Episode 28 of The2pt5 innovator podcast features a captivating conversation of Klaus Reichert with Maggie Bayless, the founder of ZingTrain in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. Maggie shares her journey from growing up in a small town in Ohio, her studies at Oberlin College, to establishing a successful training venture that’s part of the Zingerman’s community of businesses. Throughout the episode, they discuss the importance of training, clear expectations, and creating a conducive work environment. The discussion also touches on the impact of visioning and the role of trust and transparency in building a thriving business and community.

Maggie Bayless
(c) Maggie Bayless

About Maggie Bayless

Maggie Bayless has been involved with Zingerman’s Delicatessen since its opening in 1982. She started by helping out while she was a student and later helped them with computerization. After working for other companies, she co-founded ZingTrain in 1994 to provide training for Zingerman’s and other businesses. ZingTrain offers well designed seminars, workshops, and courses on various topics to clients in and outside the food industry. Maggie remains active in leading training sessions and maintaining client relationships.

“She’s a super dedicated learning professional and always enthusiastic and encouraging in her approach. Thanks for being a terrific model for all of us, Maggie.“

about Maggie Bayless

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“I think an effective trainer is someone who is more focused on the trainee learning than on how they come across as a trainer and who is also focused on what does the trainee need to learn, not what do I want to teach, because that can be two different things.”

Maggie Bayless

The Secret Sauce of Small Business Success

In the bustling world of entrepreneurship and small business growth, few stories are as compelling and instructive as that of ZingTrain, a pivotal arm of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Founded on the principles of exceptional training, great food, and a vision based approach to business, ZingTrain offers a unique perspective on cultivating both organizational culture and bottom line results.

Creating a Culture of Learning and Excellence

At the heart of ZingTrain’s philosophy is a deep commitment to good instructional design and customer service training. Maggie Bayless, ZingTrain’s co-founder, shares how a genuine passion for learning and development has been instrumental in their success. By establishing clear expectations, developing concise SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), and fostering an environment where engagement is celebrated, ZingTrain has significantly impacted the US food industry and beyond.

Visioning: A Cornerstone for Growth and Innovation

Vision and visioning stand out as fundamental principles driving ZingTrain’s approach. This commitment to a clear, shared future guides everything from daily operations to long-term strategic planning. The practice of visioning—defining what success looks like at a particular point in the future—helps unify teams and provides a roadmap for decision-making and innovation management.

Empowering Entrepreneurship and SMEs

ZingTrain’s work extends far beyond Ann Arbor, inspiring small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) worldwide. Through its workshops, seminars, and consulting services, ZingTrain equips entrepreneurs with the tools necessary for effective leadership, customer service excellence, and operational efficiency. These resources are crucial for small business growth in a competitive and ever-evolving marketplace.


Maggie’s journey with ZingTrain’s offers invaluable insights into the power of quality training, the significance of a well-articulated vision, and the impact of nurturing a strong organizational culture. Their focus on instructional design and customer service training, coupled with a dedication to visioning, sets a solid foundation for both individual and business growth. This episode of The 2.5 innovator podcast with Maggie Bayless underscores the importance of investing in human capital and innovative processes as cornerstones for success. Whether in the food industry or any field aiming for excellence, the lessons from ZingTrain illuminate the path to achieving enduring and meaningful progress. The Ann Arbor-based firm not only champions the value of a learning-oriented business model but also demonstrates how small businesses can effectively combine innovation management and sustainable development. Their story is a testament to how visionary leadership, when combined with a commitment to employee training, employee and customer satisfaction, can yield remarkable results for businesses of all sizes.



This transcript is manually created.

Maggie Bayless: Every time we’d teach a ZingTrain seminar and we’d have people come from around the country or around the world and spend two days together training and sharing information, I was always so… I found it so uplifting to realize that there are all these businesses. And most of our clients are smaller, independently owned businesses, although we’ve worked with some, you know, departments of multinationals, but most of them are private, privately held businesses, and they’re all over the world, trying to make their particular area better. They’re trying to make their company better. They’re trying to make their communities better, and you know, that’s not what’s on the front page of the paper, but that’s really gratifying. 

Klaus Reichert: Welcome to The 2pt5- Conversations Connecting Innovators. My name is Klaus. I’m an innovation coach in Baden-Württemberg in the southwest of Germany. Innovators and creators from around the globe help each other by sharing highs and lows, their motivation and creative passions, as well as their favourite methods, tools, and ideas. The name of the podcast comes from the 2.5% Innovators from Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation Theory. Find more details, all the episodes and transcripts at www.the2pt5.net. Enjoy the show. 

My guest is Maggie Bayless. She is the founder of Zingtrain with a 30 year plus career as an entrepreneur, consultant, and educator. She’s located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the US. Welcome, Maggie. Thank you for your time.

Maggie Bayless: Thank you so much for having me.

Klaus Reichert: Maggie, we are talking about 30 years of Zingtrain today also, but I think we have to start in the beginning. Where was your start in life?

Maggie Bayless: I grew up in a small town in Southern Ohio -Wilmington, Ohio. My father was a college professor, taught chemistry, so I actually grew up never considering that business was a possible career. [laughter] And one of the things, I guess, a real milestone in my childhood was when I was eight, my dad was on sabbatical and studied for a year at the University of Heidelberg. So I spent that year in Germany, which gave me a love for that language and a love for your country and then, when I went to college, I majored in German literature. But you’ve promised that you wouldn’t require me to answer any questions in German right now [laughter] because I have lost that, although that’s… one of my bucket list items is to go back and spend a couple of weeks at the Goethe Institut again and get my German back.

Klaus Reichert: Okay. Yes, I promised that we wouldn’t be doing any German talking and so on, but do you have, like, a favorite German author or text from that time?

Maggie Bayless: Oh, not from that time. I read a really interesting book in translation called Identity. That’s a current book, but it was written in German and I got the German out of the library and I was like…

Klaus Reichert: “No way.”

Maggie Bayless: “I think I want to really understand what’s going on here.” So… [laughs]

Klaus Reichert: I think German is a tough language to learn. There might be languages that are more difficult to learn, so no blame. But still, thank you for sort of aspiring to coming back to Germany and travel around. Maggie, you got a B.A. at Oberlin College, and I’ve read a lot about Oberlin College. How was that, as an experience in the 70s? How was Oberlin College in the 70s like?

Maggie Bayless: Wow. What was it like? Well, I don’t know that this will make sense to non-US listeners, but I would say it was a very progressive liberal arts school. The students were fairly politically engaged, although in the 70s, less politically engaged than probably in the 60s, but I graduated from Oberlin sort of feeling like most of the, I don’t know, social problems had been taken care of [laughter] because I wasn’t dealing with them. I wasn’t dealing with sexism on campus, or at least I wasn’t recognizing it. And then I went to work at a bank in Chicago and was blown over by the sexism that I encountered in the workplace and realized, “oh,  maybe I was in a little bit of a bubble there” in an academic community. I got very involved with student co-ops, eating and dining co-ops where the students really ran the show and that was appealing to me. And I really… I did graduate with a sense of sort of anti-business feeling. I just felt like corporations, big business was bad. I wouldn’t say that I had a really coherent argument about that, but it was just a sense that I had. So, I actually spent quite a bit of my early professional career trying to ignore the fact that I was good at business [Klaus laughs] because it felt like I shouldn’t be, like I should be doing something more… oh, giving back more or something. So, at some point I realized that, as the oldest child, I had internalized both of my parents -my father, who had a career and worked full time, and my mother, who was a full-time volunteer and was very active politically. And so, I think I felt like I needed to do both of those things, and there was a point where I realized, “Oh, but I’m one person, I can’t do them, you know, both full time.” But I really did struggle with the idea of business as a career. And I remembered that when I was working at the bank in Chicago, my dad said to me on a phone call, “Well, you know, if you like business, maybe you should think about getting an MBA and maybe the bank would pay for it.” And I was actually insulted that he thought that [Klaus laughs] would be a worthwhile course of study. Now, five years later, I ended up going to the University of Michigan and getting an MBA, and no one paid for it. So, it was actually one of the many times that I didn’t give my parents as much credit as I should have for, like, understanding me better than perhaps I understood myself.

Klaus Reichert: But it’s also a testament for your personal development that you can see what you’re good at, and what you like, and sort of change your views, also.

Maggie Bayless: Yes. I mean, there is that, I will say that -and I’ve heard other people say this to other people who are sort of near the end or at the end of their professional careers- that I can look back and I can make it all look like it was an organized plan, but in fact, everything was kind of like, “okay, what are we going to do today?” until I started Zingtrain, which was in 1994. So, I would say from 1994 on, there has been a plan, a really well thought out vision and plan, but kind of getting to that point, it was a lot of fits and starts and trying different things. And even deciding to go back to school to get an MBA came out of the desperation that in the early eighties, the economy in the U.S. was really not good and I was having a hard time finding a job and… you know, when in doubt, go back to school. By that time, I lived in Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan has a very reputable business school, and so that was actually the only business school I applied to because I wasn’t willing to move, but I thought, well, that would be an option. And then I was accepted into the program. So then I got an MBA, which made it look like I had a plan.

Klaus Reichert: Yeah. Well, the plan is the things that you do while you’re doing it or something. I don’t remember the right definition.

Maggie Bayless: Oh, that’s “life is what happens while you’re planning other things” or something like that.

Klaus Reichert: Something like that, yes. But you said nobody was paying for it, so you were paying for your education yourself and you also had to make money to make a living.

Maggie Bayless: No. I had to pay for my graduate school. My parents, my family paid for my undergraduate. But graduate school back then wasn’t as gaspingly expensive as it is now. I mean, I graduated. I got some loans and I got some grants to go to school, but I think I graduated with $10,000 in debt. I mean a really manageable amount. 

Klaus Reichert: I understand that all these things have exploded in the U. S. I mean, in Germany, a higher education, or education, is free. It’s paid via taxes. So it’s a good system, I think, for everybody. But things are different in other parts of the world. And I understand in the U. S. there’s lots of people with student debts that leave or start their career with a lot of debt. So that was different with you, but was that around the time where you got into contact with Zingerman’s and with Ari and Paul?

Maggie Bayless: Yeah. So, I met Ari and Paul when I first moved to Ann Arbor. I moved to Ann Arbor in 1979. I actually followed from Chicago. So, I graduated from Oberlin, I moved to Chicago, I worked at a bank there. I also waited tables there before I got the job at the bank. And then I quit the job and traveled for the summer. That was one of my M.O.s early on, work long enough to make enough money to travel, quit, travel, till the money ran out, then get another job. 

Klaus Reichert: Sounds very familiar.

Maggie Bayless: [laughs] And I recommend that actually. So I moved to Ann Arbor in the summer of 1979 and I got a job waiting tables. And it just so happened that the restaurant where I went to work was where Ari and Paul had met. At that point, Ari was still there. He had just been promoted to assistant kitchen manager. Paul had moved on, but they were still friends. So, I got to know them there and so when they opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in 1982, I was one of the unpaid friends and family who was there helping recover the chairs and paint the walls and do all of that. And so the Deli opened in March of 82 and in September of 82, I started the MBA program at Michigan and I worked in the Deli on Saturday while I was getting my MBA. So, that was how I supported myself. And then I… actually one summer, while I was in the MBA program, I had an internship with Dresdner Bank in Dusseldorf, so that was fun. That kind of brought, you know, my language stuff back together. And then I graduated in 1984, and I decided if I was ever going to try corporate America again, because the bank was First National Bank of Chicago when I was in Chicago. I mean, that was a big corporate bank. I’m pretty sure big corporate America is not for me, but if I’m ever going to do it, coming out of the MBA program, you have the entree into some of those, at least to get interviews at places. So I interviewed with some big companies. I wanted to stay in the Ann Arbor area, and I took a job with General Motors. I didn’t last very long. I look back on it and… there were some… I met some wonderful people there, and there were some really smart, creative people, and it was a really frustrating system to work in, and I was involved with a team that supported some of the top executives, so the product policy group, the chairman and the president and the heads of the different car divisions that were making decisions about forward products, what are we going to carry 10 years from now, I was not… I was in some of those meetings -just let’s be clear, they were not asking my opinion, I was making photocopies- but it was really interesting to be a fly on the wall in some of those meetings. And I was really shocked by the reluctance to share bad news.

Klaus Reichert: Mm

Maggie Bayless: The executives didn’t want to hear it and so the people that reported to them were afraid to say it, and it made me realize that, wow, these people are making decisions with that information because people are like changing the information to paint a rosier picture.

Klaus Reichert: Mhm

Maggie Bayless: But these people are also creating the culture that makes it unacceptable to bring bad news. So that was my first real “aha” about a company that can be really big, and in some ways successful, and yet I would almost say there’s decay inside, or rot at the core, that I think came back to bite GM at some point. I think they’ve recovered. But it made me realize I don’t want to work in an organization where we can’t talk truthfully about what’s going on and address those issues with all available information. Does that make any sense?

Klaus Reichert: It does. It perfectly does. And if we think about the products, the trainings that you do and that you have developed at ZingTrain, which we’ll come back to later, it makes perfect sense, I think, to understand this experience here, in the context of the later products. Yeah.

Maggie Bayless: Yeah. I also think it’s one of the reasons that I’ve been such a proponent of open book management because I just believe that no one person or group of people understands an organization as well as, kind of, everybody together, because everyone is looking at things from a different perspective. And if you share with people what the goals are for the organization and, you know, where we’re trying to get to and you get everybody going in that same direction, you’re just going to get not only more engagement, but you’re going to get better ideas.

Klaus Reichert: If we talk about transparency in a business, maybe also in relationships between people working, do you think this experience sort of has triggered or shaped your view of transparency, or was that started earlier, for example, in Oberlin College? You talked about people, the students running individual businesses or places. Where was that root?

Maggie Bayless: Oh, that’s a great question. And, you know, I’m not sure. I think when I was at Oberlin. I mean, I know that Oberlin was formative for me and my closest friends are friends that I made at Oberlin. I mean, there’s still some of the people that I’m closest to, but I wasn’t spending my time there. Maybe I should have been, but I wasn’t spending my time there thinking about, “oh, now I’m laying the basis and the foundation for my life.” I just was not thinking about it.

Klaus Reichert: And that’s not something that you do with 20 years old, right?

Maggie Bayless: No, right.

Klaus Reichert: But you just do things and experience things.

Maggie Bayless: Right. And you either like it or you don’t. And then you try to do more of the stuff that you like. But I think that experience at GM was really… that really was profound for me in a couple of ways. One was just this realization that, oh, a seemingly successful -and on many fronts successful- organization is not necessarily getting everything right and individual people have a huge impact on the culture of a department. Because I was hired in by one manager and I loved working for him and he was very… he just was interested in input and kind of out-of-the-box thinking and then he got promoted and went away and then a different manager came in who was all about “just do what I tell you to do and you don’t need to understand the reason. I just want you to do it.” So, I had that and that whole idea that people are making decisions with bad information and yet it was their fault that they didn’t have the good information because they didn’t want to hear it, that continues to like, sort of blow my mind because I know that if it was happening there, at GM, it happened in a lot of other organizations. And in fact, I’ve seen that happen. And when I left GM, I went to work for a small company because I thought, “Oh, big is bad.” So I went to work for a small company and I actually discovered that it’s not… big and small isn’t the magic, it’s the people. Because I went to work for a small company that had some of the same dysfunction, just on a smaller level. You know, there were two founders, and they didn’t want to hear bad news. [laughter] It’s just really interesting. And while I was going through… then I left there and I went to work for a company that developed… did instructional design for large corporate clients, and that’s where I discovered my passion for training, the idea that you can design training in a way that people can learn more effectively and you can… there are ways to focus the training to support the business goals of an organization.

Klaus Reichert: Crazy idea.

Maggie Bayless: I know. I found that so exciting. And I had stayed friends with Paul and Ari, and so I was really… I kept thinking, “Oh, they believe in training and they’re doing training, but they don’t know how to design effective training.” I wanted to kind of help them. And they were trying to create a different kind of business. And so while I’m having these experiences in big business and small business, but kind of dysfunctional businesses, I was like, “Oh, but I have these friends who are trying to create a business that takes good care of customers, but also as a place that people want to come to work and were really open to hearing, getting input from the people that work there and, in fact, felt that that was a critical piece of making the business successful.” And so it eventually became clear that, “Oh, instead of looking for that kind of an organization somewhere else, is there a way to come back and work with those guys again?” And it was actually my husband who, after our first son was born, and I’d been doing some freelance work, and I was not a good stay-at-home mom. That was not [laughs] going to be, that wasn’t really going to work for any of us long term. And Fred, my husband, said, “You know, you are never quite as excited and animated talking about work as when you talk about some of the projects you did with Ari and Paul.” Because when I was in business school, I was helping them. I would go in and work on Saturdays, but I also did some projects. And he goes, “You know, I think you ought to talk to those guys and see, you know, if there’s some way you could work with them.” I was kind of like, “Yeah, yeah, okay.” And then they published their first formal long-term vision, the vision of 2009, which they published in 1994, with the idea of creating a Community of Businesses. And I read that and had this sense of like, “Oh, wow, for this to work, they’re gonna need strong training systems, maybe there’s an opportunity here.” So, that’s kind of how that all came together.

Klaus Reichert: And that’s the person speaking that doesn’t have much business sense, or sort of defied the business sense inside her. [Maggie laughs] You sort of understood the opportunity right away.

Maggie Bayless: Well, yeah. And I saw that opportunity. And I want to give them credit, too, because they basically were offering partnership to people that had ideas that resonated with them. And I would not have started a company on my own. That just didn’t appeal to me. I like working as part of a team. But what happened from working in all these different places, large companies, small companies, I realized, “Oh, these businesses are not run by magicians. They’re run by people who are fallible. And some of them are making as many mistakes. I can make those mistakes too.” I was like, “I might as well try it.” You know, that sense that I think a lot of us grow up with, that the world is being run by people that know more than we do. And I’m not saying that there aren’t people that know more in specific technical areas or have more experience, but at the end of the day, you know, everybody’s just people. But I don’t think I would have started a business on my own. So the idea of being able to have my own business, but be partners with Ari and Paul, but I would be able to run the day to day, have their support and their insight, that was really appealing. That was really appealing. 

Klaus Reichert: And I can make good mistakes too, right?

Maggie Bayless: Right. Yeah.

Klaus Reichert: Which is always a starting point for improvement. So that’s a good thing. And what I like about what you just said is being an entrepreneur gives you the opportunity to sort of design the way you want to work, design the processes, find the right customers, find the right people to work with and all of these things, right? And doing that in a community and with partners makes much more sense. And what we have to think about -you just mentioned that- is that Zingerman’s started as a Deli, but it’s a Community of Businesses today with 10 or 11 businesses, and one of the first additional businesses was the Bakehouse. So, it sort of grew organically, right? And adding the ZingTrain part to that sort of community of business is also something really organic if you value training, if you value people, the development of people.

Maggie Bayless: Right. One of the things that is unique about ZingTrain is that we are not the training department for the Zingerman’s Community of Business. We are a separate company, and when ZingTrain started, the Deli and the Bakehouse, which were the only other Zingerman’s businesses at that time, were ZingTrain‘s first clients. So, they paid me to help them improve their training. Over time, outside companies were interested in learning how the Zingerman’s do customer service. That’s always been the number one topic that people have come to ZingTrain to learn. And the ZingTrain trainers -now there are 13 people at ZingTrain– we all do some internal classes, but people from all over the organization do internal classes too. It’s very decentralized. ZingTrain developed most of the classes, but we’ve certified other people to teach them, and I think there’s real value in having operational managers doing the teaching rather than just HR professionals. All the HR people teach the HR topics, but Knife Safety was being taught by chefs, not by an HR person, right?

Klaus Reichert: Yes. I see what you mean. First of all, it sort of scales much better. Also, it develops the content of the course of the training a lot. If the pro is sort of being equipped with the tools of how to do the training, giving some insights into a training, maybe with a rough sketch of a training, and then this person can sort of, by teaching others, improve their own training also.

Maggie Bayless: Absolutely. We talked about the fourth level of learning that when you’re teaching, you learn things in a whole new way. The other thing is that… one of the things we talk about our systems culture gaps, you know, the system is the way we do something. The culture is what’s really happening in our organization. There’s always some… no organization is perfect. But if those gaps get too wide, we lose credibility. One of the problems that happens, I believe, when you have centralized training in an organization, is that the people who are doing the training on a topic are not necessarily the people that are doing that thing, so as the culture maybe shifts, sometimes you’re training on things and the people are sitting in the training going, “I know we don’t do it this way.” But if you’re one of the operational managers and you realize that the training is getting out of date, or that the culture is kind of going off the rails, there’s more of an incentive for you to kind of figure out, okay, we either have to update the training to make it consistent with the improvements we’ve made in the field, or we need to get what we’re doing in the field sort of back on track with the way we should be doing it.

Klaus Reichert: Because it’s also in your personal interest that things work smoothly and people are trained well, and yeah, I see what you mean. I think that’s also something that people don’t really understand about innovation and innovation management that I do as a consultant, as a coach, because it’s not that I do all the innovation, it’s I’m helping others to be better at innovation. Right? And I think it’s the same thing here. What you just said about… I think is very important and it sort of rings a bell, and people might not understand the importance of that, but you just said that you also worked for a company where you started to do trainings, and you learned how to, sort of, design trainings, or got a, sort of, more… a better insight into that. Yeah. And I think the thing of designing a training is so important that it gets forgotten a lot, also, because the structure and the content, and maybe the mission that drives you to do all this is so important, but it’s just not really visible a lot. Having, doing a good design,  which is sort of a training, is completely different than the design of a house or whatever, but it is still design, right?

Maggie Bayless: Absolutely. Yeah. And I think there are a few different things that happen when it comes to training. I think a lot of organizations, and this was true of Zingerman’s, I think when we started ZingTrain, an approach, like if you don’t know anything about instructional design, the most common way to deal with training is to bring in an expert, and have them share what they know on the topic. And I think that often falls into what I call “the fire hose approach to training”,  which is, “Okay, we’ve got an hour so I’m going to, like, tell you as much as I possibly can about this topic in this hour, and we’re going to go and just… and, you know, I’m the expert and so I’m just going this deep dive.” Okay, maybe that can be really interesting, but effective organizational training is not the same as a degree from the University of Michigan. You know, effective organizational training is what do I need to know to be effective in my job? That’s what I need to learn. And so, effective organizational training starts with what’s expected of this trainee and by when, and one of the first things that I did when we started ZingTrain was develop this approach to training that we call bottom line training, because we realized, really, the only reason for a business to be doing training is to improve their bottom-line results, so for Zingerman’s, that’s either food quality, service quality, or financial results. That’s why we’re in business. The Deli didn’t open to train staff. Training staff is important, but the Deli opened to provide a great experience to customers and to employees. So, this is one of the, I mean, belated glimpses of the obvious when we started ZingTrain because I was really interested in instructional design. I thought it was interesting. Actually, Paul and Ari did too, but you know what? Most of the operational managers were not at all interested in instructional design. [Klaus laughs] And so, bottom-line training was a way to distill the good instructional design down to basically for what we call the four training plan questions that if you answer those questions, you will focus the training on the right things and you don’t have to understand the theory behind it. So, the first one is what’s expected of this trainee and by when, and the by when is important because what we expect of someone on their first day is different than we expect after a week or after a month. And then the second question is how are we going to make that information available? And I think most people, when they think about training, they go immediately to question number two. They think, “Oh, we need to do a class. We need to do a class on customer service.” But if you don’t answer the first question, what are you expecting of the people who are being trained? You don’t know what to put in the class. So you have to start with those expectations. And then the third question is, how will we measure whether the expectations are being met? So there needs to be some measurement. And then question four is, what are the rewards for meeting the expectations and consequences for not meeting the expectations?” which is not necessarily, “oh, a raise” or “you’re fired.” When rewards and consequences, when training is involved, it’s very often, well, if you meet the expectations, then you get to move on and learn more stuff. If you haven’t learned it yet, then you need more repetition or you need more supervision. People want to work independently, so that’s a reward. So, yeah, those four questions, I think, are the heart of bottom-line training, and that’s a way of… it’s kind of like putting the vegetables inside the sweet treat where… [laughter] Make it simple so the instructional design is built in. My experience: you go to a restaurant manager and say “we need to develop some training for your department” they just want to run away.

Klaus Reichert: Yeah, no way, I don’t have the time.

Maggie Bayless: Yeah, I don’t have the time. But if you sit down and go, “let’s talk through these questions to me. When someone is there on their first week, what do you expect them to know or be able to do in the first week? Let’s talk about that. Okay, here are those things. Okay, how, what’s the best way for them to learn that?” They can have that conversation, and out of that, you can create a good training plan.

Klaus Reichert: I think it’s so obvious, especially including the time frames that you mentioned. But still too many people think that you learn something and that’s it. Then you do the work and then that’s it. And you never need to learn anything anymore. But actually, learning or training is also about… not just about training something very, very specific, like cutting a piece of bread in the right way, for example, but also of transporting a company culture about the way you like things to be done on another level, for example, how you want to have people serve the customers, for example, or work with the customers. These are things of the training, also. These are important things to shape the culture.

Maggie Bayless: Absolutely. Far, far too many managers and entrepreneurs just think, “well, it’s so obvious. People should just know that.”

Klaus Reichert: Yeah.

Maggie Bayless: We’ve come to say, when you think something’s really obvious…

Klaus Reichert: …it’s not.

Maggie Bayless: …it’s not. And for me, that’s become a real flag. If I get annoyed with someone because I’m like, “Why did they do that? It was so obvious. They should…” I’m like, okay, “the problem isn’t them. The problem’s me.” There’s something that I am unconsciously competent at, there’s something I’m seeing that they’re not seeing. It’s not that they’re stupid. It’s not that they’re mindfully ignoring something. There’s something that I have internalized and I need to figure out what that is so I can teach it to them so that they can look for this trigger. Does that make sense?

Klaus Reichert: Absolutely. You sort of have to define the standard or the normal situation, or whatever you would call it, the way you think, say, as the business owner but also be capable of learning from others to sort of develop that standard.

Maggie Bayless: Absolutely. Yes. Yes. And I really have learned that, at some level, nothing is too basic, like the question of… we answer those four training plan questions in a document that we call a “training passport,” and one of the questions is “arrives to work on time and knows what ‘on time’ means in their department”, and you say, “Well, getting to work on time: well, that’s clear.” But actually, it’s very different in different departments or different organizations. If you have people that are working… have direct customer contact, tellers in a bank, for example, you know, they need to be there, you know, maybe they need to, like, punch in 10 minutes before, and they need to be ready to greet customers when the door is unlocked, in an office where everyone is on salary and there’s no particular time that the doors open. Maybe there’s more flexibility on when people come and leave. There’s not a right and a wrong, like, I guess, globally, but there is a “acceptable” and “not acceptable” usually in any given work environment. And so we just want to set people up to succeed, so we want to tell them, instead of like making them guess or trying to read our minds about what’s the culture here or what is expected. Let’s just tell them and then help them meet those expectations.

Klaus Reichert: And that’s also avoiding these terrible situations where you think the other should have understood, but you never told them, and so on…

Maggie Bayless: Right!

Klaus Reichert: …and then there’s always a sense of bad feeling, and people don’t really like to talk about these things at all, once they have escalated, especially.

Maggie Bayless: Right, right.

Klaus Reichert: This is also something… I think training is not a one-off thing, right, and it’s also not a kind of… oftentimes not a class type of thing. You can do the training, you oftentimes don’t have the necessity or the people to do a class, so you have to do the design for the training for an individual also. And also, you have to do something that you can sort of repeat, for the next person that comes along, or to have like thing on top, a next level type of thing. And what I think that means is that you have to start developing training systems in a way, right, because you want to develop people, you want to do that regularly and all these things. And you have to develop the content, also, so that people can do the work by themselves, for example, or together with a trainer, maybe in a class situation, but most of the time by themselves, for example. Please, give us some background to your way of thinking of these training systems, of these creating recipes for training.

Maggie Bayless: So, I would say we do do classes within the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. Probably 85 percent of the training we do is on shift. You know, it’s like one on one:  you’re working with somebody and you’re showing them how to do a task or you’re coaching them through a task. So, we do teach five steps to effective on-shift training: prepare, tell, show, do, review, and we have a class for trainers. But also, I think a key element here is Standard Operating Procedures, SOPs, documenting SOPs for how to do a particular task. And this often gets missed because, well, people say I don’t have time to write it down, but that’s catch 22, right? If you’re teaching the same thing to employee 1 and then employee 2 that comes through and everything, and each time you’re kind of going shooting from the hip, or maybe you‘re really consistent, but then you get promoted and then somebody else is doing the training and they’re going to do it a slightly different way. The only way to guarantee consistency is to have some kind of documentation that you refer back to. And so, while I am not a believer in the manual that has every step, because the manual is never up to date, it’s never finished. But if there are certain processes that need to be done a certain way to reach the quality standard or the time standard that we’re expecting… 

Klaus Reichert: And that are proven also.

Maggie Bayless: Right! So those need to be documented. And they need to be kept up to date and improved as improvements are made. I think the favorite is mail order. It is probably the business that has certainly taken the lead on that. I’m not going to say that they are currently doing that better than everybody else, but they were doing it first and partly that’s because they’re almost two different businesses during the holiday season and at the rest of the year, because they do 50 percent of their business in the six weeks around Christmas. They bring on several hundred seasonal workers. They need to bring them up to speed in a really quick timeframe. So they put a real focus on documenting Standard Operating Procedures and making them available for people to both learn from and then refer to… you know, a new… like people could shift and do different jobs because there were SOPs that they could follow.

Klaus Reichert: And you would simply read the manual and then understand what is expected or how it’s done and all these things. And if there was an update, then, because you learned from the experience, you would update the manual very quickly because it’s a small thing. 

Maggie Bayless: Right. They have an SOP for updating an SOP.

Klaus Reichert: [laughs] Yeah. Okay.

Maggie Bayless: Right? Right? So there’s a process you need to follow. But they have that and they encourage people to do experiments, like if they think something might work better, they encourage people to experiment with that, and if they can prove that this new way of doing it comes up with a better result, then the SOP would get updated.

Klaus Reichert: And sometimes it’s something small, like the update of a PDF, maybe you would use a video to show something very quickly. There are so many easy ways to do these things if you have, let’s say, the tools at hand, if you also have trained the people to do these things, that it’s an expectation to learn and update. And also, sometimes you have to sort of re-train people or move people to another level because they have new jobs or new roles, so you sort of have to interconnect these different SOPs with each other.

Maggie Bayless: I mentioned passports. There’s a basic orientation passport that anyone coming into any Zingerman’s business needs to complete in the first 90 days that there’s what we would Z-CoB. It’s Zingerman’s Community of Businesses -and we pronounce it Z-CoB. So there’s Z-CoB wide requirements, and then there are business requirements, and then there might be department requirements. So there’s an orientation passport, but when someone gets a new position then they would get a passport that has the expectations for that position. Like, “here are the things that you need to demonstrate that you are trained in this area.” But one of the really important things is the passport, because things are laid out, prioritized. It’s not… we don’t expect you to learn everything all at once. And there is this understanding that in a new position, you’re going to need to learn again, and no one can learn everything all at once. So we try and prioritize “here’s what to focus on first. It’s not like you might not do those other things, but success in your first week in this new position will be these things.”

Klaus Reichert: It means X, for example.

Maggie Bayless: Yeah.

Klaus Reichert: …that brings transparency to all of these positions, I think.

Maggie Bayless:  Yes. There are a variety of ways you can work on this. A ZingTrain client that I’ve been working with in California, is working on documenting what are the prerequisites for promotion in a particular position so that people know, okay, instead of just saying, “you should consider me the next time that opens up,” they’re saying, “okay, when that supervisory position opens up, here are the basic qualifications we’re going to expect everyone who’s applying for that to have. So, you can start working on those now. We don’t have that position open right now, but you will be in a better position to apply or your application will be stronger if you’ve already worked on these prerequisites.” So I think the more we can be transparent about what it takes to move up in an organization, the better.

Klaus Reichert: I see what you mean. It is also one of these things that sort of levels, or changes, takes out the inequalities that are sometimes there in a workplace or in a society because you can sort of prove that you are ready for that position, for example. 

Maggie Bayless: Yeah. 

Klaus Reichert: Now ZingTrain is big on vision.

Maggie Bayless: Yeah. 

Klaus Reichert: But that also took time to develop. How did that vision thing start at ZingTrain?

Maggie Bayless: That vision thing! The vision thing started before ZingTrain. So when the Deli was about 10 years old, Ari and Paul would describe it as a kind of hit organizational midlife, like they had achieved what they kind of started out to do. They were still in business but, like, what’s next? And they’d always thought they only wanted one store, but they also wanted to grow in order to have opportunity for the people that work there. As you mentioned, the Bakehouse had opened. Deli opened in 82. The Bakehouse opened in 92. So Ari and Paul were trying to decide how can we grow and have opportunity, but also continue improving the quality of our food and stay unique -because that was an important thing for them- and they worked with a man named Stas’ Kazmiersky. He helped them go through the visioning process, and they wrote this vision for Zingerman’s 2009, where they said by the year 2009, we want to have a Community of Businesses. So that was the first written, formal written vision. And that’s the vision that I read and said, “Oh, yeah. They want to have these different businesses. Maybe one of them could be a training company.” So I wrote a vision for a training company, Ari and Paul bought into it, and we were off to the races. We started ZingTrain in 94. At that point, we saw the value of vision, but we tended to think of it as just long-term organizational vision. In the year 2000, ZingTrain had grown enough that we were starting to get busy. I had an assistant, but I was really the only trainer, I had small kids. I was at a point where -that I think a lot of entrepreneurs get to- where it’s like, “Be careful what you wish for.” [laughs] And I was like, “Why did I do this? Maybe I’ll just quit. I could just quit.” I remember having this feeling like, “Oh, I could just quit. My assistant could get a job somewhere else in Z-CoB. I could just… I mean, it’s just me. I could just quit.” And I spent a day, like, just feeling free. And then I realized, “Oh, I will just recreate this for myself somewhere else. So I’m never going to have a better opportunity to create the work environment that I want than I do here. I just need to figure this out and I need to get over this hump of tension between a young growing family business that wants to grow.” At that point, the Bakehouse had just… Frank Carollo was the founding partner at the Bakehouse and he had just brought in a co-managing partner, Amy Emberling, who had worked there as a baker, maybe a couple years before, and then she had left and gone to business school. Anyway, I had this idea of, “Maybe I could have a co-managing partner.” So I talked to Ari and Paul about that and they said, “Yeah, that sounds good. You ought to talk to this guy, Stas.” And I had met Stas. We actually sat down and talked. At that point he was working as an independent consultant. He was 10 years older than me, his kids were older. He was like, “Travel! Oh, I’d love to travel more.” Whereas I was kind of feeling like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be on the road all the time. I’ve got these little kids at home.” So we each sat down and wrote 10-year visions for ZingTrain separately and then we shared them and we found that there were more similarities than differences, so we’re like, “Okay, well, let’s try this.” And he became my co-managing partner from 2000 till 2013, when he retired. Working with Stas, we realized that visioning could be used for anything: for a project, for a shift. We started actively teaching a personal visioning class to ZingTrain staff, and we created a vision seminar. And that’s when we started actively teaching it, and it became really embedded in both the ZingTrain and Zingerman’s culture, and became something that we were really known for.

