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Should You Be in a Business Group?
On the latest podcast, the owners talk about peer-advisory groups like Vistage, EO, and YPO. They can be life-changing, but they’re not for everyone.
Here are today’s highlights:
Why did employee productivity just take a dive?
New car prices are starting to cool; shipping rates are headed higher.
California’s independent gas stations are endangered but there may be a saving grace.
There are ways to make Slack a little less annoying.
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
This week, Sarah Segal, Jay Goltz, and special guest Leo Bottary talk about why peer-advisory groups can be life-changing—and why they’re not for everyone. Sarah has been wondering if they’re for her. Jay, who’s been in six different peer groups, says it can be worth the price of admission just to see how other owners run their businesses—but there are reasons he keeps leaving the groups he joins. And Leo is a former Vistage employee who has written multiple books on peer groups and has built a related consulting practice. Surprisingly few business owners belong to a peer group. Are they missing out? All three guests suggest questions to consider before deciding for yourself.
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
In the first half of 2022, employee productivity fell by the sharpest rate on record: “The productivity plunge is perplexing, because productivity took off to levels not seen in decades when the coronavirus forced an overnight switch to remote work, leading some economists to suggest that the pandemic might spark longer-term growth. It also raises new questions about the shift to hybrid schedules and remote work, as employees have made the case that flexibility helped them work more efficiently. And it comes at a time when ‘quiet quitting’ — doing only what’s expected and no more — is resonating, especially with younger workers.”
“‘No one knows or will know’ what is causing the drop-off in productivity for some time, said economist Lawrence H. Summers, president emeritus of Harvard University and former treasury secretary. But it could have something to do with the fact that many employees ‘were working unsustainably hard’ in 2020 and 2021, Summers said.”
“Some workers are paring back their efforts. ‘There’s a highly empowered workforce that was engaged in a certain amount of quiet quitting,’ Summers said. That’s creating ‘a certain amount of absenteeism on and off the job’ that is probably leading to lower productivity, he said.”
“Companies are often losing high performers who are finding jobs with higher wages and more flexibility, said Sinem Buber, lead economist at ZipRecruiter. Replacing them is tough and training new hires is costly and time consuming.” READ MORE
In the U.K., four-day work weeks are proving to be a potent recruiting tool: “Britain’s four-day work week trial is the largest of its kind so far, and has had widely positive reactions from employees and companies taking part. The idea behind it is simple: Workers aim for the same levels of productivity and output in 20 percent less time, for 100 percent of their pay. The 4 Day Week Global campaign has also started a trial in Australia and New Zealand and is planning to expand in the United States, Canada, Europe, and South Africa throughout 2022 and 2023.”
“‘Visits to our recruitment page have gone up by 60 percent and enquiries to the company have gone up by 534 percent,’ Helen Brittain, human resources director at environmental consultancy Tyler Grange, told CNBC’s Make It.”
“For education technology firm Bedrock Learning, making recruitment and retention easier was a key driver for shifting to a four-day work week. ‘Being brutally honest, it is a retention and recruitment piece,’ its CEO and founder Aaron Leary told CNBC’s Make It.”
“Over at Loud Mouth Media, [Mark] Haslam also noticed major changes in both recruitment and retention. ‘I would say our applications have doubled. We get a lot more ad hoc applications,’ he said. ‘Our retention of staff went up from 80 percent to 98 percent.’” READ MORE
UPS and FedEx are raising rates: “Even as they grapple with declining volumes, UPS and FedEx have both announced their delivery rates will soon increase by 6.9 percent on average. But the full force of their changes could cost shippers even more. How much more depends on factors like the services they use, packages they ship, and the destinations of their deliveries. Customers also need to consider larger increases for longer-distance shipments, additional handling fees and higher minimum package charges to reduce the sting of the hikes on their businesses. ‘You can see how that will add up to be a very, very substantial increase for many, many shippers,’ said Melissa Priest, founder and CEO of Alexandretta Transportation Consulting.”
“UPS and FedEx have instituted nearly identical rate hikes across services and weight classes, according to an analysis by parcel and LTL spend consultancy Shipware.”
“‘This year, the only meaningful distinction between both carriers is in the 3 Day Service category, where FedEx is taking a much larger increase,’ according to Shipware. ‘This action should be seen as a ‘catch up,’ as last year UPS applied much larger increases to this service level.’”
“The 6.9 percent average increase doesn’t account for surcharges that can pile onto the final shipping cost. These include extra fees for residential deliveries, handling oversized packages and delivering to rural destinations — many that will become more costly when the new rates take effect.” READ MORE
New car prices are starting to cool: “Inventory levels are gradually coming back, giving shoppers more options when browsing showrooms, and some discounting has crept back into the market, albeit in a limited fashion. The average price paid for a new vehicle hit a record of $46,173 in July and has been trending downward in recent months, according to data from research firm J.D. Power. In October, consumers paid an average of about $45,600 for a new car or truck, several hundred dollars off the summer peak but still 33 percent higher than before the pandemic, the firm’s data show.”
“The average interest rate on a new-car loan was 5.7 percent in the third quarter, up from 4.3 percent in the prior-year period, according to car-shopping firm Edmunds.”
“Used-car prices started to level off this spring and have continued to cool in recent months with transaction values down for many models that are five years or older, industry data show. This means buyers trading in their used vehicles don’t have as much money to offset the price of a new car.”
“Auto executives remain optimistic that a backlog of pent-up demand will continue to keep car prices elevated in the coming months, and production challenges continue to linger, making it difficult to fully replenish stock.” READ MORE
The Biden administration is starting to unleash climate incentives targeting businesses: “This cash is coming from last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. The federal government granted about 20 producers of raw materials that power rechargeable batteries a total of nearly $3 billion. The goal is to kick-start a domestic supply chain for big automakers and combat China’s dominance of battery materials. There is a lot more money where that came from. Additional infrastructure-bill funding is expected to go to upstarts and established companies in areas such as clean hydrogen, carbon capture, and electric-vehicle charging in the months ahead. Financing could also come through the Inflation Reduction Act, the Energy Department’s loan program, and from a separate investment fund known as a green bank.” READ MORE
As California phases out the sale of gas cars, independent gas stations begin to face their demise—but there is hope: “‘Most of the independents will be put out of business, completely out of business,’ said Charles Khalil, who owns two gas stations in the L.A. area and is bracing for a shakeout ahead of 2035. ‘We are all going to suffer through it.’ He and other owners predict many mom-and-pop operators will, in the years ahead, sell their properties to real estate developers or large gas station chains that can afford to upgrade the sites with electric vehicle chargers. Space limitations and the high cost of installing chargers — a high-capacity version can cost $150,000, including all associated expenditures — make it infeasible for some owners to update their properties for an electric future.”
“Because stations are typically in high-traffic areas, many are situated on parcels that would be coveted by real estate developers should owners decide to sell.”
“Ronnie Givargis, investment sales broker at commercial real estate services firm Northmarq, said that there is strong demand for these sites, a large swath of which are ‘located on irreplaceable corners.’”
“‘If your site is located in a desirable area, repurposing the property will be simple and profitable,’ he added, noting that such parcels could be ideal for drive-through restaurants, banks, and high-volume retailers.” READ MORE
Here’s how to keep Slack from driving you crazy: “Unlike typical messaging apps—which notify users of each incoming missive on their phones and computers—Slack depends on a web of settings and rules to determine when and where you should see a notification. It’s designed to guess when you’re at your desk and when you’re up and about, and cut down on potentially needless or redundant alerts. But Slack’s built-in smarts can also cause frustrations, and allow you to miss things that matter. The system might not notify you of an incoming message that it considers less urgent. Sometimes, you don’t get an alert on a message because Slack thinks you already saw it.”
“The group-chat app owned by Salesforce has become vital for many during the hybrid-work era, allowing teams to stay connected whether they’re working from home, commuting or logging on from the office.”
“‘It is not perfect. We have bugs,’ Johnny Rodgers, a principal engineer at Slack, said on Twitter earlier in October. He worked on Slack’s notification decision tree, a complicated workflow diagram that shows what types of messages qualify for notifications.”
“You can avoid overlooking messages by adjusting settings so you’re notified on your mobile device as a fallback.”
“Once you tailor notifications on one device, you’ll need to check your others. Settings don’t always transfer over. For starters, make sure pop-up notifications are enabled at the system level.” READ MORE
Leaders of owner-operated businesses nationwide are gathering: Now in its third year, the Catalyst Summit is taking place on November 10 and 11 in Portland, Oregon. The theme for the event is ‘Design the Future’ — and will explore how to break free of purgatory, catalyze growth and impact, and design the future we want. It will be a great day to connect with other visionaries, engage in insightful conversations, and uncover opportunities in your business.
The event is designed specifically for owner-operated businesses and the leaders who run them. No salespeople, no solicitors — just peers all facing the same challenges, ready to learn from each other.
The agenda is chock-full of impressive speakers and panelists, including leaders of Inc 500 companies, "Best for the World" B Corps, and more.
For an exclusive discount for 21 Hats subscribers, enter promo code ShareTheGood at checkout for $100 off your ticket price. LEARN MORE
Laid off by Shopify in May, Clifford Myers started The Other Comedy Company precisely one minute later: “The Other Comedy Company facilitates comedy and improv workshops for businesses. The workshops are geared toward a team's specific goals; for example, The Other Comedy Company might plan a workshop that emphasizes active learning and clear communication for a sales team focused on customer acquisition. Myers said he sees it as similar to how the tech world has used gaming to improve learning. ‘We're just doing it organically with improv games,’ Myers said.”
“Myers has been a stand-up comedian for years. He joined Shopify's support team in 2019 because he was looking for a remote job that he could do while performing on the road.”
“Myers said The Other Comedy Company currently employs four workshop facilitators, all of whom come from stand-up comedy or improv backgrounds. It offers different workshops designed for customer support, sales, and C-suite teams, ranging in price from $1,850 to $2,650 for a two-hour session.”
“‘People learn better and retain more when they're laughing as they're learning,’ he said.” READ MORE
21 HATS PODCAST: DASHBOARD
Kurt Wilkin, co-founder of HireBetter, says he thinks concerns about a recession are largely media-driven, but if your business is slowing, this might be a good time to reevaluate your team: Are you happy with everyone you’ve hired? Plus: What does it mean that wages kept rising in the third quarter? Should job listings include salary ranges? And what would Kurt tell business owners who struggle with compensating themselves?
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren