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The Challenge of Keeping Current in an Ever-Quickening World

With all the new directions the business world is stretching into, I'm finding it ever harder to keep up, keep track, keep my eye on "the overall ball," and still keep my sanity. What I'm referring to, in large part, are all the social media linkups that are occurring that connect us together more tightly than ever before.

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Ranger Kidwell-Ross, editor

Just today I received several Facebook 'friend requests,' two emails asking for me to connect on Grouply, and another two from acquaintances who wanted to be part of my Linked-in network of business contacts. Plus a number of client emails, several of which were action items of the type that actually keep food on the table.

At the same time, the world of sweeping is expanding ever faster, as well. In the last month we've seen Victory Sweepers and Stewart-Amos enter into a marketing partnership; the industry's first purpose-built electric hybrid sweeper from Allianz; and, Elgin's introduction of a Crosswind model that's especially designed for racetracks. Those are more industry changes than I recall used to occur in a typical 6-month period.

All that said, the unprecedented expansion of social media enhances our ability to stay connected with both friends and customers, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The internet, including social media sites, allows me to better understand the particular situations and needs of both friends and clients like never before in history. We can transmit ideas back and forth with unprecedented speed.

Today, for example, I was talking with a sweeping contractor client who needed a flyer for their new garbage pickup business. While she was explaining to me about the somewhat old and eclectic truck that came with their recently purchased business, and wondering how they might portray that on the flyer, I was simultaneously cruising garbage truck cartoon images at Google. By the time she finished explaining her ideas, I was emailing her an image I thought might portray what she was after. Use of the internet allowed us to almost instantly pass ideas back and forth, honing in on the eventual concept for the flyer.

You may well be thinking I'm wasting your time by telling you this stuff; I beg to differ. The internet is changing the face of business faster than the telegraph in its day, and with a more rapid rate of change than occurred with the telephone. If you don't pay at least some attention to these changes, you'll wake up someday and find your customers have left you for someone who is wired. They'll be doing business with the supplier who comments on their blog entries; who they're friends with on Facebook; who is part of their Linked-in business network, etc.

The fact you are reading this at all makes you part of an elite group. The information in the WorldSweeper newsletter isn't available to those who aren't signed up to receive it online. We simply cannot expend the time to format it for printing on expensive paper, so we can send it by expensive mail using an expensive mailing service. All so it can be delivered to you as news that is at least two months old. This electronic newsletter is the only way the latest sweeping industry information is available.

Let's discuss the articles in this newsletter in that context. One of the stories documents the process Bob Stumpf, owner of BZ and Sons Sweeping and Washing, went to in order to develop and then post his company philosophy onto his website. If it weren't for the internet, how could Bob keep that document readily available to his customers and prospects? Mail it to them? That's both expensive and temporary, lasting only until they open the next envelope. By putting it onto his website, the information is available 24/7/365.

Another of our articles this month discusses ways to get free local advertising for your business. It also discusses how to 'claim' the local listing information that's now showing up on all the major search engines. Both search and other companies are now specializing in providing up-to-date business location and rating information. If you're not on the internet you're not even aware the information is available.

Unless you know about the importance of 'claiming' your listings, information about your company might well be erroneous without you even having a clue. Worse yet, customers may have posted damaging reviews you don't even know about, or unscrupulous competitors might have claimed your listing as theirs, then provided misleading information about your firm.

If you've ever been audited by the IRS, or would like to know how the audit system does and does not work, you can realistically find the information only one place – online. "Your Guide to an IRS Audit" is not something you'd likely find in print, yet the information could be enormously helpful if you're in that situation. Ditto for our next article, which offers a number of SBA question-and-answer sessions on topics of interest to many small business owners. Seen a pamphlet on those lately?

Okay, so much for all this business stuff. Let's relax a little, eh? What better way than by watching a few videos from around the world that involve those machines so dear to your heart, sweepers. Are you likely to make more money by watching them? Unlikely. On the other hand, these videos provide a thread that connects our industry worldwide. Just seeing all the sweeper types in other parts of the world, to say nothing of the different concepts of sweeping, makes one realize you're not alone out there in that parking lot, on that street. Around the world are thousands of other people who, pretty much just like you, are doing their job keeping pavement picked up.

Finally, as most of you know I preach that sweeping contractors need to find other services to sell to their existing customer base. Seldom have I been as impressed with a machine that makes doing so as I am with the Mystic Washer®. When I conducted objective audio interviews with sweeping contractors who are also Mystic Washer® users, I petitioned for WorldSweeper to become the exclusive dealer for the industry. That way, I felt we could develop the volume needed to keep pricing to a minimum. I heartily encourage you to check the machine out by, of course, taking a look at the Mystic Washer® website.

Okay, enough of my internet rap; by now, you're probably itching to go read a real newspaper. However, if your house is anything like mine, I can't mention news from any article I read in the paper without learning that it's already old news to others in the household. They inevitably tell me they saw that news yesterday – where else – on the internet.

The articles in this issue are designed to help you find 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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