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More Than Words

by Adam Zack — June 8, 2017

Mrs. Crabapple got a tough steak.

There are a lot of words and phrases that make you feel great. “Have you lost weight?” “You look fantastic!”; “Man, you’re smart.”; “You just get better looking every day.”; “You’re the nicest person I ever met.” There are lots of them. My favorite though is “I’ve got your back.” The amount of comfort I get from knowing that someone (in fact, more than just one someone) is there for me, no matter what, lets me sleep well at night, be comfortable taking risks and realize that if things get ugly in the trenches some really great people will be right there beside me, fighting my fight with me with as much passion and personal skin in the game as I have. It’s something I don’t take for granted, and know that they know that I’ve got their back too. Every day of every year. It might not be to the extreme of some deeply personal back-watching that you have, but your employees need to know that you have their back. When things get ugly and stressful, their performance will soar if they know that you are there to support their decisions and be on their side. They have to know that just because Mrs. Crabapple got a tough steak or some berries that had mold on them that you won’t be...
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Cheap-O

by Adam Zack — May 31, 2017

Adam Zack

We were taught to be frugal, but not cheap.

My grandparents were raised during the depression, and thus raised my parents while money was always tight. My grandma would drive 15 extra miles to save 10 cents on a head of lettuce. I’m not even kidding one bit. As kids we were taught to spend wisely. Do your research, compare prices, be aware of what you are spending, and don’t go into debt until you buy a house. Pay off your credit cards every month and if you can’t, then don’t buy it. Our dad is a smart spender – always wanting to get the best deal but so generous when it comes to helping others. He likes his fancy neckties, but always gets the best deal on the hotel room. So us kids have paid attention, and taught our kids the same. In fact my brother is so adept at thrifty spending he was the only kid I ever knew who actually came out of college with more money than he went in with. True story. We were taught to be frugal, but not cheap. Cheap is the guy who goes to a party with two 24 ounce beers and drinks a dozen of the ones someone else brought – and leaves with one of the two he did bring. Cheap is the customer who buys the rack of lamb and brings back the bones for a refund– for the 8th time. Cheap is the guy wh...
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Appreciation

by Adam Zack — May 24, 2017

Adam Zack

Routine becomes part of the landscape

The people we see most often are the ones we take most for granted. The little things that happen every day – from that customer who buys a coffee and a muffin every single morning to your spouse who makes sure your work shirts are clean and looks you over to make sure you have no boogers showing before you head to the store. Proximity and familiarity are the easiest thing to take for granted because they’re, well, they’re just there everyday. Routine becomes part of the landscape and you don’t miss that routine until it’s not there anymore. Just like real listening takes effort and thought, your appreciation level needs a kick in the ass every now and then too. It’s the spouse who one day thinks “I’ve been making his coffee every single day for 20 years and he hasn’t even said thanks for at least five. In fact, when’s the last time he even made me a cup of tea?” And the next thing you know the routine is interrupted because the need for appreciation is not met and you’re left scratching your head saying, “What the hell got into her? What did I do?” It’s very similar with our closest customers – the ones who live across the street and around the block. It doe...
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Ponder This

by Adam Zack — May 17, 2017

Interaction is mutually satisfying.

PONDER: to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeplyI’m thinking about how hard it is to be a good listener. I can kind of relate it to the person who wants to eat healthier. You do it for a while, focus and start to see results. Conversations are clearer and more meaningful. Interaction is mutually satisfying. The weight of having to speak and anticipate what your answer should be starts to drop off. You’re feeling good about yourself and those you interact with daily. You’re getting to be a good listener. That’s not so hard, right? Then when you’re getting comfortable, the unexpected double cheeseburger is before you. Just one, right? You listen to the guy explain what’s in the smoothie for breakfast, then you add ice cream (because it’s so delicious). A bag of chips here, Fettuccine Alfredo instead of grilled chicken and salad. Two cookies and a Bailey’s instead of no dessert. Your good intentions, initial success and great feelings are back the way they were not long ago. It’s the same with listening. You make that effort, see results, and then gradually (or sometimes suddenly) slip back into old habits. Becoming a Listening reverts to interrupting, finishing sen...
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Summer Gifts

by Adam Zack — May 10, 2017

Adam Zack

Christmas in July

We all know that gift cards sell during the Christmas holiday season. In fact, they sell like crazy, especially if you’re doing Cyber Monday, which if you aren’t then maybe there’s something else that’s crazy. Grocers have done a good job getting into the gift card business with their own gift cards and also selling national brand gift cards. The idea is that you are now a gift choice. And it helps when customers have an incentive to purchase a gift from you. Which is why Cyber Monday is so successful: It’s an incredible incentive to buy your gift cards. $100 gift card for $75 that I can use for groceries? I’d be a damn fool to say no to that, and my momma didn’t raise no fools, except for my brother Frankie, who has always been a little off. So while we’ve got our participating in the holiday season gift mélange, we have totally ignored the rest of the holidays. Graduation, weddings, birthdays, Mother’s Day… I don’t know of one grocer that promotes their gift cards as an alternative to the standard gift. How about Christmas in July for a one day Cyber Monday like sale? Or how about promoting gift cards to the parents of college freshman who are attending that nearby college for the first time? The oppo...
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What’s For Dinner

