Sunday I was putting up the Christmas lights at our house. There’s a particularly high apex over the garage that I really have to stretch to get the string of lights to. My ladder is 8’, and I am 6’ 1”, so when standing on the top rung of the ladder and stretching my arm up with the light string makes it about 14-15 feet off the ground. It’s fairly precarious, but I’m not scared of heights, so no big deal. Suddenly the ladder shifted and slipped, and I knew I had to move quickly or I would fall, grabbing the clay drain pipe that extends from the house should have helped, however it was not a clay pipe at all, just a styrofoam decorative piece painted to look like clay that broke off in my hand. I moved down a couple steps as I started to fall and was able to avoid the trees below, escaping without injury.It made me think about how, in moments of having to make a split second decision I would react to danger around me when others might be affected. We all talk about taking one “for the team”, and the ultimate example of that was by a Marine in WWII named John D. New from Mobile, Alabama. During the intense fighting against the Japanese on the island of Peleliu, Private New threw himself on a Japanese hand grenade...read more
Weird: of strange or extraordinary character : ODD, FANTASTICI love weird. Weird is unique, interesting, funny, quirky, different. I have two daughters that have pretty much called me weird from the time they could talk. I think it was in the top 10 first words. I’m sure that when I was feeding Holly as an infant, and gave the dog a taste of her baby food, then back to her, she was thinking “This is weird. Am I getting the dog’s food or is the dog getting my food?”Being a weirdo is a badge of pride to me. I don’t want to be the boring old dad that just acts like every other dad. I don’t want to be the brother, son or husband that is predictable, with no spikes on the radar. Weird is fun, and I search out products (like our new Bacon Flavor Lip Balm, Ruth Bader Ginsburg ‘Dissent Mints’ and Mac & Cheese flavored Candy Canes) that will leave an impression on people. It’s a great opportunity for independent retailers to do something that will get people talking, taking photos and sharing with their friends. Weird is youthful energy that I want to mai...read more
Old brands that just didn’t take care of themselves.
There’s a few things that can kill your business overnight. Especially if you’re not a huge corporation. I’m not talking about a physical event like a fire. I’m talking about things you have control over and that the vast majority of independent retailers are diligent about. Overnight killers include food poisoning that emanates at your store. The community finding out you have rats in your storeroom. Or roaches in your kitchen. E-Coli that is traced to your meat department. In 1993 an E-Coli outbreak was traced to undercooked hamburgers at Jack In The Box. Four children under age 10 died from it. Many lawsuits resulted and the company, had they not been so large, most likely would have failed. Chipotle faced similar problems recently, having repeated incidents of food poisoning originating at their stores. Sudden death is almost always preventable. Diligence and care are pretty much all that is needed to keep your store healthy. The real killer of conventional retailers is more like a slow death. Like heart disease, you feel mostly fine. Maybe you get tired a little faster or sometimes don’t feel good, but hey, we’re all getting older, right? Stores like Sears, K-Mart and Dominick’s were old brands that j...read more
All those years of extra effort goes right into the crapper.
It’s all about instant gratification, right? To quote the Ramones “We want the world, and we want it now.” Businesses and employees alike are under the constant pressure to please now. Right now. More and more, what you did last year, last month, last week and even yesterday is forgotten. As a business, we have invested thousands of hours and many years working on the little things that we hope will build a foundation of loyalty with our customers. But with the barrage of alluring messages from competitors, our years of effort depreciate pretty fast. Without constant reinforcement, reminders and exceptional service our customers memory becomes fuzzy and fades to black quicker than ever. You may have the best butcher in town but one disappointment raises an eyebrow. The second casts serious doubts and anything after that you have lost that customer no matter how long you have served the family.Employees seem to have an even shorter leash. For years you have given 100%, sparked innovation and ideas, helped with the evolution of your store and made substantial contributions to sales and profits. But due to the increasing pressure on financials, those years of efforts are m...read more
More about the little things. During our nightly debriefing of how our respective days went, my wife is always sticking ideas out there that she thinks would be good blog topics. So she’s telling me about how she was getting gas (not the fart kind this time) and there was a girl gas station attendant emptying trash. Linda asked her how her day was going, and the girl seemed surprised that someone would care enough to ask how she was doing. She said she was good and sincerely thanked her for asking. They exchanged a few words and the girl said something along the lines of “Well, you know, I’m just a gas station attendant…” As if it had been hammered in by her boss or her boyfriend or someone that she was doing a lowly job which merited no respect, not even by herself.I don’t know about you, but I have been to gas stations where trash is overflowing, windshield squeegee water is filthy, paper towels are out and the bathroom is so disgusting that I hold it until I can find a nearby McDonalds. Oh, how I wished that they just had a gas station attendant. Self- esteem and pride are built by you, the boss. Anyone who feels that they are just an unimportant piece of your organization reflects nega...read more
When we make mistakes, we personally suffer the consequences.
