All It Takes Is One Mistake

In the latest 21 Hats Podcast, three business owners discuss a supremely trying year: the lessons learned, the silver linings, and the personal toll it exacted.

THE 21 HATS PODCAST

Episode 43: All It Takes Is One Mistake: This week, in our final podcast of the year, Paul Downs, Jay Goltz, and William Vanderbloemen discuss the impact this year has had on their businesses and on themselves. William talks about the positive side of having to get back to a startup mentality: “It's definitely been a silver lining in the middle of a very dark cloud.” Paul talks about hoping he can offer his employees a good place to work for as long as possible: “I can give them probably another 10 years. And then beyond that, I don't know what will happen.” And Jay talks about the mistake he made that could have been disastrous: “If I wouldn't have gotten the PPP money, I don't know…”

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THE COVID ECONOMY

In Pennsylvania, dozens of businesses are defying the governor’s restrictions: “Two days after a new slate of business closure orders went into effect, dozens of Pennsylvania restaurants and gyms remain open to indoor service, either openly or covertly defying the governor’s measures aimed at containing the surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Diners, fitness studios, and bars from Pittsburgh to Bucks County have told employees and customers they are ignoring Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration’s most recent order, which took effect Saturday and banned indoor operations among restaurants, gyms, casinos, and theaters through Jan. 4.”

  • “[Pennsylvania health secretary Rachel] Levine said some hospitals in the state have reported in recent days having very few or ‘even no’ ICU beds remaining.”

  • “Some businesses ignoring the new rules are operating under the assumption that any fines incurred will be cheaper than closing, or that they won’t be visited by an enforcing agency.” READ MORE

TRANSPORTATION

Amazon’s self-driving company, Zoox, has unveiled its autonomous robotaxi: “Zoox on Monday debuted an electric, fully driverless vehicle that’s built for ride hailing. It’s a ‘carriage-style’ car, which means that passengers face each other and there’s no space for a driver or passenger seat, since there’s no steering wheel. It has space for up to four passengers. Amazon acquired the six-year-old start-up in June and, at the time, gave few details about how it planned to use Zoox’s technology.”

  • “The car can travel up to 75 miles per hour and can run up to 16 hours on a single charge.”

  • “The vehicle is designed for ride-hailing in urban environments. Zoox said it’s currently testing in three cities — Las Vegas, Nevada; Foster City, California; and San Francisco, California.”

  • “The company plans to launch an app-based ridesharing service in the future. Its first target markets will be San Francisco and Las Vegas, Zoox said.” READ MORE

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THE 21 HATS CONVERSATION

Meet Stephanie Stuckey: Join us Tuesday at 3 ET, and Stephanie, who has spent most of her career as a litigator and a legislator, will tell us about Stuckey’s, the iconic road-stop business her grandfather founded during the Great Depression: how it grew to 370 stores nationwide, why the family sold it, why it fell into decline, and how she’s trying to bring it back. Bring your own questions!

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RETAIL

There’s a shortage of Christmas decorations: “In recent weeks, several large retailers have reached out to Christmas Central, a mainly online seller of lights, artificial trees and décor, looking for more inventory for stores, said Nathan Gordon, Christmas Central’s president. The firm, which sells holiday goods on other retailers’ websites as well as on its own site and in four bricks-and-mortar stores in Buffalo, N.Y., had to decline the requests, Mr. Gordon said. The company’s November sales were nearly double those of last year, he said, and it has had to restrict sales through its retail partner websites to keep up with demand.”

  • “Walmart, Costco, At Home Group, and other retailers known for selling holiday items didn’t anticipate the pandemic-fueled surge when buying most products for the season nearly a year ago, say executives and people familiar with the situation.”

  • “Retailers generally can’t augment supplies for holiday items at the last minute. Artificial trees, string lights and other seasonal products are often made nearly a year in advance in Chinese factories that need to plan production schedules and allow time to ship goods globally, retail executives say.”

  • “Costco is already sold out of gift wrap and holiday décor in many areas, finance chief Richard Galanti said on a call to discuss earnings Thursday.” READ MORE

TRADE

Despite the pandemic and the tariffs, Americans are buying more Chinese goods than ever: “The surge in imports is another byproduct of the coronavirus, with Americans channeling money they might have spent on vacations, movies and restaurant dining to household items like new lighting for home offices, workout equipment for basement gyms, and toys to keep their children entertained. That has been a boon for China, the world’s largest manufacturer of many of those goods. In November, China reported a record trade surplus of $75.43 billion, propelled by an unexpected 21.1 percent surge in exports compared with the same month last year. Leading the jump were exports to the United States, which climbed 46.1 percent to $51.98 billion, also a record.”

  • “Despite Mr. Trump’s restrictions on Chinese goods, including tariffs on more than $360 billion worth of its imports, there is little sign that global supply chains are returning to the United States.”

  • “Instead, the prolonged effects of the pandemic on the United States appear to have only reinforced China’s manufacturing position.” READ MORE

TECHNOLOGY

A Google outage yesterday affected billions of people around the world: “More than a dozen Google services such as Gmail and YouTube were offline for roughly an hour Monday, long enough to close schools, disrupt work and highlight again our dependency on the internet amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Alphabet Inc.-owned company’s services showed errors for users attempting to sign in or access their email or files, according to social media postings from users. On YouTube, the home page was replaced with an illustration of a monkey with a hammer with the title, ‘oops.’”

  • “Remote work and learning have left businesses and individuals more dependent than ever on online services, for which Google is widely used.”

  • “At The Wall Street Journal, where the newsroom uses Google’s services, a reporter had to use an older form of technology—the telephone—to dictate the first paragraphs of a story on the outage.” READ MORE