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Commemorating the Wisdom of Steve Jobs

The recent passing of Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO and much more, provided a unique opportunity to consider the vast changes his incredible genius brought to the computer industry. Whether you use a Mac or a PC, iPhone or some other brand, the engineering, design and marketing genius led by Steve Jobs has affected us all.

Ranger Kidwell-Ross, editor

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross, WorldSweeper's Editor

I remember when, as an early adopter, I got my very first Apple/Mac computer. The machine was called an "SE-30," had a grayscale screen and represented a completely different way of operation than the PC I replaced with it. About the same time, a friend who taught graphic design and layout at a high school had decided to go out on his own and form a design company.

When I found out about the $50,000+ Linotype machine he was preparing to buy as his primary asset, I tried earnestly and at long length to talk him out of it. It was no use. Because at that time there were only a few fonts available for the Mac platform, he was convinced the machine had no future in graphic design.

My friend ultimately was forced to forfeit on his loan and lost his business, all because he was either unwilling or unable to look at the possibilities provided by a new, cheaper, more elegant way of doing his business. Others, including myself, persevered to master the challenges of the emergent technology and went on to succeed in the new, changed the world of graphic design and publishing that is so much a part of today's fabric of life.

Steve Jobs, in part because he suffered the ultimate humiliation of being fired as CEO of his own company and had to, in his own words, "reinvent himself," knew firsthand the importance of constantly growing and stretching within his business environment. The vision of Steve Jobs has much to lend any industry and those working to be successful within it – certainly including power sweeping.

Today, the power sweeping industry is being challenged more than any other time I have seen in my more than two decades of working within it. No matter what type of sweeping you are involved with, the rules are changing at a breakneck pace. As those involved at the forefront of street sweeping can attest, today's sweeping needs are a far cry from those required even a decade ago.

The need for environmental sweeping to address the water and air-based pollution challenges is expanding rapidly. Imagine what a public works director circa 1960 might say if told the most harmful material he needed to remove from the streets was the material 250-microns and smaller – or everything about 7 times the width of a human hair and less. Yet, studies consistently show that these small particles, which compose only about 10% of the total volume of street dirt on an average city street, are the ones that cause by far the most harm to our health and our environment.

Parking area sweeping contractors are being assailed on a number of fronts, as well. One enormous factor is what noted NY Times author, Thomas Friedman, terms "the flattening of the world." Friedman coined the term to describe how advances like the Internet and other forms of information technology are changing the availability of information. That factor has been primarily responsible for spawning the rise of third-party aggregators like USM, Mirror Lawn and the newly announced 1800SWEEPER, all of which have or will create lower pricing models, differing service requirements – even entirely different ways of doing business.

Large retail organizations like Target, Best Buy and, most notably, WalMart, are using their commercial muscle and information technology to change the very requirements for sweeping. A prime example is WalMart's recent hookup with ServiceChannel for contractor reporting requirements.

However, at the same time, advances in automated record-keeping, vehicle and employee management via GPS, new sweeper technology and more provide the promise of potentially higher profits overall. Those who recognize the value of the emerging technology and modify both the composition of their fleets and the automation of their businesses have a unique opportunity to become viable, profitable leaders in their field.

For example, savvy contractors are now paying their employees for "productive time," not just "time on the clock." They are having their vehicles serviced and replaced at the statistically correct times that will maximize longevity and overall cost. They are diversifying their sweeper fleet by adding gasoline-powered, single-engine and tow-behind sweepers that are uniquely suited for particular types of cleanup, moves which also allow them to remain profitable with low margin clients. And, contractors are also recognizing the value in providing ever more types of services to their existing clientele.

I urge all of you reading this editorial, no matter what your role in the sweeping industry, to use it as food for thought in your own advance into the future. We can't all have the singular vision that positioned Steve Jobs to be compared to the likes of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Walt Disney.

However, we can all advance our own knowledge and understanding in order to march into the future with our eyes and minds open to positive changes that will improve our personal and business lives. A big part of that, in my estimation, is to remember to always do your best and to have fun while you're at it.

Here is what Steve Jobs had to say on that general topic, in words taken from his Stanford University commencement address to the class of 2005: "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

Although Steve Jobs is no longer with us in the flesh, he will long be remembered every time people listen to their iPod, answer their iPhone, fire up their Mac computer and more. He brought not just a new array of products to the marketplace, but a new way of thinking about how business should be conducted and life should be led. He is both a personal and a worldwide hero and I celebrate his teachings in the best way I can think to do so – by using his wisdom to teach others.

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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