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WeWork chaos over the weekend = employees in a new version of purgatory

(BUSINESS NEWS) Looks like WeWork is at it again with a new idiotic way of handling business, leaving employees between 2 rocks and 2 hard places.

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As WeWork continues to self-immolate, news about Adam Neumann’s golden parachute and Softbank’s plans to salvage the company dominate the headlines. There are hot takes. There are some pretty solid jokes. But caught in the crossfire are the workers, who keep getting potentially-lawbreaking missives in the middle of the night regarding their employment status.

Last week, nearly 1,000 WeWork employees across the U.S. and Canada received notice that they would be laid off on December 9th. They were offered jobs at another company, JLL, who is slated to contract them to WeWork “for the time being.” Employees were told that they had to sign the offer letter by Nov. 18th. (The letters went out five days prior). If they didn’t take on the new job (which represented a pay decrease for many people), WeWork would consider that a “voluntary resignation.”

Now, you don’t have to be a labor law expert to know that you can’t fire someone and then tell them that they left voluntarily. Whether a person left their job voluntarily or not can affect their ability to collect unemployment. In WeWork’s case, it also meant that they wouldn’t be eligible for severance. (Note that since the options were “go to a different job” or “we decide you left voluntarily,” there was no option that gave the workers the same severance that their previously laid-off coworkers received.)

In addition, WeWork’s 401k plan uses “last day rules” for 2019, meaning that the employee needs to work there the last day of the year to get their retirement plan’s employer match contributions. It’s a common employee retention plan. If you have to finish the year to get your 401k match, then the deeper into the year you are, the more money you give up by leaving. The problem is that WeWork is letting people go in early December. That means that nobody would get their 401k match for the entire year of 2019.

And those weren’t the only problems. The letters stated that there would a wage freeze at the new jobs through all of 2020. New employer JLL said that was a “typo.” But after being pinballed around so much, it’s easy to understand why the workers might not take that at face value. Moreover, the employees staring their termination in the face were also bound by non-compete clauses keeping them from looking for similar work elsewhere.

On the 22nd, WeWork backpedaled, at least to a few of its employees . They sent out a letter after business hours on Friday, which you may recognize as “the part of the week when corporations drop press releases they hope nobody actually picks up.” But this wasn’t a press release, it was a notice to their own workers. The new letter extends the terms of their employment. If they reject or rescind the JLL job offer, they won’t be laid off until February 20, 2020. They’ll have pay and benefits, but they do not have to report to work.

While that sounds like a pretty generous deal—get paid not to show up!— it’s basically the same as the three-months severance that their group of collective employees was demanding. It also brings them into compliance with New York state laws regarding notice of mass layoffs, which they were previously violating.

That said, the notice itself might not have been fully compliant with NY state law either. It showed up after hours on a Friday and gave them until Monday to respond. It wasn’t marked “urgent,” which the law requires. And many employees who aren’t in New York still seem to be stuck between the same rock and hard place they already were.

All in all, WeWork is planning on laying off 2,400 employees. Meanwhile, WeWork CEO Adam Neumann is currently slated to make $1.7 billion to walk away from his failure. Actually, let’s write that whole number out. Adam Neumann will be given $1,700,000,000 for running his company into the ground.

Let’s say you were there when the Declaration of Independence was signed. And on that day, someone said they were going to give you $19,123.25 every single day of your life. If you never spent any money, and you somehow lived 243 years, you would have 1.7 billion dollars today.

If anyone wants to pay me to run a business, university, or football team into the ground, please contact me with offers.

I’ve seen it happen up close a few times, so I’m pretty sure I know what’s involved. I don’t know if I need some special degree, or if I just point out that I’m a white dude when I apply, but I feel like I’d be pretty good at it.

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UPDATE: Our story originally called the collective group a “union,” but per the group’s counsel, “WeWork employees are not part of a union… There is a coalition of cross-departmental employees of WeWork employees acting collectively to secure better employment conditions and demand fair severance packages for all laid off workers. They have been prioritizing and aggressively advocating on behalf of the building and maintenance staff.”

Staff Writer, Garrett Steele is your friend. He writes lyrics, critique, and copy for ads, schools, health organizations, and more. He’s also a composer for film and video games, when he’s lucky. (One of his songs is an Xbox achievement!)

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$100m reimagined convenience store startup to open 25 stores in 2022

(BUSINESS) Foxtrot is looking to redefine the convenience store as we know it. This startup is looking to make it a whole new experience.

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Laptop with Foxtrot convenience store locations in Chicago.

Move over 7-11, there’s a new player in town! There’s always room for competition, even in the world of convenience stores. Yes, you read that right, Quick Trip has some serious competition from a newcomer, Foxtrot.

Foxtrot is a curated, modern convenience store offering a brisk 30-minute delivery and 5-minute pick-up. It was created by Mike LaVitola and Taylor Bloom in 2014. These stores will undoubtedly be popular in walkable areas, but also with their online ordering convenience. This modern version of a convenience store offers the combination of an upscale corner store with a digital-first e-commerce platform. Sounds pretty glorious, right?

However, the original convenience store is safe as long as people are traveling and need to stop for gas or a restroom break.  If you’re from Texas, then you know and love, Buc-ee’s, the Texas-born chain. Buc-ee’s have been creating their own in-store products garnering a cult following among their customers. Still, Buc-ee’s doesn’t have an online ordering or delivery option unless it’s offered through a third party.

Foxtrot has raised $160 million in Series C funding and they are expecting to open 25 locations in many cities in 2022. There are a few different levels of funding. If a company makes it to Series C funding, they are already successful and looking to expand or develop new products per Investopedia.

According to Retail Dive, “About half of the new stores will be in Chicago, Dallas and Washington, where all of the 16 stores Foxtrot currently operates are located, LaVitola said. The tech-focused retailer is also planning to begin operations in Boston and Austin, and intends to open four or five new stores in each of those cities during the next year and a half, he said.”

Foxtrot is testing out technology equipment that would allow customers to leave the store without stopping to checkout at the counter. They plan isn’t to go entirely self-service, but as the creator LaVitola stated, “the more hours we can allocate towards sampling and storytelling and interacting with customers and less [on] tasks that don’t add on to value, like checkout, that’s great.”

Foxtrot is redefining convenience by including carefully curated products. They aim to offer local popular products as well core pantry items. They aim to make the commonly unpleasant experience of convenience stores enjoyable. Let’s hope they succeed.

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What small business owners can learn from Starbucks’ new D&I strategy

(BUSINESS) Diversity and inclusion have been at the forefront of Starbucks’ mission, but now they’re shifting strategy. What can we learn from it?

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Hands of all different skin colors on green background representing Starbucks' D&I.

Starbucks was one of many companies that promised to focus on diversity and inclusion efforts after the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020. What sets Starbucks apart from other companies were its specific goals.

How It Started

They began with hiring targets and have now added goals in corporate and manufacturing roles. Starbucks’ plans and goals revolve around transparency for accountability. They released the annual numbers for 2021 as a way to help hold themselves accountable. The data they’ve released so far show that they’ve met nearly a third of their 2025 goals according to Retail Brew. Because of this information, we can see why they are choosing to move in the direction of manufacturing and corporate jobs. In 2021, POC’s fell to 12.5% of director-level employees from 14.3% in 2020 in manufacturing.

How It’s Going

Per Starbucks’ website stories and news, “[I]t will increase its annual spend with diverse suppliers to $1.5 billion by 2030.  As part of this commitment, Starbucks will partner with other organizations to develop and grow supplier diversity excellence globally.” To put that into perspective, they spent nearly $800 million with diverse suppliers in 2021. With these moves, by 2030, it will increase by almost double.

As part of their accountability and progress, they plan to partner up with Arizona State University to give out free toolkits to entrepreneurs on fundamentals for running successful diverse-owned businesses. Another goal they’ve listed is to boost paid media representation by allocating 15 percent of the advertising budget to minority-owned and targeted media companies to reach diverse audiences.

At the heart of all this information on their goals and future plans, data transparency and accountability are what’s forcing them to look at the numbers to make specific goals. They are doing more than just throwing money at the problem, they are analyzing how they can do better and where the money will make a difference. Something that, as entrepreneurs, we should all do.

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Business News

Peloton is back-pedaling: Reports of price increases, layoffs, and cost cuts

(BUSINESS) After a recording of layoffs leaks, ‘supply chain’ issues cause shipping increases, and they consult for cost-cutting, Peloton is doomed.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Is Peloton in Trouble?

According to many reports, Peloton had success early in the pandemic when gyms shut down. Offering consumers a way to connect with a community for fitness along with varying financing options allowed the company to see growth when many other industries were being shuttered.

After two years, CNBC reports that the company is “being impacted by …supply chain challenges” and rising inflation costs. According to the report, customers will be paying an additional $250 for its bike and $350 for its tread for delivery and setup.

As demand has decreased, Peloton is also considering layoffs in their sales and marketing departments, overheard in a leaked audio call. The recording details executives discussing “Project Fuel” where they plan to cut 41% of the sales and marketing teams, as well as letting go of eCommerce employees and frontline workers at 15 retail stores.

Nasdaq reported that the stock fell 75% last year, after a year where it soared over 400%.

Peloton reviewing its overall structure

According to another report from CNBC, Peloton is working with McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, to lower costs as revenue has dropped and the growth of new subscriptions has slowed since the pandemic. Last November, according to NPR, Peloton had “its worst day as a publicly-traded company.” It also anticipates greater losses in 2022 than originally predicted. It makes sense that the company would reexamine their strategy as the economy changes. They aren’t the only one that is raising prices amid supply chain issues.

It will be interesting to watch how Peloton fares

Peloton has a large community that pays a monthly fee for connected fitness. While growth has slowed, the company still has a strong share of consumers. Although it is facing more competition in the home fitness market and more gyms are reopening, as Peloton adjusts to the new normal, it should remain a viable company.

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