‘I Can Do It. I Promise You, I Can Do It’

In our latest 21 Hats Podcast episode, Dana White shares both the remarkable opportunities and the daunting challenges she’s confronting.

Good morning!

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Here are today’s highlights:

  • Ami Kassar says too many companies that don’t need them are getting emergency loans from the SBA.

  • Is it time to start taking the metaverse seriously (or at least figure out what it is)?

  • One way to attract young workers? Offer affordable childcare.

  • One of America’s best known bookstores is trying to reinvent itself.

THE 21 HATS PODCAST

“I Can Do It. I Promise You, I Can Do It:” This week, in episode 84, Dana White takes us along for the ride. After a triumphant trip to Germany, where she expects to open salons on multiple military bases, she’s just returned to Detroit—only to learn that the team she’s counting on is showing serious cracks. Even as she’s signing contracts with the military, getting ready to roll out her franchising plan, and courting newfound investor interest in funding the development of her salon management software, those cracks have shaken Dana and left her questioning her approach as a CEO. Ultimately, she talks about those moments many entrepreneurs experience in the cold of night, when things aren’t going well, and they realize this is all on them. In those moments, Dana confesses, “I’m scared. And I feel alone.” 

  • You can subscribe to The 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.

Listen to the Podcast

FINANCE

Ami Kassar is concerned about the number of Economic Injury Disaster Loans he sees the SBA making to companies that have been thriving: “Over the last few days, I have met and spoken with borrowers all across the country who have had the most profitable year in the history of their companies last year and are now having large EIDL loans wired into their accounts. Some of you may be asking, if this is the case, why they are applying for more EIDL money. The simple answer is FOMO or ‘Fear of Missing Out.’ Passing up on $2 million at 3.75 percent over 30 years seems like a silly thing to do when nearly everyone around you is getting the money and using it to bring their businesses to the next level.”

  • “Sure, it isn't the ‘right’ thing to do, but it's a lot easier not to feel guilty when everyone else around you is also taking advantage of it.”

  • “If you don't take advantage of this cheap money, your competitors may get a leg up on you.” READ MORE

TECHNOLOGY

It might be time to start taking the metaverse seriously: “The metaverse remains more aspirational than real, and its biggest supporters don’t expect it to be built quickly. Proponents though see a range of possibilities, from selling the hardware and software needed to access the metaverse to hawking virtual goods, services and advertisements within the digital world. Companies big and small have started outlining business plans for the metaverse. Microsoft last week said it would roll out software tools around the metaverse in coming months, with pricing still to be disclosed.”

  • “‘The commerce capability I think will be insane because you’ll see these goods that are virtual and instead of looking at pictures, you’ll be able to rotate objects and look at them and try on different things,’ said Brent Thill, an analyst covering the tech sector at investment bank Jefferies.”

  • “Consulting firm Accenture last month said it had purchased 60,000 Oculus headsets to train new employees. Nike filed trademark applications last month indicating that it wants to sell digital versions of its merchandise in online worlds.”

  • “Digital advertising, which exploded in the era of social media and has been the backbone of Meta earnings, is expected to migrate to the metaverse.” READ MORE

POLICY

The Biden administration vaccine mandate is affecting smaller companies, too: “Firms with fewer than 100 workers are not required to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations among employees or submit to weekly testing, which is a ruling that goes into effect on January 4, 2022. However, many of them say they feel obliged to comply, too. The backlash, some say, has been fierce. Employees who may be hesitant to get vaccinated are walking out—and not coming back—while others are organizing strikes. Employers, newly in a bind, are now faced with either backtracking on their decision to mandate vaccinations or lose people. Marilyn Gaskell knows precisely what it's like to lose good workers in the middle of the great recession. While most of the 18 employees at her Phoenix search engine, TruePeopleSearch, got vaccinated without any issues, three employees were reluctant.”

  • “In October, after top managers insisted they get the jab, all three of those hesitant employees walked out, sending resignation letters two days later.”

  • “‘This was a shocking moment for me,’ says Gaskell, noting that the loss of three workers at once dealt a big blow to the organization. ‘It was chaotic,’ she adds, ‘because it was difficult to find a good fit for the available jobs.’”

  • “‘If you have a strict mandate you have to be prepared for top talent to walk out the door, because it's an employee's market right now and talented people are going to have their pick of the litter.’” READ MORE

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HUMAN RESOURCES 

Some companies are making time off mandatory: “One 2018 study found that employees at companies with unlimited PTO policies took fewer vacation days on average than employees at companies with traditional PTO policies. Without guidelines around how much time off to take, employees are unsure how many days is ‘too many,’ and norms end up being set by individual managers, who might not be taking enough themselves. So what's the big deal if people don't max out their vacation days? For some executives, the problem is burnout.”

  • The simplest solution: Set a minimum number of vacation days. That's exactly what they did at Lessonly by Seismic, a software startup based in Indianapolis, which recommends that employees take a minimum of 20 days off a year.”

  • “That's on top of the two weeks off that everyone gets yearly — the week between Christmas and New Year's, as well as the week of July 4th — and the other observed company holidays.”

  • “The issue of pings and notifications while on PTO is something that Dropbox has taken on as well with its ‘Unplugged PTO’ policy, which allows employees taking PTO to pause access to their accounts via mobile.”

  • “‘The idea is to remove the temptation to have a quick glance at your Dropbox, email, Hangouts, or Slack so that you can truly disconnect,’ wrote a Dropbox spokesperson in an email to Protocol.” READ MORE

One way companies are attracting young workers in a competitive market is by offering affordable childcare: “Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, an industry group that partners with both manufacturers and unions, told Insider that his industry is particularly challenged due to the age of its workers, a problem he described as a ‘demographic cliff’: A substantial number of manufacturing workers are beginning to reach retirement age, which means that companies needs to hire new, younger workers to fill their place. ‘Things like childcare become more of an issue than it is for your workers who are well into their 50s, who are empty-nesters or what have you,’ Paul said. For a lot of manufacturers, childcare benefits haven't really been a priority, and so ‘you don't really see an auto factory with a childcare center on-site,’ he said.”

  • “Some companies are starting to make the shift already. Emergency childcare became a relatively common benefit in 2020 among large companies like tech firms, but now McDonald's franchises have the option to offer employees emergency childcare, too.”

  • “And employer-based child-care facilitator Bright Horizons Family Solutions told CNBC it's seen an uptick in employers using its services to the tune of a 20 percent jump in 2020 alone, CNBC reports.” READ MORE

Both employers and job seekers are frustrated by the current market: “While employers have complained for months about the difficulty they face hiring during a labor shortage with more than 10 million job openings for 7.4 million unemployed workers, interviews with job-hunting workers revealed a concurrent reality — difficulty finding suitable work, as they navigate the pandemic labor market.”

  • “The deep frustration among both hiring managers and job seekers right now underscores the challenges in getting so many people back to work quickly and the growing divide between what employers want versus what job seekers want.”

  • “‘A lot of the interest from employers is not spread evenly across the labor pool. There are some people in very high demand and there are some people who get no interest at all,’ said Julia Pollak, chief economist at the ZipRecruiter jobs site. ‘Employers really do value prior experience a lot.’”

  • “There’s a growing preference for remote work among job seekers. Some 55 percent of people on ZipRecruiter reported looking for a job that would allow them to work from home. The vast majority said either workplace safety concerns or child or family care needs were driving their preference for remote work.” 

  • “‘I’m literally selling the job and selling myself to these people,’ Wilson said. ‘Normally my question was, Tell me why you think you’re a good fit for our organization. Now the tables have turned. I’m like, ‘Let me explain to you why I’m a good fit for you.’”READ MORE

PROFILE

One of America’s best known bookstores, Powell’s Books of Portland, managed to survive Amazon, but the pandemic is proving tougher: “A quirky, old-school enterprise, Powell’s has retained its traditional aura in the digital era, while standing as a hero in a now-familiar tale of American urban rejuvenation. Its flagship store — a grand warren of books filling out a former car dealership — anchors a once dicey neighborhood whose warehouses have been traded in for glass-fronted condos and furniture boutiques. But the latest plot twist has foreshadowed a potentially unhappy ending. Like the rest of Portland’s urban core — and like downtowns across the United States —Powell’s is contending with staggering uncertainty. How will brick-and-mortar stores fare in a time of continued fear over a deadly, airborne plague? What happens to city life when sidewalks are strewn with the rain-soaked belongings of people who can no longer afford rent?”

  • “‘People don’t come downtown in the way that they used to prepandemic,’ said Emily Powell, 42, owner and president of Powell’s Books, the business founded by her grandfather in 1971.”

  • “‘It’s a terrible website, and it hasn’t changed in about 20 years,’ Ms. Powell said. ‘If we can’t solve our internet problems, we’re probably dead in the water.’”

  • “There are plans for whiskey tasting in the rare books room. A new cafe is being installed in a street-facing corner, standing in for the coffee shop that was shuttered during the lockdown.”

  • “But the rank-and-file are nursing grievances over how Powell’s handled the shutdown. The company laid off more than 90 percent of its workforce. When operations resumed, it forced employees to reapply for their old jobs.” 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