Mixed Signals in the Economy

Posted by Loren Feldman on Jun 30, 2022 2:39:37 PM
Loren Feldman, Editor in Chief and Founder of 21 Hats, warns against falling prey to doom and gloom predictions, discusses how smart companies are prepared for the worst but expect the best, and how young people are looking at business differently.


Episode with guest: Loren Feldman

Editor in Chief and Founder of 21 Hats

(This episode was recorded in June of 2022.)


Key Episode Take-Aways:

1. Smart business owners are reluctant to panic, and quick to think about what their opportunities might be. (click to jump to this topic below)  This is such a remarkable situation where you have people talking about a recession, at a time when we really haven't made it completely through this labor shortage. You still have businesses that have not gotten fully staffed, and you don't usually have that at the same time other businesses are laying people off. If smart business owners can set aside some dry powder, some cash, because there will be opportunities. Whether it's hiring people, whether it's investing in some kind of infrastructure or equipment, whatever it might be there are likely to be opportunities, and smart business owners, are definitely thinking about that.

2. What used to work doesn't necessarily work now in terms of hiring and retention. (click to jump to this topic below)  People are looking for more, employees are looking to raise their income wherever they can. You don't want to be the business that loses people because of an additional 50 cents an hour, you want to engage those employees in a way that they would not leave just for that. You want them to feel as though they have a purpose, and an additional 50 cents an hour, it's not enough to break that bond. You also don't want to be on the other side of it, though. If you're hiring somebody, and the main selling point is they're coming to you because you're paying them 50 cents more, you're not going to have them very long. So I think on both sides of that equation, people are looking at it differently. Obviously somebody who goes down the path of opening their books, thinking about employee ownership, those are businesses that are not relying on an additional 50 cents to try to keep people. They can't compete with large corporations for pay or benefits, but they can give meaning to somebody's work life.

3. Next generation of owners have a different perspective about transparency around the financials. (click to jump to this topic below)  I've had more conversations than I can remember with business owners who have told me that they're going through a recession, and when having their books open was most valuable to them. And often the conversations are something like the employees came to the owner and said, "You know, we see the numbers, we know this isn't a good time, don't lay anybody off, we've already figured this out. We're all going to take a 10% cut," or whatever. I've had that conversation with a lot of owners, every single one of them, of course, has been a Great Game owner.


Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.

Announcer 0:00

Welcome to the "Change the Game" podcast, where we share stories of open book management and highlight capitalism at its best. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the "Change the Game" podcast, with special guests, Loren Feldman. In this episode, Loren warns against falling prey to the doom and gloom predictions, how smart companies are prepared for the worst, but expect the best, and how young people are looking at business differently.


Here's your hosts, Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker.


Steve Baker 0:30

Welcome to the "Change the Game" podcast where we are Changing the Game by doing business differently and highlighting stories of capitalism at its best. I'm Steve Baker. And here with me today is Rich Armstrong, our head coach and co-author of our new book get in the game. Hey, Rich, how are you today?


Rich Armstrong 0:48

I'm good, Steve, how are you?


Steve Baker 0:50

I'm good. I'm troubled. Because if you listen to the media, the world is imploding. Of course, when is it not? In fact, I think it's only bad news out there because only bad news sells, I think I saw a headline the other day that said headless body found in topless bar. I don't know if that's true or not. But I think I saw it. But this this whole thing. It's just whipping people into a frenzy that may not represent what's really going on. What do you think people should make out of this panic economy?


Rich Armstrong 1:21

Well, I think that that's a term definitely being thrown around. Now I you know, I think it's just it's very difficult for people to find those credible sources, right. And we're always looking for those credible sources. And one of the partners we follow on, you know, for a long time through SRC in the Great Game of Businesses ITR economics, right. And despite all the talk about the US entering in another recession, you know, our partners that ITR is still telling us that they believe we're still transitioning to what they would term as face D or slowing growth, not necessarily a recession. However, with that, Said, ITR said, that points that overreaction is one of their biggest risk factors in that forecast. And what they talk about is this kind of fear and bad vibes that can be really contagious across the entire country, right, where investors and business leaders and even consumers start to pull back based on what they're hearing, which can bring us to a drop demand and kind of throw us into a recession. So it's kind of one of those, you know, chicken and egg kind of things. And, you know, the thinking is that if the people say, you know, you know, thinking is that what people say they believe can be an important indicator of whether a recession will occur or not kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, so to speak. And all of that can create what we would term kind of a panic economy. So I think that I think the key here is to find, you know, credible sources, and then as a business, just prepare for a downturn. You know, we are definitely going into a downturn that may end up in a recession, but there's a lot of things businesses can do. Without overreacting, right in terms of layoffs and other things, but doing some things that are some practical things to kind of prepare for that downturn.


Steve Baker 3:16

Yeah, that makes sense. overreaction what a human way to screw things up. Well, we are in luck today, then Rich because today we've got somebody who could really help us navigate this whole thing. We are thrilled to have Loren Feldman on the podcast. Loren is a longtime friend of ours and a friend of the game. We first met him way back in the in the day when Jack Stack was writing a blog for the New York Times. Loren was the editor then for the small business section. He is the editor in chief and founder of 21 Hats a platform for business owners, where he edits a daily newsletter for entrepreneurs, and hosts his own 21 Hats podcast. He's also co-hosted Mind your business on Sirius XM. He was a senior editor at Forbes at Inc at Fast Company money, George he's written for GQ, New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Sunday business section. Loren,


Rich Armstrong 4:14

guys been around


Steve Baker 4:16

Look at this guy, you are something it's I thank you for being on this show in this.


Loren Feldman 4:20

Oh it is my pleasure. I would hang out with you guys anytime, anywhere. Happy to be here.


Steve Baker 4:27

But we can't wait to get into this subject. We're hearing a lot about a possible recession on the horizon. They say that eight out of 10 CEOs are predicting a recession in the next 12 to 18 months. Loren, are you seeing a change in the direction of the economy based on the entrepreneurs that are in your community?


Loren Feldman 4:44

I think first of all, that reminds me the old line about economists who have predicted nine of the last five recessions. You have to be careful about that kind of thing because we do get caught up in this Sometimes your right to talk is everywhere. But I have to tell you, when I talk to business owners directly, most of them that I've spoken with, and I speak to them all the time, I've spoken to a lot. They're not feeling it yet. By and large it's really intriguing to me, I will point out one thing that one very smart owner said to me, he's not even sure how to judge at this point, because these last few years have been so weird, that he's not sure what a downturn or recession will look like, in terms of his own numbers. Because there's no normal to compare it to anymore things have, you know, gone, you know, up and down and sideways. And he's just not sure how to gauge that anymore. So it's a particularly tricky time.


Rich Armstrong 5:51

Are any of that Loren, are you seeing anybody preparing though, because they they're obviously probably hearing through the media and otherwise, that there is something on the horizon, and they may not see it in their businesses? Are they making any changes currently in their business?


Loren Feldman 6:07

only the smart ones Rich, I would say they are looking at this, and they're not making any assumptions. They're not assuming that there will be a recession, they're certainly not assuming there won't be a recession. And, you know, it just it varies greatly. Some businesses aren't in a position to really prepare their, you know, they've been through this incredible period with a pandemic with the labor shortage, and some of them are still just trying to, you know, stabilize they. I mean, this is such a remarkable situation where you have people talking about a recession, at a time when we really haven't made it completely through this labor shortage, but you still have businesses that have not gotten fully staffed. And you don't usually have that at the same time other businesses are laying people off. So it's a weird time to figure out every business is different. But I think all smart business owners are reluctant to panic, and quick to think about what their opportunities might be. And if they can set aside some dry powder, some cash, because there will be opportunities, whether it's hiring people, whether it's, you know, investing in some kind of infrastructure or equipment, whatever it might be there are likely to be opportunities and smart business owners, I think are definitely thinking about that.


