This week, Shawn Busse and Loren Feldman talk to John Garrett about his contrarian approach to newspapers, marketing, and competition. Garrett has built a Texas-based chain of print newspapers that has managed to outcompete established news organizations and digital platforms for both community engagement and local advertising. Not surprisingly, when he first took out a $39,000 credit card loan in 2005 and started telling people that his business model would feature a monthly print publication that he would mail to everyone in his target communities for free, he didn’t get a lot of congratulations. And not everything he’s tried has worked. An expansion into Arizona, Tennessee, and Georgia, for example, failed early in the pandemic. But almost 20 years after its debut, a period during which most local publications have been in retreat, Community Impact is thriving. And from his seat as a publisher, Garrett offers a perspective on marketing that any business owner would be wise to consider.
This week, Jay Goltz, Liz Picarazzi, and Sarah Segal talk about the inherent conflicts between being an entrepreneur and being a CEO—and the different skill-sets each role requires. Does it make sense for the same person to do both jobs? Is being CEO even a full-time job? And when does it make sense to replace yourself as CEO? Liz says she’s thought about it. Jay, not so much: “Could I have found somebody 10, 15, 20 years ago who was a better manager? Sure. But it just wasn't worth it.” Why not? “It's gonna cost you $250,000 a year,” Jay says. “Is it worth paying that?” Plus: Liz and Sarah talk about positioning a company to be acquired. And Sarah proposes a PR campaign for Liz’s package bins right on the spot.
This week, two special guests who have built highly successful companies talk about what they ultimately plan to do with those companies. Ari Weinzweig is co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, a collection of mostly food-related companies that are an iconic part of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Brad Herrmann is co-founder of Text-Em-All, a software firm based near Dallas that helps organizations deliver personalized, informational, and emergency messages by text and by phone. Both Zingerman’s and Text-Em-All consider themselves purpose-driven. Both practice open-book management. And so, not surprisingly, the founders of both companies took a hard look at selling to an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, in the hope that the cultures they’ve created might live on. But both companies, independently, soured on the notion of creating an ESOP, one after spending more than $200,000 and coming within a week of closing the deal. And now, both have settled on a little known alternative, what’s called a perpetual purpose trust. So far, only a handful of companies have tried to create a purpose trust for this purpose, but Zingerman’s and Text-Em-All are taking the leap. As both Ari and Brad acknowledge, they’re kind of figuring it out as they go.
This week, our conversation starts with Shawn Busse and Jay Goltz trying to understand why CEOs keep going viral for their misguided attempts to rally the troops. Shawn suspects CEO screeds have always existed—they just haven’t been recorded. He also thinks they tend to come more from public company CEOs who are beholden to shareholders. Jay thinks they’re just morons. “I really don't understand how someone could be smart enough to run a big company like that,” he says, “and be so completely ignorant. It's shocking to me.” Of course, CEOs of both publicly owned companies and privately owned companies do have to do unpleasant things sometimes, but Shawn and Jay say they’ve learned from their own experiences handling layoffs and recessions. “Do we have to go out of our way to be callous about it?” Jay asks. “I don't think so.” Plus: the very different ways Shawn and Jay manage their hiring processes. Oh, and, what would happen if Jay applied for a job at Shawn’s business?
This week, Stephanie Stuckey tells Paul Downs and Liz Picarazzi how she and her partners have taken their business from $2 million in annual revenue to more than $13 million in three years. What’s frustrating, she says, is that she could be selling a lot more pecan snacks and candies. But with production at capacity, she’s not doing much sales outreach until they can fully revamp their manufacturing operation, which will require a significant investment. “I spend my days doing financial paperwork,” Stephanie says. Plus: Liz explains why her business picks up when the weather warms up, and after a slow start, Paul gets a boost from a big manufacturer.
This week, Jay Goltz tells William Vanderbloemen that even with an inventory glut, a cash crunch, and a weakening economy, he’s not going to stop buying goods for his home store: “It's kind of like cutting Samson's hair,” Jay tells us. “I don't want to mess with telling the buyer, ‘Stop buying stuff.’ Because that's the business we’re in.” All of which has Jay feeling some pressure, but he’s very glad he’s been maintaining a credit line equivalent to 10 percent of sales. Plus: William explains how hiring can go wrong even at a staffing company and how he managed to raise his prices without actually raising his prices.
This week, Paul Downs, Sarah Segal, and Laura Zander discuss how they think about the possibility of recession: Do they proceed with planned hires? Do they continue to spend on marketing? Do they look for unexpected opportunities? In addition, Sarah, having recently taken back ownership of her PR firm, asks Paul and Laura how they pay themselves, how much cash they keep on hand, and whether they think she should expand her offerings to include digital marketing. Plus: Laura, who’s acquired several businesses over the years, explains what she looks for, how she decides how much to pay, and why she’s come to see acquisitions as necessary for the survival of Jimmy Beans Wool. As usual, all three owners are remarkably generous about sharing their thinking and even their numbers.
This week, Paul Downs tells Shawn Busse and Jay Goltz that his year has not gotten off to a great start. This was supposed to be the year that Paul unleashed a bold, new marketing campaign that would put his business on an entirely new trajectory—and perhaps it still will be. But for the moment, his revenue has fallen considerably short of his expectations, which has presented him with an unwelcome choice: Should he hold-off on the marketing campaign? Or should he cut his own salary? Along with discussing Paul’s decision, we also talk about the process of rethinking a website, how best to make use of LinkedIn—it’s a gold mine for both business development and recruiting, says Shawn—and why Paul and Shawn continue to perform their own HR chores.
This week, Jay Goltz and Laura Zander talk about the limits of their own management. Once a business gets past a certain size, no owner can do everything or even be aware of everything. But where do you draw the line? Does the owner need to be conversant with most aspects of management, marketing, and finance to oversee the business? This came up, in part, because Jay told us recently that his framing shops routinely ask customers how they learned of the business and that a recent review indicated that his social media efforts were not having an impact. But when asked about those efforts, Jay wasn’t entirely sure what they consisted of or if they even existed. Perhaps surprisingly, it also became clear that Jay wasn’t all that interested in learning more. It was working well enough, he’d concluded, and that was all he needed to know. And that’s the starting point for today’s main conversation. Along the way, we also address such questions as: Where’s the line between being a manager and being a therapist? Do owners need to be passionate about their businesses? What does the phrase “people over profits” really mean? And while “the customer is always right” has become a cliche, is it really a good policy?
This week, Hans Schrei explains why he’s pursuing a deal with Costco and why his vision is to get Wunderkeks cookies into every supermarket in the country. When Jay Goltz counters that instead of thinking big, or thinking small, maybe Hans should think medium, Hans says that may no longer be possible with consumer packaged goods: “The little brand that grows and thrives by growing little by little doesn't really exist any more in this space,” he says. Underlying the discussion of how fast Hans wants Wunderkeks to grow and how quickly he wants to exit are the stress-related mental health issues that he’s discussed previously on the podcast and the fact that his partner, Luis, is in the U.S. on an entrepreneurial visa, which means that if the business were to fail, they might have to leave the country.