Company Blog

Smart does not equal wise

by Adam Zack — January 2, 2019

Adam Zack

The smartest leaders surround themselves with the smartest people.

Some of the smartest guys I’ve ever met are the dumbest. I know that’s like an oxymoron. Or just a statement from a moron. I’ve known people who can solve complex mathematical problems that stagger my mind but couldn’t microwave a potato for dinner to save their lives. I’ve known brilliant lawyers with knowledge of the law that they can recite at will. These same people make terrible life and business choices that leave them marginally successful at best. I’ve seen computer programmers that can build a network that is amazingly efficient, but when asked to apply it to our industry just flail wildly, leaving everyone to wonder if they have any intelligence at all. I am convinced that the smartest leaders are indeed not the smartest people. The smartest leaders surround themselves with the smartest people. Leaders get the credit for the work of the smart people that he surrounds himself with.But hey! That’s unfair! The smart ones make things happen, right? And he gets all the credit. Unfair! I think it’s just the opposite. Smart leadership takes wisdom, and wisdom is making the right choices, learning from mistakes and having the instincts to achieve your go...
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Hugs and I love you mans

by Adam Zack — December 26, 2018

How great is it to get a real hug from your brother without any uncomfortableness?

The 70s and 80s were pretty much emotionless decades. Actually, all the preceding decades were too.  I don’t mean that there were no emotions, I mean that they just didn’t get shared publicly like today. When we were growing up, guys greeted each other with a handshake, or maybe a high-five. Our dads didn’t say “I love you” every time we talked on the phone. They rarely said it at all. Man-hugs were pretty much non-existent. Brothers didn’t express any affection, especially publicly. We loved our friends, brothers, sisters and dads just as much then as now, too.Especially over this holiday period when I try and take a step back to take stock of all the things – and people – in my life that I love and am thankful for, I am especially thankful that it’s OK to show it and say it. How great is it to get a real hug from your brother without any uncomfortableness? To see male friends and be able to say I love you or I miss you without worrying that someone is thinking that you two are maybe a little more than “friends’? [Not that there’s anything wrong with that!] It’s especially tricky in today’s #metoo culture. Guys are just becomin...
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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

by Adam Zack — December 19, 2018

Adam Zack

Makin’ a list and checkin’ it twice

You can’t always get what you wantBut if you try sometime you findYou get what you need– Jagger/Richards, The Rolling Stones
Watch Video >Christmas time is loaded with lists. What gifts to get who. Who’s coming for dinner. What do you need to shop for. What’s the menu. Who to send cards to. Who not to send cards to. Who’s naughty. Who’s nice. As a kid we always made lists of what we wanted Santa (and a bit later, say 9 years old or so) or our parents to get us for Christmas. We started by looking at the Sears catalog in September. Marking pages, reading it over and over. Adding and subtracting to the list as fall marched towards Christmas. Not putting anything on the list that’s too far out of reach, but still with hopeful, lofty goals.Grandparents wanted to know what was on the list. And since I had three sets of grandparents, the list got fulfilled a bit more. It’s a very exciting time of year for list makers. Because I have great parents and family, the lists usually reached a pretty saturated state of cross-outedness. And since my birthday was a week...
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Cover This

by Adam Zack — December 11, 2018

The best retailers write their own music

Every summer near where I work in San Diego there is a Summer Concert Series that features cover bands. About 3,000 local residents attend and families old and young have a great time during the summer nights, eating picnic dinners, smuggling in wine and beer and dancing to the sounds of Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and other popular musicians. It’s a fun party and a real example of what American neighborhood camaraderie is like. And the cover bands are good, recreating faithful versions of some of your favorite tunes. The masses dance and you can get right up to the stage and if you’ve had enough wine and close your eyes (really tight, no peeking) you might imagine that you are front row for Elton John or The Beatles. The bands make a living and everyone has fun. But does any musician grow up with the goal of being the best Led Zeppelin cover band? Is being in a great cover band ever a goal, or is it just the result of a musical career that never amounted to a paying gig?For the cover band, imitation is not just a form of flattery, it’s a way to meet the demand for a supply that may be extinct. You’d never get to see the ac...
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Just the Tip

by Adam Zack — December 5, 2018

Son of Cheapass

As I’ve written before, pretty much everything we do revolves around money. How much did you save? What kind of deal can I get? That place is too expensive. There’s a big sale this Wednesday. Sales are up. Sales are down. I hate to think it. I hate to say it. But it’s true and no matter how much I wish I didn’t have to think about balancing budgets, being fair, spending or not spending and investing back, what to buy who and how much to spend for Christmas, it’s just a fact.One of my early memories about money was when I was about 10. We were with my biological father in San Francisco at a very nice restaurant called Scoma’s for lunch. There were 6 of us total, I think. When the bill came my dad was going to leave a $4 tip. Yes, four bucks. Mind you, this was about 44 years ago, but even then a $4 tip was cheapskate/insulting territory. I begged with to leave more and wondered if he didn’t, how I would be able to get out of the restaurant without being permanently branded as Son of Cheapass. I think he did leave more – grudgingly – but his reasoning that it’s the same service he’d get at Denny’s always stuck with me.Anytime I find myself even remotely leaning cheapass when it comes to tipping I remind myself “It’s only a...
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What an A-Hole!

