‘Every Day, I Have to Force Myself to Get Out of Bed’

In the latest 21 Hats Podcast, the entrepreneurs wind up in a frank discussion of mental health.

Good morning!

Here are today’s highlights:

  • Some employees can’t wait to get back to the office.

  • How to create an office culture in a work-from-home world.

  • Joe Biden: “Do what I did last month. Require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict requirements.”


Episode 74: ‘Every Day, I Have to Force Myself to Get Out of Bed’: Because our core group of business owners has been talking to each other pretty much every week since before the pandemic, we’ve gotten to know each other. We’ve come to trust each other. And as a result, our conversations sometimes take unexpected turns. This week, our conversation takes an unexpectedly dark turn. We start out talking about Laura Zander’s efforts to manage personnel conflicts and Dana White’s visits to potential salon sites on military bases and Jay Goltz’s bizarre battle with his phone company, and we think we know what we’re talking about. But we keep talking until we realize that some of the issues we are discussing are more complicated and more painful than we’d understood, as is often the case with matters of mental health. You should know this conversation contains frank discussion of depression and suicide.


At one small manufacturer, $2 million sits in inventory, waiting for a $30 part: “Catrike has 500 of its three-wheeled bikes sitting in its workshop in Orlando, Fla., nearly ready to be sent to expectant dealers. The recumbent trikes have been waiting for months for rear derailleurs, a small but crucial part that is built in Taiwan. ... The company’s problems offer a window into how supply-chain disruptions are rocking companies in the United States and around the world, pushing inflation higher, delaying deliveries and exacerbating economic uncertainty.”

  • “‘We’re sitting on $2 million in inventory for one $30 part,’ said Mark Egeland, the company’s general manager.”

  • “Catrike raised prices by $200 early this year, its first adjustment since 2010, to cover costs.” READ MORE

Walmart is opening its local delivery service to other retailers: “The big-box retailer is opening up its in-house delivery platform, Spark Driver, to other businesses so that the independent contractors who are out delivering Walmart groceries and other merchandise can make additional deliveries along the way. The service, called Walmart GoLocal, offers another way for the retailer to beef up its delivery platform and add more paying pickup and drop-offs while drivers are out. It joins a crowded field of players looking to handle last-mile deliveries, including a similar service called Shipt, which is owned by rival Target.”

  • “With Walmart’s new offering, the delivery person wouldn’t arrive in a Walmart vehicle or Walmart attire, making it an option for other big chains.”

  • “Executives described new potential to deliver cupcakes from a local bakery or auto parts from a national retailer to a car repair shop.” READ MORE


With factories and service providers reporting sharply lower growth, surveys show the U.S. expansion has slowed: “An index of factory activity dropped to 61.2, a four-month low, from 63.4 in July. A reading above 50 suggests activity—as measured by sales, output, prices and other factors—is growing. But the surveys show that the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, which has led to a new wave of infections and hospitalizations and has spooked consumers, is harming the economy.” READ MORE

FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine is expected to bring a new round of vaccine mandates: “Within hours, the Pentagon, CVS, the State University of New York system and the New York City school system, among others, announced that they would enforce mandates they had prepared but made contingent on the F.D.A.’s action. In a roughly 10-minute address on the approval, President Biden said it should sweep away any lingering doubts about vaccines and spur more mandates. Appealing to corporate, state and local leaders, he said: ‘Do what I did last month. Require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict requirements.’” READ MORE

Yelp reviews are fueling the fight over vaccinations: “The Alembic, a cocktail bar and restaurant in San Francisco, was part of the first wave of businesses to require workers and patrons to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when it restarted indoor dining in June. Co-owner Kathryn Kulczyk said backlash from the public was swift and much of it came through Alembic’s page on Yelp, the popular reviews site. ‘People were calling us Nazis,’ she said. ‘Saying that we supported the devil because we wanted proof of vaccination.’”

  • “In early August, Yelp added features allowing businesses to list their vaccine policies on their pages, just as they could advertise that they deliver or accept credit cards.”

  • “There are two new settings: A business can indicate if its staff is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and if it requires patrons to provide proof of vaccination; users can filter their search results based on those options.”

  • “The company began using proactive moderation to manage the rollout of new badges last summer, when Yelp added one to identify Black-owned businesses as part of the company’s response to the killing of George Floyd. Since then, the company has preemptively monitored the pages of any business using its identity-based attributes.” READ MORE


Some employees can’t wait to get back to the office: “Before the pandemic, Roya Joseph’s days at the office were defined by interaction. She looked forward to casual conversations with co-workers, mentorship sessions with managers and periodic, freewheeling chats — known as “teatime” — in the office kitchen. All that was swept away when Ms. Joseph, a water engineer for Black & Veatch, an engineering firm, was sent home from her Walnut Creek, Calif., office along with the rest of her colleagues as the coronavirus began spreading through the United States last year. She jumped at the opportunity to return when her office reopened to some employees in June.”

  • “But two weeks ago, the rug was pulled out from under her again. Black & Veatch shut its offices as virus cases rose nationwide, driven by the contagious Delta variant.”

  • “‘It’s depressing,’ Ms. Joseph, 32, said. ‘I feel like we’re being pushed back to that isolation bubble. I feel like, mentally, I’m not ready to face that again.’” READ MORE

The pandemic has highlighted the debate over licensing requirements for jobs such as hair-braiding, nursing, and fitness training: “More than 1,100 occupations are licensed in at least one state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Last year, 29 million workers, nearly a quarter of those employed full time, held a license, the Labor Department said. In the 1950s, about 5 percent of workers had licenses, according to researchers. President Biden, a Democrat, and some congressional Republicans say the need to hold a license to work in many different roles blocks Americans from taking well-paying jobs. Those concerns have been raised as job openings rose to a record 10.1 million at the end of June, but 3.4 million fewer workers were in the labor force that month versus February 2020, before the pandemic took hold in the U.S.”

  • “Mr. Biden signed an executive order last month calling for the streamlining of occupational licensing requirements, which are set by states, as part of a broader effort intended to increase competition.”

  • “The order asked the Federal Trade Commission to ban unnecessary occupational licensing restrictions that impede economic mobility.” READ MORE

Some businesses are trying to create an office culture in a work-from-home world: “Growing companies like Siete have struggled to find ways to make new hires feel they’re a part of the business when they can’t meet in person. Without clues from the office setting and existing systems, how do you learn the company’s culture? The problem confronts small businesses and giant ones alike, though it can be more acute for small firms that may not have human resources or a clear culture in place. And it’s likely to get more challenging as the Delta variant of the coronavirus puts back-to-office plans on hold and hybrid work structures become permanent.”

  • “At Siete, the Garzas took a clue from their website and developed a game. New hires get a bingo card listing current employees’ hidden talents and stories, and are asked to set up video calls with those workers until they hit ‘bingo.’”

  • “Knowing how important fitness is to the team, Siete bought employees their choice of kettlebells, dumbbells or a TRX system, and Mr. Garza began hosting Zoom workouts.”

  • “Ms. Garza began experimenting with an almond flour tortilla. When her grandmother declared it as good as the real thing, the two siblings and their mother decided to start Siete.”

  • “That was seven years ago; today the brand is sold in 16,000 stores, including Whole Foods and Kroger, and anticipates $200 million in sales this year.” READ MORE


Ami Kassar, CEO of MultiFunding, is struggling with how to address the current Covid conditions: “A friend buried her step-father today, who died alone in the hospital. Her mother also had Covid, and nobody could be with her for days after her husband has passed. They both had their Vaccines. In my office, two of our teammates are fighting through Covid-19. One had a pretty easy time, and the other is home but struggling. There are five breakthrough cases today in a friend's factory, with two of them being seriously sick.”

  • “I am having a tough time reconciling these opposite realities in my head and deciding how to plan for what is next. Are you?” READ MORE

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