Doing business today

Doing business today is quite different than it was 20 years ago. Sure, we still address our basic business needs--providing a service or product, selling and marketing the service or product, controlling expenses and dealing with personnel matters--but what makes the practice of business today different is the collection of rules and regulations under which we now operate. As a result, compliance takes more of our time away from the basics and costs us more for the products we need to perform our jobs. Consider safety and environmental-health legislation, such as the Food Quality Protection Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act and Clean Air Act--to name a few--enacted by federal and state governments and enforced and administered by such agencies as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA). Such legislation has driven up the cost of many of the grounds-care products you use in your business. Ithas also made you more dependent on legal counsel to ensure compliance. Nevertheless, who could argue about concerns for our health and safety, the health and safety of our children, and the protection of our environment? After all, the latest statistics tell us we live longer than we ever have--75.8 years. And despite the rules and regulations, economic figures (see "Market Update," page 10) show that business is doing pretty well. Considering these points, this issue focuses on business.

Customer-assurance policies that guarantee the services you provide are an important marketing tool for attracting new customers and retaining repeat customers. But how far should they go? Unlike a product that is sold under a warranty, grounds-care services are not tangible. You can guarantee that plants will live (if properly cared for), that irrigation systems are installed properly and will function properly. But to guarantee complete satisfaction regardless of all contingencies--such as weather, neglect, abuse and other acts of nature and man--opens the door for endless callbacks. Find out what readers offer for guarantees in "Put it in writing" (page 14) by Ron Kujawa.

Success of your business depends on many factors in addition to customer assurance and marketing. Planning, managing, organizing and budgeting all come into play. Presented on page 22 are "Thorny business problems: The top 10" to avoid in running the gauntlet to business success.

One thorny problem you should avoid is wrongful discharge of an employee. Firing an employee who is not meeting the grade is not as easy as it once was. With more fired workers suing employers, the likelihood that it could happen to you is increased. Needless to say, when ex-workers win or you are forced to settle out of court, the verdicts can be financially disastrous. Attorney Fred Steingold writes on "Avoid legal grief when firing employees" (page 18).

Complementing these focus articles are features on reducing insecticide rates by tank-mixing (page 30), electrical-system troubleshooting (page 33) and comprehensive coverage of portable generators (page 46). Look for these and more in the pages that follow.

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