Busy Bees

This is the time of the year to watch the birds and the bees.  I knew bees were important to our crops and our well being, but I never knew how little each bee contributes to all this:

In order to produce 1 pound of honey, 2 million flowers must be visited. A hive of bees must fly 55,000 miles to produce a pound of honey. One bee colony can produce 60 to 100 pounds of honey per year. An average worker bee makes only about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

Talk about feeling unimportant … it takes a dozen bees to make one teaspoon of honey for their entire lifetime?

Yet they work together, tirelessly, and are fully willing to give up their lives to defend the hive.

That is a society we can admire … or do we?  Why doesn’t the demise of bees get into the news?  We are losing our populations of bees and it is threatening our food supply … much faster than any consequences of global climate change which does always seem to get into the news!

Read it for yourself at of all places the NRDC: Click Here

And, now that I have your attention, and since many of you are worried about water, which is already threatening our well being … pay attention to what you eat: Read more here.

We are all busy these days … but as you will read, we can all make a huge difference by changing small behaviors in our daily lives.  What we do does matter.


IoT moves to IaaS

The hot topic lately has been the Internet of Things or IoT.  And, well it should be since we are moving into a connected world.  But, it seems to me that the words of the great hockey player Wayne Gretsky apply here.  You don’t skate to where the puck is to be great … you skate to where the puck is going!

Few would argue that the small letters “aa” are the key here.  Businesses, including ours, are building software applications that offer services instead of selling the applications directly.  This enables huge reductions in costs and permits fluid improvements that occur in the background of most people’s lives.

But, there are some new and perhaps unexpected twists in this evolution.  Take a look at the following:

  • SaaS Examples: Google Apps, Salesforce, Workday, Concur, Citrix GoToMeeting, Cisco WebEx.

If I gave you the acronym IaaS what would you think the “I” stood for?  Right now, it is infrastructure.

  • IaaS Examples: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Cisco Metapod, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine (GCE), Joyent.

That is where the puck is right now.  Where is it going?  I believe the “I” will very shortly stand for “Information.”  That is what our latest product for low income customers really achieves:  Information as a Service” to those who most need it and who now seldom receive it.

If you are interested, we have a webinar illustrating it.  Sign up here and see the future.


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 …