Next week’s Business901 Podcast features Ari Weinzweig, CEO and co-founding partner of Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB) has annual sales of over $40 million. ZingTrain, a consulting and training company shares Zingerman’s approach to business with like-minded organizations from around the world, and offers a variety of management training seminars in Ann Arbor, as well as customized workshops and presentations at client sites. An excerpt from the podcast:
Joe: A big part of your organization has become Zing Training. What started that? Did you just wake up one day and say, “Gee, we need to bottle this up?”
Ari: ‘Well, we opened in ’82, and then in ’93, Paul and I spent about a year writing a new vision for the business. When we opened, we were very clear about our vision. And actually the first natural law of business, I think, is organizations that have a clear vision of greatness are going to have a better shot at succeeding. So when we opened in ’82, we were very clear in our minds and what we wrote down that we only wanted one deli. We didn’t want a chain or replicas. We knew that we wanted something that was unique to us and not a copy of something from New York, or Chicago, or LA.
We knew that we wanted really great food and service but in a very accessible setting, and that we wanted a really great place for people to work, and to be bonded into the community. By ’93, so 10, 11 years in, I mean, we kind of had done that. In that, we had filled in, expanded twice on the site that we’re on.
We’re in the historic district, so it’s not easy to do that. We kind of had, I guess in hindsight what would be the equivalent of an organizational “midlife struggle.”
I don’t think it was a crisis, because we weren’t crashing, but we weren’t really clear on where we were going. We had achieved what we had set out to do despite going against the odds. So we spent about a year coming up with our next vision, which we wrote out.
It was called Zingerman’s 2009, so it was for 15 years into the future. That vision outlined that we would have a community of businesses all here in the Ann Arbor area, because we like to be connected to what we’re doing.
Each building should be a Zingerman’s business, but each would have its own unique specialty. So that way, we could grow but keep the deli unique, and do other things. And we would only do a business when we had a managing partner or partners in it that would own part of that business and have a passion for whatever that business did, and be connected to it every day going for greatness.
And after we wrote that vision and rolled it out, then Maggie Bayless??who we had known at the restaurant?? she had been, I mentioned a waitress there. But she had gone back to school and gotten her MBA at Michigan, and wasn’t that thrilled with the corporate world, but loved training.
She read that vision. She came to us and said, “Well, what about doing a Zingerman’s training business?” That’s how it started, then we worked on it for a while and opened it up in 1994.”
I have written about Zingerman’s many times and in fact, Ari’s book, Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service, provided the service outline for a retail operation that I was part of for several years. Several mindmaps and more details are in this blog post, PDCA Cycle of Zingerman’s Deli.
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