Apparently last week’s blog got a little too descriptive. And I didn’t think there was such a thing! Lesson learned: When it comes to farts, bodily functions and pimples, detailed descriptions are not needed. Everyone just knows what you’re talking about with a few brief descriptors.So, I think one of the underappreciated things in business, and in life, is experimentation. It’s not the safe route, and the outcome is the opposite of certainty. If there’s something you want to change, experimentation with different options can usually lead to ways to make that change you need. Or it just may be a change you want, but don’t necessarily need. Now I’m not talking mad scientist kind of experimentation like Dr. Brown in Back to the Future, or the “Hey, let’s see what happens when we take mushrooms and drink a bottle of Jack Daniels” experimentation. I’m talking more practical experimentation like if we make the ad signs a different color what does it do to sales? Or if we tweak our ad pricing strategy, what are the possible results. Or if we don’t respond when someone makes a statement, does the conversation turn uncomfortable? I maintain that “I know!” and “Yeah, I know” are...read more
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. 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 four. That’s the reason 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 of gross job duties: Clean the bathrooms? No problem. Kid puked on aisle 2? Page Jerry. Old man with diarrhea on the froz...read more
It’s 6:00 a.m. Wednesday morning and I was resigned to not getting a blog done this week. In fact, I asked DW for a pass. The National Grocers Association is in town, coupled with Harold Lloyd’s M4 Marketing share group left not much time to think about writing. That changed at 5:00 this morning.I grew up in the mountains of Southern California. We had beautiful summers and snow in the winter. Sometimes a lot of snow. My dad wanted to be able to get us out of the snow occasionally on weekends, so he bought us a mobile home in Desert Hot Springs, near Palm Springs. Single-wide in a trailer park called Sam’s Family Spa. There were hot tubs, a swimming pool and an arcade with air hockey. Between riding our bikes, playing baseball (more like pickle or monkey in the middle), it was a pretty charmed life for a 6th grader. One weekend we were at the pool and I saw my 6th grade teacher Mrs. Johnson. She was with some other teachers at the pool. And the school vice principal was one of them! She wore a bikini and was drinking beer. And she was smoking. Smoking! It was big news in 6th grade. Teachers didn’t wear bikinis. And for sure they didn’t smoke cigarettes. When I got back to school on Monday my ...read more
How’s it been maintaining your company standards? It was easy (OK, not easy, but easier) 20 years ago to set your standards for employee appearance and store presentation. Shirts had to be tucked in, cleaned and pressed, top buttons buttoned, neckties knotted neatly and pulled tight. Hair worn back for the ladies, cut above the ears for the guys. No piercings other than the ears or visible tattoos. You shaved clean every day, were at your workstation at your scheduled times and clocked in and out for your scheduled breaks and lunches punctually. Cell phones were left in your car or locker. The store entrance was clean, neat and clutter free. Shelves were faced (double faced), cans turned labels facing out. Every day was “Grand Opening” day. The bar was set and compromises lowered the bar, and once lowered, there’s no going back, right? Just laying that all out evokes visions of “The good old days” when the “my way or the highway” style of management worked, and worked well.Recently I was visiting with Dorothy Lane store manager Dennis Chrisman. As we walked the store I saw one of his employees, behind the deli counter, take a sip of Starbucks type coffee drink. Visualizing the ...read more
Good operators have their finger on the pulse of their operation.
My notes show that this is Blog number 200, and man does that make me feel old and long winded. 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 al...read more
Great leaders find a way to humanize their toughness.
