All General

The True Honor in Donating Time

During the week-long 2013 Habitat Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, with Habitat For Humanity – Metro Denver,  EnergyLogic committed to sending members of our staff to work in the Globeville neighborhood.  The goal of the project was to complete 11 townhouses and rehabilitate 15 homes.

HFH Carter Visit

Mario, a metal worker, made a metal peace sign for each of us.

I was signed up for Wednesday, October 9th, which was the day that the Carters and honorary sponsors Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood were in Denver.  I was assigned to existing house #7 at the home of Mario and Phyllis Mora.  Our lively crew finished re-siding and painting the Mora’s garage that day.

I’ve been asked by many friends if I met the Carter’s.  Well, we sort of did get to meet them.  Mid-afternoon, we stopped work early to return to the park where we had met for the early morning  devotional ‘lesson’ from Jimmy Carter, and lunch.

Each ‘house’ gathered in a group with the homeowners at the park and when the Carters and Garth Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood arrived, they went from group to group for pictures.  Later, crossing the park, Garth Brooks said to me, “Take care.” I looked around to see if someone else was behind me!  They were all personable and funny and friendly.

It was exciting to see our former president, and to meet the honorary sponsors.  The biggest honor is to be a part of this project, and seeing that we all made a positive difference for the Mora Family, and for our community.

Meredeth Nietenbach
Administrative Assistant
EnergyLogic, Inc.

Thank you, EnergyLogic, for allowing me to be part of this event!

Memorial Day – What it means to me

While Memorial Day, a day to honor those who died in combat,  is not to be confused with Veterans Day, the day we honor all Veterans, I can’t help but think of those in my family who came before me in the service of our nation; regardless of whether they died in combat or not. I’m the eighth generation in the military on my father’s side. Both of my parents were Army brats. Let’s just say that it runs pretty deep!

My father’s father served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He saw a lot of the worst in humanity yet remained a thoughtful, gentle and compassionate man throughout his life. One of my deeper regrets is that my wife and children never met him. He was all that is good in a soldier (and sailor as he was a Seabee in WWII). Anyone currently serving would do well to emulate the dedication to nation and to his fellow human that he embodied.

Alva Lineal Byers died while I was attending Airborne School with the Army during one of my summers attending the Air Force Academy. I’m very thankful I was allowed to leave training to attend his memorial. I wasn’t able to attend his funeral at Arlington and it was years before I was able to visit his grave site, Section 65, Grave 4129. Walking through the grounds of Arlington is something that isn’t easily described. I felt great waves of gratitude and awe at the sheer number of graves. I felt small connections with those buried there as I read their headstones, many of them with their beloved buried along with them on the other side of their grave. My grandmother is buried there, the two of them sharing a headstone, head to head for eternity.

I’m deeply grateful to all of those who gave their lives in the service of this great nation. I’m grateful for their sacrifice that allowed me to serve and to continue to serve albeit in a very different capacity now. Since my Air Force days, I’ve dedicated my adult life to the work of reducing our consumption of energy. This isn’t the right place to discuss the deep interconnectedness of our lifestyle with energy, but it is what drives me ahead every day and I’m thankful to those who’ve made my choices and those of all of my fellow Americans possible.

Have a great weekend and please take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of those who died protecting our freedoms.

The Service Industry Gets a Bad Rep… When We Give It Reason To!

Something has gone missing and I need your help to find it. Unlike most of the things that go missing in my world, this time dog didn’t eat it, my 5 year old didn’t lose it in the bottom of a toy box, and my 12 year old didn’t hide it under the bed.  I’ve identified something that is missing from our entire industry: service.  Ask any rater what industry they work in.  What sort of answers would you get?  Home Performance Industry, Construction Industry, Building Science Industry, Energy Efficiency to name a few.  But guess what they won’t answer?  Service Industry.  The term “Service Industry” conjures up thoughts of retail and hospitality jobs.  But the term is much broader than that.

   Time for a quick review of Economics 101.  The Primary Sector of a nation’s economy harvests goods from the Earth.  The Secondary Sector manufactures products from those harvested goods.  And the Tertiary Sector- also known as the Service Sector or Service Industry- is not about producing goods.  Instead, it is an exchange of the worker’s knowledge or time.  These are not just bartenders and cab drivers.  The Service Industry includes professionals and tradesman as well.  The range is wide, from banking to transportation to pest control and health care.  In fact the Service Industry represents something close to 75% of the US workforce, including home energy raters and auditors.  But in my experience, many of us have completely neglected the “Service” part of our work.  That’s a dangerous proposition for any business given that good service is a key component to customer loyalty, company reputation, and word of mouth advertising.  For context, I had about 15 years of experience in the customer service departments for banking and retail businesses prior to joining EnergyLogic. Improving the company’s customer service is part of the reason I was hired.

So what’s got me so worked up?  It’s the slow turnaround time that I see with regard to raters getting their reports to clients.  Part of my job at EnergyLogic involves uploading ratings to RESNET’s National Building Registry database.  That means I personally handle several thousand ratings that get submitted by EnergyLogic’s Rater Partners all across the country each year.  All too often, I come across files that are submitted several weeks after the last field visit!  Since no RESNET Accredited Rating Software can print reports without watermark until AFTER submittal to the National Buildings Registry, I can deduce that no official reports have gone to the client for several weeks after the date of final inspection!  We understand that ENERGY STAR Version 3 has added a few more hoops to jump through (chasing down checklists from contractors), and it can cause some extra time getting everything together (not to mention re-inspects).  But let’s face it; this is not just an issue for ENERGY STAR Homes.  The rating reports (and associated certificates or labels) are the primary deliverable in the rating world- particularly on new homes.  So a client is paying for a service, and the business they’ve hired to perform this service is running several weeks behind in delivering?

There is no other way to put it; that’s just bad service.  If builder clients seem okay with getting this sort of turnaround time, then what does that say about how much they value your reports?

Marnie Doyle
EPS Administratvie Coordinator

I Love KPI… It’s a Radio Station, Right?

KPI is the latest buzzword here at EnergyLogic.  Though it is not a new idea, it’s one we are finally embracing on a strategic business level.  Our controller Janet Howard was asked to layout the definition of KPI, and how EnergyLogic will track them. We thought it would be helpful for some of our partners out there to review as well.

What is a KPI?

KPI stands for ‘Key Performance Indicator.’ A “KPI” is a form of performance measurement that helps to evaluate a company’s success in tangible and intangible ways – financially, strategically, internally (employee satisfaction, retention, etc.), or externally (e.g. sales, lead conversion, time to sale, etc.).  A company’s type of business and specific objectives normally determine what indicators are appropriate to track for that particular company.

Why should I care about these?

As an employer and an employee, we should care that we make or beat our goals because they affect our ability to attract and retain good people, to price our services correctly, to attract new business, to grow our business, to create value in our business, and to invest in new areas.  All of these things ultimately allow us to broaden the types of career positions we have to offer our employees, which will result in higher wages and greater responsibility for those who work for it.  This requires a longer view than just saving money or providing good customer support.  It takes an observant eye for trends and an attitude toward investing in your future.

In EnergyLogic, we track the following indicators on a rolling 12 month basis each month:

KPI

Explanation

 Profitability Operating Net Profit Margin(Net Income/Revenue) This tells us what our net profit is in % form, after operating expenses and cost of goods are deducted from the revenue.  We set our profit goal during the budget process each year.
  Billing Rate Efficiency(Revenue/Payroll Cost) The higher this rate is, the more profitable we become.   This number (expressed as a multiplier, like 2.5 or 3.2) is very sensitive to shifts in total payroll.  This goal will vary rather widely between companies, depending upon what their payroll costs are and how much profit they want to realize.   Large companies with a lot of admin infrastructure must set their goals much higher, just to cover expenses.
Liquidity Current Ratio(Current Assets/Current Liabilities) This shows if we have enough capital to meet short term obligations.  This should be at least 2.0 or higher, meaning we have enough assets to cover all of our short term liabilities like lines of credit and payroll and credit card liabilities, not counting long term debt.
  Debt Ratio(Total Debt/Total Assets) This shows total debt in comparison to our total assets.  A ratio of 1.0 would mean that our debt is equal to our assets, which is not ideal.  Banks prefer this number to be less than .78
Operating Receivable Turnover Ratio(Net sales collection (cash basis)/Average AR in the same period Companies generally will have a goal of 30 days to collect their invoices.  Some give 45 days or longer, to accommodate some of their larger clients which tend to take longer to get invoices through their AP systems. This takes constant vigilance though.  If this is consistently turned over, a company should maintain a positive cash flow.
  Debt Coverage Ratio(Net Income (cash)/Loan and Lease Payments This is a little different than the Current Ratio above.  This must be at least 1.0 which would mean that we have enough cash income to cover all short term and long term debt monthly payments.
Solvency Leverage Ratio(Long Term Liabilities/Shareholder Equity) This shows how much long term debt we have in comparison to owner equity in the company.  Banks generally want this number to be less than .7 to maintain current lines or obtain new ones.
Growth Compound Annual Growth Rate This % is a complex formula applied to a factor (like revenue or net income) over a specific period of time.  It smooths out the highs and lows and produces an average rate of growth over that time period.  20% or higher is considered a very good rate.
HR Attrition Rate(# Terminations/Average Annual Headcount) This % is very sensitive to terminations in any form.  It could be a factor to watch for with some companies, as it may indicate issues with dissatisfaction or management within the company, which could affect sales and customer satisfaction.  In some companies, this rate is expected to be higher or lower in certain periods of an employee’s career, and is managed to a specific goal in those periods.

There are hundreds of KPI’s that could be tracked, and we always look for indicators that would be useful for our company to understand, but let’s face it, you are the people in the trenches every day.  You see things that management cannot always see – things that we should be doing or tracking, and things that we may be looking at that simply don’t matter.  They could be tangible or intangible.  When the light bulb goes on, don’t be afraid to step forward with your ideas. You may lead all of us to a much better place for doing so.

Janet Howard
Controller,
EnergyLogic, Inc.

Janet Howard is EnergyLogic’s Corporate Controller, and has been working with EnergyLogic since 2009.  Janet formerly worked for Arthur Andersen’s Consulting Division’s Budget and Strategic Planning group that reported to the CFO of Andersen Consulting (which became Accenture, Inc.). 

 

Thanks, with Mushroom Soup and Dried Onion Topping

Reenactment of the EnergyLogic Team during my benefits presentation last year.

It’s that time of year for the birthing of Thanksgiving blogglings, giving thanks to every employee, employer, client, reader, parent, child, babysitter, brand of tequila, and famous pretend love interest (I heart you, Dr. Doug Ross).  I can’t help but jump on that ship.  My apologies if this is too personal, but I’m guessing nobody reads blogs on Thanksgiving, so I’m going for it.  Here we go.

Thank you, EnergyLogic.  You are a fabulous place to work.  You’re flexible, dependable, growing and quite fun at times.  I’m lucky to be a part of the family who shares it, truly.  And I’m not just sucking up to the bosses either!

Thanks to everyone at EnergyLogic who has supported me in this shared social media, marketing, and benefits adventure.  The learning curve has certainly challenged my batting average of excellence in the workplace, but my numbers are picking up.  Thank you for your faith in me.

Thank you to the owners and managers of EnergyLogic who thought I would be great at this.  My current employment position is truly the fruit of being in the right office at the right time, sprinkled with the fact that I show up every day and I talk too much. Thanks.

The EnergyLogic Scheduling Team

Thank you to the EnergyLogic scheduling team who allows me to pilfer their chocolate reserves on a regular basis without asking me when I’m going to contribute to the ‘chocolate fund jar.’  I’m aware that I have eaten approximately $56.00 in chocolate this year and I’ve only contributed $3.00. I swear to you all I will step up my game. I swear. And thank you.

Thank you to the entire staff of EnergyLogic who allow me to fly my “organize everything” freak flag as high as I want.  It’s a beautiful and well organized flag.  I wave it proudly and most efficiently. I also appreciate the drop in sarcastic comments to more of the ‘rolling of the eyes’ attitude from everyone when I have one of my organizational fits.  My deepest thanks.  Now please get your dead or dying crap out of the fridge. I love you all. Thank you.

Bear

Thank you to my beautiful Pyrenees, Bear, who accompanies me to work most days.  He makes my arrivals to work each morning a joyous occasion.  I feel as though each of my coworkers’ lavish hello’s is a treat for me as well. Thank you for being so handsome, Bear. I wish I loved you more as a dirty gross dog because your grooming is painfully expensive.  But, thank you anyway.

Thank you to my direct supervisor  and COO Will, for the occasional pat’s on the back.  It’s all I need to feel great on any given day.  I also thank him for recognizing my need of emails as reminders of things I need to do.  My aging brain no longer remembers every little detail, and I feel as though written lists are an admission of defeat.  Thank you, Will.

Thank you to our Controller, Janet, for freeing me from accounting.  I wonder if I ever belonged in that meticulous and precise profession, although it seemed like a never ending puzzle and I thought I was pretty good at it when I really wasn’t.  In the end, there is just no good outlet for jokes in accounting. And blogging about it… don’t get me started.  Thank you, Janet.

Thank you, Kelly from GrafikNature Design, Jen from WebsitesByJen, and ‘Amazing Steve’ the leader of EnergyLogic’s Circus Division, for holding my hand through pretty much every aspect of everything to this point.  Your patience is ever present and appreciated.  No jokes here.

Thank you customers, clients, builders and students of EnergyLogic.  We would be nothing without you.  Literally.

There is always something new to be thankful about at EnergyLogic, which is another thing I’m thankful for.

Enjoy your Thanksgivings, Everyone!

 

 

 

The Hiring Game – ACK!

I’m often asked by some of our rater partners and students about hiring their first employee.  It should be an exciting venture and a blessing to be so busy, but is a bit scary to most first time employers.  When attending various HR conferences and courses, I often heard terrifying tales of lawsuit happy employees and how they nearly destroyed what were once thriving businesses.  Many of these stories come from speakers or presenters who, let’s be honest, are paid to scare the hell out of us.  Yet most, to be honest again, came straight from the employers’ mouths.

Personally, I’ve experienced the suit-happy employee once.  I worked as a buyer for a wonderful company whose owners were always very kind and giving, and who trusted and believed in us all completely. The owner was so offended by the actions of this suit-happy person; he never hired another employee again. He’d been taken advantage of, blatantly lied to, and frivolously sued, all of which ended up costing him tens of thousands of dollars. Had he settled, he would have saved money. But his ethics won out, and he fought for what was right. After months of litigation, he eventually won but he was mentally defeated.  The lawsuit took away his ability to trust, and his joy out being an employer.  The business dwindled down and he eventually sold out within three years.

At EnergyLogic, we are blessed to have great employees, and we want to be a great employer.  My job as the Human Resources Representative is very easy most days. But through other ventures we’ve experienced being take advantage of, addressing wrongful unemployment appeals, and responding to some very elaborate untruths.  Each time we have prevailed, and big part of that success has been having some strong hiring guidelines and following them religiously, no matter whose friend or relative or neighbor may be hired.

So how can you protect yourself from the potentially volatile employee?

First, there are no guarantees, but here are a few guidelines that should always be followed.

  1. Always run a decent background check including state and federal criminal, and always call previous employers for reference. Wouldn’t you rather spend the money now than pay a hundred times the cost in attorney’s fees?
  2. Know the laws of your state.  Here’s a quick link to some great fact sheets from the Colorado Department of Labor and the US Department of Labor.
  3. Have an outstanding employee handbook and a signed handbook acknowledgement form.  Understand that you will be continually adding and editing your employee handbook.
  4. Have a “Post Employment Release of Employment Information” form for ALL exiting employees to sign.  If you do not have one, do not release any employment info other that start and end dates.
  5. Most importantly make sure all your hiring forms and documentation are done correctly and filed or stored correctly. Did you know that you could be fined up to $1,100 per form for failing to comply with the I-9 form requirements?

These five guidelines are not only staples of hiring, but just a scratch at the surface of employer responsibilities and safeguards.

Dianna Heustis

 

(Please note that I am not an attorney and this blog is not intended to be legal advice. With all legal matters regarding employees, please consult with an Employment Law Attorney)

RESNET® and ANSI

There is some confusion in our world about what it means to be “ANSI”.  RESNET is now an ANSI SDO, that is, an ANSI Standards Development Organization.  This is a really good development for us, but the reasons aren’t that obvious.  Here are some of the top reasons why ANSI recognition is good for you and RESNET.

  • Path toward recognition in the IECC – as an ANSI standard, it will be easier for the actual RESNET standards that are ANSI Standards (more on that below) to be adopted into code.  Instead of “Performance Path”, we could end up with a direct reference to the Standard.  This helps with code official recognition as well of course.
  • Easier recognition in legislation – the credibility that comes with being an ANSI standard makes it easier to be directly cited in legislation.
  • Easier to be adopted in financial instruments like EEM’s and whatever will come in the future.
  • Credibility with stakeholders – RESNET has a large and increasing number of stakeholders.  ANSI accreditation provides those stakeholders with an increased level  of security and confidence in trusting our work on their behalf.
  • Transparency – ANSI accreditation mandates a particular set of procedures and methods.  Conforming to these protocols for ANSI standards makes our process inherently more transparent and predictable.

One very important point is that not all of the RESNET Standard will become ANSI standards.  The first ANSI Standard will be the new Chapter 8 from the RESNET standard.  I heard a lot of concern at the RESNET conference over this issue.  I feel this is the best of both worlds.  RESNET will continue to develop new and relevant standards.  As they mature and when it’s appropriate, they can be submitted into ANSI.  We maintain responsiveness and resilience while still reaping the benefits listed above.

 

Nepotistic Blog Post

In the category of nepotistic promotion….

If you have a teenager (or really, if you just like to read) and would like to visit a really well-written, thoughtful literature (teenager focused) blog site, please visit

LittleReadWritingHood

My awesome daughter has embarked on a project to read 500 books before graduating from Berthoud High School and write a review and summary of each one.  She’s a ridiculously prolific reader and writer and I’m very proud of the work she’s doing.  When she was little we used to tease her that there really aren’t jobs for professional “Readers”.  Might’ve spoke too soon…

Thanks in advance to all who do visit.  We appreciate it!

 

My Family is Weird and That Makes Me Fear Even More for Our Nation

At dinner last night, my twelve year old daughter related the following story (paraphrased a bit):

In science class, the teacher asked, “Who can name some root vegetables?”

My daughter was the only one in class who could respond.

She answered, “Well, carrots, potatoes, beets.”  Her teacher praised her and her classmates asked how she possessed such mysterious and arcane knowledge.  She told them that we have a garden in our front yard.  They were flabbergasted.  Specifically they said, “Weird!”

What else do you grow?  She related a number of other strange crops like cabbage, strawberries and (okay this is a little weird) Brussel sprouts.

“Weird!”

photo credit Deanne Fitzmaurice

“You guys are hippies!”

Hmmmm.  This summer a nice lady walked by our (weird) front yard garden and asked my wife what a particular type of plant was.  It was esoteric I suppose; If tomatoes are esoteric.  Sigh.

Where does food come from?  The grocery store of course.

 

Since when is it weird to grow some of your own food?  Does that make one a hippie?  Here is a picture of me from our website (scroll down just a bit).  I know that a picture doesn’t tell you everything (in fact, I have a substantial amount more gray hair now), but this image is pretty much what you get.  Hippie is not a term that many would use to describe me.

So, this made me reflect on energy, as I am wont to do.  The same phenomenon exists in the public conception of energy, where it comes from, how it works, how much we waste (about half), etc.

The same thing exists with money.  We do not understand money any more than food or energy.  Where does it come from, where does it go, how is it created?  How much of it is required to do various things in our society; provide for the common defense, fund entitlement programs, feed pension plans.

We don’t understand simple math.  We don’t seem to grasp that a nation that maybe will eke out 2% growth this year doesn’t square with pension plans that are predicated on 8% growth.  How is that going to play out?

