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So what do tomatoes have to do with anything on a trucking blog?  And the answer is, not much!

I had an interesting week and a lot of discussion with my peers who are also owner-operators.  The discussion of tomatoes came up. I was having one of many debates this week with my fellow colleagues regarding the PRO Act.

Rather than go into the details of the PRO Act, I'd rather go into the discussions that led me and my associates down many rabbit holes while looking into this issue.  Keep in mind that all these discussions were with owner-operators, independent owner-operators, and also small fleet owners.  The first conversation regarding the PRO Act led us all the way to where a person gets their tomatoes.  How in the world did we get to tomatoes while talking about the PRO Act?  Well, after going down roads about work ethics, labor laws, and employer's rights, we ended up talking about tomato procurement.  We were trying to understand different viewpoints regarding labor/employer relationships.  As business owners who worked diligently towards building our own businesses, there were undertones revolving around the idea that the employer might need a little more protection from the employees.  

We discussed how without labor laws, many businesses ran rampant over employees without any regard to safety or quality of life.  This blatant disregard for their employee's welfare led to the formation of organized labor.  All of the employees collectively had enough strength to make a stand against what in many cases was simply “inhumane treatment”.  

Fast forward to today where it appears as though now employees have labor laws to protect them from oppressive corporate pressure.  Of course, all of this discussion will vary depending on which side of the fence you are standing on.  As usual, the pasture on the other side of the fence often looks greener which can lead to division between employees and employers.  The employee sees “Oh, the owner of the business is doing so well!” without knowing the sacrifices and efforts that went into creating the business where they are employed.  At the same time, the employer is looking at the employee like “Why are you not more motivated?”  Having been an employee and an employer at different times of my adult life, I've gotten to view both sides of the employee/employer relationship. 

Next, we got on to the discussion about the difference between contractors and employees in relation to the home building business.  Back in the day, a home builder would construct a house from the foundation all the way up to the last shingle being installed at the roof's peak!  Sometimes it was a family organization like my neighbor growing up.  There was a home-building business to talk about!  The business was started by a father which was then passed along to two sons.  They never had the ambition to become big home builders.  So the two brothers just kept the business to themselves.  When they built a house, they started from the foundation, framed, plumbed, powered, wall boarded, trimmed, floored, built cabinets, installed doors and siding, and landscaped.  When they were finished, they had great pride in the fact that the home would be referred to by the townspeople as a home built by them.  And it was well built!  They took great pride in the fact that their name was associated with quality construction.  This is why when they constructed a home, the phrase “That's good enough” was not in their vocabulary.  The simple fact was: the job was done right from the start to the finish to the clean-up!  

My colleagues and I discussed that today there really aren’t many home builders that actually build a house from the foundation up using their own employees.  For example, most builders simply hire painting contractors whose name will not appear with the builder's business name.  And the result ends up being, as an example, paint sloppily applied while attention to detail, like taking off door hinges, are disregarded, and in general, a low-quality finish.  Of course, this is to be expected because their name is not on the job.  And they could be painting for another builder the next day.  Terms like “that's good enough” start to become commonplace.  

As business owners who have created our own companies and reputations, we find this thought process of being “good enough” hard to fathom.  This brings me back full circle to the subject of tomatoes.  We decided there are people who will grow a tomato from a seed,  there are people who will buy a tomato plant, and there are those who will simply buy a tomato at the grocery store.  The person who grew a tomato from a seed took more effort than the person who purchased a tomato.  When you plant a seed and care to grow the seed into a plant which then grows a fruit, there is typically a sense of pride and accomplishment involved in the process.  In addition to having the pride of growing their own tomato, they are rewarded with a garden of fresh fruit.  And as a bonus, their tomato cost mere pennies as it started out as a single little seed.  

So in the end the PRO Act was a catalyst for many great discussions of how many of my owner-operator friends have grown their “tomato seeds” into a successful business. 

P.S. The discussion also went into the mindset of the kind of people who return the shopping cart to the corral and the kind of people who simply leave the cart in the parking lot.  But this is a whole new discussion altogether.

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Henry Albert

Henry Albert is the owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, NC. Before participating in the "Slice of Life" program, Albert drove a 2001 Freightliner Century Class S/Tâ„¢, and will use his Cascadia for general freight and a dry van trailer. Albert, who has been a trucker since 1983, was recognized by Overdrive as its 2007 Trucker of the Year.

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