By Heidi Overman
In 1982, Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Mich. Their intention was to offer a world-class corned beef sandwich in a retail space where customers would be surrounded by exceptional food. Thirty years later, and still rooted in Ann Arbor, the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses employs over 500 people and generates annual sales of over $35 million.
In 2003, Bo Burlingham and Inc. magazine named Zingerman’s Deli The Coolest Small Company in America. Later, Burlingham’s book, Small Giants, featured Zingerman’s as a company that chose to be great instead of big.
This September, participants in the CUES’ ServiStar Users Group program gathered in Savannah, Ga., with a member of the Zingerman’s staff to learn more about what makes a “small giant” and to apply that learning to the sales and service efforts at their credit unions.
Michael Neill, CSE, president and founder of Michael Neill & Associates, Inc., had been impressed by the story of Zingerman’s Deli in the book Small Giants. “I felt much of what Zingerman’s had done to create a unique culture was transferable to our ServiStar credit union clients,” he said.