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Episode 124: Should HR Advocate for the Business or the Employee?
Should HR Advocate for the Business or the Employee?

This week, Karen Clark Cole, Jay Goltz, and Sarah Segal talk about hiring an HR person. First, how do you handle HR issues before you can afford HR people? Is software the answer? At what size does a business need a full-time person? Do you hire someone who has experience but who might not be used to getting his or her hands dirty? Or do you hire someone you can mold to fit the culture of your business? Jay, who likes to say the entrepreneur is often the worst person to interview candidates, is currently interviewing candidates to be his head of HR, and he’s a little surprised at how few resumes he’s been getting. Plus: Sarah’s looking for office space and not finding much that would be acceptable. And how are Karen and Sarah doing now that, technically, they have been employees in their own businesses for a year?

Bonus Episode: Jason Fried Didn’t Mean to Blow Up Basecamp. But He’d Do It Again

This week, in a special bonus episode, Jason Fried talks about why things got crazy at software maker Basecamp and what it has meant for the business. As you may recall, in the spring of 2021, Fried, CEO and co-owner, issued a blog post edict eliminating a slew of benefits, shutting down a committee that had been attempting to address diversity issues, and barring discussion of all social or political issues on work forums. The email produced a backlash that culminated in a third of the company’s 60-some employees choosing to leave. The rupture was especially stunning coming at Basecamp, which has since re-branded by returning to its original name, 37signals, and which has long had a reputation for treating employees well, including offering remote work long before it was commonplace. When the story broke, some business owners applauded Fried for taking a stand. Others wondered how any policy that resulted in the departure of a third of a company’s employees could be worthy of praise.

Quiet Quitting: Another Gift Brought to You by Corporate America

This week, in episode 123 and in light of reports that half of the U.S. workforce has “quietly quit” their jobs, Shawn Busse, Paul Downs, and William Vanderbloemen talk about the latest rage: Is quiet quitting something new? Is it just a media creation? Have Shawn, Paul, and William experienced it in their businesses? And who’s to blame? Plus, the three owners explain how they hire for engagement and how they’ve changed their hiring processes in response to the pandemic and the labor shortage. For example, Paul explains why, in this brave new world, he continues to flip conventional wisdom on its head: Instead of hiring slow and firing fast, he’s been hiring fast and firing slow. And he says it’s working.

We Have a Meeting With Costco!

This week, Hans Schrei and Sarah Segal talk about what it takes to break into Costco. How do you get on their shelves? If you do get there, how do you make sure your product will fly off of those shelves? And if you succeed, will you have the financing you’ll need to ramp up production? Along the way, Sarah offers some tips on enlisting Costco influencers, and Hans explains the inner workings of Wunderkeks’ equity crowdfunding campaign, where you can invest as little as $150 and where the company hopes to raise $1 million. Plus: Sarah responds to a smart listener’s suggestion of how to avoid getting ghosted by potential clients after preparing elaborate and expensive proposals.

You Take a Stand

This week, in part because I’m on vacation, and in part because I’ve wanted to do this for some time, we’re offering a replay of an episode we recorded more than two years ago. It was one of our early sessions, and it was recorded shortly after George Floyd was murdered. In the episode, I asked Karen Clark Cole, William Vanderbloemen, and Dana White to talk about how they viewed their responsibilities as business leaders at such a fraught moment. What, if anything, were they saying to their customers? What were they saying to their employees? It started as a conversation, but Dana took the lead quickly and powerfully. She talked about what it’s been like to so often be the lone Black voice in the room (including this one). She talked about what it’s like for African-American employees to come to work and wonder where their company and their colleagues stand. She drew a line in the sand. “Why is it hard?” she asked. “You’re either over here, or you’re over there.” More than a few listeners have told me that Dana’s words changed the way they view their responsibilities. Even if you’ve already heard this episode, I recommend listening again—especially given that business leaders are again being asked where they stand on social and political issues, whether it’s about race or abortion or the climate or democracy. If you haven’t already heard the episode, I can assure you that you will not soon forget it.

Never miss a 21 Hats Podcast episode
Here’s My New Succession Plan: I Can’t Die

This week, Shawn Busse, Jay Goltz, and Liz Picarazzi discuss their succession options and—if they could go back in time—what advice they would give their early-stage selves. Liz would tell herself to get some help with administrative tasks, Shawn would tell himself to find a mentor (although he’s not sure he would have listened to the advice), and Jay would tell himself that there’s an obvious solution to the chaos caused by fast growth. Plus: How Liz changed the narrative after Citibin’s bout with bad publicity. And we have suggestions for a listener who asks: How do you know when it’s time to quit the day job?

Surviving Bad Clients and Bad Partners

This week, Shawn Busse and Paul Downs talk about what they’ve learned from their worst client experiences. Shawn, for example, tells us that he’s come to think about taking on a client much the way he thinks about hiring an employee. And Paul stresses the importance of watching what he says about difficult clients to his employees, because he doesn’t want to encourage a cynical attitude. From bad clients, our conversation shifts to bad partnerships. Even though their own partnerships ended poorly, both Shawn and Paul emphasize that having a partner can be invaluable in getting a business off the ground. In fact, Paul says he might even consider taking on a partner again. Plus, both Shawn and Paul explain why all the talk of recession is not giving them second thoughts about their ambitious marketing plans.

Trash, Rats, and Garbage Juice: A Case Study in PR

This week, Liz Picarazzi tells Jay Goltz and Sarah Segal about her first brush with bad publicity. Liz’s debacle started with a negative post that appeared in a prominent local blog. It was about a Times Square pilot program for which her business, Citibin, is supplying trash bins. The problem? The bins were not being maintained properly, and there were photos to prove it. At the time we recorded this conversation, Liz was bracing for additional stories in both the New York Post and The New York Times. Both of those stories have since been published—we’ll talk about them in a coming episode—and you can find links to all of the coverage in the show notes. For Liz, perhaps the biggest challenge was defending her company without trashing her client.

“I Think I’m Screwed”

This week, Jay Goltz tells Shawn Busse and Karen Clark Cole about a dream he had recently. It was a dream, of all things, about this very podcast, and on it, someone—it was a guy—was talking about how his business was faring: “I think I’m screwed,” he says in Jay’s dream. But who was it? And why was he screwed? Jay woke up before those answers were revealed. So we did some interpreting on this week’s real podcast. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t that hard to interpret! Plus: Shawn explains why he thinks his website is no longer performing. Karen explains why she thinks it’s actually easier to onboard an employee who will work remotely. And Jay and Karen discuss whether it’s time to give up on things going back to the way they were.

Are There Enough Hours in Your Day?

This week, Paul Downs, Sarah Segal, and Laura Zander discuss their daily routines, how those routines have been affected by the pandemic, whether they think they’re working too much or too little, and whether they would join a peer group where they would be exposed to other owners who might be working harder and having greater success. Plus: Laura places her bet on influencer marketing, Paul says his new marketing campaign has already paid off, and Sarah explains why not one of her employees has ever asked her for a raise.

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