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Posted on Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

Rick Snyder may tap Zingerman's to retrain government executives

By Nathan Bomey

Ann Arbor gourmet food destination Zingerman's is in the early stages of discussions to help retrain top-level government executives at the request of Gov. Rick Snyder, according to a report by Inc. magazine.

The magazine reported that Snyder recently asked Zingerman's co-founder Paul Saginaw whether his company could help Lansing bureaucrats learn a bit about the company's "service culture."


Zingerman's co-founder Paul Saginaw

Ryan J. Stanton |

"I said, 'Are you serious?" Saginaw told Inc. "But I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if the orientation of public servants was, My job is to be your resource. You are paying my salary. How do I help you get your business open?'"

The training would be conducted through the company's ZingTrain division, which provides consulting and teaching to executives. The going rate: $975 for a two-day "bottom-line training" session, according to the company's website. Zingerman's also develops customized training workshops at rates of $1,500 to $3,000 for 1 to 2 hours, $3,000 to $4,000 for a half day or $5,000 to $6,000 for a full day.

Reached by today, though, Saginaw said the discussions were extremely premature and that Inc. "jumped the gun on this way early."

"My feeling is that the state has extremely limited resources and they have many big pressing fires," he said. "This is more of an idea. If we’re going to hear from them, I would think it wouldn't be for a few years."

On its website ZingTrain decries the "ineffective extremes of big business training bureaucracies," instead favoring training that helps to "increase employee job satisfaction," "cut back bureaucracy," "target problem areas" and "give staff the info they need to be successful."

If government executives are set to participate in ZingTrain, they should probably brace for a nontraditional approach.

"Let’s just say that making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches could change your whole view of effective training," ZingTrain says on its website.

During his campaign, Snyder repeatedly said government needs to operate more like a business and to treat citizens like customers.

"My experience at Gateway and assisting startups taught me that you can have a great product or service, but you need to be responsive to your customer each and every time you have the opportunity," Snyder told Inc.

Zingerman's, which has more than 500 employees and more than $35 million in annual revenue, is often held up as one of Ann Arbor's shining entrepreneurial success stories. The company, which is in the midst of an expansion, was selected as Business Review's Company of the Year at the 2010 "Deals of the Year" ceremony.

It wouldn't be the first political dalliance for Zingerman's.

A year ago, the company fielded a take-out order from Air Force One while President Barack Obama was in town to deliver the University of Michigan's spring commencement address.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


Left is Right

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 12:28 a.m.

I've had the Zingerman's training. It was great--common-sense stuff such as being respectful of "customers" but that seems to be precisely the stuff that's often lost in organizational culture where it can quickly degenerate into "us vs. them." I think it's especially important for our state employees who deal directly with the public to have it (yes, the SoS is a relevant example). Also important for supervisors.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 10:53 p.m.

I've heard rave reviews about the Zingerman's customer service training a few years back. Bring it! We need our civl servants to have more of an attitude and understanding of who's paying those salaries rather than the current attitude of entitlement!


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

In ZingTrain could somehow cultivate some sense of decency and humanity into Rick's allies in the state GOP or at the Mackinac Center, then it might all be worth the bother.

Dante Marcos

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

If this winds up happening, it would mean I'd no longer patronize Zingerman's. Doubt I'd be alone in feeling that way.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

No, you'd be alone and the line will still be out the door.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

Nathan - Just curious - did Zingermans / Paul Saginaw donate to Snyder's campaign. Just curious but I suspect they did.

Nathan Bomey

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

Good question. Saginaw hasn't made a campaign contribution since 2006, according to a state database. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

Ahh, forget Zingtrain! Send 'em to Menlo in Kerrytown and have 'em get Agile!!! LOL!!!


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

Government Bureaucrats will learn to make cookies and become productive. I like cookies!

Lets Get Real

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

Let's Get Real - this is a &quot;thought&quot; for customer service training. I'm not oppossed, because the Zingerman's organization has found a solution that works - for them - that does translate to some other business models. But, if Zingerman's can customize a current program for state government, that could be a model for future offerings to other purchasers, it seems they could incur some of the development cost and lower the per person price significantly. Customer Service Training is perhaps a valid concern, but it seems to me we need much more - at all levels of governiment - to make real change. The entitlement attitude we have created in Michigan: unions trained their memebers to expect excessive pay and benefits; government workers have come to expect their jobs are sacred &amp; their higher wages are justified; teachers have been lulled themselves into believing their jobs are so noble that they are overworked and underpaid. Hey Rick, Let's Get Real, and make cuts that make the government bureaucracy accountable for their existence. In my business I am NOT entitled to anything I don't earn. No one pays me for personal phone conversations, online shopping, March madness bracket creation, a smoke break, whinning with coworkers, personal bill paying, vacation research and planning - you get the idea. CUT THE WASTE AND DUPLICATION. Eliminate jobs and make government as lean and mean as other businesses must be to survive. Less government, not more, please - and yes - excellenct training for those in whom it is worth investing based on their exhibition of the identified desired qualities for their job and their willingness to actually work.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

Sounds like alot of whining to me. Let me get my violin. The public workers have it so good, boo hoo.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

You must be joking.

Jon Saalberg

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

I would be interested to know, according to @Boo, what affordable training would be? If you are trying to make your business better through service excellence, an even cursory excursion into many Ann Arbor stores will show you what excellent service is not. I find it a bit sad that people make fun of the idea of teaching people how to treat their fellow planet inhabitants with respect. Maybe that is why, unfortunately, we see &quot;best service&quot; lists - because there is so little of it.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

Excellent idea, current government executives clearly don't do enough to do, let's have them make sandwiches as well. Sweet. Hey, Ricky, I'll have a #62, with new new dill and a side of garlic potato salad to go... put it under the name, Michigan is none sense!

Boo Radley

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

Wow ... overpriced sandwiches AND overpriced training. I have been to a lot of different leadership development and management training programs and seminars in my career. Many of them presented by what I thought were high-priced consultants, but I don't think any of them matched the $975 for a two day boiler plate session listed here. That is probably in line with other corporate training, but governments generally do not have the funds to pay those kinds of prices, except for those few officials at the very top, who don't deal with the &quot;customers&quot; anyway. I am pretty sure that the state's training and education budget would certainly crash under the cost of the customized version at $1500 per hour. Ummm ... did I read that right? $1500 to $3000 for one to two hours? Well, that probably includes a corned beef sandwich, so I guess it's worth it.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

You want to train government executives? give me a horse whip, a cattle prod, and two hours in a dark room.

potwitically incorrect

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 4:03 a.m.

i was getting really worried that I wouldn't see a Zingerman's article today in Zingerman' oops I meant Slacking a bit on the Eve Aranoff stories are we not?

Tom Joad

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

These pricey pep talks make me cringe.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 3:13 a.m.

ZingTrain and Disney are two of the top ten customer service training companies in the US. I have seen both in action, they are both good. As a taxpayer, I approve of teaching government employees to actually provide service.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:20 a.m.

So now government is going to work for me like a mediocre over priced deli - ARE YOU KIDDING?


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 1:33 a.m.

List of clients from Zingerman's website: * National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) * International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) * Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) * Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association * University of Michigan Business School * Middle Cities Education Association of Michigan * Great Game of Business * Michigan Museums Association For all of you poo pooers, nay sayers, sneering critics and those suspicious of anything Republican, I'd like to see any of you tell me why the UofM Business School is on this list. Get a life. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Hot Sam

Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 1:29 a.m.

A partisan fog hides the light...

David Briegel

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.

Come on Hot Sam, The TeaPublicans stand for whatever the Kock Bros tell Sarah, Glen, Michelle, Walker, Kasich to spew forth! Anything for the well to do at the expense of the less fortunate among us.

Hot Sam

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:19 p.m.

Sorry...but some have no idea what the Tea Party stands for...and the fact that they have nothing to do with the subject at hand. Any government entity I have ever seen could use some of the Zing Train philosophy...

David Briegel

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:53 a.m.

Sorry, but read above. They are the polar opposite of everything the TeaPublicans stand for! And YOU know it!


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

Old pickle or new pickle?


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:12 a.m.

That's just in time for the big hiring at McDonald's...Hope Rick gets the job. He'd be better serving fries instead of the BULL he's trying to force feed us!!!!

David Briegel

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:09 a.m.

Isn't it wonderful that a political animal known for creating jobs in China turns to an American Company famous for advice on running a successful business and creating jobs right here in River City, America? I'm certain that TeaPublicans can't wrap their brains around that one!! Zingerman's is the opposite of those &quot;TeaPublican values&quot;. Zingerman's pays a living wage, offers benefits to their employees, sells nothing but top quality products, gives back to their community while creating American jobs. Imagine the sheer folly of that business model. The complete opposite of &quot;conservative TeaPublican&quot; philosophy and values! And Proudly Successful!!!


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 10:53 p.m.

It is really unfortunate that the prestige of Zingerman's could be cast away so easily in attempt to rescue a governor so indifferent to the rule of law and public confidence. At least Z's now knows how he rolls in leaking the Inc. storyline. All for Sick and Sick for Sick! We all thought Z's had more class than this. What did we know, anyway?


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 10:51 p.m.

When I lived in Portland, OR, I noticed that my favorite grocer started selling the Zingerman's training book. Shortly after I noticed the book, I started to see the prices go up all over the store. Whenever I would ask why is the price of say chicken wings went up, an employee would say on que with a smile in an overly cheery voice, &quot;They are worth it.&quot; The, &quot;They are worth it,&quot; response came from employee in the store. I figured that they learned it from taking Zing Training. Maybe that is Snyders plan. When we ask why we are getting less and paying more because Snyder's $1.8 tax break to corporation, state employees will say with a smile, &quot;They are worth it.&quot; Maybe they will offer free samples of brownies and cookies at their desks too. Well, I did not buy the marked up wings then, and I am not buying Snyder's Plan now. Don't take the free samples and do not drink Snyders corporate give away kool-aid.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 10:09 p.m.

Although I appreciate the levity, some on here seem to have a very poor understanding of the Zingerman's business, the culture they've created and how they help other businesses. Executives, managers and the like are often annointed or appointed rather than knowing how to do the job they are going to be doing. Educating them on how to do their jobs (or do them better) seems like a good idea to me, whether or not it's Zingerman's that does the training.

David Briegel

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:18 a.m.

&quot;Executives, managers and the like oare often annointed or appointed&quot;. Exactl! Crony capitalism, the TeaPublican &quot;value&quot;! The problem is that TeaPublican know everything they need to know. Just take care of the Mad Hatters and all is well!!


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 10:06 p.m.

Okay, we saw some of the outlandish salaries Snyder's new hires receive. He couldn't hire people who didn't need more training? Why should we pay for more training for them? If he gets recalled after July 1st, they may not have a boss anyhow.

Marshall Applewhite

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 11:19 p.m.

That's right!!! Instead of training government officials properly, we should spend the money to enrich poorly trained union officials! That's how we're going to turn this thing around!


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:50 p.m.

Now we are getting right down to the wire: Baloney 101 - How to serve it with a smile Hot Buns 203 - The secrets in raising the dough Catering 205 - Who gets served . . . and who gets their just desserts Leftovers 303 - How tomorrow can be made to look better than yesterday with no effort This, of course, is just the sample menu. I just can't wait for the rest.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

Benefits of bringing a 'customer is always right' mentality to government: * Cops give traffic tickets only if the driver agrees with the violation * Teachers give failing grades only if the students agrees with the F Like anyone else I've had my share of frustrating experiences involving government employees. But the public sector doesn't exactly have a monopoly on that; I'm no more eager to contact my mortgage company (15-minute hold, a rep who may or may not be able to help) than to visit the DMV.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:17 a.m.

Sorry there northslide. They are not customers, they are citizens and The rickety Snyder finds regarding them as such as annoying. He'll be gone July 1, so start breaking yourself for it


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:37 p.m.

And a few more: * Foster care workers should allow kids to be placed in any home that wants them, regardless of whether the wanna-be foster parents appear worthy * Judges should only make convictions when the defendant pleads guilty * Public mental health workers should support their clients desire to go off their meds It's all about pleasing the customer!

Atticus F.

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

Now Zingerman's can teach the governer that employees are expendable...Oh wait, I think he already knew that.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

Oh God now they'll never leave us alone! Are they going to start overcharging too?


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

&quot;Are they going to start overcharging too?&quot; They've been over charging the 40 years I've been paying taxes, can't get must worse.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

Probably, but you might get a fortune cookie!


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:33 p.m.

To bad the Gov can only relate to business, they should learn chinese too. That's where he's the most comfortable serving jobs.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

Funny. I avoid Zingerman's because I can't stand the obsequious mewling of the employees. Seems that long ago Borders had intelligent, witty employees, who would make helpful suggestions about books — but they evolved into sarcastic cynics who would make nasty comments about my purchases, so I stopped going there. My experience over the long term with Zingerman's has been the same.

Moscow On The Huron

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

I know what you mean. I stopped going to the drive-up at the Roadhouse because when one of the human pincushions would serve me I'd lose my appetite.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

How can someone be obsequious and nasty at the same time?


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:58 p.m.

nemo: i'd be curious to know what a sarcastic comment about a sandwich order ---by the sandwich maker--sounds like. or was it the obsequiousness?? the 2 are poles apart in my dictionary. But loved the movie about your &quot;finding&quot;!!

Atticus F.

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.



Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

Oh, I get it. The goal of the training is to make the public officials more helpful and friendly to the taxpayer. I thought for a moment that Governor Snyder was about to announce more layoffs of state officials, hence the need for retraining by Zingerman's. Either way, might be a great idea. Think of the implications of transforming the state into a foodie destination run by people who care.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

&quot;I'll be so proud of my state politicians when they are trained in the art of running a sandwich shop.&quot; @Forever27 - I love your sarcasm because I'm sure you've also started a thriving, multi-million dollar food enterprise that has provided a multitude of jobs to Michigan residents. And I'm sure you'd never want to trade places with Mr. Saginaw, because who in their right mind would want to be a self-made millionaire with business acumen that is respected throughout the country.

Audion Man

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

@jdawg7214 The problem is, the odds of becoming a successful business on the order of Zingerman's are probably akin to the odds of winning the lottery. And yet, we fashion public policy on the illusion that if you work hard enough, it will happen to you. And are expected to canonize the very lucky few who succeed. (No, wait, as good Americans we can never attribute success to luck. It has to be by hard work-- axiomatically.) Admittedly, a heaping helping of Zingerman's Patented Customer Service would go far to make Snyder-brand Malevolence (tm) palatable.

Moscow On The Huron

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

&quot;because who in their right mind would want to be a self-made millionaire with business acumen that is respected throughout the country.&quot; Not the left. That means work. They just want handouts.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : midnight

If running a sandwich shop is the same as government, i suppose Paul Saginaw and Ari will be cutting prices (taxes) and cutting back on services to spur the economy? That is EXACTLY the Rick Snyder plan. I have been to Zingermans many times, and one thing I am sure of, they are not about cutting their prices to be the same as their competitors. So if you want the Zingermans model, i suggest you pay your people, quit forcing them into furloughs, and quit trying to be like Indiana or Wisconsin. Zingermans is an example as to why price (taxes) is NOT the main issue in improving the states economy.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.

How is running a business a far cry from running a government? Oh, I know, because unionized government executives/employees have little to no incentive to please their &quot;customer&quot; base. It's a forced monopoly. I have no choice but to go to the Secretary of State and stand in line while I watch some of the slowest and most lackadaisical employees I've ever seen. But if that happened at any business, I'd patronize another one next time I needed something. Both businesses and government have tasks to do, and the goal should be to do those tasks efficiently, effectively, and in a cost-effective manner. While the services they provide might be different, the end goal should be to please their customers/constituents.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

Wrong 27. If govt were run as a business, there would be substantially less waste and better service. I'm kind of tired of sending my tax dollars to Lansing to have them flushed down the toilet with not much to show for it.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.

the politicians aren't customer service reps, they're civil servants. As much as service is a part of the job (and obviously the name) running a government is a far cry from running a business. Which is precisely why Snyder was/is a bad choice for governor to begin with.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:08 p.m.

Or would you rather have had a former football coach try to help state government run more efficiently? &quot;Okay boys, we're going to take this product, drive it right up the middle as many times as it takes until the other side finally gives in and we win, no matter what the cost or how long it might take.&quot;


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

Sometimes the best processes and information is found in the least expected places. Never underestimate the knowledge a good entrepreneurial business person may have the can be passed on to our government workers to help in streamlining operations as well as deliver a better product.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

If our state government management can learn how to view tax payers and entrepreneurs as customers we will be well on our way to reinventing Michigan. I hope this contract with Zing Train comes to pass -- soon!


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 7:23 p.m.

I'll be so proud of my state politicians when they are trained in the art of running a sandwich shop.