Mystery-Shopping Your Own Hiring

A Use for Vacant Restaurants. Maybe the Robots Aren’t Taking Over. And Is Twitter Really Lacking in Fleeting Thoughts?

OPPORTUNITIES

With people staying home, fence contractors have never been busier: “The pandemic shifted work and learning to the home front, resulting in an uptick in demand for residential fencing. The influx in orders, and a shortage of lumber and other materials, created installation logjams. Rising interest in security and privacy have played a factor in increased fencing demand, says Nick Cunningham, an analyst with market-research firm the Freedonia Group. Growth in home equity has enabled homeowners to pay for their projects, he adds.”

  • “In Los Angeles, Harwell Fencing reports a 60 percent increase in inquiries since the coronavirus outbreak. ‘One month we hit almost 200 leads,’ up from a typical 100 to 120, says owner Arian Harwell.”

  • “Many of the calls come from homeowners who want ‘wall toppers,’ a wood fence installed atop a masonry wall that adds height to the overall enclosure. Wait times for installation are five to six weeks after the deposit is paid.” READ MORE

Neighbor wants to be the Airbnb of storage for the pandemic era: “The Lehi, Utah, firm converts vacant restaurants, offices and parking lots into storage space. It is betting that young professionals fleeing cities, temporarily moving in with relatives or downsizing after losing a job will eventually return to their previous style of living. But in the meantime, they will need somewhere to store a lot of their stuff. Neighbor’s primary business is signing up residents with a spare garage or unused bedroom who want to rent it out for storage use.”

  • “Another company known as Pacaso is looking to tap into rising demand for suburban homes with a new spin on timeshares.”

  • “One risk these companies face is that demand could drop sharply after the pandemic is over ...” READ MORE

HUMAN RESOURCES

Here’s one way to tell now well your company is managing hiring: “Go through the process of applying to a job at your company. Does it treat you like the company is anxious to have a conversation with you and sell you on why the partnership between you and them will be mutually beneficial, or does it feel more like being at the DMV? Mystery shop your own company by applying to a job under another name and with a fake resume. How long does it take before you get a response that isn't automated? Mark down how long it takes before you find out if the company is interested or not, and how the communication makes you feel. If this takes any longer than three days — you're losing out on the best talent and settling for talent that is more likely to end up disengaged.” READ MORE

An M.I.T. task force says the robots aren’t taking all of the jobs (yet): “Technology has always replaced some jobs, created new ones and changed others. The question is whether things will be different this time as robots and artificial intelligence quickly take over for humans on factory floors and in offices. The M.I.T. researchers concluded that the change would be more evolutionary than revolutionary. In fact, they wrote, ‘we anticipate that in the next two decades, industrialized countries will have more job openings than workers to fill them.’ That judgment is informed by field research in several industries and sectors including insurance, health care, driverless vehicles, logistics and warehouses, advanced manufacturing, and small and medium-size manufacturers.” READ MORE 

MARKETING

Is Twitter really lacking in fleeting thoughts? “Twitter is launching a new feature that will allow users to post text, audio and video that disappears after 24 hours, one of a number of steps the company is taking to increase engagement and compete with similar offerings on other platforms. Called ‘Fleets,’ the feature is an attempt to encourage more users to share ‘fleeting thoughts’ after the company found some users are at times too intimidated to post and join conversations, executives said. ‘People new to Twitter found Fleets an easier way to share what’s on their minds,’ Joshua Harris, Twitter’s director of design, said on a call with reporters.”

  • “Short-form videos and posts have become popular and competitive features for user engagement on social media platforms, with companies funneling billions of dollars a year to online personalities—known as influencers—who pitch their products on social media and help keep users engaged.”

  • “In August, Instagram launched a short video feature called Reels in response to TikTok’s growth and has made it a more front-facing part of the app.” READ MORE

SPONSORED

Practice makes perfect sense: “We’re never great when we first start doing anything,” says Vikram Rajan, co-founder of Videosocials. “Our members learn what works from each other. They improve each other. That’s the power of our video blogging clubs. Guests are immediately impressed at the ‘safe space’ members have created through our Videosocials community. After two or three tries, members get over their nervousness and are able to be themselves on video: Natural, genuine, conversational. Their personality, their personal brands, their thought leadership and subject-matter expertise shine through.” LEARN MORE HERE

PRICING

Apple has halved its App Store fee for small developers: “Starting next year, the iPhone maker said Wednesday, it will collect 15 percent rather than 30 percent of App Store sales from companies that generate no more than $1 million in revenue through the software platform, including in-app purchases. The fee will remain 30 percent for developers whose sales through the App Store, excluding commission payments, exceed $1 million—meaning the reduction won’t affect such vocal Apple opponents as video-game company Epic Games.”

  • “Apple’s 30-percent take has been at the heart of complaints this year from other tech companies and some users over how it manages the vast digital world of people who use iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices.”

  • “Apple’s fee is in line with what rival app stores run by Alphabet Inc.’s Google and others charge.” READ MORE

ECOMMERCE

It’s Amazon’s world: “Amazon is adding a pharmacy counter to its virtual store, a long-anticipated push deeper into health care that sent shares of traditional drugstores tumbling. Amazon’s decision to start selling prescription medicines comes about two years after the company acquired PillPack Inc., and coincides with the Covid-19 pandemic, which has more consumers resorting to online ordering as they venture out less.”

  • “Amazon has been selling prescriptions through PillPack, but customers were directed to a separate site geared toward patients with complex, chronic medical conditions.”

  • “Now, people can buy medications from Amazon’s main retail site, with some of the same perks—like free two-day shipping for Prime members—that come with buying toys or clothes.”

  • “Amazon said there will be pharmacists available to handle medication questions.” READ MORE

THE PANDEMIC ECONOMY

More states are implementing restrictions and requiring masks: “A growing number of Republican governors, including some who had written off mask mandates as unenforceable or unacceptable to freedom-loving Americans, are now requiring people to cover their faces in public — a response to escalating coronavirus outbreaks overwhelming hospitals across the country. After eight months of preaching personal responsibility in place of mandates, these governors have brought their states in line with much of the world by instituting the simple requirement backed by science but, in the United States, shot through with politics.” READ MORE

M&A

Mars is buying Kind: “The deal for Kind North America comes three years after Mars, a privately held giant in the candy industry, took a minority stake in the company. Terms were not formally announced, but people with knowledge of the deal said it valued Kind at about $5 billion. Kind, which was founded by Daniel Lubetzky in 2005, sells bars in flavors like Cranberry Almond and Dark Chocolate and emphasizes clear packaging and simple ingredients. A deal with Starbucks in 2009 helped it expand in the crowded snack market. It now also offers granola, cereal and other products. The deal is a bet on the durability of the healthy snacking industry, as Mars looks beyond its long-established brands like Twix and Skittles.”

  • “Mr. Lubetzky said he would stay involved in the company and retain a stake in Kind.”

  • “Snacks are under pressure, as corporate cafeterias, airports and coffee shops still have little or no business. It has also become harder for food companies to introduce products because supermarkets are limiting shelves to items they know will be popular.”

  • “In-person samples, a traditional way to bring a new product to the marketplace, have become a health risk.” READ MORE

THE 21 HATS PODCAST

Episode 40: We’ll Find Something for Them to Do: Starting with a conversation about crucial hires Dana White and Laura Zander have made recently—an operations manager for Dana, a salesperson for Laura—we found ourselves exploring some of the great unresolved debates of entrepreneurship this week. For example, which comes first when hiring: filling specific needs or finding places for good people? With sales people, do you motivate by paying commission or build a team by paying salary? And in finance, do you bootstrap to maintain control or raise capital to grow faster? There are no right answers to these questions, but Dana and Laura tell us what’s been working for them.

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-- Loren Feldman (lfeldman@21hats.com)