Episode 74: 'Every Day, I Have to Force Myself to Get Out of Bed'

Episode 74: Every Day, I Have to Force Myself to Get Out of Bed"

Introduction:

Because our core group of business owners has been talking to each other pretty much every week since before the pandemic, we’ve gotten to know each other. We’ve come to trust each other. And as a result, our conversations sometimes take unexpected turns. This week, our conversation takes an unexpectedly dark turn. We start out talking about Laura Zander’s efforts to manage personnel conflicts and Dana White’s visits to potential salon sites on military bases and Jay Goltz’s bizarre battle with his phone company, and we think we know what we’re talking about.

But we keep talking until we realize that some of the issues we are discussing are more complicated and more painful than we’d understood, as is often the case with matters of mental health. You should know this conversation contains frank discussion of depression and suicide. For listeners, this may be surprising—not because anyone would think that entrepreneurs are immune to the afflictions that plague us all, but because there aren’t many public forums where people confront those afflictions openly and genuinely and in real time. For us, this conversation was a strong reminder that we often don’t really know what others are experiencing, whether they be friends, colleagues, or family.

— Loren Feldman

Guests:

Laura Zander is co-founder and CEO of Jimmy Beans Wool.

Dana White is founder and CEO of Paralee Boyd hair salons.

Jay Goltz is founder and CEO of Artists Frame Service and Jayson Home.

Producer:

Jess Thoubboron is founder of Blank Word Productions.

Full Episode Transcript:

Loren Feldman:
Welcome, Jay, Dana, and Laura, great to have you here. Let’s start with you, Laura. We haven’t spoken in a little while. What’s going on?

Laura Zander:
Today is the first day in probably 30 days that our air quality is below 100 on the AQI index. So we have blue skies, and it’s gonna lift everybody’s spirits, I think. We’ve had here, in Reno—as you guys have possibly read—there are fires all over the place, just like last summer. And it’s unbelievable how oppressive and just depressing and the mood that it puts everybody in, and the havoc that it’s caused on the business and on people. We’re not really getting along. Everybody’s really stressed because, literally, there’s ash falling out of the sky. It just looks like it’s snowing all the time.

And obviously, we’re dealing with the least of it. I mean, bad air quality is nothing compared to what the people are dealing with who have to be evacuated. You guys might remember we had to be evacuated last year. There was a fire that stopped about 100 yards from our house. But yeah, I’m just dealing with… the last week or so has been, I’ll call it, “people drama.” But it’s just stress drama. I heard something on the news today that the county that we’re in, in northern Nevada, our COVID rates are just through the roof again, and that that’s possibly related to the air quality.

Loren Feldman:
Because everybody’s staying inside?

Laura Zander:
I don’t know if it’s everybody staying inside or we’re also, when we are outside, breathing smoky air. You know, everybody feels sick all the time, because your body is just fighting the smoke. So we’re all lethargic, we’re tired. I just want to crawl in bed. And it’s not just me.

Jay Goltz:
I always find it interesting when I say I’m from Chicago, they go, “All the snow and the cold…” And I’m thinking, “You know what? There are fires by you. There are hurricanes down South. There are floods. We get some snow and it melts.” It’s really never close to what you’re describing. It really isn’t. We’ve never had a crisis here in Chicago anything close to what you’re describing.

Loren Feldman:
You did have a big fire there a while back, Jay.

Jay Goltz:
That was 150 years ago, so we’re kind of over it.

Loren Feldman:
Laura, you said it’s “wreaking havoc.” Are there other impacts on the business?

Laura Zander:
Well, yeah, one of the things that we’re struggling with right now is we have these two businesses, and we have some people who share their time between the two businesses—some employees, particularly in our marketing department. So if somebody understands how to do newsletter programming, they’re doing it for both businesses.

We had some pretty massive drama between the two teams last week. Our team that is based out of Texas is mostly remote, and then our team that is in Nevada is all local. But we’re the ones that were under the smoke stress, and there’s just stress on both sides of it. And I was going to ask you—Jay, Dana—you’ve got four businesses: were some of the people from one business not getting along?

Jay Goltz:
I would say this—and I’m obviously backseat driving blind, I don’t know these people—I’m gonna guess, from what you’ve described, that one of them’s probably a jerk. My guess is that one of them probably makes it worse for everybody else, and I would start with that person to see what’s going on. Because the old, “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch,” it’s amazing how much damage one human being can do… just amazing. I would first look: is there somebody there that you already know doesn’t get along well with others and has an attitude problem and isn’t reasonable? That would be my first pass at it.

Dana White:
There’s a leader. There’s definitely a leader who has articulated how they feel, and maybe the others feel the same way. But they said, “Hey, point your anger at this, at the others over there.” And so find out who the leader is and then start there.

Jay Goltz:
Are we wrong, Laura?

Laura Zander:
You’re not wrong, but you’re not altogether right. I think that there are leaders on both sides. You know, we took this business over a year and a half ago, or almost two years now. And when we did that, we combined the teams together, and it didn’t go well at all. And there’s just still some resentment and kind of an inability to collaborate and move past it, and I don’t know if they recognize the resentment. I’m sure they don’t.

Jay Goltz:
Who do these people report to?

Laura Zander:
They each report to our respective general managers. So what I’ve done is—

Jay Goltz:
I question that. I just want you to think about that for a second. Creative people working in marketing are reporting to a general manager—the same manager who’s in charge of the loading dock and making sure that the air conditioning works and the production. I’m not so sure they’re qualified to oversee those people.

Laura Zander:
Okay, then, I call it our general manager, but both of our general managers are also creatives. They do all the product development. One of them is our yarn director, so they’re experts in the field. They just also happen to be good at numbers and processes.

Jay Goltz:
Have you gotten involved at all?

Laura Zander:
Yeah, and then that’s what spins me out of control. Because my confidence is shit, so I feel like it’s all my fault, and I’m sure it is all my fault.

Loren Feldman:
Wait, why is it all your fault?

Laura Zander:
Because everything is all my fault.

Jay Goltz:
It is. Wait a second. It is her fault. That doesn’t mean your confidence should be shot, though. It means that you need to go in there and clean it up and do a Zoom call with everyone and go, “Guys. Let’s quote Rodney King. Can we just all get along? What’s the real problem here?” And lead, lead, and get some honesty on the table, and have a little meeting and see what comes out. Because I don’t know that the managers in charge have the skill-set or the position, if they’re both general managers of separate businesses. I’m not so sure they’ve got the bandwidth to be able to—

Laura Zander:
It’s the bandwidth, and that’s what really bubbled up, because we had another issue earlier this week that came up. What it really illuminated was that both of our general managers are stretched so thin, and they’re doing so much, and they are doing a great job, and they are working their asses off. And so they’ve just been kind of letting things go and haven’t been mentoring quite as much as perhaps they need to and keeping an eye on some stuff. And we didn’t realize that they did need to do that.

So what I did is, I pulled everybody together. About two or three weeks ago, I put together this whole presentation about our business as a whole, and that we are one business combined that is constituted of a couple of different brands. So we need to start thinking about priorities for the business as a whole. Because there’s a little bit of—one of the businesses is a manufacturer, the other is a customer of that manufacturer. And so as a customer of the manufacturer, we get upset here in Reno that the business in Texas is not supplying us fast enough—or whenever they make a mistake. Then there’s fault kind of thrown both ways. And it’s not that bad. I’m making it sound a lot more dramatic than it is. I think it’s probably very normal, and it makes sense to me that it’s normal.

But I think part of where I feel the guilt and the torture is that I get caught up in the drama. We’re all creatives. We’re all emotional, which is part of what makes us good at what we do. And I get caught up in the drama, too, and I don’t ever want somebody to feel bad and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so, I didn’t do a good job of being more stoic and being more objective when these issues bubble up and when these conflicts bubble up.

Jay Goltz:
So let’s boil down what you just said, because that was very good. You just said: you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and blah, blah, blah—which means you’re not holding people responsible. You’re not having honest dialogue with them and saying, “Yesterday, you said to so and so, ‘Blah, blah, blah.’ Do you think that was productive? Because it wasn’t, and we need to work together.” And you also said: No one’s mentoring them. Which also means no one’s managing them. So basically, you have a bunch of people who aren’t being managed, thrown together, and they’re supposed to figure it out. And then their managers are overwhelmed. So yeah, this is your fault. I’m not saying you should feel bad about it or guilty, because you’ve got a lot of stuff going on. But yeah, this is for you to fix. There’s no magic wand. This is for you to fix. Somebody needs to take charge of the situation. And that’d be you.

Laura Zander:
Yep, same page.

Jay Goltz:
And you can do it.

Laura Zander:
That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing it the last week or two. But I mean, recognizing that and taking the action, it’s hard. It’s stressful. I am not sleeping. I didn’t sleep. I feel like I’m gonna throw up all the time. It’s like, literally last week, I had three of my worst days in work history. It was just that stressful and traumatic.

Loren Feldman:
What caused that? Why were they the worst days?

Laura Zander:
We had a blow up and a miscommunication. We are transitioning, so we have a new initiative that we’re going to work on. And so to work on that new initiative, we are elevating a number of people and giving them new things to work on, because that’s something that we do. It’s really important to us that people get to learn new things. And so as part of learning new things, we transition one person over here, and then another person’s going to take on her role and learn those new things. And then another person’s going to take on her role.

And it’s like one of those puzzles, where you have to move the pieces all around, and there’s that one empty space, and you’ve got to try to get them to all line up. So we had like seven people, or maybe five people, who were taking on new things all at the same time. And we had relied on two of the people to get together and to coordinate and manage the transition. And these two people are the people who don’t really get along. They would never say they didn’t. If they listened to this, they’re gonna say that that’s not true. But there’s some resentment and some history there. And so they didn’t communicate with each other. And so you know, my fault.

Jay Goltz:
Can I…?

Laura Zander:
Yeah, go ahead.

Jay Goltz:
I have to say, what you’re saying doesn’t make any sense. Your mission is to get the yarn out the door properly and to get everything to work smoothly. And now you’re telling us your mission is that people learn new things all the time. You’re not a school. What does that mean? I’m not saying that’s not a good thing. But your house is on fire, and you’re moving people around. “Oh, maybe it’ll be better over here, or over there.” You’ve got these specific problems, and everything you’re talking about has nothing to do with fixing those problems—giving people new jobs to learn new things in the middle of this. Why?

