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!
Given Thursday is Thanksgiving, I felt obligated to write a blog about what I’m thankful for…not at all an original idea but a necessary blog none the less. Instead of just covering the general topics (my health, my family, my awesome boss and coworkers, wink wink) how ‘bout a list of the business tools that I couldn’t live without. With technology evolving so quickly, do you ever stop and wonder how people got things done in the 90s? The 80s?! The 70s!?! The productivity tools available to us now certainly deserve our thanks!
Here are the top 5 business tools that are indispensible to me.
5. Google Reader: How could I possibly keep up with all of the blogs, news feeds, and trending industry topics I follow without an RSS reader? It would take HOURS to consume the info I can get in just a few minutes. I keep three categories of feeds: Business, Life Style, and Social Media, allowing me to quickly keep up to speed with what is going on the world without spending a lot of time searching the web or visiting multiple websites.
4. Headphones: Noisy office, distracting conversations, bustling airports. High quality, noise canceling headphones are a must for me to keep focused. Most of my work is done with classical music playing. I actually lost my fantastic Sony headphones a few months ago and I have to wait for Santa to bring me new ones….for now I have a cheap substitute that do the trick, but I definitely plan on asking for another set of nice ones.
3. Google Analytics: If you have a website and you do not currently use Google Analytics, you are missing out on a wealth of knowledge. It is amazing to see shifting trends in website traffic and what it means for your business. Nine times out of ten, I find a surprising and often hilarious statistic regarding the referral and keyword traffic to the community that, without Google Analytics, I’d never know about.
2. MS Outlook Calendar: I don’t realize how much I depend on this until, for some reason I mis-schedule an appointment, in which case I will likely miss a meeting unless I’m reminded by a friendly colleague. In addition to scheduling meetings and appointments, outlook calendar is also good for blocking off time for dreaded tasks that I know I will put off!
1. Smartphone: Seriously, how did I survive without you, iPhone 4? You just keep on giving, and all you ask is that I don’t hold you in my left hand when making a call. iPhone users can complain all they want about their black-boxes of productivity, but when it comes down to it, they can’t live without it. The same is true for any iPhone competitor, like Droid or Blackberry. Personal finances, social life, family obligations, and work all managed in one tiny device. The biggest challenge of being an iPhone user for me is not that it doesn’t support Flash or that it drops calls, its putting the darn thing down for 10 minutes! As a work tool, I use my iPhone to keep up with emails, review documents on the run, read blogs and forums when I’m not in front of my computer, answer my office phone remotely…the list goes on. I suppose iPhones greatness is a blessing and a curse, but it gets the #1 slot on my list all the same because I know how I’d feel if I lost it. I get that stomach-flipping, face-flushing nerve cascade once a week when I think I’ve misplaced it somehow! Luckily it only lasts a few minutes, even for a forgetful person like me…there’s an app that will help you locate your phone using a combination of GPS and a loud siren noise ;)
It will be interesting to see how this list evolves in the next 5 years. Technology has been advancing so quickly, I can’t imagine what is to come.
What business tools are you thankful for?
Forbes Magazine listed the fear of public speaking as the 9th most common fear in the United States. Death did not make their list. Think about this: You’re sitting in a room full of people listening to someone speak and you know that you are the next person who has to give a presentation. You work yourself up so much that you start to think that you’d rather die than stand up there! It is completely irrational but we’ve all been there at one point in our lives.
The fear of public speaking is also commonly referenced as one of the biggest obstacles holding people back in their careers. I was told once by a public speaking trainer at Dale Carnegie that only about 10% of working Americans are willing to speak in public. Of those, only 2% are effective speakers. So, if you can deliver a good presentation, you have a huge edge over your peers and colleagues. Public speaking is definitely a skill to learn and hone!
