Neil A. Carousso is the producer of The 880 Weekly Rewind with Lynda Lopez, airing Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS Newsradio 880. Each week Lynda talks with newsmakers for a deep dive into the top stories of the week and the impact it has on people.
Neil A. Carousso produces and co-hosts WCBS Newsradio 880’s Small Business Spotlight series with Joe Connolly. Click here to watch the weekly video segments featuring advice for business owners on survival, recovery and growth opportunities.

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  • Watch: Mayoral Candidate Maya Wiley Reveals Plans for NYC’s Recovery

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    By Lynda Lopez, WCBS Newsradio 880

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — In about two months, New Yorkers will vote in the mayoral primaries to pick a new leader who will come in facing pressing issues including overseeing the city’s recovery from the pandemic.

    More than two dozen men and women are running to replace the outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio, including his former counsel Maya Wiley.

    Wiley, an attorney and civil rights activist, chaired the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board after working at City Hall.

    She also worked as a legal analyst on MSNBC before announcing her run for mayor last October.

    Anchor Lynda Lopez spoke with Wiley for Friday’s installment of the 880 Weekly Rewind and  asked how she plans to help the city recover and what she plans to focus on, not just to shepherd the city out of the devastated economy, but to make it work going forward.

    “We had an affordability crisis before COVID hit. We have been struggling, frankly, with racial issues and racial injustice for generations, actually, but coming to a head as we saw this summer,” Wiley said. “We’ve had this kind of spiritual exhaustion because of the division, because of the struggle of daily life, and then COVID hits and now we’re traumatized and our economy is in tatters. We have 400,000 people facing eviction. We have over 200 million going hungry. This is a crisis of historic proportion, but as the candidate in this race that has also been in that hot kitchen we call City Hall, I also know that we have resources that we can use in order to not just meet the needs of our people right now, but start to solve some of our affordability issues.”

    One of her proposals, New Deal New York, would create 100,000 new jobs by spending $10 billion of the capital construction budget to build affordable housing.

    Another proposal would focus on investing in child and elderly care.

    “The cost of child care and elder care is one of the top three expenses in the city before COVID, but what we’re going to do is put $,5000 a year into the pockets of, starting with 100,000 of our neediest families, to care for children and elderly adults, but we’re also going to create community care centers,” Wiley said.

    Lopez also asked Wiley what she would do as mayor to improve the city’s schools and equity in education.

    Educational equity was brought to the forefront when it became clear Black and Brown students were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic shutdown.

    Minority students were at a disadvantage when it came to remote work.

    Many families in underserved communities lacked the digital tools and resources to thrive in the virtual learning environment.

    Wiley said every students deserves an exceptional education and that means ensuring that more dollars are getting into the classroom and to help kids who are struggling to get online.

    “Something I’ve done inside City Hall is show city government how to do free broadband, getting every single apartment in Queensbridge Houses free service that the city paid for. I did that as counsel to the mayor, I know how to get it done, but we have to do that now because we don’t develop the educational opportunities for our kids if we’re not solving that digital divide,” Wiley said. “That is critically important.”

    Wiley also said it’s time to stop policies that discriminate against children.

    “We should not be using any admission standards that aren’t really about what kids need but are rather about what families have the resources to pay for the tutoring that gets them over the hump on a test,” Wiley said. “First of all, families shouldn’t have to do that and far too many of our families don’t have the resources to do it and it’s not meeting an educational agenda.”

    She also proposes cutting some of the bureaucracy that’s coming out of the Department of Education to open the door for principals and teachers to bring more innovation to the table.

    “There is a lot of it in our system, but it gets strangled by some of these rules rather than really thinking about what serves the need of our students particularly at a time when we have so much to do to help them come back,” Wiley.

    Hear comprehensive analysis of the top stories of the week and original reporting on The 880 Weekly Rewind hosted by Lynda Lopez Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS-AM New York. Listen to this week’s full show, produced by Neil A. Carousso, on the media player above.

