Client Impact Report

Jos Zamzow of Zamzows, A Servant Leader

Fundamental Principles

James H. Douglas, Jr., a lawyer and senior-level official for the Eisenhower administration, once remarked that the deep respect we have for the land and its bounties is a result of the tireless efforts of generations of farmers who have nourished us, preserved our natural beauty, and inspired us with their strong work ethic. When Idahoans discuss companies with a lasting impact, Zamzows invariably tops the list. The legacy of Zamzows has significantly influenced Idaho and its rural community for multiple generations. It all began with Carmelita Zamzow, a pioneering woman.

Zamzows, founded by Carmelita and August Zamzow in 1933, has been a fixture in Idaho. After selling their farm during the height of the Great Depression, they reinvested in a feed store in Boise, Idaho. Carmelita’s love for farming and her animals drove her to make a positive impact on others, even after losing her own farm. She painstakingly crafted high-quality ingredients, knowing they would enhance the animals’ well-being and longevity. The enduring legacy of her unwavering commitment to health and quality is evident in the company’s successful 90-year history of service. Zamzows honors her passion for the finest ingredients, animal health, and value through its renowned “Grandma Z’s” brand and the products associated with it. While Zamzows initially focused on producing quality feed, the company has since expanded its offerings to include lawn and garden care.

When Carmelita and August Zamzow decided to retire, their children, Jim and Rick, naturally took over the business. Jim’s children, Jos and Callie, pursued their own careers but remained involved with Zamzows, lending a helping hand when needed. However, when a change in management steered the company in an undesirable direction, Jos and Callie took ownership in order to preserve the core principles that had brought Zamzows to its current position. Jos Zamzow remarked, “The previous leadership had lost sight of the fundamental principles that propelled us to this point. Zamzows was built on these principles, and we were drifting away from them.” Thus, in 2018, Jos and Callie became co-CEOs of Zamzows Lawn and Garden, steering the company back on track.

Meet Jos Zamzow

Jos Zamzow had been working with a long-standing coach for his business, Catalyst Strong. However, when his coach announced their retirement, Jos found himself in need of a new coach. Fortunately, he crossed paths with Executive Business Coach Allison Dunn at just the right time. After their meeting, Allison recommended that Jos join the Whetstone Board of Advisors group, as she believed it would align perfectly with his goals and desired outcomes.

Calling Deliberate Directions

For Jos, the advisory group provided by Deliberate Directions holds significant value. He appreciates the fresh perspective that these advisors bring, unswayed by their interactions with him as the boss. Jos recognizes the importance of having individuals who are willing to tell the truth, especially as one climbs higher up the corporate ladder. He acknowledges the need for people who can respectfully challenge him, point out when he’s behaving poorly or being narrow-minded. Jos states, “Especially as you rise in a company, you increasingly require those individuals who will provide honest feedback, even if it means disagreeing with you or pointing out your flaws or shortsightedness.”

Board of Advisors

The Whetstone program is designed to complement business professionals by providing additional knowledge and perspectives they may not otherwise have access to. The group is intentionally diverse to facilitate open sharing of challenges and insights among its members. “I genuinely felt that careful consideration went into pairing individuals,” Alex remarks. Professionals from various fields are brought together, allowing for valuable exchanges and problem-solving discussions. 


To prepare for an upcoming product launch, Jos dedicated a week to present a new offering that Zamzows was about to announce. Instead of simply delivering a sales pitch, his objective was to gather feedback on whether adjustments were necessary for the product’s marketing efforts or if it truly aligned with the company’s vision. Jos explained, “Imagine walking into our store with a specific issue, and I present this solution, along with my thoughts on its potential name.” His intention was to simulate a real customer interaction.

Following the presentation, Jos received valuable feedback from the Whetstone group. They possessed a level of insight similar to that of an actual customer walking into one of Zamzows’ stores, unlike the sales team who are immersed in the company’s products day in and day out. The group provided a fresh perspective, enabling Jos to gain a customer-centric viewpoint and make informed decisions based on their input.

Participation in Whetstone

In addition to experiencing frequent moments of insight and discovery within his peer group, Jos also finds great value in listening to others as they share their own experiences during the Sounding Boards. Reflecting on these discussions, he contemplates how he would tackle similar challenges in his own organization or whether his company faces similar struggles. Jos acknowledges that sometimes the most valuable solutions arise when others openly admit that they, too, share a particular struggle. It can be as simple as someone saying, “I tried that approach, and I wouldn’t recommend doing it again.”

Receiving such insightful feedback hinges on the regular attendance of participants during the 90-minute sessions. Whether through a Sounding Board or Deep Dive, each session involves two members sharing something relevant to their business. These sessions offer a precious opportunity for each member to gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies and difficulties faced by their peers. If someone consistently misses these sessions, they risk being out of the loop and may require more time than necessary to catch up. Although infrequent, Jos admits that he loses trust in those who frequently fail to attend Whetstone meetings, as it hampers the collaborative spirit and shared learning that the group thrives on.

Why Whetstone?

Jos characterizes Whetstone as a source of grounding, continuous learning, and a fresh perspective. Every time he attends their Thursday meetings, he anticipates gaining valuable insights from the group. It is within this supportive environment that Jos feels comfortable being open and honest about the happenings within his organization, seeking sound advice from his peers. Even on days when Jos has a brilliant idea, he appreciates that someone in the group will provide a fresh perspective, often identifying aspects he may have overlooked. Jos is always grateful for the additional set of eyes and the collaborative nature of the group.

Impact from Deliberate Directions

Jos has experienced the profound impact of Whetstone in its ability to help him flesh out his ideas. Through this process, he has learned to slow down and focus on the finer details, which solidifies his understanding of the bigger picture. Jos is known for his unstoppable momentum when he believes in a good idea. However, since becoming a part of Whetstone, he has gained a fresh perspective that encourages him to approach things differently. He finds himself engaging in conversations, talking through his ideas, and leaving with a sense that there is more to explore. Jos remarks, “It’s not as straightforward as I initially thought. There is a nuanced gray area that warrants further investigation or consideration of additional resources before making a final decision.”

By cultivating a bias toward action within the group, it not only inspires others to take action but also compels Jos to adopt a more deliberate approach. This balance between encouraging action and fostering thoughtful consideration has become an invaluable aspect of Jos’s experience within Whetstone.

Straightforward & Objective

Not only does Whetstone and its members bring tremendous value to Jos, but he also holds the team at Deliberate Directions in high regard. The office space they provide is consistently organized and prepared for each meeting, and the fridge is stocked with refreshing drinks. During events, the team goes above and beyond to ensure that everyone’s needs are taken care of both before and after the sessions. Jos recognizes that Deliberate Directions takes their partnership seriously and is committed to delivering exceptional service and support.

If you are interested in executive coaching with Allison Dunn, schedule a complimentary session today!