Materiality is a Matter of Perspective

After years of offering customers energy forecasts for the home, I have concluded that we are now prone to consider small numbers immaterial … they simply do not matter.  Why do I say this?  Our online analysis now forecasts your home’s daily energy use and costs into the future and you can see how the weather impacts it.  Customers now see that some days cost $3 or $4 while others cost $6 or even $10 or more.

“Well, Joel, $8 barely gets you a meal at McDonalds!”  OK, then why would you complain about an energy bill of $240 at the end of the month … it translates to just one meal at McDonalds every day!  So … the challenge here is to show how small differences a customer can make each day become materially important by the time the bill shows up.

Income challenged customers complain that they can’t pay $100 at the end of the month, but they could and would pay $25 a week.  Is this simply a matter of discipline?  No, it is a matter of perspective.  Pennies a day add up to dollars per week and several dollars per month.

Sales professionals have long used this principle to make differences in cost seem less important.  Perhaps it is time to turn this around and emphasize how small differences each day make a difference.  Just be sure to pick the right small differences: like closing the blinds on hot summer days, or to opening the windows at the right times of the day to take advantage of free cooling.

PS: That is precisely what we do in our energy forecasting tool:  We offer a virtual thermostat that people can adjust to see how much just a degree or two can save them each week!


Steve Jobs Did Invent the iPhone!

(David Paul Morris / Getty Images)

I am getting tired of the seemingly widespread disdain for leadership and its critical influence.  Our prior president claimed that we at Apogee did not “build that” … i.e. the company.  Give me a break.  Do you want to see the scars?  Do you want a  list of impediments to us “building that” that the government itself set up including interviewing us about how to build a residential calculator and then funding LBL to build a competitor to ours!

Our company would not exist … plain and simple … without the leadership of myself and my lovely wife Susan.  No ethereal forces made our employees do what needed to be done.  They had to be led!  And, without leadership, the teams settle in on mediocrity … oops … Joel, now your “medlin’ where you shouldn’t.

My LinkedIn account attempts to offered proof that Jobs and others were not responsible for today’s great products.  You can read it for yourself and judge. Click here.

Jobs was a fanatic about the user experience … probably THE biggest fanatic the electronics industry has ever had.  That influence at Apple is now clearly gone.  Now it is once again the business of incremental value engineering at work that tries to squeeze a bit of that into or out of a given product.  They are no longer creating products.

The iPhone changed our lives … it was not a better mousetrap.  Rest in peace Steve.  Your reputation and life’s work are still good with me.



What on earth are you talking about now Joel?  Is this the latest mass storage device concepts?  Or, are you referring to the trends with autonomous vehicles?  No … not at all.

I am referring to that energy that we used to admire in people … which now seems totally out of style.  Blend has replaced drive as the expected behavior… don’t make waves … just blend in and be a cordial part of the team, please.

Hog wash!  Drive is what characterizes the leaders of change and they simply do not take no for an answer.

Let me illustrate this with a critter we have encountered in our back yard that evidences true drive:  a racoon.

We have several bird feeders that we have noticed are being emptied overnight.  The critter left us a present on our deck that gave itself away.  That present is called scat … in this case it was racoon droppings.

We just weren’t sure though … I set the feeders on a skinny wire that I was certain the racoon could not climb down.  I was right, the racoon didn’t … it swung the bird feeder so that it could grab it and then emptied it.  I figured that out by buying a game camera so I could see precisely what the little devil was doing.

Here is a shot it took:

Technology enabled me to see just how much drive this racoon had … and told me precisely when it was doing its thing.  Tonight, we plan to put the camera in another spot to figure out what is taking a 20-pound bird feeder down from its protected perch that was designed to be racoon proof … we will see.

But, for the moment, I want to focus on the word drive.  Clearly this racoon is driven to find food and will not give up.  One of the video clips shows it hanging from a nearby tree limb by its rear feet and swinging to get the feeder.

My point with this is that we in the utility industry put out our bird feeders hoping to attract the right customers and do not assume critters will steal the bait.  The latest stupidity here is outsourcing programs to contractors and thinking they will do the right thing.  Nope … they will be driven for sure, just like the racoon … but not necessarily to do the right thing.  We must recognize drive when we see it and then wonder seriously why we can’t see drive in our own organizations.

More as we figure out what on earth a racoon is doing to take a 20-pound bird feeder off a 6-foot-high stand in the middle of nowhere …



Juiced Balls

Well, I am not a big sports fan, so who am I to weigh in on this one, but it

Image Courtesy USA Today

certainly seems the geeks of the world are sitting on their hands.

It appears that the game of baseball has changed but no one wants to investigate why.  Perhaps because the results are that the game of baseball has become more exciting to the fans?  More players are hitting home runs and rookies are scoring like pros.  Could it be that the ball has changed?

It certainly seems so: Watch the video on USA Today.

It is not rocket science to me.  When my daughter was playing softball, she asked me to join her at batting practice.  We went to one of those ball pitching machines and she practiced while I watched.  When she was done, she asked me to try … so what dad wouldn’t comply.  She set the ball machine to pretty slow pitches and I hit a few …

Then, for yucks she brought me over to the hard ball cage and let me try that.  I never saw the ball!  I just heard it hit the wall behind me.

Back on track though, it would seem to me that you could do some very quick testing here to know how balls break now vs. before.  This is not rocket science?  I use a ball machine to help my tennis game … hopeless as that may be.

Perhaps the game is afraid to really know because they like what they see in the stands … more fans.



Creating Demand

Celebrating Fathers Day this month made me think.  What is wrong with creating a holiday to celebrate fathers? And, was it created by the greeting card people … which, frankly, is what I thought.

There are two stories of when the first Father’s Day was celebrated. According to some accounts, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Washington state on June 19, 1910. A woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd came up with the idea of honoring and celebrating her father while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at church in 1909. She felt as though mothers were getting all the acclaim while fathers were equally deserving of a day of praise (She would probably be displeased that Mother’s Day still gets the lion’s share of attention).

The other story of the first Father’s Day in America happened all the way on the other side of the country in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton suggested to the minister of the local Methodist church that they hold services to celebrate fathers after a deadly mine explosion killed 361 men.

While Father’s Day was celebrated locally in several communities across the country, unofficial support to make the celebration a national holiday began almost immediately. William Jennings Bryant was one of its staunchest proponents. In 1924, President Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge recommended that Father’s Day become a national holiday. But no official action was taken.

In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson, through an executive order, designated the third Sunday in June as the official day to celebrate Father’s Day. However, it wasn’t until 1972, during the Nixon administration, that Father’s Day was officially recognized as a national holiday.

So, why did I think it was the greeting card companies?  The reason of course is because it would make sense for them to create a holiday and then cards to celebrate it.  Is that wrong?  Not really.  Unless you are in the energy business in most areas of the US.  It has been illegal for utilities to promote the use of their products.  The historical logic for this may have made sense when it seemed obvious that promotion was raising prices as more and more generating plants were being needed.  But, now that situation seems a distant memory.

So, is it time to think differently?  After all, it is entirely possible now that promotion might lower prices for all customers.  Who would have predicted that?  Go figure!