Latest podcast episodes
Marketing Workshop: Turning a Failing Nut Shop into
Marketing Workshop: Turning a Failing Nut Shop into

This week, Shawn Busse and Loren Feldman talk to Jeff Braverman about how he walked away from a career as an investment banker and went to work in the family’s nut store, the Newark Nut Co. “My dad and my uncle told me I was nuts,” says Jeff. But with an instinct for taking risks—like acquiring the URL—Braverman has turned the family business into an internet juggernaut, unleashing years of explosive growth. And despite being a former investment banker, he’s managed to do that without taking any outside capital. And he’s far from finished. “To this day,” he says, “we're doing deep brand research: What is What can it be? Can it scale? Can it transcend just the word nuts?”

What It Means to Break $1 Million in Revenue

This week, Liz Picarazzi and Sarah Segal talk about their attitudes toward growth, including how they set goals, the tension between revenue and profit, deciding when growth requires additional bodies, choosing between contractors and employees, and how they would use the money if someone were to give them a million dollars to invest in their business. Plus: What will it take for them to consider themselves successful?

Marketing Workshop: Selling Cookies on LinkedIn

This week, Shawn Busse and Loren Feldman are doing something a little different. This is the first in a series of episodes we’re calling Marketing Workshops. In an attempt to confront one of the biggest pain points business owners face, we’re offering a series of conversations with owner-operators about their marketing experiences: what’s worked and what hasn’t. We’re starting with Grayson Hogard, co-founder of Grove Cookie Company. For Grayson and his wife, Marie, the company is a bootstrapped side hustle, but in a very short time they’ve come to some very smart conclusions about their marketing that might seem counterintuitive at first. Most importantly, they’ve figured out that the most effective sales channel for their cookies is, of all places, LinkedIn.

ESOPs Are Great. But Not for Me

Last week, Jay Goltz continued his exploration of employee ownership, flying to Portland to meet up with Shawn Busse and Jim Kalb, a friend of 21 Hats who has already sold a portion of his business to his employees. The three owners planned to attend a conference promoting employee stock ownership, but things went somewhat awry. Jay and Shawn left the conference early, Jim canceled his flight, and as has happened before in his brushes with ESOP professionals, Jay walked away feeling convinced—convinced, that is, that an ESOP probably isn’t right for him. Two days later, we taped this podcast episode, which quickly turned into one of the more raucous conversations you are likely to hear about a somewhat technical business topic—although we did manage to find some clarity in the end. In Jay’s words, we agreed to agree.

Along the way, we confronted quite a few relevant questions, such as, do ESOPs have to be so confusing? Are the professionals who pitch ESOPs trying to make them seem complicated? If Jay wants to sell 30 percent of his business to his employees but continue running it, how much control would he have to give up? Will an ESOP make life easier or harder for Jay’s two sons in the business? Instead of an ESOP, could Jay accomplish most of what he wants to accomplish by setting up a profit-sharing bonus plan through his 401(k)? Hanging over the conversation was a larger, more philosophical issue: What exactly do business owners owe their employees? And whatever those obligations are, do they extend beyond the sale of the business? Do they extend beyond the grave?

Walking Away From a Salary

This week, Sarah Segal tells Shawn Busse and Jay Goltz why she’s decided to take her public relations business back after selling it two years ago to a larger firm so it could handle the back-end stuff and allow her to focus on public relations. For Sarah, the immediate result of the decision to break away has been an exhausting few months starting over, including reincorporating, finding health insurance, and reducing her own pay. Meanwhile, Jay suggests an old-school marketing tactic that involves leveraging an envelope, a stamp, and the post office. And Shawn explains how he created a sales process that has allowed him to remove himself from day-to-day sales. Plus, a listener asks the three owners, “When do you know if you've made it? Or do you never know?” Shawn, Jay, and Sarah—three owners at very different stages of building a business—offer three very different answers.

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How Much Profit Should Your Business Make?

This week, Shawn Busse, Paul Downs, and Jay Goltz go right to the bottom line. Shawn points out how easy it is for businesses to fool themselves into thinking they’re more profitable than they really are. Paul talks about how margins can vary from year to year, especially if an owner decides to invest in improving the business—as Paul’s doing right now. Jay says he’s long sought a 10-percent profit margin, but so far, he hasn’t managed to get there. Plus: Shawn explains how he solved his accounts receivable problem. And have you looked at the 401(k) accounts of your employees lately? If not, there’s a good chance you’re going to find that they’re not saving a whole lot. Is that just the employee’s problem, or is it also the owner’s problem?

Why Isn’t This Product Selling?

This week, Shawn Busse, Liz Picarazzi, and Sarah Segal talk about how long to keep trying when a product isn’t selling the way you expected. For Liz, the problem product is her package locker, which is designed to defeat porch pirates but hasn’t really taken off—especially considering how widespread the concern is. Could the glitter-bomb guy be the answer to Liz’s marketing challenge? Or is it time for her to back off? Plus: In the age of Zoom and remote workers, what have the owners figured out about running effective meetings? And if you're pricing a range of services in a proposal, do you price your offering a la carte? Do you always charge the same prices? And is there a way to ease a client into a monthly retainer?

Bonus Episode: A New Way to Sell Your Business

This week, in a special bonus episode, Michael Brown, co-founder of an innovative company called Teamshares, explains how he and his co-founders are bringing a fresh approach to a big challenge. Teamshares is buying the businesses of Boomer owners who are ready to retire but, in many cases, struggling to sell. Once the business is bought, Teamshares is turning the employees of those businesses into employee-owners, which is intended to strengthen the businesses while also addressing income inequality. So far, starting in 2020 and flying largely under the radar, Teamshares has already bought more than 60 businesses in more than 40 industries, most ranging between $1 million and $5 million in revenue. Along the way they’re learning some intriguing lessons about what it takes to build a business.

I’ve Always Been Afraid to Raise Prices

This week, Jay Goltz, Dana White, and Laura Zander have a wide-ranging conversation that starts with the challenge of pricing. Do you set prices based on what you think the market will bear? Or do you set prices based on your own rising costs and what you need to charge to make a profit? And how much profit should a business expect to make? Along the way, the owners also discuss why Laura wants to keep buying businesses (don’t tell her husband, Doug), what Dana needs to do to get her new salon open at Fort Bragg, and why both Dana and Laura are going all-in on influencer marketing. Jay, on the other hand, isn’t entirely convinced that social media marketing works for his picture-framing business. Plus: Should a business owner know every employee’s name? What if you have 130 employees?

How’s Your Compensation Plan Holding Up?

This week, Shawn Busse, Liz Picarazzi, and William Vanderbloemen discuss what it’s been like trying to make sense of employee compensation in a time of COVID, the Great Resignation, inflation, and a looming recession. Shawn’s business model is evolving, and he’s trying to adjust his mix of employees to fit the new model with as little disruption as possible. Liz is expecting a year of big growth and is assessing how that will affect her staffing needs—especially as she introduces new benefits, including health care. And William is trying to create a more sustainable compensation structure while also breaking his employees’ expectation that they will always get a year-end bonus. Plus a listener asks: What tasks are the owners still doing, even though they know it’s not worthy of their time? (Aside from participating in this podcast, of course.)

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