A Real Pain In The Back

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This story appears in the June 1997 issue of . Subscribe »

NovaCare Inc., a national employer of nearly 17,000 licensed physical-rehabilitation clinicians, recently conducted a study to determine which types of injuries were most frequently sustained in the workplace. Topping the list for both men and women? Back injuries, followed by neck and shoulder injuries.

"The findings," says John H. Foster, chairman and CEO of NovaCare, "are distressing, and point to the need for ever-greater on-the-job injury-prevention efforts. Workplace injuries account for more than $70 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity."

As a small-business owner, the first preventative measure to take is as easy as listening to your body.

"If you often leave the office with stress, backaches, headaches or other pains, consider that these kinds of symptoms may be your body's way of saying it can't adapt to the physical aspects of your workplace," say Edith Weiner and Arnold Brown, authors of Office Biology (Weiner, Edrich, Brown Inc., $22, 212-889-7007).

"Is your work surface too high or too low for you?" ask Weiner and Brown. "Must you assume an unnatural or stretched position in order to see or reach controls, to write or type, or to get access to materials or parts of your work unit? Are you required to hold up your arms or hands without the help of armrests? Do you have to lift and carry too much weight?"

Here are some of Weiner and Brown's suggestions for creating a more body-friendly workplace:

  • While at the keyboard, use a wristrest to keep your wrists straight.

  • If you talk on the phone while writing or typing, use a headset; this will reduce the stress to your neck and upper body.

  • Watch your posture. Your seat should slope slightly forward, in order to move some of the pressure off your spine and onto your thighs and feet.

  • Finally, take frequent breaks; sitting in one position for too long isn't good for you.

Magnetic Attraction

Traditionally, magnets have been used to hold up artwork on refrigerator doors. Lately, though, magnets themselves have become more of an expression of art--not to mention a booming product in the marketplace.

With its "Dress Me Up! David" and "Dress Me Up! Venus" sets, Seattle's Caryco Magnets was one of the first companies to jump-start America's current magnet craze. As an innovative twist to dressing paper dolls, customers can garb miniature versions of the classic Michelangelo and Bouguereau statues in leather jackets, denim jeans, Scottish kilts, hula skirts, and Santa Claus costumes.

And then there's Minneapolis' Dave Kapell, who, realizing there's a bit of Keats, Whitman or Ginsberg in all of us, created the immensely popular Magnetic Poetry kits, which enable users to piece together lines of poetry from individually worded tiles.

Poetryslam Inc. in Carrboro, North Carolina, has taken the word-salad concept a step further with poetryslam, a magnetic board game (with an intentionally lowercased title, in homage to poet e.e. cummings) that combines the basics of Scrabble with magnetic poetry composition.

Finally, Blue Q in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has mastered the art of visual puns with its witty sets of themed magnets. "Heart Attack On A Plate," one of the more memorable compilations, features such heart-stopping diet heavies as a fried chicken leg, a slice of cheesecake, and a side of steak.--K.M.

Steps To Business Safety

Of increasing concern for small-business owners is the possibility of a violent crime occurring on their property. Crime victims are apt to sue the business where the assault took place, claiming the business was negligent by not providing adequate security measures for their safety. Judicial courts have also had the tendency to shift responsibility from the criminals to "negligent" property owners; negligence suits today often top $1 million and have gone up as far as $10 million.

Simple measures, such as limiting access to your property and installing brighter outside lights, can make the difference in a business's crime liability, according to Jim McIntyre, manager of casualty loss control for The Hanover Insurance Company in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Some security recommendations: Be careful with your keys; install and maintain good locks on doors and windows; build a fence around your business; make friends with the police; and document your security program.

For more information, refer to Hanover's free pamphlet, "Premises Security: 13 Steps to a More Secure Business Property." To obtain a copy, contact your local independent agent or write to Betsy Sabourin, Hanover Insurance, 100 N. Pkwy. H260, Worcester, MA 01605-1396, and ask for order #111-2054.

--Allyssa Lee

Stoking The Fire

As an entrepreneur, you probably know the vital role motivation plays in helping you accomplish your goals. Steve Chandler's 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself (Career Press, $15.99, 800- 227-3371) features 100 simple and easy ways to motivate yourself.

For example: If you're having difficulty waking up in the morning, you may need to Create a vision that calls you out of bed each day--something to remind you of your most important goals and inspirations.

Or maybe you're feeling intimidated by your lack of knowledge about starting a new endeavor. If so, put your mind at ease and Find your inner Einstein. Every human has the capacity for genius, says Chandler, and access to it is gained not through knowledge, but rather through your commitment "to using your imagination."

If you're overwhelmed by the thought of change and of having to make change happen, Make small changes to acclimate yourself. "If you see yourself (or your business) as a masterpiece-in-progress," says Chandler, "then you will relish small changes."--Lela Kim

The Suite Life

If you want to create your own Web site but feel overwhelmed at the prospect, help is available. Peachtree's Business Internet Suite simplifies the process, providing all the necessary tools for both Web-site creation and maintenance.

The Internet Suite includes a comprehensive tutorial, Web-site creation software, Internet access with browser (Netscape Navigator), electronic-storefront capabilities (which enable you to integrate to Peachtree Complete Accounting for Windows), PeachLink order processor, and e-mail. No need to learn Hypertext Markup Language computer programming: The software provides you with several predesigned small-business Web-site templates to choose from. An optional domain-name-registration service and a free search-engine-registration service ensure that potential customers around the world can easily find your new site.

For use with an IBM-compatible 386 or higher, running Windows 95, minimum 14.4 Kbps modem, 13MB free hard-disk space, CD-ROM drive, and 8MB RAM. Retail price: $129.

From Peachtree Software, Norcross, GA. To order, call (800) 247-3224.--Amy Lewis

Dr. Troubleshooter

By Roger Fritz

Every business has problems. But entrepreneurial survivors solve their business's problems as they arise, and grow by converting those solutions into future opportunities.

Dr. Roger Fritz has more than 40 years of experience as an educator, manager, corporate executive, university president, small-business consultant, and author of 28 business and management books.

This month in Dr. Troubleshooter's waiting room, we discover the importance of evaluating your cash flow.

Problem: Business is growing, new clients are coming on board every day, and orders are increasing. Things couldn't be better, right? Wrong. Because of increased activity, your expenses are increasing--but the money isn't coming in as fast. Your company is experiencing cash-flow problems.

Diagnosis: Your company's accounts-payable strategy should be based on its own cash-flow requirements. Otherwise, you are, in effect, bankrolling your customers.

Prescription: If it takes 120 days to collect on your accounts receivable, it is financially unreasonable for you to pay your own bills within 15 days. Review your cash-flow cycle (that is, the time that elapses from when you spend your money on raw materials, labor, shipping, and so forth, through the sales and marketing process, until the time you are paid by your customers).

For the purpose of illustration, assume you are a distributor. You buy a product on February 1, sell it on April 30, and receive payment for it on June 15. In other words, you have had your money "invested" in that product for about 105 days!

If you paid your supplier for the product within 30 days of the time you bought it, you have been "financing" the product for about 75 days!

Remember that your profit is based on how much you mark-up your products, and does not include "interest" on whatever money you may have tied up in the product between the time you buy it and the time you sell it. That expense comes directly out of your gross profit.

There are several ways in which to reduce this cash-to-cash cycle:

  • Collect money from your customers faster.

  • Move your product faster.

  • Pay your own bills slower.

Excerpted with permission from Roger Fritz's The Small Business Troubleshooter: 152 Solutions to the Problems Faced by Every Growing Company (Career Press, $16.99, 630-420-7673).


By Melisa Giordano

Q: I am looking for information on the art of hat-making for men and women. Where can I get detailed information about making hats? Any help would be appreciated.

Yolanda Reynolds

Chicago, Illinois

A: Provided by Randy Hirschfield, president of National Cap Manufacturers Inc., in Orange, California, a company which handles the sales, design, production and distribution of hats.

The hat-making business--whether it's baseball caps or floppy hats for women--is a very labor-intensive process, filled with multiple steps and sub-steps. This is true of almost any business which involves sewing and factory work, because almost every step requires a very specialized job and piece of machinery.

For example, the sewing process alone for a high-quality six-panel baseball cap contains between 18 and 20 individual operations; therefore, production lines are normally set up with separate operators to perform each function. Although you can begin with basic machines, special attachments and other parts can be retrofitted to these machines to meet your specific needs. One company which provides this service is Tennessee Attachment, in White Bluff, Tennessee (800-251-5000).

The best source guide I can recommend is an industry-specific annual publication called The Hat Life Directory, which lists about 1,000 hat manufacturers, wholesalers, renovators and importers of men's headwear. Available for $19, the directory also lists trade suppliers, and sources for trim, fabrics, specialized machinery, etc. To order, call (201) 434-8322, or write to 66 York St., Jersey City, NJ 07302.

For information about fashion headwear, the Headwear Information Bureau (HIB) in New York City offers a directory with manufacturers, importers and suppliers. As a national industry organization, annual dues range from $35 to $150, according to your business's production volume. For more information, write to 302 W. 12th St., Penthouse C, New York, NY 10014, or call (212) 627-8333.

A phone call to any local bookstore can provide you with extensive information about books on the art of hat-making, as well as directional guides on how to start a business. I recommend The Hat Book, by Juliet Bawden (Lark Books, $14.95, 800-284-3388), as well as taking a class in hat-making at a local college.

Experience, however, is the greatest teacher. The best way to learn how to make hats and to improve the quality of existing hats is to take them apart. Buy a bunch of different hats and undo everything, so you can see what each is made of, and learn what steps to follow. Also, scrutinize the quality of the hat, including its material, stitching, styling and durability. If you provide a customer with quality without making them pay more, they will most likely buy from your company again.

Although no national association exists specifically for headwear companies, a good place to start might be the Headwear Division of the American Apparel Manufacturers Association. For information on their services, call the staff liaison, Joan McNeal, at (703) 524-1864, or write to 2500 Wilson Blvd., #301, Arlington, Virginia 22201.

Finally, start-up capital is a must. It's my belief that more headwear-manufacturing operations fail in the start-up stage due to lack of sufficient capital than anything else. Getting into the hat business is one thing, but delivering a quality product at a competitive price is the greatest challenge.

Contact Sources

Caryco Magnets, 2366 Eastlake Ave. E., #429, Seattle, WA 98102, (206) 325-2767.

National Cap Manufacturers Inc., 535 W. Walnut, Orange, CA 92868, (714) 288-8410.

Dr. Roger Fritz, 1240 Iroquois Dr., #406, Naperville, IL 60563, (630) 420-7673.

Poetryslam Inc., P.O. Box 1025, Carrboro, NC 27510, (888) 777-1825.

Tennessee Attachment, 4600 Hwy. 70, White Bluff, TN 37187, (800) 251-5000.

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