The Fake Commute

Some people working from home miss the separation that a commute offers. For many businesses, the goal is just to survive the winter. And how do I manage my managers?

THE 21 HATS PODCAST

Episode 44: How Do I Manage My Managers? This week, responding to a question from a listener, Jay Goltz, Dana White, and Laura Zander talk about managing people. Jay offers a four-step plan that starts with making sure you’ve hired the right manager: “Anytime you ever hear anyone complaining about their employees, it's a bad manager.” Laura talks about coming to the realization that her staff is not where she thought it was—and how that’s playing into her recent anxiety attacks: “So now, I’ve got anxiety about my anxiety.” Plus: When did you know you had a real business? And Dana’s getting married!

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THE ECONOMY

For many businesses, the goal is simply to survive the winter: “As 2021 begins, business owners big and small confront a rapidly shifting landscape. An end to the pandemic is in sight as inoculations begin, but the slow pace of vaccinations has delayed the turnaround they were counting on. Hanging on is the chief goal for many, even as others look ahead to what they consider to be an inevitable rebound.”

  • “For Ashlie Ordonez, owner of the Bare Bar Studio, a spa in Denver, vaccinations for the coronavirus can’t come soon enough.”

  • “‘I sold my wedding ring so we could pay the bills and keep the doors open,’ she said. ‘I’m sacrificing everything to make it through this pandemic.’” READ MORE

Job postings ended 2020 well below their pre-pandemic levels: “Available jobs posted online were down 10.6 percent at the end of December from a year earlier, according to job search site Indeed’s measure of job posting trends. Postings rose from the end of November, when the number of available jobs were 11.8 percent below 2019’s trend, but the pace of improvement has eased since the summer, when businesses started to reopen after spring lockdowns.”

  • “Some employers in higher-wage sectors like software development and finance are holding back on posting new jobs due to an uncertain outlook, Mr. Bunker said.” READ MORE

HUMAN RESOURCES

Kinexon, a German startup, makes a wristband that helps enforce social distancing: “Now it is looking toward broader arenas: factory production lines, warehouses and logistics centers where millions of people continue to work despite the pandemic. ... Henkel tested the system on the entire staff of its plant in Raciborz, Poland, a big facility on the southern outskirts of a medieval coal town, where 250 people work three shifts a day making and packaging powdered and liquid detergent for Central Europe. The sensors were programmed to go off when two people were within 1.5 meters, roughly six feet, of each other for more than five seconds.”

  • “Overall, [Kinexon] said it is supplying the technology to over 200 companies worldwide.”

  • “The sensors are priced between $100 and $200 each.” READ MORE

People are finding ways to replace their lost commute: “Nine months into America’s pandemic lockdowns, work-from-home employees who used to slog to the office on the train, bus, ferry or highway are forcing themselves to take short walks, drives or other excursions to re-create commuting and provide a separation between their work and non-work lives. The buzz-phrase ‘fake commute’ has taken off on social media, with scores of people sharing stories about simulating old routines, including carrying a packed lunch out on strolls.” READ MORE

New York City is considering regulating the algorithms used in hiring: “In 1964, the Civil Rights Act barred the humans who made hiring decisions from discriminating on the basis of sex or race. Now, software often contributes to those hiring decisions, helping managers screen résumés or interpret video interviews. That worries some tech experts and civil rights groups, who cite evidence that algorithms can replicate or magnify biases shown by people. In 2018, Reuters reported that Amazon scrapped a tool that filtered résumés based on past hiring patterns because it discriminated against women.”

  • “The bill would require companies to disclose to candidates when they have been assessed with the help of software.”

  • “Companies that sell such tools would have to perform annual audits to check that their people-sorting tech doesn’t discriminate.” READ MORE

OPPORTUNITIES

Ben & Jerry’s has joined the food businesses pivoting to pets: “The treats come in two flavors: pumpkin with cookies and peanut butter with pretzels. Both are made with a base of sunflower butter. They’re made from the same ingredients Ben & Jerry’s uses in its non-dairy human desserts. Ben & Jerry’s is the latest food company to pivot to pets, sensing opportunity as more Americans acquire furry friends. The number of U.S. households with pets rose 6.5 percent to 84.9 million between 2015 and 2020, according to the American Pet Products Association.”

  • “The treats — $2.99 per cup or $4.99 for four — will be placed near the popsicles in grocery store frozen food aisles, a few doors down from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.”

  • “Spending on dog treats has ballooned, jumping 44 percent to $5.5 billion between 2015 and 2020, according to Euromonitor, a data firm.”

  • “Millennials in particular spend lavishly on their pets and look for pet products with human-grade ingredients, Ben & Jerry’s said.” READ MORE

Thanks to the pandemic, Crocs are selling better than ever: “The company’s eponymous product are popular for their comfort—although some dislike the appearance and argue they shouldn’t be used outside of the home. As such, they appear to be built for Covid-19 and its lengthy periods of self-quarantine. The company has also expanded its footwear to include sleeker designs. Crocs sees 2021 revenue growing 20 percent to 25 percent from the previous year.” READ MORE

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STARTUPS

Can the ClassPass model work for a streaming service? “The team at Struum believes there’s potential for its service, despite the market being saturated by larger subscription players, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, YouTube, HBO Max and Disney+, who today have a combined 75 percent share of the streaming video distribution landscape, according to 2020 Nielsen data. It argues that there is still a long tail of over 250 niche and speciality services it can work with to grow its content library, while also helping those partners connect with potential customers. The model it’s using to go about this, however, is unique for streaming businesses — and very much inspired by the ClassPass service for sampling fitness classes from local gyms and studios.”

  • “Struum will work by charging customers a single monthly subscription to provide a range of services, accessed through the Struum app.”

  • “However, instead of getting a full buffet of content within the app, the consumer is given a number of ‘credits’ they can use to sample and consume content, just like ClassPass did with gym classes.” READ MORE

CRYPTOCURRENCY

When a Bitcoin investor can’t remember his password: “Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth, as of this week, about $220 million. The password will let him unlock a small hard drive, known as an IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet that holds 7,002 Bitcoin. While the price of Bitcoin dropped sharply on Monday, it is still up more than 50 percent from just a month ago when it passed its previous all-time high around $20,000. The problem is that Mr. Thomas years ago lost the paper where he wrote down the password for his IronKey, which gives users 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever. He has since tried eight of his most commonly used password formulations — to no avail.”

  • “Of the existing 18.5 million Bitcoin, around 20 percent — currently worth around $140 billion — appear to be in lost or otherwise stranded wallets, according to the cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis.” 

  • “Mr. Thomas has put the IronKey in a secure facility — he won’t say where — in case cryptographers come up with new ways of cracking complex passwords.”

  • “‘I got to a point where I said to myself, Let it be in the past, just for your own mental health.’” READ MORE