Klaus Reichert: We will provide links in the show notes so people can understand the nature of visioning much better, because sometimes people in the business world talk about a vision which is a really grand thing that is very…what’s the right word… that is just abstract and so on, and it’s just for big things, right? But we are talking about vision in a very imagery way that can be used for everything, small or large?

Maggie Bayless: Right. Yeah. We define vision as what success looks like at a particular point in the future. If I’m going on a vacation in two weeks, I might write a vision for how I’m feeling when I get home, what’s going on, and what did I experience, by which I know that that vacation was a success. And so we do long term visions for businesses, but we do personal visions. I mean, I’ve had a 10-year vision for a long time, you know, and I’ve then updated it and done new ones. And I just find it, it’s a skill, writing a vision, but it’s one that anyone can learn. It takes practice, you get better at it. It comes more easily to some people than others. It did not come particularly easily to me. I’m kind of a bullet-point list person and my first visions looked a little more like a to-do list [both laugh] than a description. So we say what success looks like at a particular point in the future described with enough specificity of detail that we’ll know when we’ve arrived. So you are like building this visual image that you can explain to someone else what success looks like. Or you can agree together on what success looks like.

Klaus Reichert: Yeah. Because you create sort of an image in easy words that everybody can understand and that everybody can talk about. Do you recall the content of your first vision for ZingTrain?

Maggie Bayless: Well, some elements of it. I know that it included working with the Deli and the Bakehouse to improve their training. It probably had something about lowering turnover because we were actually losing new hires like they would leave within the first three months because they were feeling frustrated that they weren’t learning as much as they needed. That’s when we realized, “Oh, that’s because we haven’t defined what does success look like when you’re only here for… you know, in your first week or your first month, what does success look like?” People were gauging themselves against people who’d been in that position for five or ten years. At that point, when ZingTrain started, Ari and Paul were still actively involved in the day to day of the business and so, you know, people were expecting themselves to have the same level of knowledge that Ari and Paul did because we hadn’t defined what does it look like when you’re here a shorter period of time. So, there was something around success working with those two businesses. And then at Zingerman’s,  partners make decisions by consensus. So Ari, Paul and I were the three

partners in Zingtrain, so I shared my draft vision with them and then they gave me input. I remember they each wanted to add something that I was not particularly comfortable with, but we had to all come to agreement. So I ended up… Ari wanted that -I think we were doing a 5-year vision at that point- he wanted that I was writing a column on training in some national publication and I was like, “I don’t know. I don’t know anything…” He goes, “It’s five years from now,” you know, and so I was like, “Okay!” I ended up writing the staff training column for Gourmet Retailer Magazine for 14 years. And I got to tell you that when that opportunity came up, I would have blown it off except it was in the vision.

Klaus Reichert: It was in the vision.

Maggie Bayless: So I was like, “Oh, right. I need to do this.” So that was Ari’s contribution. And Paul’s was that I needed to have more focus on working with outside organizations, not just… and this was, he said, “We don’t want ZingTrain to just be the training department for Zingerman’s. This is a way to generate connections and revenue from outside the organization.” And so he wanted more of a focus on that than I had written originally in the vision. So I know that when we updated the vision, I know those were both aspects of that.

Klaus Reichert: And they were very helpful aspects. They sort of formed the core, also, of your business for the first years.

Maggie Bayless: Yeah, absolutely. And to me, that also reinforced my belief that working with partners was the right thing for me because they both pushed me beyond my comfort zone, but they also were there to support me. And ZingTrain wouldn’t have happened without me, but ZingTrain also wouldn’t be the organization it is without that input from Ari and Paul and then later from Stas.

Klaus Reichert: Finding the right partners is really, really, really, really tough. It needs a lot of work also once you’ve found somebody, but you have to build trust, you have to have the trust in the other person that this other person isn’t screwing you over or just meaning the best for you, also. Maybe you don’t feel it right now, but you have to trust that it is like that. So you’re all very lucky in that sense, I think, because it’s just not given that you find the right partners.

Maggie Bayless: Right. And not every Zingerman’s partner has worked out. There have been partners in some of the businesses who have left for a variety of different reasons, some under happier circumstances than others, but having a shared vision really makes a difference. And I remember, early on, so before Ari and Paul would have used the term vision, before they wrote that 2009 vision. Back, remember when I was saying I was working for all these different companies and I was like, “why can’t they be more like Zingerman’s” [both laugh] and so I remember talking to Ari about, I don’t know, he was on vacation and he came back from vacation and Paul had done something that he, Ari, wasn’t happy with, you know, that’s not how he would have done something. And I said, “Well, doesn’t that like bother you?” And he goes, “No. You know, I know we want the same thing. We have the same goals. This is a tactical thing and I just totally trust that we ultimately have the same… we want to end up at the same place. So the way he’s choosing to get there and the way I would choose to get there are slightly different, but I trust that we want to end up in the same place so I’m okay with disagreeing on tactics at some point.” And that… I remember that conversation. That was before they’d written a vision, so they, I think, were very… were already predisposed to believe in the visioning process because they kind of intuitively were doing it already and they had just decided to trust each other. And Stas used to say, “Trust is not earned, trust is given. We make a choice whether we’re going to choose, whether we’re going to trust someone or not.” And I’ve always… that’s always really struck with me because so many people focus on the “you have to earn my trust.” And Stas said, “I make a choice. I’m going to choose to trust you until you prove otherwise.” You know, assume positive intent. People may not always do the right thing, but it’s so much more fun to work with them and we assume that they will.

Klaus Reichert: I never thought of it that way, but it completely makes sense. And you do that as long as you’re proven the other way as you’re proven wrong, for example. Yeah.

Maggie Bayless: Right. I know that there will be plenty of business people out there who would say “You’re setting yourself up to be screwed” and, yep, maybe, but Ari and Paul really have an incredibly… I mean, I don’t think they’re taken advantage of, but they just have a very open… they choose to trust. And that is the real foundation of our organizational culture. 

Klaus Reichert: And it doesn’t mean that you’re stupid or that you’re acting stupid. You still talk about the basics or the things that are important to you and you sort of make a contract,in a way, and stuff like that. Right?

Maggie Bayless: Yeah, and you set goals, and you measure, and you need to make improvements and all of that. But there is a mindset of assuming that people want to do a good job and people are… if they know what’s expected, will try and meet those expectations rather than assuming that everybody else is out to screw you. Such a… that defensive posture that’s so just exhausting to work in that. 

Klaus Reichert: You always have to push against such a barrier. Yeah. It’s not a good place, long term at least to reach.

Maggie Bayless: Right. Right. 

Klaus Reichert: Okay. Talking about experiences. You have created so many tools, recipes, systems around training, for training. How do you define today in a few words the ZingTrain experience? What is the ZingTrain experience in a few words?

Maggie Bayless: The ZingTrain experience in a few words: clear expectations. The clearly documented expectations. I think success [laughs] in business, maybe in life, comes down to being clear about what the expectations are. And when things are documented, you can share them. So, it’s really a shared vision of success which is what expectations are at some level, a vision of what success looks like. So I just keep coming back to that. If you know where you want to end up and you share that with other people, then the chances of getting there are better. And what ZingTrain does -and has done through the years- is share what has worked within the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, and also what hasn’t, what have we tried and what hasn’t worked, and what are we currently working on that we think we need to improve. Because we have just found that when we share with other organizations, then they reciprocate and they share back. So we’ve never tried to be… I mean, of course, there’s some stuff that’s Ari… when Ari writes books, they’re copyrighted, but we don’t, you know, go crazy about… we like it when people use some of our tools and adapt them into their organization. There’s just an opportunity to learn from each other. And you’ll have to edit that down into a few words. I can’t do a few words. [both laugh]

Klaus Reichert: That was sort of a trick question because I don’t think that you can use a few words [laughs] to describe all that. And because you have created so many things and supporting ways to do the training, for example, to structure the training. It’s a mixture of… Let’s recap the four questions, the training passport, right? You do online training, you do class training, you do all sorts of things that sort of bring people together and develop them, give them knowledge, but also expectations, transparency about what they getting, also, and where they will be after the training, and after that, once they use the training on the job. And I think that’s something that you can’t really describe in one word or in a few words, especially if you include all that great design stuff that you have, with the comic images and the colors and so on. That is very, very special, I think, for the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses.

Maggie Bayless: There’s nothing more gratifying to me than hearing from a ZingTrain client who came to a seminar a while ago and has gone back and implemented something and maybe tweaked it and changed it so that it’s really consistent with their culture, but then is letting us know what worked and what they’re excited about and maybe suggesting some things that they did differently that they think, you know, we might be interested in knowing about. That’s really gratifying to me. And I will say that the news can be pretty depressing. And 30 years of ZingTrain when I’ve felt lowest about, sort of, what was happening in the world at large and what I would read on the front page of the newspaper; every time we’d teach a ZingTrain seminar and we’d have people come from around the country or around the world and spend two days together training and sharing information, I was always so… I found it so uplifting to realize that there are all these Businesses and most of our clients are smaller, independently owned businesses, although we’ve worked with some, you know, departments of multinationals, but most of them are private, privately held businesses, and they’re all over the world, trying to make their particular area better. They’re trying to make their company better, they’re trying to make their communities better, and, you know, that’s not what’s on the front page of the paper, but that’s really gratifying. And it never occurred to me when we started ZingTrain that, “Oh, if we were willing to share what worked for us, other people would share back.” Now it’s like, “Oh, well, of course they will.” But I didn’t go into it thinking that. But that’s been… the fact that they do has been incredibly satisfying and gratifying.

Klaus Reichert: And you do something with that also with the symposium, where people come together and share and learn and celebrate. It’s a great format.

Maggie Bayless: Yeah. And we’re working on creating a virtual community where there will have an ongoing, you know, virtual space where people can continue to connect after they’re at an in-person event. So I’m excited about that. More to come.

Klaus Reichert: Very, very cool. Also, I suppose a lot of these businesses you work with are in the food business and not exclusively, right?

Maggie Bayless: Yeah. 

Klaus Reichert: But that’s a great place to be also, I think.

Maggie Bayless: Yeah, yeah. Well, we get a lot of good food [laughs] working with our clients. Yeah, yeah. And when ZingTrain started, almost all of our clients were in the specialty food industry, because that’s where the Zingerman’s name was known. Now, in any given training we do, usually about half are in the food business, and half are in everything else possible.

Klaus Reichert: What I think also shows a lot of that ZingTrain experience is the products that you offer at ZingTrain. I understand that it’s a little different, say, in the training sector or training industry than in the consulting industry, because many times in the consulting industry, we don’t have the products, right? We are talking about consulting, but what do we do in that consulting scheme or thing? And you do sort of a mix of training and consulting in these products. You have like a fixed set, which evolves, I understand, but it’s a proven sort of a combination of things, with a few hero products. I’m talking about from a product perspective, a management perspective right now. And I think that’s a very, very cool thing because you can create or design the trainings and the consulting, you can sort of improve that over time and you can sort of learn from everybody that is participating in, for example, the customer service training, or the leadership development seminars, or your bottom-line training.

Maggie Bayless: Right.

Klaus Reichert: You have the material, the input ready and you can improve on it basically from time to time from… you do the training. 

Maggie Bayless: Absolutely. And we have learned that certain elements of different trainings work better for certain types of companies. I mean, so there is that sort of thing where we’ve worked with enough different… we work with a lot of libraries, for example, so we have learned what pieces of our approach to customer service work particularly well with libraries. Yeah, but, you know, ongoing learning and continuous improvement is the name of the game and one of the things I always say is “Training is never done.” If I have one piece of advice for businesses about training, is they tend to think that, “Okay, we gotta develop this training. Ugh, we gotta develop this training. Okay, it’s my project for this year, and then I’m gonna do it, and then it’s gonna be done.” Your business is gonna continue to evolve, the training needs to continue to evolve. The only reason to have the training is to make the business better. So the training needs to reflect what the business needs. Well, business is going to change. So, embrace the fact that the training [laughs] will change. And that’s a good thing.

Klaus Reichert: Thank you. Thank you. You can’t imagine how often I preach stuff like that, especially in that context of improving innovation at companies. Training is one of these things that is so crucial for the development of the company, of products, of the culture, but people oftentimes just ignore it. What do you think is a good training? What makes a good training?

Maggie Bayless: What makes a good training? Where the trainees get the information they need to know to be successful. And you’ve defined what that is, and there’s a way for them to demonstrate that they’ve met your expectations.

Klaus Reichert: And how about a great, a good trainer? Do you have to be necessarily like a Star Wars Yoda-like figure that knows all but talks in a secretive way?

Maggie Bayless: No. I don’t think so. I think an effective trainer is someone who is more focused on the trainee learning than on how they come across as a trainer and who is also focused on what does the trainee need to learn, not what do I want to teach, because that  can be two different things. Here’s another Ari example. As I said, when ZingTrain started, Ari was still working in the Deli and he worked behind what we call “the retail line,” the case that has the meats and cheeses and all of that. He was waiting on customers, but he was also training people. Well, Ari, you know, knew all of the products and he knew all of the producers and he’d been to visit them and… 

Klaus Reichert: He was friends with them.

Maggie Bayless: Yeah, absolutely. And so, he not only knew Mrs. Appleby, who made Mrs. Appleby’s cheddar, but he knew the names of the cows and that sort of thing. So that’s all, like, interesting. But as I said to him, but on their first day behind the cheese counter, the new employee needs to know we carry Cheshire cheese. Here’s where you find it. Here’s how you cut it. Here’s how you weigh it and wrap it. They don’t need to know about the cows [both laugh] and in fact, too much information, then they are overwhelmed. And he realized that he, by sharing what got him most excited, he was missing what that new employee really needed to know.

Klaus  Reichert: And creating anxiety, possibly.

Maggie Bayless: Right, right. And probably they were thrilled to be working with Ari, the founder, and they’re trying to remember all that stuff. But I think when you’re a new employee in any business, but certainly ours, it’s like you’re standing under a waterfall of information and you’re trying desperately like what do I hold on to here? And if we’re going to be effective trainers, we need to say, “Okay, Klaus, there’s lots of information here, but today, success today means you know how to use the scale, and you know how to cut these wheels of cheese. There’s gonna be a lot of other stuff too, but today, that’s what success looks like.”

Klaus Reichert: We have talked, very briefly, about good training, about a good trainer. What makes a good training business?

Maggie Bayless: I think it’s the same thing that makes any good business. That you’re meeting your bottom lines, which for us are your service quality goals, your product quality goals, and you’re financially stable. I don’t think there’s an absolute size or profit level that… I think it depends on what do you want as a business, but if you’re meeting your financial targets, and your customer service satisfaction targets, and, you know, you’re delivering products and services that your clients want, and if your staff enjoy doing the work, I mean, I think that’s true of any business. You’re probably familiar with the book, Small Giants. Do you know the Small Giants book, Bo Burlingham? We were one of the companies featured there and I would say that the message of small giants is not every business’s vision is to grow as big as they can, as fast as they can. And so, I do always come back to a successful business is one that is making progress towards their business’s vision of success.

Klaus Reichert: I think with ZingTrain, you have a lot of competitive advantages over a lot of other training businesses. And I don’t want to diminish the training side and the people, the trainer side of ZingTrain, but I think you are very, very, very lucky to have, like, bakehouse goods and sandwiches in the breaks and whatever as part of your training offering, right? [laughs]

Maggie Bayless: Absolutely. Absolutely. And when I started ZingTrain, I had friends who said, “Well, wait a minute. Why…” -Ari and Paul, they owned a much bigger percentage of ZingTrain than I did when we started- “Why would you have partners that own more than you do?” I go, “I’m still running the day to day.” And there is leverage that being Zingerman’s training has that Maggie’s training would not have had. And  not just because of the name recognition, but because what we teach at ZingTrain is what has worked in the Zingerman’s businesses. That’s our proof of concept. Basically, we don’t teach to the outside things that we’re not doing within the Community of Businesses.

Klaus Reichert: Yes, plus you have the sandwiches.

Maggie Bayless: And we have this good food. That’s, that’s definitely true.

Klaus Reichert: Okay, I understand that it’s much more, but I think that’s just one of these really, really, really super special competitive advantages that you have.

Maggie Bayless: You’re right. It is. 

Klaus Reichert: Maggie, I found a quote about you. “She’s a super dedicated learning professional and always enthusiastic and encouraging in her approach. Thanks for being a terrific model for all of us, Maggie.” That’s high praise. What sort of model do you think yourself are you?

Maggie Bayless: That is high praise. That’s very nice. You know, I think I am a good model of someone who, as I said, never thought I would be an entrepreneur, never thought I would start a company, actually didn’t know that instructional design was a thing at some point. I’ve told many people I have built a whole career in a field that, when I was in school, I didn’t even know existed. So the idea that at 18 people should know what they want to do for the rest of their lives is crazy. And I also hope that I can be a role model for women who want to start businesses, run businesses, have really active satisfying careers and have a family. I get asked a lot by college students here “Wow, you started a business and you raised kids and you, like, had it all. And how did you do that?” [laughs] I said, “You know, I don’t know that I had it all. At any given time, it felt out of control. I can look back and it worked out.” “But it’s a lot, how do you…?” Made some tradeoffs in terms of how quickly ZingTrain grew, and how much money I needed to make in order to have more time to be with my family when my kids were little. That was a tradeoff I was really comfortable with. And I had the luxury of being able to do that because I had a husband who had a corporate job and we had health insurance through him. That makes, you know, a huge difference. There are other people who would have grown ZingTrain really differently. It could have been a lot, and it could be a much bigger company than it is, but having a really big company and managing a whole bunch of people wasn’t what I wanted. What I wanted was to do the training and to work with a really functional, good team. You know, I got that.

Klaus Reichert: Did you get to form the company that you wanted to work for?

Maggie Bayless: That’s exactly what I did. If that’s what you can do as an entrepreneur. I mean, it doesn’t always work out, but that’s, I guess, that’s the carrot of getting to create the organization that you want to be part of. And I think anyone can do that. And I hope that anyone in Zingerman’s, whether they’re a partner or not, feels they can contribute to making it the organization that they want to work in. But certainly, as a partner or a founder of a company, you have that opportunity.

Klaus Reichert: Maggie, thank you very much for taking the time to be on the podcast today.

Maggie Bayless: Well, it has been really fun. Thanks for asking me.

Klaus Reichert: Thank you for listening to The 2.5- Conversations Connecting Innovators. You can subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcast. A transcript of this episode and additional information is also available. The link is in the show notes. My name is Klaus. I’m an innovation coach in Baden-Württemberg in the southwest of Germany. This is The 2pt5.

“Every time we’d teach a ZingTrain seminar and we’d have people come from around the country or around the world and spend two days together training and sharing information, I found it so uplifting to realize that there are all these businesses – and most of our clients are smaller, independently owned businesses – although we’ve worked with some departments of multinationals, but most of them are privately held businesses – and they’re all over the world, trying to make their particular area better.”

Maggie Bayless

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Host of The 2pt5 Innovator Podcast - Innovation Coach in #TheLänd Baden-Württemberg in the Southwest of Germany Website / Youtube / LinkedIn

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