My daily commute involves a one-hour train ride each way. I get comments on how long that is or how I must hate the long days. I actually really love it. Leave home at 6:15 in the morning and walk in the door at home at 6:15 at night. It’s a great routine. So besides just sitting there looking at the California coast, I use my commute time to catch up on old TV series that I want to re-watch. It’s Sopranos right now, but before that it was Breaking Bad.There was one scene where Walter White was buying the carwash [so he can launder the drug money] from this bushy eyed Romanian named Bogdan. When he’s handing over the keys, Bogdan tells Walt that to be the boss, you have to be tough, and he doesn’t think Walt is tough enough (little did he know). Sometimes, when you’re the boss, you have to be the bad guy. You have to be the a-hole. And for most of us being the tough guy doesn’t come naturally.I know you know plenty of very successful business people who are ruthlessly tough. It seems the only thing they really care about is making sure that first nickel they made stays polished. They are successful, in a monetary wealth way, because of their toughness. The ...read more
The greatest fear I ever felt in my life happened about 15 years ago. I was babysitting my two nephews one weekend. They were about 8 and 6 years old. I lived in Palm Desert, California, so the weather was either nice or hot. It was warm enough to swim, and I had a pool and spa. With the back doors open, the boys were running around pretty much being boys. I had girls, so was not quite used to full-speed all the time and volume up to 11 that comes with boys.One second they were there, and the next I couldn’t find them. I go out to the pool and spa, and there at the bottom of the spa is my oldest nephew. I did not freeze in terror. I jumped in fully clothed and grabbed him, thinking ahead to my next steps of CPR and calling 911. I pull him up and the little bastard blinks, looks at me and tells me he was just holding his breath and playing. He still laughs about it today. Fear sometimes causes us to act, but more often in everyday non-emergency situations, fear causes us not to act. But what would you do if fear was not an option and it was OK to fail? You might think most people would haphazardly go about making carefree, spontaneous choices. What do they have to lose, it’s OK to fail, right? I d...read more
This is a true story. Monday was Martin Luther King day and last night I had a dream. I had a very realistic dream. It was so meaningful to me, I got up and typed out the bullet points on my phone so I would not forget my dream. I didn’t want it to go to the black hole where most of my other dreams go. I wanted to remember my dream so that I could share it with my fellow grocers so that maybe one or two might turn my dream into a reality. I had a dream. In this dream I was with my children and my mother at a big river. My children were not being ideal children. They were not grateful to be at the river and they were not appreciative of the blessings that they had in life that day. My mother apologized for their poor attitudes – like it was her fault – and offered to take them home. I was upset, and I asked her to make them think about the good things they had in their life and to trace them back to where they came from.Those were the exact words in my dream. Trace it back. I really started to think about it and it struck me that to be truly appreciative of our good things, we need to trace them back to the origin. Do our blessings originate from luck? From hard work? By chance? It ...read more
“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 come in contact with new hires at all. So many company leaders I have seen over the years champion “Our employees are our greatest asset!”, meanwhile their actions tell a different story. The bottom line is more important than any employee. Management bonuses take precedence over the associates that are toiling in the trenches.The “big picture” always excludes the “little guy.” It’s the norm in most businesses, and businesses have been very successful doing it that way for centuries. That is why I was awestruck as Norman Mayne, owner and CEO of Dorothy Lane Markets in Dayton, Ohio told me his philosophy on his employees. He explained that although they may need the job, they really don’t need him. They ca...read more
The way a lot of people get their thrills has changed so much over the past decade. Make that several decades. I remember being a really little kid – maybe 7 years old – and played at my best friend Scott’s house every day after school. We’d played with Hot Wheels and made forts and tormented his bratty sister. One day we came across his dad’s stash of Playboy magazines. Holy guacamole! I’d never seen anything like that! They were interesting (not the articles) and exciting. When my mom and step-dad got married I was looking around for something one day and I came across one of his Playboy magazines. Oooh la la. Right there in the night stand. I just figured that all men liked the magazine for both the sweet honeys and the articles. I never gave it much more thought until last week when I heard someone talking about food porn. Man, I thought, I am definitely addicted to food porn. And I’m a very discerning, but quick to criticize food pornagrapher.A picture of butternut squash stuffing on a bed of lentils? Dog food. Looks terrible. Get the lighting right, and for God’s sake man, show me love! The money shot for great food makes you salivate for a taste. It makes you say “Oh man! That looks SO GOOD! It ma...read more