Risk & Business Magazine General Insurance Services Magazine | Page 14
BEING LUCKY & GOOD
Steps To Being
Lucky & Good
n the past year or so, I’ve been asked
to speak on the subject of innovation
about 14 times. As the economic
screws tighten, it seems like the
pressure increases to invent the
culinary equivalent of the next iPhone.
People from the press, business schools
and bigger companies keep asking me to
predict tomorrow’s big breadwinners and
to foretell the food world’s future. I’m
honored to be asked, but there’s little that
we do here that’s about being predictive
— Zingerman’s isn’t now, nor has it ever
been, about catching the next big wave.
So what’s the secret to success? Well, I
can tell you some of the things that we’ve
done in focusing on quality and using the
food we make, serve and sell to create the
foundation of a sustainable, high-energy
business. I’m not 100 percent sure that
the seven points that follow are the right
ones for everyone. But I’m pretty sure that
they’re the approaches that have been
working here for nearly three decades now.
1. MAKE SOMETHING SPECIAL.
If we want to have a special business, the
products we sell have to be special, too.
I’m not saying they have to be expensive,
just special. Exceptional. Engaging.
Interesting. Different. And better still,
unique. Selling stuff that everyone else
is selling — even if they’re moving a lot
of it — is almost never where we look
to put our energies. What we want to
work with here is the stuff that’s NOT
selling — at least not yet. We want to
put something out there that people
will get excited about, take note of, talk
about and want to actively get behind.
2. CREATE SOMETHING PEOPLE
ARE GOING TO WANT.
I almost skipped this one because it’s so
obvious but, yeah, making a distinctive
product of exceptionally high quality that
no one is going to like or be interested
in paying for isn’t going to get us far.
How do we know what people are going
to want? One option is learning to go
with our gut and find those foods that
feel right even though anyone in their
right mind would tell us they’d never
sell. Having done that dance dozens —
actually hundreds — of times over the
years I’m well familiar with it. Seriously,
it’s safe to say that nearly every significant
product we have here was either
(a) unknown in Ann Arbor,
(b) something most everyone said
would never sell or, in many cases,
One of the ways we do it here at
Zingerman’s is to hone in on foods that
hardly anyone in our part of the world
has ever eaten but that are traditional
and popular in their place of origin. To
me there’s not much research needed
for this stuff: people from the American
South, Tunisia, North Carolina, southern
Italy or almost anywhere in the Badger
state will tell you exactly how good these
foods are. So it’s not a huge leap for me
to forecast that as-yet-unsuspecting Ann
Arborites are going to like them, too.
3. YOU’VE GOTTA BELIEVE!
I’ve come to realize over the years that
what we sell has to be special, not just
so that it stands out in the marketplace
but because the people who work in our
organization absolutely have to believe
in what they’re doing. When this is the
case, employees feel comfortable selling
the products, press people like to report
on them and customers like buying them.
Because there’s nothing to hide, you can
just come at it from the heart and know
that the more customers learn about a
product, the more they’re going to like it.
And from there, we generate the solidity,
trust, calm confidence, appreciation and
abundance mentality that are found in
any mutually rewarding relationship.