• Ripps, president of Palmer Asphalt Co., Bayonne, N.J., with his family in Central Park. Pictured from left to right: daughter Danielle; Ripps; daughter Perri; and wife, Nancy.

Protecting returning veterans

The Veterans Benefits Improvement Act (VBIA) of 2004 extends education, housing and other benefits, amending the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) of 1994.

USERRA protects military personnel during and after military service by preventing service members from suffering disadvantages; not receiving enough time to report back to their jobs; or experiencing employer discrimination because of military service.

The two provisions enforced by VBIA state employers must post a notice of employees' rights, benefits and obligations under USERRA, as well as extend from 18 months to 24 months the maximum time period an employee has to choose to continue employer-sponsored health-insurance coverage.

"We are committed to ensuring that our brave men and women who are protecting our country's freedom have the opportunities they deserve when they return to civilian life," says U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "We will work tirelessly to continue to keep National Guard and Reserve service members, their families and employers informed about USERRA, the law that protects their jobs and benefits."

IRS helps small businesses

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced it offers resources to aid small businesses with their tax filing responsibilities.

The organization's Web site, www.irs.gov, allows taxpayers to make tax payments; learn about employment tax requirements; learn how to set up and distribute retirement plans; order free products; and view a video of a small-business tax workshop.

"Running a business is a big responsibility, and the IRS wants to help ease the process for this dynamic group of taxpayers," says Kevin Brown, commissioner of the IRS Small Business/Self-Employed Division. "In an effort to save businesses money and reduce their paperwork burden, over the last year the IRS has implemented a number of initiatives to simplify tax forms."

The IRS also offers a CD-ROM, Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) Resource Guide for Small Business Owners and Individuals, which features information for small-business owners about setting up and maintaining IRA-based retirement plans for employees, including the basics about investing retirement savings and illegal tax schemes with regard to retirement plans. It also includes information about simplified employee pensions, SIMPLE IRAs and payroll-deduction IRA plans.

"IRA-based retirement plans are tailor-made for small businesses," says Carol Gold, IRS' director of the Employee Plans unit, "offering them an easy way to provide retirement benefits to their employees with minimum paperwork."

Firestone Building Products offers insurance

Indianapolis-based Firestone Building Products Co. has announced it now offers general liability and workers' compensation insurance. Underwritten by a member company of American International Group Inc., New York City, and reinsured by Inner Circle Insurance, Bermuda, the insurance will be offered exclusively to Firestone-licensed Master Contractors who have achieved the Inner Circle of Quality Award.

Eligible contractors must meet specific underwriting criteria, including an excellent historical safety record and claims history. Firestone Building Products will base individual premiums on each roofing firm's safety rating.

The company also will offer end-of-year incentives based on Firestone Building Products' Quality Incidence Rating (QIR) program, which measures a roofing contractor's quality performance by the number of warranty repair incidences per million square feet under warranty. Between 2 percent and 6 percent of a roofing contractor's annual insurance premium will be earned if he achieves exceptional QIR scores, and incentive payments are made in equal installments during a three-year vesting period.

Benefits include an optional monthly payment schedule and the opportunity to participate in an annual safety conference.

"Contractor deductible and insurance premiums continue to rise in part because insurance companies lack the tools necessary to identify roofing professionals truly committed to safety," says Mike Gorey, president of Firestone Building Products. "Firestone Building Products believes this is an unfair disadvantage to the many high-quality commercial roofing contractors who are committed to safety and continue to demonstrate the industry's best safety practices. Through the long-term partnerships shared with its contractors, Firestone Building Products is happy that Master Contractors will be recognized for their safety accomplishments under this program and provided reduced premiums."


Van Ripps
President of Palmer Asphalt Co., Bayonne, N.J.

What is the most unusual roofing project of which you have been a part?
I assisted in the planning and selection of roof maintenance products and dampproofing products that Palmer Asphalt donated to the restoration of The Waterfront Museum, Brooklyn, N.Y. The museum actually is a floating wooden railroad barge that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Why did you become involved in the roofing industry?
Similar to the demographic profile of many roofing contractors, with the exception of being a manufacturer, I am continuing a family tradition by representing the third generation in ownership and management. After graduating from college and backpacking through Europe for a year, I returned home and was fortunate to be asked to join the company by my father. How could I turn down an offer to work with my dad?

What are your favorite items on your desk?
My telephone, computer and pens—all necessary tools to communicate effectively. With so much "stuff" on my desk, I often wonder whether there really is a desk under all the paper.

What do you consider your most rewarding experiences?
Any time I can satisfy the needs for any inquiry—even if it means I may have to refer someone to another manufacturer—and making someone happy or satisfied, either professionally or personally. There is no cost to make someone smile.

What was your first job?
A job is a chore. I never had a job. I enjoy working. However, I did work in the factory in the summer during high school. Now that was a job!

What is your favorite vacation?
Any time I can spend time with my family is a vacation.

What do you consider a waste of time?
Having to follow up or repeat myself to those who do not read their e-mails.

What are your best and worst habits?
Being honest and responsive are my best habits. Working too much probably is my worst habit.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
When a person who claims ignorance about a subject asks my opinion and then disagrees with the answer.

If you could invite any three people to dinner (dead or alive), whom would you invite and why?
Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath and Walt "Clyde" Frazier—three sports legends who would have amazing stories to share.

What is your favorite stress reliever?
What stress? I am in the roofing industry.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
Staying on top of the endless amount of government regulations.

What is your involvement in the roofing industry?
I currently am president of the Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association and an NRCA member.

People would be surprised to know...
I was a shepherd in the Holy Land (Israel) before working at Palmer Asphalt Co.

ASTM International joins lab program

ASTM International's Board of Directors has announced it has committed $4 million to the Interlaboratory Studies (ILS) program.

The ILS program's purpose will be to remove the administrative burdens from ASTM International technical committees by aiding with round-robin testing programs. It will provide technical committees with staff support and financial resources by offering assistance with identification of participating laboratories; data collection; monitoring generation and distribution of samples; and production of precision and bias statements, as well as research reports.

"The board's decision to fund the ILS program is significant," says N. David Smith, ASTM International's current chairman of the board. "The decision demonstrates the board's commitment to enhancing ASTM standards and supporting the committees."

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.
—Vince Lombardi, professional football coach

Dealing with abusive customers

Many employers have problems with employees who are rude to customers. However, customers often are guilty of rudeness, as well, and can be verbally abusive. Research performed by DePaul University, Chicago, and the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, identified the following four problems employers could prepare their employees to handle when dealing with difficult customers.

  • Inappropriate behavior—Customers sometimes disregard deadlines, legal limitations and business hours, among other things. Make sure your employees know the rules of your organization or company, and teach them how to explain these rules to the customer.

  • Accusations—Employees often are accused of not delivering something or delivering it incorrectly, and customers sometimes are incorrect when making this accusation of error. This can be an easier situation for your employees to handle if they have documentation of work procedures, customers' records and orders.

  • Too many demands—Customers sometimes want to see how much more they can get—lower prices, perks, etc. Be sure your employees know what customers are entitled to and how to respond if a customer pressures an employee for more.

  • Insults—Unfortunately, customers sometimes take out their displeasure on your employees by attacking them with personal insults. Your employees should learn how to try to defuse the anger of the customer while keeping their own anger in check. They need to know how many insults they have to listen to before calling a supervisor.

Your employees' happiness partly is based on how they are treated by your customers. Preparing employees with information about dealing with difficult customers will lead to happy employees and happy customers.

Source: Adapted from MIT Sloan Management Review as cited in The Manager's Intelligence Report, May issue.

Reprinted by permission of United Media


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