Risk & Business Magazine General Insurance Services Magazine | Page 14

7 BEING LUCKY & GOOD Steps To Being Lucky & Good I 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 14 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, (c) both. 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.