Laura Zander:
No, but our house wasn’t on fire. It wasn’t on fire until we started, and that’s why we thought it was a good time to be able to move some people around, because things were going so smoothly.

Jay Goltz:
Well, you obviously moved too many of them, it sounds like.

Laura Zander:
Well, no shit. Yeah, I know that.

Jay Goltz:
Okay, well, you didn’t say that.

Laura Zander:
I mean, thank you, Captain Obvious.

Jay Goltz:
I’m just the doctor here, and as the doctor, let me give you the prescription. You ready? Rocky II: Rocky’s in like the sixth, seventh, eighth round. He’s just getting his head beat in. He sits down in the corner, and he looks up at Mickey, and he goes, “I ain’t going down no more.” Boom. I want you to play that 400 times. Get that in your brain: “I ain’t going down no more.” Go out there and fix this stuff. You can do it.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, no, I mean, this week is so much better. We’ve moved through it. Now we’re all communicating. Now I figured out what I need to do to bring everybody together.

Jay Goltz:
Which I’m highlighting. You should have confidence. You’re fixing this. You’re pulling it off. It’s not about confidence. It’s about, you’ve got a lot going on there, and you’re figuring it out. Good for you. You’re a winner. You ain’t going down no more. Done.

Loren Feldman:
Laura, is this affecting the way you’re thinking about the business from a bigger perspective—what your hopes and dreams and goals are?

Laura Zander:
You mean, did I send some notes out last week and say, “Hey, anybody want to buy a business?” Like, I’m out. Like, I can’t take it anymore. It’s so freakin stressful.

Loren Feldman:
Really…

Laura Zander:
Oh, yeah. I mean—and yes, Jay, I recognize I screwed up. It’s my fault.

Jay Goltz:
No, I’m not calling it a screw-up. I’m not criticizing. Do not call it a screw-up. You bit off more than you could chew. You didn’t know that at the time. You figured it out, and you’re fixing it. So you don’t need to torture yourself. You certainly don’t need to torture me. You’ve figured it out, but my point is: You went and you bit off more than you could chew, and you’re fixing it. So this whole thing about “lack of confidence,” “overwhelmed,” “I want to get out of the business.” No, you’re figuring this stuff out. You’ve got a big job there, and you’re figuring it out. Good for you.

Laura Zander:
I know, but it’s hard. I’m tired of figuring it out!

Jay Goltz:
Who said it’s not hard?

Laura Zander:
Remember, if we go back maybe a month or two, or a couple of weeks ago, and we were talking about pay and how much the owners make and how much they draw from the business, and the guilt that I would feel? Last week was the, “Fuck this, man.” I mean, excuse me. Last week was the, “Man, like, you can’t pay me enough for this.” Like, I feel like this is why owners get paid more.

Loren Feldman:
So we got over that hurdle, huh?

Laura Zander:
Yes, we got over that hurdle last week.

Jay Goltz:
That’s all part of the process.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, because nobody else is stressing out.

Dana White:
I think, Laura, you’re right. I think you do have a lack of confidence. And me, I’m a different owner than you. I’m not involved in how they feel, unless how they feel is disrupting something at the ownership level. I’m not saying you’re not committed, but had I managed my business differently, if I were a different owner, I would have quit and missed these opportunities that have come around a year later. And what I’m hearing is, I’m not sure you’re the owner for this business, for this type of business, because you’re involved in things that, yes, they need you. But you’re invested in such a way where you’re ready to walk away from what you’ve built. And I’m just like, “No.” I’m just like, “No. Don’t do that. No, don’t say that. No, don’t do that.” And I’m like, “Why does she even know all of this? It sounds like there are people who report to her. She’s involved in stuff that’s way below her paygrade, in my opinion.”

When I got involved in the grassroots of my business—with “Dana likes me,” or just whatever, the stuff that just didn’t have to do with what the owner should be dealing with—yeah, I wanted to quit. It wasn’t worth it for me. But until I stepped back, found somebody who’s handling that, and only brings me what I need to know so I can keep my vision and grow this company… And I don’t think that’s the space you’re in. You sound like a co-worker dealing with these issues. That’s all. I love you.

Laura Zander:
No, that’s a great point.

Dana White:
I love you. [Laughter]

Jay Goltz:
Okay, so the problem is, you said, “Oh, people need to learn new things.” It’s about recognizing the fact you did this to yourself, as we all do. You’re figuring it out, and you’re going to fix it. It’s that simple. You know, now they’re talking about a booster shot for the COVID thing? I’d like to give you a booster shot of resolve. I’d like to give you a resolve pill every day. Because that’s the difference between you and me. I’ve always had tremendous resolve. And believe me I’ve had hundreds of bad days.

When you have a bad day, you fall into this whole whiny, “Oh, I don’t want to do this anymore.” And it’s like, “Stop, just stop.” You’re figuring this out. You’re moving it ahead. You’ve got all the answers. You’ve got a big job there. You bit off a lot, and good for you. And in six months or a year or two years you’re gonna look back and say, “Yeah, I pulled this off.”

Dana White:
I think the bad days define you too much, with all the great things you’ve done.

Jay Goltz:
Yes, very good.

Dana White:
They just define you too much. The bad choices and the bad days, they define you too much. You’ve done so much good stuff.

Laura Zander:
Can I just say that Loren asked, “What’s going on?” I mean, today is fine. Yesterday was great. The day before it was good. But Loren asked what was going on last week, and so I’m describing and explaining what last week was like. I mean, we had three really bad days.

Loren Feldman:
That said, you did just tell us that you sent out notes asking if anybody wants to buy the company.

Laura Zander:
Well, I didn’t really. But I was just kidding. I texted Jay. No. I mean, of course not.

Loren Feldman:
Well, that’s good to hear.

Laura Zander:
No, but I texted Jay, and I’m just like, “You want to buy this? Like, I’m done.” But I mean, can I not feel that way? You guys have never felt that way?

Jay Goltz:
No, no, no, there’s the point. No, you can’t feel that way! You own a business. No, you can’t afford to have your little pity parties, because they waste a lot of time.

Dana White:
That’s not true!

Jay Goltz:
So yeah, I’m going to give you the answer. Yeah. No, pity parties are not productive.

Dana White:
No, she can afford to feel that way! A pity party for an hour is one thing.

Jay Goltz:
It was more than an hour.

Dana White:
Okay, a pity party for three days is one thing, but as long as that pity party doesn’t change the trajectory of your business and all of a sudden, you’re laying off people because you’re just throwing your pity party…

Jay Goltz:
It wastes a lot of time. It wastes a lot of time.

Dana White:
It doesn’t waste a lot of time, depending on what you do and where you are. How many times have I looked in the mirror and been like, “Eff this, I’m out!” But you’ve got to allow her to regroup and get up. That’s the beauty of what she’s doing. She gets up! I just wish she wouldn’t stay down for so long. And when she does stay down, it just defines her too much.

Laura Zander:
Yes, it’s very consuming. It’s very consuming.

Jay Goltz:
Yes, it’s consuming, so I’m not criticizing. I’m suggesting that you’d be more productive if you’d learn to just go, “All right, oops, screwed that up. All right, I’ll fix it.” How about the concept of no pity? How about that? Can we say that? I’m not saying it’s not hard. But can we make that a goal? “I’m gonna try not to have pity parties. I’m gonna try, next time something goes wrong, I’m gonna go, ‘All right. Learned from that. I’m gonna fix it tomorrow and move on.’” Can we try that?

Laura Zander:
No, I’ve got the books right here. I’m trying.

Jay Goltz:
You are. You’re doing a good job. I always say that.

Dana White:
It is what it is.

Laura Zander:
It is what it is.

Jay Goltz:
Yes. All right.

Dana White:
It is what it is. Deal with it. It is what it is. You’re operating with a good, noble purpose.

Jay Goltz:
All right. We’ve had a breakthrough. Okay.

Dana White:
Fuck you. [Laughter]

Loren Feldman:
Laura, one question.

Laura Zander:
Wow, this has been great for my confidence. Thank you so much.

Dana White:
No, Laura! I’m literally hugging a computer.

Loren Feldman:
Laura, we all know you’ve built a leading company in your industry, and you’re going to end up with an incredible business. And you won’t even remember these terrible days that you just had.

Jay Goltz:
Yes she will. But she’ll feel good that she conquered them.

Loren Feldman:
Laura, if you could solve one problem today, what problem would you want it to be? What’s really weighing on you?

Laura Zander:
Probably finding a really big thinker for Jimmy Beans Wool, for the Reno business—a really big thinker to lead the marketing team. Because we have a really good team of producers.

Loren Feldman:
That’s the role that you’ve been playing, right?

Laura Zander:
I had been, but I haven’t for the last year or two.

Loren Feldman:
Because you’ve been spending time in Texas.

Jay Goltz:
Don’t you think you’re very good at that?

Laura Zander:
I don’t know.

Jay Goltz:
I think you’re very good at that, so perhaps you’ve got it backwards. Maybe you need to not look for the big thinker. Maybe you need to be the big thinker, and you have to find somebody else to take over the daily management roles, which lots of people can do. Because I basically just described my business.

Loren Feldman:
That’s also what Dana was just saying, I think.

Dana White:
Yep.

Jay Goltz:
Easier to find a manager to manage than someone that—

Dana White:
A vision person.

Jay Goltz:
You live and breathe wool, and you’re good at it. That’s why you have a good business. So I don’t know that that should be the thing you should be delegating. On top of which, frankly, if someone’s that creative, what are they doing there? I mean, really?

Laura Zander:
Yeah, that’s a great point. Yeah, no, well, and in Nevada—the Jimmy Beans Wool side of things—I haven’t been involved in the day-to-day for a year and a half, with the exception of last week and kind of moving some people around.

Loren Feldman:
All right. Well, I suspect we will come back to these issues in the future. Let’s check in with Dana. Dana, you’ve been, I gather, wandering around the country checking out military bases.

Dana White:
I have.

Loren Feldman:
Tell us about that. What’s going on?

Dana White:
It’s been great. It’s been great. So I went down to San Antonio, Texas. And I visited Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base, and then shot over to North Carolina and spent the morning and part of the afternoon at Fort Bragg. And it was quite the eye-opening trip. You know, I’m an American, and to be on one of the largest army installations in the world, and with all that’s going on in Afghanistan and see these young men and women getting on planes, because they’re deploying out of Fort Bragg, was huge. Planes just landing and taking off, landing and taking off.

And so that was one side of it. And the other side of it was, the honor of being able to provide service to these people who need it on this base. The base is larger than the city of Detroit. And there are no female-driven, definitely no ethnic-hair-driven salons on base.

Jay Goltz:
Wait, when you say it’s larger than Detroit, by square foot, by person?

Dana White:
By square miles. The base is 281 square miles. Detroit is 130-something.

Jay Goltz:
Okay, but there’s way more people in Detroit, I assume, yes?

Dana White:
Ehhh… Detroit’s population has dwindled by the hundreds of thousands over the years. So I believe there are more people here, but it’s quite substantial. Fort Bragg isn’t about an open space with people scattered everywhere. They have 12 day cares, 14 high schools.

Jay Goltz:
So it’s clearly a city.

Loren Feldman:
14 high schools? Wow.

Dana White:
Yeah, 14 high schools. I could be wrong. But I know there’s 12 day cares, the housing options there? I mean, it blew my mind.

Jay Goltz:
So it’s a city, which I didn’t realize. Okay, got it.

Dana White:
They’d like two locations of Paralee Boyd on base, as well as products in all 14 of their exchanges, which is like their Target, around the base.

Jay Goltz:
Did you happen to notice what kind of picture framing they have there?

Dana White:
I don’t think they have any.

Jay Goltz:
Hmm. Interesting.

Dana White:
But I did notice that they don’t have any wool selection there. And I did ask the question, “How committed is the military and the exchange to providing mindfulness activities for the active duty service members and their families?” Because when walking through the exchange, I did not see a place for people to have supplies to knit.

Laura Zander:
No kidding…

Jay Goltz:
I’m seeing a partnership here. I’m seeing a three-way partnership here.

Dana White:
Ding ding ding! I’m a take-everybody-with-me type of person. So anyway, we went on base. They gave me a tour of most of it, I believe, or maybe a little under half of the base. I saw the Airborne Division. I saw the Delta Force building. Good luck trying to get in there. It was just amazing to see all that. They took me by the location. It’s about 1,500 square feet. As of this taping, I literally just got an email of the diagram of the spaces. And they are willing to work with me to do what I have to do to get the business in there. I’m sorry, I’m just so excited.

And then that’s not all. So next week, we have a phone call with the Europe division to start the process for putting me in Germany. And I’ll be getting the list today of the bases that they want Paralee Boyd to be rolled out in in the next two to four years, because we do want to have a layered and staggered opening for brand recognition. They gave me my marketing packet, the things I’ll be able to market—a lot of grassroots marketing. It’s not very social media, technical marketing. And they gave me how much it’s gonna cost to do some of the things, and a lot of that stuff is free—just as long as I’m willing to be there and get it done.

I’m really happy with how the numbers are looking at this point. Basically, “Dana, tell us how you want this space to be designed. Deliver your equipment. We’ll get it in there. We’ll get you up and running.” So that’s great. I think the longest part of this process is going to be the 45-plus-day permitting process. But what has gotten everybody so excited is the fact that there’s finally going to be a capable—demonstrated capable—salon on base for women.

Loren Feldman:
Do you have an official deal with them? Have you signed something?

Dana White:
No, we’re putting that together now, but, “We’re all so excited to email. It was such a pleasure to meet you. So here’s everything you need. Let’s get started. Make sure you fill this out.” The emails haven’t stopped coming since I left the base—literally since I left, driving back to the hotel: emails, emails, emails. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go. Scheduled calls. Emails. It’s great.

Laura Zander:
That is so cool.

Loren Feldman:
Do you have the money to proceed in the way that you’ve discussed with them?

Dana White:
I do. And so, considering that it’s going to be a lot cheaper than I expected, I believe I’ll be able to fund it. It also depends on the timeline. The other thing is that I’m going for my 8(a) certification. And so once that contract is signed…

Loren Feldman:
Explain what that is. That’s through the SBA?

Dana White:
Yep. 8(a) certification is for minority women, economically disadvantaged businesses. And it puts you at the head of the queue for RFPs.

Jay Goltz:
Requests for proposals.

Dana White:
Yep, requests for proposals for the government. It’s hard to get it, and you only can make a certain amount of money. But once you get it, you’re first in line for anything that the government needs. And if the government comes to you, or if the military comes to you, and you say, “Hey, I’ve got this contract. Can you give me money?” Then, a lot of times, that answer’s yes, because you’re not responding to a request for proposal. They are coming to you. So that’s Plan B for the money.

Loren Feldman:
What do you mean, you can only make a certain amount of money?

Dana White:
You can’t have a multimillion dollar business and get 8(a) certification.

Laura Zander:
Is that the economically disadvantaged part?

Dana White:
You can’t have a business the size of Diana’s or Jay’s and get 8(a) certification. You can only make a certain amount of money.

Loren Feldman:
If you get big after you have 8(a) certification, do you lose it?

Dana White:
Nope, I don’t think so.

Loren Feldman:
Has this had an impact on your franchising timeline? Are you still proceeding with that the same way?

Dana White:
I still am. I’m behind in my homework, but I still am going forward with franchising. Absolutely.

Laura Zander:
Do you know where you would start? Or do you just kind of start wherever?

Dana White:
I think I’m just gonna start wherever, preferably closer to home. Not necessarily Michigan. We’ve had a couple inquiries from Chicago. So that would be ideal.

Loren Feldman:
Jay, was that you?

Jay Goltz:
I didn’t want to disclose that, but since you’ve cornered me, yeah.

Dana White:
Yeah, so we’re looking at Chicago, Atlanta. Preferably not L.A. to start. Because that’s a hike to get there and to be supportive. But anything from Tennessee, Kentucky over would be great.

Loren Feldman:
And are you on track with the design and with the numbers, knowing what you’re going to charge franchisees and all that?

Dana White:
Yes, but here’s the thing, I still need to pick a design team. And I haven’t picked one yet, because I’m not sure the design teams I’ve engaged are looking at my opportunity.

Loren Feldman:
What do you mean?

Dana White:
So, I don’t want to say they’re nickel-and-diming me. They’re not. But I’ll probably have 10 military locations, franchises. And there’s a boutique hotel I’m meeting with next month. There’s gonna be some more company-owned stores. This is a large opportunity for a design team. Why are you asking me to pay you thousands of dollars to do a mock-up?

Jay Goltz:
I can tell you why. Because they’ll go broke chasing people like you. Because you’re not the only one that’s got the big opportunity. They can’t go ahead and give extensive plans to 10 people hoping. For all they know, you’re shopping around to 10 different companies, so I can understand that.

Dana White:
Mm mm. They all know there’s only three.

Jay Goltz:
But even three. That’s a lot of work.

Dana White:
But that’s the thing. It’s not even extensive plans. It’s a rendering.

Jay Goltz:
Oh, all right.

Dana White:
It’s a rendering. I’m not asking for architectural drawings. I need a rendering, so I can decide if the look you’re going to give me is what I want on bases. And so I think asking me to spend thousands of dollars to get a rendering—which I’ve got to spend thousands of dollars to make my decision—and then you wonder why the big boys get the dollars? Well, the big boys have come to me and said, “Listen, we’ll put out an RFP to 20 designers. We’ll let you pick, and that’s who you go with.” Like, wow. And so there are some smaller firms that I want to work with. They want thousands of dollars for a rendering before I even decide.

And so we’re looking at a Germany location, a Japan location, a South Korea location, not to mention several bases here in the United States. Not to mention franchise opportunities, plus redoing and updating the Midtown location. And you want me to pay how much for a rendering, to make my decision? Ten thousand dollars? That’s a lot. That’s a lot. Because if I don’t like it, they’re like, “Well, we’ll just change it.” Yeah, but if I just don’t like it, and I like somebody else’s, I’m out $10,000 for you to try.

And that’s what’s so frustrating about being a small business owner. You spend so much money for people to try. They say: “I can do it, I can do it, I can do it.” Next thing you know, you’re out $5,000 in marketing. Why? Because they’re trying. So that’s hard, and I’m just not interested in paying that kind of money for people to try to get it.

Jay Goltz:
No, that’s a problem for sure. I can see where you’d be hesitant to do that. And clearly your opportunity is big enough that they want to get in the game. They should take a chance on it, I guess.

Loren Feldman:
How did you find these three design firms? Are they all in Detroit?

Dana White:
Yes. One was recommended to me. But the other two: one is one I’ve wanted to work with for a very long time, the other one is somebody I met through a friend. I really love all of their work. I kind of have it narrowed down to my top two. But I’m looking to talk to people who may be able to give me some insight and say, “Yeah, Dana, pay the money.” Most people I’m talking to are like, “What? No, don’t pay that. They should be able to do a rendering. Especially since you already have a location. They just go in there and take some pictures, do a rendering, give you something before you give them a dollar.”

Jay Goltz:
Listen, I’ve gotta tell you, we make our proposals for putting artwork in corporations. We put a lot of energy into it, and we certainly can’t charge for it. So that’s not an unheard of thing. People do put some time in.

Dana White:
Just a little bit of time. But I’m not asking them to design the space. Just give me a rendering based on what we talked about.

Loren Feldman:
All right. Again, lots of issues here that we’ll be coming back to. Jay, what’s going on with you?

Loren Feldman:
I gather you’re not having a love fest with your phone company.

Jay Goltz:
No, I can’t, I’m speechless with this. You might have heard of the company AT&T. They were double-billing me a couple of years ago. And we would say, “Wait.” “Oh, don’t worry about it. Just pay the bill. Don’t worry about it. We’re going to straighten it out.” And this went on for a year.

Loren Feldman:
Double-billing you, meaning they would send you two bills?

Jay Goltz:
Yeah, it was for thousands of dollars. It was complicated. And I really wasn’t in the middle of it. To make a long story short: I had to hire a lawyer, and I had to sue them to get my money back. And I had to go to a conference downtown with the lawyer they flew in, like a murder trial, and I had to say to them, “We did nothing wrong. You owe me”—it was big money. I don’t know, it was $80,000, $100,000. It was big money at this point.

Loren Feldman:
And along the way, they were saying to you…

Jay Goltz:
“Don’t worry about it. We’re gonna get this straightened out.”

Loren Feldman:
“We’re going to keep billing you. Just keep paying it anyway.”

Jay Goltz:
Yeah, because if you don’t, they have this funny thing: Your phones get shut off. I wish I was making this up. But this is what happened. It was like I was held hostage. So then, their lawyer comes in and says, “Yeah, they don’t like giving money back.” And I said, “We did nothing wrong, and you owe me this money.” So he made it clear, we were gonna have to take a little haircut here just not to go to court. So I ended up getting like, I don’t remember, 85 cents on the dollar back or something.

Loren Feldman:
What was their justification for not paying you everything that you had overpaid them?

Jay Goltz:
The legal process.

Loren Feldman:
They weren’t contesting it. They didn’t claim that you actually—

Jay Goltz:
No, really. Well, you never know what happens when you go to court. No, it’s extortion. There was no hiding it. It was just legal extortion: “Well, you can go to court, but you don’t know what’s going to happen.” I forget the word he used, but, “You’re going to have to give us something.” Okay. So I did it, left. Guess what? My phones were shut off again yesterday because I got the same problem again.

Loren Feldman:
Wait… They shut off your phones.

Jay Goltz:
Yeah, yeah. Because we started getting double-billed again. Now, though, there’s a case manager on it. And I have a letter from last time saying that—I think I’m going to be able to fix it this time. But I don’t even have a word for it. It’s exasperating. I don’t even have a word for it. It’s just like, really? And again, we did nothing wrong. So yeah, I spent some time on that this week.

Loren Feldman:
Why are you still working with AT&T?

Jay Goltz:
Because there’s a difference between—and I really don’t know the terms—there’s fiber and then there’s copper wire, and some of it doesn’t work as well. It’s a technical thing that I haven’t spent—in my delegation—I haven’t gotten into the nitty gritty of it. But there’s a reason why. There are some advantages to having some AT&T lines. But I have to tell you, at this point, I’m gonna get involved myself and go, “Are you sure we can’t totally leave them?” Because it’s really mind-boggling. You wouldn’t have thought this could happen.

Loren Feldman:
All right, we’re just about out of time. Laura, I just want to come back to you. Are you feeling okay? Where are we leaving you?

Laura Zander:
Rocky II.

Jay Goltz:
You ain’t going down no more.

Dana White:
You ain’t going down no more!

Loren Feldman:
Ooh, it’s Jayna!

Laura Zander:
I think what hit me—and you may want to cut this out—I realize one of the reasons that I share my lows more than I share my highs is, I mean, you guys know. I’m depressed, and I’ve always been depressed. Like, it is hard for me to get out of bed every day. I mean, every day, every day, I have to force myself to get out of bed, and to not just crawl under the sheets. And it’s been that way my whole life.

Jay Goltz:
That is a legitimate explanation. I might even feel bad now. But I don’t feel bad because it’s still good advice. But you’re right. I fully respect and appreciate that. So like I said, I’m not beating up on you. I’m not criticizing you. I’m just telling you—

Laura Zander:
No, it’s good. You’re totally right. I work so hard—and maybe I don’t get the same results as somebody else who works just as hard, right? But I work so hard on stoicism and trying to let things go and trying to be productive and not going down this hole. But you know, the last few years have been hard. And we’ve had lots of ups. I can tell you all kinds of great stuff that’s happened over the last couple of weeks. It looks like we’re gonna get the bank loan. It looks like this building’s gonna go through. We’re gonna get it at a great rate. Our staff is really stoked on it.

Loren Feldman:
We talked about this the last time you were on. You’re buying a new building.

Laura Zander:
We’re buying a new building. I’ve got a new brand that I’m gonna be the big thinker on and launch. But I feel like—and maybe this is the wrong thing to do—but I’ve always felt like nobody talks about the dark parts. And that’s not true. A lot of people do talk about the dark parts.

Dana White:
They mention it.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, they mention it. And so I’m very open with—I mean, I thought about killing myself last week. You know, like I was that low. Well, I mean, that’s because everybody in my family has killed themselves. So that’s just training. That’s the first place that you go.

Jay Goltz:
All right, there’s a little bit of an exaggeration there. I doubt that everyone in your family has killed themselves.

Laura Zander:
No. They haven’t. Good point. But multiple people—you know, my mom, her mom, my uncle, blah, blah, blah. So, you know, there’s some programming there that I’ve recognized intellectually that this is programming. It doesn’t mean I’m gonna do it. It doesn’t mean I’m seriously thinking about it. But I know that I’m going to a dark spot, which is an emotional spot. It just is. And all I can do is go for a run or sometimes just wait it out.

Dana White:
I’m sorry to interrupt you, Laura, but does your person that’s next to you in this company, do they know that?

Laura Zander:
Oh, totally. I’m super open about it.

Dana White:
And so here’s the thing. Ashley, my operations manager, does a very good job of managing how involved I get and what she brings to me.

Laura Zander:
Yes.

Dana White:
Because she knows how low I can go. Not low like I’m mean, but how much it’ll weigh on me. And she’s like, “I need you to focus on this so this company can grow. Don’t worry about what she said when we fired her. She’s gone.”

Laura Zander:
I will say, 97 percent of the time, that is the case here as well.

Dana White:
Okay, great.

Laura Zander:
We have just been pushing my number two, both of my number two’s—so my number four—have been pushing so freaking hard for the last six months. And I’m so grateful for that. Like, I couldn’t ask for them to work harder, and they’re working on the right things. But as a result, they haven’t had the energy—or perhaps they’ve slipped a little bit—and they’ve let things come to me that have affected me emotionally. And I have made the mistake of jumping in to try to help them, because we’re still building our teams.

Like Jay said, we’re still trying to figure out if this production manager is going to work. He may not. We’re on our third one. I mean, we lost five people two weeks ago. So we had five people leave, all at once. So we’re hiring and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s all good stuff. It’s all fine. It’s all gonna work out. But, you know, you take the COVID, the smoke, the overwhelmed. You take a couple of emotional people, you take me being emotional, blah, blah, blah, and it just hits you sometimes.

Jay Goltz:
Okay, just for clarity, you said, “We all know this.” I really didn’t know that it was that bad. And if anything gets cut from this, it shouldn’t be this part. It should be me going off on you, because I didn’t realize that. So you’d have every excuse to—I get it, I get it. Good for you. And good for you for being honest, because you’re certainly not the only person that’s dealing with that.

Loren Feldman:
Yeah, I wanted to say that, too. Thank you for saying this.

Dana White:
Yeah, that’s huge.

Laura Zander:
And I’m very grateful that, at almost 47 years old, like 99.8 percent of the time, I know: It just is what it is. I mean, my freakin’ chemistry is off. I create different levels of dopamine and serotonin and all this than other people do. Like, I know that. And I can see, I can look at it from the outside—most of the time, the gross majority of the time. But you know…

Jay Goltz:
Listen, I am painfully aware of mental illness. I have three sisters, and one of them, she killed herself. And I have a picture of me and her in my office just to remind me to be kind to people and just to remind me that life isn’t fair—because she had that life and I have this life. And so I absolutely hear where you’re coming from. And I will maybe wrap my pep talk in a little more niceness, or whatever you want to call it.

Dana White:
No.

Laura Zander:
You don’t need to.

Jay Goltz:
Yeah, because I have to tell you, I’ve certainly had horrible frustration and horrible stress and all that. But I’ve never experienced… And I’ll tell you, I’ve had the waking up in the middle of the night thing, which is this horrible, dark feeling, which I do think is, whatever that’s called, anxiety. I’ve had that a little bit. But yes, good for you.

Laura Zander:
My husband doesn’t have it. I mean, he hates his job most of the time, but…

Jay Goltz:
He hates his boss, that’s the problem.

Laura Zander:
Yes. But that just is what it is, like it doesn’t take him down some dark hole.

Loren Feldman:
Laura, when you’re in a dark place, do you have someone that you can talk to?

Laura Zander:
Yeah, I talk to you guys. And again, I’m experienced in this. I am able to step outside and be like, “Okay, I’m in a dark place. Don’t make any decision.” You know, it’ll pass. My dad actually told me—one of the few pieces of great parental wisdom that he passed on—I don’t remember who the artist was, but it’s this series of four paintings of this river. In the first painting, it’s a little baby on the boat going down the river, and it’s all nice and peaceful and beautiful. And then the second one is, it’s kind of exciting, and it’s a teenager on there. And then the third is, you and your kids are all in the boat, and it’s just rapids, and it’s crazy, and it’s chaotic. And then the fourth one is, you’re older, and again, it’s serene and beautiful, and the sun is setting.

And so I just keep thinking, “I’m in the rapids.” I mean, I’ve got a 12-year-old kid, I’ve got a husband who I work with. We have a lot going on. And I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing. I force myself to get out of bed. I force myself to go for a run. So when I do go to these dark places, I have the awareness to know that it’s happening, which is something I didn’t have 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Ten years ago, I would just drink to make it go away. Now, you know what? If I need to take a nap and just escape for an hour, I’ll take a nap.

Jay Goltz:
So the disconnect here was when you say “lack of confidence.” The fact is, you should be extremely proud of yourself, as I am, that despite all of that, you power yourself through it. And you are Rocky, because you ain’t going down. You are.

Loren Feldman:
But Laura, you know that you could call any of us any time. But you do have somebody with professional training that you can talk to as well, I hope?

Laura Zander:
Oh, no, not in years. Because I’ve just never… It’s not that bad. I mean, it may sound bad to you guys, because you’ve never felt that way. But as somebody who has felt this way their entire lives, it’s not. Like, I don’t know, it just is what it is.

Dana White:
I’m with you, Laura.

Laura Zander:
Somebody who has a hip that’s a bum hip, that’s just how it feels.

Dana White:
Yeah. You get used to it, and you manage it, and she’s absolutely right. Sometimes I beat myself up for not being farther along in my business. You know, “Oh, nine years, why?” And part of the reason why I haven’t been as productive is because there are the dark days. And there are the messages that have been sent from my past or whatever causes the depression, but depression runs in my family, untreated. And so, yeah, to hear you articulate what it feels like to have to get up, and the days you don’t want to, and to see the grace that you give yourself about saying, “You know what? If I need to take a nap, I’m not less of a business owner because I need to take a nap right now or read a book for two hours.” I’m just now learning that it’s okay to have a seat sometimes, because there’s a lot going on in my head, similar to what you’re dealing with.

Jay Goltz:
And the fact is, you are the perfect example of, you deal with it. And you are dealing with it.

Laura Zander:
What else are you gonna do?

Jay Goltz:
Well, there’s some people who don’t deal with it.

Loren Feldman:
All right, my thanks to Jay Goltz, Dana White, and Laura Zander. I always thank you guys for sharing, but you’ve certainly given new meaning to that this week, and I know a lot of people will benefit from it. So, thank you all.

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