We Need to Go Back to Marketing for Humans
In our latest podcast episode, the owners talk about writing marketing copy to please people instead of Google and a host of other issues, such as, Do you negotiate starting salaries?
Here are today’s highlights:
When the IRS froze ERC refunds, one goal was to shut down those marketing scammers. Nope!
In L.A., a cafe that was much more than a cafe has been closed by an internal legal dispute.
Fifty percent of 1,500 adults surveyed in 2021 said they had left a full-time job for mental health reasons.
Travis Kalanick, one of Uber’s founders, is building restaurant robots.
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
This week, Paul Downs tells Jay Goltz and Jaci Russo about the latest developments in his year-long campaign to stop relying so heavily on Google AdWords. At a specially arranged, two-day marketing event, Paul got to sit down with a series of architects and designers who had already been vetted and who he hopes will become repeat customers. So far, Paul says, the results look promising.
“Plus, we also discuss: Do you write your website copy to please Google or to please people? Is there any way around skyrocketing property insurance rates? Why has Jay decided he no longer needs a chief financial officer? How big a disadvantage to owners are the new laws forbidding employers from asking about salary histories? And would you reject a candidate simply for trying to negotiate a starting salary?
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
The IRS froze ERC tax refunds, but those financing firms are still targeting small businesses aggressively: “Juan Carcamo, owner of a construction business in Middleton, Mass., had been waiting since early this year for his ERC refund. After the IRS halt, Carcamo sold the expected $288,000 tax credit to a financing firm at a 15 percent discount. ‘I can’t wait any longer,’ said Carcamo, who used the money to replenish the cash reserves of his company, NMTI General Contractors. ‘I am able to retain more of my employees, retain more of my jobs.’ He added, ‘If the IRS would have been fast enough, I would have not paid the 15 percent.’”
“Credit funds, small business lenders and ERC processing firms are all offering bridge loans and cash advances to small businesses waiting for their refunds. Such financing has gotten a boost after the IRS put a moratorium on the ERC program in September.”
“‘If you need money urgently and don’t want to wait for processing to restart, consider an ERC Bridge Loan,’ says an offer for financing from Omega Funding Solutions. The Irvine, Calif., company declined to comment.”
“‘What happens when all these applications get denied?’ said Larry Gray, an accountant who reviews ERC claims for other accounting firms. ‘That only helps that company go out of business.’” READ MORE
A special cafe that became a gathering place in Los Angeles for those in recovery has closed for good: “Café Tropical is gone, due to an internal legal dispute, and even sooner than expected. The restaurant was supposed to close on Dec. 1, according to a sign posted on the door earlier in the week. Angelenos mourned the Silver Lake fixture of nearly 50 years. But a lesser known aspect of the closure is that it is also a wrenching loss for a large community of people seeking sobriety. Countless meetings were held over the years for those who struggle with, or know someone who struggles with addiction. The meetings, which happened for decades throughout the day and night in a back room at Tropical, will now have to find another home. ‘Words fail,’ said Ann Bradley, who moved to Silver Lake in 1979. ‘There are people who can trace their absolute roots of recovery from alcoholism and drug abuse to Café Tropical.’”
“Owner Daniel Navarro and business partner Jonathan Rubenstein did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Cuban restaurant El Cochinito and bar Bolita, sister businesses of Café Tropical, all closed with similar suddenness last week. The closure appears to be related to a family legal dispute between Navarro and his mother, as well as a separate lawsuit filed against Café Tropical claiming unpaid rent.”
“Writer RJ Smith, who moved to L.A. in the early 1990s to work at LA Weekly, said he began noticing groups of people congregating out on the sidewalk in front of Tropical when he first got here. ‘I started asking about what was going on at the time that I was also interested in stopping my drinking,’ he said. ‘Somebody just said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you how I stopped … go to Tropical. Talk to someone there.’”
“Longtime resident Bradley called her experiences attending meetings at Tropical ‘transformative.’ ‘We have a saying in the recovery community, we’re always held up by friends who aren’t necessarily needing to be in recovery, but they help the recovery community.’” READ MORE
Deloitte found that for every dollar a company spends on employee mental health, it gets back $5: “Poor mental health costs the United States nearly $50 billion in lost productivity annually. Sixty two percent of missed workdays are attributed to mental health conditions such as burnout, anxiety, and depression. Offices don’t need to provide yoga balls. Managers and HR workers don’t need to be clinicians. They do need to recognize two things: Mental health issues affect most adults at some point, and co-workers and bosses can exacerbate them. Leaders should learn how to respond to team members in emotional distress and direct them toward support.”
“One important step is to provide all employees with psychological safety by setting clear expectations, by listening with empathy, and by showing curiosity, humility, and vulnerability. Research shows that, no matter their mental health status or the nature of their jobs, people do their best work together in cultures that are trusting, fair, and transparent, where they feel comfortable speaking up, asking for help, disagreeing, and raising concerns.”
“To be clear, employees are responsible for managing the way their past affects their present — for tending to their own mental health. But it is an employer’s responsibility not to make things worse. Businesses attuned to this truth do better on all metrics.”
“Leaders who don’t recognize the need to improve set themselves up for trouble. Consider this: Fifty percent of 1,500 adults surveyed in 2021 said they had left a full-time job for mental health reasons. That much turnover is expensive.” READ MORE
A survey of 800 U.S. employers conducted by Intelligent.com finds nearly half of companies eliminating bachelor’s degree requirements: “Ninety-five percent of respondents say their companies currently require bachelor’s degrees for at least some roles. In 2024, 45 percent of these companies plan to eliminate the bachelor’s degree requirements for some positions. This continues a trend from 2023, in which according to our survey, 55 percent of employers got rid of bachelor’s degree requirements. Companies that eliminated some bachelor’s degree requirements in 2023 are far more likely to continue shedding these requirements than those who did not. Seventy-three percent of companies that eliminated degree requirements this year plan to do so for more roles in 2024.”
“Seventy percent of employers who removed bachelor’s degree requirements in 2023 say they did so to create a more diverse workforce. Additionally, 69 percent wanted to increase the number of applicants for open positions, while 68 percent say there are other ways to gain skills.”
“When it comes to evaluating job candidates, the majority (80 percent) of employers are more interested in experience than education. Thirty-nine percent of employers are ‘very likely’ and 41 percent are ‘likely’ to favor experience over education when assessing candidates’ applications.” READ MORE
The Economist thinks we’re entering a new age of the worker: “Wage gaps are shrinking. Since 2016 real weekly earnings for those at the bottom of America’s pay distribution have grown faster than those at the top. Since the covid-19 pandemic this wage compression has gone into overdrive; according to one estimate, it has been enough to reverse an extraordinary 40 percent of the pre-tax wage inequality that emerged during the previous 40 years. A blue-collar bonanza is under way.”
“If the blue-collar age endures, the effect will be profound. The idea that capitalism fails workers is so pervasive that it may explain why people consistently tell pollsters they are unhappy about the state of the economy—even as they themselves continue to spend freely and to benefit from low unemployment.”
“The idea has shaped views on everything from the dangers of immigration and low-cost manufacturers, to the desirability of more handouts and higher tariffs. The bonanza for workers, though, shows governments need not shackle markets for workers to do well—and that the best route to prosperity for all is to increase the size of the economic pie.” READ MORE
The Bay Street mall shows that not all malls are dying—even if it doesn’t want to be known as a mall: “In 2021, Southern California-based development firm CenterCal Properties purchased [the Bay Area’s] Bay Street for an estimated $95 million, and has since poured an additional $75 million into reinvigorating the mall, according to CenterCal vice president of development Scott Bohrer. Old tenants California Pizza Kitchen, P.F. Chang’s and Pizza My Heart quietly exited, making room for a lineup of buzzy new restaurants: SF Mexican spot Flores, Marin’s Uchiwa Ramen, Humphry Slocombe, Philz Coffee, and more.”
“Pippal co-owner Anu Bhambri said she and her team had been in conversation with CenterCal for the past two years but weren’t convinced to open at Bay Street until they saw the extent of the mall’s transformation. ‘All of the restaurants from before are gone and they’re trying to bring in some more trendy restaurants, so that’s when we found it very interesting,’ she said. ‘Especially when we saw their terrace area.’”
“The centerpiece of the new Bay Street is the Bay Break Dining Terrace, the upstairs shared dining area. Some vantage points offer bay views, which diners can enjoy from an array of cozy seating, complete with fire pits and lawn games. Eventually, Bay Street plans to start hosting live music in the space, too.”
“‘Rather than making it a food court with tenants having their own dining spaces, we wanted to make it a real community of food operators,’ Bohrer said. ‘... We really don’t want people to think of us as a mall. We want them to think of us as just a destination that they’d go to.’” READ MORE
In Florida, developers are still building houses with wood: “Homes with wooden frames are cheaper and faster to build than those framed in concrete, one reason why wood-frame construction is the norm in much of the U.S. But most American homes are never tested by powerful storms as they often are in Florida. South Florida contractors phased out wood-frame construction after Hurricane Andrew’s 165-mile-per-hour winds flattened communities built from this material in 1992. The state changed its building codes not long after that, and the share of wood-frame construction has declined dramatically in Florida over the past three decades. Yet wood-frame construction is still permitted statewide. It is even enjoying something of a revival in waterfront communities across Florida, including Jacksonville and Tampa.”
“At Fort Myers Beach, where wood cottages were ripped from their foundations and more than a dozen people died, developers are scooping up empty land. They are building new wood-framed single-family homes strapped onto concrete columns. Some are selling for more than $1 million.”
“Overall, nearly 1,700 apartment buildings in Florida are made of wood-frame construction, or about 8 percent of the state’s inventory, according to real-estate data firm CoStar Group. Thirteen buildings with wood frames and more than 3,700 units are under construction in the state. Since 2015, more than two dozen such buildings have been built on or near the coasts, CoStar said.”
“Insurance costs, meanwhile, have boosted the price of building with wood. Premiums have skyrocketed across the state, and in particular for wood-frame structures. But because of the low cost of lumber and shorter time frame for construction, wood homes are still usually cheaper to build.” READ MORE
Travis Kalanick’s next act is the Bowl Builder: “For the past half-decade, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been endeavoring to reimagine how restaurants operate by building a nationwide network of ghost kitchens under a business called CloudKitchens. That business, which he and his team constructed stealthily under a holding company called City Storage Systems, was joined at the hip by another technology business called Otter, which sells restaurant order management software. Now, the Spoon has learned that Kalanick’s CSS is building its own restaurant automation and robotics business under the name Lab37. According to company sources and a blog post quietly published by the company in September, Lab37 has built its first restaurant robot, a bowl-making robot called (what else?) Bowl Builder.”
“The Bowl Builder, which makes hundreds of hot or cold bowls per day, is fully NSF-certified and its dimensions are 20′ wide by 9′ deep. The system can handle the entire process of making bowl food, as bowls run on a conveyor belt under 18 different dispenser modules for ingredients and sauces before getting sealed, utensils added, and bagged up for pickup.”
“Lab37 is located in a warehouse on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. The location includes a commercial research and development kitchen, fabrication shop, engineering office, electrical engineering lab, assembly lab, and testing lab. Lab37 has been trialing the Bowl Builder out through its Hungry Group virtual restaurant division, which is described as a R&D kitchen company building ‘the future of dining, where diverse options, cutting-edge convenience, and technology unite.’”
“One potential customer of Lab37’s Bowl Builder is Salted, a fast-growing bowl-food startup that has leaned heavily into the ghost kitchen model in recent years. While Salted has several physical brick-and-mortar locations, its CEO, Jeff Applebaum, has indicated that much of the company’s future growth will come via ghost kitchens.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST: DASHBOARD
Don’t Blame Your CRM: This week, Gene Marks talks through the latest developments in customer relationship management software, which is both his area of expertise and a real pain point for many business owners. Among other things, Gene tells us about the impact artificial intelligence is already having on CRM, including what A.I. makes better as well as what it makes worse. Plus: How do you get salespeople to use your system properly? And what should you do if you’re completely frustrated and ready to dump your system?
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren