$1,000 haircuts

Bushy hair, metaphors, volunteers, shared sacrifice. Also last Friday's thread and 7 other things worth your time.

I have the world’s thickest head of hair, and I was overdue for a cut even before social distancing and all the barber shops and stylists closed.

So, I briefly went down a rabbit hole, looking up, “how to cut your hair at home.”

Let’s stipulate that this would be a bad idea. Besides, I think my daughter will find it funny as I look more and more each day like a cross between Simba in The Lion King and one of the characters from Trolls .

In my online travels, however, I came across a January 2014 article from The Wall Street Journal: Is a $1,000 Haircut and Blow Dry Worth It?

Short answer: No, it’s not. But, the headline stuck with me.

I realized it’s because I’ve talked with dozens of people recently, and I’ve done a lot of interviews, and the word “haircut” has come up quite a few times — but mostly as a metaphor; not in reference to an actual, literal haircut.

Like: “Times are hard, and I’m asking everyone to sacrifice. So, as the boss I’m taking a haircut on my salary to share the pain.”

There’s a guy called Mike Edwards, CEO of Hanna Andersson, who posted on LinkedIn that he’d be taking zero compensation because he’d had to make layoffs.

I gave him a call.

“Our workforce has gone form 900 to 360,” he told me. “That was my incentive to say I can’t take a dime.”

Obviously, he’s not alone. The CEO of McDonald’s is taking a 50 percent salary cut, and the CEO of Delta and CEO and president of United Airlines are giving up their base salaries entirely. There are many more.

But, I’m probably even more impressed by stories of employees at troubled companies who’ve offered to take pay cuts, so that they can keep their coworkers from being laid off.

At Gravity Payments, where the CEO made headlines five years ago by cutting his own salary to pay his staff more, almost the entire workforce reportedly volunteered to reduce their pay—some by 5 percent, and some offering to go without pay at all in the short term.

The company had been losing $50,000 a day, but the volunteer pay cuts mean no layoffs for now.

Not everyone agrees with this strategy. Harvard Business School professor Christopher Stanton and some colleagues wrote a few years ago about why it probably usually makes better sense to lay people off, instead of cutting salaries.

With layoffs, they argue, you have some control over who stays—but if you cut salaries, then your top performers will be demoralized, and they’ll also be the ones who quickly get better offers elsewhere.

Then you’re left without your stars, and running a company made up only of people who couldn’t do better elsewhere.

However, these aren’t normal times. It’s not as if anyone else is doing a lot of hiring right now anyway. And, I think by and large, people want to shoulder the burdens of others a bit more now, if they can.

So, if we’re looking for silver linings, I’ll take this one.

And I probably won’t cut my hair at home, either.

Speaking of helping out

Friday’s thread was fantastic. Thanks everyone for commenting. By sheer numbers, it was one of the most popular articles on any publication hosted by Substack. But in substance it was even better. A few of my favorite contributions:

  • Ellen Jespersen’s comment about the timeliness of my “Jewish professor teaches Catholic students about the Protestant Reformation” story. It’s funny that the #1 thing that dominated my life this weekend was celebrating Easter, and yet I haven’t mentioned it until this sentence.

  • This comment about all the college kids now at home, and other students missing milestones. It’s a good story idea, and in fact I’m working on an interview to share.

  • Kristen Kief’s comment about how 501(c)(6) trade organizations, like your local chamber of commerce, don’t seem to be eligible for any of the government financial aid right now that other nonprofit organizations can qualify for.

  • Carl Lundgren’s comment about the notion of suffering and God, with reference to a 2014 (I think) talk by Oxford mathematics professor John Lennox lecturing at Harvard Medical School. I watched part of the video, and the last 10 minutes especially were quite moving.

See what I mean? I love that these are all over the place—everything from culture to legal issues to religion. Sometimes writing this newsletter is like attending the world’s most interesting cocktail party (at least for me).

There are a couple of people specifically looking for work, too, in the comments, if you have a chance to read through.

One more item: Thanks to everyone who reached out about the photographer, Jon Carmichael, who was offering his NYC apartment for medical personnel. We’ve found a guest: an out-of-state EMT who’s working in New York as part of the Covid-19 response, and who will be staying in the apartment for the next month or so.

7 other things worth your time

  • Worst case scenario watch: JPMorgan economists predict a 40% decline in GDP and a 20% unemployment rate — but also hope for a sharp rebound in the second half of the year. (CNBC)

  • No new emojis until 2021 at least, because the people who approve these things are all volunteers, and with Covid-19, they’re just too busy. (New York Magazine)

  • All 50 U.S. states are officially under a disaster declaration, which makes them eligible for federal aid, for the first time in history. (The Hill)

  • Next political debate: Is May 1 realistic to start thinking about “reopening” the United States? (The Washington Post, but via The Hour, so it’s free)

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is out of the hospital after being in intensive care. He said it “could have gone either way” for him. (BBC)

  • A legal startup — and some lawyers — wants to turn the tables on companies that demand customers settle any disputes via arbitration, by filing thousands and thousands of arbitration claims at once. (New York Times, $)

  • One of America's largest pork processing plants, producing 3-4% of all U.S pork, is closing due to coronavirus. (Axios)

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