Changes Are Always Happening

We're only a few weeks from Daylight Savings Time (Sunday, March 11) followed shortly thereafter with the start of Spring. Which means winter is finally winding down. Although we did get about 5 inches of snow today, the biggest snowfall of the season.

One of the big changes occurring today is how we remember things (not just because we're getting older!). There's a lot of discussion about the "Google Effect" which says that people really don't have to remember things so much as to remember where to find them.

Google (Bing, Yahoo, whatever) has changed education immensely.

When I was in school (yes, they did have electricity back then), we had a set of Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedia at home for reference. (Actually, back then, the local A&P sold the next book in the set (99¢) every week with the purchase of something). The set did get outdated fast so I ended up at the library, looking through their books, to do my research.

Today I can go online and search for anything I want. I'm led to different sites (after the ads show up) including Wikipedia for my answers. The problem is that the "best" result may not be the first one that shows up. The "poster" has added so many mega-tags and keywords to be sure they're first. They're information may not be accurate. So I have to dig deeper, all the way to page 135 (of 72 million) to find the information I need.

So students who rely on just the Internet for their research may stop at the first page that shows up and uses that for their research.

The question then becomes "Are we getting smarter using search engines? Are we retaining all the information we can?"

Recently there was a big story about some US soldiers who used "SS" as their insignia on a flag. When they were asked about the significance, they didn't know. History wasn't a part of their education.

Here's a post that goes into more depth. Could Search Engines be Damaaging Learning


Student Workers

Well, it's about that time of year again when we start looking for summer workers.

Since beginning in 1991, we've hired 244 students, some staying with us for a number of years. And it's hard to determine if Terri & I have learned more from them than they learned from us. I'm hoping it was good for all of us.

I remember Rebecca (I'm not going to use last names simply because they may feel a little embarrassed by the attention). She came to us as a 14 year old high school student and stayed with us for 7 years. She started as one of our line workers, became the "line lead" and eventually became our warehouse manager. She was instrumental in laying out our "new warehouse" location when we moved about 10 years ago. Now she's employed at Uline, hopefully using some of the skills she learned at School-Pak.

Kyle came to us as an intern from Marquette University. Working towards a business degree in finance, he helped shape our outlook on how to become more efficient. After graduating, he joined a firm that got involved with working with companies that crashed a few years ago.

We've had workers that became professors, doctors, engineers, teachers, accountants and more. We're really proud of them and would like to feel that their time at School-Pak was a learning experience.

There are more stories to share about our workers but three workers come to mind. Marty, Bob, Jonathan and Lidnsay. Marty brought us a new employee, Natalie, whom he was dating. Today they are happily married and living in Illinois.

Bob was one of our first employees back in the late 90's. He's getting married this coming April in Arizona. And we will be attending.

Finally, one of our best employee stories has to do with Jonathan and Lindsay. Lindsay began working for us 2001. Jonathan began working in 2002. They found each other at School-Pak and they'll be getting married in October. We're also invited to their wedding.

So, over the years, we're thankful for the opportunity to have hired, worked with and respected so many employees and look forward to the new ones coming this year.


School Supply Addiction

Finally (my second surgery for a detached retina was in August of 2011) I was going to get the cataract surgery that would start the return of eyesight to the left eye.

I spent the morning answering emails and in meetings so I was pretty pumped for the 2:30 event.

My doctor had told me that it normally takes about 15-20 minutes for the surgery. Mine lasted about and hour due to all the trauma the eye had gone through with 2 surgeries in August.

What was most interesting was the return visit on Friday. The outpatient clinic is right next door to a Starbucks. Not only was the drive through backed up on the lot but the line of cars actually extended out to the street for another 4-5 cars. Unbelievable.

We went into the clinic and rode the elevator with a woman who was holding a Starbucks cup in her hand. Naturally, the first question I had was, "How long did you wait in line?" She looked at me and said "I won't go to this one. The lines are always too long. I stop every morning at a different one on my way to work."

That got me thinking. People stop, some every morning, for their $4 + cup of coffee and think nothing of it. There's approximately 225+ work days in a year so they end up spending around $900 a year on coffee.

Many times I'll speak to a coordinator about our programs and they'll tell me that they need to go with a different company because "these are hard times. Families are suffering and our parent organization wants to help them with this type of program. So we're going with the lowest price." The difference is price might be $2.00 more for a School-Pak. Realize, of course, that not every coordinator says this and not everyone in the school community would necessarily agree. Some would be willing to pay a little more for the quality.

I believe that providing exceptional service plus quality brand name products like Crayola, Elmers, Fiskars, etc., would make that $2.00 (once a year) a great value.

So here's my question: What can we do to make buying a School-Pak addictive? Send me some ideas and maybe we can get on TLC with "Strange Addictions". Could be a riveting program. :)

Feel free to comment


Changes in companies

Just received new about two major changes in the marketplace.

Acco brands, maker of Wilson Jones binders, Swingline staplers and a host of other business products, announced the purchase of MeadWestvaco, the producer of Mead products including 5 Star notebooks, binders and the Cambridge brand of products.

No big changes are expected at this time.

Also 3M purchased Avery Dennison, known for their binders and Marks-A-Lot markers. It looks like the binder wars might just be getting started.

Our goal when we first started School-Pak was to provide high quality, name brand products for our pre-packaged kits. School coordinators felt that price was the most important part of the kits so we began using economy binders. What a mistake that was. They don't hold up in the hands of a 5th grade student. So we returned to just heavy duty binders. We still have issues with them since manufacturers don't get it.

I think the prevailing thought in these companies is that they aim their product at office use, where the binder might be touched only a few times a week and sit on a shelf. They really haven't addressed the "student" market that well. The binders the students use are possibly carried around all day and frequently opened. They really need to be stronger.

Hopefully Acco and 3M understand this and realize what a huge market school kids are and upgrade their products without upgrading their prices by a lot.

It will be interesting to see what these two companies do with familiar brands like 5 Star. A number of years ago the Newell company purchased Sanford (maker of Sharpie and Expo products) and the Berol company that made Spacemaker pencil boxes. Although Spacemaker was the brand everyone was familiar with, Newell stopped using the name. We still have teachers asking for them.

They then purchased Rubbermaid and changed their name to Newell Rubbermaid. However they don’t make everything available to us. Some things are only available through retail outlets.

The same thing happened with Duo-Tang folders. They were the hallmark of folders with fasteners for years and the most familiar brand to consumers. Esselte purchased Oxford and stopped using the Duo-Tang name but still have a line of Oxford products.

One last thing. Crayola, in a movement to being “green”, introduced a change to black barrels for their markers line in late 2010. I’m guessing the feeling was that they could produce them at a lower cost than the white barrels they had used in the past. Although the caps were in different colors, once they were removed it was difficult to find the correct marker. The barrels did have the color name on them but it made it hard for the kids to match the caps with the right color.

They learned very quickly. They have returned to the traditional white barrels. Makes you remember the “New Coke”.


Is the Modern Family too Modern?

Milwaukee has joined the nation with a teacher being accused of child enticement. Stories are showing up all over the Internet about teachers, coaches, band leaders, scout leaders, just about anyone we've believed we could trust, that are facing charges.

What's going on? Is this a new phenomenon, or are we getting kids to finally step forward and report these incidents?

Having grown sons, we're now faced with worrying about the grand-children. We know that our sons' families are aware of the problem and spend the time vetting those people that are in contact with the grand-kids. With an 8 year old and a 4 year old grandson, my eyes lit up when I read the new issue of TV Guide.

On page 12 there's an article by William Keck about Modern Family. In an upcoming episode, Phil (Ty Burrell) finds out that Haley is not a virgin. According to Keck, Phil "is horrified but it ends up being very heartfelt and meaningful".

Claire (Julie Bowen) has know for some time and apparently had dealt with it without telling Phil. And, although Keck writes "Julie had the most difficult time with the plotline", Bowen's comment at the end of the story is what stunned me.

Asked of she dreads facing this rite of passage with her kids, she jokes, "My kids are boys. So they can have sex at age 6 and that'd be fine."

Would she make her daughter (if she had one) wait until age 7? 8? 9?

Really? Maybe the Modern Family is too modern.