Jason Fried’s Advice? Ignore Most Advice
The CEO of 37signals explains whose advice he takes, whose he avoids, and why it’s often best to figure things out for yourself.
Here are today’s highlights:
Gene Marks says it’s not about which CRM you use. It’s about how you use it.
There has never been a better time to be an electrician.
If you were thinking of making a dog toy in the shape of a bottle of Jack Daniels, you might want to reconsider.
The owner of a fine-dining restaurant says Covid has left his business model stronger than ever: “Rob Connoley has been reading about the death of fine dining for his entire career. The prediction, though, has never been accurate — and still isn't. Connoley, owner and head chef of Bulrush, said the industry ‘has never been stronger,’ and that his acclaimed [St. Louis] restaurant, which specializes in locally foraged and sourced 19th century-Ozark cuisine, has been booked out for nine months and is in ‘a really strong position.’ The secret, he said, is to ‘just keep pivoting.’”
“When the pandemic first shuttered restaurants in March 2020, Connoley said Bulrush, like many other restaurants, turned to offering carryout meals. But it was short lived, as the model didn’t make sense for a fine-dining experience, he said.”
“So, Bulrush once again pivoted to what it called a ‘Park and Dine’ model, in which guests would park outside of the restaurant and dine in their cars, with each course of the restaurant’s tasting menu delivered to them one by one.”
“Bulrush reopened its full space in January 2022, and its current staff have all been employed there for ‘about a year,’ he said, adding that it took about three waves of hiring until ‘people began to stick.’”
“‘I saw so many chefs and restaurateurs respond to Covid as a problem instead of an opportunity or a challenge,’ Connoley said. ‘That almost comes off as cliché, but so many of them just either rolled over and played dead or burrowed in and tried to hibernate until it was over.’” READ MORE
Gene Marks says which customer relations management software you choose is less important than how you manage it: “For starters, you need to have an administrator in charge of your database. This doesn’t have to be a database expert or an IT guru. It needs to be a smart power user who’s tasked with ensuring that fields are completed, updated, and current and that users are trained to enter the data correctly. That person is responsible for the completeness and accuracy of the data. They need to be expert in the system and have the support of outside consultants and the software vendor. If something is missing, incorrect or incomplete then it’s that person’s job to not only fix it but to implement the necessary controls to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
“Next, keep your database simple. CRM vendors love to hype that you can create thousands of fields and countless screens and views. Don’t do that. Your sales and customer service people — the primary users of your system — don’t have the time to keep filling out all the information you’d love to have in a perfect world. It’s not a perfect world.”
“Finally, you need regular and useful reports coming out of your system. Why? Because again, your CRM system is just a database and databases contain important data to help you run your business. Choose a few key reports — pipeline, open quotes, service calls, new leads — and make sure your management is not only receiving these reports but reviewing and acting on them.” READ MORE
Jason Fried offers some advice on taking advice: “Whenever I get advice, I first find out if the person giving it has ever done the thing being suggested. There are plenty of gurus out there telling you how to start a business who have never started one themselves, like business school professors who have spent their careers in academia. Or marketing experts that haven't marketed anything at scale for a decade (or ever). Or ChatGPT experts telling you how game changing something is when the game has barely started. If they haven't done the thing, I dismiss the advice. I don't want theory. I want practice.”
“If they have done the thing, then I find out when they did it. Was it years ago? Are they still doing it as they describe? I believe advice has an expiration date. For example, I'm the wrong person to ask about starting a business. Why? I haven't started one for 24 years.”
“Another thing I consider is the motivation behind the advice. Is someone with experience trying to sell you something? If so, discount that advice. If it's in the service of sharing and mentoring, and there's no commercial connection, invest in that advice.”
“People love to share success stories, and suggest you follow in their footsteps, but most people really have no idea how they achieved what they achieved. They look back and connect dots that maybe weren't there, lay it out for you, and encourage you to do the same thing. That's why you should ignore more advice than you take.” READ MORE
There’s never been a better time to be an electrician: “The need for electricians has partially been driven by a strong labor market that’s paying many different types of workers better. A recent boom in the housing market also has helped. But demand is also being boosted by federal funding for the clean energy transition. The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August 2022, allocated $369 billion in federal money toward enhancements to U.S. energy infrastructure and efforts to alleviate issues contributing to global warming. Electricians will play a critical part in upgrading infrastructure as U.S. households and businesses turn to electricity versus fossil fuels for powering appliances and other everyday living needs.”
“As a result, electricians are getting the best wages they’ve had in decades. In April, they saw a 7.4 percent year-over-year increase in their wages—the largest one-year change in their earnings since the Labor Department started recording this data in 2007.”
“Entry level electricians across the US regularly make $60,000 to $80,000, and some contracting companies are willing to pay off student debt to entice workers to come into the field, said Greg Sizemore, vice president of health, safety, environment, and workforce development at the Associated Builders and Contractors trade group.”
“As of April, government statistics show, the average American electrician earned $37.51 per hour, which comes out to $78,000 per year.” READ MORE
New York City has lost tens of thousands of retail jobs: “The retail industry in New York City has shed thousands of jobs since the pandemic, even as the rest of the job market has almost fully recovered, according to a new report released on Thursday from the Center for an Urban Future, a public policy think tank. The study found that in the three years since February 2020, New York City lost 37,800 retail jobs, an 11.1 percent decline, while the overall private employment sector has regained all but 0.8 percent of jobs. The city’s job losses in retail were also far worse than in the rest of the country; nationally, retail jobs were up an average 0.7 percent. Retail jobs are a critical part of the city’s job market, particularly for young people of color.”
“The retail industry — which includes clothing, sporting goods and grocery stores, among others — has been shrinking for years, but the pandemic sped up the growth of online shopping, especially in big cities like New York, where the commercial ecosystem relies on tourism and still-half-empty office buildings, said Jonathan Bowles, the center’s director.”
“The industries in New York that are growing — tech, finance, health, legal, and accounting services — are not accessible to the workforce that has been laid off, Mr. Bowles said.”
“The average annual wage across all retail sectors in 2021 was $53,900, according to Dr. James Parrott, the director of economic and fiscal policy at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School.” READ MORE
Signet Jewelers says 2020’s arrival of Covid is still affecting sales: “The company is selling fewer engagement rings this year because, it says, singles who were stuck at home during lockdowns failed to meet their would-be fiancés in 2020. ‘As we predicted, there were fewer engagements in the quarter resulting from Covid’s disruption of dating three years ago,’ Virginia C. Drosos, the chief executive at Signet, which owns Kay Jewelers and Zales, told investors on Thursday.”
“In a way, the engagement ring has become a sparkly microcosm of the American economy. The bridal jewelry business is being buffeted by the delayed effects of the pandemic, rapid inflation that is squeezing consumers and a growing sense of nervousness among shoppers.”
“Signet may be selling less because fewer people are getting down on one knee, but also because ring shoppers are becoming more cautious and spending less amid rapid inflation and rising uncertainty about the direction of the economy. Both the volume and value of jewelry sold by Signet last quarter declined.”
“Signet is hoping wedding-ring demand will bounce back: It is predicting 500,000 more engagements in the United States from 2024 to 2026 than the pre-pandemic trend would suggest, as dating delayed by the lockdowns leads to matches.” READ MORE
The U.S. Supreme Court says Jack Daniels can sue the maker of a parody toy: “The Supreme Court said Thursday that the distiller of Jack Daniel’s whiskey could pursue a trademark claim against the maker of Bad Spaniels, a dog toy designed to resemble one of the liquor industry’s most recognizable packages. A lower court had thrown out the suit, reasoning that Phoenix-based VIP Products’ squeaky toy, labeled ‘Bad Spaniels: The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet,’ was protected by the First Amendment as a parody of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Brand Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey, a signature brand owned by Brown-Forman.”
“‘The jokes did not impress petitioner Jack Daniel’s,’ Justice Elena Kagan noted dryly for a unanimous court. The whiskey argued that Bad Spaniels violated several aspects of trademark law, the Lanham Act, by confusing consumers about the product’s origin and diluting the brand’s value by associating it with dog waste.” READ MORE
Outside of Denver, a terrible but fabled restaurant is being resurrected by some very funny guys who have no restaurant experience. It was supposed to cost $10 million: “Colorado’s defining features include glorious mountain peaks, vivid seasonal colors, skiing, and a widespread compulsion to exercise and eat well. But for generations of Colorado children, arguably the most commonly shared experience involved Casa Bonita, a vast, filthy, poorly lit, underground restaurant with food that many diners deemed barely edible. Casa Bonita — then sprawling over 52,000 square feet in Lakewood, a Denver suburb — served steamed refried beans, tacos and enchiladas to thousands of people a day, buffet-style. The dinner entertainment was a child’s fever dream: waterfalls, cliff divers, Black Bart’s Cave, faux gold and silver mines, puppet shows, and a person in a gorilla costume chased by a sheriff, who sometimes joined in the cliff diving. Casa Bonita’s curious childhood grip was chronicled in an episode of ‘South Park.’”
“Then, in 2020, Casa Bonita went bankrupt, hit by the pandemic slump. The place was already in disrepair, crumbling from deferred maintenance, rife with electrical hazards, the ventilation systems coated with grease and the carpet encrusted into something like concrete. The jokes about the food had earned it the nickname Casa NoEata. Still, its passing was mourned.”
“But in the coming weeks, the enormous casita will reopen with new owners: [‘South Park’ creators Trey] Parker and [Matt] Stone, both native Coloradans, who have spent upward of $40 million to tear it down, rebuild it, and, they joke, to keep everything the same, except now sanitary.”
“Indeed, Casa Bonita returns as one of the biggest Mexican restaurants in the world, and the new executive chef, Dana Rodriguez, is a six-time James Beard Award nominee. ... More than 100,000 potential customers have signed up on the restaurant’s website to make a reservation, Mr. Stone said.”
“The Casa Bonita team said they were still working out the pricing, an area of uncertainty that reflected their inexperience in running a restaurant. ‘What we’ve come to realize over the last couple of months is, now we have a lot of work to do to make it a sustainable business,’ Mr. Parker said.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
“What Doesn’t Keep Me Up at Night?” This week, we did something different. We recorded this session in Chicago at our very first 21 Hats in-person event. In May, some 20 impressive entrepreneurs from around the country, from different industries, with businesses of different sizes and stages, gathered to talk shop for three days. The last thing we did was to record this episode in which we gave the participants the opportunity to ask the podcast regulars anything they wanted. Those regulars included Jay Goltz, Sarah Segal, and Dana White, and the questions addressed everything from hiring to motivating to delegating to pricing to coping with stress to what they wished they’d figured out sooner and to what still keeps them up at night.
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren