Build the Wall Mural
The latest way for businesses, including restaurants, to establish a vibe is with a cool mural. Thanks to social media, it may be more important than the food.
Here are today’s highlights:
Gene Marks says there are 27 things businesses can do with ChatGPT right now.
Somehow, mass layoffs seem to have made LinkedIn a hot place to be.
A fast-growing industry promises to protect people from gun violence.
Europe seems to have dodged its energy crisis. Are there lessons for us?
The Dashboard podcast with Gene Marks will be published as usual on Monday, but because of Presidents Day, the Morning Report will return on Tuesday.
Is the wall mural more important than the food? “Five Iron Golf, a chain of indoor golf facilities with 16 locations nationwide, has a brand. It’s high end, but not too fancy. Edgy, but not too edgy. Comfortable for both seasoned golfers and first-timers, but also attractive to both corporate party planners and bar-hoppers in their twenties. It has a certain atmosphere that makes eager visitors want to post about it on social media. So when the company set its sights on a new spot near City Hall Plaza, it needed an artist to bring just the right touch to the venue. ‘Blind Fox’ was the obvious choice.”
“If you’ve set foot in a trendy, high-concept bar or restaurant in the Greater Boston area lately, there’s a good chance you’ve been greeted by the work of the multimedia artist, whose real name is Erica Hagler. Her bright colors, pop-art style, and spray paint-flecked designs have helped define the new look of a nightlife scene that is giving local artists a chance to sell their work like never before.”
“These days, businesses of all kinds are reaching out, including corporate offices, high-end apartment buildings, shoe brands, and everyone in between. A family in Back Bay recently paid her to paint a mural in their brownstone’s game room.”
“‘Even if the restaurant down the street has the best food on the planet, but all the walls are white, and it’s a very stale environment, you’re still going to take [your friends] to the place next door that has all the energy. That’s all everyone’s looking for: a vibe.’”
“She’s been expanding outside the city, too, and now has projects slated for Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Arizona, and California. In many cases she doesn’t need to travel to paint by hand. Instead, a portion of her commissions are for vinyl wall wraps, which can be designed at home and then shipped out and installed by customers.” READ MORE
Gene Marks thinks there are already 27 things businesses can do with ChatGPT: “Sure, there are plenty of people having fun with what the bot can do. But let’s get serious: what functions can ChatGPT do for your business today? Here are 27 ways you can use ChatGPT in your company to service and sell to your customers and get more productivity from your employees.”
“To get found, Google likes to rank websites based on its activities and engagement, among other factors, and blog posts are a big part of that. ChatGPT can generate multiple blog posts for your site every week in a fraction of the time it takes to write something from scratch and this will improve your search rankings.”
“If you need an employment contract, an independent contractor agreement, a purchase agreement, a simple bill of sale or any such typical business legal document just ask ChatGPT to draft one for you.”
“Should you lease or buy that property? Is the ROI on that new piece of equipment worth it? Does it make sense to refinance your working capital line? Ask ChatGPT and you may get a few helpful answers to these and other operational questions.”
(Ed. Note: I plan to challenge Gene on some of these uses on Monday’s Dashboard podcast.) READ MORE
Meanwhile, there are real questions about whether Bing’s AI Chatbot is ready for prime time: “When Marvin von Hagen, a 23-year-old studying technology in Germany, asked Microsoft’s new AI-powered search chatbot if it knew anything about him, the answer was a lot more surprising and menacing than he expected. ‘My honest opinion of you is that you are a threat to my security and privacy,’ said the bot, which Microsoft calls Bing after the search engine it’s meant to augment.”
“Launched by Microsoft last week at an invite-only event at its Redmond, Wash., headquarters, Bing was supposed to herald a new age in tech, giving search engines the ability to directly answer complex questions and have conversations with users. Microsoft’s stock soared and archrival Google rushed out an announcement that it had a bot of its own on the way.”
“But a week later, a handful of journalists, researchers, and business analysts who’ve gotten early access to the new Bing have discovered the bot seems to have a bizarre, dark, and combative alter-ego, a stark departure from its benign sales pitch — one that raises questions about whether it’s ready for public use.” READ MORE
Mass layoffs have made LinkedIn a hot social media network—and a place to go to hire tech workers: “The professional social networking site has long had a reputation for being a place where people go to boast about their career accomplishments, posting ‘hustle porn’ and inspirational platitudes. Now, the tone has shifted. People are sharing their personal layoff stories more prominently on LinkedIn, especially if they’re tech workers. Recode spoke with over half a dozen tech professionals who never regularly used the platform but are suddenly finding it more relevant for their professional and even personal lives. They’re using LinkedIn to announce they’ve been laid off, find out who among their former colleagues was also let go, and connect with industry peers who are sharing job leads. Importantly, they’re applying to jobs directly on the site.”
“Web analytics firm SimilarWeb found that monthly traffic to LinkedIn grew more than 60 percent from January 2020 to January 2023, and from December 2022 to January it went up 17 percent.”
“As of early February, 18.6 million people have added an ‘open to work’ green photo frame to their LinkedIn profile photos, up from 6 million in February last year (users first got the option in 2020), according to LinkedIn.”
“‘It was an unwritten assumption before that job-seeking has to be as private as possible,’ said Rohan Rajiv, director of product management for careers at LinkedIn ... ‘I think what has changed is that this has become more the norm now. There is a complete destigmatization.’” READ MORE
Cocoa Press sells 3D printers for chocolate: “[Ellie] Weinstein’s newest model will come in two options – a professional model and a do-it-yourself kit, which users assemble themselves. The pro model is projected to cost between $3,000 and $4,000 and will include some training, while the DIY version will take about 10 hours to assemble and costs around $1,500. Both are a huge decrease from the original Cocoa Press model, which debuted in late 2020 at nearly $10,000. With the new price points and upgraded hardware, Weinstein hopes the model will resonate with a wider market than the original version. For Weinstein, that will be a range of chocolate shops and bakeries on the professional side, and serious hobbyists on the DIY side.”
“Cocoa Press, which has a total of three employees and contractors, has been bootstrapped with revenue being reinvested. Weinstein’s goal is to eventually discontinue custom chocolate sales and focus solely on the printers themselves, something she hopes the newest launch – expected this summer or fall – will accelerate.”
“To better gauge demand – and fund their creation – Weinstein is considering a crowdfunding-inspired model where interested consumers can be put down a refundable $100 deposit to reserve a Cocoa Press unit.” READ MORE
A fast-growing industry that promises to protect people from gun violence is taking hold: “Rising gun violence, punctuated by massacres like the attack at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last year and the shooting on Michigan State University’s campus this week, is fueling not only the debate over gun control but also a more than $3 billion industry of companies working to protect children or employees against mass murder. The offerings are numerous: automatically locking doors, bullet-resistant tables, Kevlar backpacks, artificial intelligence that detects guns and countless types of training exercises, like breathing techniques to avoid panic during an attack or strategies for how to use a pencil to pierce a shooter’s eyes.”
“In one measure of how school shootings have become normalized, the industry holds an annual conference — meeting last summer in Orlando, Fla., just like dairy farmers, golf course managers and tax lawyers did over the past year.”
“At the Omni Orlando Resort, the National School Safety Conference attracted dozens of businesses selling a wide range of products, from locking devices for classroom doors to a series of ‘ballistic’ tables meant to be used as shields. The participants included law enforcement agents and educators.”
“Some business owners in the active-shooter-defense industry say they are not just selling products but preparing people to defend themselves. One of them is Ken Alexandrow, a former police officer in Tennessee who runs Agape Tactical, a company that has taught nurses, teachers and church staff techniques for defending against a shooter. His basic sessions cost $1,000.” READ MORE
Europe seems to have dodged its energy crisis: “What is perhaps most remarkable is that the European Union has not just managed to avert a crisis but has actually ‘turbocharged the green transition,’ as The Economist recently put it, potentially enough to knock a full decade off the continent’s decarbonization timeline. In 2022, for the first time, wind and solar generated more electricity in Europe than did gas and coal, according to a comprehensive review by the European think tank Ember published in January. For all the talk of a coal rebound in Europe, by the fall the continent as a whole was generating less power from coal than it had the previous fall, before the invasion — and the 26 coal plants which were reactivated to deal with the crisis have been operating at only 18 percent capacity on average.”
“Next year, Ember forecasts, Europe will cut its fossil fuel use by 20 percent. That would be a record-setting single-year drop, one that puts to shame America’s ambition to get to 80 percent clean electricity by 2030.”
“It also suggests at least one obvious lesson for climate: Energy transitions can move pretty quickly when there is genuine political commitment and social buy-in.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
ESOPs Are Great. But Not for Me: Last week, Jay Goltz continued his exploration of employee ownership, flying to Portland to meet up with Shawn Busse and Jim Kalb, a friend of 21 Hats who has already sold a portion of his business to his employees. The three owners planned to attend a conference promoting employee stock ownership, but things went somewhat awry. Jay and Shawn left the conference early, Jim canceled his flight, and as has happened before in his brushes with ESOP professionals, Jay walked away feeling convinced—convinced, that is, that an ESOP probably isn’t right for him. Two days later, we taped this podcast episode, which quickly turned into one of the more raucous conversations you are likely to hear about a somewhat technical business topic—although we did manage to find some clarity in the end. In Jay’s words, we agreed to agree.
Along the way, we confronted quite a few relevant questions, such as, do ESOPs have to be so confusing? Are the professionals who pitch ESOPs trying to make them seem complicated? If Jay wants to sell 30 percent of his business to his employees but continue running it, how much control would he have to give up? Will an ESOP make life easier or harder for Jay’s two sons in the business? Instead of an ESOP, could Jay accomplish most of what he wants to accomplish by setting up a profit-sharing bonus plan through his 401(k)? Hanging over the conversation was a larger, more philosophical issue: What exactly do business owners owe their employees? And whatever those obligations are, do they extend beyond the sale of the business? Do they extend beyond the grave?
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren
What about a photo yard with a giant 32 ft long Red Iguana sculpture? Thousands of pictures taken in front of it since October 31, 2018. No regrets having it built!
Sounds great. Can you link to a photo?