Tomorrow I will be participating in a webinar for EDR’s lender clients. While I will only be doing a short piece of the presentation and I have delivered many similar presentations in person in the past, I will likely still be nervous before I begin my short talk. I once read that in public speaking, preparation is the cure for perspiration, a concept that really clicked for me! My husband opened a fortune cookie last week that had a similar theme: “When dealing with stress, work is better than whiskey”. The concept applies to almost everything you want to achieve in life, but especially to public speaking. So, in preparation for my speaking engagement tomorrow I started looking over materials from a few of the public speaking courses that I’ve attended. Here are some of the best tips I’ve received from both training courses and mentors over the years:
1. Know what you are talking about and what you are going to say. This seems obvious but it is so important that I have to include it. You really need to understand all of the ins and outs of your subject matter. One way to test yourself is to give your presentation to at least one person who is unfamiliar with your subject matter and at least one person who really knows your subject matter. Tell them to ask questions during your talk. If you can answer them, you are probably in good shape. The second component refers to the organization of your presentation. You want your words to flow, so make sure you have a strong outline or well organized slide presentation, if you are using one. It is okay to repeat yourself, the audience usually needs to hear important concepts at least 2 or 3 times before they understand them anyway, but make sure you aren’t bouncing all over the place.
2. Stop apologizing. How many times have you heard a public speaker apologize before they start speaking? So many speakers give excuses for why their presentation is going to be bad before they even start! What is the audience supposed to think?
3. Know that you will get nervous and what to expect when you do. This was a tip my college advisor gave me and one of the best I’ve heard. She told me that she always wears a turtleneck when she speaks in public because as soon as she starts speaking she starts to turn red on her chest and this redness continues to spread upward until she gets comfortable. By wearing a turtleneck, she doesn’t have to worry about this reaction. If you are a cougher, bring some tea with you. If you tend to fix your hair when you get nervous, pull it back.
4. You know that you are nervous, but the audience probably doesn’t. I took one of those public speaking classes where they film you and then you have to watch yourself on tape. Yes, this sounds like a nightmare come true! But actually, it was a great exercise because it made me realize that the little slip-ups and nervous jitters that I had did not come across in my voice at all. You can test this theory using your webcam or one of those nifty flip cameras that are available for about $150.
5. Ironing boards have more than one use. Most presentations I give are preceded by a night in a hotel room. The best way to prepare for a face to face presentation is by taking out your ironing board and using it as your podium. Look at yourself in the mirror as you speak. Are your shoulders slumped? Are you moving around too much? Are you boring yourself? This is a great way to check up on all of the “make or break” components of a presentation. If you don't have/need an ironing board, the same advice applies: Practice, practice, practice, and when you think you have practiced enough, practice one more time!
6. You are your own worst enemy. This is an original tip courtesy of yours truly. We’ve already established that most people hate to speak in public. Knowing that, your audience is generally rooting for you to do a great job! Don’t get down on yourself while you’re speaking or you will enter the downward spiral. Only you control this. If you start to walk toward the black hole, stop! Take a breath. Start your last sentence over on a new note.
Glossophobia is definitely a fear worth facing. The most important step towards overcoming your fear is by saying 'yes' next time someone asks you to speak in public. Take on the challenge and feel the sense of pride that you get after delivering a great speech! I hope these tips are helpful!
With so many questions and challenges concerning our energy future and climate change, domestic natural gas has taken off as a “greener” alternative to burning oil and coal. Recent advancements in drilling have vastly expanded the size of the natural gas market. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking (also, frac’ing) as it is often referred, is the process of stimulating wells to extract natural gas (and oil). It involves breaking shale several thousand feet below the surface of the earth by injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressures to shatter the rock and release the valuable resources. EPA projects that 20% of domestic natural gas will come from shale by 2020. However, as more and more fracking operations crop up from coast to coast, questions of their real environmental costs are also growing.
Fracking has been going on in the United States for more than 50 years, but recent advancements in horizontal fracturing technology have created an explosion in the number of wells and have brought fracking east to states like New York and Pennsylvania. In a sense, fracking has created a modern day gold rush. And because local and state economies have been under extreme economic pressure due to the recession, many officials and locals have-- until recently--welcomed the added revenue from permits and taxes that move in with the drilling companies, not to mention job creation.
A new source of clean energy right in our own back yards, just waiting to be released? Like most things that sound too good to be true, fracking has some serious side effects. Here is my non-scientific summary of the risks.
The chemicals used in the water mixture that is injected into the wells is toxic, but most drilling companies will not disclose the actual make up of their concoctions, labeling them trade secrets. There are concerns about how these chemicals are handled, the impacts they are having underground, and the potential for spills on the ground when they are eventually transported to waste treatment plants. There have been many complaints about fracking chemicals being released into drinking water supplies and because there are convenient Bush-era exclusion to water-safety regulations in the 2005 Energy Bill, fracking companies are not taking all of the precautions they could. (Note that Halliburton is heavily involved in fracking.)
Fracking is a very water intensive process and in areas where water supply is low, residents are concerned that operations can cause scarcity issues.
Manmade retention ponds or pits are used to hold the water/chemical/sand mixture that break the shale, creating giant pools containing toxins like chloride, barium and strontium in the middle of rural lands and forests. There have been reports of wildlife mistaking these ponds as natural bodies of water and being poisoned. In one recent story, cattle were quarantined based on concerns of sending contaminated meat to market after the animals were thought to have been drinking water from a leaking pit adjacent to the farm.
Creation of new underground pathways
There are concerns that new underground pathways will transport not only the chemicals involved in fracking process itself, but also any other spills or plumes that happen to intersect them.
Methane gas leaks
Methane is one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Scientists have documented that methane from fracking can leak and traveled through underground pathways and eventually be released into the atmosphere. .
Fracking Studies Underway
A 2004 study by EPA showed that fracking was not a risk to groundwater, but with the swath of complaints that have arisen lately, EPA announced in late 2009 that it will revisit this finding. EPA is currently in the process of further defining the study that is set to take place starting this fall and into 2012 by holding public meetings in impacted areas. As Pat Coyne mentioned, one meeting that was supposed to take place in upstate New York last week was canceled when 8,000 people were expected to attend. Organizers are now working to find a larger venue for the meeting.
The growing cases related to fracking operations are quite troubling. When I think about it, I get concerned about whether there will ever be clean, safe energy! It is quite depressing and overwhelming if you let your mind wander… It will be interesting to see where this goes. With any new technology, there are unforeseen risks and it seems like we are just cracking the surface on those involved in fracking …no pun intended. Okay, I realized the pun and left it in so maybe it is intended.
What do you think? Is fracking the next big environmental issue?
I am asked frequently by friends, family, commonground members and others in the industry about how they should keep their personal and professional lives seperate in social networks. In a world that grows increasingly smaller thanks to everyone and their mothers (literally) being on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Four Square, and the rest, it can become a challenge to balance your life as a private citizen and a professional representing your company on the web and if you’re like me, you probably find these worlds colliding more and more lately.
While helping one of EDR’s sister companies establish their twitter presence a few weeks ago, Mark and I came across a common misperception among business people trying to harness the power of 140 characters to boost their brand awareness: you must keep it strictly-business when tweeting on behalf of your company. No, please, don’t; honestly, your work probably isn’t that interesting! Think about it this way: if you have a brand or company you feel loyal to, whether it’s a coffee shop, equipment rental company, business supply purveyor or any other vendor, does that loyalty stem soley from price and service, or does it also come from the personal relationship you have with the representatives of that company? Brand loyalty and business generation have always been about personal relationships. Social networking hasn’t changed that, it has only changed the way we sustain these relationships.
And then there’s Facebook. Today, 900 million brands, groups, pages, and events have established a presence on Facebook. Business people are increasingly using the frat-house of social networks to build relationships with colleagues and clients. I hail from the first generation of professionals who has had a Facebook presence since their college years. Letting work infiltrate your Facebook life if you are my age or younger is, well…in Facebook terms, it’s complicated. (Read: your boss may come across photos of you at a toga party.) Facebook does have plenty of flexible and powerful privacy screens to prevent this from happening, but I urge people to push their comfort level on representing themselves more transparently on the web. Lately for me, that means my mom and my company’s CEO commenting on the same status update about commonground winning an award at the Environmental Business Industry summit. Errr, awkward? A little…but is our CEO going to think less of me because…I have a mom?! Of course not! The personal information you share on channels like Facebook make you a more colorful, likable person, rather than just a talking head representing your company or reporting back on your department’s recent success. So just go with it!
When you see an associate or client at an event, what conversations generally take up most of your time? Conversations invariably lead to an exciting ball game, a killer round of golf, little-Janey taking her first steps or being accepted to her first-pick university, a great book you read-for fun, or other off-topic subject matter. Sure, industry news, price negotiations, and business-banter are all important, but what really solidifies the relationship we have and makes working so many hours and sacrificing the time we spend with our families for our careers even tolerable are the relationships we have with the people with whom we do business.
So, if you’re thinking about how to balance your personal and professional lives online, think about whether you’d share that bit of information with a client at a cocktail party or other casual setting. If the answer is yes, go ahead, share away. If not, maybe reconsider why you’d share it all, because of course, the inverse also holds true. The anonymity of sitting behind a keyboard in an empty room can be like a few too many glasses of whiskey at that same cocktail party. But unlike off-the-cuff comment made over drinks, which may be forgotten the next day, statements made on the web are right there in black and white, day-after-day, even when the context of the comment is lost. With a little common sense, though, building and maintaining your business relationship on the web can be extremely valuable…and fun!
How do you strike this balance? If you’re using social media to promote your brand, are you keeping separate profiles for personal and business uses? Has social networking impacted your professional relationships?
Green is everywhere! Though it seems to be here to stay, many of us are not ready to abandon ship on the status quo of our white collar jobs for new, green collar jobs. However, economists everywhere are quoting that healthcare and the environment are about the only sectors that are currently growing jobs. While you may not be willing to make major career shifts in order to “go green”, there are many ways to incorporate sustainability and conservation into your current job, and doing so will have competitive advantages.
I guess I’m lucky: I’m already in the environmental industry. (For those of you reading this blog in syndication, I work for Environmental Data Resources, Inc, the nation’s largest provider of property-based environmental risk data.) While my company is not directly entrenched in the buzzword environmental issues that we hear today, like carbon footprint, greenhouse gas emissions, and global warming, we have been keeping an eye on how our clients (environmental consultants & engineers, lenders, corporations, home inspectors, Realtors, and home owners) may be impacted by new legislation being written in Washington and the property risks (and opportunities) that are evolving as the green movement progresses.
We are also thinking about how the things we do as a company may impact the environment. Frankly, we’ve been thinking about this for years and we still have a lot more work to do. But, especially given the recession, it has been a great time to rethink how to make everything from marketing campaigns, events, client gifts, and everyday business activities leaner and greener. One thing is certain, we do a lot less traveling in airplanes and a lot more webinars than we did even a year ago!
My husband is a structural engineer who works mostly on bridge repair and refurbishment processes. Here again, green usually means cost savings. For example in all of the jobs he works on, he tries as hard as possible to reuse the materials that are already onsite, keeping costs down and creating less waste, not to mention reducing the environmental costs of having new steel beams manufactured and shipped to the jobsite. However one thing he is always talking about is how wasteful we have become in letting our infrastructure deteriorate, creating the need for new bridges before they should really be warranted. This is an area we all really need to improve: properly maintaining what we have now so we don’t have to buy (and build) anew in the future.
My sister is an event planner. Talk about an industry of excess! But, one of the biggest trends in corporate events, weddings, and other social functions is to go carbon neutral-- or at least to cut back on the carbon footprint of a function-- by using local ingredients, providing transportation so guests can arrive in a single vehicle, using recyclable paper products and utilizing services like evite.com rather than wasting trees for reply cards.