by Adam Zack — May 3, 2017

At the top is a pile of money

So tonight I was talking to my youngest daughter Alyssa, who lives in Los Angeles, and she asked, “What should I have for dinner?” I remember that this is a frequent topic in our conversations (A couple weeks ago my suggestion was crispy chicken tacos – a rotisserie chicken, tortillas, cheese, onion, lettuce tomato – so delicious). Tonight she asked, “What about those pork cutlets you used to make, with a squeeze of lemon?” (And a nice, simple arugula salad, I added). Do you use panko breadcrumbs? Is the order flour-egg-breadcrumbs? Being a lifelong grocer and food (and wine, let’s not forget that) aficionado, we cooked dinner pretty much every night. The older daughter Holly, despite an early love of McDonalds (DeeDonalds!! DeeDonalds!!!!) quickly became anti-fast food, which was comforting to me because I knew most high school boys would not know how to handle that. So we cooked and they learned and grew to be talented and instinctive in the kitchen. What triggered tonight’s conversation into a blog topic (Me: I’m going to write my blog about you. Alyssa: Noooooooo!!!!) was that millennial are mostly beyond fast food for dinner but still are searching for what to eat. And, more frequently, wha...
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True Local

by Adam Zack — April 26, 2017

Become personally involved

A lot of hullabaloo has been made about “local” in the last 5 years. Buy local, be local, eat local, shop local, don’t hassle me I’m local, locally grown, locally raised, locally sourced, come on baby, do the local motion. Whole Foods has been a big proponent of local, with photos and stories of local farmers and producers in their stores, even though their headquarters are in Austin, Texas, so their only real local stores are in and around there. It’s a great way to brand your store, feature the little producer, and connect with your community in a way the big chains can’t. But there is an aspect of local branding that goes far beyond signs and products and social media. It’s the aspect of actually, personally being involved with local events and causes. You may not want to attend the PTA fundraiser personally. Just writing them a check or donating food is good enough, right? After all, your name is in the program and on the banner and everyone sees it. Well, almost everyone. Well, some people. But actually attend the event and see how much further your $100 donation goes. Customers will be ardently thankful and vocal about your attendance. They won’t bitch about prices or problems they have had. Th...
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The Price of Trying

by Adam Zack — April 19, 2017

Adam Zack

Be proud of your accomplishments

I harp seemingly incessantly about trying new things. New products, services, personnel relations, advertising methods, blah, blah, blah. And while I’ll go to my grave believing the only constant in the grocery industry is change, very little has been mentioned about how to cope with the results of failed attempted change. I used to work with this know-it-all blowhard that attacked every change I made to the organization. No matter what it was, it was a bad idea that he could do better. Turned out he just had an inferiority complex, but it still resulted in many struggles and battles that were counterproductive at best. Like all wars, there were battles won and lost. Not being a very good loser – actually just hating to lose, not being a bad loser – it affected me personally when one of my new programs failed. I was asked why it bothered me so much. Why did I take every defeat like it was the end of the war? It was business, right? And in the course of business there are dozens of setbacks every single week. The strong leader learns from them and moves forward. But still, that’s the easier said than done part because when we are fully invested in our company, in our project, in our team, every failure t...
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IT IS WHAT IT IS

by Adam Zack — April 12, 2017

“OK, I’m bored with my store’s sandwiches anyway.”

A few years back I worked with a guy who frequently said “It is what it is.” Always kind of bugged me the way he said it, as it implied “Those idiots running the company are going to do what they want, and there’s nothing I can do about it, so I am resigned to just passively make generalized, broad comments about my inability to affect any type of positive change.” And since I was one of those idiots running the company, I took some offense to it. It’s a pretty stupid comment anyway. Of course it is what it is. That’s the definition of it. It IS what IT is. It’s NOT what IT is not.” Duh. It made me think of a much more meaningful, actionable and thoughtful saying: “If we keep on doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep on getting what we’re getting.” Yes there is the need for consistency in most of our procedures, services and operations. Consistency in producing uniform quality. Consistency on operations that positively differentiate you from competition. But consistency of mediocre quality and so-so operations and products results in consistent mediocrity. And your competitors love pouncing on mediocrity.“How’s their deli?”“It’s...
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New Business

by Adam Zack — April 5, 2017

Adam Zack

“My grocery store sucks!”

I was talking with DW the other day and he said “How are new business prospects looking? We are finishing up the major website work and the designers and programmers will be ready for new work.” I had to admit that there was nothing major in the pipeline and I would re-examine my contact list and push ahead with making new ones. The difficulty in attracting new business – any new business – is that the prospective customer has to have at least a little feeling that he has a need for change. And that is particularly difficult in the food business where change is resisted like trips to the dentist and purse strings are pulled so tight. So how do you attract new customers to your store? They need to have a need. (“I’m hungry” or “My grocery store sucks, I need to find a new place to shop.”) They need convenience, a sense of value, appreciation of their new patronage, quality that doesn’t disappoint. What makes it more difficult is that new customers don’t identify themselves usually —they come in unannounced and experience your store and if they have a bad experience then they just don’t come back. You never even knew they were there. It’s one of the reasons great operators use a first rate Myster...
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