The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a fundamental shift in the entire international landscape, and businesses are working overtime to adapt to the so-called “new normal.” In this new atmosphere, businesses have been figuring out – to varying degrees of success – new ways to continue doing business that still preserve the safety and wellbeing of their employees. Tom Hazzard is the Chief Technology Officer of Podetize. Joining Timothy Bush, Tom discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the world of business and what to expect in the aftermath. If you’re feeling anxious about what comes next, let Timothy and Tom help you prepare for the future.
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Navigating Our Business Around COVID-19 With Tom Hazzard
We have an awesome program for you. Tom Hazzard is here. If you don’t know Tom Hazzard, he is one of the owners of Podetize. That is the actual platform that this show is managed from. They have grown that platform from a small boutique to large. A lot of people are using that to launch their podcasts from. We’re excited to have Tom here. You may have heard Tom before on one of our Flashtopic episode. I consider him a friend and a colleague. We have a good time talking about stuff. We’re right in the middle of COVID-19. We’re all in quarantine. We’re all locked down for the duration. I thought it’d be fun to get Tom on here and know his perspective, what’s going on with him and his family, what his take on this whole thing is and what he thinks. As always, when Tom and I get together, we talk about a lot of different things. The conversation goes in a lot of different directions. There are plenty of tangents, which makes for a good interview. He’s one of the smartest guys I know. I always enjoy speaking with him. Without any further ado, let’s get right into it.
Tom, thanks so much for being here. I appreciate it.
It’s a pleasure to be back.
Tom, when I introduce you, is it Tom from Podetize, Tom from Hazz Design? Who is it Tom from?
The reality is I have two companies. I’m from both technically, although I have to admit Podetize is the dominant business these days. Hazz Design still exists and I’m still developing products. I’ve got this new microphone here that I’ve sourced over in China. We designed and developed and we’re going to be bringing it in but it’s for ourselves. We’re not doing as much product design and development for other companies these days. It’s more for ourselves. Tracy and I have many years of experience in that. Do you publish your video or would you not use it?
I created a YouTube channel. I know I’m way behind the times, but all my videos are being edited and published on my YouTube channel as well.
Podetize has grown leaps and bounds. We still have a lot of experience in the product world. Our designing, bringing in products and selling them ourselves in the product world, but our business has changed.
A little passion changed too.
The whole consumer product market over our careers has changed so much from when we first started. More things are being made in the United States and so much manufacturing is going over to Asia and then diving into that a deep way for more than a decade. We’re getting into this podcasting market and having so much fun with it. We’re seeing opportunity and growth there and went with it in a big way.
I was doing a coaching call before this and my client was filling out his ideal customer. One of the exercises we do is they have to fill out what their ideal customer was. He had said that his customer was male, 40 years old, etc. I said, “Do you think that your customer is male?” The product he sells is something you would buy when you’re moving or downsizing. It’s a mattress protector. It’s out on Amazon so I can say. It’s a heavy-duty thing that you would slide your mattress, zip it up and it will store it. He’s doing great with it on Amazon. I said, “Maybe the guy will put it in the protector, but I’m sure it’s the woman who will buy it.”
He lives in the Netherlands. I gave him your guys’ spiel on women making a huge percent, 80%, of the household purchases. The more I talked to him, the light bulb went off. He’s like, “My girlfriend does buy pretty much everything for the house.” You guys are on my brain a lot when I’m working with my clients on the packaging and with their perception of who’s going to put their hands on this product and buy it from the store. I appreciate that education from many years ago. Most people probably don’t know, Tom and I met on Twitter. You may not even remember that. It was Tracy who got back to me, but I’m trying to think of how long ago it was because I was in the house on the lake. It’s a few years now. I had put out a tweet and you guys responded to it.
I don’t know that I could claim credit for that. I know it was our Twitter account. Tom and Tracy Hazzard of Hazz Design, we’re both on it, but I have to admit Tracy owned Twitter in terms of our division of responsibilities and things. She probably responded. I do remember about that time where you came into our lives and our consciousness.
It’s been quite the evolution for years. I was doing a Facebook Live and I like podcasting because it’s me talking and I love to hear myself talk. I was talking about our situation. I don’t know what the newscasters are going to talk about once they’re not able to talk about the Coronavirus because that’s all they talk about. They keep saying, “When things get back to normal.” I went on to say, “Let me explain it to you. Not that I’m an economic expert, but there is no more normal. There’s only before the virus and after the virus. After the virus is going to look completely different.”
The reason I brought it up is because a lot of my clients have been asking me, “Should I be pivoting to this or to that?” or “Should I start selling hand sanitizer or something?” I went on to talk about instead of pivoting, why don’t you lean into what you’re doing and see how you can lean that towards what people are going to need post-virus instead of trying to change. The second you change to something that you’re not familiar with and then everyday things are changing, that’s not going to work. I want to talk more about the virus, how it’s affecting the economy, retail and everything that we’re doing. You can see it’s affecting my hair because I can’t get a haircut. I thought, “I want to call Tom and we’ll have a conversation.
I appreciate that, Tim. I enjoy having these conversations with you. I’ve been thinking a lot of these same issues myself and discussing it with some other friends and colleagues that are in and around the retail industry in one way or another. I agree with you that I’ve heard some people say what will the new normal be? It’s going to be a while before we know that but certainly, things are changing. Things are not going to get back to normal the way they were. I’ve been thinking of it similarly to the impact 9/11 had on certain aspects of our lives. I’m not going to talk about retail specifically, but when you think about it, before 9/11, our airport security was a whole lot different. We could all walk in to take our loved one to the gate.
