What’s the best way to Learn Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints?

Eliyahu Goldratt (wikipedia) introduced the world to the Theory of Constraints (“TOC”) (wikipedia) in his 1984 book The Goal. The book is required reading in top MBA programs and in careers with a heavy focus on manufacturing, technical development and/or scheduling. Applying the concepts of The Goal is an effective way to create plans and resolve challenges in many settings – as Goldratt demonstrates in the book.

If its important to you to learn and be able to apply TOC quickly and effectively, I encourage the following steps:

  1. Read the book.
  2. Apply TOC to something work related.
  3. Apply TOC to something personal.
  4. Explain TOC to someone once a day for 2 weeks.

1/ Read the book.

There’s a reason that the #1 most common book used in all MBA programs globally is The Goal. It teaches the concepts clearly, across cultures, and is relevant in many business settings. Read the book. Buy the book. You’ll use it repeatedly. If you want the annotated version, buy the comic book version. If you need to start right now, then check out this page-by-page, chapter-by-chapter review.

2/ Apply TOC to something work related.

The great thing about Goldratt’s framework is that it can be immediately grasped and applied. Take what you learn from [1] and start to put it into action – just like Rogo does with the NCX-10 – the robot used as an example throughout the book. (Chapter 17) Find a work related topic and apply what you know. Write out the goal. Write out the process that gets you there. Identify the constraints. The project can be real world manufacturing, a project, a customer problem – but picking something real will help that learning kick in.

3/ Apply TOC to something personal.

I’m no fan of Julie Rogo, the wife of Alex Rogo (Chapter 16), the lead character in The Goal. Goldratt did something brilliant as a writer by including Alex and Julie’s relationship challenges, Alex’s personal history with Barrington, where the ailing plant is located. By showing that TOC is applicable in a corporate setting and in a personal setting Goldratt extended the value of the framework as a tool. Try finding something personal where additional inspection would help in achieving a goal.

4/ Talk about TOC

TOC is relevant to the workplace [2] and to your personal life [3]. The best way to learn a subject is to teach it to others. Take what you’ve read and applied and discuss it with those around you.

Conclusion: The Fastest and Best Way to Learn TOC

There are lots of ways to learn a subject. By following these steps you’ve got the fastest, easiest, and clearest steps ahead of you to learn and apply Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (“TOC”).

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Better Writing, Better Blogging: From One Hit Wonder to Repeat Readers and Views

I blog because I like writing. I write to practice communicating clearly. In 2013 one single post “An Apology to my European IT Team” accounted for 99% of my traffic, which led me to add a new goal to the list. How do I develop a sustainable set of readers?

Never forget, you are writing for strangers.

Vonnegut

I had a goal of increasing organic traffic to the site and explored several ways to do so. By focusing on books I enjoyed and taking a different approach to book reviews, I was on track to hit that goal last year in 2020. The pandemic gave strong tailwinds, as my personal background in porous materials – including facemasks and indoor air quality (“IAQ”), became popular topics leading to many new readers.

Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.

African Proverb

2021 looks to extend the trend, mostly based on the approach to book reviews and news topics. For book reviews:

  • Focus on the writing style
  • Take a very thorough, page-by-page approach
  • Roll up the page-by-page approach to chapter-by-chapter to full book summaries
  • Drive the reader to read the original book – this leads me to focus on books I would recommend
  • The target audience is new readers of great books
  • Focus on educational and self-help style books with long reading cycles (Mandelbrot, Goldratt, Moore, Sun Tzu)
  • Look for derivative activities to drill deep into books – such as YouTube with Dale Carnegie, YouTube Goldratt, Goldratt on #YouTubeShorts with chapter-by-chapter summaries has been well received and was fun to do. By summarizing the subject, it makes the communication crisp.
  • Look for topics that will be around a while – even if it is just a post on BBQ or Sous Vide
  • Not everything gets posted – at any time, my ‘Drafts’ section could have 30 or more topics
  • Get to topics that lend themself to repeat, daily topics – find a way to make my own rhythm
  • Try to be useful to the public – such as with Seabase and Scouts BSA, Peloton, or with Tactical Pants – after all, I’m being selfish in writing to improve my own communication.

For news or topical writing:

7 years to consistently outperform a one hit wonder
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Cooking BBQ: Sous Vide Ribs, Rattlesnake Ribs

Prior to using a sous vide cooker, the household favorite recipe was the Rattlesnake Ribs from The New Basics Cookbook from the authors of the Silver Palate Cookbook. We’ve tried several sous vide recipes, and particularly like the Serious Eats recipe. (The good 3×3 of results vs time and temperature is from their website.) We also like the FitFoodie recipe.

Our approach to ribs and BBQ is pretty open:

  • always get rid of the membrane!
  • boiling is okay
  • we don’t own a smoker
  • sous vide is good
  • part of making good bbq, is that they are good as left overs
  • I prefer dry rub
  • if i can use a grill to finish them off – then that’s good too
  • I prefer a sticky BBQ sauce
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s sweet and spicy is pretty good. I like making new sauces and trying them out – but the point of the activity is the meat preparation and the rub.

Sous vide ribs are great – for the first day. However, sous vide cooking takes out all the fat. This makes them less good on the second day.

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Frank Lloyd Wright in New England: Currier Museum Tours of The Zimmerman and Kalil Houses in Manchester, New Hampshire (NH)

In August of 2021 we visited the Currier Art Museum, located in Manchester, New Hampshire, to tour two Frank Lloyd Wright homes that they own – the Zimmerman Home (223 Heather St, Manchester, NH 03104) and the Kalil House (117 Heather St, Manchester, NH 03104), located a short walk down the street. Both are accessed via a tour bus that departs from the museum (150 Ash Street, Manchester, NH, 03104).

These are the only two private homes built by Frank Lloyd Wright available to tour in New England.

The Zimmerman home was built first, and fits many classic Frank Lloyd Wright tropes:

  • Squares and ratios in the design
  • Repetitive tiling, architectural details
  • Wood work
  • Interesting use of glass and interior landscaping to bring the outside indoors
  • Minimal storage
  • Minimal garage

The Kalils were friends of the Zimmermans, and after enjoying their neighbors home, purchased a Usonian design that re-used cast concrete blocks. While the layouts are similar and familiar to anyone that has toured a Wright home, the stark concrete design comes across like a brurtalist Eastern European building from the 1960s. The Kalil home is unique in that:

  • It is the only Frank Lloyd Wright home with a guest house, albeit one that was never inhabited. It is the only Frank Lloyd Wright mother-in-law suite.
  • The concrete forms were re-used to make a taller main room than other Wright homes.

Both homes have excellent samplings of some of my favorite items to look for in architectural tours:

  • Music and musical instruments of Frank Lloyd Wright homes (sheet music, pianos, music stands)
  • Appliances of Frank Lloyd Wright homes; Ovens, Toasters, Mixers, Stoves, Washers and Dryers, Refrigerators, etc. (Westinghouse, General Electric, etc.)
  • Libraries and book collections of Frank Lloyd Wright homeowners
  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Post Office Boxes

Supporting Information:

Sources – Zimmerman House:

Sources – Kalil House:

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Zimmerman House at the Currier Museum – Manchester, New Hampshire

Read more about the Zimmerman House.

  • Appliances
  • Books, Libraries
  • Music, Musical Instruments
  • Concrete
  • Landscaping
  • Garages, Carports
  • Living Museum
  • Post Office Box, Mailbox, Mail Box
  • Clutter

Sources – Zimmerman House:

Sources – Kalil House:

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kalil House – A Usonian in Manchester, New Hampshire at the Currier Art Museum

Read more about touring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kalil House.

  • Guest house, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only guest house, mother-in-law suite
  • Music, musical instruments
  • Appliances
  • Plumbing
  • Landscaping
  • customer focus

Sources – Zimmerman House:

Sources – Kalil House:

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Best Places to Eat: Lake Winnipesaukee, Meredith NH, Lakes Region, New Hampshire – Restaurants to Check Out

To trust any kind of restaurant reviews, you’ve got to know the reviewer:

  • Married, 2 kids – most of the time we’re out as a family, and the best restaurants have something for everyone
  • I’m Celiac, so I eat a gluten free diet – but I’m the only one in the family that does so
  • I like meat, bbq, tacos, breakfast sandwiches (& breakfast tacos too), burgers, and benedicts
Frog Nachos Are the Best

Frog Rock Tavern (67 Main Street, Meredith, NH 03253)

  • Burgers with Gluten Free buns
  • Beers on tap
  • GF drink options
  • Nightly drink specials, nightly happy hours
  • Best nachos in New Hampshire
  • Friday night prime rib special
  • Tied with The Mug for best local hang out

Town Docks (289 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, NH 03253) – Common Man: Open May – October

  • Best view
  • Best beach bar
  • Best lobster rolls – best novelty lobster roll with one pound of meat (it’s the real deal). Warm butter and mayo salad style lobster rolls.
  • Great beach and boat drinks – try the Painkiller in a bucket, good margaritas, good liquor selection
  • Good smashburgers, wraps, chicken fingers
  • Great for kids
  • Good ice cream stand

Camp (298 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, NH 03253) ,
Lago (1 NH-25, Meredith, NH 03253),
Lakehouse Grille (281 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, NH 03253) – Common Man

  • Camp for burgers, onion rings, ribs, stuffed jalapenos, mason bar drink specials
  • Lakehouse Grille inside of Church Landing at Mill Falls resort for steaks, seafood, salad, specialty cocktails, great views of the lake, great burgers
  • Lago for Italian, great views of the lake
  • Great burgers, gluten free buns
  • Great cocktails
  • Chicken sandwiches, hotdogs, grilled cheese, tater tots, onion rings, fried pickles
  • Great music, fun, easy-going local vibe
  • Surfside website
  • Wonderful deli sandwiches – hot and cold
  • Great reuben, awesome Italian sub
  • Gluten free breads, very allergen friendly
  • Cookies, drinks
  • Call ahead
  • Nice outdoor seating, wonderful view of Meredith Bay
  • Website
  • Amazing pizzas – including specialty pizzas like chicken bacon and ranch, four cheese, white pizza
  • Delicious calzones
  • Salads
  • Bar, music, outdoor patio
  • Amazing view of the Mill wheel from the patio
  • In the running for best breakfast on the lake
  • Across from Ace Hardware, with views of the lake and the Mt Washington
  • Bakery, coffee store and more
  • Gusto! Website
  • Great decor, welcoming ambiance – authentically Italian
  • Sparkling red Lambrusco wine on tap!
  • Hot, fresh Italian coffee
  • Gluten free options – breads, desserts, bakery
  • Great list of desserts
  • First visited November 2021
  • The best night out of good dining on Lake Winnipesaukee, or anywhere in the Lakes Region
  • A true hidden gem, hidden in plain site
  • Inventive and creative menu delivering on traditional recipes with new twists
  • Reliable feels good, welcome home food – and adventuresome new tastes
  • Great cocktails
  • Great meats – including the occasional ‘Ron Swanson Special’ featuring three different kinds of ribs
  • Gluten free options, including GF pizza, breads
  • Great sandwiches, great pasta, wonderful and inventive appetizers
  • Canoe was our first favorite restaurant to love in New Hampshire; great gluten free options, wonderful escargot (our kids love it), delicious entrees, a deep bar, great margaritas, and a good wine list
  • O Steakhouse has two locations, the one in Lakeport in the Opechee Inn is a great night out, one of the best steakhouses, has a great bar, great GF options, and is very reliable!
  • Rubbin’ Butts is a BBQ (I hate this pun), is a mostly reliable take out only joint that serves many of the great meat components from Magic Foods. Great family take out options.
  • 48 Main has now moved from 48 Main down the Street
  • Best crepes – breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and savory – in all of New England
  • Best coffee in Meredith
  • Great bakery and other treats
  • Two locations in walk-able downtown Laconia
  • Awesome coffee, espresso, latte, mocha
  • Delicious waffles – including gluten free ham and cheese waffles
  • Local farm to table options on par with Osteria Poggio
  • Outstanding list of cocktails, great wine list, local beers
  • Local entrees, great meats, pork, fish, chicken
  • Amazing hamburgers
  • Wonderful salads – some of the best in the Lakes Region – try the beet salad!
  • Fantastic gluten free options including gluten free pizza
  • Wow, it’s 20 minutes off of Lake Winnipesaukee, but this restaurant delivers with a gastro pub modern menu, beautiful views, and regular live entertainment
  • Great gluten free options – burgers, appetizers, drinks, specials
  • Spicy Asian cuisine on the menu
  • It’s a long drive from Meredith to get to the East shore of the lake!
  • Best Mexican food, great margaritas
  • Great gluten free GF options
  • Awesome tacos
  • Great taco salad
  • Great salsa, queso fundido and guacamole
  • The original ‘barn and grille’ – Best Decor!
  • Great gluten free, GF options
  • Tasty ribs, steaks, entrees
  • Creative salads, burgers
  • Tasty wings
  • Often with great evening entertainment – nice outdoor dining
  • Amazing views, dining on the water, on the deck
  • Classic fried fish, lakeside dining
  • Great burgers, wraps, and other comfort food
  • Best breakfast
  • Best breakfast sandwich – with gluten free toast
  • Great burgers, great sandwiches

