110th Anniversary of the Birth of Walt Disney

For people younger than about 50, it is hard to imagine what a tremendous effect Walt Disney (yes, he was a real person!) had on the world. He was the Steve Jobs of his era.

Today is the 110th anniversary of his birth. I’ve read the new biography of Steve Jobs (excellent book) as well as two biographies of Mr. Disney. If I had to choose, while they were both giants of their time, I would say Disney had the greater effect on the world.

When Kathleen and I took our family to Disneyland for the first time, I made sure we stopped at the statue of Walt and Mickey to make sure our children knew a little of the history of this remarkable man.

If you would like to learn more, there is an great article summing up his influence on business and the world here.

Some Advice After 30 Years of Running a Business

Thirty years ago today was the first day in business for a tiny company, WeatherData, Inc., that I founded August 31, 1981. The chances of a startup company making it to the 30-year mark are far less than 1%. So, I thought our readers might like to know some of the principles of our success. 

Never start a company until you have a well-defined goal about which you are both passionate and competent to execute.
  • ·      100% of the entrepreneurs I have known say creating and running a business is harder than they expected. I know I expected it to be hard but I, too, found it to be extraordinarily difficult, especially since mine was 24/7. There is no way I could have stuck it out unless I was passionate about my goal of saving lives and property. 

As a business owner, “the highs are very high and the lows are very low and there are many more of the latter.”
  • ·      Every entrepreneur to whom I have given this advice has later told me it was one of the most important pieces of advice they received. If you get overly depressed when bad news occurs, entrepreneurship probably isn’t for you.
  • ·      Until you actually become a business owner, you cannot possibly appreciate how much responsibility you have and how heavily, at times, it will weigh on you.

Formal business plan, no.  Set of principles, yes!
  • ·      Unless you have plans to go public or raise venture capital in the near future, the time required to write a detailed, formal business plan isn’t worth it. But, a set of rock-solid principles are vital. It is what your business stands for and what will set it apart.

Get the best people you can, period.
None of this guarantees success and I do not wish to discourage you. To paraphrase a line from the movie Keeping the Faith, “the life of an entrepreneur is hard and if you can see yourself happy doing something else, do that.”
But, if your passion is starting a business, go for it! I’ve loved being an entrepreneur.
I’ll have more on WeatherData’s 30th anniversary later today. 

This Was Just Installed

I occasionally drive past a quarry in rural Butler County, Kansas. Yesterday, I noticed something different: A storm shelter.

I salute this company for their concern for the safety of their employees far from corporate headquarters.

Severe Weather Review

This blog is not intended to be a source of day-to-day weather information. For that, I recommend AccuWeather.com  which does a great job.

I do provide information when I believe noteworthy weather our readers need to know about is going to occur. So, back on Sunday, I wrote about what we meteorologists thought would be the first severe weather “outbreak” (defined by meteorologists as large numbers of storms with large hail, damaging thunderstorm winds, and/or tornadoes and over a relatively large geographic area) of the 2011 storm season.

We now know that nine people lost their lives in these storms which produced more than 1,400 (!) reports of severe weather over 48 hours.

On Sunday, the main damage was due to hail.  The insurance industry will be spending weeks writing checks for dented cars, shattered wind shields, and cracked shingles. This was especially well forecast.

Bluish colors = radar-derived hail tracks. The letter H indicates
ground truth report of large hail. D = wind damage, W = wind speed
clocked at 50 knots (58 mph) or more. Click to enlarge.
Courtesy: WeatherData Services, Inc.

Monday and Monday night featured widespread damaging winds and hail which, again, were very well forecast. It was these winds and tornadoes that caused the fatalities and injuries.

Courtesy Greg Carbin, NOAA. Click to enlarge. 

Here is a map of the individual reports Monday (24 hours from 7am Monday to 7am Tuesday). Blue is damaging wind. Red is tornado.

As recently as 15 years ago, we had little skill forecasting the type of severe weather that was likely to occur. Now, these big outbreaks are routinely forecast with a high degree of specificity. This allows businesses to both adjust their operations (an insurance company marshalling claims adjusters) and to protect their people and assets as well as improved warnings for the general public.

But, these improved forecasts and warnings do little good if they are not acted upon. With more severe weather forecast the next week, please pay attention to the forecasts and warnings. Your life and livelihood may depend on it.

Wise Words About Disaster Planning for Business

From Glenn Reynolds.

The damage is exposing the extent to which modern supply-chain management has produced a system that is so lean it lacks the reserve capacity needed to cope with disasters.

In manufacturing, plants have been idled around the world because Japanese factories — or often, a single Japanese factory — serve as the sole source for a vital component. With the factories sidelined by damage or power outages, the components are unavailable, and production has to stop.
Ford Motor Company idled a plant in Belgium for five days over parts shortages; Toyota warned plants in the United States to be prepared to close for the same reason. A U.S. plant making car seats had to close because of a shortage of premium vinyl made only in Japan. Ford has suspended orders for some models in red and black because the paints come from a single factory in Japan, now closed. Tales like these abound.
Even the New York subway system is affected by the parts shortage: As National Public Radio’s “Marketplace” reported: “Steel from the north of Japan can’t get to Suzuki. Suzuki can’t make the parts for Hitachi. And Hitachi can’t send the parts to New York. The global supply chain breaks down with the removal of just one link.”

Read the whole thing.

"Rock Star" Storm Chasers

I was asked yesterday about what I thought of the storm chasers from Discovery’s Storm Chasers making commercials like the one below that is running at AccuWeather.com .

They also have a clever Budweiser commercial. I haven’t been able to find a link. I’ll post it if someone would send me the link.

My reaction?

First, you probably need to know that I loved the movie Twister. Many of my colleagues disliked it because it of its “scientific inaccuracies.” I suggested, multiple times, they chill out because, “its a movie, not a documentary.”

The fact that Reed has turned storm chasing into a business, is great as far as I’m concerned. It raises the visibility of meteorology and that is a good thing.  More power to him!

Ford Killing Off Mercury

“You just gotta put Mercury on your list.”

(WSJ) Ford Motor Co. is preparing to phase out its 71-year old Mercury brand, adding to the list of storied Detroit nameplates that reached the end of the road in recent years as the industry has become more competitive.

Looks like Jill Wagner is going to have a lot of spare time.
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Congratulations, Phil Ruffin

Phil Ruffin is our landlord at WeatherData. He is the owner of the Bank of America Building and we office on its seventh floor.

Phil Ruffin at WeatherData’s recent open house for our new offices in the Bank of America Building. Pictured with Phil is Barry Myers (center), CEO of AccuWeather, and Joel Myers (right), its Founder and Chairman. Photo by Robin Lorenson.

Phil is the embodiment of the American dream. A self-made man who created a sequence of ever-bigger companies and, with them, more and more jobs. I have always found him to be a good person to do business.

The Wichita Eagle has a major article about him, complete with additional video and other online coverage.

These days, there seems to be a tendency to denigrate business and businesspeople. Consider this: Via the Eagle is a photo of his check to pay his 2008 income taxes:

Yes, that is a personal check for more than $171-million dollars made out to the U.S. Treasury.

We need more successes like Phil’s if we are going to put people back to work and fix our nation’s problems with the deficit.

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Climate Pricing

No, I’m not talking about “Cap and Trade,” but rather the decision by the Miami Dolphins to charge $5 more per ticket to sit on the shady side of Sun Life Stadium where, they say, temperatures are “as much as 15° cooler.”  That is a dubious claim (it may feel 15° cooler in the shade on a cloudless day), but I give the Dolphins credit for creativity in their pricing.

Hat Tip:  Sports Illustrated.

For more on “Sun Life Stadium” from Dave Barry, click here.

The Effects of Weather on the Economy

This from Marketwatch:

By Rex Nutting, MarketWatch
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Mix some of the worst winter storms on record with a weak economy and you’ll get disappointing payroll data when the government reports on February’s job market this week.
Economists say the massive snowstorms that hit the eastern half of the nation in the second week of February could depress employment by as much as 150,000. But the impact of the storms will mostly be temporary, with a large bounce back in March very likely, depending on the next storm, of course.
“The blizzard that blanketed the East Coast during the February employment survey week probably caused a sharp decline in payrolls for the month,” wrote Peter D’Antonio, an economist for Citigroup Global Market, who was the MarketWatch forecaster of the month for January.

WeatherData® has an amazing record at partnering with businesses to mitigate adverse weather and capitalize on weather-related opportunities. For more information, call Don Coash at (316) 266-8000.