Discover more from The 21 Hats Morning Report
'Let’s None of Us Settle for Anything Less’
In Boston, Debra Stark built an award-winning business that brought people together.
Here are today’s highlights:
Some retailers are seizing the opportunity to grab locations that had been out of reach.
Is this the time to get employees back in the office—or to expand your talent pool?
Maybe you really don’t need to hire that expensive public relations firm.
There are a lot of things politicians don’t really understand about business owners.
Retail districts are showing signs of life: “Walk down Boylston Street [in Boston], and you may think the shuttered storefronts stretching from the Pour House Bar & Grill to the former Lord & Taylor portend a thoroughfare in trouble. Gone, too, are Crate & Barrel, The Tannery, Max Brenner’s. ‘For lease’ signs abound, block after block. And yes, it’s a neighborhood on the precipice of change as office workers adopt new hybrid schedules and the state aims to sell the Hynes Convention Center. But looks, I found out, can be deceiving. Behind the vacant storefronts, the Back Bay is getting ready to bloom again.”
“Those empty spaces belie a robust retail market, with confident landlords holding out for the right tenant and good terms, according to Whitney Gallivan, managing director at Boston Realty Advisors.”
“Indeed, she said, retail rents have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, with coveted spots going for 10 percent more than in the old days.”
“Other tenants have moved in because Covid created an opportunity to snag prime real estate during a period when landlords were eager to negotiate. That’s how Cafe Landwer found its way into the ground floor of The Charlesmark Hotel, signing a lease in late 2020.”
“‘It was almost impossible to get on Boylston Street before the pandemic,’ said Nir Caspi, chief executive of the Mediterranean cafe chain.” READ MORE
While some businesses are trying to get employees back to the office, others are expanding their talent pool: “Take, for instance, Craig Fuller, the founder of a logistics data analytics company in Chattanooga, Tenn., who is used to recruiting software engineers and data experts who live outside the area. In the past, that meant making a case for why they should move to the midsize Southern city. He would emphasize the low cost of living and outdoor community: ‘We look for people who have families,’ he said. But during the past two years, these sorts of conversations have been unnecessary. Mr. Fuller’s company, FreightWaves, has doubled the size of its staff by expanding remote work. And of its 120 new hires, about 60 percent live outside Chattanooga.”
“That’s also the case at Olive, an automation company in the health care industry in Columbus, Ohio, which grew during the pandemic to 1,350 employees from about 200. The company’s workforce is now distributed across 47 states.”
“‘There’s no way that we could have scaled the way that we have without tapping into these national, more diverse talent pools,’ said Brian Rutkowski, the company’s chief people officer.” READ MORE
A new survey finds that the things recent college grads look for in a job have changed: “New grads want to make sure the people they surround themselves with come from a diversity of perspectives. When asked what their deal breakers are, 33 percent said they would not accept a job offer at a company without a diverse workforce. Additionally, 26 percent said they would turn down an offer at a company that didn't have women and marginalized groups in top leadership roles.”
“The Monster survey found that an overwhelming 90 percent of college grads think it's important that they feel comfortable discussing mental wellness at work. Additionally, 84 percent of graduates agree that companies as a whole need to invest more in mental wellness resources to meet their expectations.”
“College grads don't want to hear salary options during interviews. They want to know up front how much they'll be paid for a job before they apply.” READ MORE
Josh Inglis tells startups they can handle their own PR—and much of what he says applies to non-tech, non-venture-backed, non-startups as well: “If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you (or the startup you work for) is about to complete (or has just completed) a funding round. Congrats! So now’s the time to hire a PR firm to get the word out, right? Maybe. Maybe not. You can do this on your own, because making hay out of funding news is not rocket science, even if most tech PR firms would have you think it is.”
“Your startup may be the biggest thing in your life, but not in the reporter’s. Ask yourself a hard question: ‘Does The New York Times really care at all about my no-code platform designed for horses?” (Okay, bad example: If you had a no-code platform that targeted a horse customer demographic, I bet The Times would be interested).”
“Look in your backyard. What local outlets are covering tech and startups in your market? Your local business journal and newspaper are two obvious choices, but more and more cities have their own startup-focused (or startup-curious) outlets. We’re big fans of the team at Inno. Check them out and see if they cover your city.”
