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Norman Mayne's 'Killer' Lesson on Gratitude

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The man whose company brought us the “Killer Brownie” has just provided a killer lesson on how to appreciate others and say thank you.

Norman Mayne, CEO of Dorothy Lane Market, Dayton, Ohio, recently received a big industry honor, the Robert B. Wegman Award for entrepreneurial excellence, and this story begins as he rose to the stage at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., to make acceptance remarks.

Now the truth is, there are only so many ways to express thanks for an award, and an audience has usually heard it all before. Except in the case of Norman’s comments.

Norman saluted everyone, even competitors, and delivered some surprising remarks in his gracious, self-deprecating style.

He expressed gratitude for some hard times in the business world, because of lessons learned that were useful in his career.

Norman Mayne“I’m grateful that in 1967 our company went bankrupt,” he said, recalling a period when he inherited big financial challenges. He took the helm as a young man of 22 when the company was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and his leadership led to the retailer’s revival.

“It was a good dose of reality for me,” he said. “I was probably one of those kids that if it hadn’t been bankrupt, I would have made it go that way.”

Norman praised his parents, who introduced him to the food industry by launching fruit stands, including a mother who sold fruit in the Dayton public market and took along 4- and 5-year-old Norman and “let me sleep on boxes.”

Norman not only recognized his company team members, but downplayed his own role, exclaiming, “I’m really just a front man for this wonderful group of folks.”

Read more: Mayne Wins Wegman Award

He saluted his wife, children (son Calvin is currently COO) and grandchildren, and included a confession: “I’m grateful they forgave me for putting the company first when I should have been there more.”

He acknowledged suppliers, admitting, “Many, many days we need you more than you need us.”

Possibly most surprising of all, Norman gave a big shout out to a rival.

“I’m grateful to our competitors, specifically the Kroger Co. They make us better. They’re a wonderful company, and they certainly keep me from being lazy.”

It’s time to turn the tables. The industry owes a thank you to Norman for many decades of being a positive force, in everything from customer service to quality of food, and for teaching us how to find the good in just about everything.

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