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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Zingerman's Honcho: Anarchism Can Lead to Food Biz Success

Posted By on Tue, Jan 18, 2011 at 7:48 AM

Ari Weinzweig's tips for running a successful food business include sometimes telling HR to go to hell. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Ari Weinzweig's tips for running a successful food business include sometimes telling HR to go to hell.

Ari Weinzweig thinks your business could use a little anarchy. Not the overthrow-the-government, burn-'em-at-the-stake type, but the kind that promotes employee visioning, open-book finance, and great customer service. During a weekend talk at Omnivore Books to promote his new book, A Lapsed Anarchists Approach to Building a Great Business, Weinzweig, founder of Ann Arbor's famed Zingerman's Deli, told a standing room only audience that he wrote the book because he was tired of people asking "for that one most important thing" for starting a business. Instead, he likened business success to cultivating an organic garden: There will always be pests and storms, but if it's planned well and carefully tended it'll be resilient enough to survive.

Weinzweig suggested that open-book finance tells employees, "Here are the numbers, you tell me how to make more and I'll listen." He also advised that company rules and regulations should never get in the way of a great customer experience. Asked about a Zingerman's cheesemonger who invited customers behind the counter to cut cheese, Weinzweig admitted that his HR department might freak out about potential lawsuits, but he doesn't really care.

Maybe Weinzweig's most anarchical concept had to do with the business of his new book itself: He's self-publishing, and not selling it on Amazon.

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Alex Hochman

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