Rich Armstrong 7:38

Loren one thing you said that I think is very important is that every business is a little different. I think we hear these global economy, economic news that a lot of times we take it as impacting every single industry, every single business. And I think that's just a good point that a lot of businesses really need to understand their specific Industry and Market and understand what it's doing. Really, in relation to all of this. There's certainly some industries are doing fine.


Loren Feldman 8:06

Just as there was during the pandemic, you know, there were businesses that did better because of the pandemic. And, you know, that's not I mean, there was a very difficult time for some businesses, and not every business made it through it, but just exactly what you just said, it was different for everybody. Yeah,


Steve Baker 8:24

that's for sure. In fact, I had a guy tried to sell me a coffin. And I thought that's the last thing I need. Well the mention of people has, of course, got me piqued here. So you know, the war for talent is not over. And it's not going anywhere at the moment, businesses will have to be even more strategic than ever to attract and retain talent, and they're gonna have to really invest in their culture in their people had that conversation with a large company this morning, and they're doubling down, you know, they're losing 50% of people in the first 30 days. Half of the people coming in are just going right out and they know the number have to replace them, even if they stay 90 days is $8,500 a pop that's for like an entry level position. Everybody should know their number. I'm curious about how your community at 21 Hats is addressing the challenge of this war for talent and being the employer of choice? 


Loren Feldman 9:27

Well, I'll tell you about one business and owner who told us a while ago that he started keeping what he calls a vomit list. And that is a list of people in his business. Where if one of them were to come to him late in the day and say you have 10 minutes there's something I need to talk to you about. He would know exactly why they were coming, and he would immediately reach for his trashcan, and he would you get the idea. Yeah. And he, he decided he wanted to act proactively, he didn't want to wait for that conversation. And he kind of gave a bunch of these people, you know, he's got a business, it's probably around 25 employees. So I think he gave maybe three or four, kind of a bonus in advance, it was a deal he gave, he asked them to commit to staying for a period of time, I think it might have been 12 months, I'm not sure. And if they agreed to stay that time, he gave them an immediate raise, and a bonus, to try to lock them in for that period of time. And I thought that was really smart. Because, you know, it's just, it's been such a tough period for so many businesses. And, you know, as you said, it's not over yet, there was a story in The Wall Street Journal, I just read, you know, we still have, there's still government money coming, they owe the trillion dollars in infrastructure spending is just kicking in now. And there are a lot of contractors construction businesses that have not gotten back to anywhere near full employment. And we you know, with those projects coming on, it's just going to be even harder. So, you know, some of these businesses are turning away business, because of that, even as we're talking about going into a recession.


Rich Armstrong 11:33

I'd like to talk a little bit more with you, Loren, about, you know, the whole challenge of recruiting and retaining talent, but I want to focus on the kind of a hidden, I think, a hidden issue that a lot of people don't really see up front. And that's that a lot of the there's still a lot of people out there that we're trying to hire that are maybe not doing really good financially, right. And they have those kinds of stresses at home, where they're distracted and they're forced to make some maybe some, you know, quick decisions about, you know, maybe moving to another job for some quick, you know, 50 cents, you know, more for a job per hour or some kind of decision like that. And the reason I bring that up is that if you're really trying to engage and retain people inside the business, if they're coming in with those kinds of stresses, it's almost impossible for the organization should do a lot to help with that. Have you heard that in talking with your community? Is there any thoughts you have on that kind of unique and overlooked issue?


Loren Feldman 12:39

Yes, I think I think if there's a silver lining to this period, it is that this whole great resignation thing has forced a lot of business owners to think about things a little bit differently, and to realize that what used to work doesn't necessarily work now in terms of hiring and retention, and that people are looking for more. And you know you're absolutely right, this is a way, you know, with inflation with gas prices and food prices, people are looking for, you know, employees are looking to raise their income wherever they can. But I don't think you want to be on either side of that 50 cent an hour discussion, you don't want to be the business that loses people because of an additional 50 cents an hour, you want to have, you want to engage those employees in a way that they would not leave just for that. You want them to feel as though they have a purpose, they're there for a reason they're getting something out of it, and that, you know, an additional 50 cents an hour, it's not enough to break that bond. You also don't want to be on the other side of it, though. I mean, if you if you're hiring somebody, and the main selling point is they're coming to you because you're paying them 50 cents more, you're not going to have them very long. And that's not going to work either. So I think on both sides of that equation, people are looking at it differently. And especially with most of the business owners that I talked to a lot of them were already there. I think it's true. A lot of them in your community, obviously somebody who goes down the path of opening their books or, you know, thinking about employee ownership, all the things that you guys talk about, those are businesses that are not relying on an additional 50 cents to try to keep people, but I think even outside of your community, the businesses that I talked to know that that's their best-selling point. They can't compete with large corporations for pay or benefits and in many ways, but they can give meaning to somebody's work life and that's what they're trying to do.


Steve Baker 15:00

As a matter of fact, I was just in a meeting getting ready for the annual conference. And we were talking about unusual ways people are getting folks to stay what's beyond bonus, what's beyond the wage increase, and one practitioner does a sabbatical program. And when we were still working on the, the math of it, he's already doing the sabbatical program. But if I, have it right, for one of his H back employees, in four years, they get a month off. You know what it is per hour. It's something like 46 cents accrued every year for four years. And it pays for a month off. Now, that's 50 cents an hour I can believe in. And it's really sticky. Because where else? Am I an H back person going to get a sabbatical? a month long? That is crazy.


Loren Feldman 15:48

That is a much better use of 46 or 50 cents an hour.


Steve Baker 15:53

Exactly. So, you know, in your bio, as we introduced you, it's clear, you have a massive and extensive background in the industry of the media,


Loren Feldman 16:04

to us a nice way of saying you can't really keep a job, can you Loren?


Steve Baker 16:08

Well, I meant it better. But how would you like 46 cents more an hour? I'm curious what you know, as if I could say, you know, as an insider, you've seen the, you know, the how the sausage is made? Do you see any media bias when it comes to reporting on the economy?


Loren Feldman 16:28

Oh, is there bias in the media? How much time do we have Steve? Look, there are, of course, all humans have bias, there is bias in the media, it may not always be the kind that you think. I think it comes in various flavors. So for example, at the top of the show, you were talking about the panic economy and how the media is kind of whipping this up. I would say that that's a form of bias, and you know, guilty. In TV news, there's a business model that was developed, I think back in the 60s or so the business model came to be known as if it bleeds, it leads. That, you know, that's TV news. And that's it a lot of uglier stuff. But business news kind of has its corollary, it's, you know, kind of, if it's scary, it leads that doesn't rhyme, unfortunately. But you get the idea. You know, it's most of the time, it's not that the media are inventing this out of whole cloth. They're not the ones dreaming up a possible recession. They're talking to people. And you can find a lot of prominent people, right now predicting recessions. So if somebody who works for the journal, The Times Inc, anywhere, wants to write a story about whether there's going to be a recession, they can find smart, prominent people who will say, yes, there's going to be a recession. And that becomes a story. So,


Steve Baker 18:10

you know, that's almost a confirmation bias, isn't it?


Loren Feldman 18:12

Yeah, it is. But, you know, again, a lot of those smart people that goes back to those, you know, economists predicting nine of the last five recessions, they're not always right. They don't know for sure. And, you know, I go back to the thing about the government's still spending money, you got the trillion dollars for the infrastructure package. You also, Are you guys familiar with the let me see if I get this right, the State Small Business Credit Initiative it's something that was part of the recovery package that was passed a year ago, it's $50 billion, that the federal government is just now sending out the door. it goes to every one of the 50 states and the states get to administer it. And it's all earmark for small businesses. So you know, again there's just a lot of money flowing right now. Maybe there won't be a recession. I don't think anybody knows for sure. But you can certainly point to factors that would lead you to conclude there might be and that's what media is doing. I think the more interesting to me, the more interesting biases are a little bit different. I think there's a bias in the media. When it comes to entrepreneurship towards Silicon Valley and venture backed business. Yes, they get way more attention than they deserve. In my opinion, they're, you know, venture backed businesses, I think are less than 3% of the businesses in this country. The businesses that I started 21 hats for the businesses I talked to for the weekly podcast the bees, the businesses that read the 21 Hats Morning Report, newsletter. There are businesses that are bootstrapped their businesses that are run by owners who have borrowed against their own homes that are risking their own money. That's a very different kind of capitalism, very different kinds of entrepreneurship, it doesn't get the attention that I think it deserves in the mainstream media. That's a bias that I would point to.


Steve Baker 20:21

That's actually great. That's a great way to look at it. I remember. Oh, George Gendron the one of the editors from Inc years ago. Yeah, there you go. He said that what we should call the business news, the typical business news is should be called the investment news. And he said something similar that the stock market represents 17% of businesses in the United States. So is it really a representation? That's interesting, I'm glad you brought that up. Because if I got, you're right, Silicon Valley and private equity businesses represent 3% of businesses in the US, I think


Loren Feldman 20:57

just venture backed are less than 3%. But you know that that's Uber and all these companies that raise incredible amounts of money and become unicorns and then become Netflix series. Where we all cringe as we watch. make a fool of him, him or herself. You know, those stories are great. They deserve to be covered. But that's not representative in my mind of what is, you know, the real entrepreneurship in this country?


Rich Armstrong 21:32

Yeah, so true. So true. Well, with all your work in the business news, what are some of the credible sources that you look to, to understand more about how the economy's working our business, Outlook is looking at looking?


Loren Feldman 21:49

You know, it's funny, you asked that I put out a daily email newsletter, where my goal is to find all the most important stories of the day for business owners specifically, put them in one place, so business owners don't have to go looking for it. So I'm searching everywhere, there aren't enough of them. It's hard for me to find them and you know, even a business publication like the Wall Street Journal, it's a terrific publication, they do great reporting. But it's, it's what you just said a moment ago, Steve, quoting George Gendron, a lot of it is from the perspective of an investor, it's the stories tend not to be written from the perspective of a business owner. So I'm not sure I can tell you there's one or two or three great places to go. To find that kind of story. There just there aren't enough publications that focus that way, I find that you have to look everywhere. And you know, the Wall Street Journal certainly runs a lot of stories that are really important for business owners to see. And I tried to highlight all of them in the 21 hats morning report, but it's a little bit hit or miss. I think it's something that the media has, you know, has missed. And that's honestly, that's part of the reason I went from ink to the New York Times to Forbes to starting my own thing because it each of those places I worked with really smart people who I felt didn't really grasp what it takes to build a business in this country. I traditional small business, Bootstrap, getting it off the ground yourself and trying to survive and what kind of information do you need to do that? That I think that's a bit of a black hole in our, you know, immediate world. And I think it's unfortunate, but I try the best I can to find all the stories that fit that mold and put them in one place every day.


Rich Armstrong 23:53

So I think it's how you started out the podcast, Loren, as you said, how you were monitoring the economy, which is going right back to your community of entrepreneurs, right, ask him, Why did he feel they think they're going and that's probably as credible as you could possibly get.


Loren Feldman 24:10

I do talk to a lot of people I also, I talked to a lot of people who talked to a lot of business owners, and you know, you hear different things as you guys have the your feelers out, you're talking to owners all the time. Everybody's situation is different. It's very hard to generalize across the board. I know. A guy, named Jean marks who has a business that helps businesses with their technology needs, especially CRM, he has, you know, hundreds of clients, they tend to be focused in the manufacturing area to some extent, I think he has a large percentage of manufacturing companies and, and he's told me that by and large, his clients are saying that they're seeing some softening out there and they're preparing for something to hit, you know, maybe by the fall But that's really the you know, the best example I've seen in that most of the people I talked to just haven't seen it yet. They've read about it. They're watching for it. But it's not showing up in their own numbers.