My daughter was born in 2002. Her entire reality has always been post-9/11. To her, that’s completely normal but for me, I always think the airport experience was never the same. We never went back to normal. We only went back to post-9/11.There is no more 'normal,' only before and after the virus. Click To Tweet
The same thing is going to happen in our consumer purchasing and retail landscape. It’s all changing because think about it, the majority of Americans who were not already purchasing things online and on Amazon, don’t get me wrong, Amazon is a giant. They’ve been incredibly successful and been transforming the retail landscape on their own for a couple of decades now. Tracy, my wife and business partner, she can look at her entire purchase history on Amazon because she’s been using the same account since 1998. She bought many books on Amazon. I’m talking about physical books that were mailed to us from Amazon instead of going to the local bookstore.
Year over year more books, more books and then eventually other products. To the point where the number of Amazon orders that our account places every year is getting close to the number of days there are in a year. Hundreds of households were huge Amazon consumer, but not all of America is. My point here is there are a lot of Americans that because of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders have now been ordering and having things delivered, whether it’s food or other products that they wouldn’t normally have done that prior.
After the stay-at-home orders are lifted and even though there’s a lot of uncertainty as to exactly when that’s going to happen. Is it going to be phased-in or different by the state? There are a lot of variables in this. You’re going to see an awful lot of these consumers who have been somewhat forced into ordering online and buying continuing to do it more going forward. The brick-and-mortar retail that was already suffering in many ways, you’re going to see a lot more of those going out of business and a lot more vacant retail space. It’s going to dramatically change the landscape in the United States, at least for how products are distributed, bought and sold.
I saw this even pre-virus. I’ve had a premonition that a specialty retailer was already starting to come back. We’re losing many big box stores. When I was a kid, we had one sports shop in our town. The guy’s name was Bob. It was Bob’s Sporting Goods. Everybody went to Bob to get their skis waxed, to sharpen their skis for ski season and to get their letterman jacket. I’ve been starting to see a little bit more of as bigger retailers go out, it gives way for people that can offer some specialized service. My hope is that it will continue. People still want to go out. They still need and want expertise even more now.
I do think that this situation has created the opportunity for people to do things that they’re not comfortable with like have their employees work from home and they’ve been resisting it maybe. They have to do it and they’re probably going to find out that it’s not so bad. Maybe that $20,000 I spend a month on that building could get cut down to $5,000. Only the key person and the rest of them can work from home because they were forced to try it. They’re seeing how they like it. My green screen is up because I finished recording a course on selling via video conference. That will be out probably around the same time that this episode goes out.
In my business, only 8% of my clients do I ever meet face-to-face. For several years, I’ve been selling my services and products via video conference. I have a unique understanding of that. The Canton Fair announced they’re going to do the Canton Fair online. There are hundreds of people out there that are going to be pitching and also on the receiving end of a pitch, on video conference for the very first time. I’ve been doing it for a long time, but that’s different. They wouldn’t normally do it. I still like to be face-to-face. I’m way better face-to-face than I am over video. We even talked about it one time on a Flashtopic. It will be a little bit more the new norm. Even when restrictions are lifted, flights are open to the rest of the world. You can go anywhere you want like you used to, but how long is it going to take before people get on a plane and go somewhere on vacation? Are they going to cut the middle seats now? Are they going to take those off?
There’s a lot of speculation on that. A lot of people are speculating the middle seat will not be sold for a long time. How’s that going to impact ticket prices? On the one hand, ticket prices are in the basement price-wise. It’s a great time to buy a plane ticket if you need to fly. The reality is that’s not sustainable long-term for the airline industry. They’ve always been reducing the amount of space. I’m worried less about the middle seat and the person next to me as I am with the person I’m crammed into in the row before me and the row behind me. They’ve been decreasing the space in these flights to the point where for a tall guy like me or a little taller than 6-foot, your knees are getting jammed in the front. You heard about people having altercations on the planes when they reclined their seat as if that’s some incredibly offensive thing to do, which maybe I don’t agree with that. Still the space, the point is the proximity. If I sneeze and you’re right in front of me, that’s worse than if you’re sitting beside me. There’s so much that’s going to change. The travel industry in particular, can you imagine if you’re trying to market a cruise line?
You’re dead in the water. That’s what I’m trying to say. When will people say, “I feel okay?” When are you going to walk into a hotel room and not view it like you’re watching Ocean’s Twelve? I was in Whole Foods and I couldn’t stop staring at this guy and his phone with no mask on. I’m like, “Do you not care about me? I get it that you don’t think you’re going to get anything but put a mask on.” At Whole Foods, generally everybody has a mask on, not like at Publix. I’m starting to look at people and I want to go up to them and say, “Why don’t you have a mask on?”
It’s interesting how trends like that are going to happen in cultures that are not used to it. Tim, you must have been to China in your career. I’ve gone over a ton myself. In 5, 8, 10 years ago, you’d go to China and how commonly would you see people out in public wearing a mask?
It’s pretty often. Once you fly around inside China, a lot of people on the airplane are wearing a mask. I used to think that they were trying not to get sick, but now I’m understanding they’re trying to also protect other people from anything that might be coming from them. It’s a whole different mentality. I’m wearing a mask for you and you’re wearing a mask for me.
There are some people in the Asian cultures in China and Taiwan and a lot of those places that have this feeling that their air is not very clean and having a mask maybe is protecting them somewhat. That was years ago.
Do you think they have a thought that I’m in Beijing and I can’t see the hand in front of my face? If you’re an eight-year-old in Beijing, you don’t even know what the sun looks like.
As we’ve seen here in the United States with the stay-at-home orders, especially here in greater Los Angeles where I am, the air quality has never been better in our lifetimes. Few planes are flying and spewing carbon into the air. The smog is gone. It must have happened like in the greater Wu Han China area. It may not have happened in Beijing so much.
Have you lived your whole life in California?
No, it’s only the lasts several years. I’m from New England originally.
In the late ‘70s, we moved to Fallbrook, California from Mission Viejo. I remember going back to our old neighborhood and going, “What’s that smell?” My sister would be like, “That’s the smog.” It was bad back then. They cleaned it up. I can’t even imagine what it’s like there now.
