You Don’t Bet the Company
One big lesson is emerging from Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to take the big leap into the metaverse.
Here are today’s highlights:
Four days? How about a three-day work week?
How one chocolate business managed to survive the pandemic.
The world’s most expensive spice, selling for at least $9,000 a pound, can now be farmed in West Texas.
Scores of Silicon Valley engineers are working multiple full-time jobs.
A Chick-fil-A owner is trying a three-day work week: “To be clear, this is just one Chick-fil-A location, and the three-day schedule is optional. It translates into full-time employment with benefits, because the Chick-fil-A employees who opt in are putting in 13 to 14 hours per day on those three consecutive days. The employees are organized into two pods: working together Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday for two weeks, and then switching together to Thursday-Friday-Saturday for the next two weeks. (Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays.) The trade-off? Flexibility, in exchange for some very long hours at Chick-fil-A on the days that they do work. But those who've opted in seem to love the schedule.”
“About 40 of 160 total employees have opted into the three-day work week program, with the number increasing as non-participant employees ask their colleagues about their experiences.”
“More people are applying to work for Chick-fil-A, specifically because of the three-day program. ‘We posted a job on Indeed, and we have 429 applications in a week.... It was like two lines: Work three days a week, get full-time hours.’" READ MORE
Why don’t your employees want to return to the office? It could be about their dogs: “According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one out of every five American homes (23 million households) has adopted a dog during the Covid-19 pandemic. And despite a smattering of hair-on-fire headlines about pets being returned to shelters at concerning rates, the Animal Humane Society paints a different picture: ‘At AHS, there's no evidence that suggests pets adopted in 2020 are being returned at a higher rate.’”
“More than 50 percent of respondents reported taking up walking, hiking, and visiting a dog park after adopting a dog. These activities are well known for their stress-reducing benefits.”
“What is more surprising is that respondents also reported that dogs made them better at their jobs: 88 percent said that having their dog around helped them to be more productive at work, and 87 percent reported their pet helped them cope with work-related stress.”
“With companies trying every trick in the book to get employees to come back to the office, they may be overlooking a simple answer: People love their pets and don't want to leave them.” READ MORE
People have been Googling for excuses to miss work a lot more since 2020: “In 2022, there were 2,230,240 Google searches in the U.S. for excuses to miss work, according to data analyzed by recruitment company Frank Recruitment Group. That's a massive 1,884 percent spike from just two years ago in 2020, which saw 112,400 Google searches for excuses to miss work. Over a five-year span from 2018 to now, the firm saw a 630 percent increase in search volume for the most popular Google search terms about excuses to miss work.”
“‘Calling in sick’ was the most-searched term in 2022 of the 10 most popular searches over the past five years, followed by ‘excuse to miss work.’”
“In 2018, the researchers saw 305,590 searches, with ‘good excuses to miss work’ as the top search term.” READ MORE
What can we learn from Mark Zuckerberg’s bet-the-company decision? “Many companies change strategies because they lost money. Meta is losing money because it changed strategies. It has been almost exactly one year since chief executive and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg made the bold maneuver of rebranding Facebook as Meta Platforms because he believed the future of the company was not in social media but the immersive, amorphous online realm known as the metaverse. The decision to place so much faith in such an unproven premise will go down as one of the riskiest bets any corporation has ever made, no matter what happens next. But what’s happening now is bleak.”
“‘You want to take big problems and break them down so that you have small wins and small losses,’ said Sim Sitkin, the Michael W. Krzyzewski distinguished professor in leadership at Duke University.”
“Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor and author of the forthcoming book ‘Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well,’ says the optimal bet size is hard to define but easy to describe.”
“‘As small as possible,’ she said. ‘Just big enough to be informative.’ Then she put it another way: ‘You don’t bet the company.’” READ MORE
Was Jack Welch the greatest CEO of all time? Or the worst? “Welch seemed to enjoy firing people. It is quite possible, in fact, that no single corporate executive in history has fired as many people as Jack Welch did. He laid off more than a hundred thousand workers in the first half of the nineteen-eighties. There are lots of sentences in [William] Cohan’s ‘Power Failure’ like this: ‘Ten thousand people, or half the people who once worked there, were let go.’ Or: ‘McNerney got the job after a rather infamous annual managers’ meeting in Boca Raton in January 1991, when Jack fired four division C.E.O.s. You could have heard a pin drop, McNerney recalled.’”
“‘This was a flawed business,’ [Welch] continued. But the people in Louisville who made the air conditioners took pride in them and were shocked when the business was sold to Trane. ‘It really shook up Louisville,’ he said. He did not feel their pain. Quite the contrary.”
“In the warm glow of G.E.’s riches, Welch articulated a series of principles that captivated his peers. Fire non-performers without regret. Shed any business that isn’t first or second in its market category. Your duty is always to enrich your shareholders.”
