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21 Hats Podcast

  • How to Waste Money on Marketing

    21 MAY 2024 · It’s easy! Anyone can do it! This week, in episode 196, Shawn Busse, Jaci Russo, and William Vanderbloemen talk about a whole slew of marketing challenges. From strategizing for trade shows, to whether your logo has to tell a story, to understanding what constitutes a brand, to whether https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntjkwIXWtrc was terrible or brilliant, they discuss what makes marketing so difficult. It all starts, Jaci says, with the industry’s refusal to set standards: “I can't find another industry that treats themselves so badly. Electrician, CPA, Realtor, hairdresser, nail salon tech, everybody else has some semblance of something to say, ‘I am a legit entity.’ Except our industry.” Which is part of the reason, Jaci says, that the constant refrain she hears from frustrated business owners who hire agencies is, “We paid them all this money. And we got nothing for it.” Plus: how do owners get past that feeling that they need to be the hardest worker in the office, the first one in and the last one out?
    56m 57s
  • Dashboard: The Software Isn’t the Problem

    20 MAY 2024 · You are. That’s Gene Marks’ story, and he’s sticking to it. This week, Gene talks about all of the people who love to hate on Workday’s HR platform, and he argues that whatever problems exist are really the fault of the companies using the software, not the company that makes it. Plus: Gene tells us what we need to know about the latest ChatGPT upgrade. Spoiler alert: He says we will long remember the spring of 2024 as the moment when the true power of artificial intelligence became clear, but so far it’s mostly big businesses that are reaping the benefits.
    23m 5s
  • Yeah, I Can Hold Myself Accountable

    14 MAY 2024 · This week, in episode 195, Mel Gravely tells Jay Goltz and Liz Picarazzi about his recently executed succession plan, including what’s worked and what could have gone better. The main thing that could have gone better, Mel says, is his purchase of another small business where he says he misdiagnosed the challenges the business is confronting: “I thought they just had a bad model and they weren't managing it well. It was worse.” All of which leads to a discussion of the role that a board of advisors can play in helping an owner build a business. While Mel has said he wouldn’t run a lemonade stand without a board, Liz and Jay—like most business owners—have taken a different approach. The notion of having a board of advisors, Jay tells us, is something he struggles to get his head around. “I’ve been doing this for 45 years,” he says, “and I’ve never had anybody to answer to.” Plus: with the talk of tariffs getting louder, Liz updates us on her search for an alternative to manufacturing her trash enclosures in China. “We really have to have a Plan B,” she says. “We'd be stupid not to have a Plan B.”
    52m 44s
  • Dashboard: Gene Marks Explains "Open" Banking

    13 MAY 2024 · This week, Gene talks about an intriguing banking trend that’s come out of Europe and could be headed our way. It sounds a little dicey, but it could take some of the work out of applying for a loan. Plus: business owners say they expect artificial intelligence to increase--not decrease--their headcount. Could they be right? And can we all agree on the definition of a small business?
    32m 49s
  • I Don’t Hate Regulation, But …

    7 MAY 2024 · This week, in episode 194, Shawn Busse, Jay Goltz, and Jaci Russo talk about the new rules that may—or may not—ban non-compete clauses, increase the number of employees who must be paid overtime, and eliminate TikTok in the U.S. How much would those changes matter to each of their businesses? What might the owners do differently? Do the changes make sense? And why does it so often seem as if it’s small businesses that get caught in the cross-fire when the government tries to rein in abusive big businesses? On the question of non-competes, Shawn says he thinks they are often used by lazy businesses that haven’t done the real work of building loyalty with employees and customers. Plus: Do Shawn, Jay, and Jaci ever regret starting a business? Have there been times when they’ve thought about packing it in and trying something else? And also, are the terms “business owner” and “entrepreneur” interchangeable? Or do they carry different connotations? Might there be a better term? Jay thinks there is.
    46m 35s
  • Dashboard: The (Marketing) Road Not Taken

    6 MAY 2024 · This week, Shawn Busse talks about his belief that, for all kinds of understandable reasons, business owners have been fixated on marketing tactics that amount to a losing battle of digital trench warfare. Over time, he says, those tactics have come to cost more and return less. But there are alternatives, and Shawn takes us through some examples. Plus: Are there lessons for smaller businesses in Walmart’s decision to place a big bet on a premium line of food.
    24m 37s
  • How Do You Make Innovation Happen?

    30 APR 2024 · The wrong way to make innovation happen, Ty Hagler says in this week’s special bonus episode, is to have a great idea and then go all-in trying to create it. That, he says, is a really expensive way to find out if your idea works. The right way to pursue innovation, he says, is to take your idea to customers so you can assess the pain points and opportunity spaces before proceeding. Hagler, who is founder and CEO of Trig, an innovation and design firm in North Carolina, also says he’s learned that the problem with focus groups is that the more people you have in the room, the less valuable the conversation tends to be. In fact, he says, one-on-one is best. He also says that brainstorming remotely can actually work better than in-person. Oh, and by the way, if your Mom tells you she loves your idea and will definitely buy your product as soon as it’s available, she’s probably lying.
    38m 1s
  • Dashboard: Every Business Should Know About Apex Accelerators

    29 APR 2024 · Okay, maybe not every business, but this week, Gene Marks tells us about a little known program in the Department of Defense that is dedicated to helping small businesses find contracting opportunities at all levels of government and even with prime contractors. The service is free, it includes one-on-one counseling, and the advisors will help you through every step of the often-frustrating application process. You might be surprised by the opportunities out there. Plus: Is inflation still a problem for business owners?
    26m 34s
  • You Need to Accept That You’re the Boss

    23 APR 2024 · This week, in episode 193, Sarah Segal takes Paul Downs and Jay Goltz through her recent QuickBooks nightmare. Right before tax season, Sarah ran her P&L, and it showed a profit of $250,000—but she knew right away that that couldn’t be right. It then took a bookkeeping SWAT team to figure out what exactly had gone wrong. “I was literally on the verge of tears,” Sarah tells us. “How am I going to do this and not be late on filing my taxes? And credit to this woman, who, I swear to God, was like my therapist and my bookkeeper. She was like, ‘Don't worry, Sarah. We're going to figure it out.’” Which they did—and which brings an important reminder: Not every dollar that comes in the door should be counted as revenue. Plus: What do you do when a new employee isn’t working out? When is the right time to intervene? Do performance improvement plans actually work? Are grace periods a good idea? Also: Jay emphasizes a little understood reason why it can be important to fire fast. And Paul explains what he likes about the AI search engine Perplexity.
    49m 13s
  • Dashboard: The Right to Start a Business

    22 APR 2024 · This week, Victor Hwang, who is founder and CEO of Right to Start, talks about what he and his organization are doing to bring down the barriers that make it harder than it has to be to start and build a business. Among other things, we discuss the state-by-state progress Right to Start has been making, the drivers behind the recent surge in business starts, and the need for capital sources beyond banks and venture capitalists.
    20m 48s

The 21 Hats Podcast is a weekly conversation with entrepreneurs who share their challenges and compare notes on how they’re coping with the pandemic, whether their businesses are as profitable...

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The 21 Hats Podcast is a weekly conversation with entrepreneurs who share their challenges and compare notes on how they’re coping with the pandemic, whether their businesses are as profitable as they should be, how big a price they are willing to pay for growth, and why they hired their brother-in-law. Every week, host Loren Feldman has a conversation with three of the show’s six regulars: Karen Clark Cole, CEO of Blink UX; Paul Downs, CEO of Paul Downs Cabinetmakers; Jay Goltz, CEO of The Goltz Group; William Vanderbloemen, CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group; Dana White, CEO of Paralee Boyd; and Laura Zander, CEO of Jimmy Beans Wool. Every week, the owners talk about news stories that matter to business owners, and track what’s working and what’s not working on their own entrepreneurial journeys. Visit 21hats.com to read episode transcripts and learn more. The show is produced by Jess Thoubboron of Blank Word Productions.
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