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Episode 176: We Need to Go Back to Marketing for Humans
We Need to Go Back to Marketing for Humans

This week, Paul Downs tells Jay Goltz and Jaci Russo about the latest developments in his year-long campaign to stop relying so heavily on Google AdWords. At a specially arranged, two-day marketing event, Paul got to sit down with a series of architects and designers who had already been vetted and who he hopes will become repeat customers. So far, Paul says, the results look promising. Plus, we also discuss: Do you write your website copy to please Google or to please people? Is there any way around skyrocketing property insurance rates? Why has Jay decided he no longer needs a chief financial officer? How big a disadvantage to owners are the new laws forbidding employers from asking job candidates about their salary histories? And would you reject a candidate simply for trying to negotiate a starting salary? I know someone who would.

Bonus Episode: Are Salespeople Built or Born?

It used to be that best practices in sales were pretty standard across the board. But since the pandemic and with the advent of artificial intelligence, says Lance Tyson, founder of the Tyson Group sales consultancy, it’s like the Wild West out there. Suddenly, everyone’s playing by different rules, and the best sales approach can vary, depending on the seller, the target, the industry, the region of the country. The keys, Tyson says in this week’s bonus episode, are to pay attention and stay flexible. Along the way, he also addresses a host of hot topics: How important is it to see a prospect face-to-face? Is cold-calling dead? Will A.I. replace sales trainers? What’s the right balance between base and commission? How do you handle the salesperson who can’t or won’t be a team player? How do you get salespeople to take maintaining their CRM seriously?

Clients and Taxes and Bears, Oh My!

This week, Jaci Russo explains how she put an end to her eight-month drought of new clients. Jennifer Kerhin takes us through the bureaucratic nightmare of managing remote workers based out of state (“That is a headache that I don't wish on my worst enemy,” says Jaci, who has found a way to sidestep the problem). And Liz Picarazzi brings us up to date on her ongoing struggle to get her trash enclosures certified as bear-resistant. The common thread to these challenges may lie in these two questions: When is continuing to fight the good fight the definition of entrepreneurship? And when is it the definition of insanity? Plus: Why does it cost so much to exhibit at a trade show? And did you know that as recently as 35 years ago, there were still laws on the books requiring women to have a male relative cosign on a business loan? Those laws are now gone, thankfully, but Jaci, Jennifer, and Liz can all attest that that kind of paternalism is very much alive and well.

Start Up, Throw Up, and Grow Up

This week, Dana White drops a few surprises. When we began this podcast in 2020, Dana had two promising hair salons in Detroit that she’d named after her grandmother, Paralee Boyd. She had an innovative business model designed specifically for women with thick and curly hair. And she was on her way to winning a prestigious business plan competition. All of which presented her with a wide array of opportunities to consider. Would she continue to bootstrap? Would she franchise? Would she take on an investor? Would she open salons on military bases? But the pandemic hit her hard. Struggling to find both employees and customers, she eventually decided to close her Detroit locations and open a new one in Dallas, Texas, where she hoped the greater population density would help her make a fresh start. But in this episode, Dana tells Jay Goltz and Laura Zander that she’s come to a painful realization: “Paralee Boyd is not working.”

The I-Hate-Marketing Approach to Marketing

This week, Shawn Busse tells Jay Goltz and Mel Gravely why he doesn’t want his firm, Kinesis, to be known as a marketing agency. Part of it is his sense that people just don’t trust marketers. But Shawn also believes that what Kinesis offers its clients is much more than just marketing. Hearing that prompts Mel to take us through his recent decision to spend a lot of money rebranding his construction business, which he says created alignment throughout the business and would have been worth twice what he paid. Plus: Mel explains how he manages to generate new business without employing salespeople. Jay asks if it’s still possible in this tight labor market to enforce attendance policies. And, for the first time in the almost four-year history of this podcast, Jay goes extremely quiet in this episode. What exactly was that about?

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And Some Days the Bear Eats You

This week, Liz Picarazzi tells Jay Goltz and Sarah Segal that her trip to a bear sanctuary in Montana to get her trash enclosures certified as bear-resistant did not go precisely as planned. Because of a logistical snafu, she has not yet obtained either the certification or her real goal: a marketing video of the grizzlies attempting to crack open her baited enclosure. Fortunately, things went better for Liz in a more traditional marketing venue, a trade show in Chicago where she promoted her rat-resistant enclosures. Meanwhile, Sarah follows up on how things are going since losing two big clients and having to lay off three employees, and Jay explains his new catch phrase, “Let me not sleep on it.” Plus: we discuss the owner of a two-year-old construction business who wonders how long he should keep going if he doesn’t start to make a profit. He also asks why no one ever talks about how hard it is to run a business. While we can’t know for sure what’s happening inside his company, we can be pretty confident that he’s not listening to the right podcast.

Best of: Sometimes, Dreams Do Come True

If you’ve been listening to this podcast, you know we spend a lot of time talking about all of the things that can go wrong for a business owner. And yes, in part because we started recording these conversations just a couple of months before the pandemic hit, we’ve had plenty to talk about. Even this year, with the worst of the pandemic behind us, we’ve been talking about everything from excess inventory to lost clients to layoffs to ineffective marketing to surviving the valley of death. So, with that in mind, this week, I’ve chosen to replay an old episode both because it offers an inspirational message and because, well, we here at the home office need a little break. It’s the episode we recorded two years ago when Karen Clark Cole sold her business. Especially given that Karen had only recently been through a tough period that prompted her to take time away from the business, the conversation is a nice reminder that sometimes things do come together. It’s also full of great advice for anyone who thinks they may want to sell their business one day.

We Haven’t Signed a New Client in Eight Months

This week, we meet Jaci Russo, the co-founder and CEO of BrandRusso and the latest addition to the 21 Hats Podcast team. Jaci tells Jay Goltz and Laura Zander how she went from working for Barry Diller to starting her marketing agency. Jaci also explains why she recently decided to introduce a four-day workweek and why she thinks her agency has now gone eight months and counting without signing up a new client—the longest such stretch in more than 20 years in business. “I find it interesting,” responds Jay. “You just said this is the first time you've ever had such a long period without new business. And, ‘Oh, we went to a four-day workweek.’ Hmm, how interesting.” Plus: Laura talks about what happened when venture-backed competitors came for the knitting industry and how stressful it is to buy and operate another business in another state.

Bonus Episode: The Employee Engagement Industry Has Failed

In this week’s bonus episode, Bill Fotsch, a business consultant, explains why he thinks much of the effort that he and many others have put into creating employee engagement over the past three decades has been wasted effort—well intentioned, but wasted. The fact is, Fotsch says, employees today are no more engaged than they were some 30 years ago when the concept of employee engagement first gained currency. So what’s the answer? Fotsch has come to the conclusion that it’s something he calls “economic engagement,” which happens to be the name of his consulting business. What exactly is economic engagement? He says it’s getting employees to focus on serving customers, and doing so profitably. He says it’s not so much about sharing financials with employees but about getting employees to understand the strategies and actions that really drive a business’s profitability. Fotsch is so convinced that he’s cracked the code that he’s gone beyond mere consulting and has been buying stakes in businesses so he can implement his ideas and prove his concept. So far, he says, it’s working.

Bonus Episode: An Accidental Entrepreneur

It took a series of sad losses to turn banker Channon Kennedy into an entrepreneur. If a friend hadn’t lost his son and if Channon’s mother and sister hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer, she never would have designed, prototyped, manufactured, and started selling the Morgan Square, a tool that can save carpenters time while framing a project. Shannon is just getting started, but we’ll keep in touch as her journey continues.

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