“It has become fashionable to deride today’s tech CEOs for their grandiose ambitions: colonizing Mars, curing all human disease, digging a world-class tunnel. But shouldn’t we prefer these outsized delusions to the moral impoverishment of Welch’s era?” READ MORE
Here’s how Sol Cacao, a chocolate business run by three brothers in the Bronx, survived the pandemic: “The three [Maloney] brothers talked about giving up. They shared an apartment in a part of New York City that had been hard-hit by COVID-19. The wail of ambulances in the background was a constant. Their cash reserves were gone, and their store of beans—the cacao beans they needed to make their chocolate bars—had been depleted. And even if the next day they received a shipment that was already several weeks overdue, they had almost no orders to refill. June’s rent was due in a few weeks. They were three young Black men raised by immigrant parents. They didn’t have much in the way of resources to fall back on, and sympathy in the U.S. wasn’t exactly high for three men of color who had been born somewhere else.”
“Sol Cacao specializes in ‘origin’ bars, made using beans from a single locale. Just like wine producers, the Maloneys speak of terroir, and regional distinctions for their bars from Madagascar, Ecuador, and Peru.”
“The central threat to Sol Cacao’s business was the severe limits on in-person encounters. ‘Traditionally, most of our money came from demos and in-store efforts,’ Dominic said. ‘Any place we got to tell our story in person.’”
“The ‘George Floyd effect,’ as Daniel called it, saved Sol Cacao. ‘After George Floyd, there was this move to support local black businesses,’ he said.”
“Sol Cacao stayed alive by pivoting to online sales. Individuals had always had the option of buying directly through the Sol Cacao website, but online purchases had never amounted to more than 10 percent of their sales.” READ MORE
Meraki Meadows is the first large scale saffron farm in Texas: “Here, sisters Andrea McDonald and Lyneil Beck, their husbands, Karl McDonald and Andy Beck, and their combined total of six children grow the world’s most expensive spice. Sometimes called red gold, saffron is primarily grown in Iran, where the country's future as the world’s largest producer is threatened by sanctions and . However, small growers in the United States—like the McDonalds and the Becks—are discovering the stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower can sell for between $20 and $75 per gram, according to Margaret Skinner, a research professor and extension entomologist who runs a listserv called SaffronNet at the University of Vermont. ‘You do the math—that’s approximately $9,000 a pound, at minimum,’ she says, adding that a one-acre plot has the potential to earn $100,000 by its third year of production.”
“Skinner has been collecting data about climates and their corresponding challenges to share with farmers aiming to diversify their crops by planting saffron. ‘As it turns out,’ she says, ‘Iran and West Asia are similar, temperature-wise, to West Texas.’”
“Harvesting saffron crocus flowers requires a delicate touch, so heavy-duty equipment wasn’t necessary to get the process started. The families already had everything they needed: a small amount of land, simple equipment, and a lot of people.”
“Meraki Meadows sells whole stigmas by the half gram for $20, and the most-potent red tips, which they call ‘premium choice,’ for $30. They’ll soon add a one-gram jar.”
“The first online order was from a woman interested in buying homegrown saffron to help alleviate menstrual cramps, but Karl describes most customers as people with ‘refined taste’ who use the spice for cooking. Saffron brings a subtly sweet, floral flavor to rice, casseroles, stews, and desserts.” READ MORE
FROM OUR SPONSOR: Work Better Now
As you may have heard Rob Levin explain on the 21 Hats Podcast this week, Work Better Now provides top remote talent from Latin America and the Caribbean. With WBN’s personal and executive assistants, business owners can hand off administrative tasks and focus on big picture items like increasing revenue, improving the customer experience and improving company culture. In addition to assistants, clients hire WBN talent for roles such as project management, bookkeeping, marketing, and customer service.
Business owners can get a matched, full-time WBN assistant within two weeks for $1,900 a month, and there are no contracts. And if you mention “21 HATS” during your free consult, you get $150 off your first three months. LEARN MORE HERE
Scores of engineers are working multiple full-time jobs at once: “While big-tech companies are implementing hiring freezes, laying off workers, and battening down the hatches as they anticipate an economic recession, a swath of Silicon Valley tech workers—mostly programmers and engineers—are slyly working two, three, or even four jobs at the same time and reaping mind-boggling benefits. They spend their days juggling multiple Zooms simultaneously, using devices called ‘mouse jigglers’ to ensure that their computers do not go to sleep (which would alert their supervisors that something is up), and sitting at 12-foot-long desks that are lined with a half dozen laptops and multiple computer screens as they go to virtual work and receive salaries that can add up to as much as $1.2 million a year.”
“The ‘Overemployed’ section of Reddit, which was started a year ago in the midst of the pandemic, has quickly grown to 110,000 members, who spend part of their time sharing tips and tricks for how to pull off multiple jobs and the rest of their time bragging about how much money they are making.”
“A first job is called a J1, a second job is a J2, and so on…all the way up to a J5. (I have yet to find a worker who has a J6, but I’m sure they are out there.) Second jobs are often referred to as ‘burner jobs,’ like a burner phone, that can be easily tossed away if something goes wrong.”
“While it might seem antithetical for tech companies to put up with lackadaisical employees, there has long been a shortage of competent engineers in tech, and companies are constantly in fear that their most talented workers will leave for a competitor.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
Should You Be in a Business Group? This week, Sarah Segal, Jay Goltz, and peer-group expert Leo Bottary have a hype-free conversation about why peer-advisory groups like Vistage, YPO, and EO can be life-changing for business owners 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.
Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren