Macaroni and Cheese With a Side of Leadership

The Scene:

The restaurant is buzzing with conversation.  The clinking of glasses and silverware can be heard above the laughter.  Scents of barbeque and aromatic flavors permeate the room.  Enter a man who moves from table to table, quietly filling the water glasses.

Restaurant Attendant (smiling):  “You like the mac and cheese?”

You (eyes wide open): “Are you kidding?  I didn’t even know you could do this with macaroni and cheese!  Fantastic.”


Attendant: “That macaroni is handmade for us by the Martelli family in Tuscany.  Just what we wanted.  The two-year-old Vermont cheddar cheese is caramelized.  We thought the combination was perfect.”

You, thinking, but not saying aloud, “Who is this guy? What type of water boy knows this stuff?”

Attendant, interrupting your thoughts: “Do you want some more bread?  You’re eating the Roadhouse bread, but you may also want to try the Irish Brown Soda bread tonight.”

You: “Is it as good as what we’re eating now?”

Attendant: “Depends on your taste, but it’s good.  We source the oatmeal from the Creedon family, the same family who makes our Irish stone ground oatmeal.  It makes the flavor and texture.  I’ll be right back with some for you to taste.  Oh, and I’d love to give you a taste of our barbeque tonight.”

You (turning to me, shrugging as he leaves):  “Who is THAT?”

Me: “That, my friend, is Ari, the most unusual water boy you will ever meet.  He’s the owner!”

You (feigned choking):  “The owner?!”

It’s true.  Ari Weinzweig is one of the restaurant owners, but he also fills water glasses at the restaurant.  Yes, you read that right.  As a partner in a multi-million dollar conglomerate, he personally walks around filling water glasses in order to stay close to the customers.

Ah, Zingerman’s.

Success by Failing Quickly

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One of the biggest problems in business isn’t failure.  It’s failing too slowly.

The biggest failure of all is never failing at all.  If you never fail, you are playing it too safe.  You are taking zero risk.  A culture with a fear of failure is a culture doomed tofailure.  Others in the marketplace will pass you by, and it may be too late by the time you realize it.


“The biggest failure of all is never failing at all.” -Skip Prichard



Failing quickly is much better than failing slowly.  Have you ever been in a business and known something was going to fail?  For whatever reason, the project marches onward.  Meanwhile, everyone who touches it knows the project is doomed.  Yet on it goes, sometimes for years.  I’ve seen some huge, expensive projects continue when, if someone would just do a reality check, the decision to kill it would be obvious.

The Five C’s of a Successful Turnaround

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5 C’s to Change Direction

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a Distressed Investing Conference in Florida.  It’s really a turnaround conference designed for professionals focused on fixing troubled companies.  Since I’ve had plenty of crisis management experience in turning around troubled businesses, I was asked to share war stories and strategies.  I also enjoyed the opportunity to network and learn from the 200 industry leaders in attendance.

Here are the five major points I shared:

1. Control.  I’m not a big proponent of top-down, autocratic management systems.  I much prefer an entrepreneurial environment with lots of input and a leader with a persuasive style.  In a crisis, though, it’s often necessary to ramp up the control level and increase the speed of decision making.  I tend to move very fast anyway, and I like to seek opinions and then make a decision and move on.  If you are in trouble, you don’t have the luxury of numerous meetings and extensive analysis.

Delivering Happiness — At Zappos and Beyond

I recently visited Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in Las Vegas.  Sitting in his condo in a room lined with hundreds of plants and overlooking the Vegas skyline, we talked about his success and what’s next for Zappos. is an online retailer with a specialty in shoes.  It has branched out into other clothing lines in recent years.  It is known for its exceptional customer service.

A Very Different Company

Zappos is different in many ways.  Here are three: