Monday, August 17, 2009

Smoking Policy

Are You Going Up in Smoke?
There's no good reason to keep smoking

I want to tell you a story, one like everyone has heard. My Uncle Jim, who was 3 years younger than my mother, died from lung cancer at the ripe old age of 57. He started smoking and drinking when he was 12 or 13. When he was young it didn't matter. He was extremely good looking and full of it. He was so addicted by the time he was 50 that he could not stand to come to my house or go anywhere he couldn't smoke. Dr. Ham operated on his lung near the end. He said it was the most delicate thing he had ever done, trying to sew the remaining tissue back together. Uncle had to quite smoking for a couple of months. Then the Knot Head started again.

150 years ago Ellen White had visions from God about the evils of tobacco. For more than 100 years after that people thought Adventists were some strange cult because we believed in Biblical temperance and other intolerable beliefs straight from the Book. (Some still do!) Drinking and smoking and other wicked vices were overcome through the power of conversion and a new heart. Or maybe just a wilderness experience. There are many stories of people all over the world that won the victory through faith and perseverance. Many quit cold turkey, laying in bed with cold sweats, tremors, and delirium. Willing to die rather than disobey God, in a time where doctors prescribed smoking for emphysema!

Now, society has become almost totally inhospitable to smokers. It's not cool anymore, it's not tolerated, and in a lot of places it's illegal. What happened? Medical science is beginning to catch up with the prophet. Not only has smoking been proven to be suicidal, it's been proven to be deadly to everyone around it. If you really study it out, you'll find that it breaks every one of God's commandments.

Besides this there are other implications. A no smoking policy helps to elude a host of other problems; health problems, drinking problems, financial problems, performance problems, attendance problems, learning problems, safety problems, etc. These are all essentially a result of a lack of self control. Which is how it all started in the first place.

We have to be careful though. How would God like us to treat poor slaves to tobacco? If we are not careful we end up breaking what He calls the second greatest commandment. That is the second tablet, the last six commandments. "Love your neighbor as yourself." The fact is we are all poor sinners in a hopeless situation. It's easier to sit here on my high horse and criticize than to help someone. Some things you have to draw the line though. How do you prevent people from smoking themselves to death? Everyone knows you can't help anyone who won't help themselves. What can we do? My motto is "There's always a way." Naturally there's a simple solution. It's called money!

Many companies now offer various different incentive plans for employees to quit. It makes sense and saves everyone's time and health and money and makes for cheaper insurance. What would you think if I said I was going to cut your pay to save your life? Not a bad deal, huh? What if I said, "When your ready to start living, I'll start paying you more money." That's an unbelievable deal, isn't it? In reality I'm paying you to quit, smoking that is. Actually I'm not going to cut your pay, I'm going to freeze it. No advances, no bonuses. If you continue to smoke on the job, then I'm going to cut you down. Not a pretty picture if you are afraid you can't quit.

This may sound hard core. However, if people are so much in love with their addiction that it means more to them than work, or life, or family, or friends - they are a liability waiting to happen. They can find some other company that likes to invest in foolishness (Lawlessness).I have to repeat myself. "This is not a suicide assistance facility!"

A few more quotes, "God accepts us as we are, but it's not acceptable to stay as we are." “When you quit learning, you quit living." And, "The greatest deception of the human mind is. I'm good, I'm fine, I belong to the right club, I have need of nothing." E.G. White (paraphrased). In other words they see no need to go through the wilderness. The reality is, that's where they are and that's where they stay.

I actually like people that smoke. They're good down to earth people for the most part. I like the common people. Of course I've always been "Criminally affectionate!" The last thing I want is to become any kind of a snob. (I think they will be the first into hell! No matter what they profess.) At the same time I see so many people, as the Bible says, "dying for lack of knowledge."

Don't give up! "I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in good health." 3 John 2.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Beast of Revelation

Do You Worship a Beast?
The Mark of the Beast vs. The Seal of God

Does anyone understand Revelation? It is reportedly the "revelation from God to Jesus Christ to show His servants the things that must come to pass." Revelation 1:1

There is a lot in the book of Revelation. Most of it corresponds with Daniel in the Old Testament, that was written 500 years earlier. Let me tell you what I think is the most profound prophecy in the Bible. Daniel 12 : 4, "Shut up the book until the time of the end: many shall run too and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."

