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Welcome to JGD Associates, Inc. - Consultants to the Petroleum Industry - Service Station Construction
 

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Posted Date: 06/13/14

Category: What's Important

Manpower vs. Expertise

There are two human elements that can be applied to problems: manpower and expertise.  Some require both, but most require the latter, eventually.  Take for example a couple of familiar stories, first the rollout of The Affordable Healthcare Act.  We won’t comment on whether Captain Kangaroo is neither a captain nor a kangaroo, but clearly the introduction was botched.  Manpower was applied in massive, over-budget amounts to create the program, which was more or less a flop when it hit the streets, and eventually experts had to come in and fix it.  It helped nothing that the head of it was a political appointee and apologist, but otherwise unsuited for the job. http://www.open.edu/openlearn/sites/www.open.edu.openlearn/files/ole_images/wwi-infantry-poster-frame.jpgIn a similar manner, some famous wars were fought in illustration of the conundrum.  Imperial Germany, with superior expertise, but inferior manpower, was defeated in WWI.  Hitler repeated the lesson, ultimately firing his best generals to expose his own lack of expertise, and was overwhelmed by the combined ingenuity of the Allies and the seemingly limitless manpower of the Soviets.  In the Pacific, there was a true expert, Douglas MacArthur, who matched the manpower and entrenched positions of the Japanese with his envelopment strategy called ‘island-hopping.’  Biographer William Manchester credits MacArthur with avoiding countless casualties on both sides, along with non-combatants, as a result.  As a second act, the general oversaw a tolerant and beneficent occupation that quickly returned his vanquished foes to their feet, earning him veneration among the Japanese. 

The projects you might envision always need expertise, and sometimes need manpower.  But the need for the latter is transient, and like troops in the military analogy, they consume resources at an alarming rate before literally anything is accomplished.  Experts, while paid more, are few in number.  They are worth more in the unit sense because they leverage everything else when properly applied.  You are either an expert, or you need to pay one.  Hiring one after the damage is done is more expensive, because recovery can vary from lost time to permanently damaged market position. 

But how do you know an expert when you see one? In my brother’s company they have a wry saying that “an expert is an outsider with one or more slides.” This is a way of saying “We already knew what they told us.”  Such a claim might be factual, and it might not be.  Supposing it is, though, what will come out from an expert is process improvement that allows existing expertise to be applied.  An expert consultant listens to the project objectives and recommends a course of action.  Of course, he expects to be paid for this study and advice—and of course short-sighted people expect that such should be free—probably because non-experts give “free” lip-service in order to sell their products, which is their actual objective.  A real expert for hire is selling only his expertise.  Products are applied as a result of a strategy determined by fundamental objectives, whereas it often occurs that experts are finally required to apply the products that have already been bought, with the result of dissatisfaction all around.  The salesman was a sales expert. 

Then we have the ‘bigger is better’ fallacy.  Big firms have impressive facades, staffs with whole boxfuls of alphabet noodles after their names, government contracts and memberships in prestigious country clubs.  Chances are such firms have more sales experts than subject area experts.  Those sales guys can gratify the most epicurean tastes and never forget your birthday or your kids’ names.  But they don’t end up being much help to you.  You probably get the guy who toils in a cubicle and while perhaps is knowledgeable, often lacks the human interface capabilities necessary to turn your problem into an application for his expertise.  Smaller firms tend to have the functions of sales and practice combined in individuals.  The benefit of that is you probably get to deal with the guy who made the promises, and you both know it. 

Big is good in emergencies, where problem definition must be done on the fly and manpower and a robust chain of command to put it to work pays off.  Those problems exist, particularly in disasters, and big firms have the ready boots on the ground, along with the finances to pay for them while the buyer recovers from shock and establishes funding.  In such cases, a good big firm will preliminarily triage and then decide what experts are needed, often hiring smaller firms.  In contrast, where commercial challenges arise, smaller experts tend to be better listeners and problem-definers.  In such cases, they may supply the framed problem that leads to successful mass-production by the behemoths.  And that is expertise you ultimately need to effectively solve your problem.  Lots of labor is needed to fill and lay sandbags against the flood.  Experts know where and how they should be placed.  Salesmen sell you sandbags, not solutions.  You need those things, but they are dumb.

It’s been said “There’s no free lunch.”  Yet how often do lunches and similar gratuities influence the decision processes that are then applied to complex, subtle and specialized problems, which are really the domain of experts, not pre-fabricated widgets?  It’s also been said, “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  If you have the hammer of money, it’s tempting to drive solutions that appear to be susceptible to an overwhelming application of it.  This is the characteristic approach of government.  It’s also the reason that everything The G does is expensive.  The less well-heeled of owners do better to find experts, plan the work and then execute the plan.  More or less manpower can then be applied in a justifiable fashion, instead of simply serving as cannon-fodder, to make a show of it.  The result of such an approach is a higher likelihood of satisfaction—whether for owners, consultants, workers, or the public.  Satisfaction is not nirvana, but there is a certain amount of good karma that comes from a well-defined plan—and that takes experts. 

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Posted Date: 06/03/14

Category: Miscellany

Why We Need To Convert To Natural Gas

That population growth eventually results in crash has been proven from petri dish to pueblo.  Withal, despite the hucksterish presentation of Al Gore, global warming is fairly evident.  Further, it must certainly be a result of anthropogenic forces, but to blame fossil fuel is like blaming Glock for the continuous murdering that characterizes the modern South Side of Chicago.  People use energy, and the exothermic aspect of that use tends to warm things.  Whether or not there are greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, rejected heat warms it.  Methane, or as it has been traditionally known, “natural gas,” is abundant on the planet and in the universe, and is constantly being formed by biological processes.  A great deal of it has been captured beneath the earth’s surface by geologic conversion of biomass over eons.  However it comes, methane is a clean-burning fuel, in that with only one carbon atom, unburnt hydrocarbon is no combustion issue.  It does form carbon dioxide, also designated a pollutant, but every living thing exhales CO2, and there is no alternative to that.

We have more methane available than can be used.  We are generating it as a byproduct of oil production, and wasting an unconscionable amount of it (resulting in additional greenhouse gas) because of lacking markets for methane.  Yet we dither and bumble a rhetorical path away from it and towards so-called ‘renewable energy.’  It is not simply ironic to characterize the quest for wind power as Quixotic.  Wind turbines may at first seem scenic and curious, but their proliferation is a blight, and their ecological balance of costs and benefits is questionable.  In addition, they are not reliable, even when functioning as designed.  Likewise, ‘biofuels’ are certainly a technology within reach, but the processes of cultivation, refining and distribution are absurdly energy-intensive, given the quantity of product that results.  Furthermore, biofuels are highly perishable and difficult to utilize in many applications.  They have the secondary effect of raising food prices, something that disproportionally burdens the poor, making them in effect, a regressive tax.

