I'm so excited to share this with the community: commonground has a new logo!
In case you missed my post a few weeks ago, commonground is about to get a makeover. As part of this process, we decided commonground need a new logo. Mike Kulka recently posted a great blog on logos. If you've considered updating your company's branding, definitely give it a read.
1. We never actually used a graphic designer to create the one we have now.
2. We got the feeling that our membership and core values as a community clashed a bit with our current theme, especially the weoples.
3. We wanted a logo that communicated our community's story.
So, without further adieu....
Here are the top three reasons I love it.
1. It's social.
2. It clearly conveys what commonground is all about.
3. Instead of the doom & gloom our industry is often associated with, it is bright and almost cheerful.
We put a lot of thought into the process, including advice from our commonground executive commity.
You can expect to start seeing the new logo in use on the site along with new, cleaner background art over the next few weeks.
What do you think?
Over the last several years the industry has grappled with how to deal with vapor contamination on and around properties. Vapor intrusion—and then vapor encroachment—have increasingly played a role in Phase I ESAs as ASTM developed standards to guide screening for vapor conditions.
Regulations and standards that deal with what happens from screening, through analysis and finally the cleanup and closure of sites impacted by vapor contamination are currently under review. Here is a quick review on what's been happening at ASTM, EPA and one state.
Our member poll this week asks you how you think vapor encroachment should be dealt with during a Phase I ESA. Early results show that two-thirds of respondents think vapors should be considered as part of the Phase I. What do you think?
What’s happening in your state? Are you seeing changes to your guidance? What impacts will these changes have on the industry?
It's award season: the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, the Super Bowl this weekend and the Oscars a few weeks after that. Whether you are more the type to tune into media day in Indianopolis or E!'s coverage of the best and worst dressed, there is a common theme: a lot of thought goes into the impression being made by the stars of these shows.
Here in New England, people are buzzing about Rob Gronkowski's press conference yesterday, mostly because it seems like coach Bill definitely had a hand in his preperation. (Not that this is a huge surprise.) But, when it comes to big competitions like these, appearances are critical to psyching out the competition (in the case of the superbowl) or furthering the personal brand of prestige (in the case of the Oscars).
Well, commonground has something in common with the Great Gronk and Viola Davis this year. We learned a few weeks ago that we are being awarded the Environmental Business Journal's Industry Leadership Award! And, we are up for the SIIA CODiE Award in the coming weeks. Last year, we were finalists for the CODiE and lost to Salesforce.com. It was a tough blow--the CODiE is probably the most prestigious award for business software and digital content. But as they say "it is an honor just to be nominated" and "it was a heck of a season!"
In preparation for our big honors, commonground is going to get a bit of a make over, too. Over the past few weeks, we have been working with graphic designers and online community experts to rework the look and flow on commonground. I realized how important this process is to our community when I got an email from one of our loyal members, MattFox, who told me he never saw the notes about our Holiday Hilarity contest. That's a problem! I thought it was everywhere, but Matt has put together his own little shortcuts for navigating around the site because the default homepage hasn't been cutting it for him and he never saw the links to the contest.
This is all going to change. Here is what you can expect:
Over the years, commonground has outgrown the current theme and layout. We have so much more content, many more members and increased functionality on the site and the new commonground will make sure all of this is within better reach. There will also be much more focus on you, the community.
What improvements do you want to see? What is most important to you as we go through this process?
I think the new navigation and theme on the site are sure to elevate the commonground brand and bring it to a place the better-reflects the quality of content and membership we have on the site. Hopefully this will serve us as we head into the CODiE Award process!
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Oh, and go Pats!
Last week we resurrected the weekly poll to start gauging the community on business, political, regulatory and some just-for-fun topics. Our first questions was about the current revisions to the ASTM E1527-05 standard. Below are the results.
While most of the community was aware that the standard was currently being revised, it looks like there are a lot of questions about what could be changing.
Some of you may be asking: why is this standard being revised when EPA has already required it in a Federal rule? According to ASTM policy, standards must be updated or reapproved as-is by the members of the committee every 8 years or they sunset and become unusable. Since the task group had to go through the voting process anyway, they decided to make some clarifications that wouldn't impact EPA's requirement that the standard is "at least as stringent" as the AAI Rule.
I sit on the ASTM E50 committee and have tried to take part in as many of the task group meetings and calls that have been happening over the past few years as the E1527 task group debates what-if anything- should change.
Here is a list of the topics that have received the most attention and will likely change a big in 2012.
Did I miss any? Now this list is just what is being brought to the table, and I don't expect all of the components are going to change in the version of the standard that will go to ballot in the coming weeks. After the E50 committee sends out the ballot (I think we are shooting for sometime in late Feb or early Mar), the task group will have to deal with all of the negative comments to build consensus around the new standard. So, we will likely have a new version of E1527 in late spring or early summer.
If you want more details on the revisions, read Tina Huff's blog. She's also a task group member and has written some good stuff on the debates we've been having.
Oh, and don't forget to weigh in on this week's poll on the homepage. It's a bound to start some debate!
For the past year or two, many of our work lives have been defined by layoffs, cuts to resources, refocusing efforts to profitable markets while sacrificing others, searching for new revenue streams, taking on additional tasks and doing more with less. Considering the professional turmoil that many of us have gone through lately, it is understandable that defining our purposes, prioritizing our efforts, and feeling like we are working toward something achievable can be extremely challenging. Sometimes, don't you just feel like you are spinning your wheels and not moving forward? All too often we get lost in the specific tasks we have to do each day and forget what ends we are hoping to reach.
In the work I do for the commonground community, we are going through a similar situation. We've made great strides in the past year, which our team is thrilled about : we've increased membership, participation, and our web presence. Now, we are looking to take it to the next level. While we want to continue with the things we've been doing for our core members, we also want to expand our reach and make the community a place where members see real return on investment for their participation. There are a lot of opportunities ahead of us and a lot of directions we could go in. It is extremely difficult to decide which initiatives to go after, especially when the day-to-day activities take up much of our time. We are faced with the questions: Who are we and who do we want to be in the future? To solve this problem we've put together a group of people on the community's advisory panel to create a mission statement for the community. This got me thinking, it might be useful to come up with my own mission statement.
By going through the exercise of creating a personal mission statement, either for your current job or your career, you can better determine which tasks and goals are most important to you, which do not contribute to your objective, and which things you should be doing that you are not currently.
For people who are unemployed, considering a change of employment, thinking about going back to school, or starting their own companies, this is probably even more important.
Here are some questions that you can use to help create your own mission statement:
I'm going to work on this over the weekend. I encourage you to do the same!
Last week I attended the EBI's Environmental Industry Summit in San Diego. It was a fantastic event in a fantastic local—and I’m not just saying that because commonground was awarded a second EBI Award, this year for Business Achievement in IT. (Yay!) The agenda covered a wide variety of topics from clean energy to hydraulic fracking, a comprehensive industry summary to sustainable cities. The panelists were top notch and had resumes that made this environmental-industry geek giddy. There were even autographs in order…
A trend that was really exciting to see was optimism for the environmental movement’s continued growth, which presumably means job security for most of the people reading this post. The reason: businesses are finding that doing what is right for the environment is almost universally good for bottom lines. This has meant more and more interest energy-efficient upgrades, construction of green buildings, brownfields redevelopment and natural resource conservation.
What I thought was really interesting about this trend is that the people in the room, most who were self-described environmentalists, noted that they have completely changed their vernacular to exclude words like, well, environmentalist! With it in the lexicon-trashcan are climate change, global warming, carbon footprint and conservation, especially when speaking with corporate and government clients. At a few points in the conference there were discussions about how these words seems to trigger thoughts of tree-hugging, tie-dye-shirt-wearing liberals who hate money and don’t understand the first thing about business. However, as we’ve seen over the past few decades, efforts to cut emissions and reduce use of finite resources have also resulted in reductions in costs, bigger profit margins, lower tax bills, energy security, happier stockholders...the list goes on. Even those business and government leaders who "get it" want to hear ideas that are easier to sell to boards of directors, stockholders and constituents. So, by switching the causes and effects, environmentalists have been able to succeed in their earth-friendly pursuits of emissions reduction and resource conservation by way of wallet-friendly reasoning.
