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Teach Me, Please

by Adam Zack — November 19, 2015

Oh Wise and Learned One

Oh Wise and Learned One

Once upon a time, I was an impressionable young 15-year-old box boy at my family’s grocery store. I didn’t act like a boss’ kid, and I sure as hell didn’t get treated like it. We had to abide by the rules like everyone else. I can still hear my manager telling me to cut my hair, tighten my tie and for God’s sake stop talking to the service deli girls! I liked my job, really liked the customers and loved the people I worked with. I wanted to learn more, do more, have more responsibility. I was always fascinated with the checkout process and although I was just a lowly boxboy, persuaded one of the cashiers (who I am good friends with to this day) to let me check on her register. We joke now that if the checkstand manager had found out we would have both been fired on the spot. Letting someone check on your register that wasn’t even trained was a definite no-no. Luckily for both of us that endeavor to learn went undetected. She went on to become checkstand manager, then store manager and for the past 15 years or so has been Human Resources Manager with an eagle’s eye out for young boxboys trying to persuade impressionable cashiers to let them check out customers.The point I have ta...
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You’ve Got To Empower

by Adam Zack — November 12, 2015

Find innovative ways to say thank you

Find innovative ways to say thank you

Ok, so last week I talked about why customers leave your business (68% due to employee attitude or indifference, remember?) and how empowering them is the key to the positive attitude and elimination of indifference. I know, I know, it’s an easy thing to say, “Just empower your employees, easy! Done!”, but we are not here to give some blanket statement with no details on how to actually do that. That would be just plain dumb and unhelpful. So, as promised here are some ways to empower (definition: To enable or permit.) your employees to be outstanding, involved, creative honest and caring. 
  1. Give them direct contact to management and owners: The grocery business has traditionally been a top-down management structure. The old “You’ll know what you know when I want you to know it” style needs to be turned upside down. They need to be comfortable to contact you with their honest feedback without fear that they will get in any kind of trouble. Suggestion boxes, email addresses, idea exchange groups and employee involvement committees are simple and effective.
  2. Do an annual employee survey: Really think
    ...
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This Is Me Leaving You

by Adam Zack — November 4, 2015

Indifference Will Make A Difference

Indifference Will Make A Difference

I’ve always been fascinated in lists and statistics. Give me a great top ten list, a funny compilation of the best blonde jokes, and an achievable to-do list and I’m a happy camper. Lists keep me organized, feel good to be checked off and present an appearance of order amidst the chaos. So as I was sorting through a list of topics for future blogs, I came across one of the more relevant lists for our industry: Why do customers leave your business. It makes sense, but I think it is something that we often can’t wrap our heads around because we don’t actually see it happen. Sure, we focus on the numbers: Sales are down this week. Customer count down. Item count down. You gotta do something about this! We need better ads! We need more sampling! And while you’re at it, you need to cut labor spending because sales are down! Well, I’m here to tell you the reasons customers leave – and they don’t announce it with a “Buh-bye! Thanks for nothin’! You won’t be unappreciating my business again!”, they simply don’t come back. They’ll tell friends, but they won’t tell you. 

5 Reasons Customers Leave

  1. 1% pass away
    ...
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When Business Gives You Lemons…

by Adam Zack — October 28, 2015

My mom has a lemon tree.

My mom has a lemon tree.

Enough with the thought provoking blogs for this week. I know we are all here to make money, and once a month, starting now, the topic will be a sales idea that is easy, inexpensive, effective and most of all, profitable. Here’s the back-story: My mom has a lemon tree that produces an obscene amount of Meyer lemons. She brought over a bag, and besides just freezing a few ice cube trays worth (bonus cooking tip! Great way to always have lemon juice on hand!), I decided to look up the recipe for Hot Dog On a Stick Lemonade. Besides the fun of watching the Hot Dog On a Stick girls with the goofy multi-colored hats pogo-ing on their lemon crusher, it really was the best lemonade I’d had. So, sans goofy hat and pogo stick, I googled the recipe and mixed up a batch. Delicious! (even better with vodka!). It was the hit of the day. So I started thinking to myself “Self, how can you make some money with this idea?” Naturally by making a big batch in-store, placing it strategically in the store in cups with a slice of lemon in an ice display, with the straw already in the lid (with the paper covering of the straw still on the top like they do at In-N-Out for sanitary reasons). Have some grea...
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The Awkward Moments

by Adam Zack — October 22, 2015

Your Barn door Is Open

Your Barn door Is Open

Everyone has awkward moments. It’s that point in an encounter when you wonder whether to say something or not to the other person for fear of offending them. Awkward moments include: zipper down (xyz), foul breath, food in teeth, detection of body odor (not the good kind), hanging nasal remnants and undetected hair sproutings. More often than not, we just keep our yap shut and move along. Many times I have been on the other end of these awkward situations, suddenly feeling a breeze and seeing my fly is unzipped and wondering why no one gave the “Barn door open” signal or “Would you like a mint?” or just a nasal pinching and wiping motion. I then wonder Why? Why? Why!? Didn’t anyone tell me my breath was just slightly north or rotting skunk? So I have really tried to be the proactive informer, prefacing the uncomfortably awkward moment with a whispered “I’d want you tell me if our positions were reversed…” Generally, that eases the situation and results in a “Thanks for telling me…”So where is this going as I think that my lunch gave me quite a garlic taste? Well, in our daily business interactions we are confronted with awkward moments with our customers and vendors. W...
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MISSION: POSSIBLE (AND NECESSARY)

