Monday, December 23, 2013

Driving the Future

Have you ever had that sensation of, “wow, this will change everything”?  Perhaps it was when you saw your first personal computer, or during the keynote where the iPhone was introduced.  Maybe it was when Apollo 11 made their triumphant landing on the moon.  As you know, it’s not a common feeling.  How often, really, is “everything changed”?

I was privileged to experience that emotion recently, and, if it’s ok with you, I’d like to bring you along on my journey.

Once upon a time…

...there was this device designed to move people and goods without the burden of horses or rail tracks.  When it was still called the horseless carriage, there was no “Big Three”, no dealerships, and surely no interstate highway system.  There were dozens of manufacturers striving for their stake in a field that saw potential to change the world.  Many names were lost to history, while a special few endure still today.  Does the name Karl Benz ring any bells?  1883.  What about David Buick?  1899.  Then there are the more commonly recognized, including Henry Ford in 1903 and Henry Royce alongside Charles Rolls in 1904.

And change the world they did.

Countless incremental improvements as well as radical new approaches make today’s automobiles as different from their ancestor horseless carriages as your newest smartphone to a wind-up Bell Telephone.

Engines to move the world.

In the twilight years of the 19th century, manufacturers were experimenting with a wide variety of energy sources.  Remember, there were no gas stations yet, because there had yet to be a demand.  Some of the original vehicles ran on peanut oil, while others were electric.  Of course, diesel found its unique applications and dominated the industrial power needs, both where steam was previously used, and in other areas sensitive to combustion (diesel will not combust unless under significant pressure).  Eventually, gasoline became the dominant energy source due to its low cost and growing infrastructure.

While alternative fuels remained a focus of study for the subsequent hundred years, from hydrogen fuel cells, biofuels, and full electric, it was the hybrid-electric design, where an electric motor was coupled with a smaller internal combustion engine to boost efficiency, that took hold in the market.  Think of the Prius.  It was an incredible incremental improvement over similar vehicles for fuel usage.

It took a rocket scientist...

Then a start-up company named Tesla Motors broke through the mold.  Founded by Elon Musk, a co-founder of Paypal (a service that “changed everything” for online payments), the company aimed to bring an all-electric car to the world.  Through a partnership with Lotus Motors, they created the Roadster, a test-bed sports car designed to introduce people to the thrill of electric driving.  The real work was being done, however, in the background.  At a former Toyota facility in Freemont, California, they designed and constructed the Model S, their first “from the ground up” vehicle.  Offering up to 300 miles range on a single charge, it redefined the landscape overnight.  Already, the vehicle has earned Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for 2013, making it the only manufacturer to win the award on their first year of release.  The Federal safety ratings are the highest of any vehicle, ever submitted, making it the safest car ever built.

This marvel of passion, design, and engineering is what I had the privilege to drive this past weekend.  The test drive was requested online, with a follow-up call from Tesla’s team in California received within 30 minutes to schedule for the following day.  Upon arriving, a team member offered to answer any questions I had and introduced me to the model in their small showroom (they only have one car).  From the suede headliner to the 17” touchscreen that controls all vehicle systems, it was an exercise in functional simplicity.  No switches, buttons, or knobs were to be found anywhere.  Place a Palm Treo alongside the original iPhone to visualize the beauty in what’s not there.

Once satisfied with the showroom model, she suggested we take a ride.  Conveniently, the vehicle she chose was the same color as my own, a sparkling gray.  As we walked up to the car, the door handles extended out of the doors.  Ok, that’s cool.  A gentle pull engages an electric latch which pops the door open towards you, but without resistance like a minivan’s sliding door.  Once you’re inside, it feels like home.  But I’m getting carried away.  There are lots of comfortable and high-tech cars.  But none that were conceived, designed, and built (in America) with the “engine” this has.

Start your,, high-performance inverters?

Time to start the car.  Press the brake, and…oh yeah, it’s electric.  So it’s already on.  Backing out of the parking space made me wonder if I forgot to turn it on, since it rolled noiselessly.  But then I switched it to drive and pressed the accelerator.  If it could engage the flux capacitor, I think it would have.  For anyone who has ever been in a centrifuge (most commonly Mission: Space in Epcot), that’s how accelerating feels.  No lag, no noise, and no vibration.  You’re simply pushed back in the seat and now rapidly approaching previously distant objects.  Let off the throttle and it works to recover as much of that sweet energy you just expended through regenerative braking.  This makes driving a balance on the throttle, with barely any use of the brake during normal activity.  On the road, it’s a surreal sensation.  You’re moving, but you don’t feel or hear it.  If you ever get worried the vehicle is no longer responding, a light tap on the throttle will teach you otherwise.  Just because your cars always made noise doesn’t mean this one will.  Yeah, the Model S dissed your car.  Sorry.  Otherwise, it has everything you’d expect of a luxury sports sedan.  Bluetooth, 3G, back-up camera, GPS…the works.

Apples and oranges.

My takeaway from this experience?  This company has, and will continue to, change the landscape of automobiles.  They came from essentially no where, and in the course of a few years, built what is now considered amongst the best cars ever constructed, and that’s in its initial release year!  But they have also revolutionized the selling of vehicles too.  Teslas are only sold at company stores, with no dealership system whatsoever.  Nor will they ever “do what it takes to get you in this car today.”  If you want (and can afford) this vehicle, you’ll let them know.

Many Tesla owners describe what has come to be known as the “Tesla Smile.”  It’s the look of sheer joy they get every time they’re in the car.  I know the feeling.  That smile hasn’t left my face yet.  This will change everything, and I’m thrilled about the prospect. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Life Lessons - Martial Arts: For Life

In my secret life, I am a martial arts student and instructor.  This was written by me for our karate school's newsletter this month.  The lessons apply both inside our dojo and in the rest of our lives.

What if I told you half of who your child will be in their life is already in place by the time they turn 5? And that over 90% of that belief system is further set by the time they can vote, at the age of 18? Sure, we expect that the ideas of gravity (“spoon goes down when I drop it and mom always picks it back up!”) or language to be well-understood by the age of two or three. But don't we all think, "that's ok, we have time to correct those other things as they grow up"?

Turns out, getting it right early on is quite important!

Martial arts provides an incredible framework for creating a can-do, polite, and selfless attitude your kids will carry through their entire lives. As a student who started at the age of 13, I can attest to the beneficial effects training has had on me both personally and professionally.

But how is it any different from organized sports, gymnastics, or even school itself? In the simplest terms...because it is so different.

When we enter and exit the dojo, we bow. Every time. Every one of us, from senior black belts to a white belt attending their first class. It serves an obvious purpose: A sign of respect for the place and equality with other students. But its other raison d'etre is more difficult to grasp: It pairs a physical action to a psychological development. "This is a special place where I respect others, and each time I bow, I'm reinforcing that behavior." The bow instills respect.

At every rank, pairs techniques are performed with a fellow student. One attacks while the other defends. In this fashion, pairs teaches patience, responsibility, and tolerance of others. This is my space, that is yours. We enter each other's space when we both agree on the terms. Pairs techniques instill boundaries.

You may have noticed a class of battling students. They are performing a unique style of combat known as sparring. In this, control and focus are essential. Unlike a brawl or street fight, sparring allows students to practice their techniques (and build their confidence) within a safe environment. Due to the incredible level of control exhibited by our students, injuries are rare. In fact, they're much more likely to hurt themselves from carrying their backpack! Sparring instills control.

Finally, everyone wants to present themselves at their best. Martial arts encourages that fully. Kata, or forms, allows students to look and feel like masters. It's my favorite activity in class, where detail, flow of motion, and individuality come together. We may all be doing the same moves in the same sequence, but how it's done is an expression of ourselves. Especially important in today's society where you're constantly told that you aren't, "tall enough, skinny enough, strong enough" or any other "enough", kata instills confidence in appearance.

Where else can a child (or adult) go and get a great workout, learn to protect themselves, build their self-confidence, gain control of their body and mind, all while showing respect for others and their boundaries?

I know where I'm going tonight.

Joseph Winn is a student and instructor at University Karate Center in Plantation, FL.  Visit their website at to learn more.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Was This Written On Your Downtime?

You're right.  I missed posting regularly.  Again.  For a pretty long time.  You know what would help? A full-time writer, social media, and online resources associate.  Who works for free.  Or maybe granola bars.

That's the trouble with small businesses...we are small!  So the same things that make us special (ability to quickly make decisions, take our customers under our wing, or have BBQs for holidays together) also add real difficulty in meeting expectations on the "ancillary" things.  Like blogs.

The best advice (that I should probably follow)?  Scheduling.  You always have some downtime.  Facebook?  Amazon?  I know you've been there.  Instead of passing the minutes looking at what your barely spoken-to acquaintances had for dinner last night, draft out a blog post, a few links for posting, or even just a topic list.

Breaks are an important part of the creative process, so why not make them productive as well?  Social media should be fun, informative, and really show the personal side of your business.  So let yourself go (in a professional way, of course) and enjoy putting some things down for later.  Then, when you want to do a post, check out what you've already written, make sure it fits your mission, goals, and has a positive message (and is suitably professional), then, post away!

How long did that take?

Probably faster than this one.  But fear not, I've taken just a bit of my own advice, and a new entry will be appearing shortly!

In the meantime, have a wonderful Labor Day weekend.  May the BBQs be ever cooking!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Make Your Systems As Honest As Your Team

Ok, ok, it has been a while since our last posting, but work and life got in the way (again).  A sincere apology if you have been eagerly expecting a new post; you may now breathe easy once more!

From my honest declaration comes the topic for today's post: Honesty.

Are you honest?  At home?  At work?  In your company's programs?

Ah, got you there on the last one.  How can company programs be honest?  If you deliver what you advertise, isn't that honest enough?

Obviously, your products and services should be truthful, but having policies and systems "act" honest is more difficult a concept.

Imagine this not-so-made-up scenario.  You have internet service that has been canceled, so, the final bill is inbound shortly.  Upon receipt, you find it is quite incorrect in its amount, so a call is in order to the customer care number.  After too many menus, recordings, and hold times (those are different topics altogether), a representative comes on the line to assist you with your problem.  The call goes great!  The representative notices the error, punches in some keys, explains how it is resolved, and that you should be seeing results shortly.  They even put a notation in your account so if you have to call again, someone else will see!

Honest.  Clean.  They made a mistake, unfortunately (which should never have happened), but they acted to resolve it without problem.

Fast-forward a month.  In the mail, you receive an envelope from the internet service provider.  Thinking it is the revised final bill, you open it, only to find it is actually a past-due notice with the unadjusted amount!  Another call, and the number you are told to call only works for accounts in another state.  Ok, you're transferred, more menus, more recordings, and finally…another representative!  They then explain that all is well, the account is notated properly (thanks previous representative!), but the system automatically sends out the notices no matter what.

Let me repeat that: The system sends out the notices…No.  Matter.  What.

You can have the greatest employees, most awesome products, and unparalleled reliability.  But the moment something goes wrong (it eventually will), your carefully-automated process exasperates the issue.

So the message?  Make your systems as honest as your team.  Take the time to ensure nothing is automatically sent to customers that may contradict what they have been promised.  Maintain a degree of control so you can intervene if necessary.

Automation is incredible.  Just keep it all in line with your company's values and goals.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fool's! - Selfish Sunday

This was posted as an April Fool's Day satirical article.  Obviously, we don't want you to be selfish, and definitely don't do it on a weekly basis.  Besides, being selfish every Sunday, just like everyone else, wouldn't be very selfish, now would it? ;-)

Here at GreenProfit Solutions, and especially at our Greater Good Alliance division, we understand what it means to give back. Whether it be through board member service, hunting down silent auction items to help raise money for an organization's annual gala, or putting physical effort into building a home for a family in need. We share the joys, the victories, and the smiles.

But you know what? It's really hard! I mean, seriously, can you expect someone to give back ALL the time? To be a good citizen of Earth without fail? If you can, great, but we need a break. So we have a solution...

Selfish Sunday!

For one day a week, stop bothering to think of all! That mother struggling to carry her groceries and son, AND open the door? Walk on by. The senior citizen just looking for a friend to share stories? Don't be tempted. The sea turtle laying its eggs on a busy beach? Kick the sand.

Doesn't that feel better? Who said the world doesn't revolve around you? No obligations, no guilt, and no commitment! The possibilities are endless. Want to finally live your is your chance, with no distractions from "those in need".

We are extremely excited to be premiering this new tradition on April 1st. New month, new you!

Just remember to get it all out of your system before Monday, because that would just be selfish.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Blogging Is Hard!

Look at the date on this entry. Now scroll down and see the next previous one. Count the days passed (and minutes, if you so desire). It's been a while, you're right! 

Somehow, the tasks of business and personal life overcome the semi-regular schedule for this blog. Which brings us to the topic of today's entry: Priorities. 

We all have them. Does family always come first, or do you find yourself in the office until the wee hours, slaving over that last project? Everyone has their reasons for doing things as they do, but I'd wager to bet almost none of us are as efficient as we can be. 

It's because, even if we have them, we aren't following our priorities. 

What's the most important thing for you to do this week? Watch a child's recital, complete a sales presentation, or maybe return the call of that journalist who wants to do a story on your business. Obviously, if these are all in your week, you'll want to get them done

But first, list out which are truly the most important. There's a reason your phone and computer calendars have a field for Priority. Make sure that, no matter what crises or opportunities arise, you make that recital. See those items which are Low or Medium priority? They can be tasked during more "high risk" times, perhaps when there's a good chance of distractions and delays. They'll get done, but can be pushed back if needed. But those High priorities? Only "low risk" things, if anything, can come near them.

So go fill out those priority fields in your calendar and never miss another soccer game again!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Your Holiday is Over, Get Back to Work!

Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanza, Saturnalia, and every other winter solstice celebration!

We hope you had a fantastic time with family, friends, and college bowl games. Don't you wish it could last longer? But now the year is back in full swing. 

And what a busy year it has shaped up to be. I don't know about you, but I've done more in the past 10 days than the last month, and that's not saying December was a sleeper, either! So we're all back from break, ready for action, and there's more to get done than ever before. 

How does that align with those great resolutions we all made while still under the stupor of eggnog, food comas, and cheap champagne? It would seem a reckoning is at hand. 

My suggestion? Simplify and organize. Sure, now you're really overwhelmed, but you're going to need to take a few moments and figure out what is truly important, then how to proceed to achieve your obligations and goals most effectively. Just like you have made your business operation more environmentally responsible and streamlined (you did, didn't you?), get yourself in line!

Here's how:
Cut the complexity and regain focus (It's tempting to want to tell the whole story of your latest project, but a quick summary gets the idea across better for the majority. If someone wants more information, they'll ask.).
Manage your time (Do your activities help your business, your family? If not, then it's time to reconsider.). 
Look inwards (What's most important? Is that getting your deserved attention?).

I know, they seem so oft-repeated and ridiculous, but they do work, for both yourself and business strategy.