Daniel and Revelation are the key to understanding the prophecies concerning the last days of this earth's history. "He who hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches" is the recurring chapter ending. Knowledge has increased exponentially since the beginning of the industrial age, in the 1830's. With the advent of the train there was no turning back. This reminds me of the quote, "Man has lost the ability to foresee and forestall, he will end by destroying the earth." Albert Schweitzer. In Revelation God says He will come and destroy them that destroy the earth.

To begin to understand Revelation we need to begin to understand who or what is the beast. There are a multitude of interpretations surrounding the last book of the Bible. For example, Rev. 18 talks about the warning for God's people to come out of Babylon. Most scholars interpret the word Babylon to mean confusion. How many are confused today about the simplest plainest truth's of the Word of God. Why are there over 1200 Christian denominations?

Let's try to get the basics nailed down first. All through the Bible the big issue has always been idolatry, and it makes it clear that the majority in the last days will be the most idolatrous people that ever lived. In other words, irreverent and disrespectful of God and His creation. So, just what exactly is idolatry?
It's real simple. It's man in place of God. It's man's worship of himself. It's anything we put before Him.

There are many beasts in Revelation that represent various man made powers both now and in history. The beast we are studying, is described well in the last verse of Chapter 13. "Here is wisdom, the number of the beast is the number of a man, 666." Six is man's number. God's number is 7. Man was created on the 6th day. Man falls short of perfection. Three is also God's number. 666 is man in place of God. The beast is man made religion with all of its false science and doctrine. Yes, this includes all of our Frankenstein science, tampering with nature, artificial fertilizer, and so on. These are violations of the 2nd Commandment, not to make anything in the likeness of anything God has made. This, of course, includes the number one idol in the world, the automobile.

When fuel prices escalated last year, it was reported that 1000 more vehicles were hitting the road every day! That's 365,000 a year! A lot of this is because everyone in every poor country wants to be like the Americans with a machine to do everything while they sit and get rich and fat! All we have to do is figure out something else to burn in them and then everyone in the world will be spared the misery of manual labor.

Now don't misunderstand me. I drive a car and do what I have to do to survive. The difference is, I wish I could walk or ride my horse. I don't worship man or the junk he has made. Not his junk science or his junk religion. Revelation 14: 9-10 says, " If any man worships the beast and receives his mark in his forehead or his hand, he will drink of the wine of the wrath of God." You've heard of the Mark of the Beast, most likely. What is it? The forehead and the hand means believing in that man made system and practicing it. You receive the Mark of the Beast when you reject God's sovereignty and authority and worship man (the creation) rather than the Creator and His Law.

What will be the outcome? The plagues of Revelation are God's judgments on the gods of this world. Just like the plagues that affected Egypt at the time of the Exodus of God's people from that heathen land. Just like Pharaoh, no matter what happens, most will "not repent" Rev.16:11.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Grandmother's House

Sister Dawn, Mark, Aunt Lena, 50 yrs. ago.

The Good Old Days
Old Fashioned Efficiency

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the time I lived with my Grandparents. Almost 4o years ago in Weiser, Idaho. I spent a lot of time with them growing up. My dear Mother, bless her heart, would leave me with them when she was busy dealing with her own problems. From my earliest memory it seemed to me they were always so happy to have me. I always thought I had the greatest Grandparents in the world. No one else had Grandparents like mine. I didn't really know that we were just poor, hard working people. The most exciting thing in my life was when they would show up. When I was with them I felt like I was rich. Maybe the fact that I was the oldest of all the grandkids on both sides of the family had some significant meaning. My mother was the first born in her family and so was my father, and so were their fathers. Biblically speaking then, I should have had a great inheritance.

One of the things that made it so special was the fact that they produced my Aunt Marlena, in 1956 - the year after I was born. It was and is the most wonderful thing that happened. Grandpa was 52. My little sister was born a year later in 1957. We all kind of grew up together.
My grandmother's maiden name was Trent. She was the next to the youngest of 11 children. The Trent's were good looking English and Scotsmen. She was often compared to Ginger Rogers. I remember, it was when they lived in Anderson CA. I was only 7 or 8. She would have me operate on the corns on her feet. I was always very articulate with my hands and I still have good close up vision. Grandma would say, " Look at the way he handles that razor blade. He's gonna be a surgeon when he grows up!" Then she would grab and hug me and try to kiss me, I would always squirm and resist. She would say, " Oh you Marco Polo, Gramma loves you." No one would have guessed that someday I would become a Tree Surgeon.

Probably the best experience in my young life growing up, was going with my Sister and my Aunt and Gramma and Grandpa, picking with the Mexicans. Grandpa had a heart attack and some other disabilities, but he just couldn't sit still. He essentially wore himself out working. Grandma always said no one ever worked as hard as he did. They had a 1964 Ford pickup with a camper. We would camp near the job by the Willamette River. The mainstay was pole beans. Three cents a pound. They said it had been three cents forever. If I worked long and hard and steady I could make $10.00 a day. That's 333 pounds of hand picked beans. Marlena would always pick the most, but the little Mexican kids would out pick any of us. An interesting note here. This was right at the time when they were starting to develop the machine to pick the bush beans. A few times we had to pick those because the machines went back to the drawing board. That was not as bad as picking strawberries though. Even us young kids would feel like our backs were broken at the end of the day.

Then there were all the camp chores when we got back. The camper was a kitchen during the day for cooking and canning. Gramma was a wonderful cook. She took the green beans we picked and new potatoes and made the best dish. It was so good. We never got tired of it. Then the camper converted to a bedroom at night. The table made into a bed for the old folks and Marlena and my sister slept in the little bed over the cab. I slept in the cab of the truck.

Later we came to Southern Idaho. It seemed like paradise. We picked cherries in the spring. I would always work the tallest ladder and get all the high cherries. If it rained, the cherries would split. Then everyone was sad, the farmer and the pickers. We thinned apples. I think that is done chemically now. In the fall when it started to frost we picked apples. You would have to wait in the morning until it warmed up enough. You could hear them snap, crackle, pop. We all fell in love with Idaho. Our family all lived in California. My mother was born in Kansas in 1934. She contracted dust pneumonia as an infant. Grandma and Grandpa packed her up and came to California in 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression. Idaho was a great discovery for all the family. The ones that didn't move here loved to come and visit. It was so wonderful. Everything was cheaper and better. We could glean for free all the potatoes, onions, apples, and produce we could can or chuck in the cellar.

Real estate was at an all time low. They started off buying one little house to fix up and sell, and then another. Two or three thousand dollars at first. Then four or five thousand. We cleaned them up and fixed them up. Gramma loved to paint. We re-roofed and remodeled. Then about 1970 they bought the grand old house in Weiser for an astounding $15,000. It would become the real foundation for them and all their kids and grand kids. The meeting place for the whole family. Two stories with a big cellar, a big front porch and a back porch where you went into the basement. There was a separate garage that became the work shop, as well as a nice big yard. We had chickens in a portable pen we moved around on the lawn. This big old house became our base of operations. When we weren't fixing houses we were demolishing and salvaging them. I was very proficient at tearing things down and tearing them apart. With a claw hammer in each hand I could drive the claws of one in between the wood with the other and pull the nails out. We didn't throw anything away. If we couldn't use it I cut it up on the old table saw and we burned it in the cook stove in the kitchen. About 1971 the Dutch Elm Disease hit Weiser. Every Elm tree in town died that summer it seems. We filled the cellar with Elm wood. Cut and chopped ready for the wood cook stove. I remember we would cook the potato peels on the wood stove so the chickens would eat them. I can still see Grandma hanging clothes on the line, so beautiful, and hear hear yodeling, Eddy Arnold's Cattle Call.

One of my favorite things was to go to the dump with Grandpa. We would get rid of what we couldn't use, but we always hauled back more. To this day I am a scavenger and a pack rat. I can't stand to throw anything away. Grandpa loved to go to the auctions. He would always buy the pile of stuff no one else wanted. I can still hear the auctioneer, "Sold! Two bits, to the man with the cigar!" This is how I aquired my first set of quality Buckingham climbing spurs with long tree gaffs. 25 cents. I used them for 25 years. To me it was so fun to go through all this great stuff. Sort out the best goodies. Then of course we would put together a yard sale.
We had a television there in Weiser in the big house. The only thing I remember watching though, was Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights. You might say it was a kind of rare treat once a week.
I would get up at 4:00 AM and go change sprinkler pipes for the farmers. It was always wet and sometimes frozen. Me and some other high school boys. We would watch the sun come up, laying those pipes straight. Then get ready and get to school. I only ate two meals a day. It was an old family tradition. It was too much work back on the farm to feed everyone three times a day. After school Grandma always had the best home cooked real food you could imagine. Then I would go back to the fields and work and watch the sun go down. Then on Sunday we did extra things on the farm, like bucking hay. I also had my own truck and did yard work and pruning and snow shoveling.
I haven't been able to get any high school kids to work for years. They all think it's something to be avoided. I still believe work ethic is everything. Doesn't matter if it's mental, physical, or spiritual. It's really sad. People need to develop their physical constitution when they're young. They say that on average you've reached your maximum potential by age 21. Then, that is the equipment you have for life.

Grandpa died in 1975. He was 70. Before that he told Grandma that I would take care of her. I had just come to Northern Idaho, Lapwai to be exact, in 1974. They had just bought this big old house in Craigmont ID. for $5,000.00. Grandma always had the Gypsy fever. Really they were following us kids and grandkids. After the funeral, everyone helped move truckloads and truckloads of stuff all the way to Craigmont. Then I hitchhiked back down to drive up another rig. With Grandpa gone she was not going to stay put very long. She sold the place and moved to Post Falls ID. to be near Marlena and her husband. We did the same thing all over again. I hitched hiked back again. Then she move back to Weiser and then to Payette ID. Each time she had a little less stuff.
I would have done anything she asked, and she would do the same for me. She would still try to give big hugs and kisses and say she loved me and I would still act like a little boy who couldn't stand it.
We went to see her in the nursing home in Payette. She aquired Alzheimers so fast it was unreal. It was almost like going to a funeral. She didn't know who we were until I brought out my guitar and sang some songs. Then we got her on the piano. She could still play.
After she died several years later. I had a dream. There she was. It was so real. I've had vivid dreams about all the one's that have died that were close to me. She wanted to give me big hugs and kisses. I grabbed her and squeezed and kissed her on the fore head and said, " I LOVE YOU GRAMMA."
It was so real. I sat right up in bed. My eyes were totally flooded with tears.
Sometimes I wonder why it takes 5o years to learn something. Some never do.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Financial Policy

50\ 50 is Fair
Money management and profit sharing plan.

I'm always telling everyone, " No matter what you do, the company eats up 50%. When I was young I never would have believed it. I had to run my own business. I wanted 100%. Now I am amazed at how much I am still learning about what it takes to build a real viable business.

In 1977 when I decided I was going to do this. Anyone could start anything anyway they wanted. Nowadays, ( Is that a word?) people are more informed and knowledgeable. More and more customers want an established reputable company. Especially in the high risk tree business. To make a long story short. I can train young people and get them started so much better, easier, quicker and safer, than what I went through.

Actually the standard has always been 1\3. Ideally you spend only 1\3 on labor. This leaves enough for building the business, acquiring equipment, and a margin of profit.

Now, let me explain then, how this works at 50%. This business is all about trees, but more than that it's all about wood. Sure trees provide shade and aesthetics, but while they are doing all of this, they are producing wood. This was the concept I had at the beginning, this is why I started the tree business over 30 yrs. ago. The real value is in the wood, and ultimately this would help pay for their care and eventual removal. Now I'm saying you're not really providing a tree service if you don't have a sawmill. Our goal is to have branch locations and these (little big) mills within a 300 mile radius of Deary. Also if we produce good arborists through our apprenticeship program we can establish them anywhere with a franchise and an advantage over the local competition.

What does this have to do with the 50 per cent? More than trees and more than wood, it's about people. Let me tell you the reasons I believe we can operate at 50%. I read the biography of Les Schwab. In fact, I strongly recommend everyone read it. When he started in 1952, the tire shops were owned by the big corporations that owned the rubber companies. The service was poor and the prices were high. There were times when he really stuck his neck out to develop his independent business. He did it with people. He designed and developed systems that allowed good wages which retained good people which in turn provided good service. The secret? Everything went into the business and it's people. No corporate conglomerate executives or stockholders pockets to line. The employees were the stockholders.

Now in this part of the country we really don't have to worry about huge tree service conglomerates other than the power line trimmers which we don't worry about any way. Here and in most areas of the US that aren't over populated the problem is the opposite. That is the small independents with one or two boom trucks and a chipper. It's all about them and their equipment. They hire seasonal grunts when they need them. They don't pay any wages or benefits. They make sure they don't learn any more than they already know so they never have to worry about paying them anymore. They would never pay $20.00 an hour for a climber. That's too slow any way. They're not too worried about the few jobs they might loose because they can't climb a tree.

You know the old saying, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." Finally, people here are starting to discover that we provide better service. Better quality, better performance, more options, and we do it all with a rope. How wonderfully simple.
Having said all of that, I want to lay out the vision I've had for handling the finances and providing incentives for workers through profit sharing.

50% goes into an account for all labor costs except for secretarial and administrative positions. Ultimately this will include all payroll taxes and expenses, sick leave, vacation pay, medical, retirement plans, and bonuses. This might sound like a lot, or it might not sound like enough. When you look at the expenses for the business, (the other 50%), it might seem the same, one way or the other. Don't become confused this way. There's only 100%. There's never going to be any more. Everything depends on efficiency and production. The 50% will always be proportionate to performance. In other words if efficiency and production are up, everyone is doing alright.

Also, in this trade, it is the best advantage for the trainees and the managers to own and be responsible for their personal equipment. This helps them to insure their own responsibility, and especially their own safety. Climbing gear, ropes, hand saws, power saws, personal protective gear, etc. This is also another reason we can pay 50% for labor costs. The company is not providing the personal equipment. This also, gives the workers a sense of pride in their equipment and they keep track of it, and they draw a better rate because they have it.

At 50%, there should accumulate a good surplus. Initially this will be applied to developing the benefits we mention earlier. Beyond that, we hope to be able to do profit sharing, especially with the managers, because they have so much to deal with and they have to know everything!
The one big problem I see with this is that it can be like working on a percentage, which has obvious drawbacks. Namely quality and safety. The quality and safety record of this company for 30 plus years is phenomenal and incomparable. In the past I always rejected the idea of working on percentages. In other words I took all the responsibility and personally made sure details were tended to. Everyone strictly worked by the hour. This is where the managers really have to manage. The managers will hopefully do what I did. They say the secret to success is, "To hire people like yourself." In the "Les Schwab" system, the ultimate goal was to work your way up, learn all the ropes, and become manager, while the manager you replaced started a new store.

Another reason we can pay out 50% for labor is that we have minimal equipment. In fact this is one of our primary safety rules. " Minimize equipment, most accidents are equipment related." As you can see we are paying more for people and less for equipment. This is backwards from the traditional American Way - more equipment and less labor. I would rather invest in people. I believe in people and people make the difference. Training the next generation. This is What Sustainable Is.

Now, for a few ideas about the other 50%. I know the list of company expenses is horrendous, but I believe it can work. As you can imagine it requires running a tight ship. The first and biggest expense is administration. Secretarial and accounting. Then you have equipment and fuel. Next, advertising, yellow pages, uniforms, signs, etc. Then, licenses and insurance. Then, of course, profit. Now you can see why you normally need two thirds to do all this. If managers or apprentices use there own heavy equipment(anything bigger than a powersaw) and fuel, they will be reimbursed from the company account. I'm thinking 50% of standard rental rate plus fuel. I think equipment rental companies have to charge double to cover all of their overhead, as well as the time the equipment is sitting. Obviously, if the company has to pay the outlandish rental rates, it would be better for the company to own everything.

Before I quit. There needs to be a third account for quarterly payments to make sure those funds are there when they need to be paid, which at this stage is quarterly. This includes payroll taxes, which come out of the labor account. Workman's comp insurance which is another labor cost. WA state B & O tax which is a business expense that goes directly into this account and is unrelated to either labor or business.

Just a word about cell phones and I'll get out of here. We encourage everyone to have a company phone. This way, not only is the phone cheaper on the group plan. There's no charge to call between all of us. However, to be fair to those who have their own. Employees are charged a minimal fee ( $25.00 \ mo.) for the company phone. Of course they have the use of it 24\7, so I presume this is logical and fair. One problem we have discovered is that all the phones share a pool of minutes, and if we use up the pool, which we normally do not, all the phones start racking up time. This can double the bill real fast. Therefore we do advise everyone to be conservative.

Before I go. Let me put it another way to help clarify. Example; If a manager and an apprentice do a job for $1000.00. They get 50%. That's $500.00. Let's say it took them 10 man hours. This is what we hope for our bottom price. If the apprentice is getting $10.00 an hour. The payroll cost for that is about $15.00. That comes to $150.00. The manager is at say $20.00 an hour. Payroll expense is about $30.00. That comes to $300.00. Now you are at $450.00. If the apprentice is making $15.00, there goes your $500.00. You can see why it is a well known fact. $50.00 per man hour is the minimum wage for legitimate contracting. You all know that we often make twice that, and this is where we make up for lost time, slack time, winter time, etc.
You can see though, there's not a whole lot of room for any mis-management. You can also see why most shops, and electricians, and plumbers charge $75.00 an hour.
On the up side. There is a lot of efficiency that happens with a bigger team. Shared rides, shared equipment, company backing for more equipment and human resources. Someone is always closer to a job when it needs to be done. Etc. Co-operation and teamwork is of inestimable value.
Keep up the good work. Godspeed.