fbpx

Ep.282: Paco Underhill

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep.282: Paco Underhill

Ep.282: Paco Underhill

Celebrated Author, Paco Underhill joins us to share that when he was doing research for commercial zoning issues for cities on the roof of the SeaFirst Bank building in Seattle he had an epiphany. He would do for merchants of any kind what he was doing for cities- helping them understand what customers were doing in their respective establishments and sharing what the merchants could do to improve their customer’s experience. He literally wrote the book on it- “Why We Buy,” which came from an article that Malcolm Gladwell wrote about Paco for the New Yorker. Paco discusses how he goes about helping merchants providing some insight on what drives customers and how that’s changed over the years. And finally, we discuss his passion which is helping with homelessness through Urban Pathways.

Transcript:

Speaker 1: Paco underhill, celebrated author Paco Underill joins us to share that when he was doing research for commercial zoning issues for cities on the roof of the seafirst bank building in Seattle. He had an epiphany he would do for merchants of any kind, but he was doing for cities, helping them understand what customers were doing in their respective establishments and sharing what the merchants could do to improve their customer's experience. He literally wrote the book on it, why we buy, which came from an article that Malcolm Gladwell wrote about Pako, where the New Yorker pocket discusses how he goes about helping merchants, providing some insight on what drives customers and how that's changed over the years. And finally we discussed his passion, which is helping with homelessness through urban pathways. Welcome to cannabis academy. I'm your host Seth Adler. Check us out on social with the handle can economy. That's two ends in the world economy. Pako underhill. What way

Speaker 3: is there to introduce you other than your name? Pockle underhill. I sometimes intra introduced myself, seth as a refugee from the world of Aca demia that some 30 plus years ago, I was a poor part time adjunct instructor in a doctoral program in environmental psychology here at City University in New York City. After teaching a terrible seminar, I decided I felt the same way about teaching as I do about sex, which is that I'd rather practice my profession than talk about practicing my profession. I see. I see. I was wondering where you were going to go with that and I'm. We had a nice safe landing. There is. It's what happened. So you rather than talk about it, you want it to do it. And so then what did you do? My, my specialty 30 years ago was doing the research that would look at commercial zoning issues for different cities based on their top graphy.

Speaker 3: Okay. And I had my moment of epiphany on the roof of the seafirst bank building in Seattle where 60 floors up. I was installing the timelapse cameras to record the traffic patterns on the street. Speed low was A. I'm a Seattle morning and there was a stiff wind blowing and I could feel the building rocking in the breeze up 60 floors up. The bright sunshine, somewhat unsettling, I would imagine. I realized then I'd be rather swimming and Parana infested rivers than doing the job that I did. I'm a tall guy, but I really don't like heights. And I promised myself then that I would reinvent my profession. Now if I'm doing the math correctly, I'm pretty sure that this is after a reinvention from years back. So we found you in this interview as an adjunct professor, but before that wasn't there a nightclub business, you know, I came to New York City and um, through circumstances beyond my control here, I did have a role in nightclubs.

Speaker 3: I was one of the first owners of the ear in known to many music aficionados in downtown New York City. It's a, it's a compartment of my life that I enjoyed while I was there. But I was very happy to close the doors. I just feel like we have to ta. I mean, you, you would. John Lennon was around and so I feel like we should write at least mention it. Well, uh, there's a story that I tell that, uh, you know, courtesy of Yoko Ono, um, who, uh, knew one of my partners in one of the nightclub businesses and we were at a picnic at her house up in Rockland, Rockland County, John and Yoko and Julian were there. And after lunch I went to John, I said, a bunch of us are going to walk up the creek and go to this, this waterfall, we now and take a swim. And John said, well, I don't have a bathing costume. And I turned to him and said, neither do we. So what? I don't know whether that's a peculiar de extinction, but having led John Lennon to his first skinny dip here.

Speaker 4: I feel like, yeah, it should be mentioned if we're going to talk about. Well, you know, what, where you've been and what you've done. Right. Well, uh, thanks seth. But I, uh, I hope there are other things that go onto my tombstone. So let's get into that. So you're standing on a, the Scitech, a tower or a tower and realizing you're not going to do that anymore. And so I guess when did you find the pen, right? Because these books that you've written. Okay, well,

Speaker 3: about, um, six weeks ago I was cleaning out a corner of one of my drawers and found a very nice rejection letter from the Minnesota quarterly for a short story that I had been admitted as a junior in, in college as, as a junior in college. I had probably 20 rejection letters and some of them very nice letters from the New Yorker saying we really enjoyed your story. It made it past a number of cuts. But if one person had accepted a story back then, I would've probably been a writer. Um, so the act of turning out written copy has been something that's been part of my character for a long time. And the fact that it eventually got to be books here is a testament to a typical trajectory. But I had to do a number of other things first before I got the platform to be able to get a publisher to say we want your books.

Speaker 3: Right. Understood. So what did you do when you climbed down from the tower there? We, a week after that experience on the roof of the seafirst bank. I was standing in a bank in New York City and I was frustrated standing in line and realized that the same tools that I'd been using to look at how a city works, I could take inside a bank or a store or an airport or a museum and start to dissect how those work. It took me almost 10 years from that point. I owned some, some, some bars and restaurants. We were part of the music in history. And One night I was at the, at the bar with the director of marketing to epic records. And I said, I can do a deconstructive, a record store in a way that's going to help you be able to sell music. And um, the guys name I think was Dan Beck and he said, why don't you write something up to me? Okay. So I wrote something up. I said my dad did it and I didn't hear anything for months. And then out of the blue somebody calls and says in our files, we found this proposal and we'd like to do it.

Speaker 3: And so I made my paragraph initiatives voyage out to Palisades Plaza here, Palisades Park in New Jersey to a, to a music store and set up my cameras there and brought some students in to help me look at how people move through it and came up with a series of often some painfully simple stuff about how to make that store function better. So painfully simple being what? What are we talking about for? For example, we have images in our time lapse of the shoppers for singles. Back then, this was back in the back in the eighties. I remember we're still 45 and bought a region Franklin's respect yet the, the billboard top 100 chart put next to the single section at a comfortable height for an 18 year old to read because that's who it put the sign up as opposed to the 12 year old that was actually buying the records.

Speaker 3: Got It. And my thesis was, is if you put the sign at the right height, you will be able to generate more sales. Simple, pure and simple, right? Second piece was, um, at that point people sold cassettes and albums and yet the number of people shopping albums was almost four times the number of people shopping cassettes because it was a easier meet medium to be able to look for something as short. And yet the sales of albums and cassettes were the same. So we proposed a series of ways of being able to reorganize the section to be able to, uh, reorganize the store to be able to even out the traffic across the floor. Yeah. Third thing is that my cameras caught a shoplifter at work. Part of the reason why I knew he was pro as he was getting multiple copies of the same record.

Speaker 1: Paco underhill, celebrated author Paco Underill joins us to share that when he was doing research for commercial zoning issues for cities on the roof of the seafirst bank building in Seattle. He had an epiphany he would do for merchants of any kind, but he was doing for cities, helping them understand what customers were doing in their respective establishments and sharing what the merchants could do to improve their customer's experience. He literally wrote the book on it, why we buy, which came from an article that Malcolm Gladwell wrote about Pako, where the New Yorker pocket discusses how he goes about helping merchants, providing some insight on what drives customers and how that's changed over the years. And finally we discussed his passion, which is helping with homelessness through urban pathways. Welcome to cannabis academy. I'm your host Seth Adler. Check us out on social with the handle can economy. That's two ends in the world economy. Pako underhill. What way

Speaker 3: is there to introduce you other than your name? Pockle underhill. I sometimes intra introduced myself, seth as a refugee from the world of Aca demia that some 30 plus years ago, I was a poor part time adjunct instructor in a doctoral program in environmental psychology here at City University in New York City. After teaching a terrible seminar, I decided I felt the same way about teaching as I do about sex, which is that I'd rather practice my profession than talk about practicing my profession. I see. I see. I was wondering where you were going to go with that and I'm. We had a nice safe landing. There is. It's what happened. So you rather than talk about it, you want it to do it. And so then what did you do? My, my specialty 30 years ago was doing the research that would look at commercial zoning issues for different cities based on their top graphy.

Speaker 3: Okay. And I had my moment of epiphany on the roof of the seafirst bank building in Seattle where 60 floors up. I was installing the timelapse cameras to record the traffic patterns on the street. Speed low was A. I'm a Seattle morning and there was a stiff wind blowing and I could feel the building rocking in the breeze up 60 floors up. The bright sunshine, somewhat unsettling, I would imagine. I realized then I'd be rather swimming and Parana infested rivers than doing the job that I did. I'm a tall guy, but I really don't like heights. And I promised myself then that I would reinvent my profession. Now if I'm doing the math correctly, I'm pretty sure that this is after a reinvention from years back. So we found you in this interview as an adjunct professor, but before that wasn't there a nightclub business, you know, I came to New York City and um, through circumstances beyond my control here, I did have a role in nightclubs.

Speaker 3: I was one of the first owners of the ear in known to many music aficionados in downtown New York City. It's a, it's a compartment of my life that I enjoyed while I was there. But I was very happy to close the doors. I just feel like we have to ta. I mean, you, you would. John Lennon was around and so I feel like we should write at least mention it. Well, uh, there's a story that I tell that, uh, you know, courtesy of Yoko Ono, um, who, uh, knew one of my partners in one of the nightclub businesses and we were at a picnic at her house up in Rockland, Rockland County, John and Yoko and Julian were there. And after lunch I went to John, I said, a bunch of us are going to walk up the creek and go to this, this waterfall, we now and take a swim. And John said, well, I don't have a bathing costume. And I turned to him and said, neither do we. So what? I don't know whether that's a peculiar de extinction, but having led John Lennon to his first skinny dip here.

Speaker 4: I feel like, yeah, it should be mentioned if we're going to talk about. Well, you know, what, where you've been and what you've done. Right. Well, uh, thanks seth. But I, uh, I hope there are other things that go onto my tombstone. So let's get into that. So you're standing on a, the Scitech, a tower or a tower and realizing you're not going to do that anymore. And so I guess when did you find the pen, right? Because these books that you've written. Okay, well,

Speaker 3: about, um, six weeks ago I was cleaning out a corner of one of my drawers and found a very nice rejection letter from the Minnesota quarterly for a short story that I had been admitted as a junior in, in college as, as a junior in college. I had probably 20 rejection letters and some of them very nice letters from the New Yorker saying we really enjoyed your story. It made it past a number of cuts. But if one person had accepted a story back then, I would've probably been a writer. Um, so the act of turning out written copy has been something that's been part of my character for a long time. And the fact that it eventually got to be books here is a testament to a typical trajectory. But I had to do a number of other things first before I got the platform to be able to get a publisher to say we want your books.

Speaker 3: Right. Understood. So what did you do when you climbed down from the tower there? We, a week after that experience on the roof of the seafirst bank. I was standing in a bank in New York City and I was frustrated standing in line and realized that the same tools that I'd been using to look at how a city works, I could take inside a bank or a store or an airport or a museum and start to dissect how those work. It took me almost 10 years from that point. I owned some, some, some bars and restaurants. We were part of the music in history. And One night I was at the, at the bar with the director of marketing to epic records. And I said, I can do a deconstructive, a record store in a way that's going to help you be able to sell music. And um, the guys name I think was Dan Beck and he said, why don't you write something up to me? Okay. So I wrote something up. I said my dad did it and I didn't hear anything for months. And then out of the blue somebody calls and says in our files, we found this proposal and we'd like to do it.

Speaker 3: And so I made my paragraph initiatives voyage out to Palisades Plaza here, Palisades Park in New Jersey to a, to a music store and set up my cameras there and brought some students in to help me look at how people move through it and came up with a series of often some painfully simple stuff about how to make that store function better. So painfully simple being what? What are we talking about for? For example, we have images in our time lapse of the shoppers for singles. Back then, this was back in the back in the eighties. I remember we're still 45 and bought a region Franklin's respect yet the, the billboard top 100 chart put next to the single section at a comfortable height for an 18 year old to read because that's who it put the sign up as opposed to the 12 year old that was actually buying the records.

Speaker 3: Got It. And my thesis was, is if you put the sign at the right height, you will be able to generate more sales. Simple, pure and simple, right? Second piece was, um, at that point people sold cassettes and albums and yet the number of people shopping albums was almost four times the number of people shopping cassettes because it was a easier meet medium to be able to look for something as short. And yet the sales of albums and cassettes were the same. So we proposed a series of ways of being able to reorganize the section to be able to, uh, reorganize the store to be able to even out the traffic across the floor. Yeah. Third thing is that my cameras caught a shoplifter at work. Part of the reason why I knew he was pro as he was getting multiple copies of the same record.

Speaker 3: Got It. Okay. But he was working with a bag of a store that wasn't in the mall, uh, and this was back before, you know, sensors and other things. And I went back to the loss prevention people for the record store chain, I think it was called harmony hut and said if you check bags periodically and you see a sears bag leaving your store as an, there's no sears in the mall, that's maybe a bag that you should check. And I got a note back from the loss prevention director, you know, six weeks later saying that I'd stopped $25,000 worth of product walking out the door with just some simple advice on it. But back then it was a very simple way of being able to start making a chi connection between what happens on the floor and packaging what happens on the floor in terms of how somebody organizes and recognize that this was almost 25 years before the term category management was even invented. It was at that point that I realized I had an economically viable service and that I could start knocking on the doors, particularly of merchants and start going, I, I can help you both tactically win victories really quickly, but I can also help you bring a mix of art and science to the process of being able to lay out and think about how a store worked.

Speaker 4: So as far as that art and science is concerned, if we're talking about simple things of, you know, signed placement, what are maybe without giving the store away, obviously some of the more complex things that came about that you realized and gave as advice to, uh, to retailers which totally changed the game. Well, I think some of this was recognizing that there are theories

Speaker 3: of biological constance that govern how we move and that understanding what those biological constants are are one of the ways that we set up almost any kind of environment for people to interact with them in a more easy fashion. For example, walking in a door, going from outside, inside are going from the concourse of a shopping mall to the inside of a store. We are adjusting. Our walking speeds were adjusting to changing light. We're adjusting our referral vision. There is what we call a decompression zone that governs what that process is and we can control that decompression by a series of different simple tools. We can control it by, by signage, we can control it by the texture underneath our feet, but often placement of items as it relates to the decompression zone, often by varying as little as 18 inches goes from something being a piece of sculpture to something being a tool to put things into circulation.

