Uncommon Business
Uncommon Business
Episode #3 - Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman's Community of Businesses

Episode #3 - Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman's Community of Businesses

Ari Weinzweig is an entrepreneur and author who has inspired leaders and businesses worldwide with his philosophies about business, visioning, beliefs, and leadership.

Hey everyone -

Peter and Keeley here with something for your ears: Episode 3 of Uncommon Business, our show about unique businesses and leaders who do things differently. 

Today our podcast guest is Ari Weinzweig. Ari is the co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. He is also an author who has inspired leaders and businesses worldwide by sharing his philosophies about business, visioning, beliefs, and leadership.

You can listen to the episode right here in Substack (scroll up), on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or in the podcast player of your choice.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Weatherston

Let’s rewind all the way back to 1982. 

Ronald Reagan was in his first term. The United States was in recession. The Weather Channel had just launched. And, in the small college town of Ann Arbor Michigan, a young man with a Russian History Degree co-founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a friend and a $20,000 bank loan. 

That young man, Ari Weinzweig, and his partner Paul Saginaw opened Zingerman’s with just two employees and a small selection of exceptional specialty foods and sandwiches. Today, Zingerman’s has developed into a Community of 14 different Businesses with hundreds of employees.

I (Peter) first heard about Ari nearly a decade ago when one of my early business mentors told me that I had to read his books. Ari, in addition to being an incredible entrepreneur and leader, is also a prolific writer and author. I personally think of Ari as a philosopher disguised as a business person. 

Ari has written multiple books about business, leadership, management, and beliefs, and every week he sends out a thoughtful multi-thousand word essay via his newsletter, Ari’s Top 5 (we highly recommend subscribing). Through his writing, Ari has inspired thousands of business leaders and employees to think differently about their business and their operations.

After following Ari for the better part of the last decade, I was thrilled when I got the opportunity to help Ari and his partners transition the company to Perpetual Purpose Trust ownership. That process started in 2022 and concluded in early 2023. They are one of the higher profile businesses in the country to have made the leap to Trust ownership.

Trust ownership is just one of the many, many topics we cover during today’s conversation. See below for a full rundown.

We hope you learn something new from this conversation. Please reply and let us know what you thought the most interesting part was.

Screenshot from our interview

[00:00] Introduction
[04:08] What Ari learned while washing dishes at Maud’s
[05:18] Ari’s entrepreneurial path
[06:36] Ari’s decision to hire a full time illustrator in 1991
[09:53] The process of writing the mission and guiding principles for Zingerman’s
[12:47] Ari’s favorite guiding principle 
[14:21] Rule-breaking with a philosophical foundation
[20:53] What does it mean to be anarchist? What are some common misconceptions about anarchy and anarchists? 
[31:44] Who is Emma Goldman?
[36:05] What are some things that Ari has tried and failed?
[38:36] What is Ari focusing on lately in business?
[39:13] What is the Zingerman's approach to business? 
[47:35] What's one thing Ari has learned from Seth Godin? 
[49:37] What is a “vision,” and how is it different from a strategic plan?
[54:28] Zingerman's 2032 vision
[01:00:37] Ari’s current personal vision for 2030
[01:03:51] Visioning process
[01:06:33]  What recent beliefs has Ari changed? How did he go about that? 
[01:10:58] What are Ari's beliefs that he hides or he doesn't advertise because he feels they aren't socially acceptable? 
[01:13:20] How does Ari personally handle transitions?
[01:16:31] The role of trust in organizations and strategies for building trust among team members
[01:26:38] The analogy of an old growth forest applied to businesses and communities
[01:30:59] What is the “energy crisis” facing the American workplace, and how do we fix it? 
[01:35:20] How does Ari keep his head in the game? How does Ari manage his own energy? 
[01:38:21] Ari’s prolific reading routine and how he decide what to read next
[01:44:15] Book recommendations
[01:45:27] A good recipe Ari cooked recently
[01:47:31] Appreciations
[01:48:22] Post-interview debrief with Peter and Keeley

Please help this interview reach more people by rating it on Spotify and Apple or by sharing it with others.

We would love your feedback, comments, and questions. Please leave a comment directly on the post or email us at hello@lumogroup.co.

Thank you!

Peter & Keeley
Partners, Lumo Group