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Exclusive: 'Losing my mind': Bonobos founder who helped transform Walmart opens up about mental health struggles



'Losing my mind': Bonobos founder who helped transform Walmart opens up about mental health struggles

#039Losing #mind039 #Bonobos #founder #helped #transform #Walmart #opens #mental #health #struggles

Burn Rate: Launching a Startup and Losing Your Mind

Andy Dunn’s start-up, Bonobos, was being courted for an acquisition by retail giant Walmart. It was a thrilling process, but the co-founder and former CEO of the online menswear brand knew it was time to disclose his secret: He had bipolar disorder.

In his new book, “Burn Rate: Launching a Startup and Losing My Mind,” the 43-year-old entrepreneur opens up about how his personal life fell apart shortly before Walmart’s $310 million acquisition of Bonobos in 2017 came together. He shares some of the lowest points, including his stay in a psychiatric ward in Bellevue Hospital in New York City and assault charges from a severe manic episode when he struck his then girlfriend and her mother. The charges were later dismissed as Dunn sought treatment and repaired the relationship with his girlfriend, Manuela, who he later married.

Dunn joined Walmart after telling the retailer about the episodes and his efforts to get better with therapy and medication. He oversaw Walmart’s growing collection of brands that started online and contributed to the company’s push into the digital world.

Dunn left Walmart in 2020 and has a social media start-up, Pumpkin Pie.

Early this year, Walmart launched a new, lower-priced extension of the Bonobos brand, Bonobos Fielder. It marked the first time that Walmart’s website and some stores sold apparel under the Bonobos name — part of the company’s broader strategy to launch its own fashion-forward apparel lines and sell more general merchandise.

Dunn spoke to CNBC from his home in Chicago. His comments were edited for brevity and clarity.

Andy Dunn, Author


Courtesy of Brian McConkey

You could have devoted the book to advice about entrepreneurship, or Bonobos’ acquisition by Walmart. Why did you decide to write a book about your mental health struggles?

It was a great conversation with my editor, before he was officially my editor. He put it in a candid way, which was in a turndown email: “If Andy wants to write a chest thumping, self-congratulatory memoir about entrepreneurial success, I’m not interested. But if he wants to do an unvarnished story about mental illness, told through the lens of an entrepreneur, then that could be a really exciting project.”

And I was like, yes, that’s what I want to do. That’s the person I want to work with.

What made you ready to relive some of the parts of your past?

Four years of therapy, twice a week, and having really done the work to process and metabolize and rebuild myself after this devastating psychotic break in 2016. And all the strength of loved ones around me

It’s never over with this diagnosis, but I thought I had a unique opportunity to share how I got through at least some really challenging days. I didn’t want to waste that.

Andy Dunn credits his family, including his wife, Manuela, for helping him to get healthy. He said the birth of his son, Isaiah, has also helped him stay grounded.

Courtesy of Andy Dunn

In the book, you mentioned another accomplished entrepreneur who had a very public battle with mental health, Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Why do you think mental health has been such a taboo topic in the business world, and really, in the world of entrepreneurship?

Tony’s case is so sad and tragic in its own right. Here’s a person who wrote a book called “Delivering Happiness,” who built a company rooted in a joyous energy. Zappos was long known and studied for its culture. He was known to be the life of the party and someone who did so much for the community in Las Vegas.


He was a hero to me. And then, obviously, he had been privately suffering.

I think that’s a part of the typical entrepreneur archetype, someone who’s got that — a brilliant, charismatic spirit. And it’s expected, right? You got to show up with that every day, and that’s inhuman to expect out of anyone.

The pandemic has started a broader conversation about mental health. What role can the business world and employers play in trying to improve access to care and fight the stigma?

The first thing is creating a safe environment for disclosure, so that people can share what they’re dealing with. It’s incumbent upon leaders to role model that behavior to show their teams that it’s safe for them to come forward.

Step two is building community around it. I’ve gotten a chance to speak to a bunch of companies in the last few weeks. I loved my conversation with [tech company] Carta because they already have a neurodiversity employee resource group.

The third part is really investing in the care that people need. Regular medical insurance isn’t getting the job done in terms of the ability to find mental health professionals. Reimbursement rates are often too low.

The only way for that to change is for there to be investment.

The contrasts in the book were really striking. You’re staying in a psychiatric ward and then soon after, you’re in talks to do a deal with Walmart. What was it like when you heard Walmart was interested in buying Bonobos?

I had gone from thinking that we would do a private equity transaction where we stayed on the independent path towards IPO, to spending time with the team at Walmart, particularly Mark Lore [Walmart’s then-e-commerce chief] and [CEO] Doug McMillon and really falling in love with the opportunity to be a part of the digital transformation of the Fortune One company.

As I went from being like, “independent to the moon’ to ‘joining forces with Walmart would be incredible,’ we got to a part of the deal process where the background checks were coming up. It was time I thought where I had to disclose it [my diagnosis and arrest record]. I didn’t want to try to hide it.

Andy Dunn attends a launch party at a Bonobos store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue in 2016. After operating as digital only, the direct-to-consumer start-up opened brick-and-mortar locations called “guideshops,” where customers could try on clothing and order it straight to their doors.


Daniel Boczarski | Getty Images

You helped birth the direct-to-consumer movement in many ways. But a lot of those companies have not become independent, profitable businesses. What do you think is the future of the DTC model?

The pure-play internet model is hard. Direct-to-consumer founders — and I was one of them — kind of fall too in love with the direct-to-consumer potential of their brands, but ignore the parts of the legacy retail world that are still alive and well.

Pure-play internet models are just fundamentally challenged on long-term profitability. It’s important to have humility as a direct-to-consumer founder and be aware that even if the e-commerce side of the house is growing really quickly, there’s still a lot of revenue going through traditional brick-and-mortar.

How have you ultimately found a better balance between your drive for success and your desire to stay healthy?

My son, Isaiah, is a big part of it. He’s 20 months old, and he doesn’t care about my success. He cares about himself and I think it’s a beautiful thing. I felt so self-involved for so long. Building a company can be a self-absorbed endeavor.

The way I would describe it is going from being in the center of the solar system to being a planet that orbits him. It just creates a fundamentally different worldview.


Exclusive: Juul can keep selling vaping products in the US for now –




Juul can keep selling vaping products in the US for now

#Juul #selling #vaping #products

A federal appeals court froze the FDA’s ban on Juul products Friday after the company sought an emergency administrative stay. On Thursday, the U.S. regulator took sweeping action against the e-cigarette maker, effectively killing its access to the U.S. market.

The temporary stay will be in place essentially to buy time until the case can properly be heard by the court, though it “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits,” according to the court documents.

The FDA took action against Juul after the company failed to provide adequate evidence that its products were safe enough alternatives to smoking. The regulatory agency said that Juul’s documentation left it with “significant questions.”

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Juul is considering filing for bankruptcy if it can’t get the FDA’s order reversed.

Following the FDA order, Juul’s chief regulatory officer Joe Murillo said that the company would pursue a stay and planned to appeal the regulator’s decision.

“In our applications, which we submitted over two years ago, we believe that we appropriately characterized the toxicological profile of JUUL products, including comparisons to combustible cigarettes and other vapor products, and believe this data, along with the totality of the evidence, meets the statutory standard of being ‘appropriate for the protection of the public health,’” Murillo said.

Juul rivals Reynolds American and NJOY Holdings will continue to sell their own vape products in the U.S. after previously receiving the FDA authorization that Juul itself failed to secure.