It makes total sense—but am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong with the word environmentalist becoming a dirty word? Can’t we be both savvy business people and care about the environment? A lot of the businesses that have grown profits and out-paced competition by adopting environmentally-protective practices are run by none other than bleeding-heart environmentalists! I know we have had a few discussions on this site about being an environmental professional and not being environmentalists, but shouldn't we focus on educating business professionals and government leaders about both the environmental and business reasons to make shifts in our wasteful and dangerous habits? What do you think?
I don’t want to bring back any teenage angst or social anxiety issues that you spent years working out with your therapist, but as it turns out, no, the popularity contest never ends. Especially in a down economy, doing your job well isn’t always enough. Yep, I’m going to do it: you can’t just be good enough and smart enough, your clients, boss and coworkers have to like you, too. Luckily, though, your highschool-self can rest assured that the popularity contest has changed a bit and you will no longer be judged based on the merrits of designer jeans or the car you drive into the senior parking lot.
Last month I attended an event that featured Guy Kawasaki as a keynote speaker. I’ve heard Guy talk before but I was especially enamored by him after this event. He was there to talk about Enchantment, his new book which has been a best seller since it came out in March and is listed as one of Amazon’s best books of 2011. There is no rocket science to this book or Guy’s message, but both are incredibly powerful. Here’s the once sentence summary: by enchanting people, you not only get them to do what you want them to do, you fill them with great delight at the same time.
Much of the book deals with enchanting people with your company and products, and I encourage you to read it for those reasons. For this quick post, though, I am going to focus on some tips he gives for being a more likable, enchanting person.
Easy, right? Yes. But the easiest things to do are the easiest to forget. How important do you think likability is to business success? What small things have you done to enchant people?
Oh, and if you need a daily affirmation, Stuart Smalley has one for you. It's the Halloween edition. How timely?
One of the most important roles of managers is to foster the growth of their junior staff, helping them to gain footing within their company and, more broadly, within their industry. I see mentoring not only as smart business practice for a company, but also as an employment benefit to budding professionals. With budgets (for time and money) strapped, growing your firm's future leadership may seem like something that can be put off till next quarter or next year, but it is this could be a big mistake. Employees with strong mentor-mentee relationships are more loyal and more effective than those who fly solo. One way managers and executives can help their employees reach for more is by encouraging them (and allowing them the resources) to participate in industry associations and events. Taking part in industry events boosts self-esteem, offers new perspectives, opens the door to networking opportunities and gives employees a sense of pride in their company while they are out representing their firm.
I am an active member of ASTM's E50 Committee and Membership Secretary to the E50.02 Subcommittee. ASTM is one of the world's largest standard writing bodies. It is a consensus organization powered by volunteers who are both users and producers of the products and services that are governed by ASTM standards. In the environmental due diligence industry, these standards have major impacts on industry practices and also act as drivers for the services provided by environmental consultants. While ASTM is extremely important to the industry, the E50 Committee has had a difficult time getting members to attend meetings and participate in standard writing activities. In addition, there is a real lack of young blood in committee activities.
A group of my fellow committee members and I are currently taking on an initiative to gain more participation from young professionals in the industry, but to do that, we need the support and encouragement of their managers. Despite the fact that billable hours will need to be sacrificed and travel expenses may need to be covered, attendance to these meetings (which are free for members) offers young professionals with a great learning experience, and also the chance to:
o Impact industry practice;
o Gain an insider's perspective;
o Think critically about the way things are done now and how they should be done in the future;
o Learn from some of the most experienced professionals in the industry; and
o Network with colleagues, potential clients, and regulators.
Having representatives from your company attend events like ASTM also shows that your company is forward thinking and honing their future leadership for success in the years to come.
The next meeting of ASTM's E50 committee will take place at the Hyatt Regency from October 19-22. Major topics are being covered, including revisions to the E 1527 Phase I ESA standard, the creation of a new standard on building energy performance disclosure, the progress of the standard on climate change, and ballot results on the continuing obligations standard.
I hope all of those reading this will consider attending the meeting and bringing along a promising young professional from your firm. I think you’ll be surprised how much knowledge they might have to share with the even the most seasoned industry veterans. And learning how they can affect change in their industry will likely spark loyalty and inspire young professionals to think more critically about the work they do.
Last week I blogged about how Gen Y is putting off homeownership along with the commitment and expense that comes with it. By renting, twenty-somethings are able to spend money on things like electronics, travel, and grad school instead of being weighed down by mortgages, maintenance and taxes. I came across a great post to the Green Shoots Blog on NREI.com (consistently great reading) noting that young renters don't seem to consider the environment before signing their leases. Commercial real estate analysts are very interested in how competitive LEED certified and other "green" building will compete with the clunkier supply of real estate already on the market. While there is not a lot of data yet-mostly because so few green buildings have been resold to date-there is anecdotal evidence that office and retail tenants are willing to pay more for and are more attracted to energy-efficient buildings for reasons like energy savings, employee satisfaction, and PR. However, the apartment market may be a little different, especially with young renters on tight budgets.
I thought this graph was super intriguing. But, it begs the question: is Gen Y unwilling or unable to spend the money for energy-efficient digs? It also made me realize that I hadn't thought about this myself in my recent apartment-hunting activities, despite the fact that I follow LEED as part of my job. Maybe it is an awareness issue? LEED certified buildings have a lot to offer tenants outside of the warm-fuzzy feeling from saving the planet. The air quality is usually better due to the incorporation of indoor gardens and the use of low-VOC paints and other healthy construction materials. They often integrate lots of handy features like bike racks, preferential parking for hybrids, and on demand water heaters. Maybe the way to push green living to Gen-Y is by appealing to its selfish side?
Another year is coming to a close, and commonground has come a long way (look for a post next week about the State-of-the-Community)! We have experienced tremendous growth, fantastic conversations, ample controversy, and some wonderful expansion into new topics. It would only be right to award our most dedicated participants on the site, the members who make commonground the dynamic and valuable platform that it is. This year, each of our winners is receiving a cozy commonground Fleece! (Fleece modeled by the newest member of the cgTeam: Derek Showerman, our SEO expert.)
Most Helpful Member:
This award goes to a member who is always willing to reach out and give advice to fellow members: jessedphillips. Jesse is great about following up with members who post challenging questions to the forums. This type of contribution creates the supportive environment on the site that is so valuable to new and existing members.
Most Popular Post:
Some posts are just too compelling to stay away. The winner of this award is responsible for posting the most viewed discussion on the community this year. The $700 Phase I ESAs post started with member Jon Welge disagreeing with a blog written by our resident Market Maven. It turned into our most prolific discussion post today, with over 45 comments and 2,000 views.
This award goes to the member who is never afraid to create controversy on the site. MaxEng consistently brings an alternate point-of-view to discussion posts while maintaining the professionalism which members so appreciate.
Most Responsive Member:
Tom Speight has been one of our most dedicated members since commonground's inception. His commitment continued in 2010 and Tom has one of the highest comment-to-new-post ratio of our membership, giving him fantastic social networking Karma!
Most Popular Blog:
Dianne Crocker’s Market Maven Blog is a cornerstone on the commonground community. Not only does her blog garner more comments than any other commonground blog, but it is also one of the most visited pages on the site. Her original content continues to educate and inform members while bridging the gap between the environmental due diligence industry and the commercial real estate market.
Most Active Member:
The member who has commented and posted more than anyone else on the site (We excluded EDR employees) is Larry Schnapf! Larry is never shy when it comes to stirring (or shaking!) the pot. This year he’s been keeping us abreast of the latest contamination law suits, issues for homeowners, how politics influence environmental regulations, and sustainability through his blog and discussion posts.
Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all of our members for making commonground one of the most thriving professional communities on the web! We hope to bring you more compelling content and tools to help you do your job better and grow your business in 2011. If you have any ideas on how we can improve, we'd love to hear them!