by Adam Zack — October 15, 2015

Cornerstone To Success

Cornerstone To Success

A well thought out Mission (or Purpose) statement is something the world’s greatest companies all share. They live their mission and instill it in everything they do. It’s the cornerstone to success. It defines who they are and communicates it to their customers and employees effectively and succinctly.Pop Quiz! Match the companies that correspond to these mission statements: Choose from the list below (correct answers at the very end, but I will be surprised if you don’t get 100%).
  1. BMW, b. Google, c. Starbucks, d. In-n-Out Burger, e. DW Green Co,
  2. Dorothy Lane Market, g. Nordstrom, h. New England Patriots,
  3. i. Tiffany & Co., j. Southwest Airlines
 
  1. To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
  1. To connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.
  1. To make our customers happy by providing Honestly Better® food and service — every time.
  1. To be the world’s most respected and succes
    ...
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You Are Fantastic

by Adam Zack — October 8, 2015

Our people are the greatest asset.

Our people are the greatest asset.

My dad always said, “Our people are our greatest asset.” And it was true. Our people gave the stores personality, dedication and consistency. In fact, the most frequent customer compliments were about employees. It was a time when young people could make a career in the grocery business and the training and development spent were rewarded with years of wonderful service. I don’t think anyone will argue that times are much different now, and that perhaps the greatest challenge facing grocers today is finding quality employees that will be great brand ambassadors. Generation Y has different priorities, goals and work ethic than previous generations. Not that it is a bad thing, it’s just different. Store managers and owners have to learn to evolve their hiring and recruitment practices to appeal to today’s job seekers. That brings me to today’s topic: What to do when you encounter a fantastic employee in your everyday life. One of the easiest, most overlooked and cheapest (admit it, we are grocers and we watch every penny) ways to recruit is to have your business card at the ready to present when you get great service. You’ll see it at Starbucks, In-n-Out, Chick-fil-...
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Enthusiasm Sells

by Adam Zack — October 1, 2015

Enthusiasm is contagious.

Enthusiasm is contagious.

An employee that is excited about your store, or about a new product or promotion is by far the best selling tool there is. The signage can be perfect, the ad just beautiful, the price spot-on, the product a winner, and if executed correctly sales will be good, maybe even great. Add employee enthusiasm to that mix, and BAM! Out of the park! Think of it this way. You can have a crappy to so-so sign, a price that is maybe not ideal and a product that maybe tastes great, but is not so easy on the eyes. Think chipped beef on toast (or SOS as my dad used to call it from his Army days. Stands for S*#@ on a Shingle). Or a bowl of plain refried beans. Not exactly the most appetizing looking foods. BUT, toss in an employee that is just bubbling with excitement about that SOS. One who is informed and actually likes it and can tell the customers just what makes this the best SOS they will ever have. One who is honest and sincere and, well, enthusiastic and you have tripled the sales. Quadrupuled. Maybe even increased them ten-fold, all because of their enthusiastic approach to SOS.So Adam, where do you suggest I find these enthusiastic employees? Pretty easy to say from there at your computer while ...
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Change Revisited

by Adam Zack — September 23, 2015

If you’re not moving forward, you’re standing still.

If you’re not moving forward,
you’re standing still.

DW’s excellent column about conventional wisdom reminded me of the extreme importance of change in the food business. A grocery store is like a shark – it has to keep moving or it will die, literally. The biggest obstacle to change is indeed “conventional wisdom”. It takes strong and visionary leadership to get the old guard to keep innovating and changing to meet the changing needs of our customers. I think if all of us had a buck for every time someone said “Um, well that’s how we’ve always done it” we’d be buying that vacation beach house.I was speaking with a prospective new client yesterday who I have really come to like and enjoy talking to. We were discussing the challenges of getting multiple members of leadership of a store chain to agree and to make decisions that result in some serious changes in their marketing and how much of a chore that is. You can have great ideas and vision, but without anyone buying in and actually implementing change, you only have stagnation. You have status quo. You have conventional wisdom. You may be maintaining your status quo and doing a great job at it, but if yo...
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The Value Of Expertise

by Adam Zack — September 16, 2015

“Hello Haggen, Goodbye Hassle”

“Hello Haggen, Goodbye Hassle”

So I was tossing a baseball around with my brother and he threw it wildly over my head and broke a window. What to do? Of course, I called a plumber. Then I wanted to learn how to make fresh pasta, so I looked around online and signed up for a class on Mexican cooking. Then later I wanted some help with my fantasy football picks so I did some research and found the guy who was the best horse race handicapper in the state! Lucky me! This morning when I was cleaning up the mess the plumber made I fell and broke my finger. Luckily I was able to get an appointment later this afternoon with San Diego’s best proctologist, who I am sure will fix it right up. So what the hell am I talking about? Well, bear with me a bit. With the grocery debacle that is Haggen now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy I wondered how they could fail so spectacularly and so quickly. (For those of you not familiar with Haggen, they were an 18 store Northwest grocery chain owned by an investment firm who agreed to purchase and rebrand 140 Safeway, Vons and Albertsons stores in the Pacific North and Southwest. The first stores were converted this past spring and the sales decline began almost immediately.) Of ...
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