Harper’s magazine recently reviewed Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert, a book decrying what the author identifies as an ongoing obliteration of countless species by rapacious homo sapiens, with the forecast of doom for the hunter-gatherer.  Naturally or not, we and our cohort consume the planet’s resources as surely as bacteria consume the agar in a petri dish.  We just might outrun the environmental niche’s recovery capacity.  In 2010, along with everyone else who had access to a TV, I watched in horror and disgust for three and a half months as BP’s Macondo well spewed millions of barrels of crude oil, brine and debris into the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the failure of an ill-maintained ‘blowout preventer.’  Today commercials show plump locals assuring us that everything is just grand, even better than before, and y’all oughta come down and see us.  It is well that the worst effects are now unseen, but we all know that somewhere submerged in the Gulf lies a layer of tarry muck in mute testimony of our species’ ability to precipitate runaway environmental destruction.   We might castigate BP (my erstwhile employer), but at what level do we apprehend that we are demanding oil for our convenience, despite our awareness of the perils of its use? 

I have toiled most of my life in the energy and transportation sectors, enabling, one might criticize, the further destruction of the environment by those things.  My view is that it will go on, as the Beatles might have said, ‘within me and without me.’  And that is why I urge policies which will convert our race’s unabated demand for energy from oil to gas.  I know oil’s predominance will not go away anytime soon, but gas can be used instead of dirtier forms of energy, with a resulting benefit.  It’s cleaner as a motor fuel than biofuels and more reliable than wind power.  It can fuel the mammoth industrial processes that make the materials for the manufacture of aluminum airfoils, steel supports and mechanisms wind turbines embody, along with the caravans of extraordinary transports that must deliver these grandiose machines to their deployments.  The effort of making a conversion from the oil paradigm to a natural gas one, which I dub noble, provides ipso facto an economic stimulus that benefits everyone.  Jobs, cheaper fuel, cleaner air, and a certain measure of environmental respectfulness that will come when energy is produced not in some far-away and out-of-sight-out-of-mind place, but right around us, where we can have a conscience about what that all takes.  Epicurean young people embrace the idea of locally sourced meats and produce; in like fashion, they should embrace the same ethic in energy production.  Sometimes, you should visit a sausage factory. 

We might not avert our Malthusian fate, but we should be able to forestall it, i.e. buy time through husbanding the methane all around us.  That will require the cessation of absurd rhetoric such as preferences for methane produced by man-made (and subsidized) digesters and embracing it just as it is and as we find it, even if it comes from a Gaia Digester.  We’ve kind of run out of tricks in our collective hat.  We don’t seem to have pulled off population control, but we don’t want that trick to be pulled on us as our own petri dish expires.  One does not imagine that after The Great Dying referenced by Kolbert, a human came around and picked the placard from the earth's shop window stating "Planetary Steward Wanted--Apply Within" and then did a miserable job of it.  What we do a miserable job of is layering reality with a lot of emotional overburden, then lamenting that we cannot see a way forward.  What we need is a re-assessment of traditions and biases inasmuch as they might steer us to perilous seas.  Emergencies are not susceptible to ideological solutions—only to resourcefulness. 

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Posted Date: 01/18/2013

Category: Compliance News

Reminder: Farms now have less than six months to prepare or amend and implement their Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans. The compliance date for farms is May 10, 2013.

The EPA has provided some very simple instructions for owners to determine if they can self certify or if they need the help of a professional engineer. Please see the link to the EPA’s website for additional information

http://www.epa.gov/OEM/content/spcc/spcc_ag.htm

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Posted Date: 01/10/2013

Category: Compliance Overview

Many owners have UST systems that have reached their expected usable service life. JGD Associates, Inc. can help owners navigate the tricky waters of the UST system tank closure process. Regardless if you are completing a raze and rebuild or managing you assets, there are special considerations that go beyond simply hiring a contractor and removing a tank. UST Regulatory steps and UST Insurance policy requirements create a unique and specialized set of requirements that can be quite costly to owners if they fail to adhere to certain requirements. JGD Associates, Inc. has been serving the gas station and convenience store industry exclusively for nearly two decades. Our uniquely qualified staff can assist UST system owners during the challenging period of UST system closure. Don’t make the same mistake many UST system owners make and assume this chore can be completed on your own. Take advantage of the JGD Associates, Inc. talented UST system team’s years of experience you will be glad you did.

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Posted Date: 4/27/2012

Category: Compliance Overview

Subject: The EPA has closed its comment period pertaining to the proposed revisions concerning petroleum underground storage tank systems

The EPA has closed its comment period pertaining to the proposed revisions concerning petroleum underground storage tank systems. While it is normal to expect some modifications to the regulatory language, significant changes to the current regulations are coming. Under the proposed 40 CRF revisions, owners as well as operators of UST systems must conduct monthly walk through inspections. In many cases the owner and operator are the same entity. Others will have a UST environmental contractor in the role as operator. Regulatory language requires that owners participate in these walk through inspections to ensure that “owners are looking regularly at their equipment to catch problems early and prevent releases.” In many instances, owners are knowledgeable in the administration and operation of retail refueling, but less knowledgeable in the components that lie underground. Popular inputs during the EPA’s comment period seem to indicate that owners are generally ill disposed to participate in the required walk through inspections.

Some history is in order to highlight the impact of this regulatory event and to help owners safeguard against a potential rush of so called “experts.” When the vehicle refueling industry was in its early years, big oil companies dominated the landscape. A significant percentage of gas stations were company owned. As the industry evolved, major oil companies like BP, Shell, and Exxon turned their focus toward exploration and production. Professionals who served the retail side were re-assigned. JGD Associates Inc. is a firm that has remained true to its roots and has continued to serve the vehicle refueling industry exclusively. We have managed to maintain our position in the industry by offering exceptional service with uncompromising quality.   In an effort to assist owners in the transition to the new walk-through requirements, JGD Associates Inc. offers owner support during the required inspections, acting as a consultant and 3rd party to the owners of gas stations. Our services include training in component inspections, UST system design commentary and collaboration with the designated operator during the walk through inspections, and to help troubleshoot regulatory compliance issues.   As the leading independent industry expert on UST system design, JGD Associates Inc. offers an unmatched level of UST system design experience on a national basis. We have participated in thousands of gas station and UST system designs in many of the nation’s toughest environmental jurisdictions. And the list continues to grow! There is no better partner to have on board for your piece of mind at this critical time.

Please call us at (440) 933-6825 or email us at info@jgdpe.com to arrange a preliminary consultation.  The future belongs to those who can deal with what is coming from regulators. 

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Posted Date: 3/21/2012

Category: Compliance Deadlines

Subject: Class A, B, and C operator training and environmental compliance support

JGD Associates Inc., is now offering support to Environmental Managers across the country in an effort to provide affordable site specific facility design documents to simplify the Class A, B and Class C operator training process. The EPA deadline for operator compliance is only months away (August 8, 2012).  As mentioned and recommended in PEI/RP900 “A detailed and accurate site information diagram provides a concise summary of the equipment present at a location. This information can be very useful when conducting inspections and maintenance tasks.”. JGD Associates  utilizes the latest and most advanced computer modeling software in the industry. In addition to technology, JGD Associates Inc.,  has one of the only fueling system and UST dedicated design staff in the industry. What this means to our key clients is comfort in knowing they have access to one of the most knowledgeable, unbiased team of UST design professionals and strategic consulting professionals in the industry. Combine these industry advantages with a visually correct site UST design diagram, and owners have a useful tool that will provide a significant return on investment in providing site class A, B and C operators with meaningful training materials rather than abstract sketches that site personnel are not able to associate with real world conditions at their specific facilities. After all if a picture is worth a thousand words, an accurate picture is worth even more. This is especially true when dealing with UST system training and compliance.

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Posted Date: 1/11/2012

Category: Miscellany

Subject: Let's talk "Value"

With the ongoing back log list of leaking UST systems, State and Federal regulators are stepping up rules to ensure that UST systems are maintained compliant. Most professionals agree that along with a comprehensive maintenance program. Professionally designed UST systems and accurate record maintenance is key to maintaining manufacturers warranties and maximizing the life cycle of buried UST system components. To the surprise of many gas station owners incomplete or inaccurate records will render warranty claims almost worthless, leaving the owner to deal with a very costly problem. Further more in the event of a release the owners may find that there is an exclusionary clause in their financial responsibility insurance that my leave the owner holding the bill for a very costly clean up.

Another frequently overlooked matter is the flavor of the month parts may not best suit the owners needs long term. While equipment manufacturers are knowledgeable in the products  they offer there is an obvious bias towards their employers’ needs. This bias is the reason that owners should seek out an engineering consultant before investing into UST system components.

The value realized from having a niche engineering partner involved in a gas station development program is recuperated MANY times over during the life of the site and is almost invaluable should the owner decide to divest a particular property. Site remediation and clean up can cost an owner from 200,000 to 500,000 and quite possible more depending upon the severity of a spill or release.

One key component that JGD Associates offer is a focused and dedicated analysis of gas station layouts, design and traffic flow as well as the overall customer experience. When a site is laid out correctly the owner has a great earning potential over the life of the facility. A site that is laid out incorrectly is destined to be a subpar performer for its operating life, fighting an uphill battle all the way. While gas stations look quite similar from 500 ft the details developed from a 5 ft perspective by a knowledgeable industry dedicated professional can make all the difference between operational success and operational failure. Tight fuel margins mean that even the most subtle detail can make a significant impact on profitability. Let our decades of industry expertise work for your team.

How to evaluate your current UST and gas station designers?  Ask your Gas station design professional what are the points of emphasis for the components being buried in the ground. Ask your UST system supplier what are the points of emphasis from a site design and layout. Ask how does your design professional assist in managing your growth forecast and your construction schedule and your long term risk management?

Why incorporate 3rd party critical point UST system inspections? Take a look at a group of your locations that are 10 years old or older. De-archive the design and construction documents and run a “mock warranty claim scenario” Would you have all the necessary support documents so as to assure that your risk assessment scenario is accurate? Do you have installer certificates on file for each installation, Do you have equipment checklists completed correctly and filed for each and every installation? One station with incomplete documentation can and will leave you hold a bag of problems that FAR outweighs the costs of having a specialized design partner on board from the very beginning. Some clients ask  ”Our regulatory agency conducts inspections aren’t those adequate?” In many instances the answer is no. The regulators conducting the inspections are doing so for the sole purpose of permit protocol. Try calling a regulatory agency and asking for Photographic support or report documentation to establish as built conditions. Most likely you will be waiting for quite a while.  

The bottom line is that owner spend hundreds of thousands of dollars after a site is in operation on suspected or potential leaks or discharges. And possibly millions on large scale clean ups. Many of these expenditures can be avoided with a  comparatively minimal investment on the front side of the project. Many times the budgets stem across many departments of larger organizations and the added value is poorly communicated and poorly understood. Quite simply it’s money well spent, an ounce of prevention during design and construction versus a pound of cure during remediation and site clean up.

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Posted Date: 8/5/2011
Updated: 3/6/12

Category: Question and Answer

Subject: US Oil Reserves

Q: I found this interesting beyond belief.  There are more and more studies and reports becoming available on this same subject.  All are fundamentally saying the same thing. How much oil does the US really have?

http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/blog/id.7985/blog_detail.asp

A: The Tar Sands or alternatively “Oil Sands” of the Rocky Mountains are well-known to government and the oil industry, both of which are important in this case.  The vast range extends ‘way up into the Canadian Rockies, as well.  Because of the way sands hold oil—it is adsorbed onto the surface of the sand grains, the extraction process is different and more energy and time consuming than liquid reservoir oil.  It’s like remediating polluted ground.  (No kidding—the former Exxon refinery in Bayonne, NJ has a lot of oil in the ground that could be extracted in pretty much the same way.)  Accordingly, production of such oil requires a fairly high oil barrel price to be profitable.  There was a company TOSCO (The Oil Sands Company) which went bankrupt in the ‘80’s despite its large claim on oil sands properties.  (Most of the majors had stakes in it, as well.) 

Presidential fibbing is a fairly well-documented and time-honored phenomenon, not unique to BHO.  They are forced to put complex matters into bite-sized simplicity for a constituency composed of apathetic dunderheads (most) and a few sharp-eyed critics.  Plausible deniability works best with simplistic statements of the desired paradigm.  BHO can always come along and say “I meant to say we have only 2% of the liquid petroleum reserves in the world.”  And what dunderhead will fault him for it?  Although he is not a particular environmentalist, our president does have a party base that is, so he is basically speaking the party line—eliminate oil as a fuel, writ large.

The fact of the matter on oil supply is much beyond party lines and indeed involves geopolitics, writ large.  There is A PRICE (range), above which domestic unrest occurs, and below which, international conflict ensues.  The oil companies know this and so does the government and OPEC.  To destabilize the supply by ramping up domestic production risks undesirable effects both ways.  First of all, a vast, new reservoir on-line would have the long term effect of devaluing the Middle East’s oil, causing the economies of some of the world’s most volatile peoples to collapse.  However, in the short term, those same people, fearing a price drop,  would squeeze the supply and raise the price, forcing reactions domestically and internationally.  Also quite undesirable.  In a time where we have retailed ourselves out economically, there is little stomach for externally-driven economic privation.  Electric cars, biofuels and windmills are a nice distraction for the populace, and they can pretend they are doing something for themselves, but each is strictly a sop for easing them into privation.  The sum of them provides no valuable energy security.  

Another thing we know is that the Chinese are rapaciously acquiring oil properties for what they believe is their unlimited economy, and they are basically using the money they earned producing dreck for the rest of the world.  Geopolitically, it can be readily seen that a high price of oil during their acquisition phase will aid their competitors, particularly US, by making China permanently locked into higher costs.  So, you can see that the flooding of the market with cheap, domestic oil helps nothing, so long as the PRICE is within limits that the public can tolerate.  Oil companies want the highest price possible, while the public wants the lowest price possible.  The government is a moderator in it.  And it has the duty to protect us from enemies, foreign and domestic, so in regard to its oil policies (which really cannot turn on a dime), it is doing alright in a general way. 

Read more>> March 6, 2012 http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/state-world-assessing-chinas-strategy

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Posted Date: 2/1/2010

Category: The Economy

Subject: Oil, Markets, Geopolitics, and Some Humble suggestions for Grand Strategy

The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast published 1/29/10 forecasts that China will soon be returning to its historic fiscal conservatism as it proves susceptible to the global economic downturn. This is an interesting scenario. If China, as is widely accepted, does hold a dominant proportion of US Dollars (said to exceed $2 Trillion), then in a deflationary scenario, those dollars will be much more powerful on the world stage. In other words, if “money talks,” we had better learn how to speak the Han language.

As if in testimony to this, Harper’s Magazine reports that the Chinese are busily constructing a deep water port in Gwadar, Pakistan to the tune of $12 Billion. Why the surge of felicitous relations between the characteristically self-absorbed descendants of The Middle Kingdom and the Pakistanis, poor relations of Chinese uber-rival India? A look at a map of the region may help.



Se where that’s located? Yup, that’s the Straits of Hormuz just to the west of the arrow. Through where lots of Arabian, Persian and Iraqi oil flows. See what’s ~1,500 miles to the north of the arrow’s tip? Afghanistan! See what’s north of that? Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, all relatively unexploited oil and gas fields. Perhaps this map will make it all come together for you:



See the dark blue and orange lines? They’re proposed pipelines. See where the blue one that goes through Afghanistan ends up? About the same place as the arrow on the map preceding this one—The Sino-Paki port of Gwadar. It might be of some interest that while Gwadar is a political subsidiary of Pakistan, its natives are Baluchi’s and no special friends to the Paki’s. Make no mistake, the Taliban are just an excuse for our military presence in Afghanistan. The greater game is the one that makes petrodollars flow. Charlie Wilson’s War wasn’t to help the Mooj—it was to stop the Soviet gambit to control Afghanistan and thus the flow of central Asian oil. Perhaps you will recall the James Bond film The World is not Enough? This is the real-world version.

The obvious question to ask is “Why would the US cooperate with its competitor, China, for the region’s oil?” The speculative answer is fairly reasonable: China will be getting its oil needs filled, by hook or by crook, as the saying goes. The US and China’s futures are ineluctably woven together by virtue of our global reach and their productive capacity, whose results are the trade between us, the creditor function the Chinese have filled and our shared historical disdain for Russian ambitions. Russian incursions into Afghanistan and later Chechnya have everything to do with their interest in controlling the oil flow and little to do with politics. Russia is more dangerous than China to us, particularly in the near future because they are trying to reverse a decline, whereas China has been booming, in large part due to cooperation with us. The key element is control of the pipelines. Whoever is in this position gets a few points for every one of the billions of barrels that would flow through, not to mention the ready ability to squeeze the beneficiaries of the pipeline’s output. So, if the Chinese were to become dependent on this pipeline, forsaking all others, so to speak, they would also be dependent on the good graces of whomever was to control it. For this reason, no one can be satisfied with a bunch of renegade warlords controlling the pipeline, and hence our ‘war of liberation’ (following the Soviet’s earlier adventure).

Gwadar’s location is not incidentally outside of the Straits of Hormuz, which is vulnerable to Iran’s aggression. An alternative outside the control of Iran is naturally not what Persians would want. Iran has been making noise with its nuclear pretenses, but absolutely cannot afford a war of any sort, since it has no means of keeping it from destroying themselves. They are naively trying to leverage their threats into a greater bargaining chip, however it is backfiring. If they were more cooperative, there would be no reason to have a competing pipeline built. You can see from the maps that they already have a very convenient pipeline to the Persian Gulf from the Caspian region. But their lunatic rulers whether theocratic or secular, make them unreliable partners.

I always like to quote the fictitious Hyman Roth in The Godfather, Part II, when referring to his engineered partnership with the government of pre-Castro Cuba: “At last, we have a government who will cooperate, just 90 miles away.” This is always the dream of gangsters, who as organized criminals, don’t want disorder in their realms. That they can combine so readily with the politicians who populate governments is telling. It happens every day and in most corners of the world. Whatever we might say about our fervor for spreading democracy, our real interest is in the installation of cooperative governments. That is why the likes of Ferdinand Marcos, Manuel Noriega and even Saddam Hussein have enjoyed the favor of the US government over the years. So, we’re in Afghanistan for the same purpose. To put in some form of reliable, and likely, puppet government. You can infer what you wish as to the intentionally left-dangling correlation of gangsters and governments.

Lest anyone think that there is something uniquely American about it, I am also fond of noting that British Imperial designs are fully being carried out by their big, dumb friend, and former colony, America. They gain all of the benefits for their banks, along with British-based Shell and BP oil companies, through the fantastic efforts of America’s military, intelligence and diplomatic forces. I won’t get into detail here, but a study of oil’s history plus the more common knowledge of Britain’s rather arbitrary drawing of lines in the desert after the two world wars (which we might note, began over challenges to the shadow of the Union Jack’s ever sunlit presence) reveals that those lines owe their locations to the oil reserves the intrepid British explorers had discovered. The movie Lawrence of Arabia gives us some hints of British designs, which were characteristically antagonistic to those of the Ottoman Turks, who knew what they had and what the British were up to, but lacked the money- and war-making machines to counter the interlopers. (The Turks did manage to purchase the terrific German battleship Goeben as a counter to the British might, and as if to prove their fear of a well-equipped Turkey, the Royal Navy sent out a major, but unsuccessful task force effort to overtake and destroy it.) The British knew oil would mean real money and both their banking system, which pulled the Imperial strings, and their navy, which perhaps were the strings themselves, could neither resist. Churchill’s real brilliance in conducting The Great Game was offloading to the US Britain’s own imperial police efforts while maintaining the planning and finance functions. Today, smug Brits criticize the barbarity of Americans, while basking in the warmth of its labors. Another analogy I like to draw is of Britain as the belligerent bar patron who picks fights, only to call on his big, dumb friend to bail him out: “You wanna fight me, buddy!?” and thumbing rearward to his protector, “Here’s me buddy!”

These days, apart from Iraq and Afghanistan, the security of shipping in the Indian Ocean has become an interest. Pirates, more famously from Somalia, but equally threatening in the eastern reaches from 250-million strong and 86% Muslim Indonesia continuously test the soft underbelly of world commerce—shipping, recently resulting in a dramatic action by US Navy Seals. These incidents are evidence of an underlying appreciation of the importance of the area. The Pirates’ host nations recognize all of the wealth passing them by and want their own piece, so will tolerate the low-cost method of privateer-based interdictions. A truly successful effort would force shipping interests to treat with otherwise negligible jurisdictions. That usually results in diplomatic mission, along with foreign aid and economic development. It’s a pretty good bargain, especially when piracy can be blamed on a few individuals acting alone. But for the US to protect everyone in the world from such disorderly predations yields a fairly low return.

The opening of China, so to speak, has been a long-time goal, only interrupted by the years of Mao Tse Tung. The US helped out with a brigade of Marines during The Boxer Rebellion, portrayed in film by the movie 55 Days at Peking. Today’s Chinese capitalists represent the potential moneymaking powers of almost 20% of the world’s population. The banks slaver for it. It’s why a British “Protectorate” always existed in Hong Kong, and why Shanghai and Singapore along with other coastal Asian cities were distinctly British in nature. Rival France was in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos belatedly for the same reason: Money. Communism was not autarkic, so whatever pretenses it had of popular benefit were cashiered on crates and barrelheads at those ports. Only when cooperation (perhaps thought of by the indigenous peoples as ‘getting a fair deal’) was imperiled, was warfare employed. Clearly Japan was rebuilt and Taiwan was maintained beyond its own abilities as a counterweight to Red Chinese ambitions. More recent governments of The Middle Kingdom have recognized the benefits of playing in The Great Game, and as a geographically well-positioned participant, have many vested interests. The US (with British blessings) will aid and cooperate with them as long as they are playing poker at our tables under our rules. That seems to suit the big players right now, and the Han peoples are winning their share of hands.

In a world where the US dollar remains the currency of the game, and the Chinese are major holders of it, deflation of the dollar will mean more purchasing capacity for the Chinese, and hence more influence. Thus the US must cooperate, and in my opinion it is not only practical, but ultimately strategic in a grand way. Like the US at the conclusion of the World Wars, Chinese ambitions and designs at the end of the boom era of nation-state economics are large, and to a degree, they should be in charge. We should, similar to what Churchill did with us, offload management of the so-called eastern hemisphere to them, where they can put their considerable wealth and manpower to work to build it up, protect it and generate economic value from it. Civilizations are built on money, not on ideologies. If the Chinese build their part of the world up, they have an increased interest in its prosperity and pacification. The US would have a reduced need for the extreme expenses of far-flung military adventures and the net might be improved domestic conditions and reduced threats of terrorism. This ‘less is more’ approach is just what we need in these times of economic privation.

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Posted Date: 10/27/09

Category: Miscellany

Subject: Conventional Thinking

I attended the PEI/NACS last week in Las Vegas, the umpteenth time it has been held there. It’s like the Yankees in the World Series—gets old, but apparently there are the faithful. Las Vegas has many shortcomings as a venue, from my way of seeing it, and the PEI combined with NACS, now in its 8th or 9th iteration, has its share of shortcomings, as well. Veterans of the industry are becoming jaded, it seems to me, and no amount of energy drinks is likely to revitalize them. Reports were that the show was “the largest ever” and attendance was “up” from last year in Chicago. My own eyeball survey did not confirm this, however. Perhaps the manifold distractions that embody Las Vegas (the city that critic Paul Fussell said was “The world capital of tacky and I suppose you could get some idea of the height of your social class by your lack of familiarity with it.”) kept registrants from visibly flooding the convention floors. It’s hard to say. I have probably attended the PEI twenty times, and the PEI/NACS represents six of those. This particular PEI seemed to lack the excitement of many earlier ones, which were much like my recollection of the introduction of the 1968 Chevrolets at our local dealer, “Farmer” Dick Barone, in Springfield, PA. Everyone who mattered to me socially was there, along with the long awaited “Mako Shark” Corvette and Mark Donohue’s Trans-Am Camaro.

Maybe I am just old. In fact, staying at my hotel, which was able to upgrade me for $50 to a non-smoking room, (what I reserved in the first place) there was an AARP convention in addition to the PEI/NACS crowd. Now the Las Vegas hotels are famously big, so it wasn’t a space issue, but rather more a processing problem that I encountered upon making it to the registration desk after a 10-minute wait in line. Evidently the old folks were getting similarly hustled and weren’t as flexible about the upgrade. Maybe our whole crowd is getting old, but I couldn’t help notice that I had to look at their badges to tell the difference between AARP and PEI/NACS. They had similar tour buses that picked them up at the same place (the seamy back door of Harrah’s), so I really did have to read the signs. My inference is that PEI/NACS is fairly insignificant to the Vegas Venue.

Nesting a level higher is the combination of PEI/NACS. Back in the old days, as they say, the PEI and NACS were two separate shows, usually falling a few weeks apart. So, it was convention season in October. The PEI was for engineers and other nerds like me who like their shear valves served cold. Top Marketing execs rarely attended, and if they did it was the dispenser manufacturers who mostly got their attention, with CRINDS and so forth being on the cutting edge in days of yore. But nerd chic, with all the polyester that implies, was the order of the day. Once I became a manager, I used to jokingly tell my charges that if they came back with meals on their expense reports, I would know they were cheating, as one had so many offers for them, they had to be prioritized and some turned away. To be sure, there is plenty of entertaining still available, but the marquee events are no longer hosted by the dispenser manufacturers but by cigarette and beer producers, where the real money is. Engineers, unless fastened to a marketing executive, will not likely hear about those parties. And, to be fair, an engineer would probably be a fifth wheel at one of them. The point is that PEI is a lesser convention than NACS in terms of significance to retailers, and the current format only tends to magnify this fact.

The Las Vegas venue, in addition to its shortcomings in terms of exclusivity (and for me interesting discovery opportunities), is in a convention center that is attached more or less to a Hilton hotel. The convention center lacks a single room that is large enough to hold PEI/NACS. This year, the NACS itself was divided between rooms that were a 100 poorly marked yards apart across a dimly lit main concourse. The most exciting booths in terms of glitz—beer and tobacco—were in the north section, along with the fortunate purveyors of foodservice equipment and merchandise. The poor relations in the south hall included PEI, a close relative called NACS-Tech, and energy drinks along with some of their tawdry “supplement” segments. So there was definitely a right and a wrong side of the proverbial tracks, and I am sure the traffic in the south was far less than the north. I found it difficult to find a sample or hospitality set-out of water or soda pop in the whole south end (although there were many opportunities for unlimited sampling of extravagantly boastful energy drinks of unknown composition—which one does well to avoid, methinks). With all the relatively wholesome stuff being gladly handed out on the north side, it seemed a shame to have to buy stuff from the weary-looking Quizno’s franchise located under the restroom pavilion (you had to take an elevator up to the restroom). The south hall was additionally appointed with NASA-sized garage doors and beyond them were loading docks which seemed to be preferred locations for attendees to satisfy their smoking joneses. See, if as I propose below, the exciting and the bland were interspersed in the floor plan, tobacconists could have smoking areas adjacent to their display booths.

Now, I am not a convention planner, but as an experienced consumer of PEI and PEI/NACS, I would say that, rather than have all the excitement in one area and all the rest elsewhere, a good plan would mix it up a little. You would need a big convention center such as McCormick Place in Chicago or the one in Orlando that can put it all into one big room. If the peak traffic generators, for example the Playboy booth, were spaced out with a slow gradient down through free food to beef jerky and cigarette lighters to petroleum equipment, and then back up again to say, Rock Star Energy Drinks, there would always be traffic flowing past everyone’s booths. Big-wig executives would walk past flex-pipe. Engineers could get a drink and a hot dog sample. These seem like they would be good things. When we go to regional shows, we frequently see fried chicken and tank wagons in close proximity. Apart from an increase in greasy fingerprints on the shiny aluminum, it seems to work out. A re-think of PEI/NACS is in order.

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Posted Date: 10/16/09

Category: Whats Importnant

Subject: Sing Beautifully

Last night, I attended a concert at nearby Baldwin-Wallace College featuring a cappella vocal quartet Anonymous 4. These matronly women sing primarily multi-part medieval ecclesiastical hymns and liturgical arrangements, most of which are unfamiliar to the audience, who occasionally clapped at the wrong time. Nonetheless, I felt fortunate to hear them live, as the effect of sound depth from human-powered instruments is much greater than through any reproduction system I have heard. Singing primarily from individual binders, the performers produced an array of ethereal effects that they entitled Secret Voices, most worthy of being heard, regardless of one’s musical bent. So synchronized were their tempos and harmonies, that I found it difficult to distinguish exactly who was making which sound, despite my having seating in the first ten rows. The program guide suggests that the ladies are both historians and performers, who research the music, arrange it for coherence of content and harmony of the vocal parts they ultimately render.

I write this, not because I am a musical expert, nor qualified reviewer, but because I see a close analogy between the lovely sounds I heard and the lovely sounds I would like to hear in business, but so often do not. On the ride home, my wife and two youngest daughters discussed whether the group members were the best of friends and simply loved playing together. It was my observation that their body language indicated respectfulness of one other and unquestioning inter-reliance. I saw no special bonds of friendship, no physical contact, save at the end, when they linked hands for a group bow (to a standing ovation), and there was none of the smarmy touting of one another that seems compulsory for most acts. In fact, there was no non-musical communication with the audience nor among the performers. What then was it that made for such a fine show? I decided that each of the women is a professional, she professes truly and unstintingly, and the others know what she is doing. No one tries to out sing the others, because that would detract from the sound—their product. We tried to guess who the leader was and came up with three different opinions.

One of the most worn-out phrases in business is how everyone should be “singing off the same page.” In my analogy (a logical form I admit to having a weakness for), we could see the music binders as company policies, strategic plan, production and administrative processes, and marketing. Each performer could be viewed as the manager of one of the areas and when they are in tune, good things happen. Not singing off the same page, so much as singing off separate pages that are deliberately made to harmonize. We do our part properly because we are professionals, not because of our love for the other guy. That last thing is a common bug-bear in business. Among many old saws we have are admonitions not to mix business and pleasure, never lend money to friends, etc. Personal affection can be antithetical to good business practices. As personal antagonism can certainly be. What is called for is that professionalism which allows sober decisions stripped of passion.

OK, OK. You have seen musical performances where passion is undeniable, and where the heights of the experience could not have been reached without it. I have too. I think the difference is that the volatility of passion leads to interpersonal squabbles, the taking of sides, and finally, breakup. If the enterprise is to be sound and long-lived, a business-like approach is indicated. I have no inside knowledge, but the longevity of The Rolling Stones’ act can assuredly be found rooted in such an approach. Mick can generate the heat on stage, but that is his professional duty. The band members certainly like one another, but after all this time, must mutually yield space to allow everyone to lead his life separately. That’s what we want in business—the mutual respect of the players, whether inside or outside the company, but simultaneously, the expectation of reliability that is rooted in the demonstrated professionalism of each. ¡Cante maravillosamente!

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Posted Date: 6/22/09

Category: Ideas

Subject: So, you’ve decided to ‘Go Green.”


I followed this link http://www.petrolplaza.com/HTML/text/publications/user_images/Circle-green-retail.pdf to see what new ideas there are under the sun, and if you read it, I think you will agree that, at least as far as it goes, there are none. Green as a statement has no more value to a petroleum marketing operation than do admonitions to “Support our Troops,” “Race for the Cure,” or “American Owned.” All of them are feel-goods, but do they give a leg-up? Marketers need those legs up whenever they can get them, but a plethora of vague messages just look like more noise.


But, looked at another way, ‘Green’ can really add to the bottom line. It’s not about blowing your emerald horn. It’s about investing in things that return tangible value to your operation. A couple of items in the article deserve special attention. The first is awnings, which in Hibernian dialect, are called shades. Another is reconsideration of the HVAC environment. Heating and cooling are primarily done for the comfort of the employees, with another consideration being for the merchandising of confections and beverages. When a customer comes into a convenience store, he is generally coming from the outside environment, exposed fully to the weather. Just getting inside for the few minutes he might is often a relief. If the visit is in the winter, he is most likely dressed for cold, so your heat isn’t going to get through much to him. Similarly, if he comes inside during warm weather, any noticeable drop in temperature versus the outside is appreciated. Why then do we so often go into ice-cold c-stores in the summer, or excessively warm ones in the winter? In both instances, the employees are characteristically turned out with polo shirts and company-logo sweaters. That’s right, sweaters in the summer and winter! Here’s why and what to do about it:

Summer

Problem: Heat gain from sunlight melts candy, and fades merchandies.
Low Energy Cost Solution: Install awnings above glass areas to shade the inside of the store. No visibility is lost, versus blinds or films.

Problem: Heat-generating appliances, such as food and beverage centers and self-contained coolers reject heat into the conditioned space. This makes the cooling system work doubly.
Low Energy Cost Solution: Combine condensing units and/or exhaust outdoors. Choose built-in versus modular coolers. Put in thermostatically controlled exhaust fans in hoods above food/coffee areas and behind any modular floor coolers. They can be turned off in the winter.

Winter

Problem: The door is constantly opening, exchanging heated air for the draft. The employees are cold.
Low Energy Cost Solution: Put in ceiling heat panels above where cashiers stand. Put in door sweeps that close off drafts. Put heated floor pads where cashiers stand.

Problem: Wetness on the floor leads to wet and cold feet among employees.
Low Energy Cost Solution: Raise the cashier area above the surrounding floor - this keeps floor moisture and drafts off employees' feet.

All Seasons

Problem: Restroom water, lights and exhaust fans left running.
Low Energy Cost Solution: Install motion -sensing switches for all. Give a minute or two time window between switch off and lights off.

Vapor Processing—it’s not just for the environment anymore! Modern vapor processing systems separate product stirred up by pumping energy into re-saleable liquid and clean air. In use for several years by many high-volume fuel locations, these systems actually make money for their owners. We’ve heard very good reports about the Air Permeator, available from Arid Technologies, Inc. Reports of as much as 7-800 gallons of saved product per month are heard. Depending on the fuel price, this can make the $40,000 installed cost* pretty easy to justify. The Green you may be feeling could be in your wallet!


*typical cost to install at sites already equipped for Stage-II Vapor recovery. If you’re building a new site, you might add the $10-15,000 for Vapor Recovery return lines, vapor-ready dispensers, nozzles and hoses and start saving right away. (They’re quite a bit more dear to retrofit.)


If any of this is something we can help you implement, t
hat’s the kind of thing we’re all about at JGD Associates—allowing you to focus on operations while we take care of the technology.

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Posted Date: 4-29-09

Category: Issues and Solutions

Subject: Monkeys Monkeying with Price


We all like to talk about living in a free country, but it appears that a lot of our legislators don’t understand what that means. Today has a certain Bart Stupak (D-MI) introducing a bill to limit the pricing autonomy of petroleum marketers, by making it a federal crime to “price-gouge.” I’m someone who travels in airplanes and goes to movies, and while I resent the pricing policies of these organizations and the concessions that accompany them, I am respectful of the fact that I am not forced to purchase their products. When I buy gasoline, I keep an eye out for good prices and pretty much know where they will be found. But they are all relative, even as oil itself has dropped by two-thirds in price in less than a year. Additionally, if I am low on gas and I don’t like the price where I am, I may choose to purchase just a few gallons, enough to get me to where I think it might be more to my liking. Similarly, I might plan ahead and eat before I go to the airport or ballgame, so I don’t have to be abused by their concessions pricing. They price like they do because they can. They optimize the product of price times volume, and suffer the consequences if they get it wrong. That is what free enterprise is.

From time to time, efforts by state legislatures are undertaken to set a minimum price for fuel, so that marketers cannot sell fuel products for below what the state determines to be the cost of it. This kind of law has only the interests of a few traditional marketers pitted against the rise of grocers and hypermarkets among their competition. Who in the public would want to pay more for a gallon of gas so that retailers could make a “fair profit?” We note that whenever the word “fair” is used around laws or their justifications, the effect is everything but fair for at least one party in the purportedly unbalanced transaction. In my conception of it, fairness is something that comes from the fulfillment of one’s duties as understood by a reasonable interpretation of the surrounding laws, customs and contractual arrangements. The legal redress of some failure in such fulfillment would come from a court that understood the concept of fairness and was able to discern the underlying bargain that had been struck. There is no need for a third party, the government, to determine what prices are fair and what ones are not. Certainly our federal government has not been a center of balance and equilibrium. Indeed when one thinks of incidents of unfairness, he frequently conjures images of dealings with bureaucrats of some sort.

We elect legislators to represent us and our interests, making laws that fit within the bounds of the constitution, while adjusting for current developments and values. So far as I am aware, the Free Enterprise System has not been rejected by the public. It’s American to make a legal buck if you can. Nobody forces you to buy gasoline from them. Monkeying around with pricing is not the province of legislators living in a free-enterprise system. Accordingly, whatever the good intentions of legislation that restricts pricing freedom, such efforts are ABSOLUTELY WRONG, and unworthy of America.

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Posted Date: 4-7-09

Category: Business effects and responses

Subject: Growing C-store profits


The below article is from NACS Online. A 54 % increase in profits is pretty hefty, but current fuel margins are less than 5%. What’s behind more convenience store profits? I speculate that tough times for hand-to-mouth consumers may translate into fewer planned trips for staples, thus more spur-of-the-moment purchases, such as would benefit convenience stores. Milk, bread, and beer would be examples of higher margin products that might now be picked up at the c-store instead of the grocery store. In addition, cheap eats, like hotdogs, roller grill and heat-n-eat products might be cutting into take-outs from fast food-only and lunch places. There are always going to be dislocations when economic sea-changes occur. If I am right about the reasons, that should be bullish for convenience store and store-equipped gas station operations.

Convenience Store Sales, Profits Showed Gains in 2008
Strong fourth quarter motor fuels margins balance out otherwise tough year.


CHICAGO – An otherwise tough year for convenience stores was balanced out by strong retail fuel margins from the unprecedented drop in wholesale fuels prices during the fourth quarter of 2008, according to data released this morning by NACS.

Overall convenience store industry profits rose 54 percent in 2008 to reach $5.2 billion, reversing a two-year decline where profits dropped 42 percent over that period. Industry sales jumped 8.1 percent to reach $624.1 billion, with both motor fuels sales (up 10.1 percent to $450.2 billion) and in-store sales (up 3.2 percent to $173.9 billion) showing growth.

The growth of in-store sales defied the overall trend in U.S. retail sales, which fell 0.6 percent based on U.S. Department of Commerce data. It also came despite a rare decline in the number of convenience stores. For only the third time in the past 15 years, the industry store count dropped – 1.0 percent to 144,875 – as many stores closed because of the punishing economic conditions and record-low motor fuels margins the industry faced during the first three quarters of 2008.

The convenience store industry sells an estimated 80 percent of the fuels purchased in the United States, and motor fuels sales continue to dominate industry revenues, accounting for 74.5 percent of all sales dollars, in examining same-firm sales data. However, overall fuel gallons sold declined 2.4 percent. Meanwhile because of low gross margins on fuel (5.7 percent), only 31.7 percent of all profit dollars came from fuels sales.

Credit card fees continue to be the industry’s top pain point, surging another 10.5 percent in 2008 to reach a record $8.4 billion – nearly three times the level just five years ago.

Although unemployment levels nationwide were souring in 2008, there was good news with respect to the convenience store industry’s employment figures. The industry saw a modest 0.8 percent gain in number of employees, which rose to 1.73 million. Annual turnover numbers were even more impressive. For non managers, annual turnover was down to 109.0 percent; turnover for managers was down to 29.0 percent.

There were several significant differences between the industry’s top performers and bottom performers. Top quartile performers sold more than twice as much motor fuels as the bottom quartile (187,932 versus 84,369 gallons per month). The top quartile performers significantly outperformed the bottom quartile inside the store as well – with merchandise sales of $124,797 versus $75,753 per store per month. As a result, top quartile stores showed an average monthly pretax profit of $13,173 per month, while the bottom quartile lost $3,626 per month.

Once again, cigarettes dominated in-store sales, accounting for nearly one in every three dollars spent in stores, but cigarette gross margins continued to plummet, falling to 15.3 percent. These low cigarette margins dropped the category to third in terms of gross margin contribution. Meanwhile, foodservice – which includes dispensed beverages and food prepared on site – continues to show strong growth, accounting for nearly one in four in-store profit dollars.

Nearly 75 percent of in-store sales were from the top five categories:
1. Cigarettes (32.7 percent of in-store sales)
2. Packaged beverages (14.1 percent)
3. Foodservice (13.9 percent)
4. Beer (10.2 percent)
5. Other tobacco products (3.9 percent)
Nearly 70 percent of gross margin dollars were from the top five categories:
1. Foodservice (23.9 percent of gross margin dollars)
2. Packaged beverages (16.6 percent)
3. Cigarettes (16.0 percent)
4. Beer (6.9 percent)
5. Candy (4.8 percent)

The industry’s 2008 metrics are based on the NACS State of the Industry survey powered by CSX, the industry’s largest purpose-designed business development tool, and based on data from 156 firms representing more than 20,000 stores. Complete data tables and analysis will be released in June in the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2008 Data.

The numbers were announced at the 2009 NACS State of the Industry Summit in partnership with CSP. The two-day conference, held at the Chicago InterContinental Hotel O’Hare, concludes tomorrow. Look for additional coverage of the event later this week.

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Posted Date: 3-31-09

Catagory: Selling

 

Subject: Selling In A Bad Economy


SPOILER ALERT! It’s a bad economy. That means sales are going to be tougher, and that’s because there is a shortage of money. So, traditional approaches, particularly those traditions that have arisen in the past 25 or so of boom years, might not be the winning methods for a while. One particular trait of salesmen in recent years has been the “whatever” mentality, which to me characterizes an outlook that is pretty sloppy, but tolerable when ‘plenty’ is the zeitgeist. As paucity takes over, people will pay a lot more attention to the details of what they’re buying and how they’re being treated. Maybe it’s because now they have more time than money.

This ends up being a yet another plea for more customer service, and by this, I don’t mean the kind where a customer is ‘serviced’ by a non-entity halfway around the world reading off a decision tree. I mean the kind of ‘sales and service’ mentality that employs experts who closely tailor a product offering to a customer's needs. Yes, yes, customers do not always know exactly what they need, and in fact that is where the human, listening factor comes in. Computers are great for repetitive tasks, and thus a catalog with an order form on the internet is far superior to one brought around by a peddler. But whether a prospect can understand the implications of what is in a catalog is more problematic. That’s where the old-timey salesman comes in. The guy who really knows his product and his industry.

Ever go to a restaurant where Justin or someone like him butts in on your conversation and announces himself as your server tonight, spouts off some speech about tonight’s specials and then “Can I start you off with a drink?” He’s treated you as an object to get paid, and further aggravates you by butting in again and again to ask, “Is everything alright?” etc. At a good restaurant, like Johnny’s on Fulton, here in Cleveland, or Bone’s in Atlanta, professional waiters stand at a discreet distance from your table, wait for appropriate times to engage the guests, have excellent suggestions about the food and drink, and let you want for nothing. That’s why they’ve been thriving all these years, even though their listings have twice as many dollar signs as Applebee’s. They not only seem to care, I believe they really do.

So, what does a customer need? Ask him about what his goal is, what his budget and timeframe are, and you will be well on your way to satisfying him. Your preliminary suggestions will elicit feedback for refining the ultimate offer. Once you think you’ve got his measure, check again, going over details, and make sure he is still warm for the purchase. Agree on specific delivery dates and what other performance measures he may contemplate. Then follow-through! Don’t leave the customer wondering what’s going on. If it’s a longer lead-time item, agree on scheduled milestones and report faithfully. Use computers to remind all the stakeholders of coming events. When everything is delivered and accepted, follow-up and make sure there are no loose ends. That’s the perfect time to inquire about future business or referrals.

Playing it straight looks like a winner again.

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Posted Date: 1-27-09

Catagory: Equipment - Whats New


Subject: Taking the $ting out of Spill Container Repairs

There is a lot of current attention being paid to the environmental effects of leaking spill containment buckets. A few ounces dripped per delivery into the ground can add up to a whole lotta’ cleanin’ up in an otherwise pristine tank installation. Research has found that the majority of leaks in spill buckets occur from deliberate damage inflicted by drivers annoyed with water or product buildup in the buckets and the inconvenience of emptying them. Many existing spill containments are made of corrosion-free flexible materials that would survive just fine, except for tire irons and pry bar attacks.

Until now, repairs to the spill bucket investment meant quite a bit more investment, in terms of contractor work and site downtime. But there is a new play that changes the game: The Linebacker ™ is a new product that adds the strength of steel to the existing installation and seals broken spill containers to better than new condition in half an hour and no down time. This device is such a good idea, it’s being patented. An owner or maintenance worker with simple tools and ordinary skills can repair a whole site’s worth of damaged spill buckets for less than the price of changing-out a single one using conventional demolition and replacement methods.

The Linebacker ™ system is so simple that owners should consider “upgrading” to Linebacker ™ before anything is broken. In this case, the result is double containment, without the worry of future leaks due to abuse. In addition, the Linebacker ™ 2 uses a similar approach to enable in-situ upgrades to Vacuum-testable Double Wall inserts to comply with the toughest state regulations now being considered. And the peace of mind from it is, like MasterCard, Priceless.

To view a Linebacker ™ PowerPoint presentation, click here. The Linebacker ™ product line is available from Atlantic Fuel Technology, a PEI member company located in Harrisonburg, VA. www.aft-afs.com Call 800-833-7655 for further details. Distributor inquiries are welcome.

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