Better Performance Reviews

Nobody likes performance reviews. Some tech startups are offering an automated approach.

Good morning! .

Here are today’s highlights:

  • A Seattle burger chain raises its minimum wage to $19.

  • California cracks down on Amazon’s warehouse labor practices.

  • The cost of insuring waterfront property is expected to skyrocket.

FINANCE

The SBA has announced that borrower fees on $350,000 or smaller loans will remain at zero after September 30: “$350,00 is a crucial threshold in SBA lending. The SBA is not required to be in the first lien position on all of your assets if your loan is under $350,000. Additionally, if you own a personal home, the SBA is not required to take a lien on it for loans under $350,000. And now, there is the additional benefit of no fees on these loans.” READ MORE

The government gave free PPP money to public companies despite warning them not to apply: “A ProPublica review has found, the government gave out generous loans to companies that may not have needed them. And it has often forgiven the loans, despite having said that publicly traded companies would be unlikely to merit such generous treatment. Take Lazydays Holdings, a publicly traded collection of RV dealerships that got a nearly $9 million loan. The company had $31 million in cash on hand at the end of 2019, and then prospered as Americans turned to RVs for socially distanced vacations. Lazydays’ stock price has shot up more than 500 percent during the pandemic. The government has forgiven nearly all of it, allowing Lazydays to keep the money.”

  • “The ProPublica analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings found at least 120 publicly traded companies that received loans of more than $500,000, grew their revenues last year and have been allowed to keep the money.”

  • “In addition, at least 30 companies announced plans to go public after receiving their loans, bringing in truckloads of investor cash that they often used to pay off other debts — but not the ones they owed to the federal government, all of which were forgiven.”

  • “The government had no rules requiring companies to pay back loans if it turned out they didn’t need the money.” READ MORE

HUMAN RESOURCES

Dick’s Drive-In is increasing its minimum wage to $19: “With the nationwide labor shortage making it harder for restaurants to hire and retain staff, one iconic Seattle fast food chain is upping its hourly wages to entice more workers. Dick's Drive-In President Jasmine Donovan announced Wednesday that the fast food company will bump up starting wages to $19 per hour beginning on Sept. 27. Workers will automatically move up to $20 per hour once they pass their first skills test, which usually occurs within the first 12 weeks of employment. Raises and bonuses also come with more skills training, and the top hourly pay rate for crew now stands at $21.75.”

  • “With many locations understaffed, the company also announced that all employees who work more than 32 hours a week will be eligible to earn overtime for additional hours through the remainder of the year.” READ MORE

STARTUPS

A bunch of tech companies are offering new solutions to the much-maligned performance review: “Performance reviews are performed by people, and ‘people are biased,’ said Dr. Evelyn Carter, a managing director at Paradigm, a San-Francisco-based strategy firm that works with tech companies on their DEI goals. One example is what Dr. Carter refers to as the ‘prove it again’ trap: Research shows that marginalized groups like women and people of color tend to be evaluated on the results they deliver — can they ‘prove it again?’ — while dominant groups are evaluated based on pure potential. So how are these new HR tools attempting to make performance reviews suck less, and how can managers circumvent their own biases?”

  • “Taking the stress out of writing performance reviews is a major premise of OnLoop, a new mobile-first performance review app that aims to make the ‘data collection process more bite-sized and approachable,’ according to CEO and Co-Founder Projjal Ghatak.”

  • “Remember the pain of writing extemporaneously about someone once a year with no other context? Another way to counter that, according to [Lattice CEO Jack] Altman, is through clever Slack integrations.”

  • “Lattice can take compliments from a company's existing #praise channel, for example, and automatically feed them to its platform, adding another point of reference for managers while they're writing their reviews.”

  • “Having that numeric score also allows companies to compare performance ratings across the board and analyze them for potential areas of bias. For example, if more female employees received lower ratings across a department than male employees, perhaps there's an issue there, explained White.” READ MORE

SILICON VALLEY

Author Steven Levy reviews Max Chafkin’s new Peter Thiel biography: “The image that sticks with me is Thiel sitting in an armchair playing the game of kings with one of the Collison brothers, who co-founded the fin-tech company Stripe, which Thiel funded and is now worth $95 billion. The arrangement for the match was that Thiel would play blind chess, while his opponent could study the board all he liked. Surrounded by onlookers, Thiel would stare at the ceiling and call out his moves, while John Collison, with Patrick at his side for moral support, assayed the battlefield with visible anxiety. It was less a battle than a demonstration of superiority. It’s a fitting memory, because for decades Thiel has been playing a virtuoso chess game in venture capital, politics, and exacting revenge on his foes.”

  • “Chafkin digs deep to help us understand his subject, who was bullied as a child and emerged as a conservative provocateur at Stanford.”

  • “We learn that Thiel dislikes female suffrage, higher education, and holding on to stock once his companies go public (he lost a potential bundle by selling shares of Facebook soon after its IPO).”

  • “He does like tax breaks, and he has apparently pioneered a (sadly, legal) abuse of Roth IRA accounts to accumulate billions of tax-free gains. He also once fired Elon Musk, something not many people can say.”

  • “Thiel himself, however, may not be as important as the weird philosophical strain in Silicon Valley that he represents. It’s a mix of libertarianism, coldly logical decisions that often disregard human consequences, and self-empowered rule breaking.” READ MORE

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REGULATION

California Governor Newsom signed a bill that restricts warehouse employers like Amazon from setting productivity quotas that prevent workers from taking breaks or following health and safety laws: “Amazon largely avoided commenting on the measure while state lawmakers debated it, other than to point out that the company bases its productivity targets for individual employees on their performance over time. The company also said fewer than 1 percent of workers were fired for underperformance. But business groups strongly opposed the bill, arguing that it would lead to an explosion of litigation and hamper the distribution of goods.”

  • “‘We are disappointed Governor Newsom signed A.B. 701, which will exacerbate our current supply chain issues, increase the cost of living for all Californians and eliminate good-paying jobs,’ Rachel Michelin, the president of the California Retailers Association, said in a statement.”

  • “Ms. Michelin previously expressed concern that the bill would effectively punish an entire industry for the purported excesses of one company.” READ MORE

New York City has passed legislation designed to protect delivery workers: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, food delivery workers on bikes have become even more ubiquitous features of the New York City streetscape, earning low wages and often braving horrendous weather, hazardous streets and the threat of robbery to bring people their takeout orders at all hours of the day. On Thursday, the city became the first in the nation to take aggressive steps to improve those employees’ working conditions, approving a groundbreaking package of legislation that will set minimum pay and address the plight of couriers employed by app-based food delivery services like Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats.”

  • “The legislation prevents the food delivery apps and courier services from charging workers fees to receive their pay; makes the apps disclose their gratuity policies; prohibits the apps from charging delivery workers for insulated food bags, which can cost up to $50; and requires restaurant owners to make bathrooms available to delivery workers.” READ MORE

LOGISTICS

The container ships continue to line up off the coast of Southern California: “Sixty-one vessels were anchored offshore on Thursday waiting to unload cargo, down from a record 73 on Sunday, said Capt. J. Kipling Louttit, the executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, a nonprofit that works in partnership with the Coast Guard to provide data on maritime commerce.”

  • “In addition to the anchored ships, 29 were adrift up to 20 miles offshore, meaning they were so far from the coast that their anchors could not reach the ocean floor. That’s down from a record of 37 set on Monday, Captain Louttit said, but the traffic is not abating.” READ MORE

CLIMATE

The cost of insuring waterfront property is about to skyrocket: “Florida’s version of the American dream, which holds that even people of relatively modest means can aspire to live near the water, depends on a few crucial components: sugar white beaches, soft ocean breezes and federal flood insurance that is heavily subsidized. But starting Oct. 1, communities in Florida and elsewhere around the country will see those subsidies begin to disappear in a nationwide experiment in trying to adapt to climate change: Forcing Americans to pay something closer to the real cost of their flood risk, which is rising as the planet warms.”

  • “For the first time, the new rates will also take into account the size of a home, so that large houses by the ocean could see an especially big jump in rates.”

  • “Federal officials say the goal is fairness — and also getting homeowners to understand the extent of the risk they face, and perhaps move to safer ground, reducing the human and financial toll of disasters.”

  • “Jennifer Zales, a real estate agent who lives in Tampa, pays $480 a year for flood insurance. Under the new system, her rates will eventually reach $7,147, according to Jake Holehouse, her insurance agent.” READ MORE

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GIVING BACK

If you’re interested in encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs, you should know about WIT - Whatever It Takes. Started in 2009, WIT is a leader in youth entrepreneur education. It offers t(w)eens around the world the tools and access to launch businesses in middle school and high school. Each week, WIT hosts WIT Hangouts that feature adult entrepreneurs. These Hangouts are done via Zoom and in a Q&A format. If you’re interested in being one of our guest speakers, please complete this application or reach out to WIT Founder Sarah Hernholm:  sarah@doingwit.org. You can learn more about WIT from the video below and at doingwit.org

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