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Does Chinese Wisdom Equate Crisis With Danger and Opportunity... or Not?

In a speech on April 12, 1959, John F. Kennedy is first reported to have said "When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity." The line met with such success that Kennedy ended up using it routinely in subsequent speeches. Later, president Richard Nixon was prone to the phrase. More recently, the line has been repeated by other American politocos, including Al Gore and Condolezza Rice. None-the-less, scholars say it isn't true.

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Ranger Kidwell-Ross, editor

Though the connection has gained somewhat widespread usage through the years, and is now employed by motivational speakers, business consultants and the popular press, many linguists consider the idea to be fanciful folklore. That's because it's a real stretch to make the second Chinese character mean "opportunity;" more realistically it means something with quite a different nuance.

Although my initial intent with this article was to discuss the popularized version, pre-editorial research has, to me, made for a more interesting and thought-provoking editorial. According to the Wikipedia entry on the topic and elsewhere, it turns out that scholars say "crucial point" is actually the better interpretation, and should be substituted for the word "opportunity." According to the Wikipedia entry on the topic, for example, the more correct interpretation would be "crucial point."

In fact, the Chinese ideogram actually indicates a perilous situation when one should be especially wary. It is not a juncture when one goes looking for advantages and benefits. Without the margin for error that has previously existed in the U.S. business climate, there is no question that many contractors and municipal agencies alike are approaching crucial points. And, like no time previously, each and every response needs to be made up of crucial decisionmaking.

For municipalities, the combination of shrinking budgets and state/federal pollution abatement requirements make decisions about sweeper purchase and usage ever-more-important. Determining the mix between sweeping and end-of-the-pipe abatement efforts becomes more crucial, as well.

No matter how you're involved in street sweeping, whether as a contractor or as a municipal sweeping manager, you will want to review our lead story from Roger Sutherland and myself, entitled "10 Tips for Ensuring a More Environmental and Cost-Effective Street Sweeping Program."

Likewise, sweeping contractors are finding the business landscape bumpier than ever, with customers whose budget constraints have them latching onto anything that will help them cut their costs. In an instance like this, it is crucially important that you keep better track than ever of your customers' level of satisfaction. Giving you some new and valuable ideas of how to do so are the crux of another of our articles this month, "Asking Questions to Ensure Ongoing Customer Satisfaction." The iContact organization is doing a great job of keeping tabs on customer satisfaction. Use their tried-and-true methods to gain ideas of how you might best do the same.

Oh, and since we're discussing "crucial points:" If you are paying "independent contractors" as part of your operations, it is absolutely crucial that you determine with certainty that they fit the IRS qualifications for that term. In this time of shrinking tax revenue, you can be certain the IRS has targeted ferreting out companies that misrepresent employees as independent contractors. Be safe, not sorry, and follow the guidelines offered by an experienced employee law attorney.

To round out our October issue we bring you the exclusive inside information about a new, and new style of, sweeper due out next year. The current real world testing of the upcoming TANGUAY road sweeper offers the company a number of bragging points. Sweeping fast-moving highways 40% faster with no shutdown needed promises to be an attractive option if all continues to work as the company hopes it will.

We also bring you information about the new glycol-pickup model by America's largest sweeper manufacturer, Elgin Sweeper, as well as the new European sweeper model being introduced by US-based Wayne Sweeper.

We also link to a FREE webinar designed to help you better recognize what you have to offer the marketplace, "How to Profit from your Most Important Brand... Yourself," being offered by our friends at Construction Programs and Results, Inc.

Finally, for those who would rather hear one of the most experienced sweeping contractors and all-around capable business owners explain what he thinks it takes to be successful, be sure to check out our feature profile of John Dubbioso and his sweeping company, Tri-State Industrial Maintenance, Inc. Dubbioso, one of the masterminds behind initial design of what is now Elgin's Broom Bear sweeper, knows what it takes to be and stay at the top of his industry.

As always, the articles in this issue are designed to help you find crucial insight for your business. My hope is you find they all help in one way or the other. If you have ideas about articles you'd like to see in the future, please let us know that, as well. Our goal is to write about what you want to read. And, if you have a sweeping-related need please contact us about it. We'll try to assist in any way we can.

I routinely reference articles and studies, provide information from my "Fundamentals of the Power Sweeping Business" manual and put contractors and city officials in touch with others who may have answers to their informational needs. By the same token, if you have a story you can provide, additional information on any of the topics we've covered – or need more details – please let me know. I'll be glad to help if at all possible.

By the way, if you don't have a listing yet in our Contractor Locator section, you are missing out on what is arguably the best advertising value in sweeping. At the same time, you'll be helping to keep online and active.

Good Sweeping!
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