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The Path of Least Resistance

by Adam Zack — August 16, 2017

Woulda-Shoulda, What-If and Almost

Man my objective in life is to get where I want to go the quickest and easiest way possible. You get to the goal line and say “Man, that was easy! I planned it perfect. The path of least resistance was so simple to navigate.” Yeah, like that ever happens. In fact, when you do achieve an objective with relative ease, the thought is more like “Damn, I was lucky.” The path of least resistance (POLR) goes with the flow, cuts corners and requires the minimum amount of effort. Many solid “C” report cards, 2nd to-last place teams and also-rans took that path. Woulda-Shoulda, What-If and Almost are famous stops along Route POLR. The natural tendency for anyone is the POLR. Not that it’s always the lazy way to go. Crossing the street, riding the train and tying your shoes all benefit from taking the easy route, but the substantial goals in our lives – winning competitions, making inventions and changing the world never seem to follow the POLR. The real road to success is littered with I Trieds, Maybe Next Times and It Was Too Hards. Achievement takes work, and work, well, is work. How many times have I said to myself (and other who have been around to hear me bitch) “CAN’T ANYT...
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Don’t take it personally

by Adam Zack — August 9, 2017

Adam Zack

Criticism never feels good

I think we have all had an encounter with the person who says “Don’t take this personally, but…” and goes on to say something that is not good. Could be the style of your hair, their comment on your aroma or a change in relationship – personal (It’s not you, it’s me.) or business (We’ve made some budget cuts and decided to go in another direction.) For me, it’s always personal. Criticism never feels good, no matter how constructive it is. I had this guy I worked with who was a real barb (sorry Barb, I don’t mean you) in the ass. If I said white, he said black. Up was down and smart was stupid. He said “You shouldn’t take it personally, I don’t.” Well, I do. Decisions and work made with thought and planning are inherently yours, and that’s personal. It’s impossible not to take things you are invested in personally. After all, you personally decided on your course of action and made your best effort. Business criticism and change is just as difficult for the company that is invested in the success of their customer. When they win, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. When they criticize your work negatively, it’s very difficult not to take it as an affront to your competency. An...
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The Power of the Compliment

by Adam Zack — August 3, 2017

Examine the words you use and how you deliver them.

Knives, swords and guns are powerful weapons, no doubt. Wars have been fought, won and lost because of the weapons deployed. The bigger knife, bigger gun, bigger bomb usually wins the war. But it’s words and gestures that are the most powerful weapon when it comes to starting, or ending, a fight. An insult can, and has, started a war. Calm words have prevented them. So when it comes to power to influence and change things, start by examining the words you use and how you deliver them. Customers can be convinced to shop at your store simply due to the words you use and how you market them. Spell things wrong, use terrible grammar, be unimaginative and the chances of you persuading someone to look your way are drastically reduced. It follows suit with existing employees and customers – the words you say and how you deliver them can make or break the relationship. Compliments freely and thoughtfully delivered will inspire loyalty and appreciation. “You look great today, Miss Jones”, “Have you lost a little weight Bob?” “You did a fantastic job closing last night, Bill” are all simple things to say that are often not spoken. And the impact they make can help win the war. The grea...
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Make the Most of Your Time

by Adam Zack — July 26, 2017

“Make the most of all you have left”

I know I’m not the only one who has a major problem with the passage of time. I just looked at the calendar and realized that we are nearly SEVEN months into 2017. That’s right. Summer’s winding down, fall’s around the corner, football season is barely a month away, Dodger and Astro fans are planning for the World Series and turkey orders are due. Holy guacamole. L.A. Times columnist Chris Erskine put the value of time in a unique perspective. He likened his life to how many summers he has left. The best time of the year (unless you live in Palm Springs. Or Phoenix) goes by so fast. BBQs, beach, no school, cold beers on warm days. Summer is just the best. And how many do you actually get? Maybe 80 or 90 total in your life. Only about 40 or 50 that you really can savor and enjoy. I figure I have maybe 20 great summers left. When I think of it that way it’s humbling and scary. Don’t have wasted days that you can never get back because of feuds or grudges. Make the most of all you have left, because before you know it the kids are off to college and summers spent together turn into a few days each summer together. Knees start to wear out, hips get broken and then boom, no...
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Indispensible

by Adam Zack — July 19, 2017

Adam Zack

“take the time to think of your key players “

A very long time ago the key management personnel of my family’s small grocery chain planned a revolt. They schemed and organized, whispered and planned and spread terrible untrue rumors. Then came the ultimatum to my dad: “Sell us two of the stores or we walk! We’re out of here and you will die a miserable death.” So they thought. Mind you this was the general manager, a store manager, the grocery buyer, the accounting manager and the bakery production manager. Gulp. My dad gave me a call and said he needed me to come to work for the company. Being in San Diego, 24 years old, heading into summer and with a steady girlfriend for the first time in my life of course I thought of myself. But just for a minute. Blood is much thicker than seawater. I went to work for him, they all left (except for one – the bakery production manager, thank you baby Jesus) and we went to work figuring out what they all actually did. It was scary and some things were hard, but you know what? Nearly 30 years later the company has grown, prospered and provided solid livings for our family of loyal employees. Those guys thought they were indispensible. They were not. This is where the flip side of the story comes i...
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Do You Speak My Language?

by Adam Zack — July 12, 2017

Adam Zack

“What are you crazy?”