It has gotten cleaned up a lot even before COVID-19 and the extreme reduction in motor vehicles and spewing exhaust at a much lower rate. It had gotten better because car efficiencies have gotten better and gasoline no longer has lead in it from it did in the late ‘70s. I talked to my father-in-law. Tracy grew up right here in Southern California herself through high school and everything. They had smog alert days where at school they couldn’t go out for PE. They had to stay inside the school buildings. That doesn’t happen anymore and it hasn’t been happening for a long time. The air quality in the environment has gotten a lot better in California, but still the smog was visible in Los Angeles.
You couldn’t see clearly out from LA to see some of the mountains out toward Pasadena and some of the inland empires where now you can. The atmosphere is one major beneficiary of the global health crisis in many ways, which is temporary. I keep joking to Tracy when you see some of these research programs or even some of these movies maybe like the Day After Tomorrow where these guys are in the Arctic drilling ice cores to measure carbon levels in the atmosphere. When they do that 100 years from now, they’re going to see a blip, an anomaly, like, “What the hell happened this year? The air was so much cleaner,” and you’ll be able to track it and see it.
Although I do expect this to be a temporary thing at some point. You may have a good point that how long is it going to take for the travel industry to return to what it was. There’s going to be a global realignment here in a lot of ways. Some people may think of it as a correction in certain industries. The individual’s need for safety and protection, those are the major needs that are driving everything right now. It’s not just going to be, “The government says we’re back open for business.” All of a sudden, everybody floods the streets and is back to doing what they’re used to do. It’s not going to happen.
Americans in general have a short attention span. They get tired of something and then they want to ignore it. I thought it was interesting. My mind is flooded with all these things. Somebody on my Facebook feed was talking about your governor making that purchase of masks from a Chinese company. She said something about buying from our enemy. I was like, “Did we go to war with China? Is China our enemy now? Where is that coming from?” There was this all kinds of trail on her feed. I’m like, “Are you guys kidding me?”
There are a lot of people in the United States that have a perspective that is not aware of the reality of our global supply chain. I’ll give you an example because this happened to me. My wife’s aunt commented that she was in Walmart. Walmart being the store she was in and this is important. Somebody’s buying a pair of sneakers and she said she was offended because not only did she regard a sneaker as not an essential item. I don’t know if I agree with that. People need to walk and they need footwear. If you don’t have a good pair of sneakers, that’s pretty essential.
That’s a side point. She was commenting the sneaker was made in China. She was getting angry and expressing her opinion that we should all be buying American and not from China. I’m like, “I can understand your perspective on that from wanting to support your own country.” I replied to her on Facebook. I commented in what I hoped was a compassionate and empathetic way but trying to raise her awareness that first of all, she’s shopping in Walmart. Unless you’re buying a food product or a consumable like toilet paper or paper towel or maybe a garden product like plants and seeds, you are not going to find much of any products in that store that are made in the United States.
There are only certain categories of products that are still manufactured in the United States. I even made the point that you could buy plants and seeds maybe that are made in the United States but don’t buy the garden tools there if you don’t want to buy things made in China. The reality of the United States as a manufacturing base, there are only certain types of products that are made. It is not practical or even possible in a Walmart or a Target, some of these big box stores to buy something made in the United States. I used the other example of television. Try to find a television you can buy that was not made in the United States, you’re not going to find it. You might find TV under an American brand being sold, like you might find a Zenith or a Panasonic or some older US legacy brand, but I guarantee you there is a made in China stamp on that TV.
People are funny because they’ll say, “Made in America,” but when it comes to the point of the pain for made in America, not so much. Their enthusiasm wanes. It was more the word enemy that caught my attention. I’m not sure that we have any “enemies” like people may think about back in the Cold War or World War II or when we had enemies like the Taliban, but all of China?
It’s disheartening to me when I hear and see people commenting that way about China. The thing that we have to realize, Tim, is that you and I have traveled to China. We have a unique perspective on it because we’ve been there. We’ve met the people. We’ve experienced the society and culture. While there are many differences, the reality is they’re fundamentally good people trying to do what we’re doing here, have a job, make a living, provide for their families and try to advance their lives in some way. I find those comments often made by people that have never left the United States more often than others. They don’t have the awareness of the perspective. COVID-19 should help illuminate this to Americans and the citizens all over the world that we live in a pretty small world.
How fast this virus spread like wildfire and was unable to be stopped from coming to our country, you literally would have had to shut all the flights, all the borders, not let anybody come into this country or even come back to the country if you’re a US citizen abroad if you wanted to isolate the United States and prevent this from happening. That’s the only thing you could have done. Stopping the direct flights from China to the US was going to be putting a Band-Aid on something that needed a tourniquet. It was not going to stop it. I was talking about this on another podcast that I’m a part of called Purchasing Truth, which is a whole another subject.
We were having the discussion a bit about how if all of us citizens of the world are not seeing this as a problem that we all have, instead of a problem that I have or individuals have and looking at things from a perspective of we, it gets clear that we’re all in this together as global citizens. It is not unique to any one country. People that comment about buying American and being offended at that and all this stuff are looking at things from more of a me-perspective instead of we-perspective. That’s disheartening to me because I don’t think it’s in alignment with where we are as people in this world.
It’s pretty common for people to want to blame somebody. I was talking to my wife about this. People have been talking about some sort of a major pandemic in relation to the overuse of pharmaceuticals or antibiotics or superbugs. People have been talking about this for years. It’s now happened. In our lifetime, even my father’s lifetime, we’ve never had an event that hasn’t happened before. People are a little dumbfounded. They’re guessing on, “This is what will happen, but I don’t know because we’ve never experienced this type of thing ever.” I do think that there’s going to be a correction.
I do think that things will be different. Not that I’m enjoying it but my daughter for instance has been a competitive ice skater for several years. For several years, she gets up early, goes to the ring, skates all day, leaves and goes to off-ice workout. For the first time, she can’t do that. It’s not that she’s not wanting to, she just can’t do it. Her ballet instructor has figured out how to do her private lessons on Zoom. She’s working out, but for the first time, she’s got time to draw and get back to some things that she never was able to do. Families are reconnecting, hopefully. Our houses are just these places where we run through on our way from one place to another. Now we’re all stuck at home.
I’m experiencing that too. I’m having more weekly video calls with family, twice a week in general now. The family across the country that I otherwise in a normal or in the past normal situation, I probably didn’t even talk to on the phone as much or maybe text message a bit. We’re connecting more as a family. All of my buddies from back in grade school in my old hometown up in the Northeast, we’ve been connecting every Wednesday evening for happy hour on Zoom. We’re all connecting more. There are some good things coming out of this. I don’t in any way mean to gloss over the people that are severely impacted and have a loved one that has passed away to this disease. That’s all terrible, but as we are all forced into these changing situations, it’s interesting to find some of the silver linings coming out of it.
That’s all I was saying. I’m completely devastated with all the death and the economic disaster that is getting worse every single day. People are talking in terms of I have enough to sustain me to this date. I know what people are going through, but I do think that you have to find some of the positive in the situation so that you can simply make it through. I walk every single day, but now I see hundreds of people walking every single day. At all different times of the day, people getting outside because they can’t stand being inside anymore.
I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I have a lot of clients that are outside the US. The guy that got off before you in the Netherlands and things are the same there. For the first time in my lifetime, we all have something very similar in common. When we email and talk to people, we end our salutations now with stay safe and be well. Globally, we’re saying that to each other. Our emails, we’re not getting right down to business. We’re starting with, “How are you? I hope you and your family are well and safe and are dealing with this okay.” That’s how all the emails I get started, which is interesting. Somebody might have said that to me a year ago because there’s a hurricane happening in Florida and they know I live in Florida. They might say, “Are you okay? How are things going?” Globally, we’re wishing each other well. Making sure that we ask each other how they’re doing before we get into what it was we are all going to say.The atmosphere is one major beneficiary of the current global health crisis. Click To Tweet
There’s a lot more compassion and empathy starting in our communications than there used to be, and it’s coming from a genuine place more so than being what you might call a common courtesy. It’s coming more from the heart. I still believe that there’s more of we cultural cycle going on than me in general. Although some people may not demonstrate that as much, but that’s happening more. It’s all going to have a huge impact on our economy, the business that happens, our global trade or our local shopping. It’s unsettling that there’s a lot of uncertainty out there. We don’t know what’s going to happen. People don’t like uncertainty.
There’s a certain amount of complacency that has gone on. Complacency certainly is not abounding. People are very much in the moment of what they’re touching, who they’re around, who they’re talking to, what they’re wearing. What’s interesting is the guy that was in Whole Foods on his phone with no mask was the only person I saw in all of the Whole Foods that was even on his phone. That’s struck me like, “What?” Whereas a few months ago, 50% of the people in Whole Foods would have been looking at their phone and texting. They don’t want to pull it out because they don’t want to have to clean it or they’re more aware. They’re more at the moment because they know if they pull it out and start to disappear into their phone, they might run into somebody or you’ll get too close to somebody. They’re more at the moment than I’ve ever seen.
I haven’t even thought of not pulling out my phone in the store when I’m there. I use my phone as my grocery list. I put my list on Alexa and I have an app on my phone that I can read the list to get my stuff so I’m pulling out my phone. I’m not afraid personally about touching things and contracting germs. I clean my phone and I wash my hands. When I get home from the store, it’s a good idea to take a little shower to make sure you’re clean.
I erected one of those things outside my door. It’s a big tent. When I walk in, it decontaminates. No, I didn’t, but it would be cool if I did have that. What do you think about PPE? I got contacted by this through a guy I knew in the Czech Republic government, who connected me with a buddy of his here in Florida, who has connections to some FDA registered factories in China. We were able to put a program together. We can deliver nine million masks every seven days to the US whether they’re N95 or they’re surgical or nonsurgical. As much as everybody’s talking about lack of PPE, I can get no takers. I got an email back from Costco USA that says, “We have now secured all the masks that we need.” I emailed the governor of California and he made $1 billion something purchase for masks so he doesn’t need our mask. I reached out to the governor of New York, New Jersey, Texas, Philadelphia, Florida, California and no responses. I didn’t try Louisiana, but I’m sure Louisiana has got some on the downloads somewhere.
That’s surprising. I forget what department is it that was stockpiling them within the government or supposed to have a strategic stockpile. Is that FEMA or somebody else? I don’t know. There’s got to be some takers for that. My understanding is we’ve got doctors and nurses on the front lines. A lot of hospitals don’t have enough masks. They’re stretching the masks and using them too long. They don’t have enough gowns. In New York, they’d reached out to the New York Yankees, the New York Mets organizations to get as many ponchos as they could that they had in stock. They were using those for protective gowns because they didn’t have enough actual materials. It seems rather shocking to me that if you’ve got a source that has millions of PPE products, that there is not a taker for it.
That’s the question. What I’m wondering is, is this a 2 or 3-week ago problem that the press is still trying to keep in the mainstream? The bottom line is if me and a guy that makes strollers down in Jacksonville, Florida can connect with a company in China and bring nine million masks every seven days, I have to imagine that Walmart, Target, Costco, the government can do that a lot more efficiently than me. What I’m wondering is, is that a 2 or 3 week-ago problem and they’re holding onto it? Is it still as bad as they say, where people are using the same masks for multiple days? The other thing I thought it could be is I know on Amazon, there’s a ton of fake stuff. It’s flooded with stuff that’s not real, which is why I thought maybe people would jump on this. I was able to send them the FDA registration of the factory that’s good through December of 2020 and no takers. I’m trying to figure out if the issue is still a real issue.
We have to admit we don’t know because we’re not there on the front lines, but I certainly think that the media is capable of over sensationalizing a problem and making more of it.
To shine a light on it. Hopefully, that’s what they’re trying to do.
