To learn about the latest local business conditions, I often turn to Aaron Finkelstein, president of Ace Uniform Services. His business, with headquarters in southwest Baltimore, rents and services uniforms for hundreds of local firms -- from hamburger stands to steel mills -- and generally is a reliable economic barometer.
Last Friday, after studying reams of statistics, he told me, "I'm happy to report that our uniform rental 'add-ons' are now up over our 'layoffs' and that's one of the most encouraging signs we ever see. Often it tells us that business recessions may have bottomed out. It's no big resurgence this time, but companies are definitely replacing people and that's a new development."
"Regarding specific employment, auto dealers' problems have stabilized," he said. "I'd call their situation between fair and good. And none of them are late paying their bills; they're up to date with us, a good sign. And when it comes to biotech and environmental firms, those uniform rentals are growing leaps and bounds. One environment company jumped from three people to in a few years. Defense is off, about 10 percent. So in summary, things look brighter but don't break out the champagne yet."
CEO CORNER: Hersh Pacino, CEO, Orchard Inn and Ralphie's Diner says, "How did I build these businesses? By hard work, dedication to excellence and creating a top staff. We handle complaints immediately; satisfying the customer is most important. Also, I'm at the door to greet our customers and call them by name. And our waiters and waitresses don't reel off long lists of unpriced specials. Ours are priced on the menu. We buy all our food locally, fresh and to our specifications. If it doesn't meet our standards, we send it back. I get here at 7:30 a.m.; being here every minute motivates our employees."
BITS & PIECES: "The number of women earning over $50,000 a year has quadrupled in the last 10 years." (CNN Headline News) . . . . Having my wife's two young grandchildren with us yesterday brings to mind the old verse: "Man may work from sun to sun, but woman's work is never done." . . . I recall that Hamburger's, the 122-year old men's and boys' clothing store now sadly facing possible closing, once dominated the Baltimore scene. The late Henry Berney was considered the country's top clothing buyer. In 1929 my parents bought my bar mitzvah suit for $10 at the company's Baltimore and Hanover street store. . . . "If you have a primary business motive for making a trip within the United States you can deduct the full travel cost to and from your destination, even if the trip contains a significant recreational element." (Lawrence Foster, tax partner, KPMG Peat Marwick.)
WHY THEY LEAVE: "Salespeople lose their customers for the following reasons . . .: One percent of customers die, 3 percent move away, 5 percent deal with other friends, 9 percent leave for competitive reasons, you lose 14 percent because of product dissatisfaction and a whopping 68 percent leave because of the indifferent attitude of an employee." (Stephen Stauffer, Dean Witter.)
SUMMER SNIPPETS: "The business of managing money for the super-rich is booming. The wealthy are less interested in making money than in preserving it." (Fortune, June 29, in a cover story, "Selling Advice to the Super-Rich.") . . . When I asked a newly retired B.G.&E. employee how retirement feels, he replied, "I feel guilty about having a check come to the house without working for it every day." . . . "Vacationers seeking half-price airfares are out of luck, but Delta just lowered trans-Atlantic fares 10 to 45 percent and most major carriers matched Delta's prices." (U.S. News & World Report, dated today) . . . "To keep money in your family, consider wills and revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, family limited partnerships, charitable trusts, private foundations." (Wealth Transfer Planning, Inc., Los Angeles) . . . "You know what happens in the beehive? They kill those drones." (William Poage) . . . "Without work, all life goes rotten." (Albert Camus) . . . "Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do." (Oscar Wilde).