The majority of American business leaders in the past have spoken one language – English. The ability to be bi-lingual, or better yet multi-lingual, was held by very few company leaders. If they needed to speak another language they could bring in a translator, right? But in today’s business climate the need to be multi-lingual is more important than ever. An effective leader has to communicate concisely with everyone in the organization – from the front line to the CFO. But damn, how the hell am I going to learn another language? I work 60 hours a week and don’t have time to take classes, not even the Rosetta Stone courses. And that’s just to learn one more language! You’re talking multi, which is out of the question. What are you, crazy?! Relax hombre, I’m not talking about you mastering Spanish or getting down on your French. Calmez vous! I’m talking about effectively communicating to all of the different levels of employees in your store. Of course it’s all in English, but do you think the same memo that goes to middle managers and courtesy clerks is as effective with both? More than ever leaders need to focus on the level of employees that they are trying to communicate with. The goals are ...
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You have a story to tell

by Adam Zack — July 5, 2017

Adam Zack

Where the owner greets me…

I just spent the past several hours with the owner of a couple stores in Northern California. His stores focus on super fresh foods, community, locally sourced produce, employees and family. The stores are very well run and would be my neighborhood store if I lived in the area. One of those places where the owner greets me “Hey Big A, how’s it hanging? Too bad your Chargers sucked it again this week. Maybe they will have better luck in L.A.!” Whereby I could say “F-you pal! You’re Niners aren’t much better.” We could have a laugh and talk about what local farmer had brought in to the produce department today. So why does this particular grocer even need any help from us at DW Green? Because he has stories, LOTS of stories to tell that will differentiate him from the competition. Stories of how he invested in a farm that grows for his store and how he helped plant the crop and brought it to his stores. How a chicken farmer brought him his first air chilled, organic chicken and after he roasted it took all the other chicken out of his store. How he infuses his signature tri-tip roast with a blackened seasoning that is made in such small batches by a little company that sometimes they run out and a new b...
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The Freshman

by Adam Zack — June 28, 2017

New jobs and the start of careers are scary endeavors

I remember just before my freshman year in high school my friend, who was a year older and going to be a sophomore, told me harrowing stories of how freshman were despised, ridiculed and stood somewhere between dog crap and an ant’s ass on the high school pecking order. I was warned not to ever sit in “Senior Square”, look an upperclassman in the eye or draw attention to myself in any way. All the girls were out of my league and the guys who had facial hair loved to beat up freshmen. Well it didn’t exactly turn out like that, although it was a little intimidating and more than a little scary. Whenever I went from one school to another or one school level to another there was some fear of the unknown. I think we tend to think about our graduating seniors – especially college – as having made the major accomplishment with the expectation that they are done and ready. In reality, graduating college (and high school for those who choose not to attend college) students are really freshmen in life. New jobs and the start of careers are scary endeavors that are not always put in perspective, especially by parents who have paid for all this schooling and have high expectations. Further...
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Fish Story

by Adam Zack — June 21, 2017

It’s not the fish, it’s the story

Some of the greatest stories are fish stories.  Tales from your grandpa how he hiked up to 20,000 feet with just a pole and a bag of jerky to fish in this remote lake where the fish were rumored to be six feet long and could swallow your arm if you got too close.  Dadgummit if he didn’t land that beauty, which fed the whole family for two winters.  There was a lot of exaggeration, but there was a day when grandpa went fishing (5,000 feet, and he drove there) with his pole (and a six pack) and fished all day and caught some nice sized fish (12-14”), which in fact were tasty and did feed the family (one meal, except for baby Matt, who didn’t like fish yet).  The point is not the fish, it’s the story.  All of our stores have stories – great stories.  All they need to get the customers attention is to be told in a way that is interesting and compelling. Recently I was at a presentation by Jim Donald, former CEO of Starbucks, Haggen (he brought it to life and it was sold to the group that wrecked it), Extended Stay America and others.  He is known for his ability to turn failing companies around significantly. His first rule is “Have a fish story.  Something you can tell your customers that t...
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Over-deliverance

by Adam Zack — June 13, 2017

Adam Zack

“How can I give more than 100%?”

110%All that and then someWith whipped cream, a cherry and sprinkles on topWay under par (golf)Raised the barAbove and beyondOver the topAll are terms for over delivering. But with expectations higher than ever, it is harder than ever to over deliver consistently. Maybe too many people over delivered too often. Or maybe the amount of effort to over deliver is just not being expended. I was recently at a food convention where hall of fame basketball player Magic Johnson was a guest speaker. He spoke of how his personal and business goal was always to over deliver. In high school he brought a state championship to a school that had never achieved one. In college he helped Michigan State become national champions over a highly favored, undefeated Indiana team. As a professional basketball he led the Lakers to an NBA championship over Philadelphia after team leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got hurt and was out. He was telling the other players that they could beat Philly, but the important part was over delivering in his role, scoring 42 points in the final game. Most importantly, and most relevant to us, as I don’t see any of you out there leading your basketball tea...
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