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Quiet Quitting: Another Gift Brought to You by Corporate America
In our latest podcast episode, the owners talk about how they hire engaged employees and how they keep them engaged.
Here are today’s highlights:
Food influencers can make or break a restaurant.
Native retail offers brands a new way to promote products.
In August, inflation eased and small business confidence rose.
Convention center business is bouncing back.
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
This week, in light of reports that half of the U.S. workforce has “quietly quit,” Shawn Busse, Paul Downs, and William Vanderbloemen talk about the latest rage: Is quiet quitting something new? Is it just a media creation? Have Shawn, Paul, and William experienced it in their own businesses? And who’s to blame? Plus, the three owners explain how they hire for engagement and how they’ve changed their hiring processes in response to the pandemic and the labor shortage. For example, Paul explains why, in this brave new world, he continues to flip conventional wisdom on its head: Instead of hiring slow and firing fast, he’s been hiring fast and firing slow. And he says it’s working.
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This is the story about employee tracking that Paul Downs refers to in our latest podcast episode: “In lower-paying jobs, the monitoring is already ubiquitous: not just at Amazon, where the second-by-second measurements became notorious, but also for Kroger cashiers, UPS drivers, and millions of others. Eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers track the productivity metrics of individual workers, many in real time, according to an examination by The New York Times. Now digital productivity monitoring is also spreading among white-collar jobs and roles that require graduate degrees. Many employees, whether working remotely or in person, are subject to trackers, scores, ‘idle’ buttons, or just quiet, constantly accumulating records. Pauses can lead to penalties, from lost pay to lost jobs.”
“Some radiologists see scoreboards showing their ‘inactivity’ time and how their productivity stacks up against their colleagues’.”
“At companies including J.P. Morgan, tracking how employees spend their days, from making phone calls to composing emails, has become routine practice.”
“In Britain, Barclays Bank scrapped prodding messages to workers, like ‘Not enough time in the Zone yesterday,’ after they caused an uproar.” READ MORE
The labor shortage is even worse in the public sector: “Pandemic-era labor shortages have been well-documented. But the situation for state and local governments is much worse than in the private sector. In fact, the private sector has already recovered the jobs lost early in the pandemic; there are 885,000 more jobs filled in the private industry today than in February 2020. The public sector is a completely different story. State and local governments are down 647,000 positions on net since February 2020.”
“Roughly half the decline is in education, causing major disruptions as children return to school amid teacher shortages.”
“But the other half is workers missing from virtually every other government function — paramedics, sanitation workers, child-welfare advocates, heavy-equipment operators, you name it.” READ MORE
Food influencers can make or break a restaurant: “In more than 20 years at his family’s restaurant, Joel Gonzalez had never seen anything like it. Around 6 p.m. on March 25, 2021, he looked up to find a line stretching out the door of Mariscos Corona, the Van Nuys [California] restaurant he runs with his sister. For the next two hours, the siblings did their best to manage the surge of customers eagerly requesting the restaurant’s signature dishes: aguachile-stuffed avocados and surf-and-turf burritos. ... The next day, a Friday, there was another line, and the onslaught of customers continued through the weekend. The restaurant’s Instagram account gained 5,000 followers. Gonzalez ran out of avocados; eventually, his refrigerator was empty. He couldn’t open on Monday.”
“What Gonzalez didn’t know, when the crush started, was that Ashley Rodriguez, 29, a food influencer also known as @firstdateguide on her social channels, had posted a 42-second TikTok video featuring his soon-to-be-in-demand dishes earlier in the day.”
“It’s a phenomenon that’s causing a paradigm shift in the restaurant world, transferring the power of influence from traditional media to anyone with a cellphone and a love for food. And these days, sometimes seemingly spontaneous expressions of restaurant fandom are actually well-planned, calculated business transactions.”
“That’s exactly what happened at Mariscos Corona. Gonzalez had hired Rodriguez to promote his restaurant — he just didn’t know when her video would be posted.”
“Gonzalez had DM’d Rodriguez on Instagram, inviting her to try his food. Rodriguez explained that her rates range from $1,500 to upwards of $10,000 — depending on her following and the platform where a business is looking to be featured.”
“Gonzalez agreed to pay Rodriguez $1,500 for one video that she posted to TikTok and, later, Instagram. Gonzalez says he spent an additional $40 for her food. ‘If I could tell any other restaurant owner — it was worth it,’ he says.” READ MORE
“Native retail” is a new way to promote products: “What if, instead of having consumers browse either store shelves or websites, you could get consumers to spend time actually living with products and brands of potential interest? Think of it as IRL product placement. You’re going about your life, maybe taking a vacation, and the sleek coffee grinder at your Airbnb is available for you to order with a few taps on your phone. Maybe lots of the products around you are, too—the Bear mattress, West Elm armchair, coffee from a local roaster, fancy soap and shampoo, the artsy coffee-table book, Wi-Fi speakers, and so on.”
“Minoan, a venture-backed startup pursuing precisely this vision, calls it native retail. The company says it has already assembled a ‘network’ of nearly 10,000 venues (mostly short-term rental spots, but also some boutique hotels) whose hosts pick and choose products from several hundreds of participating brands that can help them convert your vacation lodging into a de facto showroom.”
“Here’s how it works. Say you really like the look of an end table, or the scent of a candle, that your VRBO host left on display. Then you notice a sign with a QR code and the question ‘Found something you like?’ Scanning the code takes you to a list of everything in the space that you can buy through a platform built by Minoan.”
“In the longer term, Minoan sees native retail as a whole new channel that can be applied in all sorts of real-world settings, from restaurants to gyms.” READ MORE
Small businesses say that advertising their wedding services on the Knot is no longer producing results: “The Knot built something of a monopoly on weddings by becoming a trusted source for the affianced in an antiquated industry, weeding out its competition in the process. The company acquired other sites that follow couples throughout their milestones from engagements to weddings to babies. Listings on The Knot and its sister site, WeddingWire, can cost entrepreneurs between $5,000 and $14,000 a year, according to the digital-marketing firm Snowmad Digital. Prices vary depending on location, market, and search ranking. The Knot's ‘best of weddings’ award is the wedding industry's version of Twitter's blue check mark. For some businesses, these awards set them apart in saturated markets.”
“Insider filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Trade Commission that delivered 56 consumer complaints against The Knot, WeddingWire, and their parent company, The Knot Worldwide, which is based in Maryland, between January 2018 and May 2022.”
“Complaints echoed what sources told Insider about receiving spam messages and not getting the leads the salesperson said they would.”
“One business owner wrote: ‘About 70-80 percent of the leads are scams. This is not what I signed up for and the sales rep was not honest.’"
“On the horizon, a new generation of startups are positioned to grab a piece of the market that is slipping from The Knot's grip. Newer wedding-planning sites like Zola, Loverly, and Joy have raised millions in funding, according to Crunchbase data ...” READ MORE
Emerging direct-to-consumer brands are choosing Walmart over Target: “DTC brands like Harry's, Casper, Olly, and Quip all chose to debut in big-box retail at Target, despite its smaller footprint, because of Target's wealthier customer base, focus on design, and dedicated team for emerging brands. But Walmart is emerging as the go-to retailer for DTC brands expanding into big-box stores. This year, upscale new food, beauty, and personal-care brands have either entered Walmart stores for the first time or expanded their presence. The Gen Z skincare brand Bubble and the DTC razor brand Billie made their debuts on Walmart shelves, while the vegan-protein-shake brand Owyn expanded its footprint from 1,500 stores to 4,500 stores in August.”
“In February, Walmart announced an accelerator program called Walmart Start to help beauty startups launch with the retailer.”
“Five brands are participating in the 2022 cohort, with plans to get them into 1,000 to 3,500 of its stores next year. The program is accepting applications for its 2023 cohort.”
“It's a significant shift in strategy for Walmart, which hasn't been known as a destination for trendy brands that market on Instagram.” READ MORE
Small business confidence rose in August: “The National Federation of Independent Business said its Small Business Optimism Index increased 1.9 points to 91.8 this month, reversing some of the deterioration suffered in the first half of the year. Twenty-nine percent of owners reported that inflation was their single most important problem in operating their business, down 8 points from July's reading, which was the highest share since the fourth quarter of 1979.”
“Businesses are also starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, but concerns about a recession linger. The share of owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months increased 10 points from July to a still negative 42 percent, the highest reading since February.” READ MORE
Inflation eased in August: “U.S. inflation eased to 8.3 percent in August as gasoline prices cooled. Inflation has recently shown signs of easing in some industries. The consumer-price index rose 8.5 percent in July from a year earlier, down from an annual increase of 9.1 percent in June—the highest rate in four decades. The CPI measures what consumers pay for goods and services. Gasoline prices declined sharply in August. The national average price of regular gasoline was $3.72 a gallon on Monday, down 26 percent from a month earlier ...” READ MORE
Convention center business is bouncing back: “The Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s CEIR Total Index, a measure of convention business activity, was in the second quarter about 25.5 percent below 2019 levels, according to a forthcoming report the group shared with Bloomberg. In the first quarter, it was 37.9 percent below pre-pandemic levels, and in the second quarter of 2020, it was 100 percent below. The figures bode well for cities and states that are pouring money into convention centers now in an effort to attract more exhibition business. At least 35 of these projects are underway, Bloomberg reported in March, and they are attractive to local governments because they can bring in revenue tied to areas like hotel taxes and sales taxes.”
“In addition to volume picking up, the cancellation rate is falling, reaching 2.0 percent in the second quarter from 9.2 percent in the first.” READ MORE
The U.S. sent more than $1 billion in small business Covid aid abroad: “As the U.S. government raced to shore up small businesses’ finances at the height of the pandemic, it may have erroneously awarded more than $1.3 billion to foreign applicants — raising new suspicions that the program might have helped fund overseas crime syndicates. The top watchdog for the Small Business Administration, which reported its findings on Monday, said the spending posed a ‘significant risk of potential fraud.’”
“The trouble concerned the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, or EIDL, an initiative dating back to the Trump administration that provided grants and other financial support to struggling small companies.”
“More than 27.8 million applicants ultimately sought funds from the SBA, overwhelming an agency that had been tasked to oversee a vast array of emergency spending that dwarfed its annual budget.” 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