Company Blog

You Gotta Get Creative

by Adam Zack — March 18, 2020

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

I’ve never liked the phrase “Think outside the box”. It’s such a cliche. For business leaders and innovators there is no box. There is no border. The limits are only what physically and realistically is impossible. There are lots and lots of “no box” independent retailers. They rock. There are also lots and lots of conventional grocers who operate within the box. Their stores literally are a box with long aisles and hard borders. During this unprecedented COVID-19 coronavirus times, the no-box guys are finding ways to keep products on the shelves and the box guys are bemoaning the shortages on their orders from their wholesalers. Last week, one very sharp operator in Northern California told me he met with his team and planned for what was coming. He told them to not just have a plan B, but to have a plan C and D. What can you substitute for the products that are in short supply or out of stock?A huge resource is the companies that supply restaurants – Sysco, US Foods, Shamrock – and many others. They carry many retail adaptable products – pasta, toilet tissue, paper towels, juices. And eggs. Yeah, they sell them in cases of flats with 36 eggs on each flat – but you can sell the whole flat, or cut them ...
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He loses an arm

by Adam Zack — March 11, 2020

Adam Zack

Deals off and the killing begins

In the TV series Fargo, Season 2, there is a scene where Brad Garrett, (remember him? Ray Romano’s dopey brother in Everybody Loves Raymond?) one of the leaders of a big drug gang out of Kansas City is negotiating with a family drug gang in Minnesota. He’s definitely not sit-com funny here. He’s a bad-ass ruthless gangster. One way or the other Kansas City is moving into Minnesota’s territory. The mom of the Minnesota family gang is negotiating to sell or become partners and her dumbshit sons just won’t shut up and let mom get the best deal for the family. Brad worries that her hothead sons are going to muck up business, but she assures him that she can keep them in line. Brad disagrees. “You know what happens when one of my guys disobeys me?” he says. “He loses an arm. With family what are you going to do when they disobey you?” He’s right, deal’s off, and the killing begins.Family business is laden with protections and a lack of consequences for family members who don’t perform. But that’s not always the case. There is a terrific family grocery business in South Florida called Milam’s ( They are very progressive, quality driven, well run stores. There’s...
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by Adam Zack — March 5, 2020

And you’re ghosted for good!

“No one comes together just to fall apart” – Marshall CrenshawThe conversation probably started with something like “We need to talk.” Next thing you know, the relationship is over and you’ve been dumped. We all have. Or at least most of us have. Relationships are grown, nurtured and developed with effort, care, and most of all love. It’s a partnership that is mutually beneficial and satisfying. It may have started out of convenience. Or maybe just a chance encounter. Maybe they saw your ad and your profile looked pretty sexy, so they swiped right (or left, I’m not quite sure how those dating things work) and next thing you know you are seeing each other regularly. Maybe you’re not exclusive, but you spend most of your meals together, and dammit, you feed them good. But your paramour is very attractive to the other suitors in your neighborhood. Very attractive. They flirt and woo and look their best every night, and pretty soon they are spending some time together. You think “What could I have done differently? I thought we had a solid relationship.” Turns out you didn’t actually have the relationship. You had transactions and what your lover wanted was a relationship. They felt like they were just ...
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Hey, ho, let’s go!

by Adam Zack — February 26, 2020

Adam Zack

They were together long enough to record genius.

I spend a lot of time writing how teamwork is the driving force to success in the grocery industry, especially for independents. We have to have our team members backs, right? There is no “I” in team, or so the saying goes. We have to be a great band to make great records for long periods of time. I was listening to the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl” and “Wendy” this week. I was really listening closely, and it struck me just how brilliant their harmonies were. The complexity of the music and the vocals surely meant that they were a great team. Wrong. The band was the combination of three brothers, their cousin and a couple close friends. In-fighting, jealousy and different lifestyle priorities (the “we like drugs” team and the “we don’t” side.) They hated each other.  Yet when it came down to making one of the greatest albums of all time, Pet Sounds, they were together long enough to record genius. The Ramones, pioneers of four-chord punk rock changed the landscape of American rock and roll in the late 70’s. They produced enough music to change music forever (there’s no Green Day without the Ramones, just to name one). They toured constantly. They dressed alike and had ...
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Can we just talk?

by Adam Zack — February 19, 2020

“I dunno, nobody told us.”

My phone chimed and I looked at the text: “We need to talk” Uh oh. Has that phrase, whether it’s spoken aloud or written in a text or email ever conveyed a positive, optimistic tone. Nope. Even with an exclamation mark: “We need to talk!!” it delivers a sense of dread and worry. Something’s wrong. How about: “WE NEED TO TALK”. In caps, somebody is definitely in trouble. Add their name to it: “WE NEED TO TALK, STEPHEN” and the s%$# is definitely going to hit the fan for Stephen. Gulp, followed by a stomach roll and fear that something is going to change, and not for the good. Communicating effectively is vitally important in our business, and especially below par in the grocery industry. How many times have you asked, or heard an employee in a retail store a question they should know, and the response is “I dunno, nobody told us.” Or something along those lines. I’m telling you now that we need to talk, and we need to talk every day. To our employees and customers and vendors. When we do it, and really make the effort, the result is success for everyone. We need to talk, and we need to talk now, so we don’t get the text “WE NEED TO TALK!” later.