“Simply sending off the release during this embargo period is not enough. Even if reporters have agreed to an embargo, it doesn’t mean they’ve agreed to write anything, so follow up if necessary.” READ MORE
In more states and municipalities, landscapers are adjusting to gas-engine bans: “California, the largest state by population, is set to ban the sale of most gas-powered lawn tools, starting with model year 2024 products. Local governments in Oakland, Calif., and Lexington, Mass., have started banning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, and other states and cities are considering similar legislation. The new lawn-care rules, driven by health and environmental concerns, are fueling a market in electric equipment and batteries for manufacturers like Stihl Inc., Toro, and Briggs & Stratton. Some landscapers and dealers are wary, raising concerns about the added cost and complexity of relying on battery power to manicure yards and trees.”
“LandCare U.S.A., which sells landscaping services across more than 20 states, last year launched electric-machine trials at sites in Chicago and Charlotte, N.C.
“Rob Barber, who heads the company’s operations, estimated the expenses of using an electric trimmer would run LandCare two to three times those of gas-powered models that cost around $1,000 over two years.”
“LandCare’s Mr. Barber said it would be expensive to upgrade infrastructure needed to charge electric equipment. He estimated a facility might need to be wired for 900 amps of service, compared with a normal building that typically has 200 amps.”
“California’s legislature has allocated $30 million for small landscaping businesses to buy new electric equipment. The California Landscape Contractors Association said it is seeking more.” READ MORE
Seattle CEO Dan Price has been accused of assaulting a woman: “Dan Price, 37, CEO of credit-card processor Gravity Payments, was charged in February with fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, fourth-degree assault and reckless driving. Price has not yet been arraigned on the charges, which were filed in Seattle Municipal Court by the city attorney’s office.”
“Price shot into the national spotlight in 2015 when he announced he would raise Gravity Payments employee salaries to $70,000. At that time, his 120 employees were paid an average salary of $48,000 a year.”
“Price now takes to Twitter and Instagram, sometimes several times a day, to urge other CEOs to raise wages, make it easier for workers to take paid time off, offer more generous health care and, in some cases, get rid of meetings as a way to improve worker productivity and satisfaction.”
“Price’s defense attorney, Mark Middaugh, said in an email Wednesday that the allegations against his client are ‘absolutely false.’” READ MORE
In an open letter to political candidates, Gene Marks asks whether they really understand business owners: “For starters, the number of actual, real, operating small businesses isn’t 31.7 million. That’s the number many people (including me) use because it comes from the Small Business Administration. But a lot of these businesses aren’t really businesses. The number is made up of tax-filings and includes multiple entities that are owned by single individuals. It also includes millions of shell companies and other passive organizations as well as millions of hobbyists, freelancers and others with side-gigs.”
“I don’t want to discount these entrepreneurs, as many of them are legitimate and make their living independently.”
“But the ones you should focus on are the 6 million employer-owned firms, because they’re the ones representing more voters and likely have more headaches you want to address.”
“Running a small business is not a great way to make a living, so no, we’re not living the dream.”
“The typical small business owner makes about $66,000 per year and only 40 percent are profitable. Keep that in mind the next time you raise our taxes.” READ MORE
Debra Stark, founder of Debra’s Natural Gourmet: “Debra Stark had more in mind in 1989 than simply launching a store where shoppers could find healthy foods, though Debra’s Natural Gourmet in West Concord [Massachusetts] became far more successful than she could have imagined in those challenging early months. ‘I was determined that our shop would become a gathering place,’ she wrote in The Little Shop That Could: A Retailer’s Love Affair With Community and Food, her most recent book. ‘Neighbors would meet neighbors near the bean bins. We’d have the kind of customers who would buy homemade chicken soup to bring to Grandma.’”
“Ms. Stark, whose business drew praise from national publications and won awards, died last Monday in Emerson Hospital in Concord, two days after she had a heart attack. She was 75 and lived in Acton.”
“Each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, shoppers lined up outside Debra’s Natural Gourmet for an early bird discount. Wearing pajamas for that sale was traditional. ‘Inside, we have our pajamas on, too,’ Ms. Stark wrote.”
“‘Folks who are our customers — neighbors, friends, workout buddies — rush in, bathrobes flapping, some with rollers in their hair. We see hunting caps, silly hats. We hand out warm muffins from our kitchen, there’s free coffee and the music is jolly.’”
“‘The future is fragile and needs our help. I want a future where people listen to one another. Where conversation is thoughtful and has large doses of humor. Let’s none of us settle for anything less.’” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
Just Answer the Question: In a special bonus episode, Marcus Sheridan talks about the revolutionary strategy that he used to save his pool-building business during the Great Recession and that he’s been preaching ever since. That strategy is to volunteer answers to the questions your customers always ask—especially the ones you’ve been taught not to answer, at least not until you absolutely have to, such as those about pricing and potential problems with your product or service.
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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