Steve Baker 25:15

Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I like how you're kind of suggesting if I can paraphrase, you know, keep your feelers out, talk to your community, talk to business associates, talk to other people in your industry groups, and the media and take that all and then you kind of, if I can mix things up a little bit, you continue to cap this whole thing with, there's a trillion dollars in infrastructure, 50 billion in federal aid to small business, what's really going to happen? I mean, is it really something that we should panic over? Right, is the whole thing. So I wanted to know, you know, taking it around to the Great Game view of, we've got all this stuff going on. And we continue to preach that we are the new teachers, right? Meaning businesses are the new teachers, we're responsible for teaching our people, the business, and I think it goes further, I think it's the one place that they can get credible information. Do you see any trends around transparency, even though things are unsure? I talked to some people this week that are, you know, really grasping on to what Jack Stack says, a lot take fear out of your organization, and they're having regular meetings around, what are we hearing in the marketplace? Here's what we're actually seeing in our business, we're okay. And the idea is that they don't want their people to be, you know, freaked out. At the same time they, if they see something softening in sales, are they making moves within so that they can keep jobs and that sort of thing? So my question, you're probably wondering what the question was, are you seeing any trends in transparency, financial or otherwise in the marketplace?


Loren Feldman 26:54

You know, I don't think from what I've seen, from my experience, I haven't seen a lot of changes except for in one area, which is in what people get paid. And maybe that's related to the labor shortage, I think it's related to younger people just looking at these things a little bit differently. Yeah, I'll give you an example. I had a conversation recently with a 25-year-old who I may or may not be related to, who recently started an entry level job. And was, was working remotely for a few months initially. And then as things opened up again, he actually went into the office and started to meet some of his colleagues in person. And he described for me what happened his first day back in the office with these new colleagues, literally, within half an hour 10 people in a group had all shared their salaries and told each other what they were making and pissed off at least six of them really significantly. And I think that's something new both in terms of people being willing to talk about what they get paid, and also what they can find out on Glassdoor, and other sites like that. So I think smart businesses are realizing that this is happening, that those conversations are going to be had. And they probably should get ahead of it and figure out a way that they can, if not make that information known, at least deal with it in a way that if it gets out, they won't have too much explaining to do that they can defend whatever process they have used to assign salaries to people. So that's the one thing you know, in terms of opening the books to me, I mean, you guys are better positioned to discuss this than I am. And I'd be curious how you would answer the question. But to me, it's always been the same. There are companies like the ones I meet at the gathering of games and through events through you guys that believe that opening the books was the best thing they ever did. It's made their lives easier. It's taken a burden off their shoulders, in many ways. They're the happiest business owners I meet, there's that set, and then there's a set that would never consider opening their books in a million years. Simply not gonna happen. It's the craziest thing they've ever heard. I have not seen a change in that.


Steve Baker 29:32

That's a good answer.


Loren Feldman 29:34

Is that the way it looks to you?


Steve Baker 29:35

I'd like to believe that there's a tipping point. But I think that it's what you pointed out just now is the clarity between or the distinction between transparency meaning we're going to talk about things that we didn't used to talk about, and transparency in the way we run our business. So I'm glad you made that distinction, for sure. Do we really see it I don't know? I feel it, I do feel like there's more acceptance of the idea, Loren that's what it feels like.


Rich Armstrong 30:05

I feel like Loren or go ahead.


Loren Feldman 30:05

No, no, please Rich.


Rich Armstrong 30:11

Well, I, you know, what I feel is that there's, there's some dynamics happening, that's kind of forcing the issue to the front, you know, it's, things like, you know, the new generational workforce coming in and wanting more transparency. And as we're trying to bring on great talent, you know, that's something that I think is forcing businesses to at least think about how they're going to include their people more closely into the business, because that's what they want. I think it's just something that's driving that, I also see that that we're seeing is that talking to more larger communities of entrepreneurs, like the visiting CEO, network, and entrepreneur organization, those kinds of businesses, is that the next generation of owners have a different perspective about transparency around the financials, then maybe their fathers or their mothers or whoever they're taking the business over. And they're wanting to do something a little differently. I mean, and I'm kind of sharing, you know, direct examples that I'm seeing of people that are starting to open up. And, you know, years ago, if we went and spoke to a Vistage group of maybe 10, CEOs, we'd maybe be lucky that two or three of them would have the attitude of, hey, will, I'm interested in looking at what transparency could do, or more financial transparency in education can do to my businesses. Today, I think that numbers more closer and that, you know, 6070, maybe 80%, or at least opening it from just, you know, just talking to CEOs? It's not, it doesn't mean that they pull the trigger, you know, and all do it. Right. But I think it's I think they're open to the idea a little bit more.


Loren Feldman 32:00

Now, I'm glad to hear that, you know, I've had more conversations than I can remember with business owners who have told me that they're going through a recession was the time when having open their books was most valuable to them. And often the conversations are something like, you know, I didn't have to go to my employees and say, Listen, the numbers aren't good, right now, we're going to have to tighten our belts a little bit. And that's going to mean some pain. For all of us. It happened the other way the employees came to the owner and said, you know, what, we see the numbers, we know, this isn't a good time, don't lay anybody off, we've already figured this out. Well, you know, we're all going to take a 10% cut or whatever. I've had that conversation with a lot of owners, every single one of them, of course, has been a Great Game owner. That's the only place where I've known that that kind of conversation takes place. And with us, possibly heading into this recession were talking about here, it seems especially timely.


Rich Armstrong 33:11

Yeah. Well, it seems like you mentioned pandemic, and there's been a lot of stress on business leaders over the last couple of years. And I'm just curious, from your, you know, community of entrepreneurs, what are some unique ways that people have you've seen them to kind of maintain balance in their life and avoid burnout? And because there's just been a lot put on them?


Loren Feldman 33:37

You know, I that's a really important question that doesn't get discussed often enough. I mean, I'm actually my, the podcast that I do on a weekly basis. It's kind of like a peer group thing. It's a little bit like our own Vistage group, I've been talking to pretty much the same group of business owners. There are about 10 of them in the group, I talked to three of them in a podcast conversation every week. And we've been doing this since just before the pandemic. And we've had several business owners be very open about their own mental health issues. And I'm not qualified to say much of anything on this topic, except that the common denominator there is you need to take it seriously. And that a lot of business owners, for obvious reasons struggle with that they have a lot of, they can have a lot of pressure in their lives, there can be a lot of things that they're dealing with, and they don't necessarily know who to discuss it with. And they, you know, they suffer with it too long. And there were a couple of owners who, who talked about that on the podcast, one in particular, who acknowledged that she was just having trouble getting out of bed every day and another who finally said, You know what I, this has been the hardest year of my life, I can't keep doing this, I'm going to take two or three months away, and try to clear my head. And happily, she did that and came back and sold her business for a lot of money. So it went really well for her. But I think that the important point is that those what you're describing Rich the burnout, the pressure through this period, it's real. And you have to acknowledge it, you have to do something about it.


Steve Baker 35:39

Yeah, that's something I'd add to that, too, is it's for the business owner. It's for the leaders. It's also for the employees, they've got their stuff Rich asked a question about it earlier, you know, they might be suffering financially. Most companies that we run into have an EAP, an employee assistance program that is completely underutilized, meaning free counseling, free help, free financial, legal, all kinds of support, and it's under communicated and therefore misunderstood. And I'd recommend for everybody listening to the podcast, pull that, Dust It off, get people in touch with it, because you have resources available. It's a true benefit. And mental health is a real deal. So thank you for bringing that up.


Loren Feldman 36:23

That's a great point that, you know, In my answer, I addressed it primarily from the standpoint of the owner, but the owner has to be aware of the employees as well. And it this has just been a tough period. And you can't know for sure what anybody's going through, what you can do is try to make resources available as you just suggested, Steve.


Steve Baker 36:43

Yeah, the unknown is tough man. But that's life, right? Well, Loren, we always ask a question of our guests. And that is, what is the one question we ought to be asking you.


Loren Feldman 37:00

You know, Steve, we've covered so much here. I don't think I have a good answer to that. Maybe it's why are you still talking to me?


Steve Baker 37:12

There's so much more to talk about!