As for my clients, the vast majority are environmental engineers, many who become LEED accredited over the past few years and many more who are working towards this. I’m so proud of them for getting on-board! (Read Dianne’s blog on how PM Engineering turned a polluted site in Detroit to their LEED-rated paradise.) Many are also helping property purchasers consider how the energy efficiency of a building may impact its value over time, what we call in the biz “energy efficiency due diligence”. While the upfront investment on a more efficient building maybe higher than the old clunkers out there, they will likely result in cost savings in the future. Additionally, the information available about building efficiency is only increasing, as are energy costs, meaning those clunkers are going to be much harder to unload in the future.
My lender clients are also looking into adding green-mortgage programs to their product lines, which give lower rates on environmentally-friendly buildings and businesses. Meanwhile corporations are taking a hard look at their waste disposal practices and are bracing themselves for tougher emissions standards in legislation that is currently be written and debated on Capitol Hill.
The way things are going, it seems like we won’t have to work as sustainability consultants, environmental engineers, or energy experts to be involved in the green movement. In order for us to make the planet a cooler, less polluted, and greener place, almost every job function will need to “go green” in some way or another. By learning how to green your job now, you make yourself a more valuable employee to your current employer and to future employers. How will you make your job green?
Last week I blogged about changing my habit of multitasking in order to stop sacrificing effectiveness for efficiency. I'm happy to report that I've seen some early success in my anti-multitasking endeavors! I'll briefly summarize a few of the tactics I have been trying.
The 18-minute plan for managing your day- I found this method on Peter Bregman's blog for Harvard Business Publishing. It is pretty strict: You take 5 minutes in the start of your day to plan, and schedule (in Outlook, or similar) what you will do for each hour of the day. At the end of each hour, you schedule a 1-minute break to check on your progress before moving on to the next hour's tasks (8 minutes total). The last 5 minutes come in at the end of the day you recap on your entire day's work and figure out what can you do better tomorrow to make yourself more productive.
In principle, I really like this. However, it is very hard to stick to because it doesn't account for the distraction that we all face every day like a coworker needing your input, an unexpected call from a client, or the undeniable need for a coffee in the afternoon. But, by setting the bar so high, it really does work to make each hour of the day very productive. It also helps to break up tedious tasks by scheduling them at different times so your brain doesn't melt by wedging them all into the first 3 hours of the day.
To Do Lists- Ok, I never claimed I'd be breaking new ground here, but you know how they say people who write down everything they eat, eat less? Well, I'd venture to say that people who write down everything they DO, do more! Since scheduling my tasks in Outlook (as recommended in the above plan) seems really onerous to me (dealing with reminders, having scheduling conflicts with yourself, etc.) I decided I'd schedule my hours on my To Do List instead, and when something unexpected comes up, I also write that down to make sure I give myself credit where it is due. At the end of the day, I look at what I did and copy things that are still incomplete onto the next day's list. I've also started putting sticky notes up for ongoing projects that I could potentially forget about. There is nothing better than taking down a note and crumpling it up once the task is done.
Setting aside time for email (and Twitter) - I started to let email, twitter, commonground, and other social networking tools that I use for my job take over my workday. Let's face it, if you want to, you could sit with your inbox and twitter account open all day and just react for 8 hours and be busy. However, you probably wouldn't accomplish much. Now when I arrive at the office in the morning, if there are no pressing tasks to accomplish, I schedule 30 minutes to go through my inbox (I sift through dozens of news sources everyday), update the commonground news feed, and see what is new on commonground and twitter. Then I try not to touch those things again till 11. I do glance at my inbox and read emails from my boss to make sure I'm not missing anything important, but I try not to let things take me away from my scheduled tasks. On recommendation from my (awesome) coworker Adam (@SEOptomizer), I have started checking twitter for 5-minutes at a time 4 times throughout the day.
Keeping my desktops empty- Cluttered desktops (my physical desk and my computer desktop) make me feel frazzled and make important things harder to find. Since I moved recently from EDR's headquarters in CT to our satellite office in MA, I had a chance to review and purge physical clutter that was getting in my way. I made a similar effort on my computer's desktop last weekend. Only things that I am CURRENTLY working on are on each desktop now. This definitely helps me to not multitask.
Ok, finished with this blog in record time! Thanks for reading!