When Bob and Sue Adams were told they were the 2009 Lifetime Members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, they had to take each other’s pulses. “Life membership?” they joked. “Are we that old?” “I guess it’s the end of the road…”
I sat down with them this summer for a hilarious tag-team conversation, which served as the basis of a profile about them for Grocer Today magazine.
1. At the end of the day, (once you’ve learned the acronyms) any business is about people. “A good grocery store in a small community can be the cornerstone of the community, and we knew that’s what we wanted to be,” they recounted, of the opportunity to open the Pemberton Valley Grocery Store, otherwise known in P-ton as ‘where the beautiful people shop.’ Partners Mark and Carolyne Blundell say of the Adamses: “Selling groceries is not the hardest thing to do. The hard thing is managing people. For Bob and Sue, people are never just a number.”
2. Give your staff the freedom to grow and they will flourish. For Tanya Ewasiuk Goertzen (who is running in the torch relay next week), the manager for the Adamses’ Upper Village Market, that meant selling her the business when she felt she could go no further as an employee. “They just want to see everyone succeed,” said Ewasiuk Goertzen.
3. When you get to the top, make sure you keep sending the elevator back down. “We’ve been very successful because of the resort and the local community,” said Sue, “and I think we have a corporate responsibility to give back.” The couple have contributed to too many community causes to count.
4. Being small means being flexible and able to experiment. “That is why independents get into business in the first place,” said Bob. “To be independent. And creative. And enterprising.”
5. Think partnerships. You can achieve more, and don’t have to do everything yourself. And have the confidence to ask dumb questions. “I’ve never had trouble asking people for help,” said Sue. “And offering to help other people. It’s all a people business.”