Arthur’s Day

arthurs day header

OK, after three days of swine flu talk, here’s something more fun.  It may be a bit of a stretch to connect this with small business, but I’ll give it a shot.

250 years ago a Dublin small business man, Arthur Guinness, signed a 9,000 year lease on the St. James Gate brewery and began production of a dark stout.  You have to admit, 9,000 years is quite a commitment.  The cost of the lease?  45 pounds per year.

There’s a huge celebration planned today at St. James Gate and at pubs around the world to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Sir Arthur’s accomplishment.  All Irish and Irish wanna-bes are encouraged to lift a glass in a toast to Sir Arthur today.

As I write this it’s still before noon in the heartland, but here at MTS, we will be participating later in the day.

Slainte!

Sidebar:  Some studies have indicated that Guinness contains antioxidants that may actually keep your arteries free of plaque.  Hopefully any new health care legislation will include a daily pint for every citizen of legal drinking age.  I’m just sayin’…..

Here’s a six minute montage of Guinness commercials.  Enjoy.

h1n1-8 Tips to Help Your Staff Avoid the Flu

This is part 3 of our series on the h1n1 flu and how to keep it from disrupting your business (Small Business-Are You Ready for h1n1?h1n1-1o Tips for Small Business)  We turn again to the web site flu.gov for 8 tips for individual workers to avoid the flu.  You might want to print it out, go over it with your staff, and post it where everyone can see it.

  1. Stay home if you’re sick.
  2. Wash your hands frequently.
  3. Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
  4. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve.  (This could be problematical for employees who wear sleeveless tops.)
  5. Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  6. Keep frequently touched common surfaces clean.  For example, telephones, computer equipment, etc.  (If you operate a business where customers visit, the same goes for surfaces that they touch.)
  7. Try not to use other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment.
  8. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

As an employer you can encourage a healthy working environment by providing plenty of hand cleaner and disinfectant wipes for your employees use.  Your good example will also encourage them and show that you care about their health (and your own.)

h1n1-10 Tips for Small Business

Yesterday I pointed you to the Flu.gov, a web site with tips for businesses to deal with a possible flu pandemic.   (Small Business-Are You Ready for H1N1?)  As I was writing the post, my daughter walked through the room complaining of flu-like symptoms.   I told her she should probably stay home from school, both to help her to recuperate, and to keep from spreading from spreading whatever she has to other students.  Unfortunately she had a mid-term exam that she couldn’t miss.  Maybe her school should read Mining the Store.

In case you missed it, or haven’t had time to look it over, here are the sites ten tips for staying healthy.

  1. Develop policies that encourage workers (students?) to stay home.
  2. Develop other flexible policies to telework (if feasible)
  3. Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene.
  4. Provide educational and training materials.  See www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/business.
  5. Instruct employees who are well but have an ill family at home with the flu that they can go to work as usual.
  6. Encourage workers to obtain a seasonal influenza vaccine.
  7. Encourage employees to get the 2009 H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available.
  8. Provide workers with up-to-date information on influenza risk factors.
  9. Plan to implement practices to minimize face-to-face contact between workers if advised by the local health department.
  10. If an employee becomes sick at work, separate them from other workers until they can be sent home.

Regarding 6 and 7, you might consider paying for the vaccinations and giving your staff time off to get them.

It may be impossible to keep everyone on your staff from getting sick, especially if the flu becomes the pandemic that some predict.  But, whatever you can do to minimize their risk (and that includes your risk, too) is cheap insurance from a potentially serious business interruption.

Tomorrow:  8 Tips for Individuals

Small Business-Are You Ready for H1N1?

Unless you’ve  been living in a cave for the last few months, you’ve surely heard of H1N1, or swine flu.  The disease is spreading rapidly in areas of the world which are already into “flu season” and there’s no reason to expect that the United States and Europe will be any different.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have put together an excellent web site with information on the disease which includes tips on how to stay healthy.  According to the CDC, the disease hits young people the hardest so old guys like me are less likely to get sick, but I wouldn’t count on that.

Here’s the thing.  As a small business owner, you’re business could be at risk if key employees get sick, especially for an extended period. Have you given any thought to what you’ll do if that happens?

The web site Flu.com offers a flu toolkit for business.  I’ve added a link to the site in the right column.  The site strongly suggests that every business should have a plan in place for dealing with H1N1 and other illnesses.  Some key points:

  • Examine your policies for sick leave and working from home.
  • Identify essential employees, essential business functions, and other critical inputs.
  • Share your plan with employees.  [I would suggest that it might be even better to get them involved in preparing the plan.]
  • Prepare a business contingency plan.
  • Establish an emergency communications plan.

Keep in mind that key suppliers and business partners may not be available in the event of a serious outbreak.

As a small business, especially in difficult economic times like these, having a plan to minimize the effects of a possible interruption of your operations could be the best investment you’ll make this year.

More tomorrow.

Tour of Missouri–Stupid Is as Stupid Does

tour breakaway
tour pelaton

I had planned to write today about the Tour of Missouri, the world-class bicycle race that began in Saint Louis yesterday and ends in Kansas City next Sunday. The 600 + mile race is developing into one of the top cycling events not just in the USA, but in the world. Several major riders passed on a race in Spain this week to participate here in the midwest.

I was going to write about persistance and determination and planning and how important they are in racing and in business. Sadly, something else happened that marred the day and made me rethink the direction of today’s post.

Downtown Saint Louis is really quite beautiful. The city has done an amazing job in beatifying the area in preparation for this year’s Major League Baseball All Star game. There is a new public park in the heart of the business district with flowers, sculptures, and pools. In the median of Market Street, downtown’s major east-west thoroughfare, they’ve planted beautiful flowers and shrubs.

plaza flowers 2

Alas, there’s the problem. To get a better view of the race a few dozen pinheads decided that it was alright to stand on the flowers. In spite of requests from the race announcers to respect the plantings and not risk the city’s support of the race in the future, these geniuses must have thought they meant some other flowers as they failed to move and were joined by others.

IDIOT_MO

You would think that bicycle people would be more respectful of nature seeing as how we spend so much time outdoors.

It’s been said that no one ever went broke underestimating the American people. Sad, but true.

Note to visitors:  These people are not representative of the typical Missourian.  Most of us are pretty nice people.  If you’re within reasonable driving distance, the Tour is something that you should experience, either this year or next.

Do You and I Really Have Freedom of Speech?

Interestingly, in yesterday’s post I wrote, “When small-business-damaging laws are being considered at the national and local level, we have to speak out.” In today’s local paper there was a story about John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods.  In a recent op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal Mackey offered his suggestions for health care reform.

Mackey’s comments have stirred up a firestorm because they have been perceived by some of Whole Foods’ liberal customers as being anti-Obamacare.  As you might imagine, a company specializing in organically-grown foods does attract a lot of liberal customers.  Some of them are threatening to boycott the chain.

I’m not going to dive into the health  care debate, at least not today, but you have to admire Mackey’s courage to offer a counter proposal knowing the make-up of his company’s customer base.  But, here are some things that I find interesting:

  • The President has solicited suggestions regarding health care reform.  Mackey’s comments seem to be answering that call.
  • Proposing a different plan from the one that’s currently on the table doesn’t seem to be such a terrible thing, especially in a democracy where the right of free speech is guaranteed.
  • Mackey may be CEO of Whole Foods, but his words don’t necessarily represent the company.
  • Do WF’s liberal customers really want to punish a company that seems to be so in touch with their views and life style?  After all, if the company were to go away, where would they find the same selection of organic and specialty foods?
  • I didn’t read all 4,000 + comments on Mackey’s blog, but if the first couple of pages are any indication, he has a lot of support.

Like I said, this blog isn’t a referendum on health care reform but as I wrote yesterday, don’t business owners and executives have a right and a responsibility to speak out on subjects that are important to their companies?  Obviously Mackey feels strongly enough about the subject to put his name on an article in a national publication.  As a responsible CEO you have to believe that he feels an alternative to the current health care reform bills floating around on Capital Hill would be best for his company, his employees, and his customers.

Where does that leave small business owners?  Don’t we have the same right and responsibility?   Should we back off on important issues for fear of adverse customer reactions?

Personally I think Mackey did the right thing.  What do you think?

Here are some other points of view:

What can John Mackey and Whole Foods learn from publicizing their views on health reform?

“Health Care Stirs Up Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, Customers Boycott Organic Grocery Store” from ABC News

What the @&^#*?

I know you’ve heard a lot about the “Cash for Clunkers” program recently.  The idea, of course, is to get consumers to trade their gas guzzlers for new, energy efficient cars.  The idea is to (1) get the guzzlers off the road and (2) to stimulate the auto business.