I would hope it’s coming from a place of integrity, but maybe the distribution channel though, the primary distribution channels that you work with is big box retail. Kudos to you for reaching out to government leadership at some of these states. I’ve also heard other stories about hospitals that are trying to place orders for PPE and not having success. I wonder if tapping into the hospital distribution channel or somebody that has more experience selling into that channel or maybe reaching out to hospital procurement departments might. It’s a lot more individual customers to try to follow up with rather than a bigger distribution channel. I would be surprised if we didn’t find some of the big hospitals and every major city in the United States that there is a gap between what the government is trying to buy and supply and/or FEMA or state governments and the actual hospitals themselves.
It’s possible I call that water to the Superdome problem. We have people in the Superdome. We have trucks of water, but the red tape to get the water to the people on the Superdome is for three days. It’s stopping it. I’m thinking if I’m president, I’m like, “I want you to drop some flipping pallets of water on the grass outside the Superdome and then tomorrow we’ll figure out the red tape of that. I want those on the ground in the next fifteen minutes.” I don’t understand it. I still don’t get it to this day. Anytime I see government blockading certain things, I call it water to the Superdome problem.
That’s exactly what it is. I agree with you 100%. It is red tape procedures. Everybody staying in their lane of responsibility and not being nimble and flexible to do what’s needed to solve the problem immediately. It’s frustrating.
Because we have a global problem, that means we have every available microbiologist, scientist, infectious disease expert in the world. How come we can’t solve this in 36 hours?
I was listening to an interview on a radio program where that question was brought up. The official Coronavirus equivalent of DNA has been shipped all over the world to every country, to every real infectious disease lab so they could all work on it and have it. Whether they’re some people working on a vaccine and other people working on potential treatments for the active virus. If this expert was to be believed, they’re working around the clock on this. All these different labs in the United States and across the world are working around the clock to try to solve this problem.
I’m certainly no expert in that field, but it may take a very long time to do this work. Once you solve it, you’ve got to synthesize that into a reproducible product. We know something about that. Getting it done as a sample or a prototype is a lot different than manufacturing and distributing it in mass. There has to be some lag time in that. I agree with you, this should be a D-Day like effort of development and production to storm the beaches of this virus and eradicate it.
It’s water to the Superdome problem and let’s not even talk about the virus. Why can’t we get some testing kits at work? I don’t have any facts on this, so I’m not saying that this is true, but I’m wondering if everybody’s wanting to claim victory like so-and-so country wants to be the one that solves this problem instead of us coming together. We had the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13. Those guys proved you get enough of the smartest people in the world in one room and in less than a day, they can figure out how to land a damaged spaceship in outer space and get the people back alive. I don’t get it. The scientists are saying, “That’s right, you don’t get it and that’s because you’re not a scientist.”
There may be some truth to that. There was a movie called And The Band Played On or something like that about the AIDS epidemic in its earliest stages and the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS. People in different countries in particular the United States and France had discovered this virus and were figuring it out. There was an attempt, especially more so by the French than the United States, to try to collaborate and work together to try to solve the problem. Whereas a doctor in particular in the United States in a lab who was being rather territorial about being the one who discovered it and wanting that recognition and acknowledgment. That process got in the way for a long time of making progress in identifying and solving this problem in creating effective treatments. I’m afraid, unfortunately, sometimes human nature gets in the way and is not in alignment with what’s best for humanity. There may be a bit of that happening here.
I didn’t want to give you kudos for pulling out the reference to Day After Tomorrow. Not a lot of people were fans of that movie. I liked that movie. Almost every lesson I learned in life, I referenced it to something I learned in a movie. When somebody pulls out a little reference, that was very early. That was at the first scene of the entire movie. Dennis Quaid out there pulling ice tubes. How are you guys dealing with it? What are some of the things that you guys are doing differently company-wise? Information and podcasting is huge right now. It’s growing so much anyway, but I imagine that people are getting on the airways more than ever. I talked to a buddy of mine at ECRM. He said he’s putting out a podcast a day.
I’ll tell you we are experiencing that. The month of March for us as all the stay-at-home measures took hold, at least in our state and a lot of states across the country. We as a company have experienced a surge and increase in business. It makes sense when you think about it. Many more people having video conferences using Zoom. You wish you had bought Zoom stock before March. We’re seeing a similar thing in podcasting. We’re seeing many people deciding now is the right time to start a podcast. We’re finding that from a listener perspective, more and more people being isolated in their homes are seeking human connection. Listening to podcasts is one way they can do that.
We’re seeing an increase in listenership. Fortunately for us and we realize how fortunate we are, our business has seen an increase in sales, of new podcasters and then existing ones doubling down in publishing more episodes. I was talking with another client of ours who normally publishes one a week and now going forward, he’s publishing one every weekday, five a week. He sees an opportunity and a need out there, especially because people can’t meet in person and go to events. You know this as much as any of us. Every week in the United States, in every major city before March 13th, 2020 about, there were dozens of events attracting thousands and thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of people to these events.
There was a trade event for something and multiple trade events in every big city everywhere. That all ground to a screeching halt about the week of March 13th, 2020. The last trade show I went to and exhibited at and sponsored was March 5th to 8th, 2020 in Orlando. That was the last week that there were any. People are having to change how they’re doing business, how they’re marketing, how they’re connecting with existing customers, new customers. Podcasting is one way that people are still able to do that. They can do it from home and a lot of them have a lot more time at home.
Do you think though that there’s content overload? There’s only so much content somebody can consume. Do you think it’s a good idea to put out a podcast a day?
If you have something to say and you have enough to say that’s meaningful and serving others when you podcast, if you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to approach it from the perspective of serving the listener first. The podcast hopefully will serve you in some way. Otherwise, you’re probably not going to continue to spend so much time doing it or maybe you shouldn’t. As long as you’re serving others first and you have something valuable to say, I don’t see any problem with the podcast a day. Not everybody has that much to say and also there are variables like how long is the episode and all these sorts of things. It’s an increasing trend. I’ve got more podcasters publishing more episodes per week now than they were before. I do see that probably that trend will shift again in a couple of months down the road when the stay at home orders are not as strict or lifted.
