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Not Totally Suspension…WE NEED MAIN ST. AS MUCH AS WALL ST.

MAIN STREETNovember 25, 2017 is Small Business Saturday.  It’s a day dedicated to showcasing small and family owned businesses.  You don’t need much to participate, you just need a small business.  American Express, the founding sponsor of Small Business Saturday, will provide shops with a kit to help make it a fun day.  The kit includes things like personalized banners, posters, balloons and some give-aways for customers.  Just go to the website at https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/ to sign up.

To some, this might seem like a non-event but if you are a small business owner you know how hard it is to compete with the “big guys” and how hard it is to compete with on-line businesses.  The little guys need all the help they can get.

There are some things of which you may not be aware.  In the U.S. there are over 28 million small businesses — they greatly outnumber big corporations.  And only about 2% of small businesses are franchises; most are home based.  Those mom and pop’s account for roughly 57% of private U.S. employment and pay 44% of payroll.   The number of minority and women owned small businesses continues to grow, which means diversity is reflected in our communities.  In short, small and family owned businesses are a huge driver of the American economy.  Though Wall St. usually grabs the headlines, we need Main St. as much as we need Wall St.

But beyond the facts and figures, the mom and pop’s have a big impact.  They help shape our community, they often sponsor local sports teams and contribute to other neighborhood charitable causes.  They might give local kids their first job.  Or they could be the smiling face behind a counter where you order your favorite cup of coffee.  They give a neighborhood color and character.  When you support small business you support your community.

The other day I stopped into a local bagel shop for a sandwich.  Proudly displayed on their counter was a card from the high school marching band thanking the bagel shop for providing the food and refreshments for their recent band competition.  THAT is how small businesses shape the community.

Small Business Saturday will mostly benefit the small shops in a community.  Many businesses, like my trailer repair company, won’t really benefit from give-aways and balloons.  But let’s remember them and support these companies throughout the year.

One last fact…only about 50% of small businesses survive 5 years — so get out there and shop small — help your community businesses make it to year 6.

 

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Not Totally Suspension…TO FLU SHOT OR NOT

flu-shotThis morning on my way to work I stopped at a large national chain drug store.  Walking past the pharmacy counter I noticed a sign advertising flu vaccines so I stopped and got one.  It only took a few minutes and was easy; I only had to fill out and sign a 6 question form.   It was not painful and the cost was covered by my health insurance provider.

Once again it’s flu season as well as vaccine debate season.

Every year employers wonder how they can minimize the effects of flu season and you may be wondering the same.

First, here are some flu and vaccine facts:

  1.  In the northern hemisphere the flu season runs, roughly, from October to May but “peak season” is usually December, January, February.    (The season is basically reversed in the southern hemisphere running from May to September).
  2.   Flu shots are readily available from your physician, at many drug stores as well as pharmacy counters in some grocery and big box stores.
  3.  Most insurance plans cover the cost of an annual flu vaccine.
  4.   It takes approximately 2 weeks for the flu shot to be effective.  During that time if you’re exposed to it, you could get the flu.
  5. You cannot get the flu from the vaccine but it is possible to have a reaction which can include cough, fever, aches, headache, fatigue, itching, soreness/redness/swelling at the injection site.
  6. NIOSH reports that each year flu is responsible for up to 111 million missed days from work.  The estimated cost in sick days and lost productivity is $7 billion a year.

There are some employers who require employees to get an annual flu vaccine.  A mandatory vaccine program is most common in healthcare settings and with employees who have direct patient contact.  If you are considering a mandatory program for your company you should proceed cautiously.  There are federal and state discrimination laws that require employers to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities or for employees who have true religious objections.

Whether employees get vaccinated or not, as an employer you can influence the negative effects of flu season with simple changes to your workplace culture.

Encourage employees to cover coughs and sneezes and  to cough and sneeze into their elbow instead of their hand; encourage frequent hand washing; discourage handshaking, etc. during flu season; encourage sick employees to stay home and not spread the illness throughout the workplace.

You can obtain additional information from the Center for Disease Control by visiting their website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu.

Be smart and be well.

