Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ben Franklin's Important Lesson

In 1733, Benjamin Franklin realized an opportunity to improve the practice of fighting fires after visiting Philadelphia and noting its fire-suppression tactics. Upon returning to Boston, Ben put quill to paper and authored an anonymous letter to the local newspaper offering standards and improvements to be made for putting out fires. Needless to say, this got the public’s attention. Dec. 7, 1736, Union Fire Company, the first staffed fire brigade, was formed laying the foundation for the next 275 years of fire protection in America. And as a result, we often refer to Franklin as the “Father of the Fire Service.” And as the fire service evolved it adopted impeccable standards, designed its own education, made certifications mandatory, and executes constant training. This is why they have the respect of so many other trades and citizens.

Is this any different than the changes set in motion by the ASCA for the professional snow and ice management industry since September 2012?

Today, certifications and continuing education requirements are the norm to operate in a variety of industries and trades – working on cars, fixing computers, fertilizing lawns and even cutting hair, to name a few. In fact, hair stylists and barbers must display at all times their license in plain view of the customer. I’ve been in the snow and ice management industry since 1998 and I can’t remember ever having to provide a customer tangible qualifications – other than proof of insurance – that I could, in fact, do the job in a professional manner. It’s something that’s never set well with me because I don’t view myself as a company operating in a sub-standard, second-rate industry?

In fact, I feel quite the opposite. A properly managed and operated snow and ice management company should sell safety to their customers while limiting liability to all involved. What separates you from the guy who buys a truck equipped with a plow and goes after jobs with cut-rate pricing? Sure, he may be a skilled truck driver, shows up on time and is affordable to the customer, but he is set up for failure.

The way we educate and train our workers, the preseason inspections and the in-event documentation are all ways we separate ourselves from substandard operators. Education and training are vital elements not only internally, but also to deliver the highest level of customer service. Whether it is a seasoned employee or a first-year sub, that individual is the face of the company when working the job site. A well-educated team that is also properly trained functions safer and more efficiently, leading to less operational chaos during a storm and healthier margins.

How do you know if you are doing it right? Should we be operating without certifications, just hoping we are doing it right? That is a Plaintiff’s Attorney’s dream. The ASCA has written industry standards for professional snow and ice management. It has also created a certification process (ASCA Certified) based on these standards and supported through online curriculum and a continuing education program. In addition, the ISO SN9001 designation further guides us and holds us to the highest level of professionalism we should all aspire to practice.

Nearly 300 years later, I’m sure Ben Franklin would approve of what we’re doing for the betterment of our industry.

Kyle Rose is owner and president of Rose Property Maintenance in Shawnee, Kan. He is also an ASCA member.

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