Discover more from The 21 Hats Morning Report
The Latest Buzzwords: 'Core Hours', 'Async Week', 'Meeting Hygiene'
Here are today’s highlights:
The February jobs report is surprisingly strong.
Hotels are creating packages for a new type of customer.
Ransomware attackers are targeting private companies with PE or VC backers.
The memorial industry can’t keep up with the demand for tombstones.
THE RUSSIAN INVASION
From a Ukrainian entrepreneur:
A Philadelphia business is moving its workers house to house, city to city as the invasion intensifies: “When two predawn blasts jolted Julia Gurelya awake at her home in Zhytomyr last week — an attack on a nearby Ukrainian airfield — she knew it was time to leave. She grabbed a pre-packed bag, gathered her husband, 17-year-old daughter, 76-year-old mother, and her cat, Kovalsky, then stepped from her apartment. She headed west to the city of Ternopil and, she hoped, out of the line of fire. Gurelya’s fast departure last Thursday morning not only sought to protect her family but to enable her to continue coordinating a high-risk, city-to-city, house-to-house relocation of about 100 colleagues, all Ukrainian employees of a Philadelphia ecommerce firm, Stuzo.”
“Stuzo is a small company that has big goals, with a Philadelphia headquarters on the edge of Chinatown and clients that include Chevron, Murphy USA, and Marathon Petroleum Corp.”
“Founded in 2005, its software and e-commerce expertise helps businesses acquire more loyal customers and encourage those customers to spend more of their retail dollars at clients’ stores.
“Pfau is checking whether he can bring employees to the United States, though at present that’s not possible for most Ukrainians under U.S. immigration laws.” READ MORE
The U.S. added 678,000 jobs in February: “The Omicron variant of Covid-19 may have held back hiring over the winter as workers stayed home sick and states and cities put in place rules on vaccinations, masks and in-store capacity to prevent the spread. Job growth remained strong, nonetheless, in part because employers have rapidly raised wages to lure adults back into the labor market. Some workers returned to the labor market in recent months, pushing up labor-force participation closer to pre-pandemic levels.”
“Garn Development desperately wants to hire housekeepers and other staff members to run its 20 hotels in Utah and several other western states. Bookings across the family-owned company’s hotels rose roughly 60 percent last year from 2020 and continue to pick up this year, said operations manager Gabe Garn.”
“But despite raising wages an average 20 percent over the past year, the company is still short of workers, forcing hotel managers to clean rooms, serve food and do other tasks normally reserved for lower-paid employees, Mr. Garn said. A large number of workers of late have quit shortly after being hired, he said.”
“‘Almost the second you don’t get the schedule you want, you just leave and go find something else because everywhere is hiring,’ Mr. Garn said. ‘Now when we interview, it’s almost like we’re selling ourselves versus how the employee sells themselves to us.’” READ MORE
Some employees are choosing not to quit but to coast: “Every week, Justin pushed the boundaries ever so slightly: logging on half an hour later, logging off half an hour earlier, taking long lunches, running errands in the middle of the day. He struggled as he tried to shed his old work ethic — admonishing himself as lazy, wondering whether he was a burned-out failure. His colleagues asked why he was no longer returning their late-night emails until the next morning. For a guy who had always gone above and beyond, it was uncomfortable doing the bare minimum.”
“‘I was sweating bullets, but I was like, look, they're not going to fire me,’ he said. ‘It would take them months to find someone new and train them up.”
“Today, Justin is working the least he ever has: 40 hours a week. And he's not done. In the months ahead, he's hoping to work even less.” READ MORE
Tech companies are reopening their offices but tech work has changed: “Enter ‘asynchronous’ work, where employees get to set their hours in part by what schedule best suits their lives. Slack Technologies Inc. has ‘core hours’ where team members are supposed to be available to jump on a call or huddle with their teams. Slack parent Salesforce encourages employees to set their Slack status to ‘focus time’ when they’re handling individual work or ‘connecting,’ to signal their availability to collaborate. Salesforce recently tried its first ‘Async Week,’ where 20,000 of its nearly 70,000 employees canceled routine meetings to make more time for solo work, said Carolyn Guss, a spokeswoman. Of those who participated in the experiment, 72 percent said it made them more productive and 70 percent reported it made them less stressed. Two more async weeks are planned for this year.”
“[Twitter] recently experimented with a companywide ‘focus’ week where the majority of meetings were canceled and people could catch up on things like backlogged assignments.”
“Now Twitter encourages workers to think about ‘meeting hygiene,’ which could involve setting a tight agenda for efficiency, recording the meeting so people who can’t join can still listen at a later time, and considering whether the meeting really needs to happen at all.”
