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I Want to Double Sales Again
In our latest 21 Hats Podcast, the owners talk about what they hope to accomplish in the coming year.
Here are today’s highlights:
This business uses a “pre-mortem” to try to figure out why a project failed before it fails.
Here’s what you need to know about the latest tech sensation, ChatGPT, which some are predicting will make Google obsolete.
There’s a new option for purpose-driven businesses looking to sell.
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
I Want to Double Sales Again Next Year: This week, Shawn Busse, Paul Downs, and Liz Picarazzi talk about their plans and goals for 2023. Shawn, whose marketing efforts still haven’t recovered from the pandemic, is hoping to build on the success of a recent event. Paul, coming off his best year ever, is investing $150,000 in a marketing campaign, including a new website targeting a different set of customers. And Liz, too, is attempting to shift her customer base, in her case from residential to municipal work. More immediately, however, Liz, who does not relish dealing with legal issues, has to decide how to confront a copycat competitor.
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Have you tried the exercise known as a pre-mortem? “At Truss, we have been working to learn from potential mistakes before we make them through a process called pre-mortem. Pioneered by Gary Klein in 2007, the pre-mortem was designed to reduce the frequency of failure and is based on a psychological principle called a counterfactual, which asks how you can imagine something that has not yet happened and, further, how you can draw use from that imagined future. In contrast to the post-mortem, which examines the outcome of an initiative once it is over, the pre-mortem also focuses on a specific initiative but ideally before it begins or in its early stages.”
“Here is what it looks like: As you prepare to launch a project, you assemble your team. You tell them, ‘I want you to imagine six months into the future. The project has launched, we are well into it—and it’s been a complete failure. Our colleagues, customers, and partners are all angry or disappointed, and we are embarrassed.’ Pause. Let that sink in. Then you ask, What happened?’”
“Usually when I first launch this question into a room, I am met with silence. We aren’t used to being asked to express vivid failure, and there’s often a bias for keeping our doubts silent. As a leader, I often start myself; I imagine a failure that is grounded in my own error or oversight.”
“Another way you might use the pre-mortem is directly with your clients. It requires a great deal of trust so I might recommend that you have a few cycles of project execution, post-mortems, and addressing issues first. This establishes the practice that post-mortems are about learning, not blaming ...”
“When we do this with clients, they initially can’t believe that we are willing to consider that we might make a mistake. But then they start sharing things that they are worried about that we might never otherwise have known.” READ MORE
In case you’ve missed it, a new AI chatbot has become a sensation, with some predicting it will eventually render Google obsolete: “ChatGPT — which stands for ‘generative pre-trained transformer’ — landed with a splash. In five days, more than a million people signed up to test it, according to Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president. Hundreds of screenshots of ChatGPT conversations went viral on Twitter, and many of its early fans speak of it in astonished, grandiose terms, as if it were some mix of software and sorcery.”
“It can write jokes (some of which are actually funny), working computer code and college-level essays. It can also guess at medical diagnoses, create text-based Harry Potter games, and explain scientific concepts at multiple levels of difficulty.”
“Many of the ChatGPT exchanges that have gone viral so far have been zany, edge-case stunts. One Twitter user prompted it to ‘write a biblical verse in the style of the King James Bible explaining how to remove a peanut butter sandwich from a VCR.’”
“But users have also been finding more serious applications. For example, ChatGPT appears to be good at helping programmers spot and fix errors in their code.” READ MORE
Gene Marks says he’s more than happy to hire ex-offenders, but he does have one concern: “I don’t care if a candidate for my company’s open position has a criminal record or is an ex-felon. But I do care about something that, to me, is even more important. Can they read? It’s one thing for all of these government programs and non-profit organizations to help ex-felons secure employment. But are they even qualified? There are 10 million open jobs in the U.S. — hence the tight labor market — but employers are primarily looking for skilled workers. Most of my clients, like me, need workers who have knowledge. And if they don’t have the knowledge, they need to be able to learn, study and research. You can’t do this if you don’t read.”
“Many studies, like this one from 2003 by the Urban Institute, found that about 70 percent of offenders and ex-offenders are high school dropouts. About half are ‘functionally illiterate,’ meaning they can’t read above a fourth-grade level.”
“Worse, statistics show that 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are essentially illiterate. Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16 percent chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70 percent who receive no help.”
“I can’t hire someone — or even teach them the skills my company requires — if they don’t have a high school level of literacy.” READ MORE
More women are taking jobs driving trucks: “The number of women employed in the truck transportation industry hit 1.6 million in October, a record since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking the numbers in 1990. Women’s share of the trucking industry workforce is now at an all-time high of nearly 18 percent, mostly in truck-driving roles. For decades, the trucking industry has had trouble retaining workers. The sector is now short of around 80,000 drivers, which is an all-time high, according to an October report from the American Trucking Association.”