Speaker 3: Second is that 90 percent of uh, seth are right handed and that almost any space of works better with a counter clockwise circulation pattern. We tend to push our shopping baskets or carry our pocket books in our left hand and we interact with the world with our right hand. Sorry. All you south paws out there. Well, they're used to it at this point. My father was a lefthanded parties. He said the world is set up for right handed people. Um, so there is changing, changing, changing light. They're changing directions. There was looking at walking speed issues. They're looking at all of the ways that we use sense marketing, how things smell, what we taste. All of those things are part of the process. Even going back to a simple, an issue that started in the music business is there's an absolute predictability to who's walking in your door when. So if I look at the demographic profile of Monday morning, Monday afternoon, Monday night versus Saturday night, there's a time to play Frank Sinatra. There was a time to play the beach boys. There's a time to play the BGS and there's a time to play death cab for Cutie.

Speaker 3: And, and we, we know that with certainty. We don't even have to guess. That's right. That's right. And part of what is interesting in this space management program is taking all of the things that are 96 percent pref, dictatorial and going, how can I use this information in some way to my advantage?

Speaker 4: So, uh, all that adds up, right? This biology that you speak of, all of this is adding up to why we buy, right? So, so Pako underhill, why do we buy? Right? There's a book about it and you say there's a

Speaker 3: about I in the, um, spring of 1996. I just moved my offices and a young man came to visit me and said, I'm a science writer. I'm a Canadian science science writer and I've been working for the Washington Post. I just moved to New York City and I'm, and I'm here in New York. I'm doing a story for the New Yorker. And somebody said I should come talk to you. Okay. And he kept coming back again and again, and I was tempted to pick up the phone and call the New Yorker and say, does Malcolm Gladwell work for Malcolm's piece? Came out the fall of 1996, called the science of shopping and it became one of the most reprinted pieces in New Yorker history and all of us sudden for this, for this market research market researcher who had been functioning underneath the radar screen had been struggling to write our articles and managed to publish a bunch of them.

Speaker 3: All of a sudden there was a great deal more interest in what I might be able to offer. Yeah. I'm very happy that I was able to secure a very good agent. Yeah. And um, take that first book to um, to market called why we buy the science of shopping. Yeah. And Seth, that, that book is out in 28 languages. It's been updated, but even in 2017, this is almost 20 years later, the book still sells 50 or 60,000 copies a year because it's used in MBA programs and design schools. And I can go to from Beijing to Bangkok, you know, from Bangalore to Istanbul and there's a student there who comes up to me and goes, that book changed my life. Yeah.

Speaker 4: What do you think it was about the subject matter that was so lightning rod? Uh, you know, uh, that was so necessary for the Zeitgeists. Why was everybody so interested? Well, I think that

Speaker 3: first of all, because we all like looking at ourselves and I wrote that book with the idea that I wanted to write for a popular audience. I wasn't writing for a business audience. There aren't lots of stats in it. There no charts. It's, it isn't based on a powerpoint presentation. It's a storytelling exercise. And part of what is, which is poignant to me as I got fan letters from people who run septic, you know, cleaning companies here to the ceos of major hotel chains who went Pako. I loved it. I loved it. It made me smile. It made me giggle. I, I walked out the door. And the way I looked at the world was just changed.

Speaker 4: So you've mentioned all sorts of different locales across the, uh, around the globe and you've mentioned a septic tank, a business owner, and uh, you know, hospitality, a magnate, right? What is that through line? Why does this resonate all the way up and down, all the way across? You know, we.

Speaker 3: One of the things I love about looking at shopping is that what, what made a good store in 1980? What made a good store in 1990? What made a good store in 2010 and what makes a good store today are different and those differences are a reflection of the evolution of us. Okay. US and that for all of the things that are the biological constance that govern how we move, how we see, how we hear, how we taste, how we interact with stuff. There's a bunch of stuff that's changing and the degree to which we can point to things that we recognize in our everyday lives that are a reflection of the evolution of us is something that I think resonates with just about everybody. Yeah, so I can look at the fact that, for example, our visual language is evolving faster than our spoken or written word.

Speaker 3: What do you mean? Thanks to the Internet, thanks to movies, the connection between our eyes and our brains has never been better the way we see things, the way we process is in a state of evolution. The way we look at whether it's um, mode, gs on our computer screens or the way we look at game of thrones or the way we move through an airport is governed by some fundamental changes in our visual acuity issues. Okay? That's theme one. Theme two is, is that historically we have lived in a world that's owned by men designed by men, managed by men, and yet often our most important user of that world is female. And what makes something female friendly. And some of the things that we point to maybe security issues, meaning that, you know, I'm six foot five, I weigh 225 pounds in. My wife tells me that somebody would kick the shit out of me every week if I wasn't that big.

Speaker 3: But, and I moved through much of my life without loss of fear. But if I, if I stand in front of a group of, of, of mixed male and female executive's and I go, when was the last time any of you experienced fear? Raise your hand? Um, there not a lot of men who do it, but there are a lot of women who do and whether it's the security of a parking lot, whether it's the security of walking into a lobby of a hotel, whether it's the experience at the dropoff point at an airport, they're all kinds of things that don't really cost any money but cost some sensitivity to be able to bring to the design or management process. Second one is hygiene and that is if it's easy to clean, it gets clean. And one of the themes where we are working with a design community is that the earlier I put the idea of keeping it clean into the design process, the easier it is to keep it clean and to it to get clean in the first place.

Speaker 3: Whether I'm talking about designing a, I'm a con mentioned center or I'm designing a store, I'm designing a a makeup display, or I'm designing a hotel room is hygiene matters. Okay, and I'm 65 years old. I ain't. I don't walk into the hotel room and go, I'm looking for evidence that 364 other people have slept in this room over the past year. It's just my room. I'm going to bed. Yeah. Whereas if I'm a female executive traveling or on a female traveler, that sensitivity to hygiene is really important. So hygiene being the second thing. Got It. The third thing is that in our broader world of commerce, we have historically sold women food apparel and cause medics to day. In 2017. We're selling women everything, pet, particularly technology because women are not just buying technology for themselves. They're also often buying it for their small businesses. They're buying it for their children.

Speaker 3: They're often buying it for their husbands and their parents and that there's a direct relationship between how we sell it. Okay. And people's comfort buying it and it it. It isn't. What are the specs of that phone or the specs of, of, of that, of that laptop. It's what is it designed for and what can it help you do? Right. Okay. And those are, those are all very important issues and whether I'm talking about telling selling technology or cars or housing, those are all, it's a, it's an, it's an evolution in us and you know, we can look at, you know, very simple issues of the types of jobs that used to be all men and now are mixed. We can look at, you know, Predator pilots flying drones over the Middle East and a third of those Predator pilots are female and it takes, you know, if you think about the skills it took to, to, to drive a tractor versus driving, uh, you know, versus working a sewing machine that sewing machine translates into piloting a drone a lot easier than driving a tractor certainly translates into driving a drunk.

Speaker 3: I mean these are all, all aspects of some of the changing roles when our culture. Yeah. The other one that's a poignant one for us in the broader world of of shopping, but also in the world of culture is the evolution of money that up through 1995, maybe the overwhelming majority of global wealth was in the hands of an aristocracy. People who knew what they were buying, they'd been trained, they'd been from the cradle up. They knew the difference between a rolex and a timing. In 2017, the overwhelming majority of global wealth is in the hands of people who earned it in the course of their own lifetimes and whether it's Warren Buffet or Carlos Slim or it's Jack Ma here, sure these are all people often started at very modest means and have gotten somewhere and part of what that has meant is that often in order to sell, we have to first educate and understanding how that process works is the difference between, you know, selling a role a swatch in 1985 and selling a rolex watch and in 2017. And so the. As that evolution has occurred, we've witnessed also an evolution in the retail industry in itself. So we went from specialty to big box, back to specialty and now people tell me that the retail apocalypse is upon us and we have Amazon who owns whole foods now and everything is different, you know? Um,

Speaker 3: if you drive in from the Jacksonville airport into downtown Jacksonville, you pass one of Amazon's new warehouses. It's humongous. There's a parking lot outside that's 5,000 cars, but it's a reminder of a very important issue, seth, which is that while we talk about digital commerce, analog is still the goods that we buy, right? And that what we're talking about is the face of the monster, not the body of the monster. What do you mean the face of the monster is how do we as consumers access that product and how do we secure it knowing that we still need the warehousing, the trucking, the what? The manufacturing, the wide ever to be able to get it to us. Let's recognize that much of what drives internet commerce is people are desperate to both save time and to save money. Time is a very important commodity.

Speaker 5: Okay.

Speaker 3: We also live in a culture here in the US where middle class wages have been stagnant for almost 15 years now and that people are desperately trying to extract more value out of the same paycheck that they've been getting for a decade and one of the ways they do it is through e commerce or mobile phones or whatever, and part of what we're looking at is that the broader American landscape of retail is struggling to catch up to the evolution in shopping. Absolutely we are. We are looking at a merchant community that's used to leading and now has to follow and part of what the challenges here is how do we understand that consumer and the consumer needs better and be able to use the resources that we have to be able to match that. Why did Amazon buy whole foods market? And part of it is the recognition on the part of Amazon that for all of the conversation about drones and delivery boxes, that 80 percent of American households don't have a convenient way of getting an internet purchase delivered.

Speaker 3: Nine for all of the affectiveness of Fedex and ups. And those of us who don't live in a gated mansion or don't live in an apartment building with a, with a doorman or don't go to the work every day where it's acceptable for us to receive packages of whatever it is that we're receiving. There's a disconnect between what that process is and Amazon bought whole foods in part to get a distribution network and in part to acquire 365, the very successful private label brand that whole foods has done. And I think part of what we're going to find here is just as we've seen in other parts of the world and recognized that the US trails the rest of the world on the functionality of Digital d livery by about 20 years. So how, so what meaning that, um, if I'm shopping at a, uh, a Russian consumer electronic Jane, they may use their trucking system as a way of fulfilling Internet purchases.

Speaker 3: Um, if you go to California or show in France, the number of people who are ordering online and picking up at the store are a lot bigger than what we have here. I think one of the challenges that we face here is being able to look at the resource of some of our big box merchants and go, is there a way for you to make order online and pick up at the store, uh, much easier, safer, and faster process than it is right now. And if that happens, part of what we're going to find out, first of all is that we can make ecommerce a lot greener. Meaning that there isn't as much cardboard and packaging chewed up because the delivery vehicle doesn't have to stand on its own and could be a plastic bin that you read, that you return to kroger, Walmart, target, whatever. When you pick up your next purchase that you ordered online and are making the choice to pick up at the store, which is something that we really need to do. We, we, we need to be able to take packaging out of the process and we also need to better leverage the trucking systems that we use and better use the very passive cracked under utilized asphalt that surrounds. Whether it's our shopping malls or our strip strip malls. In a much more progressive fashion.

Speaker 4: So how I, I followed you on all of your points in a safe to say they, they make sense, uh, at surface level. What do you mean though? By a better use of the asphalt.

Speaker 3: Better be better use of the asphalt. What if you could pull off on your way home and pull up to the front of your local supermarket and there was a delivery lane right at the front of the store where you could ping on your phone as you approach, pull up and have somebody load what you ordered online, right into the back of your car. And you could be in and out in less than five minutes. Do you think that might work? I think that might work. I think that might work. What if some of the places, the parking places immediately in front of that grocery store, um, during prime shopping hours, at the end of the work day, there were a certain number of places that were designated as 15 to 20 men. It's only where you could come in and shop for those things that you really want to touch.

Speaker 3: You want to be able to pick the meats. You want to pick the pick the bud Nana's. I know my, my, my sister always used to get mad at her husband gun when she, when he came home from the grocery store saying I want to eat it. I don't want to adopt it. I want you to do a better job of picking out those vegetables. That's part of what gives us pleasure, but can we make that experience of doing some of our shopping in store and some of our shopping online. Much faster, smoother process. And some of that comes from managing the parking lot. Yeah. Now is anyone doing that? Uh, in any other international market you mentioned? You know. Okay. So where were these exempt? Just if we think of it, there are many Korean shopping malls where all of the prime parking spaces immediately around the front door or even floors of the parking garage are designated as female.

Speaker 3: Only what? As female only really, you know, they have little pink symbols on them. So it isn't just disabled people isn't just pregnant, it's that if you're a female and one of the places often women are uncomfortable in a shopping is in a parking lot. Got It. Right. And who is the primary engine of purchase for, you know, the commodities that go on your table? The answer is, you know, our struggling 21st century woman who is mother wife and bread earner at the same time. Yeah. Can we make that shopping process easier for her? Um, yes. There are other examples of it. Sure. Oh, Shawn has done some work there. California has done some work there and it is one of the places where we're looking for some form of evolution. Yeah. Uh, as far as evolution is concerned, you really have been a global in nature.

Speaker 3: I know you as a New Yorker, but you've got offices all over the world and I wonder how much of that is by design based on the fact that you did not grow up in New York. Well, let's, let's first start with something here. I run a research and consulting firm. Sure. Okay. Yes. We have eight offices scattered across the world. Our home offices here in New York City. Yeah, about 30 to 40 percent of our work is testing prototypes, stores and bank branches. That said in 2017, our largest clients are technology companies that are trying to understand the way in which people shop for technology or use technology as part of their everyday lives. So do we do work on, on websites, we do work on Apps, we do work on digital commerce. We do works on where, where is the crossover between physical and cyber space and that work has taken us to 46 countries across the world.

Speaker 3: I think I personally spend about 150 nights a year on the road. I'm a typical year. I'll work on at least five different continents and I enjoy it. I am the son of a diplomat, so I grew up in Southeast Asia. I speak a little molay. That was my first language growing up. It's pretty rusty now. I was an exchange student at a Korean unit varsity. Um, but like so many other people, I came to New York City as an economic refugee looking for someplace to, to live and someplace to make my living and I'm, I'm very happy to be at the corner of 20th and Broadway where our offices are, which I think of as the conceptual center of the world. Sure. It's the concept. It's one of the easiest places on earth for people to come visit and people do come and visit us and that, um, and that work has led us places and have us do things. I've served on the boards of a Japanese advertising agencies, Brazilian shopping mall companies, Israeli technology firms, Mexican banks. And that's help for us to be able to make sure that my glasses keep getting clean and then I'm able to see process and ask the right questions.

Speaker 4: Is there a through point though, of all of those different types of companies and all of those different parts of the world, is there one thing in common that you've noticed?

Speaker 3: I think one of the things that's in common is that if there, if there was a optimum word in 20th century commerce, it was strategy and whether you went to the Harvard business school or you went to wharton or you went to whatever people talked about strategy in 2017. One of the most important issues is tactical execution and that is what is global and what is local and the degree to which we recognize. We recognize that collecting information or collecting data is really easy. And what do we do with it is really important. And that that execution of, of data processing. Yes, it still has strategic elements to it. But the way we win victories is through tactical execution.

Speaker 4: On the other end of tactical execution is the customer and the customer's experience. And what I have noticed is that, uh, any executive in a fortune 500 or otherwise type company is now focused on the customer experience. So process excellence executives, shared services, executives that a need to make sure that everything that they are doing actually outputs to a, an appropriate customer experience. And everyone in between now are focused on the customer experience as opposed to reporting to the street, etc. Etc.

Speaker 3: What do you think about that? WEll, I think it's often interesting that if you walk into a corporate headquarters and you find the desk that's farthest away from the front door, that's generally where the person in charge, since you walk into a bank branch and you find the office that's again farthest away from the front door, that's often where the person in charge sits, but I'm often really minded that leadership happens because people lead from the front and one of the things I I close almost every lecture that I give is I take off one of my shoes and I go, I believe in rubber soled shoes in that we are very comfortable often in our 21st century business culture, making decisions, sitting down and making decisions staring into our excel spreadsheets or access databases and all of those are important, but we have watched some of the most creative of diesel engines. The most strategics have thoughts fail for the stupidest of reasons because somebody hasn't been out on the floor to go take a look. Right? Yeah. And I don't care What you do here, whether you're running a technology company, whether you're running a septic tank company or, or whether you're building widgets is understanding that point at which your product, your service and your customer meet is a very important part of your decision making. And often the only way to get it is to actually go and be there.

Speaker 4: So that brings us to our next point I think, which is to, um, talk about a urban pathways and it's a, it's kind of part of the same thing as far as, you know, you've got to get out there and be there as far as uh, you know, your work is concerned. This is your issue is homelessness here in, in, uh, in New York city specifically. Um, and we're actually sitting in an urban pathways, correct? We're, we're, we're sitting in it.

Speaker 3: Urban pathways, fossil, latina, you know seth, I have been a volunteer at urban pathways for. it's been almost 30 years, almost 30 years and it's something that is close to my soul as the product of a christian father, a jewish mother and a man who is married to a muslim wife. One of the things that I believe in is that it isn't the beliefs you profess, it's the actions that you take in your life. And one of the things that I think urban pathways is that I. I can do mitzvahs every day. Okay. I travel with contact cards in my pocket, which is when I see a homeless person, particularly when I see a homeless woman, I try to have a conversation with them and I go, here is our drop in center and we just visited you and I the drop in center earlier to day and I go, if you come to us, I will give you a clean bathroom. I'll give you a place to take a shower. I can wash your clothes, I can give you a meal if you want to talk to a nurse or a social worker. I can do that too, and if tonight you want to stay in a faith based shelter rather than a city shelter, we'll, we'll, we'll venue to that place and

Speaker 3: the fact that I can talk to two or three people every day or maybe 25 people every week in that capacity helps and I'm, and I'm, I'm not a big enough to be able to get away with it, but I'm also, it takes a certain amount of courage to be able to do it. And that's, that's, that's my mission. Well, that's the. And that's the reason I connected the two things. It's because you're, you're present. You are here, you are doing it. And I, you know, when, when we talked about, uh, putting together this interview, I said, well, what's the goal? Do we want folks to donate? Do we want folks to. And you really want folks to be here and to, to actually see it for themselves. What part of what I would like is for, um, the broader public to recognize homelessness is an issue here in New York city. We have 66,000 homeless people on the street every night. A third of them are children, a third of them seth, our children, they are children that are going to school and then going home to a city shelter at that. That night of

Speaker 3: the men who were homeless on the street, more than 20 percent of them are vets. There are people who have fallen through the cracks of the va and are exhibiting wounds that often we can't see. We as a culture tend to take to take care of our, of our troubled mothers, daughters, grand grandmother. So if you see a homeless woman on the street, it's often not just a personal tragedy. It's, it's a family tragedy and the way we have to process homelessness is to understand the problem and the problem is housing. I lead a monthly tour where I take people are random, we visit shelters and lots of people say, but I'm scared to go visit and I'm going to know and you and I did it. Yeah, a day sap. Yeah. And it. And it was an uplifting and in some ways I think spiritually joyful experience because you saw a bunch of people out there who really cared. Yeah. And let me, from my perspective, we went to the intake center and we saw a bunch of folks there that were, um, you know, there for the services and there were folks there that were providing services and everybody seemed to be really positive and there were a lockers and there was the kitchen and there was, you know, some seating for them and a showers and you opened the door to the shower and it was clean and new and it me think, well,

Speaker 4: who wouldn't want to take a shower there? Anyone would take a shower there. And then we went to the, um, to the temporary housing that urban pathways has. And we just happened to be perfectly timed for someone moving out of that temporary housing

Speaker 3: to permanent housing, which

Speaker 4: was remarkable to see. And her smile on the smile on her face. And the round of applause, uh, that we kinda gave her a. I did a thumbs up because I know the round of applause felt weird, but she got one and she seemed to like it. Yes, she, yes, she did. And then we came here to um, ivan shapiro, which is also temporary housing, but it's kind of a next level up. That's correct. And the staff that I met for urban pathways are all, I don't understand how good they are. I don't understand how people, how the part of my mind says how are, how's everyone not this good of a person for the folks that we met and a part of my mind says everybody should be this good of a person, you

Speaker 3: know, something. Um, I recognized that to work on homelessness as a full time job. Yeah. It takes a really big heart and a really thick skin. Yeah. Because part of what you're dealing with is people who are often stumbling and have stumbled more than once. Um, and it, it takes courage to do the job. It takes, uh, uh, patients. Um, and it's the ability also, once you walk out the door to leave it, be, leave it behind knowing that if you take it home with you, um, it's something that is, is carcinogenic to your two years. So, but yeah, you know, um, as, as we talked to hilton to day, who's doing the outreach at a port authority bus terminal at penn station, that guy is, is out on the front lines and has as much courage as any marine I ever knew. Right? Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 3: For you in the service. I was exposed to the service growing up. I'm the product of a, of a marine corps family here. That's what it was, a marine corps officer. One was a naval officer, then he was a foreign service officers here. So, and um, what lessons do we have from him? Um, you know, seth, he was a cold war warrior and when it came time for him to retire, we asked him what he wanted to do in his retirement years and he said I want to become a hospice and just shocked all of us because here was this tough guy who all of a sudden was saying, I'm gonna, you know, I'm going to help people die. That's what he did with the last few years of his life. And it was almost as if he recognized that there was an unexercised muscle in his system and that what he wanted to do before he died is to exercise that muscle.

Speaker 4: So in exercising the muscle for the folks that are listening, they can send an email to development@urbanpathways.org. They should go to the website, urban pathways.org to learn more. Um, and there's also an opportunity to donate their, uh, which is great if you could share a story as far as, uh, how product also helps here, uh, that might be informative for folks that are listening here. So here's a very simple

Speaker 3: story. Um, as somebody who runs a research and consulting firm on almost any given day, I have somewhere between 20 and 40 people traveling thing and everyone is instructed when they leave their hotel room every morning to go to their next job is to pick up all of the unused soap and toiletries in their hotel bathrooms and throw it in their back. And when they come back to the office, there's a bin at the front of our office where all of that soap and shampoo and conditioner is dumped. Okay. And then once every couple of months we have accumulated accumulated, you know, maybe 50 pounds of this stuff and we take it down to the oliver [inaudible] center and it is distributed by the staff at the center to the people who are going to go bay. And whether it's hilton express shampoo from one end of the spectrum or whether it's hyatt regency shampoo. At the other end of the spectrum, it comes in a little jar. And seth, every time we have to make that delivering, we send somebody new to do it because we want them to see where that little minor exercise of throwing that thing in their travel bag gets to [inaudible]. And that is that little piece of awareness here, that understanding of the problem where if you don't see it upfront or you don't see the solution upfront, you don't get it.

Speaker 4: And for folks not based in New York, there's many of them. New york is a city that you do come to at least a once a year. Whoever's listening, you know, um, so, uh,

Speaker 3: yeah,

Speaker 4: do come, uh, do donate a and at the very least, go ahead and, uh, send us a package of a soap bars, right? We'll take it. There we go. So, urban pathways.org, did I miss anything as far as urban pathways is concerned? I want to make sure that we didn't, uh, know urban pathways is New York city's largest homeless Oregon. A causation, but part of what my ass to your listener service is whether you're donating to urban pathways here in New York city or you're kind of connecting to similar organizations

Speaker 3: in your own community is they need both some money, um, but more importantly, they need your understanding of the problem that they're trying to face.

Speaker 4: So even just find your own in your own local community. Fantastic. Okay. So I think we did our job there. I think we got to know you at least a little bit. And so I have three final questions. I'll tell you what they are and I'll ask you them in order. What has most surprised you at work? What has most surprised you in life and on the soundtrack of your life? One track, one song that's got to be on there, but first things first along the way, what has most surprised you at work?

Speaker 6: Um,

Speaker 3: part of what gives me an enormous amount of pleasure here and it's both saw prize, but also joy is recognizing that if I can win a client, small quick victories, getting them to buy into the bigger idea is imminently easier. And that gets back to that little tactical execution thing, if I can do something and, and have it an instant success, something that they can do in two weeks, getting them to buy into what, what happens in two months or what happens next year is better. And I feel as if we, as a business, I'm in the business of winning victories and to win victories. I got to get you on the bus. So that's my first answer. Got it. Okay. What's most surprised you in life?

Speaker 6: Um,

Speaker 3: what has most surprised me in life in there is a line that blur his uses, which is praise be to the living dieth not. And that is when we stop learning and growing is when we start dying. And at age 60, 65, I'm still learning and growing and processing. And that's what's going to keep me alive and kicking into the next millennium. I love it.

Speaker 4: Nearly as importantly on the soundtrack of your life. one track, one song that's got to be on there. Their

Speaker 3: every move you make, every step you date will be watching you,

Speaker 7: which is of course on brand. And there you have pocket wonder hill.

Speaker 1: Very much appreciate pacos time. He has become a friend over the past few years. And he told me about urban pathways and he said it's, you know, it's his issue. and um, I really appreciated meeting the urban pathways folks and you know, do what you can. Thanks for listening.

Read the full transcript:

Become a member to access to webinars, quarterly reports, contributor columns, shows, excerpts, and complete podcast transcripts

Become a Member

Already a member? Login here.

Subscribe now to get every episode.

Cannabis Economy is a real-time history of legal cannabis. We chronicle how personal and industry histories have combined to provide our current reality.