Taking No Chances

chefThere are almost no times that I really want to be or to act like a tourist, but recently I found myself in an area that caters to them. My hotel featured a “kitchen tour.” So, given I love to cook, I thought this might be a good diversion given I was there over the weekend. And, since they have to serve so many people with such varied tastes, I thought I might get some ideas for serving my friends when they visit and have the same characteristics.

The chief chef commented that the variations in the daily tasks were enormous given the natural freedoms of their guests to choose dining venues in the area and of course have many points of view about food choice. The day we visited, he knew rather accurately what the evening numbers would be, and based upon past similar evenings, he felt he had a good bead on the amount of fish and other highly perishable ingredients he needed to be sure he pleased all the diners.

As he led the tour group around the kitchen, he commented on how each area was organized and how the teams communicated. Obviously, there was nothing left to chance. Everyone knew their job and how their jobs interrelated. He showed how complex dishes were prepared and how even one unnecessary walking step was eliminated to reduce time.

What stunned me was his role in the evening meal. Every single dish that went out of the kitchen was inspected and he said he might add a garnish, decoration, or “flair” to the presentation that would make it memorable. No dish was allowed to leave the kitchen without him reviewing it … every single dish.

In this way, he could best coach anyone who had not been doing their jobs. He did not rely on supervisors to tell him what was going on.

Interesting model. And, it may be the reason that their revenues and profitability have improved year-on-year, and why this hotel is one of the most attractive and popular destinations for travelers with options for where they stay.

More Reasons to Fear Squirrels

Squirrel_2My recent blog about the tenacity and creativity of a squirrel in our backyard has evidently prompted others to post things about these critters. I have to thank Louise Mormon for posting this on her Facebook page. As she points out, many utility key account representatives kept dead squirrels in the trunk to use when managing customer outage complaints.

Read the Washington Post article regarding squirrels

This reminds me of a true story I was told by a key account rep with a New York State utility who attempted to stop these critters by building a fence around the transformer and then plating it with stainless steel so that the squirrels could not climb the sides. That part of the plan worked well, but as the key account rep was proclaiming success with his client, they all watched a family of squirrels come in via the high side electrical wires.
I can almost imagine the squirrel to squirrel conversation, which probably went a bit like this:

“Boy am I glad those utility dudes built this fine fence to keep snakes and other varmints out of here!”



I was cruising through my Facebook page to see if there was anything interesting and this picture of a squirrel caught my eye. Perhaps you have had the same experiences we have with these incredibly clever creatures.

When we first built our house 20 years ago, we thought it would be nice to attract more birds to our back yard with a bird feeder. Since squirrels are so numerous here, we also looked for a bird feeder that was “squirrel proof.” Back then, we couldn’t go online and read what others had experienced here so we used our own intuition.

The one we bought had all kinds of features that would ostensibly make it squirrel-proof, but apparently, no one told the squirrels who gleefully scampered up the pole. So, given the pole was metal, I applied to my chemical engineering and scientific background: grease the pole. That would certainly do it.

To our delight, we watched two squirrels try to climb the pole and fail for over an hour that day. Then, as we were sitting there on the deck, I noticed one of the squirrels had climbed the nearby tree, walked out on a very thin branch … and was hanging, triangulating directly above the bird feeder.

Perhaps also waiting for no breeze to ruin the attempt, the squirrel dropped a full 20 feet from that branch squarely on the top of the feeder … which rocked back and forth for almost a minute. Then, as if the character Rambo from an old Silvester Stallone movie, proceeded to empty the entire feeder onto the ground so that all the family and friends could enjoy the fruit of his labors.

So, what should we all learn here beyond the simple fact that there really is no such thing as a squirrel proof feeder? When you really want something, you have to think beyond the obvious and then take some real risks.


Squirrels seem especially good at this.

Hope your New Year is full of new ideas and the determination to put them into action.

EE and DR are Not the top Priorities

WSJ Architects

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal is a wakeup call to energy companies trying to be relevant to today’s home builders and new home buyers. I eagerly clicked on the link below to see if all the years of energy advice and program designs had left its mark.

Wall Street Journal Real Time Economics Blog

The list of architectural priorities is as follows:

1. Disaster-resistant designs
2. Healthy building materials
3. Smart-home automation
4. Designs catering to an aging population, and finally
5. Energy-efficient design

To make matters worse, the article content on this last one says “Homes that use less electricity and water have become increasingly trendy in recent years and architects expect that to continue, but it is still unclear whether the costs outweigh the benefits. Mr. Suter, the Connecticut architect, said he encourages clients not simply to think of energy efficiency in dollar terms but to think of unforeseen benefits, such as a wood stove that can be used in case of a power outage.”

I remember years ago when utilities focused on the A&E community emphasizing EE and DR agendas. Perhaps this is a reminder that programs like this might be hard to justify in any one year, but the lack of them can certainly place market barriers in place over time.

It seems like we may have to go back to some of the key account type programs in this area as well.