This week, in episode 92, we introduce another new member of the 21 Hats Podcast team, Liz Picarazzi, who talks Shawn Busse and Paul Downs through a series of challenges she’s faced at her business, Citibin. Among those challenges: why she outsourced her manufacturing to China, why she’s trying to bring it back, why she’s struggling to find an American fabricator that wants her business, why she thinks she wasted all of the money she spent last year on digital marketing, how she managed to double sales anyway, and where she found the right person to handle the aspects of running Citibin that she doesn’t think she’s good at.
This week, in episode 91, we introduce a new member of the 21 Hats Podcast team, Shawn Busse, who tells Jay Goltz and Laura Zander about an intriguing challenge he faces. Twenty-two years ago, Shawn co-founded a marketing firm called Kinesis, but now he’s trying to convince clients that it takes more than just marketing. Sometimes, it’s not enough just to drive more leads. Sometimes, you have to step back and take a deeper look at your business, which not every client is ready to do. In fact, it took Shawn 10 years (and the Great Recession) to do it with his own business.
This week, in a special bonus episode, we talk to Steve Krull and Dan Golden, co-founders of Be Found Online, a digital marketing agency based in Chicago. In the second quarter of 2020, as COVID hit and their clients stopped advertising, Krull and Golden watched helplessly as their agency lost 40 percent of its revenue. And then things got much worse: By the end of the year, both of their wives would be diagnosed with cancer. This is a conversation about how Krull and Golden have coped with matters big and small, personal and professional, throughout an experience they compare to being in a knife fight in the middle of a forest fire.
This week, in episode 90, we have a special guest, Fred Warmbier, owner of a metal-finishing business he founded in Cincinnati in 1998. About 10 years ago, Warmbier was ready to walk away from that business. “It just never seemed like I could have the type of business that I wanted,” he says, “where things worked properly and our employees were happy and our customers were happy.”
That changed when he discovered the Deming Management Method through a consultant, Kelly Allan, who helped him tame the chaos. Where does one start with Deming? “You start,” says Allan, who is chairman of the Advisory Council of The W. Edwards Deming Institute, “where the pain is.” As it happens, and as he discusses in this conversation, Fred Warmbier has experienced more than his share of pain.
So, I decided to give the 21 Hats Podcast crew this week off. Between the Memorial Day holiday and our first 21 Hats in-person event the previous week in Chicago—attended by five of the podcast regulars—it seemed the right thing to do. It also seemed like a great opportunity to reprise one of our favorite all-time episodes. It’s not a used episode; it’s a certified pre-owned episode, or better yet, a greatest hits episode. We first published it in December of 2021, and it features highlights taken from the podcasts we’d published up until that point that cover many of the risks and rewards of business ownership, including what it’s like to sell your business, to fire an employee, to risk your own home in order to get financing, and even to deal with serious mental health issues. If you’re new to the podcast, I think you’ll find that these conversations bring real context to the journeys of the entrepreneurs you’ve been following here. But even if you’ve heard some of these discussions before, I think you’ll find them a refreshing reminder that choosing to build a business can be a noble mission, but it generally doesn’t come with an owner’s manual. We’re all figuring it out as we go.
This week, in episode 89, our last episode of 2021, we take a look back at the conversations we’ve had this year about the rewards and responsibilities of business ownership, including what it’s like to sell your business, to fire an employee, to risk your own home in order to get financing, to have to make a bet-the-company decision, and to deal with mental health issues, even thoughts of suicide. In this bonus episode, we highlight some of our happiest, smartest, funniest, and most difficult exchanges from the past year.
This week, in episode 88, Jay Goltz and William Vanderbloemen talk about what it takes—in the throes of an unprecedented labor shortage—to hold on to your best people, the ones whose departures might send you looking for a trash can. They also discuss whether “hire slow” still works, whether it’s a good idea to rehire a former employee, whether it’s still possible to do a meaningful reference check, how to use 360 reviews and personality tests, and finally, whether Jay and William would be ready to sell their business if someone were to come along and offer them twice what they think it’s worth.
This week, in episode 87, Paul Downs, Dana White, and Laura Zander talk about the lessons they’ll take from 2021 and what they’re hoping to accomplish in 2022. Paul thinks he’s found an alternative sales channel that will lessen his dependency on Google. Laura, who built Jimmy Beans Wool on ecommerce, is planning a renewed emphasis on brick-and-mortar retail. And Dana White is working on building the team that will help her pursue her remarkable opportunities with franchising and the military. Plus, we talk about how comfortable the owners feel showing up at work in a brand new car.
This week, in episode 85, Paul Downs, Jay Goltz, and Laura Zander talk about the bonuses they plan to pay this year—and how their bonus plans and philosophies have evolved over time: Are the payments a reward for company performance? Are they a reward for personal performance? Are they supposed to motivate? Or are they just a thank you? Then the owners talk management, a discussion inspired by last week’s episode with Dana White about navigating the space between being a pushover and being a jerk. Plus: Are 360 reviews good management or are they kind of creepy?
This week, in episode 84, Dana White takes us along for the ride, sharing the remarkable opportunities and the daunting challenges she’s confronting simultaneously. In a one-on-one conversation, we catch Dana at an emotional moment. After a triumphant trip to Germany, where she expects to open salons on multiple military bases, she’s just returned to Detroit—only to learn that the team she’s counting on is showing serious cracks. Even as she’s signing contracts with the military, getting ready to roll out her franchising plan, and courting newfound investor interest in funding the development of her salon management software, those cracks have shaken Dana and left her questioning her approach as a CEO. Ultimately, she talks about those moments many entrepreneurs experience in the cold of night, when things aren’t going well, and they realize this is all on them. In those moments, Dana confesses, “I’m scared. And I feel alone.”