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Exclusive: Roe v. Wade's demise forces companies to grapple with health care plans, employee privacy and more –




Roe v. Wade's demise forces companies to grapple with health care plans, employee privacy and more

#Roe #Wade039s #demise #forces #companies #grapple #health #care #plans #employee #privacy

Pro-choice activists are seen outside of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 15, 2022.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The challenges posed by the end of Roe v. Wade are only just beginning for corporate America.

By overturning the abortion precedent Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court set off a series of fresh difficulties for companies that must now navigate a country divided between states that will permit the procedure and others that will outlaw it.

One of those issues for companies is deciding if — and how — to provide abortion access to millions of employees who live in states where the procedures are no longer legal.

“Every major organization has health coverage,” said Maurice Schweitzer, a professor for the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. “The question is going to be what’s covered? Is travel for an abortion out of state covered if you’re operating in a state that prohibits abortion?”

Some of the country’s large employers, including Apple, CVS Health, and Disney, reiterated that the companies cover travel to states that allow abortions. Others, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, rushed to update their medical benefits. Several prominent business leaders went a step further, condemning the end of 50 years of federal abortion rights.

Still many others declined to comment or said they are still reviewing plans.


The Supreme Court decision will have implications in the corporate world that stretch far beyond employers’ health benefits and influence where companies locate headquarters and offices, which lawmakers and political action committees they donate to and how they communicate with employees, customers and investors.

Over the years, certain companies have chosen to take a stand on polarizing issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a police officer and Florida’s HB 1557 law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The Supreme Court decision will likely force companies’ hand and make it hard for business leaders to stay silent, Schweitzer said. With those decisions, he said, companies could risk a lawsuit, run afoul of politicians and draw backlash from customers or employees.

“This is going to be an additional challenge for executives,” he said.

For companies that decide to cover abortion care in other states, it will raise new questions including how to reimburse travel expenses and protect employee privacy.

Expanding employee benefits

Some companies such as Netflix, Microsoft and Google’s parent company Alphabet already have health care policies that include abortion and travel benefits, but others are catching up.

JPMorgan Chase told employees in a memo that it will expand its medical benefits to include travel coverage starting in July. Under Armour said it will add a travel benefit to its medical plans. Dick’s CEO, Lauren Hobart, shared on LinkedIn that employees, their spouses and dependents will get up to $4,000 in travel reimbursement if they live in an area that restricts access.

Warner Bros. Discovery also reached out to its employees after the ruling was announced Friday.

“We recognize that the issue of abortion can evoke a variety of emotions and responses which are different for each of us based on our experiences and beliefs,” Adria Alpert Romm, chief people and culture officer, wrote in a memo to employees obtained by CNBC. “We are here to support you.”

Romm said the company is expanding its health care benefits to include expenses for employees and their covered family who need to travel to access a range of medical procedures, including care for abortions, family planning and reproductive health.

Amazon and other companies added travel reimbursement earlier this year as state governments in the Sunbelt passed laws that shuttered abortion clinics or limited access in other ways.


But how companies react over time will vary and could include removing abortion coverage from health plans, or offering indirect assistance such as paid time off or contributions to a health savings account that could be used for travel-related expenses to receive care in another state.

Nearly 30% of organizations said they would increase support within an employee assistance program for reproductive care in a post-Roe world, according to a survey of more than 1,000 human resources professionals for the Society for Human Resource Management. The survey was conducted from May 24 to June 7.

About a third cited paid time off as the top resource provided to support reproductive care, and 14% said they would include the topic of reproductive rights in their diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Nearly a quarter of organizations said that offering a health savings account to cover travel for reproductive care in another state will enhance their ability to compete for talent. 

Businesses taking a stand

Even before the Supreme Court decision, companies were under pressure to step into the abortion debate — or at least articulate how abortion limits and bans could affect their businesses.

Companies have long used their economic power to influence political policy. In 2019, when Georgia legislators sought to ban almost all abortions, Hollywood used the threat of production boycotts in the state to make clear its opinions about politics.

Still, in the wake of the pandemic, studios have been slower to react to new laws that traditionally they might have opposed. Production shutdowns are no longer a luxury the Hollywood can afford, especially as it seeks to keep up with demand for new content.

Disney is coming off a recent battle over a hot-button cultural issue. The company publicly opposed Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, after its employees demanded the company take action. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Florida’s Republican-led legislature revoked the company’s special district in the state, which is home to Walt Disney World and other resorts, in a move it said was not retaliatory.

In a memo to employees Friday, Disney said it “remains committed to removing barriers and providing comprehensive access to quality and affordable care for all” employees. Disney, which already has pre-existing travel benefits that allow its employees who are unable to access care in their current location to seek out medical care for cancer treatments, transplants, rare disease treatment and family planning, which includes pregnancy-related decisions.

As individual states decide whether to maintain abortion rights or block them, legislatures may be faced with backlash from companies and influential business leaders. This could include boycotts, a loss of political donations or inform decisions about where to place headquarters, distribution centers or new facilities.

“Overturning Roe v Wade is a devastating decision by the U.S. Supreme Court,” billionaire and business mogul Richard Branson wrote in a statement. “This will not reduce abortions, it will just make them unsafe. Reproductive rights are human rights. We must all stand up for choice.”


Branson was among the companies and business leaders who slammed Supreme Court’s decision.

“This ruling puts women’s health in jeopardy, denies them their human rights, and threatens to dismantle the progress we’ve made toward gender equality in the workplaces since Roe,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, co-founder and CEO of Yelp. “Business leaders must step up to support the health and safety of their employees by speaking out against the wave of abortion bans that will be triggered as a result of this decision, and call on Congress to codify Roe into law.”

Investors in publicly held companies could have a major influence on how responses to the new ruling are crafted.

At a Walmart shareholders meeting earlier this month, an investor called on the country’s largest private employer to publish a report on the potential risks and costs to the company of state policies that restrict reproductive health care, and any plans the company has to mitigate those risks. The proposal, which is nonbinding, was opposed by the retailer and did not receive support from the majority of shareholders.

Similar proposals could come up at other companies’ shareholder meetings in the near future. Analysts could also probe executives during upcoming earnings calls.

Walmart is based in Arkansas, a state that already has a law on the books to trigger a ban. The company declined to comment on Friday when asked if it will cover travel expenses to states that allow abortions. It already pays for travel to hospitals and medical centers for other kinds of medical procedures, such as spine surgery and certain heart procedures.

Wharton’s Schweitzer said employees and customers increasingly expect more from companies and want to join or spend money with those that mirror their values.

The corporate world has led the way in some cases, with companies turning Juneteeth into a company holiday before it became a federal one. Some companies, such as Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s and CEOs, such as Levi Strauss & Co.’s Chip Bergh have become known for speaking out.

“There’s been a growing trend for executives to become more involved, more engaged in social and political issues,” he said. “This is going to increase that trend where we’re going to see many executives speak out, many executives lead on this issue, and it’s going to normalize the idea that executives are part of the political process.”

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Exclusive: Leading With Transparency in Times of Uncertainty –




Leading With Transparency in Times of Uncertainty

#Leading #Transparency #Times #Uncertainty

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While not a new concept, the importance of transparency in the workplace took on more urgency during the pandemic as our daily lives, including our work environment, were upended. Worldwide, both within the workplace and outside of it, uncertainty became the norm rather than the exception across many influential sectors: geopolitical, natural and business. And there are no signs of things calming down anytime soon.

In a volatile climate, organizational transparency becomes more essential to your business success. As your employees cope — or attempt to cope — with constant upheaval and uncertainty, helping to foster stability toward mental health is of prime importance. Any reassurances you can offer your teams will go a long way in stabilizing their anxiety levels, at least regarding the workplace since external factors are most likely beyond your control.

Ask yourself: If your management team is not leading with transparency, what is your response to the uncertainty? Are you then leading with opaqueness? What does that mean for our employees?