IMHO, the porogram asks more questions than it answers.  For example:

  • Why is there no similar program for refirgerators; or lawn mowers; or speed boats; or vacuum cleaners; or anything else?
  • Is it really necessary to destroy all these vehicles, especially when there are so many small business owners who could use some of the vans and suvs being turned in as work trucks?
  • How many people are taking advantage of this program to finance new cars that they aren’t going to be able to pay for?
  • Doesn’t this bailout discriminate against the poor since they may not be able to afford a new car, even with the $4,500 incentive?  And, doesn’t this program take cheap cars off the market that the poor can afford to buy?
  • Where is the government going to get the money to continue the program given that it was supposed to run for months and it’s out of money in a matter of days?
  • But here’s the thing that really gets my goat.  As I was riding my bike yesterday is passed a Toyota dealer with a huge “CASH FOR CLUNKERS” sign.  Why the $#^@ is the government spending our tax money to get people to buy foreign cars?

Am I missing something here, especially given the government’s recent investment in General Motors and Chrysler?  If the idea is to stimulate the economy (Can a mere two or three billion dollars really make much difference?) shouldn’t the objective be to create American jobs at American car plants?

I’m just saying……

The Economy that Wouldn’t Die

From the US Census Bureau:

"New orders for manufactured durable goods
in June increased $1.6 billion or 0.8 percent to $215.4 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today.  This was the second consecutive monthly increase and followed a 0.1 percent May increase.

"Shipments of manufactured durable goods
in June, up two of the last three months, increased $1.1 billion or 0.5 percent to $212.2 billion. This followed a 1.2 percent May decrease.

"Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods
in June, up twenty-eight of the last twenty-nine months, increased $7.2 billion or 0.9 percent to $817.6 billion. This was at the highest level since the series was first stated on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 0.9 percent May increase."

Anyone who thinks that American business, or the American consumer for that matter, is going to roll over and die just because of high gas prices doesn’t know us very well, do they?

Good News for Small Business

As you probably know by now, President Bush signed the economic stimulus package into law yesterday.  Here’s a press release from the Small Business Administration on the new legislation"

WASHINGTON:  Steve Preston, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business
Administration, made the following statement today on the signing of HR 5140,
the Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act of
2008:

"This bill is a win for small businesses in three major ways: tax rebates will
stimulate short term consumer spending
, some of which will flow to smaller
companies; a 50 percent bonus deduction on new equipment that normally
would be depreciated over the long term
; and, it increases the limit on
expenses that small businesses can deduct from annual income.

"€œSmall businesses create  2/3  of  the  new  jobs in our economy and account 
for  half  of  non-farm  GDP. It is vital for the nation that small businesses
stay healthy and growing.
  HR 5140 will give them a much-needed boost which
will enable them to expand their companies and create new jobs.

"€œOn behalf of small business, I applaud the President for his leadership and
Congress for moving with such swiftness and bipartisanship. 

"€œWe continue to urge Congress to proceed with other vital small business
issues such as permitting health insurance pooling and deductibility, opening
up new markets with Colombia, Peru and South Korea, and guaranteeing that
taxes on small business earnings and investment don’t rise."

Say it ain’t so, Joe

Dimaggio
By now you’ve heard about the release of the Mitchell Report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.  In case you’re interested, you can read the report, all 409 pages of it, here.

MYOB isn’t a sports blog or a political blog, and by now there’s not much we can add to everything that’s already been said and written about the sorry state of sports in general, and baseball in particular. 

But, as business people, this official acknowledgment of something we knew all along, that integrity and honesty are becoming the exception, rather than the rule should be a wake up call for all of us.  When our sports "heroes" are found to be cheating in the name of making more millions of dollars, we have to realize that something we once took for granted has become a rare commodity.

It would be naive to assume that baseball is the only professional sport that has an ethics problem.  It would be even more naive to think that it’s exclusively a sports problem.  The fact is that many of us accept this behavior and even expect it.  Was the Mitchell Report really a surprise to anyone?

As we reported here this past summer (Consumer Confidence), Americans trust small business more than any other American institution with the exception of the military.  That’s a statistic to be proud of, but it’s not something to take for granted.  It’s extremely important to guard that trust like gold, because that’s what it is. 

We may all wonder when our favorite player hits a home run whether he did it honestly, or if his performance was enhanced by modern science, but we can’t afford for even one of our customers to wonder if we’ve treated them fairly; if we’ve played by the rules. 

Back in the days when everyone lived by the Golden Rule, integrity was part of the deal.  It was expected.  Toys didn’t poison our kids.  Medicine didn’t make us sick.  It made us well.  We could buy something with our credit card and not worry about our identity being stolen. 

As the Gallup Poll showed, small business still enjoys Americans’ trust.  Only one in four people trusts TV news.  Only 14% trust Congress.  But 59% of Americans trust you. Whatever you do, don’t violate that trust.