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Episode 102: What If I Get the Contract?
What If I Get the Contract?

This week, Liz Picarazzi tells Jay Goltz that she’s pursuing multiple sales opportunities—and ponders what would happen if those opportunities actually came to fruition. Would her company, Citibin, be able to handle the additional volume? “In my fantasy world, where I am a lot,” Liz says, “I look at where this could go. And just like you, Jay, I go to, ‘How in the world would I produce all of these?’” Liz and Jay also talk about the pros and cons of pricing transparency: Do you volunteer your premium price up front? On your website even? Or do you wait until you’ve made your sales pitch and gotten your customer excited? Plus: we indulge a little further discussion on the merits of the 21 Hats brand.

Why I Sold 21 Hats

This week, in episode 101, the tables are turned, as I announce that I have sold 21 Hats and then take questions from Shawn Busse, Karen Clark Cole, and Jay Goltz. The buyer is Toby Scammell, founder of Womply, which provides software services to small businesses and helped more than a million of them obtain Paycheck Protection Program loans. I will continue as editor-in-chief, but much of what the sale will mean for 21 Hats has yet to be determined—including, for example, and as we discuss here, whether we will keep the 21 Hats name. Meanwhile, Shawn, Karen, and Jay also talk about how Karen solves problems for her big tech clients and what smaller businesses can learn from her process. And Jay explains a change he’s making to his 401(k) plan that he believes will make it fairer for all of his employees.

We Are Survivors

This week, in episode 100, two years after the pandemic first hit, Shawn Busse, Jay Goltz, and Liz Picarazzi talk about what they’ve learned, what they’re doing differently, and whether their businesses have gotten weaker or stronger. Leading up to the pandemic, Shawn—still carrying scars from the Great Recession—did a series of workshops on how to prepare for the next recession. “And so in that regard,” he tells us, “we were really well prepared” for the pandemic. Plus: public companies are increasing prices aggressively and then bragging on earnings calls about the extra profits those increases are generating. Is there a lesson in this for privately-owned businesses? Also: Why does Jay seem more invested in his picture frame business than in his home furnishings business?

We Tried That Brand Thing. It Didn't Work.

This week, in episode 99, Shawn Busse, Paul Downs, and Jay Goltz talk about the tendency of many businesses to obsess about their logo, their website, and the need to drive more leads. To which Shawn suggests concentrating first on customer experience. And Jay agrees: “It's better business,” he says, “to make your customers happier than to keep trying to find new customers.” But Paul has his doubts: “You can have your internal house in order, as I do,” he says. “And you can have a great website, as I do. But it's not driving new business to us at the moment.” Plus: Shawn, Paul, and Jay react to recently publicized strategies to address the labor shortage, such as giving out raises more than once a year and encouraging new employees to take a vacation before they start work.

Somebody’s Hiring All of These People

This week, in episode 98, Jay Goltz tells Liz Picarazzi and Laura Zander that he’s had a revelation about The Great Resignation. Yes, he’s lost some people, but not necessarily his best people. “It shook the tree out,” he says, which is why he thinks businesses should be careful right now about hiring too quickly. Meanwhile, Liz talks about her latest product, a bear-proof trash enclosure, and why introducing it has been challenging. And Laura tells us what happened with the salesman she tried to send around the country in a souped-up van. Plus: Is this a great time or a terrible time to be in business?

Never miss a 21 Hats Podcast episode
We Don’t Have a Brand

This week, in episode 97, Paul Downs talks about why furniture makers traditionally have not stamped their names prominently on their work—and why he’s rethinking that now. That change of heart is the direct result of Paul’s unlikely experience connecting two very different businesses: One a Mennonite company manned by master craftsmen, and the other a startup manned by tattooed hipsters with a mastery of Kickstarter. Not only has the resulting culture clash changed the way Paul thinks about his own business, it’s also the subject of a book he’s writing. In this conversation, Paul explains what he’s up to and also talks about how close his business came to failing, how he plans to double his revenue, why he’s thinking about trying TikTok, and how he feels about his son’s success in the alternative reality of venture-backed startups.

Why Not Become the Strategic Buyer?

This week, in episode 96, Shawn Busse, Karen Clark Cole, and Jay Goltz compare notes on some of the many choices they’ve made building their businesses, such as the emphasis they’ve placed on growth, the risks they see in growing through acquisition, and—as Karen has recently experienced—the rewards of being acquired. They also discuss whether The Great Resignation, despite forcing companies to pay higher wages and work harder to find and keep talent, just might be a good thing for business owners. As Shawn says, “This puts more people into the marketplace looking for businesses where culture matters, where the owner has compassion and empathy, where families are valued, just on and on and on. And if you're that employer, you win.”

Have You Considered Not Taking Investors?

This week, in episode 95, Jay Goltz, Liz Picarazzi, and Dana White talk about the advantages and disadvantages of bringing in outside capital and expertise—something both Liz and Dana have considered. “I have a background in Russian literature and credit card marketing,” says Liz. “I'm now a manufacturer, so if I could have an outside investor who either brought that to the table or could help me with it, that would be really valuable.” But of course, there are trade-offs. We also talk about Dana’s looming franchise sales, why it’s so hard to hire lawyers and accountants, and whether there’s an opportunity for Jay in framing NFT art.

The Game Has to End at Some Point

This week, in episode 94, Shawn Busse, Paul Downs, and Jay Goltz talk about their evolving succession plans. There are lots of options—selling the business, turning it over to a family member, selling it to an employee stock ownership plan, holding a going-out-of-business sale, just walking away—and they all come with advantages and disadvantages. Shawn, Paul, and Jay take us through their current thinking and also tell us whether their businesses are prepared for the possibility that they could be incapacitated. Plus: Would any of them consider instituting a four-day work week? And we can report that this podcast now has its first B Corp. Who knows what a B Corp is?

The Hardest Thing I’ve Done in Business

This week, in episode 93, Jay Goltz, Liz Picarazzi, and William Vanderbloemen talk about sales, specifically the transition most founders have to make from handling sales themselves to building a sales team. Jay, Liz, and William also discuss the value of going to trade shows, the pros and cons of compensating salespeople based on commission, and the differences between inside sales and outside sales. “The kind of person,” Jay says, “who can go out there and cold call all day long and get the door slammed in their face—it's very hard to find, very hard to keep, very hard to train, very hard to control. And that’s been my biggest challenge in business, without any doubt.”

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