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  • Mr. Wonderful’s 3 Steps for Growing Your Business Again

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — “Shark Tank” investor Kevin O’Leary stressed business owners need to adapt to what he believes are permanent changes to consumer behavior as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    On the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, presented by The First National Bank of Long Island, the self-made multi-millionaire entrepreneur made several recommendations of digital tools, sharing actionable advice for business recovery with host Joe Connolly. Mr. Wonderful also revealed what some of his companies have found success doing despite the economic turmoil.

    1. MAKE THE “GREAT DIGITAL PIVOT”

    O’Leary divulged that only 36 of the 56 companies he had been invested in across “almost every sector” nationwide are still in business a year into the pandemic.

    “They did the great digital pivot and that involves figuring out how to set up a platform – most of them use Shopify not Amazon, number one – to change their websites to be far more interesting and engaging,” he told Connolly.

    Shopify allows businesses to create their own e-commerce website using the platform whereas Amazon is the consumer-facing website for companies’ online marketplace.

    “They went to 4K photography, 1080p video, they told stories about their products, they had other customers talk about testimonials and how they were using them, so they really engaged people for the first time in ways they’ve never done before because they were forced to – everybody was working remotely,” O’Leary said.

    He also shared the trick to monetizing digital content on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast. More on that later in Mr. Wonderful’s 3rd step to growing again.

    2. PUT YOUR CUSTOMER FIRST

    O’Leary said the best way to sell is to “promise customer support and deliver on it.”

    He told Connolly his frequent advice to young entrepreneurs is that the customer is always number one, and if you treat them like that, you can have a very profitable business.

    “The differentiating factor in selling is customer service,” O’Leary said, adding, “You can actually sell the same product for a higher price if you’re in the top quartile of customer service for it.”

    The software tycoon invoked Apple as a prime example.

    “When you buy a laptop from them, you’re paying 50 percent more than the exact same machine’s function on a Windows-based product or a brand you may not know, but because Apple makes you pay for customer support and you respect it and you want it, you pay a crazy amount more,” he said.

    3. REDUCE YOUR CUSTOMER ACQUISITION COSTS

    WCBS Business Producer Neil A. Carousso posed the number one question WCBS 880 listeners had for O’Leary, which was “How do you monetize digital content?”

    Mr. Wonderful responded the only metric for monetizing digital content is whether it can reduce customer acquisition costs for one’s product or service.

    “Basically, what you’re trying to do when you make new digital content is to tell a story about your product, show it in its best light, try and get testimonials from other users who are using it and why they use it, and try and acquire customers at the lowest cost you can,” the Shark explained.

    “Remember, long-term outcome is basically customer acquisition costs have to be less than lifetime value of the customer acquired. Otherwise, you go out of business,” O’Leary added.

    He produces a plethora of content for the companies he’s invested in and shows behind-the-scenes of commercial shoots, media appearances, and his daily life on his YouTube channel, which includes afternoon bike rides along Miami Beach, playing the guitar, cooking in his “Chef Wonderful” videos and enjoying O’Leary Fine Wines with his wife Linda.

    A bonus step for growing your business again, O’Leary acknowledges, is a healthy work-life balance.

    “I don’t work 9 to 5, obviously, and I try and find life balance in doing the things I love to do while I’m working,” said Mr. Wonderful. “I work seven days a week, but I don’t work every hour.”

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  • 880 Weekly Rewind: Self-Defense Tactics for Asian Americans, Border Crisis Heats Up, Cuomo Accused Again as Investigations Advance

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Asian Americans are pleading for safety as hate crimes against them spike. WCBS anchor Lynda Lopez talks to Asian American Federation Deputy Director Joo Han about how they are promoting self-defense techniques.

    Plus, the influx of migrants at the U.S. Southern Border reaches the highest level in 20 years amid a change in policy from the Biden Administration.

    WCBS reporter Steve Burns reports on the latest scandals involving New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who refuses to answer questions while two investigations into his alleged sexual harassment and assault proceed.

