? Sounds fun. Blood tests? Sign me up. CT scan? Why not. How about a little cosmetic surgery to nip that turkey neck or relieve those bags under the eyes. Why not? We care more about our health as we get longer in the tooth because, well, we are more likely to have a breakdown or failure. We want to maintain this bag of bones because we want to get 20 more summers out of it, right? Health care is expensive, but while we can still bitch about that part, it’s still vitally important to our survival. Our business is getting older just like us, and I just don’t see the checkups being done on it like we do on our bodies. Is our employee turnover too high like our blood pressure? Are the wrinkles of age on our equipment and decor 10 years past when the facelift should have been done. We all measure sales every day, kind of like brushing your teeth or stepping on the scale weekly, but how much sales increase is inflation? The rea...
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Today’s Leader

by Adam Zack — January 17, 2024

Plato felt that the most important qualification for a leader is to not want to be a leader.

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 ending 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 a...
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Be Present

by Adam Zack — January 10, 2024

“It’s easy to get distracted and not give 100% of your attention to who you are interacting with.”

My wife and I made the deal that when we go out for dinner or lunch we put our phones away. Usually in her purse, not just upside down on the table. It’s a way for us both to be fully present and not distracted by texts or calls or checking social media or sports scores. It’s worked out really well, except one time when we finished eating and saw we both had about 15 missed calls because one of the ovens blew up at our market. Being fully present in all your human interactions takes effort and determination. It’s so easy to get distracted and not give 100% of your attention to who you are interacting with. In fact, I’d say the majority of the time we aren’t 100% present in our relationships. I was watching the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “The Last Dance” about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls and their incredible run of 6 NBA championships in 8 years. An amazing feat. What really caught my attention was reporter Mark Vancil’s explanation of what made Michael Jordan the greatest competitor and basketball player of all time. He said “His gift was that he was completely present. And that was the separator.” Michael Jordan’s ability to be complete...
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I need you MORE

by Adam Zack — January 3, 2024

Adam

“I need you more than you need me.” Said the CEO of a nearly $100 million dollar company to the new hire.

As the new year comes and the old year goes, I always reflect back on things that have made an impact on my life. My birthday is January 3, so besides the new year, turning another year older makes me appreciate the people in my life and how fortunate I am. Five years ago I flew to Ohio to meet Norman Mayne, owner and CEO of Dorothy Lane Markets in Dayton. There was no real urgent business reason to go. I just wanted to meet the man I had heard and read so much about over the years and see his stores. It was a day and a half I will never forget, and enriched my life and improved my leadership skills immensely. I wrote this blog after I returned from Ohio in January 2019.“I need you more than you need me.” Said the CEO of a nearly $100 million dollar company to the new hire. And the new hire was a courtesy clerk. A box person. And he meant it. Now I am sure you are thinking that this is some kind of crazy dream I had after a big meal of spicy Asian food. Or some kind of fabled story out of a motivational book that no one has ever actually seen done. Real life CEOs don’t say that to the new hires, right? Heck, CEOs rarely even co...
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Words Matter

by Adam Zack — December 27, 2023

Adam

“Working together to nourish our community, our families and each other.”

On Christmas night after everyone went to bed, including the dog, I sat at the dining room table of my daughter’s house in Los Angeles talking with her husband Morgan. Ever since he asked my permission to propose to her about nine years ago, as we stayed up late talking and drinking Cognac, we have kind of made it a tradition every time we get together. We stay up when everyone else has turned it, talking about everything from family, politics, sports, and especially business. Monday night as we sat there talking (and drinking Amaro, not cognac) we veered to the subject of intentionality, and how important it is to a business’ success. I told him the story of the creation of my grocery store in San Diego’s Vision Statement, and how every single word in it had meaning and intention. It was a process that involved our Leadership Coach John Wood (https://www.lovingpower.com) and three members of our senior management team. We went through dozens of iterations over about six months, finally agreeing on one that we thought was powerful, showed what we strive to be every day, and most importantly, had clear intention....
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