“The tech sector accounted for 37 percent of the total square footage of the top 100 office leases signed last year, exceeding its 2019 percentage of 32 percent, according to a new report from CBRE.”
“Dropbox doesn’t call its spaces ‘offices’ anymore. Instead, it calls them ‘studios’; there are fewer desks and more meeting rooms and lounges for less formal team gatherings.” READ MORE
Hotels discover a new customer, the super commuter: “As the pandemic drags into its third calendar year and remote work shifts to hybrid models, employees who moved to the suburbs or even farther are becoming fixtures at city hotels, where they are establishing comfortable bolt-holes after the commute in for meetings that can’t be taken over Zoom. And some hotels, eager to tap into this new market while still having yet to recover from the blow of 2020, are crafting new packages designed specifically for them, with amenities like parking, conference rooms and low midweek rates to sweeten the deal.”
“For hoteliers, regular stays by commuters like Mr. Chou offer one path back to recouping the massive losses they experienced during the pandemic.”
“After dipping in the early weeks of 2022 as the Omicron surge ripped through the country, occupancy rates in the United States climbed past 50 percent in February … (for comparison, 2019 occupancy rates were 66.1 percent).”
“‘Those two days are pretty intense. But it’s also amazing what you can accomplish in two days in the city,’ Mr. Chou said.” READ MORE
Ransomware attackers are targeting private companies with PE or VC backers: “About two months after it was bought in the fourth quarter of 2021 by a private-equity firm, a midsize manufacturer had to pay a ransomware group that had locked up its hardware systems. It cost the company about $1.2 million to have its systems released, paid to a group suspected of links to the Russian ransomware group REvil, said Richard Peters, a cybersecurity expert at consulting firm UHY LLP. He couldn’t name the company, a client, for confidentiality reasons. The attack fit an increasingly familiar pattern, as ransomware groups are turning their attention to mid-market acquisition targets, presenting a risk for private equity, venture capital and other deal makers that often invest in such businesses.”
“‘Because of the M&A and because of the publicity around that, it became a better target,’ Mr. Peters said. ‘They’re watching. They know what’s going on in the news as well as any businessman out there.’” READ MORE
Monument builders can’t keep up with the demand for tombstones: “The memorial industry has been hugely disrupted because of Covid-related demand, supply-chain issues and labor shortages. At DeNigris, the backlog was set off in April 2020 when monument makers were shuttered for a few weeks because they were not originally deemed ‘essential services.’ A few weeks later, that changed when the New York State Monument Builders Association appealed the decision. But the pileup of orders had already begun.”
“‘We probably have over 800 orders, it’s so depressing,’ said Don DeNigris, a third-generation co-owner of the company, which was founded in 1905 by his grandfather. ‘We don’t even count them anymore.’” READ MORE
Duvall Hecht, founder of Books on Tape: “Mr. Hecht was an Olympic gold medalist in rowing, a Marine Corps pilot and, with the establishment of Books on Tape in 1975, an entrepreneur who harnessed the still-new technology of cassette tapes to offer bibliophiles a novel way of experiencing literature. He was working at a brokerage firm in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, with a roughly one-hour commute on either end of his workday, when he became ‘frantic,’ he told the Los Angeles Times, to escape his daily misery on the road.”
“Books on Tape became the formal name of his business, which he established in 1975 with help from his first wife, Sigrid, and with seed money from the sale of his Porsche.”
“Mr. Hecht insisted that customers of Books on Tape receive no abridgments. Only the full works, as conceived by their authors, would do. Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ ran 45 tapes.”
“Books on Tape advertised in highbrow publications including the New Yorker magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and Smithsonian magazine. By Mr. Hecht’s account, the company catered to ‘the absolute upper 5 percent of the socioeconomic structure.’”
“Books on Tape had amassed 5,000 titles by 2001, when it was sold to Random House for a reported $20 million. According to the Audio Publishers Association, revenue in the audiobook industry reached $1.3 billion in 2020.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
Somebody’s Hiring All of These People: This week, Jay Goltz tells Liz Picarazzi and Laura Zander that he’s had a revelation about The Great Resignation. Yes, he’s lost some people, but not necessarily his best people. “It shook the tree out,” he says, which is why he thinks businesses should be careful right now about hiring too quickly. Meanwhile, Liz talks about her latest product, a bear-proof trash enclosure, and why introducing it has been challenging. And Laura tells us what happened with the salesman she tried to send around the country in a souped-up van. Plus: Is this a great time or a terrible time to be in business?
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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