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Zingerman’s Co-Founder on the Power of Positive Beliefs

Zingerman’s Deli co-founder Ari Weinzweig lucked out when he got a job washing dishes out of college.

He didn’t know it at the time but working in a restaurant fueled a passion for the industry and introduced him to his future business partner.

“I stumbled into work that I really love,” he said.

In an inspiring presentation at this week’s Mackinac Policy Conference, Weinzweig described the power of beliefs and how they’ve shaped him personally and professionally.

Weinzweig had zero interest in becoming an entrepreneur and even held negative beliefs about business in general. Conversations with Zingerman’s co-founder Paul Saginaw, whom he met at that first restaurant job, gradually shifted his perspective. Saginaw explained that business is a tool – it’s how you use it that determines whether it’s good or bad.

“When you change what you believe, everything starts to look different,” Weinzweig said.

From humble roots in a 1,300 square-foot brick building with two employees, Zingerman’s found a following and eventually blossomed into a multi-million-dollar family of companies employing more than 700 people.

Weinzweig attributes the business success to a belief and value system that created a positive environment for employees and sustainable growth. He explained that negative beliefs create a self-fulfilling negative environment, using the example of training and developing workers. If a CEO believes that investing in employee growth isn’t worth it, workers might feel less motivated and produce lower-quality work. The CEO’s initial negative belief will be self-fulfilled as they’ve unintentionally created a workforce they believe really aren’t worth investing in.

Conversely, Zingerman’s leadership believe in developing employees, creating a deep pool of talent who value the organization and work hard as a result. Weinzweig said he personally believes that “everyone is a creative, caring, intelligent human being.” He also believes it is his job as a leader to draw out greatness in his employees.

Believing in staff help them believe in and work toward their full potential.

“What we believe becomes the reality we live in every day,” Weinzweig said.

Like this post? Check out our other coverage from the Mackinac Policy Conference:

Photo credit: Carl Collins

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