I Have Been ZINGTrained

Here we go again- Lisa is making up new words. (My staff gets an especially big kick out of my quasi-techno words I use when I teach wrapping, but that’s a whole different subject).

Any way, I have felt the power of Zingerman’s, a clever but awe-inspiring, jaw dropping, foodie heaven business located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, about 45 minutes from Royal Oak, our base location for Lisa’s Gift Wrappers.

Here’s their web site, http://www.zingermans.com/.

When you visit their web site, plan on staying awhile. They have this “catalog” of foods from all over the world, from EVOO (Rachel Ray’s favorite way of saying Extra Virgin Olive Oil) to chocolate to coffee beans, dried tomatoes, anchovies, spices, you name it. Then, they operate a bread baking business called The Bakehouse. They use grains and make breads that cover every eating experience. They covet the sense of freshly milled flours made from heirloom grains- not the stuff that sits on the grocery store shelf that might have been made a year ago.

They operate The Deli, a throw back to the “corner deli”, where the rich aromas and the mouth watering smells will make you want to eat everything. But they first want you to make sure you will like the taste, so the Zingers’ (I think I made that name up for all the staff that work for this family of businesses) ask if you want a taste. Not a chintzy amount, but an honest to goodness taste.

They have The Creamery, where cheese is made from scratch or they have traveled the world looking for the best example to share with us.

The Roadhouse Restaurant melds all these experiences, so if you aren’t a cook or just appreciate fine food coupled with unbelievable service, this is worth the journey and the destination.

And if you are lucky enough to be in Michigan , they also have a catering division that can bring this to your door step.

So what is ZINGTrain in all of this mixture?

Well, it happens to be a division of this business where they share the skills and experiences that have made them a successful business. They have a comprehensive list of training (go to their web site http://www.zingtrain.com- you’ll see what I mean). That’s where I got the notion to take a class.

Here’s the part that just knocked my socks off- one of the founding partners, Ari (the other one is Paul) taught my class. Here’s a guy, running a $30 million a year business and he’s so passionate about what he does, he teaches this class.

This doesn’t happen in the corporate world I once lived in. There were people at much lower levels of management that taught classes. Never the President or CEO or Founding Partner.

Then you add to the combination, a writer that I have followed for years in Inc. Magazine, Bo Burlingham. He’s a legend in his own right. He has met and written about entrepreneurs that started hot companies- many you might recognize, like Staples, People Express, Apple Computer, The Body Shop. He’s been with Inc. Magazine for 25 years. And, you might think that he’s a jaded journalist, who’s been there, done that and really expects you to know this.

Both he and Ari were refreshingly human and interested in teaching, but also learning at the same time. So their motivation was to get us to think about our own businesses- step back from the day to day would-a’s, could-a’s, and should-a’s – and think about what we would be 5 or even 10 years out. Don’t think about the how to get “there’s”- think about the what you want to be “there’s”.

A form of anarchy (Ari would love this) that the Corporate world would freeze at. Because the Corporate world works best with rules and structure that leads to profit- not about people and service and what you do to make the best sandwich.

So, there is this group of VIPs (Very Interesting People) who have come to experience this training. Some foodies, some business owners, some Zingerman staff, attendees from the non-profit world- a totally eclectic and interesting mix, which adds to my level of fascination.

So we work very hard the first day. I am totally fried, my brain is objecting to adding any more input. Except that I have this big presentation to put together and have it polished and ready to go in less than a week. I’ve been working on it for a month- but it still needs work and it needs some good order, so my Marketing and PR guru, Melissa, has joined me to take the class and help polish the speech.

So we go to the Roadhouse to eat- to add to our experience from The Deli and the ZINGTrain session. And as a foodie, I order the Georges Bank Scallops- not everyone’s favorite, but they are certainly mine. And I ask the server what they are like when they are grilled. He said great. I hesitate- because anyone who has chewed a rubber band has at some point eaten an overcooked scallop. I overcome my hesitation. I order them grilled.

They are fabulous. Cha-ching. Another overwhelming Zingerman’s experience.

So back to the hotel to work on the speech. Get some great work done on it. Melissa and I both say at the same time,” I think I’ve hit the wall”. We part ways to fall into bed.

I expect that the physical fatigue that I feel will take over. No such luck. My brain is going 60 miles per hour, as if the “train” ain’t going to stop.

I get up the next morning feeling like the “train” has driven over me and backed up a couple of times. My energy is zero. But that ole’ brain is already in overdrive looking for the rest of the message from the class.

Everyone says that at some point in the drive to build a business a “light bulb goes off”. I wouldn’t say that one day you just know it. It takes time and “Thoughtful purpose” (a phrase that is used constantly through out the two days) to get there.

We all finish the two days. We all have homework to do- one of which, if we haven’t, is read Bo’s book, Small Giants, Companies that Choose to Be Great Instead of Big. http://www.smallgiantsbook.com/ Another is to go back and create our vision of what we want our company, our lives to be; because they are totally enmeshed together.

We have completed “Super Bo Four” being the fourth group to finish this training. And we talk about ourselves, and share e-mails or phone numbers and part ways.

They say when you have a common experience- like growing up together as kids- that distance and time have no effect on your relationship. That you will pick up when you next see one another.

“Super Bo Four” group may not end up being tight, but we have pledged to answer e-mails or take calls for support. It may only happen for a few folks. But whatever happens in the future, we have a vision of where we want to be and it’s up to us to make it happen.

So thanks Ari and Bo for the wisdom and experiences. They were truly magical. Thanks to my fellow “Super Bo Four” VIPs- you made the learning experience that much more insightful and filled me with ideas from the great adventures you are all pursuing.

And as MacArthur said, “Ari and ZINGTrain (well maybe not this part), I’ll be back”. (And no, Arnold Schwarzenegger did not say this first).

Please tell us what gets you zing’ed about what you do. Where do you go to get recharged- especially if you are a small business owner or mom or both- 24/7 jobs that can zap us.

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