It’s (finally) spring here in Cleveland, and that means it’s time to clean out my office. I’ve got an entire shelf of books here that I’ve accumulated in the past 12 months that aren’t doing much, so during the next few weeks I’m going to send them to a few lucky readers.
First up is “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande. I wrote about this one in a recent column:
In his latest book, “The Checklist Manifesto,” Gawande talks about how simple checklists have helped doctors in ICUs across the country reduce infection rates to statistically zero. They make sure doctors remember stuff like wash your hands before operating and cover the patient in sterile cloths before you cut him open. Not rocket science, but easy enough to overlook in a crowded operating room.
The checklist programs started with nurses, the people doing most of the hands-on work with patients day to day. They really caught on after hospital administrators gave nurses the power to call out doctors when they missed key steps on the list.
Gawande describes three types of problems these lists help solve: simple, complicated and complex. A simple problem is like replacing a light bulb. It has a few steps that anyone could accomplish, and repeat. A complicated problem is one that involves lots of people and decisions, but can be divided into many simple problems – like launching a rocket.
It’s a quick read, and this slightly dog-eared copy is already lovingly annotated for increased ease of use.
It’s all yours. Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and include a note about a simple process or tactic you’ve implemented in your business that has made you more efficient.
I’ve got a wide-ranging list of links for you this week, including advice on how to prepare for Obamacare, insight on the booming (again) housing market and, for you botany nerds, a list of terrible names for wild pansies. Enjoy!
This morning on NPR I heard a story on the construction industry in Texas.
Wade Goodwyn was rolling along in his raspy monotone about how the home building industry is booming again in Texas, but wasn’t necessarily a boon for the laborers. He had quotes from a homebuilder who said he couldn’t find American workers, who said he worried about the future of the construction industry thanks to the lack of interest from American students.
Who said he would get priced out of the market if he did everything by the book.
And sitting there in my car, waiting to head into the office, I thought, “Gee, that’s the same thing I hear from landscapers all the time.”
And then comes Trent. This guy, who wouldn’t give his first name to NPR for fear of the government coming down on him, hires guys he knows to be illegal, classifies then as subcontractors and then pays them all cash – about 70 bucks a day.
What happens then just isn’t his concern.
Trent says he doesn’t know if any of his guys are paying taxes. “That’s their business,” he says. “If I were to speculate, I would probably say they are not paying their Social Security [taxes]. I would also say that they’re probably not filing their income tax returns on a regular basis.”
He goes on to say that even with his bargain basement labor rates, he still gets underbid. Now, I don’t doubt that, especially in the DFW market, but his justification leaves a bit to be desired:
“If there wasn’t such a readily available supply of laborers that are looking for work in my exact line of business, then I would say I am doing wrong and that I should play by the rules,” Trent says. “I don’t feel as though I’m doing anything wrong.”
Translation: But, Mom! Everyone else is doing it!
To willfully circumvent the spirit of the law is just as bad as violating the letter, and this landscaper is putting a lot of people at risk. To blame your competition or the market for your own decision to flout the law is shameful. That’s no way to run a business, and no way to improve an industry.
Over the weekend, my colleagues from Greenhouse Management and Garden Center magazines left our modest offices here on the near west side of the city for San Francisco and points south. They’re out west covering the California Spring Trials, an annual preview of the latest and greatest varieties that we’ll see on the market next spring.
For sun-starved Clevelanders, it’s a jolt of much needed sunshine and bright colors. To get your own fix, and get a jump on what’s coming down the pike, check out the team’s video coverage here and read their first eport from the road here.
We’re soliciting funny and weird stories that our readers have from their time out in the field – things like odd customer requests, strange happenings and anything else you’d tell your buddies over a beer with a grin on your face.
Send your best material to me at email@example.com and you could be published. Or at least have your story retold by the editors. And that’s almost as good as gold.
Your tax dollars are at work in this collection of awesome data visualizations from the U.S. Census Bureau.
I chose this one because it illustrates the growing trend of Americans moving more and more to the edges of the country. According to research from NOAA:
… 39 percent of the U.S. population is concentrated in counties directly on the shoreline–less than 10 percent of the total U.S. land area excluding Alaska, and that 52 percent of the total population lives in counties that drain to coastal watersheds, less than 20 percent of U.S. land area, excluding Alaska. A coastal watershed is an area in which water, sediments, and dissolved material drain to a common coastal outlet, like a bay or the ocean)
This continued migration means more opportunity – and competition – for landscape contractors in already established markets like California, Florida and the Northeast. It also means more strain on already stressed water systems.
Click through to get more context on shifts in population density, geography and all sorts of other cool information.
Here’s a solid round-up of alternatives to Google Reader that you can use after the all-knowing tech company ends the service in July.
In honor of the rainy (and snowy) weather here in Ohio, and April Fool’s Day, we bring you a lost Led Zeppelin classic.
A massive chainsaw suspended from a helicopter to trim trees?
You say overkill. I say New Jersey.
Today’s daily does of depressing water news comes from Businessweek, which gives us an overview of the world’s access (or lack of access) to water.
BW, by way of the International Water Management Institute, reports that:
Over one-fifth of the world’s population goes thirsty due to economic water scarcity, in which pollution, inadequate infrastructure and poverty conspire to keep them dry – even as their basins overflow.