Mello Moose (136 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, NH 03253)

  • Best coffee, best coffee shop
  • Snacks, gluten free egg bites, gluten free quiche bites
  • Beautiful view
  • Traditional American lake food
  • Great chicken sandwiches, good Caesar salad
  • Some gluten free options

George’s Diner (10 Plymouth Street, Meredith, NH 03253)

  • Where locals go for the best diner food
  • Great breakfast, burgers, dinner specials
  • Okay Mexican food convenient to the docks
  • Cool old barn – but Ellacoya is just as cool
  • Good steaks – but not as good as Osteria, O Steakhouse or Canoe
  • Nice bar – but not as nice as Lakehouse Grille, Surfside, or many others
  • It’s amazing to see the cars in this parking lot – it looks like downtown Boston
  • Not worth the hype – with our experience the prices were high, the staff was focused on other ‘regulars’ and did not seem to care about new diners

The Lakeview Tavern (7 Main St, Meredith, NH 03253)

  • Reliable burgers, wings and pub food
  • Not a big list of gluten free (“GF”) options

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SeaBase Coral Reef Sailing – What is it? What do they actually do? What should I bring? How does sleeping work?

[written on my iPhone while at SeaBase as one of three boats – 24 total / 7 adults / 17 scouts – this is a bit of a ramble as we took and shared notes on what we found at SeaBase.]

You will sleep on the boat for six nights and have seven days in and around SeaBase. With perfect weather each day you’ll have the opportunity to; (i) sail, (ii) snorkel (aka ‘dive’), and (iii) fish. There will be days when you can do more – such as paddle board. Most trips have a ‘midweek’ – ours was at a Pennekamp State Park, where we were able to walk around, see an aquarium, and we slept moored to a pier that night.

Why is it so hard to get a sample SeaBase itinerary?

  • My impression is that they really don’t want anyone to be disappointed – but in doing so, they are so vague it creates its own frustration and complications.
  • Quote from participant guide: “Where can I find a detailed itinerary? One is not provided. Programs are weather and tide dependent. There are no required destinations other than arrival and departure points. We make every attempt to include Sailing, Snorkeling, and Fishing every day on the water.”
  • Seabase doesn’t know the boat you’ll be on
  • Don’t know the captain – why is that?
  • Don’t know the weather
  • Also – it’s obvious to them – everyone in Florida has had this experience, and they know that it can vary
  • You can see what the options are when you look at local tourist sites, like Pennekamp State Park
  • When does Scouts BSA ever provide really good transparency? It’s a Scout thing!

“Where can I find a detailed itinerary? One is not provided. Programs are weather and tide dependent. There are no required destinations other than arrival and departure points. We make every attempt to include Sailing, Snorkeling, and Fishing every day on the water.”

Seabase Participant Guide – Coral Reef Sailing

Preparing for life on a boat

  • Boat = RV = Travel toilet, limited water, etc.
  • Wet
  • Limited space – not much room to change
  • Communal living – limited privacy
  • Scout troop

Conclusion: Just take a small duffel, a sleeping pad and a pillow. Get together as a group and review that nobody is taking too much. Pack as if you were camping for 2 nights at a beach in the heat with mosquitoes, sun, and limited laundry.

What is physically located at Seabase?

  • Barracks – for adult staff, paid employees, and bunks for visiting troops
  • Pool for snorkel / scuba training
  • Laundry
  • Pier – 30+ sailboats
  • 3+ scuba boats
  • Scuba maintenance area – compressors, etc.
  • Snorkel storage and maintenance area
  • Outdoor eating areas
  • Cafeteria (3 meals a day)
  • Storage lockers – a 4 x 4 x 5 foot deep locker – plenty of room for things that won’t go on the boat
  • Field – Kickball was a hit
  • Covered area for games for scouts
  • SeaBase store
  • Outdoor ice machine
  • Restrooms for changing for visitors

The Lack of Itinerary Makes Packing Hard

Seabase gives good guidance – captains have read it too. For us, all those cool ‘extras’ that were listed had already been included by our captain. For the other 2 boats we were with – this wasn’t the case.

Different captains, different approaches. Captain style varies a lot – we had a laid back captain who wanted to see what the scouts were interested in each day. Others run a more structured program. You won’t know until you get there.

What about bringing a Hammock?

Sleeping Aboard the Boat:

  • Start with the count – there are 9 people. The Captain has a private bed in back, and if everyone needs to sleep below deck (rain, mosquitoes, etc.), then that’s a lot of people to squeeze in.
  • Boats aren’t the same – they are common lengths, and SeaBase ‘specifies’ what they want from captains – but SeaBase could sell every boat they could get in.
  • Then add the weather – rain, mosquitos

Closing Things out – What is SeaBase?

  • Travel agent
  • That owns a harbor
  • Owns some maritime assets
  • Brings people together
  • Under principles of Scouts BSA

A Framework for SeaBase

  • Rental car company; but different cars
  • Add drivers
  • add itineraries
  • Based on weather
  • Based on participant skill

What should SeaBase be?

  • Preparing for the scout-iverse
  • Accreditation service – trained adults, criteria for ships

Who knows what the future holds for scouting – what this could be is simply an accreditation service that says, “this captain, this boat, and this itinerary make the following a [Seabase] level trip.”

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MBA Class of 2023 – The Best Summary of The Goal

You really should read The Goal, this guide is written to augment your reading, serve as a refresher, and to help highlight areas you might have missed. (Link to the best synopsis of The Goal.)

  1. Written by someone with an MBA.
  2. I’d worked in manufacturing before going back to school.
  3. The Theory of Constraints is designed to be used – which is why there are so many modern references in the summary.
  4. The book is a product of its time – it was written in the 1980s by a brilliant software developer who was frustrated by seeing the same problems at customer after customer – now ToC is widely used in many industries and applications.
  5. The Goal is to be able to use TOC well – and to do that, you must first have been exposed to it.

The number one way to learn The Goal and Theory of Constraints the fastest?

Take a lesson you learned in the book and apply it in a conversation tonight or tomorrow.

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A Playbook for Cleantech Commercialization

With so many new companies bringing innovative solutions to water and water technology – both startups (thanks Greentown Labs), and mature businesses – here’s a summary of one way to approach making commercial decisions around cleantech, based on my experience with water, indoor air quality, membranes, and water treatment.

There are five key steps:

  1. Pick a regulator.
  2. Quantify the customer’s ROI with your product and benchmarks.
  3. Insert and penetrate (Musso).
  4. Make the product easy to buy.
  5. Serve today’s customers to serve the broader goal.

1/ Pick your regulator and your regulations.

The best Cleantech products pay for themselves with a clear benefit for the user and the end customer – they combine functions, add new functions, reduce cost, or provide a clearer benefit than the product they replace. Products can take years to establish this kind of clear positioning – what are we to do in the meantime?

An ugly truth of many industrial B2B businesses is that if the product wasn’t required by a regulator, or if there wasn’t some incentive payment that improved profitability, many customers wouldn’t adopt new products. Industrial technologies take a long time to vet, evaluations are expensive, fickle global supply chains make manufacturers leery of new vendors, and the teams that are qualified to confirm a company’s great new product are often in high demand.[1]

The Ugly Truth (2009 IMDB)- without regulators most cleantech products don’t sell; pick your regulator early and wisely

Pick your regulatory early and pick them wisely. If you pick the wrong one, that’s okay – you can add their testing to your product’s performance stack.

Sometimes all you get from this first decision is one standard to use in measuring your product – this is the first step in making your product easier to buy.

The worse thing you can do is to let an abundance of regulatory options freeze the team or delay measurement. Invest time in understanding the regulations, the regulatory bodies and the standards that come from them.

If it is just too overwhelming – call around and see which tests you can get access to fastest and cheapest. Go take the people at a third party testing center out for lunch or drinks and get their input based on what they see customers asking them for.

In the liquid filtration markets where I’ve spent most of my career, often times the high end regulator is the FDA and then other markets free ride off of the standards that they establish. Many customers don’t even fully understand why they need a specific standard – and they actually do need them, but because of high switching costs, they know to insist on them every time.

The regulator provides a standard, and that standard is how you will benchmark the improvement made possible by your product / solution / technology. Your customers’ goal is to quickly evaluate your product to see if it is better, the regulator and the market accepted standard is the fastest, most effective way to help your customer achieve their goal.

Bonus Question: What if there is no regulator? What if you are early?

Answer: Identify an adjacent or sufficient regulator or approach that is measurable, and that has reasonable ground for adoption – then use that.

Examples:

  • Farm vehicle cabins need a standard to protect the driver / operator from aerosols and pesticides, but there isn’t a clear standard – use standards out of HEPA or out of the FAA guidelines for passenger air quality on aircraft.
  • A new lightweight portable camping water filter needs to show it is effective against a new pathogen, so use the FDA standards around sterilizing grade filtration to measure performance. Use a proxy particle for the organism if needed.

2/ ROI and Benchmark

With a regulator and a standard in hand, it’s time to vet your capabilities to determine what your customer ROI is from choosing to work with your product, and how that stacks up against your competitors.

Why benchmark?

Often times technical teams and marketers will scour their competitor’s marketing and technical literature to understand their claims – and then compete directly against those claims. Most likely those claims are a best case scenario. The world starts to look very different when you’re buying competitive products off of eBay, interviewing their current customers for feedback, and sometimes even listening to frustrated buyers talk about your competitor’s weakness. Benchmark and measure the product yourself, because measurement is crucial.

Measurement will then be used to integrate with your production teams quality specifications. Quality specs are often a way to differentiate your pricing by capturing value that the market has left on the table, or providing services and insight that the competition hasn’t yet identified.

Know the ROI.

“What if we can’t get our results to match the standard? Or even close to the standard?”

Well if you can’t do it, then how can a customer do it? Figure it out. Why will a customer buy from you if you make them do all the work? If you force a buyer to figure out your product for you, then you are giving away margin and money. Don’t make your customer

If your competitors product requires a metal filtration vessel, a specific skid, specialized installation, and then specific cartridge refills for a liquid filtration problem – then understand all of those costs and break them out.

Walk through the costs that a customer goes through to buy the competition, and then what they go through to switch to your product. One time, we’d developed a high performance material that was a consumable that was about 4x better than the competition – but that material was only 1 / 1000th of the system cost. There was effectively no change in ROI.

If your business washes out on the ROI calculation, then it is better to know now than to wait! Knowing the numbers can help steer market selection and provide rebound opportunities if the original assumptions which got you excited are shown to be false. There are a lot of zombie companies in the cleantech world that are scared to calculate this number, or too scared to bring solutions to investors when they realize that the ROI is out of whack. Don’t be a zombie.

Bonus Question 2: What if I’m missing something on the ROI calculations?

If you’re sitting with an account, and you walk through your calculations with them and you’re wrong – they will correct you. If you don’t have anything, they don’t have anything to correct. A customer that has been this patient with you will either; (1) cut you off, “you’re crazy, this is way too expensive,” (2) correct you, “this is close, but the numbers are more like this,” or (3) purchase from you.

3/ Insertion & Penetration: Get Trials to Get Wins

Most cleantech products aren’t driving revenue by sitting on Walmart shelves, selling through Amazon, or going direct to consumer. The value comes by improving an industrial product or process, which then experiences its own adoption cycle.

“Material commercialization is all about insertion and penetration.”

Musso

Your goal is to get insertions – that is under your team’s control. You control insertions by:

  • Choosing markets with many insertion points. If you go into a big market with a monopoly and they don’t want to buy – the game is over.
  • Making it easy for customers to buy the product and use it. This increases your hit rate in the market and makes it easy for adjacent markets, and even adjacent spots in a supply chain, to evaluate the product.

With sufficient insertions, you can get penetration as your customers’ products then go on to win in the market. You will watch brilliant, elegant, and superior products launched by Fortune 50 companies that are enabled by your product fail – and given your spot in the supply chain, the best way to mitigate that risk is to be working with many insertions. Even the best can fail at penetration. To survive, you need insertions – it is a numbers game, because as a small player – which every new product starts off as – it is often too difficult to ramp up and take control of the entire supply chain between you and the end user.

How do you get more insertions?

