ChatGPT? It’s All About the Prompt
If you have yet to make productive use of ChatGPT, this guide to asking and refining your prompts may help.
Here are today’s highlights:
Brent Beshore draws some conclusions from what he’s seen inside more than 10,000 businesses. It’s not pretty.
Gene Marks weighs in on the startup boom, the $20-an-hour minimum wage for fast food workers, and the Supreme Court’s looming decision on regulation.
Americans are starting to believe that the economy is actually pretty good.
You can ask Ami Kassar anything at a Wednesday webinar.
The key to making use of ChaptGPT lies in creating effective prompts: “Since launching over a year ago, ChatGPT has become seemingly omnipresent. At work, people have used the OpenAI product to develop code, generate marketing materials, and create lesson plans. It's become so popular that companies are now hiring workers who have ChatGPT expertise to boost their bottom lines. And in their everyday lives, people are turning to the chatbot for help with losing weight, landing dates, and delaying aging. But ChatGPT doesn't always produce desirable outcomes, and the tech can be prone to errors and misinformation. It all comes down to the prompts users put into ChatGPT.”
“If you want to apply ChatGPT to your business, Cressy suggests creating a ‘best-practices document’ that includes details on who you are, what you do, and what your brand voice sounds like. That way, users can copy and paste the information into the chatbot whenever they start a new conversation.”
“Instead of asking ChatGPT to ‘create me a marketing strategy’ the prompt should say ‘I am a world-class [role] who helps [target audience] for business growth. Our brand voice is friendly, positive, inspiring, brand-safe, conversational. Create me a marketing strategy to help build my brand on Facebook and Instagram by leveraging my podcast.’”
“If the goal is to use ChatGPT to generate a widely read blog post, the user should ask the chatbot to first research which SEO terms will most likely make the article appear at the top of search-engine results. In a separate prompt, ask it to apply what it learned to the blog post.”
“Here's one prompt Couto uses to generate a company blog post: ‘Following this story structure — 1. Capture the heart, 2. Set up a tension, 3. Resolve the tension, 4. Conclude by offering value — write a 1,000-word story at a grade-five reading level in the first person using the following information.’” READ MORE
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL LIFE
Brent Beshore, who runs Permanent Equity and created the Main Street Summit last year, offers some thoughts on what it takes to build a business: “I've had the privilege of peeking behind the curtain at 10,000-plus businesses. Some observations: All businesses are loosely functioning disasters. Operating a small business feels like a daily knife fight where you get out of bed, try not to get stabbed, get back in bed, and do it all over again. Small businesses don't stay small on purpose. Most companies don't make much money.”
“Fast growth is counterintuitively more perilous than declining revenue and can quickly destroy a company.”
“Culture is nothing more than what you reward and punish, not what you put in your mission, vision, values statement.”
“Most employees couldn't tell you why they do what they do, or how it contributes to the success of the business.” READ MORE
Consumer sentiment has taken its biggest leap in decades: “Americans are rapidly becoming much more upbeat about the economy. Consumer sentiment surged 29 percent since November, the biggest two-month increase since 1991, the University of Michigan said Friday, adding to gauges showing improving moods. It’s a sharp turn after persistently high inflation, the lingering shock from the pandemic’s destruction, and fears that a recession was around the corner had put a damper on feelings about the economy in recent years, despite solid growth and consistent hiring.”
“Unemployment is historically low, and hiring is still strong. What has changed is that inflation is cooling rapidly, while mortgage rates are down sharply from last year and the S&P 500 rose to a record high Friday.”
“Consumer sentiment leapt 13 percent in the first half of January from December, the Michigan survey said, after a sharp rise the prior month. The pickup in sentiment was broad-based, spanning consumers of different age, income, education and geography.”
“Despite the recent sentiment gains, the measure is still about 20 percent lower than before the pandemic took hold in 2020 and nearer to levels consistent with an economy just emerging from a downturn—not one that recorded surprisingly strong growth last year. The recovery in sentiment ‘is likely to provide some positive momentum for the economy,’ said Joanne Hsu, the Michigan survey’s director.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST: DASHBOARD
Is America really experiencing a startup boom? Well, yes, actually, but Gene Marks raises two questions: One, what exactly is driving the boom? And, two, are the startups substantial enough to matter? Or is this just about people losing their jobs and driving for Uber. Plus: what would you do if you owned fast food locations in California where the minimum wage for fast food workers will jump to $20 an hour in April. And what are business owners to make of the case the Supreme Court heard last week about the constitutionality of federal regulation?
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
Ami Kassar, the smallbiz finance expert and 21 Hats columnist, is holding a webinar Wednesday where you can ask him anything: “During this time of economic uncertainty and market instability, business growth is a must. As founder and CEO of MultiFunding, Ami speaks with entrepreneurs daily and listens to concerns about how to fund growth, such as whether to expand through an acquisition or how to prepare for an exit. Everything that will be discussed in the webinar remains confidential, so bring your concerns and questions and learn how to begin your long-term growth goals. Join Ami at noon ET Wednesday.” REGISTER HERE
Employees are still looking to change jobs, but it’s gotten harder: “Millions of workers switched jobs during the past couple of years, enticed by abundant openings and big pay raises from companies desperate to hire. The market for salaried, white-collar jobs has since cooled, but workers’ itchiness to find new work hasn’t. Roughly 85 percent of 1,000 U.S. professionals polled in a new LinkedIn survey say they are thinking about changing jobs this year, up from 67 percent a year earlier. Those who are actually job hunting—versus those who might be venting their work frustrations—are discovering that they have less leverage than in the recent past.”
“While the market for hourly jobs remains robust, the number of listings for finance, marketing, software development and other white-collar fields has fallen below pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the jobs site Indeed. On LinkedIn, one job opening is available for every two applicants. A year ago, jobs outnumbered applicants two to one.”
“People who switched jobs in August 2022 were rewarded with an average 8.4 percent pay bump for making the move, around 3 percentage points more than those who stayed in their jobs, according to wage-tracking data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. By last month, the average raise that came with switching jobs was 5.7 percent, compared with 4.9 percent for workers who stayed put.”
“The upshot? Plenty of workers feel stuck, and that is helping to fuel job dissatisfaction.” READ MORE
Small, independently owned companies trying to make apparel in the U.S. say their biggest impediment is an obscure trade rule: “In his 40-year career, William Lucas has seen nearly every step in the erosion of the American garment industry. As general manager of Eagle Sportswear, a company in Middlesex, N.C., that cuts, sews and assembles apparel, he hopes to keep what’s left of that industry intact. Mr. Lucas, 59, has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars training his workers to use more efficient techniques that come with financial bonuses to get employees to work faster. But he fears that his investments may be undermined by a U.S. trade rule.”
“The rule, known as de minimis, allows foreign companies to ship goods worth less than $800 directly to U.S. customers while avoiding tariffs. Mr. Lucas and other textile makers in the Carolinas, once a textile hub, contend that the provision — nearly a century old, but exploding in use — motivates retailers to rely even more on foreign producers to keep prices low.”
“During the pandemic, when e-commerce purchases soared, so did the use of de minimis. In the 2016 fiscal year, 150 million packages entered the United States tariff-free under the policy, but by 2023, that figure rose to more than one billion, according to Customs and Border Protection. About half are textile and apparel products.”
“Through most of the 20th century, mills in the region were abundant. That started to change in the 1990s after the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, eliminating U.S. duties on products from neighboring countries, and large multinational companies started to move garment production to Mexico.”
“The surviving companies are mostly family-run and privately held, consistently steering money back into their businesses to pay for expensive new equipment and automation to remain competitive. Many produce items for the U.S. military, which requires some clothing to be American made, or for companies whose stated mission is just that. In 2022, just 2.9 percent of the apparel sold in the United States was made domestically ...” READ MORE
Shifting to annual passes changed everything for ski resorts: “Vail Resorts first released the Epic Pass in 2008. Skiers could pay $579 and visit Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Heavenly, and Keystone as often as they wanted for the upcoming ski season. It wasn’t the first season pass — Colorado’s Winter Park offered a heavily discounted pass in the late 1990s, starting the trend. But this pass granted entry to five resorts, which at the time charged up to $90 for a single-day ticket. Vail Resorts sold 59,100 passes the first year, totaling $32.5 million. That number increased to 650,000 in 2016, 1.2 million in 2019, and 2.4 million in 2023 for ~$900 million in sales. The cost for an Epic Pass for the 2023-24 season started at $909 last spring (rising as ski season approached) and offered buyers unlimited admission to every Vail Resorts ski area.”
“During an earnings call in December 2023, Vail Resorts CEO Kirsten Lynch said passes made up ~73 percent of the company’s overall lift-ticket revenue, giving the business more stability. The upfront money is a hedge for seasons with lower snowfall and bad weather.”
“Skiers, meanwhile, have seized on the discount and started skiing more frequently. Ski weekends in many parts of Colorado have gotten longer, says Childers, with people arriving a day earlier or staying a day longer.”
“Vail Mountain kicked off the new year by setting a record. For the first week of January, a single-day lift ticket purchased on-site cost $299, the highest amount ever charged to ski the iconic resort, roughly 100 miles outside Denver.” READ MORE
Could Gen Z save the shopping mall? “Retail experts say these young shoppers have helped malls bounce back after the downturn brought on by the pandemic, in part because the digital space has turned Gen Z into a generation that expects instant gratification. The immediacy of touching, trying out and buying products may be the thing driving them to physical stores. ‘This digitally savvy generation is used to having things immediately that they can download, access, watch,’ said USC Marshall School of Business Assistant Professor Stephanie Tully. ‘And so from that perspective, the desire to get physical products immediately makes sense and would explain interest in brick-and-mortar.’”
“A 2022 report by the marketing agency CM Group, now Marigold, and the retail consulting group F’inn found that 47 percent of Gen Z respondents said they prefer to shop in store over online — more than any other generation.”
“With the easing of pandemic restrictions and the slowing of e-commerce, some malls have been revived by targeting teens and young shoppers who want more than just a place to spend money: a place to hang out, dine and meet friends.”
“Successful shopping centers also must bring in the kinds of brands that are trendy among Gen Z shoppers, as well as socially and environmentally conscious retail stores those customers are likely to support, Grove said.”
“Hundreds of shoppers flocked to the opening of America’s first physical store of Princess Polly, an Australian fast fashion boutique popular among Gen Z and millennials, at Westfield Century City in September 2023.” READ MORE
A judge has ordered a moratorium on building permits for kitchen upgrades and the like until Beverly Hills addresses affordable housing: “Last month, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Curtis A. Kin blocked the city from issuing all building permits except for new residential development as a penalty for Beverly Hills’ failure to approve a sufficient blueprint for affordable housing. Officials are appealing the decision and say they’re continuing to process permits as normal. But the potential ramifications on home and business owners and the construction industry have left civic leaders aghast.”
“State officials previously had not challenged Beverly Hills despite a 50-year-old law that requires local governments to plan for a growing population and allow people of all incomes to live in every community. Under the law, every eight years the state tells all cities how many new homes they need to accommodate.”
“In an effort to combat widespread housing unaffordability and reduce carbon emissions, state legislators in recent years have passed a series of laws aimed to encourage more development in cities near job centers and mass transit. No longer, they argued, should wealthy enclaves get a pass.”
“The city’s strategy has been to try to continue to wall off its existing residential neighborhoods — those with the mega-mansions and apartments buildings alike — and instead concentrate growth in commercial areas through mixed-use development. The plan hasn’t worked.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
The Worker Co-Op Solution: In this week’s bonus episode, Cameron Madill takes us on his succession journey, which began years ago when he started having conversations with older business owners, many of whom seemed to feel trapped. They’d had a lot of success, they were proud of the business they’d built, but they weren’t sure what to do with it or how to leave it. None of the usual options seemed terribly appealing. Hoping to write a different ending, Madill, now in his 40s, started looking for better options much earlier than most owners, and the one he landed on was an unusual choice: a worker cooperative.
As Madill explains in a conversation we recorded late last year, he thinks co-ops are an option far more owners, especially those struggling to find a buyer, should consider.
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren