Create Amazing Work and Change the World, Ep 90

I spent a few minutes with Valentina Silva, Communications Specialist at the Zingerman’s Service Network. Our talk ranges from her day to day to what her challenges and opportunities are for the future. She offers an employee perspective on a company that practices open book management and one that is known for it’s positive company culture.

Todd Reed and Valentina Silva

  • The hiring process – pay attention and care
  • She’s working harder than she ever has, yet loves it more than any job she’s had.
  • Creating uplifting open workplaces are good for society.  Let’s not downplay it.

A couple things stand out to me regarding how Valentina was hired on. One, she emailed Ari directly and he personally responded and eventually met with her. Two, he actually had read some of the articles she’d sent to him. Both of these reflect number three, “He seemed very interested in learning more about me. What I’d done. And, more importantly, WHY she’d done these things.”

Are you focused in during the interview process? Are you engaged while in the interview process?

Advice to managers and owners wanting to change their organization:

  • If you’re not passionate then you’re people aren’t going to be passionate.
  • Don’t give your people busy work.
  • It’s important to know what you’re people are doing.
  • And it’s important to give your people goals. (Perhaps have a vision and have them help come up with their own goals to meet that vision.)

Compare and Contrast

Former Work Environments

  • Waiting for 6:00 everyday.
  • When leadership met, they would close the blinds and not talk about what was discussed.
  • They don’t look and actively avoided you or didn’t even want to know you.

Result, you felt  you had no worth to them or the company.


  • 6:00 arrives before you know it.
  • Everyone is invited to the leadership meetings and can participate to some level.
  • They know your name and get to know you and your motivations.

Result, people who are engaged to improve the company and are excited to work together with their teams. IE happy people and happy income statements. Employees who love to promote the company and the culture.


Podcast – Strangers from KCRW – Lea Tao

Podcast – Love and Radio

Podcast – Criminal

The Moth Radio Hour

Snap Judgement

If you enjoyed the episode and believe we can create meaningful work that balances purpose, people, and profits, then please participate in the community. You can do this by clicking on the “join email list” link, joining our Inspired and Intentional Facebook group, and rating us on your favorite podcast app.

Share this with your fellow inspired leaders and until next time, be inspired and intentional.

Notes during the editing of the episode

Interviews and process

Does anyone feel small or unimportant in your organization? How to solve for it.

The interview process is intense. Intro interview. More in depth second interview. Finally a round table (Tilt-O-Whirl!?) with all the people she would be working with. All the employees then get together and offer their input to the final decision maker.

Giving great service. Their service recipes. For her, this primarily means internal service.

Going the extra mile. Adding some additional features that can take a load off the customers’ plate.

What’s it really like to work at Zingermans? It is a lot of work. But you feel passionate about it. If the passion isn’t there, then perhaps someone should do it or maybe it shouldn’t be done at all. She feels that she is listened to by her peers and upper management. And she emphasized that you don’t feel like an unimportant person to the organization. “Both Paul and Ari know everybody’s name in the businesses.” They look people in the eye and are focused when speaking to people.

What is Open Book Management to you? You can find out how the business is doing at any time. You can see very clearly if the company is meeting goal.

You can also question and also be part of the solution. She can see and understand where the businesses need help.

She owns a line for the number of SOPs. (Standard Operating Procedures. They keep them on a Google Docs folder.) for the entire service network. She also owns the Code Reds and Code Greens for her department.  (She used to measure the ZXI (Zingerman’s Experience Index) – Numbering system of 1 through 10 like the Net Promoter Score) Why does it matter to measure the number of SOPs? Because having systems can help run the business more smoothly.

I like how they have lines and critical numbers for each company and department.

19 minutes – Engaging company

She has butterflies for the people she works with. Because people are invested in each other’s

She’s working harder than she’s ever worked. Other jobs she was defeated. Here, she’s  exhausted because they’ve worked so hard on good satisfying tasks.

Big challenge to put out into the universe – how to connect with the right people with a genuine voice where you’re not selling all the time.

They want to start a podcast.

Make communicating with the press easier.

Learn more about Melvin Parson, farmer in Ypsilanti, who hires former incarcerated people.