    Hear comprehensive analysis of the top stories of the week and original reporting on The 880 Weekly Rewind hosted by Lynda Lopez Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS-AM New York. Listen to this week’s full show, produced by Neil A. Carousso, on the media player above.

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  • WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast: ‘Shark Tank’ Star Kevin O’Leary Boasts of ‘Digital 2.0 America’ in Growing Out of Pandemic

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Kevin O’Leary, the self-made entrepreneur turned TV “Shark,” brought his straight-shooting, no-frills flare to the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast with Joe Connolly, presented by The First National Bank of Long Island, in sharing how to grow one’s business again.

    O’Leary, who was nicknamed “Mr. Wonderful” by co-star Barbara Corcoran in season one of ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank,” praised business owners for their grit and resilience during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic that has levied a burden on the economy over the past year and shut down major industries, namely restaurants and hospitality companies.

    “The great thing about the American entrepreneur is they don’t let failure stop them,” he said. “The majority of them try again and learn from their mistakes.”

    O’Leary emphasized a changed economy, telling Connolly owners must pursue a digital “transformation” to survive the pandemic.

    “You’ve got to realize that you have to do a digital pivot,” he explained.

    Mr. Wonderful said only 36 of the 56 companies he had been invested in are still in business a year into the pandemic, noting many of his still-standing “Shark Tank’ companies shifted to using Shopify for their e-commerce platform and incorporated high-quality photography and video to connect and find new customers.

    “They really engaged people for the first time in ways they’ve never done before because they were forced to – everybody was working remotely,” said O’Leary.

    “Retail is really challenged because if you’re just (in a) 1,200 square-foot space in a mall and the traffic’s dropped 20 percent, I don’t think that’s going to work out for anybody because consumer preferences have dramatically changed in the last year towards online retail,” he noted.

    He suggested direct-to-consumer sales will help businesses to cut and manage costs, grow their gross margins, and build for the future.

    O’Leary does not anticipate remote work habits will be broken. He’s actually betting on it to stay by shrinking his real estate portfolio from 31 percent to 8 percent over the next three years while the market adjusts to the post-pandemic economy.

    “I haven’t had a cold or been sick since March 7th of last year and I’m starting to like it,” he said, adding, “I don’t think I’m getting in an elevator in New York going up to the 78th floor with 60 people ever again – not in December. I’m not going into a packed restaurant. That may just be me; I’m a germaphobe, but I’ve talked to lots of other people that have the same concerns.”

    Kathy Wylde, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for New York City, cited the “burnout” some employees feel by working from home where many feel they are always at work. She believes employers and employees want to return when it’s safe to do so. Mr. Wonderful disagrees with her assessment.

    Photo Credit: ABC.

    “They have no interest in coming back to headquarters – not now, not ever,” O’Leary said of his workers. “In fact, if you try and force them, they’re going to find a job somewhere else where they get that flexibility.”

    The O’Leary Financial Group founder told the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast that he hears most of his 10,000 employees enjoy working from home to take care of children and elderly parents while avoiding rough commutes in major metropolitan cities like New York.

    Employers in professional services find productivity is up and they have a widened talent pool across the country and world.

    The “Shark Tank” investor said he has made informed business decisions by listening to others he encounters while working remotely, himself, from his Miami Beach dream house where he joined Connolly virtually from his home studio.

    One example of this is when he struck up a conversation with the nurse who administered his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine recently. She explained that at 24 years old she was uncomfortable with the lack of data around the vaccine and fertility.

    “I had obviously heard of anti-vaxxers before, but I always thought they were the lunatic fringe – the 10 percent that thought the government was injecting them with a chip or something,” O’Leary said.

    “I’m under the impression now, or at least in terms of my investment philosophy, that we’re going to get to a place pretty soon in the next 6 weeks, maybe 8 weeks, where we will have vaccinated two-thirds of the country and we’re going to hit a brick wall. The other third isn’t going to take it,” he believes, thus he’s downsizing his physical footprint, beefing investment in the digital space, and encouraging restaurateurs to re-think their indoor and outdoor dining areas while improving their digital ordering systems for takeout and delivery.

