Unions are having a moment. Here’s what SMBs can learn from them.

June 29, 2022

Congrats to the Colorado Avalanche on their Stanley Cup win this past Sunday! Really epitomizes the whole “good things come to those who wait” saying.

In this week’s edition:

  • Outsourcing your IT to help Ukrainians.
  • Learning from the unionization movement across the U.S.
  • Identifying poor leadership qualities (with tips on how to fix ‘em).
  • Looking at Kind’s playbook for balancing growth with supply-chain snafus.


Ukraine’s IT industry is thriving while supporting a country at war

For over two years, Dasha Tsion, a quality assurance (QA) engineer from Ukraine, has been an outsourced employee for Trainual. She lived with her family in Cherkasy — that is, until the war began, and Dasha’s family fled the country along with over 5M Ukrainians.

“I still remember the first days of the war — the most difficult for all Ukrainians,” Dasha shared. “Shock, regret, confusion, heartbreak. I still have these feelings inside.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (which now includes the recent strike on a civilian shopping mall) has displaced millions of civilians, led to the destruction of cities and infrastructure, and caused a major upheaval in Ukraine’s society. But despite all this, Ukraine’s IT industry is still going strong — and helping to keep the country’s economy and continued war efforts afloat.

The power of the Ukrainian IT export industry
Before the war, Ukraine’s IT industry was developing at an incredible pace. In 2021, the industry grew by 36% in exports and employed 285K specialists.

Ukraine’s biggest exports — agricultural products and minerals — have stalled because of the Russian occupation. But IT products and services are helping sustain the country’s economy — one that is still heavily reliant on outside aid.

How SMBs can support Ukraine
As one of Ukraine’s most stable industries, any revenue for IT services goes toward the country’s economy and their army’s continued efforts. For any businesses in need of IT services, outsourcing the work to Ukraine is a good way of supporting the country.

On a more personal level, it helps to provide a community of support for those affected by the war. When Dasha left Ukraine, she decided to risk the long and uncomfortable journey to Arizona to meet with the rest of the Trainual team, who came together to support her.

“What I’ve found most helpful is talking to someone,” Dasha shared. “This is a situation where you need support, and you can never get enough support. War can ruin you mentally and physically — it can totally change your life. I hope that those who support us and our team won’t stop.”

👉 Learn more about Dasha’s story and the Ukrainian IT industry here.


Why employees unionize and what SMBs can learn from it

Hands holding up signs that say "Improved working conditions," "better benefits," "fair wages," and "work-life balance."

Seems like everyone wants a union now.
Earlier this month, Apple employees near Baltimore voted to unionize, making them the first of the company’s stores to do so. But they’re only part of a larger trend to unionize that includes recent efforts at Raven Software, Amazon, Starbucks, and Etsy.

So, what’s the deal?
The pandemic caused employees to rethink their work situation, and many chose to leave and find jobs elsewhere. This has led to a tightened labor market and increased wages. And experts suspect that employees are leveraging that upper hand to push for unions.

Every union has unique demands. But, in general, these big-company employees want job security, better pay, and improved working conditions. It’s not just big companies, though — smaller tech and service companies are beginning to feel the same pressure from their employees.

As an SMB owner, what are some things I can do to prevent that?
Unions can form within any business, as there’s no minimum size or required industry to petition for a bid. But as a business leader, you can minimize the potential for unions by learning from these companies’ mistakes and following these five tips:

1. Put your people first.
Employees typically start unionizing because they feel the company is neglecting their needs. But if you proactively put your people first, you can ensure your team is taken care of and supported.

2. Give your employees a voice.
Unions allow employees to be heard and establish a direct line for bargaining with leadership. But if you already give your employees a voice at work, it can minimize the need for unions.

👉 Check out the other three tips.


Seven poor leadership qualities (and how to fix them)

A group of people speaking in an office.

We’ve all had horrible bosses.
They can make or break your whole job and even trickle negativity into your personal life. When managers have less-than-ideal leadership qualities, it can negatively impact business operations, workplace culture, and productivity levels.

On the other hand, effective leadership can help keep morale high, promote teamwork, inspire trust, and provide a sense of purpose and direction for the team.

When you’re a business leader, you should frequently revisit your leadership qualities to see if there’s room for growth. The sooner you identify less-than-ideal behaviors, the sooner you can change your ways and mitigate any problems that may follow.

Here are seven poor leadership qualities found in the workplace:

1. Poor communication skills.
Ineffective communication can ripple its way through the entire business hierarchy. You might see it play out in misunderstandings, bottlenecks, failures, or dissatisfied customers and employees.

Upgrade your communication skills by focusing on empathy and inquiry. When listening, focus on understanding the other person. Let them know you heard what they were saying (and clarify that you got them right) by using their words in your response to them.

2. Inability to take responsibility or accept blame.
As a leader, you’re obligated to take responsibility for your actions (good and bad) and transparently disclose the results. It’s not easy, but it’s important to gain and maintain trust and respect from your team.

If you refuse to admit you’ve done something wrong as a leader, it’ll start to breed resentment within your team. Instead, focus on turning missteps into opportunities.

👉 See all seven qualities.


How Kind made big moves amid supply chain issues

Pre-pandemic moves.
Kind started out producing on-the-go bars — think less tequila and more granola. Right before the pandemic, they introduced more diverse products to their lineup: cereal, chocolate bark, and plant-based ice cream bars (sounds healthy enough for us). Not exactly great timing.

What they’ve done since:
Like many companies, Kind raised prices by 5% to offset inflation. And when a weak supply chain left them with only two-thirds of their expected oat shipments, they decided to take a hard look at their manufacturing speed and ability to make a profit.

Ultimately, inflation supply chain constraints didn’t affect their thinking around long-term category expansion and growing the core of their business — AKA, bars.

How’s it going?
Unfortunately, some new products are being discontinued — including the ice cream bars (insert crying emoji). The company claims it was too difficult to maintain an effective price point in the competitive new categories they branched out to.

A cartoon starfish yelling, "No! My ice cream! Oh, why is the world so full of pain?"

But Kind CEO Russell Stokes isn’t mad about it, stating, “if you’re not launching some products that fail, you’re almost certainly not trying enough.”

What’s next — innovation or growth?
Because bars are their thing, they’re spending over half of their time and resources focusing on growth in the bar category versus new innovations. Kind’s U.S. sales grew 15% to $1.5B last year, so we’d say they’re doing just fine.

Business leaders can learn from their example and find a good balance between innovation and growth. Focus on your thing, while leaving just enough room to try something new.


This week’s highlight reel

  • Living that not-so-suite life. Google wants SMBs to pay up. On June 27, the tech giant began charging users of its G Suite legacy free edition — which includes email and apps like Docs and Calendar — a monthly charge for continued service. Hopefully, your money don’t…
  • … jiggle, jiggle — it folds. And if that’s the case, your best bet is to get it all into the right financial institution. Speaking of which, here’s a list of the top eight banks for SMBs (think: easy integration with accounting software along with good cash-flow minimums and maximums). 
  • Mac is back. After 85 years, Kraft has given into the masses and decided to officially change its name from “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese” to “Kraft Mac & Cheese.” Condolences to that one uncle who still insists on “macaroni.” 
  • #FailArmy. A word of advice for innovating business owners: Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars in the Museum of Failure.


Here’s what else is on The Manual’s mind

Did last week pass you by? Happens to the best of us. Here’s everything you might have missed from The Manual:

Organize the chaos
of your small business