  1. Have a clear ROI and know your benchmarks.
  2. Make the product easy to buy.
  3. If you’ve picked the wrong regulator, or fully addressed your first application – then go to the next market and repeat. Add markets and materials to your performance stack.
  4. Do *not* go on to a next market until you have the first market down with a complete understanding of ROI. Too many companies grow their expenses by pursuing too many markets in parallel. Prioritize and pursue markets in sequence – as leaders you get paid to develop an appropriate sequence and see the product through.

4/ Make the Product Easy to Buy.

Your first step in making the product easy to buy was your choice of regulator and choice of a clear third party, independent, standard or test. In nearly 25 years of manufacturing, I see on average 10 startups a year that put forward results in an initial standard that are completely useless. They’ve developed their own standard, they’ve developed their own concept of the pollution or energy savings they will improve – and often times they benchmark it to nothing.[2] Pitch decks or sales literature without this basic information is totally useless, and it isn’t worth the time to evaluate – because I will spend all my time educating them on what they should know in the first place.

If a potential vendor hasn’t shown enough interest in your market to know the standards, what other lunacy can you expect as you evaluate their product? Show that your not yet another fly-by-night cleantech participant by putting forward valuable information. It doesn’t have to be perfect – and it is why this first step above is so important.

“But how can my product be easy to buy if you just said that the product isn’t selling through Amazon or Wal-mart?”

The Reader

The sustainability manager, quality buyer, VP global Ops, plant manager, etc that you are courting for your product has a personal life – and in that personal life they know how easy it can be to shop. Don’t be difficult.

Identify your target buyer – follow the Pragmatic Marketing template to make sure you’ve used best-in-class frameworks to get internal alignment, create real buyer personas and think of the problem from your customers’ perspective.

Focus your marketing on high value problems, use content marketing as a proxy to understand interest. If you’re not sure which regulator to pick or which market to sequence next – then put up two blog posts and see which one gets the most clicks.

When customers call – sell to them. Many cleantech companies have a Clean-as-a-Service mindset – which is laudable and will make the world a better place. If the customer has 200 manufacturing sites, wants your product at each one of them, and isn’t yet ready to make that kind of purchase – then structure your contract to mimic the payment structure and help train them on how to migrate to that new world. Take their money, be easy to buy from.

Make the product easy to install.

Make the product easy to deploy globally. Many cleantech companies have competitors elsewhere in the globe – it doesn’t make sense to say “the best X in Brazil” just like it no longer makes sense to say “the best Y in Kansas.” The market is global, even with current supply chain disruptions.

Make the product easy to fulfill online.

Use clear internal and external documentation.

Benchmark yourself to the best-in-class web startups, not to your competitors battling for room on a Fortune 500 website with an IT department bigger than your whole team.

Use case studies to make it easy for others to see the value and the ROI. “What if my numbers are wrong?” Don’t you want to know?

“What if my competitors then know my strategy?” Be good enough to set the pace, don’t let fear of the competition dictate what you do.

Make the product easy to return. If it is easy to return customers will work with you more in those first few installs to coach you to the right solution. Be easy to work with and the customer will make it easy to work with them.

Ship the product the day they buy. “That’s impossible with an industrial good.” Maybe it is, maybe if you set the goal, your team will find ways to hit it.

5/ Serve today’s customer to serve the greater goal.

Many cleantech businesses focus on the great social modern social injustices we see all around us:

  • Food insecurity
  • Clean water
  • Carbon neutrality
  • Energy access

Many investors focus on those broader goals – as leaders we earn the right to cure those broader societal issues by being profitable in the interim. Without the profits and cash flow created by building independent, sustainable businesses today – we forfeit the security of knowing our business will be present to thwart those broader challenges tomorrow.

Notes:

[1] Talented personnel that can understand, evaluate, and advocate for a new industrial product are often the constraint in the sales process. This is one of the reasons it is so important to make the product easy to buy. The average career stent of this kind of engineer is 4 years, so a sales cycle that takes longer than 2 years is too long.

[2] Yes, really it is benchmarked to nothing. They have a bar chart that will compare their own product to a worse version of their own product – with no external reference point. Often times the units are of their own making. This is why big companies are loath to entrust any vital process to a new entrant – not only are they ignorant of the customers real needs, they haven’t put forth any effort to resolve that ignorance.

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