by Adam Zack — November 28, 2018

A last resort

In our business we’ve all encountered that special customer that is a total dick.  The kind of person who got out of bed on the wrong side for what must be the 100th day in a row.  No amount of kindness and outstanding customer service can pierce the extra thick layer of grump that they wear. The best of us will cheerfully wish them to “have a great day!” or “let me know if I can help you find anything” and end the encounter.  But sometimes the aforementioned A-hole is extra A-holeish and may say something insulting or even offensive to one of your employees.There may be an email that is not just curt, but downright rude. The kind of thing where you say out loud “What’s this guy’s problem?” As managers and business owners we have a duty to our employees to give them a safe, comfortable, and yes, fun place to work.  We are leaders because we see when they give the extra effort to meet a deadline or make that 13th revision on a customer project with a smile. When they offer that extra bit of great customer service and are not thanked, or even get a grunt of acknowledgment from one of the A-holes, it’s our job to be the words of appreciation.  It’s also our job to deal with t...
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We’re on the same team here

by Adam Zack — November 20, 2018

We are not adversaries

We moved into a new house in May. The loan process today is, how should I politely put it? A complete cluster$%#!. In the past it was never a problem, but supposedly because of the mortgage meltdown in 2008-9 loan applicants are treated more like adversaries than customers. Needless to say, after two weeks of delays and a couple three-day notices to close escrow or lose all our deposit combined with packing, moving and working full-time, tensions were running a bit high with me and Mrs. Zack.Patience was at an all-time low and the ease of irritability was at an all-time high. We lost sight of how great it was to finally get this process done and get moved. During one particularly testy moment I had a realization. We were not adversaries. I said, “You know, we’re on the same team, right?” Frustrations with the process combined with the stress of moving and the physical exhaustion of moving a whole household ourselves obscured the fact that we are indeed on the same team and have the same goals. It was a moment of clarity that we reference 6 months later when things may not be going completely as planned. WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM, and when the teamwork gives way to irritation, the team loses.The same thing happens in our stores. Depar...
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We’re Through

by Adam Zack — November 15, 2018

Who is the real casualty of the break-up?

Music is a big part of my life. I love the live experience and witnessing how the creative and collaborative process of a band comes together during a really great concert. It’s like witnessing and participating great teamwork. Passion, talent and enthusiasm combined with the drive for success. It isn’t just limited to rock ‘n roll. Great symphonies, plays and sports team all have to be on to succeed. Even family gatherings are better when the family dynamic resembles more of a winning team than a dysfunctional band of individuals. But like most relationships, when it’s on it’s heaven and when it’s bad it’s awful. So, when a great band breaks up because of clashing egos or “creative differences” all you hear about is how the singer was a a-hole or the guitarist couldn’t get his act together. But who is the real casualty of the break-up? It’s the fans. The ones who have bought the albums and concert tickets. Who have experienced the joy of the live show and been so supportive.For fans of Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Smiths or The Beatles any show without the original band members will never be the same. Creedence Clearwater Revisited without John Fogarty or John Fogar...
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The Uncomfort Zone

by Adam Zack — November 6, 2018

I have a birthmark the size of a quarter right on my neck. It’s natural, I did nothing to cause it and don’t even really see it when I look in the mirror. I was probably 7 when I first got teased about it. “What is it, a hickey??!!!” I didn’t even know what a hickey was (and fortunately, only had to live through the embarrassment of a real hickey once). I have been chided about it probably a thousand times. From the nickname “Hickey Man” to endless “Who gave you the hickey??!!” (Your mom did was always a good comeback.) But the most memorable comment came from a total stranger. I was working in one of our grocery stores and passed a customer on the aisle, asking him if I could help him find anything. He responded that I should have my birthmark checked out by a doctor (at least he didn’t call it a hickey) to make sure it wasn’t cancerous. Turns out he was a doctor. I did ask my doctor about it on a future visit, turns out it’s just a birthmark, not skin cancer OR a hickey.

A tactful leader than can point out life’s embarrassments.

This was probably 20 years ago, and it still stands out as an incredible act of caring. I tell people to please just tell me when I have bad breath, or a booger hanging, or my fly in...
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It’s so easy. Not.

by Adam Zack — October 31, 2018

We all talk a lot about great leaders. Guys who are innovative and groundbreaking. They are respected and successful. They inspire the team and cultivate positivity. Guys like Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway and Tim Cook of Apple. They are universally considered outstanding leaders. If you’re like most people, then you think they were born great leaders. They were captains of the football team, homecoming queen (or King), valedictorian, first chair violin and president of the debate team (which went on to win the state championship, by the way.)Men and women who are the great leaders do deserve the respect, but for every one of them, there are thousands who don’t get any accolades but are revered just as much by their employees. People like Bill at Town and Country, Norman at Dorothy Lane, Colleen at Wegman’s and Adam at Bristol Farms. Everyone (well not everyone) in management wants to be a great leader, but no one talks about just how much work it is every day to be one, and to maintain it. For all the glory of success that the great ones get credit for, there’s thousands of moments of failure, doubt, stress and pain. It requires doing the extracurricular activities, taking calls at all hours, signing the personal guarantees on loans and smiling when you just feel like screaming....
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