When the Boss Works Remotely, But ...
... employees are expected to show up in the office: “The optics are not great.”
Here are today’s highlights:
How Amazon takes advantage of smaller brands selling on its marketplace.
The battle over minimum wages for tipped workers is expanding.
Core inflation just hit a four-decade high.
The “Nap Bishop” thinks you should get some rest.
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
Here’s the new cover art for the podcast, which you will soon see wherever you get your podcasts. It’s the work of designer Dale Macauley and Nile Livingston's boutique design firm Creative Repute. The goals were to get my mug off the previous version, to better support the you-have-to-wear-a-lot-hats metaphor, and of course to make the image stand out a little more when you scroll through your podcasts.
Amazon’s private label business takes advantage of smaller brands selling on Amazon: “Peak Design has been making camera bags and accessories for a dozen years, relying on Amazon for the bulk of its sales. Last year, founder and CEO Peter Dering discovered Amazon was selling a bag that looked strikingly similar to Peak’s top-selling product, the Everyday Sling Bag. ‘They copied the general shape, they copied the access points, they copied the charcoal color, and they copied the trapezoidal logo badge,’ Dering told CNBC. “But none of the fine details that make it a Peak Design bag were things that they could port over because those things take a lot more effort and cost.’ Amazon even snagged the name, calling its own product the Everyday Sling.”
“What Amazon lacked in originality and quality it made up for in price. While Peak’s bag currently costs almost $90 on Amazon, the knockoff version from Amazon’s homegrown AmazonBasics brand was selling for about two-thirds less.”
“But while Amazon may be pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in private labeling, there’s nothing illegal about copying brand-name products. It’s a business practice that, in some capacity, is widely used by most major retailers.”
“But Amazon is doing something different, according to Stacy Mitchell, co-executive director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an activist group that fights big corporations. She said Amazon brings a powerful data engine to the table.”
“‘Amazon has developed a lot of these private labels by gathering data, essentially spying on the companies that have to rely on its website in order to reach consumers,’ Mitchell said. ‘They also know what search terms people are using, what they’re clicking on, how long their mouse is hovering in a certain place. And so they are able to analyze all of that data for a level of insights that simply are not available to your typical chain retailer.’” READ MORE
At some companies, bosses are insisting that workers return to the office—even as the bosses work from home: “Some 80 percent of executive jobs are currently available remotely, according to executive search firm Cowen Partners, which helps companies fill management positions from director through the C-suite — ones that are often not visible through regular job postings. That’s up from about 25 percent pre-pandemic (the share of Americans overall who worked remotely at least some of the time was in the single digits then and is at about 45 percent now, according to Work From Home Research).”
“Many of these executives cite being fully capable of working from home on technology like Zoom, Slack, and Teams, and say doing so enables them to work odd hours and communicate with colleagues in different time zones while maintaining work-life balance.”
“Meanwhile, more than half of managers and executives want their employees back in the office five days a week, according to new survey data by freelance platform Fiverr, saying the office makes it easier to access company computers, software, and IT and is a better place to collaborate than at home.”
“While there are certainly valid reasons why an executive or manager should have more flexibility — longer tenure, more responsibility, greater demands on their time — the optics are not great.” READ MORE
The benefits of being a B Corp are growing: “In the last five years, the number of B Corp certified companies has tripled worldwide, fueled by a new generation of consumers who are looking to purchase goods and services from social impact brands. According to industry experts, Millennials and Gen Z consumers are becoming more loyal to companies that go beyond talking about social good, but also act on it. Despite its recent rise, the B Corp movement has been around for a while as nonprofit organization B Lab was founded in 2006 to transform capitalism. Its founders — which included Bart Houlahan, Andrew Kassoy, and Jay Coen Gilbert — started tackling that lofty goal by changing the focus of for-profit companies.”
“B Lab was created with the idea that a different kind of economy was not only possible, but it was necessary. Its founders wanted companies to shift from the traditional shareholder-driven model to a stakeholder-driven model where they meet high standards related to social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”
“‘Fifteen years ago, this [idea] was very foreign. People thought we were crazy,’ said [B Lab’s former CEO Ben] Anderson. ‘Investors did not like this. [They were] used to investing in [their] Delaware C-Corp... [They] knew what it was, how it worked, and all the legal precedent.’”
“Anderson said it took time to show investors that managing a business to stakeholders creates a more resilient company. ‘We are even finding that some banks are looking at it as reducing the risk and giving better loan [and interest] rates,’ he said.” READ MORE
The battle over minimum wages for tipped workers is heating up: “In all but eight states, employers can legally choose to pay workers who receive tips a ‘sub-minimum’ wage — in some places as low as $2.13 an hour — as long as tips bring their earnings to the equivalent of the minimum wage in a pay period. Economists estimate that at least 5.5 million workers are paid on that basis. The provision, known as the tip credit, is a unique industry subsidy that lets employers meet pay requirements more cheaply. And even in a tight labor market, it is often abused at the employees’ expense, according to workers, labor lawyers, many regulators and economists.”