There will probably be fewer people putting out more of the normal number of episodes, the 1 or 2 a week instead of the 3 or 5 a week. There is a big appetite for listenership and people are looking for content and looking for human connection. People at home, especially if they are forced to not work, they’ve been laid off or furloughed, aside from spending time looking for a job, which a lot of them may not be able to do so much now because there are not a lot of jobs commonly available for people to jump into quickly. They’ve got time on their hands. Maybe they’re learning something new and researching things. They’ve got a lot of time. There’s an appetite for content more so than ever. It’s easier for me to say this isn’t my industry now, but we are seeing the numbers and they speak for themselves.
I certainly think you’re commenting about having something to say. If you’re putting stuff out there, that will get old fast. People are learning. They’re out there wanting to learn and grow. We’ll release our course on pricing your product for retail. It’s an eight-module course. After that, we’ll release the selling via video, which is going to be big. It’s very cheap. It’s only $39. It’s not selling products and selling anything. We’re excited about that. I’ve already started working on my big course, which is how to get your products into big box retail. That will be probably the most comprehensive course ever released on getting products into retail. It’s probably too comprehensive.
One of the things I keep finding is no matter how much I try, I still want to teach. There’s an air of my belief that our audience has a certain level of knowledge about the subject that I’m talking about. It hit me in the face one day when I received an email from a listener that says, “You’ve never put out a podcast on how to do a buyer deck. Could you do that?” I thought, “You’re mistaken.” I went back through all my episodes and she was not mistaken. I hadn’t done it. I put out a podcast on building a buyer deck. After it came out, a couple of months later, I emailed her and said, “Did you get a chance to listen? Did it help?” She said, “I’m more confused now than I was before.” I realized that I had a certain expectation for a certain amount of knowledge even when I was giving that podcast. The course on getting your products into retail will go from very basic to teaching people what is an end cap, a side cap, a clip strip. What’s a base shelf or how the products get merchandised up to the more key parts of dealing with buyers and stuff like that.
I’m thinking about designing big pieces of furniture that are being sold on the shelves at Target. We had to change the design of the product to fit a box that could fit on a shelf that was only so deep. That was a requirement of Target. It’s not the best thing for the product necessarily, but it’s a requirement you had to deal with if you’re going to be on the shelf at Target. I imagine there are a ton of those things within the process. You’re talking about even how to pitch and get something to be considered at a store, but many things that are critical that you need to know or you’re going to be beating your head against the wall, coming up against roadblock after roadblock if you don’t know what you’re doing.
People think about it like it’s a roadblock like, “This retailer is being difficult or they’re being unrealistic.” I often try to explain to people flexibility. They want what they want. I said, “If you were a buyer, wouldn’t you want what you want too? You have a shelf. It’s this big, it’s this deep. You have this much space. Nobody’s going to change the configuration of the shelf for your product. Don’t you want the best product at the best price, with the best terms if you’re the buyer?” That’s all they’re asking for. You would ask for the same if you were them. The more flexible you can be, the more you can say, “As long as you guys are buying ten containers, I’ll make it any which way you want me to make it or the packaging.”
Here’s the problem. The people start to pigeonhole themselves because they don’t know what a peg hook is or they don’t know what a clip strip is or they don’t know what a side cap and end cap. What that does is it limits their ability to imagine the different places that their product could go. I’m sure you’ve been in the industry as long as I have. You know that many years ago, the buyers were merchants. They knew how the product went on the shelf. They could visualize. They’d say, “We’re going to do this and this.” Now, they’re younger and data-driven. They’re leaning on us to help them figure out where it’s going to go, how it’s going to look, that’s not their thing.
It’s the buying positions now or a brief stop climbing up the retail corporate ladder and they’re not merchants. Last month, they might have been buying file folders and this month, they’re buying chairs. There’s no career as a buyer in a merchant. They used to know their business and did such a good job.
They were excited. They wanted to be first. They were like, “Can I get a year’s exclusivity on this and we’re going to do this with it and that with it.” Now they’re like, “Who else is selling this?” That used to be a bad thing and now it’s, “I don’t want to be first. I want to be a second or third. I want to jump in that stream that’s moving very quickly and be in and out.” I’ve said this a ton of times and I don’t want to be negative, but what’s wrong with retail in general? Why is retail declining? It’s bad buying. It’s plain and simple bad buying.
It’s also for a buyer, their motives are not in alignment with what would be best for the consumer and their retail establishment as a whole because all they care about is doing better this month, year over year than they did last year. “I can’t do any worse. I have to do better.” That’s why they’re risk-averse. That’s why they want to do only things that are proven. It’s why they’re also only carrying things that are primarily black or white in a lot of consumer products. They’re like, “No green, that’s a risky color. We’re not going to sell a lot of that.” There are exceptions like clothing and all sorts of things. It may be different. In a lot of products, they’re going to sell vanilla and chocolate, but you’re never going to get Rocky Road or strawberry cheesecake or whatever flavor of a product. Metaphorical, they’d probably sell those ice creams. In terms of a product, in those big box stores, a product has to do a certain velocity per store per week or they have no interest in it.
There are certain experiences that you have as a consumer. You have experience in the store. You have the experience of deciding your product. You have the experience when you get it home and you open it up. You have the experience of using it. It’s rare for all of those experiences to be positive. If enough of them are positive, then you may go back to that store. We’re creating less and less reason for people to walk into a brick and mortar store because they’re going to see and experience something that they’ve never done before. If I was a CEO of a major retailer, I would have a spec-ops buying team that lived in a 90-day world. I would pull like the best of my buyers from different categories. I would say, “You live in a 90-day world. I want you to find the hottest thing. I want you to get it on the shelf inside 60 days, sell through it. I want you to be onto the next hottest thing. I want you to get me exclusivity. I want you to get me buying rights.” That’s what those people did and that’s all they did.It's common for people to want to blame somebody. Click To Tweet
Isn’t that a little bit more what the Costco plan and mentality is? They like to have things that are unique that not everybody else has, or at least bundles of things that are unique. They try to move through it quickly in and out, in a lot of categories. Costco thinks much more that way than your typical big box retailer.
