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Not Totally Suspension…LOVE IS IN THE AIR

For most of my professional life companies have frowned upon couples working together.  In fact, it was common practice for companies to have a policy against it.  But could it be that the conventional wisdom is wrong?  February is the month of love, cupid and Valentine’s Day.  Maybe it’s a good month to reconsider how a couple working together can benefit a company.

Some recent studies suggest that married couples who work for the same company may experience greater happiness in their personal lives and better work/life balance.  This could be due to the additional time they’re able to spend together or because couples who work together are uniquely able to understand the stress level of each other.  Whatever the reason, it seems to make for a happier couple and happier people tend to be more productive at work.

Some people also believe that married couples who work together exhibit a greater loyalty to the company.  Knowing that their spouse works for the same employer can make employees more willing to work through work problems/issues, work harder, and make a better effort to get along in the workplace.

And it may be good for the company’s bottom line if the employer can save on benefit costs for employees.

To recap, employees may be happier, have higher morale, be more productive and may save the employer in benefit costs.  So far it sounds pretty good.

But there can also be some pitfalls such as jealousy if one partner gets promoted faster than the other; additional tension in the office if partners disagree at work; other employees feeling excluded if a working couple seems “too close” or exhibits unprofessional behavior; the perception by others of favoritism if one person in the couple is a supervisor or even in a higher ranking position; in the case of an unmarried couple working together, the prospect of sexual harassment claims if a relationship ends badly in a supervisor-subordinate romance.

So, is it best to prohibit romances in your workplace?

It’s best to proceed with caution.  When considering a policy on romance in your workplace consider whether it will be beneficial to your company or not.  If you determine relationships are beneficial, craft your policy to minimize damaging aspects by specifying when and between whom relationships will be allowed.  At the very least it should probably be prohibited between employees of “significantly different ranks” and between employees in the same department.  As with all policies, make sure it is clearly communicated to employees and then stick to the policy.

One final thought, be prepared to make changes in the future.  Some studies suggest that employee attitudes may be changing about this issue, especially among younger workers.  One study discovered that 84% of millennials would be open to an inter-office relationship.  This was quite a bit higher than GenXers (36%) or Boomers (29%).

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Not Totally Suspension…WINTER TRAILER MAINTENANCE

snowThis has been a relatively mild winter  in our section of the country, but it’s still winter and the weather could take a turn for the worse at any time.  It’s a smart idea to practice good cold weather maintenance of your trailer so that you’re always prepared.  Here are some tips from front to rear:

Check that all trailer lights are working properly so they can be seen in adverse weather conditions and in the dark (which falls earlier in the winter months).  The light check should include marker lights, brake lights and turn signals.

The ABS (anti-lock brake system) controls braking so that all wheels don’t lock up simultaneously.  Sensors measure the speed of all wheels and send a signal to the computer, which, in turn, will make any necessary adjustments.  Make sure the ABS is working properly so you don’t have uneven braking which could be catastrophic on slippery road surfaces and could cause jack knifing.  Sensors should be replaced if necessary.

To maintain the air systems, make sure air tanks are properly drained of air and water; freezing could cause bad valve functioning.  Do not add any oil based substance to air tanks which could get into air valves and combine with dust and dirt particles.  If an air line freezes always use an antifreeze designed specifically for air lines.

As a side note, if soot or oily contaminants are found in the air tanks it could be from a bad dryer on the tractor.  Remember that the tractor supplies air to the trailer air tanks.  If the air dryer is faulty on the tractor, it can cause contaminants to enter the trailer air tanks.

Tires are critical in all seasons and winter is no exception.  They should always be filled to the correct PSI.  Check for good, or even, tire wear.  If it’s uneven, have the alignment checked.  Lastly, make sure there is proper tire tread for good traction.

And brakes should be checked for sufficient brake lining.  Make sure that drums are in good condition for optimal braking.

With proper maintenance and a little pre-planning the winter driving season can be a safe one for the trailer driver and everyone else on the road.

Not Totally Suspension…A YEAR OF SUCCESS

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

As the last few days of the year tick by, many of us will take stock of the things we accomplished in these past twelve months.  Sometimes when I look back it feels as though nothing I had hoped for was accomplished.  But then I remember it was an accomplishment just to keep a thriving business in New Jersey, as New Jersey is one of the most unfriendly business states in the U.S.

This post, however, is not about complaints or about failures.  At this time of the year I like to take a look back and thank all the people and businesses who helped make our success possible.

Our customers come first.  Without them there would be no Total Suspension.  Our customers place their faith in us that we’ll be able to fix any problem with their trailers and get them back on the road.  We thank them for their confidence and appreciate the opportunity to serve them.

Our suppliers are key to our success.  It seems they can deliver whatever we need, whenever we need it.  We’re proud to call them partners in our success and we thank them for all their efforts.

And we have the best trailer mechanics in the business.  Dedicated employees who work in the heat and in the cold. Who work in the rain and in the snow. Who work in the blazing sun and even in the dark. Who work in tight spaces and on top of trailers; in drop yards and sometimes on the side of a road.  They do whatever it takes to keep our customers on the road.  I hope they know how much we appreciate everything they do.

I’m sure if you take a few minutes and look back at 2016 you too can find some successes and you’ll be able to think of people who have helped you realize them.

Lastly, I would like to wish our customers, suppliers and employees a HAPPY, HEALTHY, and PROSPEROUS New Year!

Not Totally Suspension…HELP SMALL BUSINESS THRIVE

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As you’ve undoubtedly heard, small business is the backbone of the American economy.  That’s not just a line people hand you;  small businesses contribute to our economy in a big way.

Here are a few facts from the US Small Business Association:

  • There are 28 million small businesses and they account for 54% of U.S. sales.
  • There are over 600,000 franchised small businesses and they account for 40% of all retail sales.  They also provide 8 million jobs.
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970’s.

And would it surprise you to know that small businesses are leaders in tech and new product innovation?  Well it’s true.

Here’s another interesting fact, small business owners continue to reflect the diversity of our American culture as the number of minority owned businesses (including Hispanic-American, African-American, Asian-American) and female owned businesses grows.

So let’s take a quick look at the ways in which small businesses contribute.  Clearly they add to the economy by paying employees who further contribute to the economy with their purchasing power.  They purchase goods and services generating a need for other businesses.  They generate tax revenue needed by towns, which may reduce the tax burden on residents.   But these companies do more than contribute economically; they support and help grow their communities.  It’s often the local shop or business that supports local causes, sponsors  youth sports teams, and contributes to community charitable causes.

In 2010 Small Business Saturday was created to highlight and support small businesses throughout America. Soon after it was officially recognized by the US Senate and was being supported by state and local officials in all 50 states.  Today, whole neighborhoods continue to sign up to rally and promote their small businesses and their Main Streets.

I, too, am the proud owner of a small business.  I own a trailer repair company with my husband.  We not only employ ourselves but two other mechanics and a helper.  And we’ve been able to give some much needed experience to a few young family members looking to break into the workforce.  I speak from experience when I say that we need Main St. as much as we need Wall St.

So on November 26, and on every Small Business Saturday, I urge you to patronize the shops in your community.   But don’t stop there.   Throughout the year remember other business like the small, specialty manufacturer, the micro brewer, or the independent trailer repair company, like mine,  and give these economic workhorses your business.

Not Totally Suspension…ARE YOU ADVERTISING YOUR OLD AGE TO YOUR BOSS?

technologyOr how about to a perspective employer?  Do you give the impression that you’re old?  Do you give the impression that you are unwilling to learn new ways of doing your job?

Normally my posts are from the perspective of a small employer.  But this time I’m doing something slightly different.  This post involves how the employee is sometimes seen by the employer.

Not long ago I read a brief article with quick tips from experts in a few different fields.  The fields ranged from investing in stocks to car care to downsizing for empty-nesters.  But there were two tips that interested me the most; one was from a recruiter and one was from a career coach.  They both agreed that since age discrimination is real, why advertise your age based on comments you make.

Ask yourself the following question:  Do I often complain about new technology?

As I’ve posted in the past, I’m the recruiter and office administrator for our family business and I can tell you that nothing screams “I’M TOO OLD TO KEEP UP” as much as constant complaints about new technology or complaints about having to learn new ways of doing a job.  It can advertise your age to an employer or a recruiter, indicating that you’re unable or unwilling to learn or that you are unwilling to take on new tasks.

Instead, try to embrace change and different ways of approaching your job.  It might make your job easier or it might give you a fresh perspective on doing the same old thing.  It can give you something more in common with your fellow employees. And, who knows, you might find that you enjoy technology.  After all, it can open up a whole new world to you.

And while you’re at it, ask yourself another question:  Do I often complain about the attitudes or work ethic of the younger generations?

Here’s another tip:  try to curb these types of comments.  Each generation thinks that the upcoming generation is lazy and not as smart.  I often hear people say how fearful they are of what will happen when the younger generation is actually “running the world”.  This sentiment is so common that  I remember hearing people say it about my generation when we were young adults.

The fact is younger workers aren’t any worse than you when you were starting out.  Sure there are things they can learn from us but they also have plenty to contribute to the workplace.  And while it’s true that things are different today than years ago, constant negative comments will be noticed by everyone, including your employer.

My final tip:  don’t give the boss (or potential boss) any reason to think you can’t keep up.   Be that old dog who can learn new tricks!

Not Totally Suspension…MOST DANGEROUS JOBS

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When you think of the most dangerous jobs what comes to mind?

Once again the list of most dangerous jobs has been released and it includes some of the jobs we usually find on it:  construction worker, firefighter, police officer and corrections officer.  These are, indeed, dangerous jobs so it’s pretty self explanatory why they appear on the list year after year.

But it also included a few surprises such as EMT due to hazardous situations and environments in which they work; farm worker because of the heavy equipment they routinely work with and because of the physical nature of the job; nursing assistant because they work with ill/contagious people and sometimes have to lift or move heavy patients; and veterinarian because they may work with dangerous animals or with large animals including horses, cows, etc.  I don’t know about anyone else but I’m glad my job doesn’t require me to stick my hands into a horse’s mouth!

But here is a job I bet you’ll never see on the list of most dangerous:  TRAILER MECHANIC.

For starters, many people don’t even know there is such a thing.  We routinely see trailers on the road moving all manner of consumer goods from point A to point B.  But most of us never think about how they’re repaired or maintained.

My mechanics are the people who repair and maintain trailers for the transportation industry, such as trailer leasing companies, and for private industry, companies that own their fleet or who lease the fleet but are responsible for damage repair.

We do plenty of the standard things like annual inspections, periodic preventive maintenance, and replacing burned out lights.  But we also do many much more difficult things like brake jobs, replacing an entire roof, or replacing a nose rail.  And here are some reasons that Trailer Mechanic is a dangerous job:

1. It’s all outdoor work and it’s done in all weather conditions.  My mechanics work in the cold, on icy and/or snowy conditions, and in extreme heat.  In some cases, they have to weld in the heat wearing full protective gear, as required by law.

2. They work with all types of tools and equipment:  welder, compressor, power tools, to name a few.

3. Heavy lifting is a standard part of the job.

4. We do emergency breakdown service which means my mechanics might have to repair a trailer on the side of a road, or even after dark.

5. And they have to work in dangerous places like on top of the trailer, underneath the trailer or in other “tight spots” around the equipment.

6. Lastly, because we’re a mobile company my mechanics spend plenty of time driving from location to location so they are at an increased risk of roadway accidents.

So I’ll be looking for Trailer Mechanic to make the most dangerous jobs list one of these days.

 

 

NOT TOTALLY SUSPENSION…#Firstsevenjobs

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The first 7 jobs I’ve had are:

  1.  Babysitter
  2.  Ice cream scooper
  3.  Office clerk
  4. Store clerk/cashier
  5. Department manager in store
  6. Human Resources Assistant
  7. Recruiter

Recently #FIRSTSEVENJOBS was trending on twitter so I tweeted the first 7 jobs I had.  It was fun and a little nostalgic thinking back to old friends and fun times.  But then I thought about the purpose of our early jobs.  The greatest value our first jobs provide are lessons to help us build our careers.

Often what we learn are “soft skills”; things that are hard to quantify but are critical in our work lives.

Usually we learn things like punctuality and having a good attitude, even when we don’t feel like it.  We learn the responsibility of performing a task and the pride of a job well done; to dress appropriately and that, sometimes, we’ll have to work with people we don’t like; how to manage our time and how to break down and manage a task.  Sometimes our first jobs teach us what we DON’T want to do for a living.

Between the jobs I listed above and being the owner of a business today, I made my career in Human Resources. Recruitment was a large part of that career and it is an important function I perform for our family business.

When interviewing, instead of just letting the applicant dazzle me with their professional and/or technical skills, I like to ask about their early jobs and what they learned from having them.  I find I can learn more than “can this person perform the job”.  I can learn about their personality, their work ethic, how they relate to other employees and how the applicant will fit in with our corporate culture.  Then I can make a better decision as to whether I want that applicant working for me.