Ami Kassar Is Trying to Make Himself Dispensable
But he suddenly has a new concern: What if one of his senior leaders has to step away for an extended period?
Here are today’s highlights:
TikTok Shop is offering more services to attract more third-party sellers.
Can you learn by trial and error if you only have error?
As the labor market stays tight, more businesses are looking to hire veterans.
Ami Kassar is trying to take himself out of the day-to-day: “Have you considered what would happen if you couldn’t do anything in your company for 30 days? Call it a forced sabbatical. Would the company function? Are there essential things that you do that nobody else can do or knows how to do? It’s not just a good idea, it’s our responsibility as leaders that we ensure we can disappear for some time without everything falling apart. I have lived this forced sabbatical over the last 30 days. I stepped away from my company to focus efforts and energy on responding to the crisis in Israel and Gaza as part of a grassroots effort of Entrepreneurs’ Organization members around the globe. Somewhat to my own surprise, mainly due to my try-to-fire-yourself philosophy, this has gone better than I would have expected.”
“That said, I have realized something important. While I can step away and the business continues to function, I’m not sure the same would be true if any of our senior leaders had to step away because of an emergency in their lives.”
“It’s my responsibility to change that. I plan to help them work on this over the next several months. We need to build enough support into their teams so they can step away at a moment’s notice if they need to. This might involve hiring more people or adding cross-functional support. I don’t exactly know how this is going to work yet, but it’s on my mind.” READ MORE
Here are some end-of-year reminders for business owners: “Despite the challenges of 2023 — whether it was a sudden series of bank collapses, rising interest rates that made loans more expensive or challenges over hiring or pay — business owners should take a moment to identify the parts of the business that have done well, those that have struggled and how they could improve. That includes identifying either high-performing departments or individual employees. ‘One of the most crucial tasks is to look over what tasks and activities provided your business the most impact and the best (return on investment).’”
“Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, said business owners should make sure top-performing employees feel recognized, even if that doesn’t mean a monetary reward. Make sure you thank your team for their hard work, he added.”
“‘A handwritten note expressing gratitude for an employee's dedication, hosting a team lunch or dinner, or even creating an Employee of the Year award can go a long way. These gestures highlight an employee's value to the company and foster a culture of recognition and respect,’ Caballero said.”
“Small-business owners should check in with their banker and talk about the current financial status of their business, review growth plans for the year and what types of lending tools the bank could offer. That could include line of credits, updated credit cards or potential loans, said Katie Kramer, executive director at the Ohio Statewide Development Corp.” READ MORE
Looking to attract more merchants, TikTok is diving into logistics: “The social-media app is setting up a network of warehouses and fulfillment operations, taking on nuts-and-bolts tasks such as managing inventory and delivery from the array of independent merchants that are selling goods to TikTok’s legions of followers. The business owned by Beijing-based ByteDance is effectively borrowing a page from Amazon.com as it looks to compete directly with the e-commerce market leader through the burgeoning wing of online retail known as social commerce. The idea is that taking on the logistics, rather than relying on third-party sellers to handle their own fulfillment, will help attract more merchants to TikTok Shop and win over shoppers with fast, reliable delivery.”
“But TikTok is breaking from Amazon’s approach by outsourcing the logistics operations. The company is striking deals with logistics providers including ShipBob and Newegg to store inventory and pick, pack and ship online orders.”
“TikTok is using TikTok Shop to keep more of those sales within its own platform and is adding the infrastructure for influencers to link directly to products within the app. The move has put the social-media app in competition with retailers such as Amazon, Target and Walmart as well as e-commerce sites Shein and Temu, both of which also have Chinese roots and have been growing rapidly in the U.S.” READ MORE
Here’s how one company, BK Beauty, is using TikTok Shop: “Founder Paul Jauregui says there's a bit of a learning curve for getting started with TikTok Shop. It took his team about 30 days to set up a storefront, onboard teams, and test transactions, and he notes that TikTok is still working out bugs, like glitches in syncing products from BK Beauty's Shopify to TikTok Shop. Products that don't sync aren't available to customers, but Jauregui says issues decrease the longer he's on the platform--partly because of app-based fixes, and partly from working through challenges as a brand.
“After overcoming that initial month of learning, Jauregui says the second month is about adapting to the marketplace while figuring out the app's not-yet streamlined customer support. He says he spent much of this time solving unprocessed orders and managing returns, but that seemed reasonable considering everyone--sellers, consumers, and TikTok--are getting acclimated to the space.”
“Jauregui advises businesses joining TikTok Shop test transactions on the platform to better understand what customers face along their purchasing journey. Since all parts of the purchasing process happen on TikTok, he and the BK Beauty team ran over a dozen test scenarios for checkout, requesting returns, entering discounts, and getting help via customer service before launching.” READ MORE
After starting six businesses that failed, Nick Tietz started a co-working lab to help small-business owners avoid the mistakes he made: “He launched and raised capital for six previous companies: an advertising and marketing agency; a motion graphics design business that merged into a new company focused on digital interactive design; an app that serves as a mobile profile for people with disabilities to improve interactions between first responders and educators; a home management platform for active military members; and a fitness coach app. All but one eventually shuttered. In November 2020, he launched ILT Academy, which operates free, 10-week programs to help entrepreneurs — mostly in Greater Minnesota — validate their products and understand their market fit through customer discovery. In three years, he's taught more than 500 small-business owners.” READ MORE
Companies are lining up to hire military veterans: “The last jobs report before Veterans Day showed the unemployment rate for former service members is 2.9 percent, a full point lower than the overall U.S. rate. Businesses’ interest in a Pentagon program that connects service members to companies grew so intense over the summer that the Department of Defense temporarily stopped taking applications from companies to join the ranks of private-sector partners. The SkillBridge program, as it’s known, had 150 participating employers in 2019. Today there are more than 3,800—including Bank of America, Lowe’s and Deloitte—and applications recently reopened, following a review of how to handle the staggering demand.”
“Veterans and companies that recruit from the armed forces say vets’ appeal is rooted in hard work, humility and attention to detail. Many a manager has complained to me that such qualities are hard to find in the age of quiet quitting and coffee badging.”
“The learning curve for former service members in the private sector can be steep, companies say, but they come with little sense of entitlement and can handle—or even crave—constructive criticism.” READ MORE
Co-working will survive the WeWork bankruptcy, but it’s not looking like much of a revolution: “The business of offering flexible office space on short leases to individuals and businesses, a model that WeWork hoped to make mainstream, remains a niche in commercial real estate despite the billions of dollars the company and others invested in the approach. Flexible office space accounts for less than 2 percent of all office space in the 20 largest U.S. markets, according to Cushman & Wakefield, close to its share before the pandemic.”
“Office vacancies are at their highest level in decades, with lots of space available for sublet often at a deep discount from the rents that prevailed before the pandemic. WeWork’s bankruptcy will only make the situation worse by leaving landlords with more space to fill.”
“Michael Emory, the founder of Allied, a real estate investment trust that owns office buildings in Canada’s largest cities, said flexible office providers would always exist, providing space for smaller companies to operate without signing long leases. But he said it would never make up a third of all office space, as JLL, a real estate services firm, predicted before the pandemic would be the case in 2030.”
“‘There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening,’ Mr. Emory said.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
The I-Hate-Marketing Approach to Marketing: This week, Shawn Busse tells Jay Goltz and Mel Gravely why he doesn’t want his firm, Kinesis, to be known as a marketing agency. Part of it is his sense that people just don’t trust marketers. But Shawn also believes that what Kinesis offers its clients is much more than just marketing. Hearing that prompts Mel to take us through his recent decision to spend a lot of money rebranding his construction business, which he says created alignment throughout the business and would have been worth twice what he paid. (Don’t tell his marketing consultant!)
Plus: Mel explains how he manages to generate new business without employing salespeople. Jay asks if it’s still possible in this tight labor market to enforce attendance policies. And, for the first time in the almost four-year history of this podcast, Jay goes extremely quiet for an extended period. What exactly was that about?
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren