How Steve Jobs Made Weather Products Better

Macintosh computers at AccuWeather

The passing of Steve Jobs earlier this week hit me hard.

I’ve asked myself why and it was because the Macintosh and the company I founded, WeatherData, Inc., were so tightly linked for so many years.  With its unsurpassed graphics capability, the Mac allowed us to create full color weather packages for newspapers that were better and more timely than the newspapers could do for themselves. WeatherData grew rapidly as a result.

Even after I sold WeatherData to AccuWeather, the Mac continues both in AccuWeather’s Wichita and State College offices to create great graphics in our products. This blog is written on a MacBook Pro.

AccuWeather’s Grace Muller picks up the story.

WeatherData Celebrates 30 Years

We had a wonderful celebration at WeatherData to conclude its 30-year run. As I mentioned on the blog last week, our name is is now AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions. There is no doubt in my mind that even bigger and better things are ahead of us. But, it was fun today to pause and think back over the last 30 years and all we have accomplished.

Our colleagues at AccuWeather’s home office in State College joined us via videoconference and everyone had a wonderful time.

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. 

Part 2: Lightning Safety

Cloud-to-ground lightning.
Photo: U.S. Department of Education

The more we learn about lightning, the more difficult crafting simple safety rules seems to be. Until the last five years or so, we didn’t realize that lightning from “anvil crawlers” can travel as far as 30 miles from the core of the thunderstorm yet still induce cloud to ground lightning.
Anvil crawlers (foreground) with cloud-to-ground lightning.
Photo: Norway Meteorological Institution
At this point, there is no perfect lightning warning technique. What to do?
A federally approved technique is the “flash to bang method.”
  • If you see lightning and the thunder arrives in less than 30 seconds (six miles) you are in danger. Less than 15 seconds is high danger.
  • The danger continues until 30 minutes have passed after the last thunder is heard
  • This requires people to keep track of each peal of thunder and restart the clock each time thunder occurs.
This can result in some difficult situations. There was the Orlando school last August that held students – even with the parents demanding to take their children home – for five hours after the scheduled dismissal because of the “flash to bang” rule.
The best way to handle for schools, offices, campuses, etc., to keep their employees safe is to  contract with WeatherData for its SkyGuard® service which will keep this type of situations from occurring. We use the National Lightning Detection Network® and we are looking at the 3-D structure of the storm on radar. We can keep situations like Orlando’s from occur as well as making sure you have plenty of notice if lightning is moving in. 
If that is not done, then the “flash to bang” rule will work most of the time.
Whichever you choose, make the decision on a “fair weather” day then stick to it. Ad libbing during a storm always seems to create problems.  

Video about WeatherData

All of us who work at WeatherData® (my day job) are very proud of our company and the work we do.  Here is a video by Justin Roberti shot during our recent open house. I think you’ll enjoy watching it.

Why Private Sector Weather Services Are Valuable to Businesses

The folks at Disaster Recovery Journal have an article of mine up at their web site on why private sector weather companies are usually a better choice for businesses than using the National Weather Service warnings intended for the public.

You can learn more about WeatherData’s services for businesses at WeatherData’s web site.