SUVs on Mars


I guess we Americans just like our conspiracy theories more than facts and figures and critical thinking. We all believe, at least deep down in our hearts, that government can’t be trusted, that big business is intrinsically corrupt and dishonest, and that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

It seems that we should also include disdain for academics since they all seem to be beating whatever drum increases funding for their pet theories and suppositions. Read this article and especially note the comments it elicited.

I admit that I have no qualifications to predict climate changes over time. I can only look at the body of evidence in our past and assume that things that have happened before can and may well happen again.

Here in Atlanta, we have been told that the old seacoast of the United States was in Macon about 400 feet above our current sea level and several 100 miles inland from the current coastline. We have also been told that the Continental Shelf was at one time the coastline. Given that is about 400 feet lower than our current sea level, one might simply argue that the sea level on the planet varies plus or minus 400 feet over time … not a very comforting thought, but it certainly puts the current plus or minus “few inches” it may have changed in the past 100 years in perspective.

I guess it is just good business to scare people and get them to fund whatever hair-brained ideas smart people come up with that will change the course of nature.

Oh, maybe you are wondering why I titled this SUVs on Mars? It is because the small amount of average temperature increase here everyone is chirping about has also been seen on Mars. Maybe a secretive culture is alive and well there and destroying that planet as well … and of course, they are probably driving SUVs. I do think we take ourselves a bit too seriously at times.

When Educational Standards are no Longer Popular


With students headed back to school this month, our educational system is on my mind. A feature of Facebook I enjoy is that people you know send you links to things they think are funny and/or relevant to you and your world.

Here is a link that was sent to me of the Maroochydore High School in Queensland, Australia, where staff voted unanimously to record on their school telephone answering machine. This is the actual answering machine message for the school.

This came about because they implemented a policy requiring students and parents to be responsible for their children’s absences and missing homework. The school and teachers are being sued by parents who want their children’s failing grades changed to passing grades – even though those children were absent 15-30 times during the semester and did not complete enough school work to pass their classes.

Are we surprised that we are losing our influence? Do we have to dumb down our business to make it interesting to the masses? Or, is it time to change the message in our educational systems?

Not sure this issue will get into election politics … after all … who are politicians appealing to for votes?

No, I am not running for office … but I did approve this message.


Carbon Footprint?


A recent Wall Street Journal article on Lego’s quest to reduce their carbon footprint made me wonder whether we have not gone over the edge.

Read the article here and then consider my premise.

The idea here is certainly noble in seeming intent. After all, if your business consumes a non-renewable commodity, it seems reasonable to be concerned about that over time. And, when it is a large part of your business cost, worrying about how the price volatility in that commodity is certainly also an important business concern. Fair enough … I think we all agree.

But, to then think of this in your carbon footprint is a reach. These bricks do not emit carbon. They are essentially sequestered carbon. Thank you for making them so well that they will outlive our families. Carbon footprint was thought of about the emitted carbon dioxide. Yes, the manufacture of anything has a carbon footprint, but that is not what this article is about.

So, we need to correct editorial misrepresentations like this. Maybe this was the mistake of an editor at the Wall Street Journal who wanted to give credit to Lego for an environmental concern. Maybe this was the mistake of Lego to try to take environmental credit for something that really is mostly about business acumen.

In any event, it is an illustration of how we all are fed nonsense about what people are doing to supposedly help our environmental footprint when we are truly ignoring the more fundamental options.

The Value of Time

I will bet each of you at some point have Value of Timethought carefully about whether to take a non-stop flight or one with one or more connections. The reason we are willing to pay more for the direct flight is the value of our time. If we really don’t care how quickly we get there, we might even take a bus or a train. I drive whenever it is less than a 5-hour trip just because of the hassle of parking at the airport, putting up with lines, etc. I also just enjoy “being in control” of my world … perhaps a delusion, but I’m sure you get my point.

Well, there is a rapidly growing industry emerging of people and services that honor the value of your time. These go far beyond the concierge services we have gradually been made aware of. If you are following this trend with interest, you will really enjoy this recent Wall Street Journal article.

But, that got me thinking. If we really do value time, why are we so willing to squander it in corporate environments these days? It seems that everyone is in almost meaningless meetings all day long. It seems that not making a decision is deemed less costly than making one. I hear every senior officer in the utility industry seeking to encourage innovation in his or her management teams.

How can they expect that when they tolerate indecision … another way of simply wasting time?

We have all the time we are going to have. It is simply a matter of what we do with it. I guess I live by my father’s advice to me about making decisions: don’t make one unless and until you feel you are more likely to be right than to be wrong … and only look back on your decisions the same way … you are going to make some wrong ones … correct them and move on.

Another analogy I like to use comes from my fishing: If you don’t believe it, don’t cast it. And if you cast it, fish like you believe it.
Big decisions should take more time than little ones. Doing nothing is in fact making a decision … and often the wrong one.
Value your time. It is all the time you are going to have.

Overcoming the “Whatever” Response

whateverPerhaps you have heard someone respond with this word … it seems on the surface to be a bit trendy and perhaps cool to some, but it is truly disturbing when you get to the root of it. Wikipedia defines it this way:

Whatever is a slang term meaning “whatever you say” and “I don’t care what you say.” The term is used to dismiss a previous statement and express indifference and is usually considered offensive and impolite. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, the word became a sentence in its own right; in effect an interjection, it is used as a passive-aggressive conversational blocking tool, leaving the responder without a convincing retort. Anything they do or say can simply be blocked by the retort of “whatever.”

Anyone trained in sales skills knows that indifference is the worst condition to encounter … it essentially means that you have failed to achieve relevance in the situation. No one who thought you could help them in their situation would rightfully respond with “whatever.”

Yet, that seems to be where we are. The industry has become irrelevant to most customers. Sure, we are all over the 2-3% of energy consumers out there who eat up each and every idea and program we offer. Yes, we can make sense to the 10-15% of others who follow the issues and tend to be intellectually involved.

But, no, we have failed at reaching the masses. We are simply irrelevant to the average American. They only pay attention to energy when they can’t pay the bill and fear losing power for non-payment. To those who deal with this, they also know that it is the AC, cable, and refrigerator that matter. At these times, you are relevant for sure, but how do we truly image ourselves as relevant.

Perhaps we should take a lesson from an AT&T call center representative who called my wife, Susan, out of her concern that someone might have incorrectly billed phone calls to our account. She started the conversation with the statement that she was concerned that the most recent bill was much higher than normal … and perhaps something might be amiss. Susan said she hadn’t noticed the recent bill was higher … and the agent said … “No, you wouldn’t have noticed because it hasn’t been sent to you yet. I wanted to be sure it was correct before it went out because if you get this bill, which is so much higher than your previous bills, you will probably call to find out why, so I called you first.”

Needless to say, the call became highly relevant. Susan then explained that I had gone out on my own and was now operating my office out of our house and there were a lot of business calls. Those were the days when you were charged by the minute … you do remember that, right? The representative then offered a program designed to help me reduce costs for just that situation. Susan related to me later how impressed she was with AT&T after that experience, and it had the additional advantage of helping that account representative achieve her business plan sign-up goals.

Have you thought through your approach to customers following this idea? Do they see you as proactive and relevant? Do your online tools offer specific ideas that truly relate to your customer’s situation? Or, does your online presence simply get a “whatever” when customers experience it? Do you even have the feedback mechanism on your website or applications to know that you are getting this response? We do … and almost all of the feedback responses we get are thanks for providing information that is relevant to my home or business.