K. Before you read this column, give me 25 pushups. Then we can proceed.

While this column generally addresses business issues related to wholesale distributors, several elements have coalesced recently that have me thinking about the most important aspect of any business: the health of owners, managers and employees. You probably at some point think about this but find yourself immersed in the “hard” skills of running your business, like turns, pricing and inventory. Personal health touches on those soft skills or issues that we usually ignore. If you have no complaints, don't worry about it.

It's possible that an upcoming physical and an entire week's series by ABC television focusing on health by highlighting the book, The End of Illness, by Dr. David Agus, has drawn my attention to this issue.

Let me begin with a simple lesson. I know the president of a billion-dollar company who as a vice president would go to the Cleveland Clinic, a truly world-class medical institution, en masse with the entire management staff, for an annual physical. A few years back, the president of the company discovered, if I remember correctly, that he had prostate cancer. I'm sure with the Clinic's care, he'll be fine. But I believe the discovery led to an earlier and smoother transition than if an emergency power shift had occurred.

I mention timing because who among us doesn't make some commitment to improve our health or getting back on track with some physical fitness program each year? Now that it's February, ask yourself: Have you made any changes? After all, the media constantly tell us that healthier people live longer, live better and are more productive and probably happier. The problem is that unless we have a problem, we take our health for granted until we can't ignore it.

The amount of information about health and the workplace is overwhelming. Allow me to make a few suggestions that might nudge you in the right direction. I never forgot what a doctor once told me: “It's amazing how even a small change in your lifestyle can have a significant, positive impact on your health.” And dismiss the thought that offering help or suggestions to your management team or employees is off-base, and that it's their personal decision. They spend a third of their waking hours with you during the work week. How they act, feel and perform have a direct effect on themselves and the company.

You might want to consider:

Annual physical

I recall a short time back, the media hype about a study that questioned the value of an annual physical. Probably the dumbest thing I've heard in years. I've known too many people who might not be here today had it NOT been the discovery of a potential life-threatening illness during a ROUTINE exam. I always considered the billion-dollar company's approach ideal. Your size and revenue might be less, but isn't your management staff worth at least a billion dollars in emotional value?

Check with your health provider

Talk to a health care provider because it might actually lead to lower costs if you make changes in the workplace, such as exercise equipment or some form of health-related counseling. I'm not suggesting a gym, but a small workout section, a walking area and removal of snack foods that have no nutritional value could be contenders. You might save money and have healthier employees.

Bring in an expert

For a very modest fee, I'm sure you can hire a health consultant who specializes in health, nutrition and fitness in the workplace. If you have a total of five employees, this might be over kill because common sense prevails. But I'm astounded that we'll drop $400 on a meal but refrain from spending that amount for a few hours of counsel from an expert.

Ask the employees

I've spoken to enough wholesalers who either own or manage distributorships over the years, and I've always had a sense that the better-run operations communicate rather well with their employees. (No surprise at that assessment.) Whenever you have your next meeting, just ASK what they would like. If you have faith in your employees, they will be the best source of what's the next step and the ultimate gauge of what works.

Your role?

Well, if you're the owner or manager, it's leadership by example, isn't it? You can't be the heart surgeon who (in the past at least) was puffing away on a cigarette while he told a patient to quit smoking or it would kill him. You're the coach and the team cheerleader. If you take up the banner of better health in 2012 and promote it with a vigorous, constant and enthusiastic approach, those small changes actually might make a difference for your team and for you, too.

HVACR Distribution Business welcomes letters to the editor. Please send correspondence to: Tom Periˊ, Editor 2040 Fairfax Avenue Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 856/874-0049 or email tsperic@penton.com.