“‘If you can’t attract white men, which is what they used to attract, then you look for other groups you can attract,’ said Michael Belzer, an economics professor at Wayne State University and a former truck driver. He said he’s skeptical of whether the job has gotten better.”
“In the U.S., the average salary of truck transportation workers is about $54,000 a year, according to the BLS. Drivers are not paid while sitting in traffic or waiting for a customer to unload the haul from the truck.”
“‘So a few years ago, I would have said it was women coming in from service jobs,’ said Ellen Voie, president of the Women in Trucking Association. ‘But just in the past year, more and more women have come in from the healthcare industry, whether it’s nursing homes or hospitals. It’s just unbelievable.’” READ MORE
Restaurant chains want to overturn California’s fast-food wage law: “Restaurant and trade groups said they have submitted enough voter signatures for a ballot measure to try to halt the implementation of a new California law that would set minimum hourly wages for fast-food workers in the state starting next year. A coalition of restaurant owners and business groups called Save Local Restaurants said Monday it had filed more than 1 million petition signatures to put the law on hold and place an initiative before California voters on the 2024 ballot. They had until Dec. 5 to submit roughly 623,000 valid voter signatures to place a question on the 2024 ballot asking whether the law should take effect. If voters side against the law, it could be struck down.
“The California law, known as the FAST Recovery Act, could set the minimum wage for the fast-food industry as high as $22 an hour next year and establish new workplace standards. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the legislation last September, saying it would give fast-food workers a stronger voice in determining their wages and working environments.”
“Fast-food operators have said that state health and labor agencies currently regulate their businesses, and owners would need to lay off staff and increase menu prices to afford the wage increases.”
“The law has been set to take effect Jan. 1. However, if the state validates the referendum sought by the restaurant groups, implementation of the law will be put on hold for nearly two years during the referendum process, a victory for restaurants that have said the rapid pay increase would upend their businesses.” READ MORE
SELLING THE BUSINESS
There’s a new option for purpose-driven businesses that’s known as a perpetual-purpose trust: “Organically Grown Co., among the largest U.S. distributors of organic produce, in 2018 became one of the first PPTs in the country. The company was founded in the late 1970s, during the early days of the organic movement in the hippie hotbed of Eugene, Oregon. The owners weren’t looking to get rich but rather to change the world, says David Lively, who’s held various leadership positions with the company since 1980. As the business grew, they became increasingly concerned about potential suitors. If the employee-owners voted to approve a takeover, it could strip away the values at the heart of the business. The way to preserve those values, they decided, was to become a PPT.”
“In September, the movement got a boost when Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said he was donating the $3 billion company to a trust and a nonprofit focused on the environment.”
“To set up a PPT, owners must form a trust to hold all of the company’s voting stock, then draw up governance documents, called a trust agreement, with a mission statement to guide the business.”
“More than stating the company’s values, the trust protects them in perpetuity—a board will make sure of this. That’s different from a B Corp or an employee stock ownership plan, which can be sold to the highest bidder.” READ MORE
There’s a race to build a real alternative to Twitter: “Small companies and developers are racing to put their own twist on the Twitter formula, hoping tweaks to moderation and the tools people use to connect with one another can fix fundamental problems with the platform and, hopefully, give users a reason to jump over. Those already up in running in some capacity have quickly seen an influx of interest. ‘We have had tons and tons of people on the waitlist,’ Nick Thompson, CEO of The Narwhal Project, one upcoming new conversation platform, says in an interview with The Verge.”
“Narwhal isn’t publicly available yet and hasn’t shared firm details about how the service will operate. But Thompson says there will be at least one major difference from Twitter: Narwhal will focus on the quality of conversations, rather than speed.”
“Post is led by former Waze CEO Noam Bardin, who describes the network as ‘a social platform for real people, real news, and civil conversations.’ The platform will let users buy individual articles from ‘premium’ news providers and tip creators via ‘integrated micro-payments,’ something Musk has also mentioned adding to Twitter.”
“Hive, a nascent social platform that ballooned to 1.5 million users in November, was one project that some flocked to as people celebrated what they thought were Twitter’s last days. It’s an intuitive Twitter clone, offering a feed of text-based content, photos, and videos from the users you follow as well as an option to explore the media posted by users in various categories, like memes, pets, or gaming.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST: DASHBOARD
Okay, Boomer, what’s your succession plan? Gene Marks says he’s concerned that too few business owners are preparing for succession: Which leads to an obvious question: Does Gene have a succession plan? Hmmm. Plus: Gene has some suggestions for how businesses can better manage their relationships with vendors and suppliers. And what lessons should we take from the rampant fraud a Congressional report revealed in the PPP program?
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Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren