THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS

The cost of doing business ain't what it used to be. Gasoline prices recently broke the $2 barrier in most of the country. The cost of steel has skyrocketed with China's fast-paced economy driving up demand and prices for all others who need steel — like grounds-care equipment manufacturers. You name it: Food, healthcare, insurance, housing and energy costs — all translate into an increased cost of doing business.

Up until this point, the tide of inflation has been held back by the low fed rate. That dam is about to break. The signs of increased costs are already beginning to seep through.

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As I prepare this column, the most recent report available of consumer price index (CPI, which measures inflation as experienced by consumers in their day-to-day living expenses) is for April 2004. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics comes out with the May report on June 14 — too late for this column. CPI for all urban users (the segment most often reported by the national media) in April 2004 increased 2.3 percent above that for April 2003, a 0.2 percent change from March 2004. I predict the June report also will show an increase in inflation.

While the media and some politicians have been wringing their hands about increases in the unemployment rate, that situation seems to be taking a turn for the better (or worse, depending on how you look at it). Nearly one million jobs have been added in the past three months, although the unemployment rate remains at 5.6 percent. In our industry, high unemployment isn't necessarily a bad thing: With high unemployment, the potential labor pool for grounds-care jobs increases.

We are in a precarious time: an election year, with an ongoing war. The present administration will try its best to bolster the economy prior to the election. However, in the event of a terrorist attack, those efforts could be foiled; but let's not consider the worst scenario.

It seems that things always have a way of balancing themselves. As the economy picks up, so will the threat of inflation. And as you try to increase your business, the complexities of doing business also increase. This balancing act follows you all through life — even into retirement. When you reach retirement age (I've still got many years to go), you can't enjoy it in the same secure, carefree way you could when you were a kid. The best approach I've found to deal with the balance is to enjoy life day by day, not listen to the spin of others and not wait for the outcome to enjoy it.

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