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Perfect Revisited

by Adam Zack — February 12, 2020

Adam Zack

He’s the best of the worst!

Some time ago I went on a rant about how “Perfect!” is the most overused response in America today. Everything you do – Perfect! It dilutes the word so much, that no one really has a real idea of what perfection is and if it’s even attainable at all. To me, perfection is more of a goal than actual results. Many people fall very short of even attempting perfection. Their attitude is more “Nobody’s perfect…”. They have compromised attempting perfection before they even start. The bar is lowered from the get-go for them. So while true perfection is rare – think a perfect 10 in Olympic gymnastics, a perfect passer rating in the NFL (158.3 – There were 5 in 2019 – Lamar Jackson (twice) Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson), or a wine that scores 100 points – attempting perfection is a character trait of your top employees. I think a more relatable way to aim is to be the best. And not in the “best of the worst” group.Being outstanding sounds much more achievable than achieving perfection. In the movie Ford vs. Ferrari (again with the movie references!) race car driver Ken Miles was explaining to his son his driving strategy to drive the perfect lap to win the race. ...
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by Adam Zack — February 5, 2020

Fettuccine Alfredo instead of grilled chicken

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 sentences and not hearing...
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The party and you.

by Adam Zack — January 29, 2020

Adam Zack

Looking forward to sitting on the couch and actually watching the whole game!

This Sunday is Super Bowl 54 – better known as LIV, for the youth of today who know their Roman numerals so well. (Can I even say Super Bowl? Do I have to refer to it as The Big Game so I don’t incur the wrath and punishment of the NFL legal team? For an organization that lives by our addiction to watching it, it’s silly to me that retailers can’t even use the words Super Bowl in their advertising. Hence all the Big Game references… ah, but I digress.)I am super excited that we are not having a Super Bowl party for the first time in about 10 years. And it’s not like everyone didn’t bring something to the party. Well, almost everyone did, or at least offered. I’ll miss Phillip and Lorena’s chile rellenos, Moose’s chicken wings, and Ro’s meatballs. I won’t miss Steve’s chili with beans. But I’m looking forward to sitting my butt on the couch and actually being able to watch the whole game. Not having a party got me thinking about what in life and business I actually bring to the party. Do I bring enough for the host to keep having the party every year, or are my contributions not enough to keep the party goin...
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Platonic Leadership

by Adam Zack — January 22, 2020

Fetch me a bucket, and if you don’t like it, off with your head. 

Forever we have heard about natural born leaders. Guys who seemingly straight from the womb emerged directing their siblings on a divide and conquer plan for their parents, manipulating the kindergarten teacher into increased nap time and ended up as student body president in high school, naturally. Guys like Steve Jobs, Jack Welch and George Patton were born leaders, right? The best leaders in history surely were born to lead. Well I came across a whole different view of leadership from our old homeboy Plato. The guy who inspired “Let’s just be friends” had a terrific insight on who would make the best leader. Traditional leaders dating back to the beginning of time were motivated by self-interest and the innate need for power. These were the guys who were widely considered tyrants, and didn’t really care about their subjects. Fetch me a bucket, and if you don’t like it, off with your head. Plato felt that the most important qualification for a leader is to not want to be a leader. Philosophers (Philisophia; Greek meaning lover of wisdom) are naturally the best and most effective leaders, as true philosophers have the four cardinal virtues of wi...
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My time is your time

by Adam Zack — January 14, 2020

Adam Zack

He is on time to the minute, every single meeting without fail.

I was watching the documentary “Inside Bill’s Brain” about Bill Gates. I know what you’re thinking – “Does this guy just watch TV all the time or what?? Does he ever work?” Anyway, Bill Gates is a fascinating dude, and after he gave up his daily duties running Microsoft in 2008, combined with his $100 billion dollars of wealth, you’d think he’d pretty much have all the time in the world to play Bridge with Warren Buffet and just tinker around the mansion and watch Netflix. But no, Bill is one very busy guy. From his charity work to being an industry advocate, he’s busier than ever.I have always valued being on time. When someone is late and holds up a meeting, it wastes everyone’s time and is disrespectful to the group. I’m not one of those idealists that says something like “If you’re not there 10 minutes early, you’re not on time.” On time is on time, period. So when Bill’s secretary is listing his typical very busy day, she says: “He is on time to the minute every single meeting without fail. Time is the one commodity that he can’t buy more of. It’s a limited resource. It’s finite. He’s got the same 24 hours in a day that the re...
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