Loren Feldman 37:15

I don't have an answer to that. I've just really enjoyed this conversation. I think you've hit on lots of great points. And you've given me an opportunity to talk about why I do what I do. And I really appreciate that. I guess I would, if I may be so bold, I don't have a question for you to answer for you to ask me. But I will throw it back at you and say this I hope you guys know how much good you guys do. You've been doing this for a while now. And I can tell you if you don't know this, but I hope you do. You've changed a lot of lives. I've talked to so many people who have done so much better and enjoyed their lives so much more. And that's from the perspective of the owners that I've talked to, but also their employees, because they have gone through your Great Game. I just I can't imagine how many people you've helped by doing that. And I hope you're aware.


Steve Baker 38:20

Well, thank you. It's always good to hear that affirmation. You know, we need to know we're doing good. That's for sure. But thank you, you're part of that, you know, you're part of that machine. Our media bias is business Good.


Loren Feldman 38:35

Well, I'd like to be any small part of that, that I can be honored to be associated with it in any way.


Steve Baker 38:41

Well, thank you. Well, Loren, I tried to do a little wrap up kind of encapsulating what we've talked about that we can include in our show notes, and I'm gonna while I've got you on here with Rich, I just want to make sure you guys will keep me honest. And did I get the big issues, so we kicked it off with beware economists who have predicted nine out of the last five recessions? Think I got that number, right. People are not sure how to gauge exactly what's going on. Because the past few years have been so weird. So don't fall prey to the doom and gloom predictions. Every business is different. Global predictions may not apply to yours. Only the smart business owners are preparing for the worst but expecting the best. Set aside some cash and look for opportunities. I love this one who's on your vomit list. A list of people that might be thinking of leaving one owner is giving proactive raises and bonuses for people who commit to staying. What used to work may no longer work when it comes to talent. Don't be on either side of the 50 cent an hour situation. Engage your people and other creative ways. We talked about the example of one H back contractor who created a sabbatical program that cost something like 46 cents an hour over a period of four years. So it's a real differentiator. That's a better use of the 46 cents. Be aware of the media's model of if it bleeds, it leads, entrepreneurs and venture backed companies represent 3% of businesses, but command most of the business news small to midsize businesses are underrepresented. On the plus side here, there's a trillion dollars in infrastructure spending just now coming out and 50 billion in federal aid to small businesses. So will we have a recession? You know, that's a question mark. Younger people look at business differently and watch me on this one, because I'm not sure I grasp the concept as you put it out there. They're not afraid to share things, including their salary information between glass door and the water cooler, you'd better be prepared to deal with inequities. Was that close


Loren Feldman 40:43

That's good you got it.


Steve Baker 40:47

Okay. And then a couple more things in transparent companies, employees often rally when the numbers get tough. Loren has seen employees band together to support one another by taking temporary pay reductions to avoid layoffs. And then finally, the mental health and mental health issues are real and present. Take them seriously for yourself and for your team. What do you think, guys? Did I capture the gist of it?


Loren Feldman 41:13

Sounds good to me.


Rich Armstrong 41:15

Very good.


Steve Baker 41:16

All right. Cool. Well, we'll have that in the show notes, folks. Loren, it's always great to see you. Hope to see you at the conference this year. Thank you again.


Loren Feldman 41:26

My pleasure. I would do this every week. If you want to do. You're always great talking to you guys.


Steve Baker 41:32

Be careful. Might be the 22nd hand. I like it. I like it. Well, folks, let's keep the conversation going. Send us your questions, your stories, your best practices, your ideas, your challenges, and of course your victories because that is capitalism at its best. Thanks for joining us, and we'll see you next time.


Announcer 41:53

The "Change the Game" podcast is produced by the Great Game of Business. To learn more, visit Greatgame.com

Topics: Company Culture, Financial Literacy, Transparency, Employee Recruitment and Retention, Sustainable Business

About The Podcast

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Hosted by Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker the Change the Game podcast highlights true life stories of organizations influencing positive change by doing business differently. They’re teaching people how business works and closing the gap between the haves and have-nots. It’s capitalism at its best. Inside each episode, you’ll discover stories of entrepreneurs who are Changing the Game.

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