“In the District of Columbia, a measure on the November ballot would ban the sub-minimum wage by 2027. A ballot proposal in Portland, Maine, would ban sub-minimum base pay and bring the regular minimum wage to $18 an hour over three years.”
“Employers in Michigan are bracing for increased expenses in February, when the state tipped minimum of $3.75 an hour is set to be discontinued and the regular state minimum wage will rise to $12 from $9.87.”
“Xander Gudejko, a district manager for Mainstreet Ventures Restaurant Group, which owns spots throughout Michigan, offered a common view in the local business community: ‘When I think of the potential positives for us, I can’t really think of anything.’” READ MORE
The SBA’s proposed rule change allowing alternative lenders to make 7(a) loans is intended to give businesses better access to capital: “The 7(a) loans are designed to serve business owners that struggle to get other types of financing, but data shows long-standing disparities in the loans based on race and income. [Vice president] Harris' announcement on Oct. 4 said the administration hopes that having more lenders will make the loans more accessible, ‘particularly in smaller-dollar and underserved markets, where borrowers are most acutely shut out of’ lending.”
“Fintechs believe they can help. A study of lending data from Funding Circle and LendingClub published last month by the Bank for International Settlements found fintech lenders had the potential to allow ‘small businesses that were less likely to receive credit through traditional lenders to access credit and to do so at lower cost.’”
“‘The fintech industry is often serving minority-owned, low- to moderate-income, and the smallest of small businesses,’ said Ryan Metcalf, head of public policy and social impact at Funding Circle. ‘That's the population the SBA is struggling to reach through banks.’” READ MORE
Core inflation just hit a four-decade high: “U.S. inflation eased slightly in September to 8.2 percent, the Labor Department said Thursday, but underlying prices excluding energy and food accelerated to a new four-decade high. The consumer-price index measures what consumers pay for goods and services. Inflation has retreated from its June high as gasoline prices cooled. But prices for housing, medical care, utilities and other items have continued to increase, threatening to keep inflation higher for longer. ‘Inflation has built up a lot of momentum over the last year,’ said Bill Adams, chief economist at Comerica Bank. ‘That’s going to keep inflation higher than the Federal Reserve wants it for at least a couple more months—if not a couple more quarters.” READ MORE
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL LIFE
The “Nap Bishop” urges you to take a break: “Thus the Nap Ministry was born, and [Tricia] Hersey anointed herself its Nap Bishop. She urges followers to use time they might otherwise devote to extra work to sleeping instead, the stretches they’d spend staring at a screen to staring into space. Tense moments given over to worry about disappointing others would be better spent reflecting on our own needs and comforts, Hersey said. It’s about collectively refusing to run ourselves into the ground. People who took her advice have decided to quit a job, embark on a sabbatical, or slow down the growth of a business venture in service of their own mental and physical well-being, Hersey said.” READ MORE
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Can e-bikes go mainstream? “In a bike market remade by the pandemic, VanMoof, the Dutch e-bike company started by the [Carlier] brothers, has been among the biggest winners. With a simple and stylish design and clever integration of technology, the company has drawn comparisons to Apple and Tesla and has attracted a loyal and fast-growing customer base among urban professionals in Europe and the United States. Sales of the battery-powered bikes more than tripled during the pandemic, and the company has raised more than $150 million from venture capitalists who don’t typically bet on bicycles.”
“Once seen by consumers as unreliable, expensive and ugly, battery-powered bikes are now one of the fastest growing forms of urban transportation.”
“With simplified designs, new corporate and government incentive policies and more awareness about the environmental benefits of cycling versus driving, VanMoof estimates industry sales will hit $46 billion by 2026, double pre-pandemic predictions.”
“At $3,500 for the latest models, the cost of a VanMoof bike will scare off many prospective customers. The company said it was targeting not cycling enthusiasts but commuters who might see a battery-powered bike as a good alternative to public transportation or owning a car.”
“‘This will only really work if we design a bike that is specifically for transportation to go from point A to B in a city,’ Mr. Carlier said.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
Dana Opens in Dallas: This week, Dana White tells Paul Downs and Jay Goltz how her move to Dallas is going, including hiring a manager, firing a publicist, tweaking her business model, and for the first time, confronting competition. Dana also explains the surprising way she managed to get the financing to open her first salon on a military base, which she now thinks could be up and running by the end of the year. Plus: Paul has had to make adjustments to handle a sudden influx of business. And Jay is still looking for a head of HR. Should he post the ad on ZipRecruiter or Indeed? Should he offer a salary range in the ad? And is it reasonable for him to expect a follow-up note after an interview?
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Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren