In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Chicago with a $20,000 bank loan.
Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue.
No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike, but they all share the same vision and guiding principles – delivering “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.
In his first book, “Building a Great Business: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business”, Weinzweig shared his 12 Natural Laws of Business. Pick and choose from this list as you like:
You’re more likely to get to greatness if you have an inspiring and strategically sound vision.
A vision is a detailed picture of what success looks like for your business at a particular time in the future.
It encompasses what the business does and why it’s special.
To be effective, the vision needs to be so inspiring that everyone involved in achieving it is motivated to contribute their energies. Without a vision, “it’s like asking Mapquest to provide a map without punching in an address.”
If you don’t give customers compelling reasons to buy from you, they won’t.
We need our customers way more than they need us.
Weinzweig often emphasises that quality is not just about meeting specifications, it’s going above and beyond to reach the realm of exceptional.
Work on giving customers a number of really good reasons to buy from you. What those compelling reasons are will vary for each business. If you don’t think the reasons your organisation is offering sound all that compelling, they probably aren’t. So start working on more.
If you don’t create a great, rewarding place for people to work, they won’t do great work.
How rewarding should the workplace be?
Well, pretty darned rewarding in every sense of the word: emotionally, intellectually, physically and not just financially.
Treat the people who choose to work for you as if they were volunteers.
People want to feel their work makes a positive difference; that their extra efforts were noticed; and that they can improve the quality of their own life and the lives of those around them through their work.
A rewarding workplace means service improves and sales go up. Simple.
If you want the staff to give great service to customers, you have to give great service to the staff.
Weinzweig believes “your staff are your customers.” The service that your staff is giving to customers should never be better than the service leaders are giving to their staff.
This seems to be especially true in service industries – that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of customers. The tone that’s set from the top is key.
If you want staff to give great performance, you have to give clear expectations and training tools.
Be totally clear with your employees what you’re asking from them. Then work hard and effectively to teach them how to do it.
Weinzweig refers to a Gallup Organisation survey of one million people and specifically 80,000 managers to determine which factors were most important to keeping the best (not just any, but the best) workers in their jobs for the longest period of time. The single most important element in making that happen? Clear expectations. The second most critical? The tools to do their work.
Successful businesses do the things that others know they should do but generally don’t.
Little things make a big difference.
While competitors often just accept the status quo or even cut corners, the people and companies that reach greatness persist in doing all those unglamorous little things that the others know they should do, but don’t.
It could be anything, but generally it’s along the lines of staying late, opening early, thanking a few more staff and customers, paying a bit more to get better raw materials, and so on.
If you aren’t consistently getting better, you’re not going to reach long-term greatness.
Adopt a theme of continuous improvement. The reality is that if you’re not learning, growing and improving, the marketplace is going to pass you by. The best individuals and organisations have always understood this.
Weinzweig once told a story about how great it was when a dishwasher said to the CEO, “Why are you doing it that way? That doesn’t make any sense!!”
Success means you get better problems – but there will always be problems.
No problem is a problem.
Would you rather have too few customers and be struggling to pay payroll? Or have sales booming and be struggling to keep up? There will always be issues – the key is to appreciate the chance to work on the better problems.
Whatever you’re good at is likely to also lead into areas of weakness.
Pretty much anything we’re good at is going to, at some point, be carried a bit too far and become a problem. The same holds true organisationally.
As an example, Weinzweig points out that one of Zingerman’s strengths is it’s a participative workplace. The inevitable weakness is that there are so many chances for people to participate that things can often take longer than they should.
The key is to embrace it rather than fighting it, which makes life far less stressful.
It takes a lot longer to make something great happen than people think.
Professionalism means sticking with something long after the glamour has worn off.
While there are the overnight successes of the world, those are few and far between. Nearly all great organisations – we’re talking long-term, sustainable successes – take a long time to build.
Profit is good.
Sometimes you have to state the obvious.
You have to be profitable in order for a business to survive. You need to have cash on hand to pay the bills. If you don’t pay your taxes properly and on time, you get in a lot of trouble.
The need for profit is expressed in this common healthcare saying, “no margin, no mission.”
Great organisations are appreciative and the people in them have more fun.
Fun leads to success and success leads to fun.
Weinzweig believes great organisations are great because the people in them are actively appreciative and have learned to have fun doing whatever it is they need to do. This is especially true when times are tough.
Find ways to be kind to each other. Enjoy the fact that although you’d rather not be struggling, you’re glad to at least be struggling with people you really like.
Do you have any other leadership Insights like this one? Please reply to this email if you have, as we would love to share them.
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