    O’Leary sold his first business, renamed The Learning Company from SoftKey Software Products, to Mattel for $4.2 billion in 1999. Now, he owns O’Leary Financial Group, which is a conglomerate of brands that includes investment firm O’Leary Funds. He also serves as chairman of O’Shares ETFs. Kevin, a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur, owns O’Leary Fine Wines. Mr. Wonderful is also heavily invested in financial literacy firm Beanstox, Inc., which is geared towards young people in their 20s and 30s who are more interested in business and investing because of the pandemic.

    “Basically, we’ve made it so simple that you try and take 100 dollars a week and put it into the markets through indexing,” he told Connolly of Beanstox. “It’s a tool to help people solve a big problem in America: 100 million Americans do not have anything set aside for their retirement.”

    Mr. Wonderful knows how to have fun, too. He shows his lighter side to his 401,000 YouTube subscribers. His hobbies include biking, cooking and playing the guitar.

    “I don’t work 9 to 5, obviously, and I try and find life balance in doing the things I love to do while I’m working,” O’Leary said in response to a question from WCBS Business Producer Neil A. Carousso, adding, “I work seven days a week, but I don’t work every hour.”

    You can see Kevin O’Leary’s routine, his business philosophy, and actionable advice for growing your business again despite the pandemic on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast with Joe Connolly, presented by The First National Bank of Long Island. Watch the full program above.

    About Kevin O’Leary:

    Photo Credit: ABC

    Kevin O’Leary’s success story starts where most entrepreneurs begin: with a big idea and zero cash.

    Kevin O’Leary was born to a middle class family in 1954. The combination of Kevin’s mother’s family heritage as merchants and his father’s Irish charisma truly meant that O’Leary was born for business. Kevin learned most of his business intuition from his mother. She taught him key business and financial insights from an early age. These became Kevin’s core philosophies, and the pillars upon which he would one day build his empire.

    Kevin’s approach to business went through major changes as a teenager. During his second day on the job at a local ice cream shop, his boss came into the front of the store where Kevin was scooping ice cream. She looked at Kevin and asked him to scrape all the gum between the Mexican tiles on the floor. Kevin refused and he was fired. That was the moment he realized he never wanted to work for someone else again and charted his path into entrepreneurship as a high school student.

    As a university student, Kevin’s innate business sense led him along several different paths – including some very unusual, very entrepreneurial ways of making a profit.

    Not long after he finished his MBA, Kevin had a meeting that changed his life forever.
    He met a man who had a strange idea for a software product – an idea with huge, high-profit potential that Kevin immediately recognized.

    After years of ups, downs, sacrifices, challenges, and lessons learned — not to mention a critical phone call that nearly cost him everything — the opportunity that Kevin saw eventually turned into a computer software giant that was acquired for more than $4 billion dollars.

    After his extraordinary success at the software company, he founded – and a difficult period of obstacles and legal disputes – Kevin eventually found himself on television, quickly becoming a sought-after host and personality on a range of shows – including Discovery’s Project Earth, CBC’s Dragons’ Den, and ABC’s Shark Tank.

    Kevin has since launched O’Leary Funds, an investment fund company; O’Leary Fine Wines; and a best-selling book series on financial literacy.

    In 2014, Kevin founded O’Leary Financial Group – a group of brands and services that share Kevin’s guiding principles of honesty, directness, convenience, and above all, great value.

    His net worth is estimated at $400 million.

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  • Marking One Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — It has been one year since COVID-19 reared its ugly head in New York. On The 880 Weekly Rewind this week, Lynda Lopez looks at the past year in the pandemic from the human toll to the lessons learned and how we recover.

    Plus, WCBS reporter Steve Burns covers a tumultuous week for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo whose emergency pandemic powers were rescinded by the state legislature Friday amid dual scandals in how he handled COVID-19 in nursing homes and allegations of sexual harassment from three women.

    Neil A. Carousso produces The 880 Weekly Rewind with Lynda Lopez Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS Newsradio 880. Listen to this week’s full show on the media player above.

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