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Why a Third‑Generation Dallas Business Owner Built a Company to Connect ‘Gig’ Talent » Dallas Innovates

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Zach Weismann, founder of Dallas-based MAG Impact Collective, has his eye on the very future of work. And, ready or not, that future is now, he says. With large companies continuing to downsize and the sheer number of workers who have been laid off during the pandemic, many people are looking for a new way to earn a living, he explains.

It’s time to start “changing the way we think about freelance or ‘gig’ work—less as a temporary transition and more as a permanent solution,” Weismann told Dallas Innovates in an email. The entrepreneur, a third-generation Dallas business owner, is forging the way with his company that connects talented people with the businesses and organizations that need their expertise.

In 2018, the founder launched MAG Impact Collective with a core membership group of designers, marketers, writers, and experts in leadership, culture, and partnerships. Focused in the areas of social impact, education, and sustainability, MAG connects these experts with social enterprises, nonprofits, and firms to help them “Magnify, Accelerate, and Generate” Impact—hence the name MAG.

Described as an “un-agency,” the firm’s business model is timely in a world that’s gone virtual, he says. The need to help clients solve internal challenges and build on digital presence amidst the COVID-19 crisis drives Weismann and the team.

“More so than ever, this pandemic shows the importance of collaboration, leadership, culture, and partnership. And MAG has experts in each of those areas,” said Weismann, who aims to turn challenges into proactive solutions.

Support for solo entrepreneurs

Weismann, who didn’t always believe “going solo” was the way to go, built the company to ease many of the pressures that gig economy or solo-entrepreneurs face, he said in an interview.

Zach Weismann delivered a TEDx Plano talk on life changes in 2017. 

“Working from home doesn’t have to be lonely. That’s why I created MAG,” Weismann said. “The Collective provides that feeling of belonging to a team and provides shared resources, allowing independent workers to benefit from a formal entity while still remaining independent.”

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, free-lance work was a growing trend. The CEO points to the statistics: According to a 2019 Free-lancers in America survey by the Free-lancers Union, it increased from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019.

“With office jobs going through major changes that will stretch beyond this pandemic—and the future of normal working environments in question—self-employment opportunities are becoming more appealing,” Weismann said, adding that will “continue to reshape the way we see work for years to come.”

It’s all the more reason for creative and innovative business models and working models to help usher in this new era of work, he said.

Since launch, MAG’s own group has expanded from 12 to 20 members.

The MAG mission of social impact

At its core, MAG Impact Collective has a goal of driving social impact through its services. With a dedication to “moving the needle towards social responsibility,” MAG aims to support their current clients and prospects amidst the COVID-19 pandemic by “offering up their listening ears” via a one-hour ‘Caring, Collaborative Conversations’ problem-solving session with the company’s full team of experts,” says Weismann.

It’s not a webinar, he says, rather “a listening and brainstorming session” to better understand people’s needs and help collaborate on solutions with leaders, businesses, and corporations.  The session is free and available to the public.

The Collective has also launched a new podcast, called MAG’s Mind. Its first episode discussed topics around grief and loss, and how to create positive change during times of uncertainty, he notes.

“In times of crisis, most people look for ways to come together and help one another in their communities and around the world,” Weismann says. “It’s important that all businesses and individuals come together to support one another in these challenging times as we all face the post-COVID19 world together.”

Q&A With Zach Weismann

Zach Weismann, a third-generation business owner, has a legacy of success in Dallas. His grandfather, who moved to Dallas in the 50s, started three companies in DFW, and his parents started and ran an accounting firm for 30 years. His dad still runs the firm to this day.

Weismann took the time to speak with Dallas Innovates about the MAG mission, what sets the collective apart, and how the Dallas region is poised to be a center of social impact. Below is an excerpt of the interview.

What sets MAG Collective apart from the “traditional agency”?

Our unique working model allows us to be flexible, nimble, and evolve quickly with clients’ ever-changing needs. Gone are the days, especially when it comes to social issues, of waiting 12 months to launch a project. By the time you wait that long, your needs—and thus the problem statement—most likely have changed as well.

Also, what you see is what you get. We don’t outsource, and we don’t match you with unqualified staff. We’re able to offer greater expertise without all the agency “fluff.” When I worked at a large agency, it always surprised me when clients would see our fancy office and fancy computers. Who do you think pays for that?

If we’re going to solve real, tangible problems, there are simple sacrifices we will all need to make in the name of the greater good, and we have done just that.

How has your company mission around social impact evolved since launch?

Our mission is to support positive social change around the world. We feel this can be done by helping organizations internally, supporting their external efforts, and by truly collaborating by matching needs with services.

In today’s challenging political, environmental, and business landscape, the only way we’re going to create the solutions we need, achieve the impact we desire, and solve our most pressing challenges is through collaboration.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your business and client base? 

It has created some [changes]—we have had clients that work in the healthcare and travel industries get hit really hard and have to postpone some projects. But due to our decades of work in social impact, sustainability, healthcare, and international development, I feel we are well versed in facing global challenges and weathering the storm. We have come together to support one another, but also are doubling down to lend our expertise to clients of all sizes.

We have the potential to make a huge difference. Due to our working model, we’re able to offer clients affordable and nimble expertise. As we all continue to see the economic consequences and trickle-down hardships, this allows us to provide numerous services to clients that perhaps they were previously paying a huge cost for.

We can continue to help businesses, individuals, start-ups, nonprofits and organizations weather this storm—albeit by helping them solve internal challenges or by helping them expand and build their digital presence. More so than ever, this pandemic shows the importance of collaboration, leadership, culture, and partnership. And MAG has experts in each of those areas—we’d love to help.

Do you have an example?

First and foremost, we had a “Collective” check-in with all of our members to see how everyone was doing—checking in on their families and wellbeing. Then we brainstormed on how we can better help clients and companies doing great work in this time of need. We’re offering one-hour “Caring Collaborative Conversations” with all of our experts that allow us to really listen to company-wide and individual challenges to help them frame a problem and solution: Is this a design challenge? Can marketing help? Is this a leadership challenge? Is this a challenge about partners not rising to the occasion?

We launched the offering where anyone can sign up, and we’re not charging for it. 

What mentors, partnerships, or deals have been pivotal to your initial traction?

1) We hold an annual meeting. You still can’t beat face-to-face interaction—it builds relationships for a lifetime.
2) Legal counsel. So expensive but so worth it!
3) A long-term project working with a large technology company helping them launch a global nonprofit was a great initial project proved to us very early that the model works, and we can have the desired positive impact we seek. 

In terms of business success, what are you most proud of since your launch?

I am most proud of the members. Watching them build relationships amongst themselves and with clients—watching them support one another’s work and go to bat for each other—reminds me every day that there are amazing people in this world. When you bring great people together, good things can happen. When you instill trust and faith, you receive it in return. They restore my faith in humanity.

Fast forward: What would be success be for Mag Collective in the next 2-3 years?

[We want to feel we’ve] had an impact and helped shift the needle in a positive direction in a few major areas: climate change, global injustices, health and wellness, and income inequality.

You mentioned that Dallas is something of a “blank slate” in terms of social impact potential. What impact do you think MAG could have on the Dallas region? 

I was born and raised here. There are still a lot of stereotypes around Dallas: “Do you ride a horse to work”…“Oh, there are trees here!”…“Wow, it’s bigger than I thought”… on and on.

What people don’t know is that we are actually poised to be a center of impact. We have healthcare, technology, innovation, Fortune 500 companies, and more. But we need to focus on what truly matters—solving some of our world’s most pressing problems. It’s now proven that the solutions are more valuable than continuing to support the problem drivers.

MAG is helping change the narrative: The forward-thinking, the innovation, the social impact, and change can start here. It can come out of this region, not just both coasts.

What obstacles or hurdles did you have to overcome in starting your business?

There is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt that I think sums it up accurately: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It is easy to sit on the sidelines and judge. It’s much harder to get into the arena, take an idea, and make it work.

What do you wish people knew about MAG?

That MAG stands for my mom’s initials, Michele Ann Garson, who I lost to cancer in 2014. My mom and I were, are, extremely close. She instilled in me a strong belief in people, the importance of family and relationships, and dedication to helping clients—all of which are at the very core of what MAG does.

Who or what is inspiring you right now (and why)?

My one-and-a-half-year-old son, Howie. He will never get to meet his Grandma Michele, but I want him to feel her through what I stand for and the work we do. I want him to inherit a world that is habitable. I want him to know that elephants and tigers exist in the wild—not just in a zoo or in his coloring book. I want him to know that people can treat each other with respect, kindness, and compassion. I want him to know the divide our country’s current administration is deepening was a blip on the map—an accident, not who we as a country stand for. At the end of the day, I want him to know his dad tried his hardest to make the world a little bit better of a place for him.

The Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.


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Companies

Gig Economy Digital Platforms Get Tax Reporting Rules from OECD

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Daily Tax Report: International

July 3, 2020, 9:01 AM

A new global tax reporting framework for digital platforms released by the OECD on Friday seeks to promote standardized rules for how individuals on those platforms report their revenues.

Such platforms, including peer-to-peer online marketplaces, food delivery companies and sharing economy companies like Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb Inc., are a rapidly growing segment of many countries’ economies, but tax authorities are finding it hard to tax them effectively. The OECD is aiming to create consistency among tax administrations’ measures and to help digital platforms avoid unnecessary reporting burdens from differing unilateral rules.

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New lucrative offers for gig & blue collar workers to fill roles, Technology News, ETtech

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Illustration: Rahul Awasthi
Illustration: Rahul Awasthi

Gig workers are back in demand, although big technology firms and offline retailers are unable to fill roles quickly since many of these workers have returned to their hometowns following the Covid-19 induced economic crisis.

Open positions for gig and blue-collar staff were at 250,000 in March, but increased to 600,000 in April and currently stand at around 500,000, according to TeamLease data.

The vacant positions that companies such as Amazon, Zomato, Swiggy and PharmEasy, as well as Future group’s BigBazaar, are seeking to fill include ones in warehouse management, packaging and delivery, and for electricians, cooks, ward-boys, operations and healthcare workers.