This morning I was at a breakfast and the guest speaker was Captain Brien Dixon, Commanding Office of Naval Base Point Loma (San Diego). It’s a huge responsibility, and he oversees Naval stations throughout the Western United States. (Yes, there are Naval bases in states where there is no ocean). He talked about plans and projects that look not just at the next decade, but at the next 100 years! He is incredibly smart, practical and inspires patriotism. He’s commanded four different submarines all over the world, has a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and is a great family man. Besides all the interesting projects our country is working on (Drone ships that look and appear to be battleships, but are really catamarans), threats to our country (China), and preservation and restoration of beaches from erosion, there was one thing that really stood out to me. He talked about the mistakes others have made, and how we are supposed to learn from them, but in truth that really doesn’t happen. Maybe the smartest people on the planet, of which I am not one of, learn from and study the mistakes of others, but the vast majority of us only learn from our own mistakes. When we...read more
I think I can speak for the group of us when I say that we all love being in a state of calmness. There’s no emergencies going on. We’re relaxed, focused and content. Calm is organized, aware and productive. It’s not distracted or interrupted. Calm comes after a good night’s sleep and isn’t easily distracted. Winners remain calm under pressure, even when the pressure is intense. We all want to remain calm, and want others around us to do the same.I have learned, however, that staying calm is not a piece of advice that can be easily given. Telling someone to “Just stay calm” or “Calm down” usually has the opposite effect. Something along the lines of “Don’t you tell me to calm down! I am calm! YOU calm down!!!!” Calm doesn’t have exclamation points. Ever. So next time you find someone on your team or your family in an obvious non-calm state, the way to get them to calm the F down is by how you behave in the situation. Leaders stay chill under pressure, and the team follows.
It’s good to help, right? People need our help and it makes us feel good to help them. They say, “Thank you, how can I repay your kindness?” We of course defer and say, “No, no, it was my pleasure to help you.” But deep in the blackboard of our mind a mark is tallied, and they now owe us a debt because of our help. When I first heard this analogy last week, I had to step back and really think about it. I always have wanted to help. It feels really good. But does it make the helped feel good? Do they now feel the obligation of owing me one? Something really to ponder. In fact, think of help in terms of The Help. To be referred to as “The Help” immediately conjures up images of a maid, a butler, a driver – some kind of subservient role. No one wants to be referred to as The Help. Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen really nails the subject Helping, Fixing or Serving?I have long had the need to be a fixer. Need advice? I’ll give a solution. Don’t need advice, but just want to talk? I’ll give a solution. Something not working right? I’ll give a solution. I ta...read more
I was talking with a friend yesterday who is in the wine business. Actually, I was tasting some of the wines he sells. And it was before noon. Somebody has to do the hard work. Anyway, I asked him what trends he sees in his business as a wine broker. He talked about the pressures on restaurants and retailers to lower food and beverage cost to make up for the increase in minimum wage here in San Diego. He lamented how it’s tougher and tougher with added pressure to get high quality wines to diners at an affordable price. He went on to tell me of people in the industry he has worked with over the last 25 years and really supported. Company parties at their restaurants, consistently patronizing their business, sponsoring many individuals in their wine education.He had many mutually beneficial long-term business relationships. He mentioned that today, as time has gone on, many of the people forget those past relationships. Memories fade, management changes and some people just seem to have forgotten how they have achieved a level of success with his help. It made me think long and hard about remembering to acknowledge the key figures that got you to your level of outstanding success. Mentors, manage...read more
Sous-chef[ soo-shef; French soo-shef ] the second in command in a kitchen; the person ranking next after the head chef.
We all have sous-chefs in our stores.
The executive chef gets all the credit. They are the big names – Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang. They are the creative face of the brand, the ones ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the restaurant. But it’s the sous-chef who deserves the credit for the prosperity of the restaurant – or deli. They put in the long hours, place the food orders and direct, inspect and insure that what is going on the plate and into your mouth is delicious and consistent every time. It’s like the executive chef is the car – be it an old Nissan pickup or a new Ferrari – and the sous chef is the driver.We don’t give our sous-chefs enough credit. We need to thank, honor and reward them more, for they are the ones doing the work. In your stores, you as the owner are the executive chef. You are ultimately responsible (and on the hook) for successes and failures. When you have outstanding profits, you reap the rewards. When business is tough and profits are down, you absorb them personally. We all have so...read more