A Business Owner Defends the American Families Plan 

Gene Marks says he was skeptical but he thinks most businesses will benefit from the new policies.

Good morning!

Here are today’s highlights:

  • A provocative approach to customer service.

  • Do we need to wait until 2022 to solve the supply-chain crisis?

  • More businesses decide to penalize the unvaccinated.

FOOD & BEVERAGE

Even in Texas, restaurants are shifting to plant-based menus: “When Michelin-rated New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park announced to the world it was reopening after its pandemic closure as plant-based, there was both admiration and condemnation. While steadfast fine-dining foodies and pundits forecasted the restaurant's switch to vegan food could fail, a different reality has played out: The restaurant is consistently booked solid and as of June, reportedly had a 15,000-person waitlist.”

  • “In places you might least expect, chefs and restaurant owners have used pandemic closures as an opportunity to reinvent their businesses to reflect their own values — as well as not only meeting plant-focused customer demand, but driving it.”

  • “In September 2020, Brew St. reopened as Midland's first plant-based restaurant, and the couple says the community support and interest has been immense.”

  • “‘We are sick, the planet is sick and we have to change the course of things,’ Gauthier said. ‘I said to myself, I have a duty to do this. I am not going to profit from animals; I am going to try to inspire.’” READ MORE

STARTUPS

Charley Cummings wants to build “the Patagonia of banks”: “In 2013, he founded Walden Local, which delivers grass-fed beef and other locally raised products from scores of farms to tens of thousands of homes from New Jersey to Maine. Working closely with small family farms to create a distribution network, he’s seen firsthand the challenge of building a food economy that can last. Far too often, small scale farming operations seeking to offer a more sustainable way of producing food struggle to find financial backing from traditional lenders. Now Cummings is taking what might seem like a giant leap in a new direction, even if it’s a model that’s been around more than a century: He’s opening a bank, Walden Mutual, financing farmers and other agricultural entrepreneurs.”

  • “Walden will be a mutual bank, the first established in New Hampshire in 99 years. The banking model differs from a commercial bank in that its depositors are owners, and it typically has strong ties to the community where it’s based.”

  • “At the outset, Walden Mutual will pitch itself as a secondary, online-only bank for consumers who want to move their money into a savings account that supports local farms.”

  • “‘You’ve got this whole generation of people that applies a very rigorous set of standards from a values perspective to brands that they want to be associated with, whether it’s clothing or food or cosmetics or cleaning products,’ Cummings said. ‘Except for banks.’” READ MORE

LOGISTICS

Thomas Harman, founder of Balsam Hill, a retailer that sells high-end artificial Christmas trees and has been struggling with supply-chain issues, has some suggestions: “First, the White House should appoint a supply-chain czar who can oversee the supply chain from a high level and help get containers moving more quickly by serving as the traffic cop at a busy intersection where the stoplight has stopped working. The czar must facilitate communication and cooperation among supply-chain stakeholders, such as rail lines, trucking companies, ports and inland transportation hubs. Many parties in the supply chain have traditionally been competitors and are not accustomed to cooperating and sharing information, but they need to do so now to avoid further gridlock.”

  • “Second, the czar should hire a team of smart analysts from the private sector, such as a consulting firm with expertise in logistics, that is focused on coming up with short-term, high-impact ideas to ease the supply chain gridlock.”

  • “Many supply chain professionals we speak with do not expect the crisis to subside until mid-to-late 2022. The federal government needs to take more robust and focused action now.” READ MORE

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Is this the right approach? READ MORE

HUMAN RESOURCES

More companies consider penalizing unvaccinated employees: “What started as a campaign of encouragement and lobbying by many employers is now turning into a more forceful effort, with businesses considering measures that penalize employees who remain unvaccinated. Such tactics are generally legal, according to experts, but they do carry risks for companies. Employees upset about the changes could quit, and businesses need to be mindful of laws such as the Affordable Care Act that set strict limits on rewards and penalties under wellness programs.”

  • “As with mandates, the biggest risk of benefits surcharges or similar penalties for those not vaccinated against Covid-19 has to do with employee relations rather than legal compliance, according to Mr. Symons.”

  • “‘Do you risk people not wanting to work for your company anymore, because of the impact of the surcharge on their finances?’ he asked.”

  • “‘I think [businesses] are fed up,’ Mr. Lazzarotti said. ‘They are more motivated to think about ways to be creative and still be lawful.’” READ MORE

POLICY

Somewhat to his surprise, Gene Marks concludes the American Families Plan will actually be good for business owners: “Before you throw your hands up in disgust, please allow me, a small business owner who also opposes government expansion, to ease your concerns. I may not convince you to support the American Families Plan. But maybe, just maybe, I can help defend it from a business perspective by offering a few reasons why the plan may benefit our businesses.”

  • “For starters, workers would likely miss less time at work. The plan would provide funding to help states offer free, high-quality, accessible and inclusive preschool to all three-and four-year-olds, which some estimates say would benefit more than five million children.”

  • “Next, the bill could help create a higher skilled workforce for us. The plan would offer two years of free community college to all Americans, including some immigrants.”

  • “Better paid time off provisions would help us compete with bigger companies. The plan seeks to expand our current Family and Medical Leave Act by guaranteeing up to 12 weeks of paid parental, family and personal illness/safe leave by year 10 of the program, and also ensure workers get three days of bereavement leave per year starting in year one.”

  • “Finally, our health care costs could go down. For me, the more assistance the government can give to our employees to help pay for their health care, the more incentive they may have to find health care plans on the ObamaCare exchanges, which means I won’t have to pay for their health care.” READ MORE

A survey finds that Maine is the friendliest state for small businesses: “Thumbtack, an app that connects customers with local service providers like house painters and cleaners, today released the findings of its 10th annual Small Business Friendliness Survey, which gauges business owners' perceptions of government regulations and economic opportunity at the federal, state, and local levels. Maine, New Hampshire, and South Carolina came out on top with A+ ratings; Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon, and Michigan each received an F. The top-ranked cities were Jacksonvile, Florida, and Salt Lake City, while the lowest-ranked cities were Detroit, San Diego, Nashville, and Kansas City, Missouri. The federal government received a C+.” READ MORE

LITIGATION

The Supreme Court has struck down the CDC’s eviction moratorium: “A coalition of landlords and real estate trade groups in Alabama and Georgia challenged the latest extension of a moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued Aug. 3 and intended to run through Oct. 3. In an unsigned opinion released Thursday night, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority agreed that the federal agency did not have the power to order such a ban.”

  • “‘It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant,’ the majority’s eight-page opinion said. ‘But our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends. . . . It is up to Congress, not the CDC, to decide whether the public interest merits further action here.’” READ MORE

THE 21 HATS PODCAST

Israel Lopez, a regular listener, had this reaction to our latest episode: “There is a difference between the performance of the person and the performance of the business, but it overlaps so much most of the time that it's hard to separate it from either. I feel for Dana/Laura on these topics. I've certainly had my own struggles but I'm also so darn confused why people don't seek regular mental health. I pay a bookkeeping firm ~$1000/mo. I can certainly afford a $150/hr session once or twice a month. We only have one life, so why just abuse ourselves through it, especially since small business owners have more resources, and usually more responsibility for others.”

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If you see a story that business owners should know about, hit reply and send me the link. If you got something out of this email, you can click the heart symbol, you can click the comment icon below, and you can share it with a friend. Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren