Odd Couple, The

Would the average person in your community be more upset that his garbage wasn't picked up or that his newspaper wasn't delivered? That should give you some perspective on the relative importance of your profession vs. mine.

This doesn't mean, however, that parallels don't exist between the journalism profession and garbage business. At the core of both industries are small- to medium-sized operations that face many of the same types of problems — finding and keeping good employees, dealing with a very vocal public, etc.

Recently, Bill Gloede, group editor of Mediaweek and Editor and Publisher magazines, gave a speech reporting mixed views about the affects of a downturn in the economy. Similar to how garbage haulers can gauge the economy using the size of loads left at curbsides, Gloede says magazines can measure the economy by advertising pages.

But more importantly, Gloede offered several good suggestions on how managers can cope during a slowdown:

Don't Fire Anyone. Reducing your staff might seem attractive in the short-term, but keeping experienced and productive people is better for your business in the long-term. I remember hearing how several consulting engineering firms made this mistake a few years ago. Within a short amount of time, business picked up again and they faced increasing amounts of work without the necessary experience on staff to do the job.

Gloede was quick to add, however, that now would be a good time to review your staff to determine your “A, B, and C” people — replacing your C people with at least B people, if not A employees.

Continue to Train and Recruit. Training your employees always is a good investment. Recruit, Gloede said, because you never know when you are going to need to replace someone.

Improve Quality. When times get tight, your service must be right (apologies to Johnny Cochran).

Stick to Your Core Business. Now, Gloede said, is not the time to venture into unknown areas. I think this lesson has been learned in our industry.

Be Realistic to Management. No one wants egg on their face, especially when dollars are concerned.

Be Optimistic. Good advice for anyone, anytime.

And lastly, remember that while journalists and waste industry professionals face many of the same business issues, at least you don't generate garbage.

The author is the editorial director of Waste Age Publications.