The LiveSTRONG Reminder

Synopsis:

I have had my LiveSTRONG braclet on my wrist for about seven years; ever since my grandmother passed from Cancer. Sure I purchased it in memory of my grandmother, but the bracelet and the memory of my grandmother (one of the most powerful and competitive women I have ever known) remind me to live every day to the fullest. I encourage you to create similar reminders for yourself such as notes in your wallet or goals on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself constantly of the things you want to accomplish in life, the virtues, morals and standards you want to uphold, and the person you want to be every day. I encourage you to create a token or a reminder for yourself to keep your goals in the front of your mind.

My Video Rant: The Ivy-League Stigma

Video Synopsis

When I tell people that I graduated from Cornell University, there tends to be a certain stigma associated with going to this ivy-league school and I want to clear up some misconceptions of the stereotypes that are made of me. I was not a National Merit Scholar, I was not lucky, I did not have an inside connection there, nor did I come from a rich family: I simply had (and have) determination. It took two rejections before I was finally accepted to Cornell and even then my first semester I received the worst grades I ever had in my life earning a 1.53 GPA with my first ever C, D, and F course grades all in one term. I took winter and summer courses throughout the following three years to make sure that I graduated in 4 years total after only receiving 26 of 42 transfer credits from Washington State and receiving unacceptable grades for graduation in my first semester at Cornell. Graduating from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York has been one of the greatest accomplishments of my life and is a firm example of my determination, not the result of coming from a big money nor influential family. Thanks for listening to my rant ūüôā

In a World of Encrypted Search Terms

Once upon a time there was a world of perfect web information when you knew where you visitors came from, what they were looking for, what they found, how long they stayed, and where/why they left. ¬†I don’t know about you, but more than 30% of my web visits these days come from “encrypted search terms.” From WordPress Jetpack to Google Analytics I see “(not provided)”, “encrypted search term”, “unknown search term”, or “other search term” every day in my keyword referrals.

Where is this going as more an more people opt to select “do not track”? Will our information as content creators, web designers and curators be incorrect? If I do not know which of my content is most effective, how will I deliver what is most valuable? What happens when and if privacy concerns get to the point of website users not wanting website owners to even know when and if they access content?

Completely anonymous browsing would lead to imperfect websites, where in order to find out what works and what doesn’t, you would have to go back to focus groups and test sample markets; supremely slow adaptation is what this reads. No longer could the web be dynamic, custom tailored, or quick to change in meeting our every whimsical desire. No longer would the try and fail quickly, iteration, least viable business model approach work. Will that happen, likely not.

Sure many people will stick to their privatest ways, hiding in the dark shadows of the web, creeping on websites and hiding browsing data with the fear the Uncle Sam is watching my every move. The derived right to privacy seems fundamental to our US culture, but technology and the web has dipped dramatically in the favor of public good and connectivity. Have you ever asked how Google gets its live traffic information on Google Maps? I looked the other day to find that when Andriod users are opted into location tracking (to show where they are on the map, identify close restaurants, directions, etc) they are also agreeing to share their location constantly with Google. When Google see’s a bunch of Android cell phones slowing down at the same time, it knows there is likely traffic their. Crazy hunh?

In my opinion this is all great stuff that truly does you little if no harm, but I am sure that if everyone knew that, it could turn into a big privacy uproar eventually leading to Google needing a more costly, non crowd-sourced way, of identify traffic delays. To me what all of these privacy questions will lead to is a need for more good-ol-fashion statistics. No longer will you know the entire base of your population, but you will have to derive a population mean from your sample with a determined confidence requirement.

Perhaps someone will read this as a substantial business opportunity for the future (which will likely be captured, created at, purchased by, or merged into Google, Apple et. al. eventually) is web statistics simply integrated in graphic form with web analytics. I think most people’s eyes glaze over at the first mention of statistics, standard deviations, and confidence intervals, but to me that is the opportunity shinning its head. Will some people ride the privacy crazy train, yes; lets just hope not too many. All that can be told is that future will definitely unfold new needs for solutions (new opportunities) in a world of encrypted search terms.

How Do I Pick a Solar Installer? 10 Questions to Ask a Solar Installer

For disclosure and so you know where I am coming from: I am a Civil Engineer by training, spent two years managing a renewable energy installation company in Northern Nevada, followed by a general contractor focusing on green building and energy efficiency. I have since moved on to become a program manager the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization, a 510(c)3 nonprofit organization. Alright, lets get to it:

First thing is first, don’t even consider installing Solar until you have made your home or business more energy efficient (see my post from last week about how to do this yourself). Energy efficiency is often the lowest hanging fruit with the quickest bang for your buck, and every dollar you save is a many more dollars you don’t have to spend on Solar. While they often cost a few hundred bucks, you can also consider a home (or business) energy audit to expose your areas of greatest concern; that lowest hanging fruit.

The most important thing today when considering installing solar is to be an informed customer. I have seen too many people of the past five years be taken advantage of by shysters in the industry looking to make a quick buck on the uninformed with hard sales tactics and brutal lies. I have found from firsthand experience that if your installer is straightforward and honest, the sales cycles is often about 6 months. These means from a customer perspective from the first time you talk to someone about solar, until the time you feel comfortable about going forward with it can be six months. Solar has become a full technology industry and installing a system is a sizable investment for anyone requiring an objective financial decision as well as the emotional desire to do so.

When selecting your solar installer, make sure you get at least three estimates. Here are the most important due diligence questions to ask before you make a final decision…

Dan’s “10 Questions to Ask Your Solar Installer”:

  1. Are you licensed, bonded, and insured as an electrician or solar installer in the state?
  2. Are your installers locally licensed if required (such as Nevada OSHA PV License in Nevada)?
  3. Are you NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) PV Installer certified?
  4. What size systems can I actually fit on my roof?
  5. What brands of solar modules and inverters will you be using on my system? What are their warranties (expect 10+ year inverter warranties and 25-30 year power performance guarantees of 80%+ on the modules as well as a 2-year workmanship warranty)?
  6. Can you show me some systems that will be similar to mine that you have installed before?
  7. Do you finance solar projects or offer a solar lease? Can you get my payments less than my current monthly electricity costs? If not, what are my upfront costs and what does my return cash-flow look like?
  8. Is my roof in good enough shape to last for the life of the solar system (25-30 years+)? Do I need to re-roof beforehand?
  9. Will you help me understand and secure rebates & tax incentives? Can you help me finance or roll these cost savings into my financing package from day one (so that I don’t have to pay anything more out of pocket upfront)?
  10. What are my additional expenses over the life of the system? Will I need to replace the inverter(s) in 7-10 years? Do you cover that?

If you are looking to dig into this a little more, the National Renewable Energy Labs have some good consumer resources:

While I am no longer managing a solar installation company, if I can be of any assistance in helping you make a decision I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, via a comment below. Thanks! – Dan

Video Post: Get the Funk Out


Rough Transcript

This video is about getting yourself out of a rut. This video is not for everyone, but for some there are times in life when it feels like you’re just going through the motions, going to the same job via the same rout, running the rat-race, sitting in the same cubicle and “farting in the same chair,” as some might say. There can be times when life loses that excitement and you don’t know how to¬†reinvigorate yourself. You see people around your doing great things with their life, accomplishing things that feel beyond your grasp. You may not know how to push through.

Well the answer is baby steps. Start by doing a little something to make the mind think today. Throw a curveball into your life. Go somewhere different. Shop at a new grocery store, take a different route home. Change it up.

Taking those little baby steps will serendipitously begin to turbo charge the mind. You might stir up old memories, rediscover a passion, meet a new special person, who knows.   Take some time, do a little bit of urban exploring. Make some time. I am sure that will help get you out of your funk. Happiness is a choice; make the choice to push yourself in the right direction and you will be surprised at how much more you are capable of.

Home Energy Efficiency Hacks

For disclosure and so you know where I am coming from: I am a Civil Engineer by training, spent two years managing a renewable energy installation company in Northern Nevada, followed by a general contractor focusing on green building and energy efficiency. I have since moved on to become a program manager the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization, a 510(c)3 nonprofit organization. Alright, lets get to it:

First thing is first;

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
РBenjamin Franklin 

I know it’s not sexy, but ever dollar saved in efficiency (insulation, better appliances, and HVAC) is a dollar that you don’t have to spend on renewable energy, and efficiency is generally a lot cheaper. There are plenty of companies out there doing energy audits, personally I don’t like have people¬†rummage¬†through my place for a few hours and they will likely tell you exactly what I will site-unseen:

  • 60%+ of all utility bills for a house go toward heating and cooling.
  • Get a NEST Learning Thermostat (I got one in February 2012 and it definitely saved $30 in energy bills in the first month). It has a barometric pressure sensor, motion sensor, light sensor, and temperature sensor (and works with your iPhone – my fian√©e loves to turn it on from bed in the morning ūüôā ). I am in now way affiliated with NEST, but this thing is awesome, is detects when you are home and away and you can turn on your cooling on your way home. For $250 I think it is worth it.
  • You are wasting 50% of your heating (or cooling) to the outside and your house has the equivalent of a ¬†24″ x 24″ hole of leakage that should be sealed off and gaps calked (you might be able to do this)
  • Many of your ducts are detached, kinked or¬†improperly¬†taped off (If you can use duct tape, you can do this)
  • Your forced air system doesn’t evenly distribute air through your house (hopefully you made this a little better with the kinks)
  • A little extra insulation in your roof wouldn’t hurt
  • You should probably insulate your foundation stem walls in your crawl-space under your house
  • Most of the pipes running through your house on the exterior have too much free space around them
  • If you want to take things a little further, go get a point-and-shoot infrared thermometer at Home Depot or Lowes for $30 and check out all the hot spots (or cold) on a hot (or cold) day. Hint: check out the temperature difference between your external walls near your windows, electrical sockets, and switches as compared to your internal walls. Also look at your surface roof and floor temperatures room by room if you feel like it.

If you got your mortgage through FHA, there is something called an Energy Efficient Mortgage through which you could finance all of the work above and save money every month (you can even refinance to make this happen in many cases and mortgage brokers definitely wouldn’t hate helping you do this right now).

If you are really keen on hiring someone to do an audit make sure:

  • They are HERS Rating¬†or¬†BPI¬†Certified
  • Get some references and ask around about them first
  • Find out they will do other than a blower door test
  • Find out if they are tied to / feed leads to a contractor
  • Make sure they will provide recommendations above an beyond a report that is darn-near impossible to¬†decipher
  • If they don’t crawl under your house or in your attic they aren’t worth a darn
  • Get two other quotes
  • Compare prices based upon per square foot &¬†deliverables¬†provided

I will publish a post next week about how to choose a solar PV installer. Stay tuned: you are welcome to connect with me on Twitter @DanHerr or LinkedIn.com/in/danielherr.

My First Video Post: Creating a Job For Yourself After College

Rough Transcript from my Video:

Today’s video is geared toward recent college graduates or graduates to be,¬†whether you’re a senior, or working on your masters or even a PhD. There comes a time in life when you have to enter that scary realm of going out into the “real world” and getting a job.

First and foremost understand that you are not going to walk out of college and get a management job; its not going to happen regardless of the degree you get. I made the same mistake thinking I would walk out of college and be a Vice President, Director, or Manager. I’m know I’m not the only one that has thought this way; many people walk out of college thinking they are going to have a high-paying ($60,000 – $100,000 per year job) with management experience. Be realistic, it is not going to happen.

Secondly be persistent and determined at whatever it is that you truly want to do. Sending out your r√©sum√© through the Career Navigators and Monster.com’s of the world doesn’t work anymore; times have changed. I encourage you to adopt an inbound marketing or guerrilla marketing¬†approach to getting the job, creating the job that you truly want. There are ways to create a position for yourself in organizations and industries that you are interested in. Be persistent and truthful about where you really want to go with everyone that you speak with. Most hiring managers today will only glance over a r√©sum√© that ends up on their desk without the context of conversation or a relationship connection behind it.

Thirdly,¬†no one is interested in hiring someone who waffles about what they are interested in and throws their resume in every pile hoping for a job. [On a side note, if this is the case, perhaps you need some perspective by getting outside of everything that you are familiar with – read “go travel outside the country”]. If you are determined to work in the companies and the industry of your interest it can happen, but it takes hard work, lots of networking and relationship building.

Networking isn’t just showing up at a mixer [especially if you only talk ¬†with people that you already know]. You need to meet the people in and around that organization or company that you are interested in. Start to develop those relationships [meet people for coffee, lunch, a drink, or a round of golf if you have time]. [If you don’t know where to start, or what people at this organization do outside of work, simply ask; ask them if they have few minutes to get together with you to tell you more about their company… people love to talk about themselves, but you have to be willing to listen]. Every time an opportunity presents itself (as is naturally the case when asking people about themselves), be straightforward about what you are true interests, what your goals are, and where you would like to be.

Coming from an engineering and mathematical background I always thought it was about getting the best grades, doing the best that you could at your assignments, and that putting together the best resume was what would get me the job. [In doing that with limited experience, you tend to stretch the truth because you need “x-years of experience” to get the job, but you need the job to get the experience]. ¬†Today it is not about the r√©sum√© landing on their desk; many hiring managers today actively pursue candidates instead of the wasting time posting an ad or a listing. Many will even pre-qualify applicants by, for instance, doing a simple boolean search in Google (i.e. “site:linkedin.com inurl:in Reno Nevada Solar MegaWatt Project Manager” to find a Solar Project Manager in the Reno area on LinkedIn who has experience with MegaWatt-scale systems). ¬†But¬†most hiring managers do not even make it that far; they start by asking through their network of colleagues, friends and family to see who they might know that could be a good fit for their company, for a potential opening, before it is ever posted (in fact it never will be posted).

Even before there is a “Job Description,” many managers are looking for the right people for their team. You need to show them that you are the right people. Perhaps they don’t have the capacity to hire you right now, but if you are determined to work with that company or in that industry, don’t stop turning over new leaves, meeting new people in and around that organization. Create opportunity for yourself.

Be Persistent.

Please let me know if I can help you in any way. I would love to connect with you @DanHerr on Twitter or LinkedIn.com/DanielHerr

Even Reno Landscape Companies Kill it with Social Media Marketing!

“We sold $150,000 in one day though, can you believe that?”
– Small-time Reno Landscape Guy

Social Media Marketing isn’t just for the chic & trendy businesses anymore. This morning I must have walked in on good ‘ol boys landscaping industry meeting at Starbucks. Okay it was definitely nothing official but four guys from different landscaping companies were definitely having coffee together this morning… Collusion in Landscaping perhaps?

I didn’t catch where the others were from, but one of the company tee-shirts was clearly legible (but will remain nameless here) Anyway, I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation about what works and what doesn’t in advertising and marketing today.

They started off my talking about the fresh orange teeshirt the guy with the long pony-tail in his 50’s was obviously proud of. The young guy of the four chimed in about the cost of having one of those billboards up in Verdi on I-80 and how bummed he was that some backyard waterfall company landscape company that he didn’t care for was using one.

Finally the biggest and oldest started talking about the Anniversary Sale he had recently posted on Facebook. He said, “We sold $150,000 in one day though, can you believe that? People just started sharing our ‘45% off everything’ post that we put up on Wednesday and you know it went viral.” The pissing contest continued. “Everything didn’t go perfectly, but we learned a thing or two in the process.” He said, “Well I’ve been getting all those calls from Groupon and LivingSocial the past couple months, but then we figured out that we could do the same sort of deal ourselves.” And in the process not give away 75% of the farm!”

Who knew? Landscaping businesses making big money with Social Media Marketing?! You got it. He was not at the table this morning, but if you want a great example of a Lawn and Landscaping Business in Reno that is doing all the right things in Social Media, look no further than Cory’s Lawn Service:

coryslawnservice.com/

Are MBA’s a Waste of Time for Engineers?

I know the feeling, wanting to get out of the¬†monotonous¬†routine, get out from the cubicle, and get away from your boring boss that has been working for the firm for 30 years. I’ve been there and I am seeing more and more that many engineers get that same itch. That need to use the other half of your brain, to engage that creative nature that has been suppressed. The desire to act on a vision, build with your hands, mix it up, do what feels natural and control your own destiny.

Right now you feel like:

Here is your problem,
here is your paycheck,
now go solve it monkey.

… but you have so much more potential.¬†About 35% of the students in my MBA program that did engineering for their undergrad and are now looking to follow their true passion (which may not have been socially acceptable in their mind to their family when they were younger) to be an entrepreneur.¬†It is only natural to ask if getting the MBA is the right bridge to connect your future:

  • My good buddy Pat began working in Silicon Valley with his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering as a Sales Engineer for the company that makes processor testing equipment. Within five years he had the have that change, left his job, sold all of his possessions and went to Alaska for a year.
  • My buddy Mike designed radio antennas on vehicles in the Midwest for years before ditching it all to come out to Lake Tahoe and become a message therapist.
  • I worked for HDR Engineering, and Domenichelli & Associates on Wastewater Treatment, Reservoir Design, Hydrology and Hydraulics; today I am working on business plans for independent movie theaters, adventure voluntourism projects, local business investment funds, and most¬†importantly¬†a new type of entrepreneurship competition.

But is the MBA the answer? Or is it just another, “do what you’re told, and I’ll give you what you want,” in this case a passing grade. I have serious concern for those engineering undergrads who want to become entrepreneurs because doing what you’re told is not an entrepreneur.¬†Many important business tenets (that you may not experience otherwise) can definitely be learned through and MBA (such as time value of money, basic accounting, and how to work effectively in teams to accomplish a goal) but much of the same must be learned when you’re in the fire of a startup business.

I would argue that you are no more ready to be an entrepreneur as an engineer with and MBA than you were as an engineer without an MBA.

First thing’s first… If you’re serious about being an entrepreneur, stop making excuses and in the words of an awesome blog I just read by @RubyBuddha:

I hereby grant you the permission to start doing whatever you need to do
to be the person you claim you want to be.”

Thank you for reading my blog¬†‚Äď Daniel S. Herr.
I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @DanHerr
Or follow to my blog 

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