Company Blog

The Axe

by Adam Zack — April 24, 2019

Adam Zack

It’s not how hard you chop, it’s how effective your chopping is.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham LincolnOne of my favorite teaching stories is the one about the woodcutter who got a new job and really wanted to impress his boss.Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter asked for a job with a timber merchant and he got it. The pay was really good and so were the work conditions. He really liked his new boss and the company. For those reasons, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees. “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!” Very motivated by the boss’ words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he could only bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees. “I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked. “Sharpen? I had no t...
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The Massage

by Adam Zack — April 17, 2019

Simple communication is something we just can’t take for granted.

My dad has always loved a good back rub. The stress of running a grocery store would build up and his back and neck muscles would tighten. He’d ask me or my brothers to occasionally rub his back. But he never got professional massages until we were grown. And I don’t mean a Robert Kraft-style professional massage. When we started going to food shows – FMI in Chicago or Fancy Food in San Francisco, we got the idea to get massages in the hotel spa. The stores were successful and running smoothly, and the indulgence of a professional masseuse was well deserved. We were at the Omni hotel in San Francisco, each in separate massage rooms. I had a female masseuse and about half-way through the rub down she started crying. I kid you not. I hadn’t said “Ouch”, “A little to the left.” or “Harder, please.” I hadn’t said anything. She just starts sobbing. I went to say something, looked at her, and discovered that she was deaf and mute. And, it turned out, had just got her massage license and this was her first job. It was awkward at best.So why hadn’t the receptionist given me the heads up? It would probably have been helpful to know that the person working...
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My Favorite Thing

by Adam Zack — April 10, 2019

Adam Zack

I LOVE my bed.

What’s your prized possession? It can’t be a person, a feeling, a place or a pet. An actual thing that you bought or were given. I think generally the people I hang out with are not overly materialistic, so we’re not talking a lot about stuff. About food, and wine, yes, we get enthusiastic. Probably too enthusiastic. I understand how some might have an antique car that they’ve restored, an exceptionally meaningful piece of jewelry, or super cool big screen TV as a prized possession. I get it.What made me think about my prized possession happened on a Sunday morning a couple weeks ago. The blinds were all shut tight, I didn’t have to work or be anywhere, and I slept in until almost 8:00. Normally up at 5:40, the two-plus extra hours sleep felt so great, and as I woke up slowly, I thought “I LOVE my bed. It’s my prized possession.” And it has been for the last 10 years or so since I got it. I lovingly rotate the mattress 180 degrees every three months to keep it from getting old and saggy and we make it up every day out of respect for the rest and support it gives us. When I am away from it traveling, I miss it. When I get in it with its comfy sheets each night, I am thankful, and rest com...
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The Slow Change

by Adam Zack — April 3, 2019

What can I do today that will help me tomorrow?

I’ve beat the topic of necessary change nearly to death. Beat it like a rented mule. Like a redheaded step-child. Like an expense account rental car. I believe in necessary change wholeheartedly, but, come on man, move along. So I am not going to write about change, I am going to write about the effects of change. Because whether we are choosing to be proactive about it or just ignore it, the long-term effects are going to be there. Long term change (think of it more as evolution) is not a young man’s concern. He thinks of what can I do today that will help me tomorrow? Immediate change and gratification are the concern. I think our business is a lot like that too. We want to effect change through our actions, and we want to see and measure the results right away.As a young man I never thought the slow change of evolution would affect me. I looked at my grandpa and wondered why his earlobes were so big? He always had a receding hairline, right? I didn’t know him any other way. And how about that hair growing in his ears? Gross. To me these weren’t changes, it was how he always was. Surely he’d always used Brylcreem on his hair and Old Spice aftershave. He didn’t change, he just was what he was. Constant. Wel...
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by Adam Zack — March 27, 2019

Adam Zack

Lazy Adam over and out.

Lazy Susan: A turntable (rotating tray) placed on a table or countertop to aid in distributing food.I smirk every time I see a Lazy Susan in action. I can just see some dad at the dinner table asking his weak armed fat daughter Susan to pass the gravy. Pass the potatoes. Pass the carrots. Sick of passing food, one night she’s doodling in her room and playing with her marbles and a Frisbee, and shazam! she gets the idea for the first Lazy Susan. (Although she thinks of it as a food distribution platter.) She’s a smart girl and puts one together in woodshop out of a wooden top from a whiskey barrel and some ball bearings. She puts it on the dining room table discreetly and that night when Pa asks for her to pass the gosh darn yams, with a flick of the wrist she spins the food distribution platter and bam! yams are in front of Pa. No more tired weak arms for Susan. When kin comes as dinner guests they ask just what this new device is, and Pa explains that Susan is just too lazy to pa...
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I’m With the Band

by Adam Zack — March 20, 2019

A great band combines creativity, excitement, collaboration, longevity, practice and hard work to produce success.

Teamwork is the most frequently used word when people talk about their business success, as it should be.
  • “Teamwork: Simply stated, it is less me and more we.”
  • “There is no I in TEAM.”
  • “Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.”
  • “Teamwork requires that everyone’s efforts flow in a single direction.”
  • “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan
It’s a lot of catchy analogies and idealistic thinking. Most often, business teamwork is compared to sports teams. A championship season, a string of winning seasons, a record setting performance. But very rarely is the team of players the same from season to season. There are usually some constants in great teams, such as the coach, like John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Belichick. Or the best players, like Tom Brady, Derek Jeter and Bill Russell. While we all (OK, not all – my daughters are ...
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The Experiment

by Adam Zack — March 13, 2019

Adam Zack

I maintain that “I know!”

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...
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Worst Job Ever

by Adam Zack — March 6, 2019

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

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...
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Personal Life

by Adam Zack — February 27, 2019

Adam Zack

“We all have personal lives too.”

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 ...
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Is the bar really lowered?

by Adam Zack — February 20, 2019

“We’ve found we’ve had to adapt.”

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 ...
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