 

 

Not Totally Suspension…VACATION LIKE A BOSS

ON VACATIONIf you’re like a majority business owners you find it hard to get away on vacation. In fact, 66% of owners admit that it’s “difficult” for them to take time off during the summer, and I can tell you from experience, vacation can be more challenging for the boss than it is for others.

In our first years as business owners, Joe and I also had a young child so we just bit the bullet and took a week vacation every year.  But we found that our vacation was very stressful, not relaxing.  We had a great staff and we were confident in the ability of each and every person so that was not the issue.  a BIG problem was with us.  We found it difficult to relinquish control for a full week at a time.

 

And then there was the ability of customers to contact us via email or cell phone while we were away.   Inevitably there would be some customers we would forget to notify in advance so we would get calls from them.  Others simply didn’t care that we were on vacation.  They would call, apologize, and claim that they’d forgotten.  Whatever the reason, we were spending more and more of our vacation dealing with every day issues.

And there was another issue that was unique to my position because I am the sole administrator; I don’t have any backup.  When I’m away work simply does not get done.  In my preparation for vacation I found myself stressed out trying to make sure every possible detail was taken care of.  And when I came back from vacation I was swamped with a week’s worth of work to catch up on while I was doing the current work.  It seemed like a whole separate job just to prioritize and catch up on everything from receivables (which was always the first order of business upon return) to invoicing, to bill payments and, of course, attending to customer issues.

For us it seemed like the cure was worse than the illness;  vacation was more stressful than working.  But we didn’t give up, we kept trying and now we think we found the perfect solution.

We have an RV so we reserve a site at a camping resort at the beautiful Jersey shore over several long weekends.  We’ll vacation roughly from Friday through Monday, come back and work Tuesday through Thursday and then head back down the shore for our next get away.  We do this for 3 or 4 consecutive weekends.  In this way we are better able to relax and enjoy our time away yet catch up on some work during the week.  And we travel on off days from most others going down the shore so we beat the shore traffic.  It makes the get away a little less stressful as well as the catch up when we return.

So you might be thinking that you can’t manage this if you don’t have an RV but that’s not true.  Just book a hotel/motel for several long weekends.  They don’t necessarily have to be in the same location.  That works for us but you might like a change of scenery to help you relax.

Whatever your choice, get out of the office and vacation like a boss!

 

 

Not Totally Suspension…SMALL BUSINESS SUMMER

summer business ideas

Now that we’re in the dog days of summer and vacation season is in full swing, don’t think you’re missing an opportunity to support local small businesses.

Joe and I like to vacation in Cape May County.  There are pristine beaches, quaint shore towns and boardwalks.  Know what else there are plenty of?  Local businesses who earn most of their money from tourists during the summer season.  Places like The Crooked Tail Thrift Shop and Sisters Sweet Shoppe in Sea Isle City or Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Stone Harbor or a multitude of stands along the boardwalks in Ocean City and Wildwood.  And it’s not just the shore mom & pops that we frequent. Our favorite ice cream shop, for example, is located in a neighboring, more inland town and when we need something for our RV we make a stop at the local RV center.

I’m all for Small Business Saturday in November and National Small Business Week in the spring.  Even though my business doesn’t lend itself to these types of events, they are great opportunities for small and local businesses to be showcased.  It’s a great way for people to see what these businesses mean to the community.  Small businesses make a substantial contribution to our economy.  In fact, recent statistics suggest that 42% of private sector payroll and 46% of private sector output is from small business.  But beyond that, local businesses add color and character to a community.  Overall their contribution is too substantial for them to be ignored during the long summer months or at any time of the year.  So if you’re taking a vacation or having a stay-cation, get up, get out and shop small.

 

 

 

 

 

Some Basics About Trailer Repair…The Heat Is On

totalsuspension

BLAZING SUNSHINEOne year ago today I published the following blog post because summer had officially started the previous day and it offered some valuable tips for working in the heat.  Well one of the nice things about summer is that it comes again every year along with the heat, humidity and blazing sunshine.  I think this advice bears repeating so I’ve decided to re-post it with a few additional comments. 

Yesterday was the first day full day of summer and the heat is on again.  Several areas across the country are forecast to be in the upper 80’s and the 90’s, with a few unfortunate areas to go well over 100 degrees.

We’re a trailer repair company and for us work doesn’t slow down during the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.  And our clients need their trailers in good working condition.  For my mechanics that may mean climbing up to…

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Not Totally Suspension…IT’S ROADCHECK TIME

Around this same time last year I wrote a post about International Roadcheck.  Well a year has gone by and it’s time again for that 3 day inspection blitz.   In fact, it’s happening as I write this.  I’ll give a brief overview of Roadcheck again as well as a few tips for an inspection.

roadcheck

 

 

Annually there is a commercial vehicle inspection event across North America known as International Roadcheck or, simply, Roadcheck.  This program is conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).   During this 3 day period commercial vehicles across Canada, the United States and Mexico are subject to random inspection stops.  Commercial vehicles include trucks and buses.  Typically during these stops, the vehicle is given the 37 Point North American Standard Level I inspection which examines both the vehicle and the driver.  2017 is the 30th year of Roadcheck.  In years past there has been a special emphasis on one aspect of safety among commercial vehicles.   This year that area of emphasis is cargo securement.  If you’re not sure that cargo securement should get the focus this year you should know that the most common citations regarding securement  are for “shifting of cargo” and “leaking, spilling, blowing, falling cargo”.

If you are stopped during Roadcheck (or at any other time) it’s best to be prepared. Drivers, you should always make sure you have the proper documentation before you even get on the road.  During an inspection the inspector will examine the following

  1. CDL (Commercial Drivers License)
  2. Medical Examiner’s Certificate
  3. Record of Duty Status (commonly referred to as the drivers log)
  4. Documentation of annual inspection (FMCSA required for all commercial vehicles)
  5. Hazardous Materials paperwork, if applicable
  6. Permit credentials

You should make sure these documents are handy and ready to present.

Drivers, you should also be doing a daily post- and pre-trip inspection.   This will help to identify any mechanical problems with the vehicle and have them corrected on an on-going basis thereby reducing citations during an inspection.   If your not doing these daily inspections, have the vehicle inspected before you get on the road during this event.

Also, it’s a good idea to keep your vehicle neat and clean.  Look at it this way, many vehicles will be stopped but they won’t all be inspected.  If you’re stopped, the decision to inspect will be made based on some criteria.  Don’t let that criteria be an untidy vehicle.

Lastly, be professional and polite with the inspector.  Approximately 10,000 inspectors will perform inspections on thousands of vehicles.  This is simply the inspectors job and the goal is improved highway safety.  A little courtesy will go a long way in making the stop easier for you both.

Visit cvsa.org for additional information.

 

 

Not Totally Suspension…SOMETIMES IT’S A REEFER WALL

We had a customer with damage to the exterior walls on a refrigerated (reefer) unit and the walls needed to be replaced.  Here’s how we did it…

1.  First thing we did was remove the damaged exterior panels.

2.  Then we removed all the interior kemlite walls.  We also had to remove the old insulation.  To do this we cut the insulation with a hack saw in between the posts and pushed it out.  In this picture you can see some of the old insulation on the floor.

 

INSULATION b

3.  It might sound backwards but we installed the new exterior panels next because they have to be riveted from inside the trailer.

4.  Once the exterior panels were back in place it was time to re-insulate.  We used a spray foam kit.  We let the insulation “cure” then plane (or smooth) out the walls.  In the picture below, Joe, Jr. is “shaving” the insulation to make sure it’s even and as smooth as possible for the kemlite.

 

INSULATION a

5.  Next, we applied a spray adhesive to the insulation and re-installed the kemlite.  If you look at the photos, you can see the big roll of kemlite in the background.  The kemlite is what forms the interior walls.  It gets rolled out and we rig up a contraption with plywood and cargo locks to hold the kemlite in place until the adhesive drys.  The below picture shows the plywood held in place with the cargo locks.

CARGO LOCKS

 

The drying can take up to 24 hours.  Then the plywood and cargo locks are removed and the trailer is ready to roll.