I could go on, as I’m sure most of you could.  I don’t think it is actually a failure of our educational system, though that is certainly a part of the issue.  I do believe we’ve become intellectually lazy and in some cases downright intellectually dishonest (see the current cast of characters we’ve elected to office with few exceptions).

I don’t have the answers (well maybe a couple, but I’m sure you do too!).  I’m not expecting a leader to ride in on a white charger and save the day (see intellectually lazy and dishonest).  But I do want to see a leader that will stand up and tell the truth.  That will be a painful exercise.  It will be exceptionally difficult for anyone telling the truth to be elected (see intellectually lazy and dishonest).  In some instances, one might say, “I’m not asking for much.”   In this case, I am and I know it.  But that is what I want and I intend to demand it from anyone expecting to receive my vote in the future.

 

 

Proposal for a new RESNET® Accreditation – Residential Energy Modeling Professional

Attached as a PDF as well…  REMP Proposal

Proposal to RESNET

Creation of new RESNET Acceditation:

Residential Energy Modeling Professional (REMP)

Purpose:

To provide a RESNET accreditation designed to meet the needs of the design community.

 

Rationale:

Over the past several years, we’ve trained a large number of design professionals as HERS Raters in lieu of an accreditation that would more adequately meet their needs.  We estimate that approximately 20 to 30% of our students fall into this category.  These individuals are seeking access to the knowledge base of a HERS Rater (i.e. building science, understanding diagnostic testing, etc.) and/or access to the HERS energy modeling tools.

Who

These individuals are broadly covered by the following groups, though there are often unusual avenues that aren’t described here:

  1. Architects
  2. Engineers
  3. Builders
  4. Trade Sub-contractors
  5. Estimators
  6. Code officials
  7. Consultancy
  8. Advocacy groups

Why

By and large, these individuals have no desire or need to become HERS Raters.  Yet they are compelled to take HERS Rater training in order to access the knowledge base and/or the software.  It is an exercise in frustration for these individuals as they know they are taking training that isn’t going to meet their ultimate objective.  We find that the training itself is appreciated and is largely relevant to the needs of students that are approaching the industry from a design perspective.  However, subsequent requirements of the HERS Rater path are inappropriate for these groups.

How

We propose that a new accreditation be created, the Residential Energy Modeling Professional. The objective is to create a pathway for design professionals to participate with RESNET, HERS Providers and HERS Raters without following the Rater pathway, but their own pathway.  This pathway can be easily adapted from the Rater pathway from both an educational and a Provider/Quality Assurance perspective.  In the short term, we believe that the same training and same test can be used.  However, the subsequent accreditation requirements would be different.  For example, probationary ratings would all be Projected Ratings.  The HERS Providers could provide software access as they currently do without providing Print permissions.  This would allow the design professionals to “design to the index”.  Quality assurance could be just as it is for HERS Raters, but without the requirement for on-site verification.

Benefits

There are manifold benefits for the industry as a whole.

  1. Greater adoption and exposure of the HERS Index.  The ability for design professionals to “design to” the HERS Index should drive even greater exposure to and consequent adoption of the use of the index.  The more parties that use and consider the HERS index as part of their design process the more widespread will be acceptance and understanding of the index.
  2. Greater understanding of building science and related issues.  The ability to train design professionals to an accreditation that is appropriate for them will drive greater penetration of basic building science training across a wide-range of our industry stakeholders.
  3. Additional training opportunities for HERS Training Providers.  This designation will give training organizations an appropriate tool to market to new and formerly reluctant audiences.
  4. Better design processes for parties involved in designing homes.  Currently, design professionals can’t access the HERS index and thus have to engage in a costly and time-consuming iterative process with HERS Raters.  This proposal would demonstrate RESNET’s commitment to stakeholder needs and sensitivity to the cost of conducting energy ratings.  Most design professionals are highly trained and with proper training are more than qualified to perform modeling on their own projects.
  5. An additional revenue stream would be opened for RESNET.  Design professionals and others who currently are not involved or engaged with RESNET would be provided with a path for involvement that makes sense for their industry.

-The EnergyLogic Team

What do you think?  Interested?  Suggestions?  Let us know.  Here or on our LinkedIn group – Residential Energy Professional Training.