Interestingly, these companies are offering the gig workers three-times their previous salaries and an additional 15% incentive compared to levels before the pandemic. They have also offered flight tickets and are going ahead with virtual onboarding, experts tracking the space said.

Online grocer Grofers, for instance, has hired people from industries deeply impacted by the current crisis — manufacturing, textiles and car rentals.

“We also encouraged supply chain hiring through referrals by giving bonuses to those who are referring friends and family for work and collaborated with other platforms for their delivery fleet,” said Rohit Sharma, head of supply chain at Grofers.

The demand for workers and incentives offered, however, differ across industries, the experts said.

“These workers now have ‘virtual job fairs’ wherein they can choose multiple companies to work and onboardings are done within an hour, from the earlier 15 days at least,” said Kaushik Banerjee, vice president and business head of TeamLease.

The volume of hiring, too, has largely increased.

Further, startups such as Swiggy, Grofers, BigBasket, Urban Company and Flipkart, are now training these employees in soft skills virtually, in just one-three days, and have pushed the envelope with respect to workforce safety measures.

“Over the last two months, we have hired over 3,000 people for our supply chain operations, and plan to hire another 2,000 warehouse and delivery staff in the coming months,” said Sharma of Grofers.

Amazon India is offering close to 20,000 temporary jobs in its customer service department. The new positions are open in Hyderabad, Pune, Coimbatore, Noida, Kolkata, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Mangaluru, Indore, Bhopal and Lucknow, it said in a statement.

Background verification has also become a significant part of such onboarding and firms are doing so even if the workers are away from metro cities and are only expected to return once the situation normalizes.

“During the lockdown, we built a digital background checks service through which complete onboarding is done virtually and…in a few minutes,” said Varun Mirchandani, co-founder of background verification firm HelloVerify.

The electronic Know Your Customer forms are being undertaken through WhatsApp, emails and SMSes.

Swiggy, for instance, said its onboarding and training has gone fully digital over the last few months.

Further, onboardings are now being completed in one hour, a stark shift from the earlier process of walk-ins where the process took at least two weeks.

“We moved to 100% digital learning during the delivery partner onboarding stage by December 2019. During Covid-19, we banked on our Zero Touch Learning approach and achieved 100% of the learning interventions to be driven digitally,” a Swiggy spokesperson said.



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Tom Stimson: Gig Economy ‘Is Going to Save’ Live Events Industry

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If you thought you could make minor tweaks to your business model in the hopes of skating through the economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus outbreak around the world, think again.

The financial struggle remains severe almost four months after the pandemic reached U.S. shores and, at least in some segments of the AV and live events industry, there’s no end in sight soon, says business consultant Tom Stimson in this week’s edition of his “The Show WILL Go On” webinar series.

“The lack of consensus about how to manage the pandemic is feeding uncertainty,” said Stimson. “That’s pushing the event economy further and further on down the road. Hybrid events are going to be difficult to pull off in the current climate. It’s pushed our recovery down a few more months.

“I think Q4 is going to be pushed more into streaming events. You need to get ahead of it. These are things that affect your clients’ best interests. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there,” he said.

Streaming events “may not be as fun or sexy” as traditional live events, “but it’s what we have right now,” said Stimson. “If you want the business, you’re going to have to claim some of that space.”

“We’re no longer in a sprint trying to get to September,” he said. “We’re now in a marathon that could last another year or more.” He says business stabilization comes with a cash flow plan, minimized expenses and broadened services.

Stimson advised business leaders to “look at every single expense, including rent, and ask yourself if it’s worth it” and explore strategic partnering with other small companies to help secure larger, more lucrative assignments.

“A lot of small companies sharing the risk on a large event is a big company,” said Stimson. “It’s time to move from defense to offense. Figure out what you can make happen and get out there and make it happen.

“Let go of the constraints of your old business model,” he said. “The gig economy is going to save our industry. Your business will continue to survive and deliver valuable service to your customers without the extra burden of overhead and the obligation that goes with it.

“There’s always going to be demand for gig employees and that demand is going to explode as our economy returns,” said Stimson.

Gig Economy

How to Succeed in the Gig Economy

In the gig economy, location still matters as much as it always has, said Stimson. Depth and quality matter too, of course, so businesses need to be “credibly broad on what you do” when location matters, he said.

If you’re in the right location for a given job, said Stimson, be the best value. If you have the right resource, make it easy to move, he said. If you are the best at what you do, don’t discount your specialization, said Stimson.

Hiring freelancers on retainer, setting up project-based fees and offering incentives and bonuses will position you for success in the gig economy, said Stimson.

“The same things that motivate your employees can motivate gig workers as well,” he said. “You want freelancers who are selling their craft, not just their time. Good freelancers will share what they know with your team, but not responsible for teaching them.

“A good freelancer in the gig economy wants to be involved in prep and planning for an event and they carry their own tools and accessories. They also respect the channel and offer tiered fees as a bonus,” said Stimson.

Business leaders can attract the best freelancers with standardized pay schedules, pre-production involvement, being treated in a similar way as full-time employees, training opportunities and loyalty, he said.



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