Costco certainly lives in a 90-day world, in a quarterly world. In food, I can agree with you that they are not averse to stepping out on a food product that they tried and they like. In general, on hard goods, for their model to work, it has to be sold somewhere else so that they can generate the value. They do value in two different ways, one more in the box or a better price. If you see a product at Costco that you’ve never seen before, you don’t know whether it’s a good value because you’ve never seen it.
They don’t do it that often anymore. They want you to be successful at Target so they can show a 20% to 30% to 40% value with a little bit more in the box. That’s the wheel that makes it go round because Costco is all about their membership. That’s what drives their profit. Membership is driven off of people getting tremendous value. They tell their neighbor, “Look what I’ve got. It’s like way cheaper than any place I’ve ever seen.” “I’m going to go down to Costco and get a membership so I can get that.” That’s what makes their world go around.
It works very well. I’m also a big Costco shopper. The desk I’m sitting at came from Costco and it’s a heck of a value.
What right now amid our situation is the one thing that you’re missing the most?
It’s sushi, that’s one.
Whole Foods do sushi brand new every day.
Takeout sushi is one thing. Maybe from Whole Foods, I could trust it. Maybe I should do that. I miss going out to sushi. That’s one of our favorite things. Going out to restaurants and eating in general is a big thing for us. Take out, we’re doing that at least once or twice a week, but it’s not the same. That experience of dining out I miss.
Is your sushi restaurant going to make it?
It remains to be seen. I hope so. It’s not the smallest restaurant in the world and there are like several locations so I don’t know. We’ll see. The restaurant industry is tough, to begin with. A lot of them are not coming back. I have a gift card at a restaurant I got for my birthday. I didn’t get a chance to use it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a chance. I would say that is what I missed. This is personally, not business stuff. I miss getting together with some of the extended family. We would get together at least twice a month with a family that’s like an hour drive away or so at most. That’s not happening. We did a virtual Easter celebration on Zoom with the family. We’re communicating still but getting together is not happening. Those are the things I miss the most.
What’s something that you used to do that you’re not missing?
I don’t miss the hectic travel schedule and having to squeeze in other types of business in and around that travel schedule. I like to travel personally like seeing new places. I like meeting people when I’m there. I generally like attending events. There was always this struggle with, “I want to do this, but I’ve got this travel schedule. I’ve got this and that. I’ve got this complicated school schedule with my kids.” The hectic nature of the schedule, it does not happen so much now. I do find myself on calls back to back or podcast interviews and things like that generally all day long, most days of the week. I’ve been still very busy, but it’s been pretty easy to schedule things. I don’t miss the complexity of rushing around and schedules and when do I have to leave to get to the airport to get through security and to get in there. All the hectic nature of things, I don’t miss. Even though I’ve been busy and on calls all day long, there’s a certain level of calmness and consistency of being able to do things. That’s been a good thing.
For me, the thing I miss the most is like you as a family. We have our yearly big family get together at the beach here in Florida. We run a huge house. We’re going to rent too. We had more people and that all got scrapped.
We had weddings and other family life events like that. Several have been canceled. We had flights booked. We had to cancel all that. Everything drastically changed like that.
The thing I don’t miss is missing my family. My daughter and wife travel so much for skating and I used to travel so much for work. A lot of times we were missing each other. For us to all to be at the house at the same time for a certain amount of time was unheard of. I don’t miss that. I like being home and being with the family. I do like to travel, but I don’t miss trade shows. It’s a different thing. We’ll see how it all shakes out. One thing I do know for sure is we’ll all figure our way in the new reality that we’re on our way into. I don’t feel like we’re destined for disaster. I feel like whatever it is, we’re going to figure it out and probably make it work better than it was hopefully.
We will get through this and hopefully, we will be better people. Those of us that do get through it and didn’t succumb to the virus, there are positive outcomes. I do think there are some. We will get through it. The uncertainty was unsettling, but I’m still optimistic about the future. It will not be the same world when we get through this. It definitely will be different.
Those of you out there waiting for it to get back to normal, stop waiting because there is no more normal. There only is what it is. Tom, thanks so much. Big Boxer, sorry that we were all over the board, but it was a good conversation. As always, I enjoy speaking with you and hearing your thoughts and seeing what you guys are doing. It’s good to talk to you face-to-face. We’ll chat again soon.
It sounds great, Tim. Thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure.
Big Boxers, I hope that you enjoyed the episode. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. I certainly did. Tom, thanks so much for coming on and spending a little bit of time with us. I appreciate your point of view and how you look at the world. We’ll look forward to the next time we can chat together. Now that the episode is over, I wanted to spend a little bit of time. You know me, I have some things that I want to talk to you about. I want to go over a couple of different things, especially when things are so crucial and different.
I have been getting a lot of questions on, “Tim, what do you think about retail? Tim, what do you think is going on? Tim, what do you think that we should do? Tim, who do you think is going to reopen up?” I certainly have some thoughts on that. I’ve been talking a little bit about it in my Facebook group, which I don’t know. Have you joined that yet, On The Shelf “Now”? Go to Facebook, type in On The Shelf Now and hit join and you’ll get in on that conversation.
There’s going to be a shakeup. We’re not going to see every retailer come back out of this situation, but that’s okay. I don’t think that we’re going to lose any retailer that we probably wouldn’t have lost anyway. I’m talking about big retailers. I know that there are a lot of boutiques out there, a lot of mom and pops out there that maybe were not able to pay their rent during this time or make it happen or that were shut down longer than they could stand. I feel bad about that. It’s not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault. I also think that the situation is going to give rise to more mom and pop retailers.
