My father died of leukemia. It was a particularly virulent strain, and he was gone less than four months after the original diagnosis. He was 82, too old for chemotherapy. The only thing modern medicine could do to extend his life and make his final weeks more comfortable were weekly transfusions of blood platelets. Normal platelet counts start at around 150,000/ml 3; his were a tenth of that. Platelets help blood clot, and they store certain chemicals that help regulate mood, sleep/wake cycles, appetite, and other biological rhythms. The transfusions couldn't save my father, but they play a critical role in the treatment and recovery of thousands of leukemia patients of all ages.
As a tribute to my father's memory and a kind of “thanks, Dad” for all he meant to me while he was alive, I donate platelets as often as I can through my local branch of the American Red Cross. The process is called apheresis, and it differs from giving whole blood because only the platelets are harvested; the plasma and red cells stay with the donor. This means that donations can be made more frequently, in most cases as often as every two weeks.
As it happens, my body produces considerably more platelets than it needs, so I'm a prime donor candidate. The procedure takes about 90 minutes, plus travel and waiting time. It's a small sacrifice, and it makes me feel good to give to those in need something that I have in abundance.
Sitting relatively still for 90 minutes with a needle in each arm also gives me plenty of time to think. Just the other day, after the video I was watching had ended, in the last 20 minutes before the nurse came to disengage me from the apparatus, my mind began to wander. Maybe it was the sentimental mood that comes over me during these sessions, or maybe it was all the tragedy and hardship in the news lately, but I began musing on the idea of surplus platelets, surplus in general, and, finally, on the windfall profits I'd been hearing about from remodelers. Specifically, I wondered what they were planning to do with this “abundance.”
For a lot of remodelers, 2004 was a very good year. I've heard from companies that earned higher profits than ever before, many higher than 10%, some 15% or higher. My question now is this: After pocketing a portion as a reward for risks taken, and after putting a portion aside in cash reserves as a hedge against the unknown future, what will these remodelers do with the rest?
Higher-than-expected net profits are rare in the remodeling business; slippage is more the order of the day. Surplus net profit occurs because all the parts and pieces of a company are working in concert. That happens for two reasons: There are good systems in place, and there are good people to implement them.
Why not offer a generous portion of windfall profits to the people who helped produce them — your employees? Putting something extra into the pay envelope is a good start. But you can also set aside a specific amount to be spent on tools, equipment, training, company outings, whatever. Better yet, let your employees decide how to divvy up the pot. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how they spend the cash.
You can also give something back to your industry and your community. Help start a carpentry training program at the local high school. Contribute to Habitat for Humanity or Rebuilding Together. Build a playground at the elementary school. Ask your neighbors where help is needed most, then do what needs to be done.
A lot of what we do in this magazine is help you learn how to make money. I think we've earned the right to give advice on how to spend it.