Related: Six Strategies To Navigate Through Uncertainty

Transparency vs. opaqueness

Transparency facilitates a more open, less hierarchical approach to management and a culture that tilts toward learning and innovation. It assumes that data and information will be of value to people. A culture of transparency helps to decentralize information, and with the right information, we’ve witnessed individuals become leaders.

The more employees connect to your company’s overall business objectives, the more room is given for inspiration to arrive. Transparency allows for ownership and alignment, enabling the business to unlock growth. In addition, it encourages individuals to take ownership of problems and mistakes, solutions and their departments. It discourages finger-pointing. It is evidence of mutual respect between the organization and its employees.

In this environment, employees stay connected to what is happening within the organization and don’t have to spend valuable time questioning the company’s direction or plans. If a problem develops, the focus stays on solving the problem versus spiraling into a perceived cover-up and becoming part of the subsequent rumor mill churn.

Organizations led by transparency foster a culture that acknowledges we don’t have all the answers and are learning together as the business grows.


Related: Five Actions Leaders Should Take In Times Of Uncertainty

On the flip side, opaqueness assumes hierarchy. The lack of transparency permeates the organization, causing silos and territorial fiefdoms. Opaqueness facilitates a culture that guards information and knowledge and instructs people what to do instead of providing opportunities to lead. There’s no ownership by employees. There’s the leadership team and everyone else.

Here are some tactics your organization can leverage to foster a culture of transparency.

  • Document your vision, strategy and goals. Openly state these north stars, even sharing them externally, instead of having people guess or make them up for you. This level of visibility will ensure the alignment of your go-to-market strategy with your vision, mission and goals.
  • Share internally how the business is meeting its goals. Measure how the business is performing monthly or quarterly against a transparent plan that you’ve put in place. Share OKR (objectives and key results) reporting of how the company is performing. Use this information to foster a culture of learning. At PandaDoc, we understand that some of these OKRs will fail, but we let everyone know it’s okay as long as we learn from our mistakes.
  • Regularly schedule all-hands meetings. Implement these meetings at the company and at departmental levels. Schedule “ask me anything” meets with leaders so employees can voice their questions or concerns. PandaDoc’s all-hands have a cadence to them. We publish a calendar of what we’re going to discuss; for example, a monthly or quarterly business review, an OKR review, show and tell and what’s happening in various departments. We also structure time to talk about things happening in the world that impact us.
  • Schedule sprint reviews. Have departments share their accomplishments within a designated time — for example, over the past month. Record and post these on your company website so everyone in the company has the opportunity to view them. At PandaDoc, we invite our entire company to join our weekly product and engineering sprint reviews.
  • Create a culture where your employees feel safe. Not every employee feels confident enough to ask leadership-related questions during an all-hands meeting. Provide structured ways to encourage the questions. Let your employees know that they can have one of their co-workers ask the question on their behalf. It’s a simple way of letting your employees know that you have their back, and it provides a way for all employees to have their concerns addressed.
  • Take note of what other companies are doing. Software developer GitHub, for example, is implementing some innovative ways to promote transparency. Two that come to mind: They publicly expose their employee onboarding and offer a two-week CEO shadowing opportunity for employees.
  • Understand that you don’t have to share everything in real-time. You might not want to share a new development in real time; some may require a well-thought-out plan. But you do want to get in front of the rumor mill before your employees start to have that nagging feeling that something is wrong. And definitely, before the information is available on the internet. Share as quickly as possible what’s happening, and what the plan is so your employees can decide their next steps. Sharing this information helps cultivate mutual respect.

As you think about leading with transparency, it’s critical to note that your business is already transparent, even if you don’t want it to be. There’s no point in hiding negative information. It’s going to come out. And you don’t want the information shared on Twitter before you’ve shared it with your employees. A better business practice is to embrace and lead with transparency to foster a more positive working environment for everyone.

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