As we lose big doors, those have to be replaced. People still want to go shopping. It’s going to be time for people to start opening specialty again. When I say specialty, the reason I use that word, it’s a common word to talk about a retailer. This may be 2,500 square feet or less and with a single owner-operator. When I say specialty, what I’m meaning is the person who’s running that store has specialized knowledge about what it is that they sell.
You’re not walking into a random store and the person working there don’t know anything. I keep talking to people about when I was a kid, growing up in Fallbrook, California, we had a sports store. It’s Bob’s Sporting Goods and his name was Bob. If I need a ski to sharpen, Bob sharpens the skis. If I need them tuned up, Bob. If I needed a Letterman jacket, if I needed a bathing suit, whatever the sport was that we were doing, whatever time of year it was, we would go to our local sporting goods store. There weren’t big DICK’S Sporting Goods or Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s or any of that.
It was this one small sports store that served our town and that person who worked there was knowledgeable about all the things that he sold. We’re going to see some of that coming back and that to me is interesting. That to me is exciting. I want to talk to people that know what they’re doing, know what they’re selling and have an interest in selling something new, not the same old thing that everybody else is selling. Let that be a lesson. If you’re a buyer and you’re reading this, what we need, and I’m going to do an entire episode on this that’s just dedicated to retailers. Here’s like a little precursor to it. What we need is exciting buying. We need buyers that are willing to buy something that maybe nobody else has taken a risk on yet. What we don’t need is you to buy the same old thing that everybody else is buying. We don’t need to go into this store and this store and see the same old stuff on the shelf. That’s what we don’t need.
What the industry does need are retailers that are ready, willing to step out, show something new and talk about something great and exciting. That’s what we need. That’s what’s coming. You want to get people into your retail store. You want people to get excited to come into your retail store again. There’s got to be a reason to get them excited. It’s something other than the same old thing. Stop saying, “Who else is selling this?” That used to be a bad thing. That used to be a bad word. Nowadays, “I’m not going to sell it unless everybody’s selling it.” You’re going to get what everybody else is getting. Get excited about products again. Get excited to show something new. Give people a reason to come in.
That’s a precursor to an episode that we have coming up that’s dedicated and pointed directly at retailers because you guys are part of this equation too. We’re talking about how to get into your stores, but you’ve got to want and need to get some exciting things there. We have innovation. We have nothing but people that are constantly innovating and doing unbelievable things and you’re giving it over to the internet, but you could be stepping out. You could be getting exclusivity. You could be taking some chances and doing something amazing.
I can’t wait to have that episode. I can’t wait to have that discussion. A couple of great things that have happened with TLB, our second course will launch. That is letting you know that we have already launched a course. The course that we launched called Pricing Your Product For Retail is probably the most important course that we will ever publish. That’s not to say that the ones coming in aren’t also awesome and amazing. If there’s one thing that’s so important about taking a product to retail, whether it’s eCommerce, taking it distributors, selling it yourself on your website or take it to brick and mortar retail, it’s your pricing.
If you want to have options, if you want to have longevity, if you want to build a business that’s worth somebody at some point buying it from you, you have to have margin in your product. You cannot go to retail on razor-thin margins. How do you do that? How do you make that happen? What does it look like? Go to TLB Consulting and click on the tab Courses. In there, you’re going to find a brand-new course called Pricing Your Product For Retail.
It has everything that you need to know about pricing your product, not just for brick and mortar retail, but specifically by channel. We do a whole pricing strategy in that course for you showing you how you can do it. Going through club store, big box, specialty, distributor and then your website and Amazon. Step by step, we’re going to show you how to do that. We’re going to show you why you need this flexibility, how you get this flexibility in your product, how to make sure that you don’t get blindsided with costs that you did not know that were coming. That’s what’s in there.
Also, it’s not on the website yet. By the time this publishes, it will be though. It’s our brand-new course on selling via video conference. One thing you guys probably don’t know is that TLB Consulting see maybe only 8% of our clients face-to-face. The rest of them are scattered around the country and the world. We talk via video conference. I sell my products and services via video conference and I have done that successfully for the last several years. I know some things about selling on video, talking to people on video. Getting my point across in a video conference.
These things will help you with what is going to be our new normal, what is going to be how things are sold going forward. Will we ever sell face-to-face again? I’m sure that we will, but as people start getting the hang of this video thing, it’s something that I had a handle on for the last several years. People have been forced into it, but they’re making mistakes and this course is only $39. There’s no reason not to take it and listen to it. It’s six different modules, but it’s going to expand your understanding of how to sell via video conference.
It’s well worth it. I’m super excited about that one because everybody in the entire world can listen to that course and get something out of it in the new normal of doing business in a video conference. As always, please reach out to us, give us your comments, questions, concerns. You can do that in any different way. TLBConsulting.com is now the major hub for everything that we do, whether it’s masterminds, courses, our regular consulting business coaching. If you want to set up a coaching call, you can all do that via TLBConsulting.com. You want to reach out to us. You can go to OnTheShelfNow.com and comment on the show. You can listen to it on whatever platform you’re comfortable listening on. We appreciate you. I’m glad to spend this time with you. Thanks so much again to Tom for a great episode. Until next time, we’ll look for your products on the shelf.
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About Tom Hazzard
Award-winning strategic product design & development expert, Tom Hazzard, is a forward-thinking entrepreneur with great sales conversion skills. In addition to co-hosting the Forbes-featured fast growth WTFFF?! 3D Printing Podcast and the Feed Your Brand Podcast, he successfully launched over 250 consumer products raking in over $2 Billion at e-commerce and mass-market retailers with his wife and business partner, Tracy.
He believes that the goal of any product, service, marketing or business launch is to make “it” sell itself, that is why he often talks about streamlining business processes to keep marketing expenses at a minimum. Tom loves being in podcasting because he gets to meet people from many varied industries, and because he gets to broaden his perspective from all the widely different areas of interests he encounters at work.
Tom loves to work on his 1972 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, a car that was handed down to him by his Grandmother.
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