Sue, Baby, Sue! Mapping the Legal Repercussions of the BP Spill

first_imgTags:#NYT#Real World#web During the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we kept you current on how all parties were employing social media. We followed that up with tools to track the aftermath of the spill. Now, we would like to present you with a new way to watch the ripples that are still spreading from the Deepwater Horizon: lawsuits. The Environmental Law Institute‘s Ocean Program has launched a comprehensive and sophisticated database of every lawsuit related to the spill, replete with interactive maps. The count so far is 473 cases! Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting curt hopkins Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market “This database attempts to track the ongoing litigation so people can see the types of cases that have been triggered, when and where the parties have filed, and what cases have been closed or consolidated.”A user can search by type of case (environmental, labor, RICO, etc.), date of filing, or, by clicking the map, they can search by state or administrative area. An advanced search form allows the user to find specific docket numbers or all the cases filed in a specific court. Links from the search results lead the user to the PACER.GOV database (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). To go further, users must register with a credit card, since some actions are assessed a small fee. If data’s your bag, and you wish to order or explore it yourself, you can download an Excel spreadsheet of the entire database. In fact, it’s worth it just to survey the kinds of fall out that the spill has expressed. Lawsuits have been filed against Transocean, BP and Halliburton by seafood restaurants going out of business, Mexican states getting hit with crippling clean-up costs, personal injury suits, fisheries going under, fishermen going out of business and more. Related Posts last_img read more

Tax Credits for Solar Energy Systems

first_imgI’ve been addressing tax credits for home energy improvements the past few weeks. This week, we’ll look at what’s available for solar energy systems.Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a 30% tax credit was created for a wide range of measures, including insulation, window replacement, and heating system upgrades (see January 26, 2010 column). Most of the home energy tax credits are capped at $1,500 and expire at the end of 2010. With solar energy systems and a few other measures, though, there is no cap on the dollar amount, and the program is scheduled to remain in place until the end of 2016.The 30% solar tax credit covers both solar water heating and photovoltaic (solar electric) systems. The tax credit can be earned for systems installed on new or existing homes, including second homes, but rental properties do not qualify. The tax credit is paid on the total cost, including both the equipment and installation. Specifics related to solar water heating and photovoltaic (PV) systems are described below.Solar water heating systemsTo qualify, a solar water heating system must be certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC) or a comparable entity endorsed by the state in which the property is located. This provides an important level of assurance that the system will work effectively. The requirement will go a long way toward avoiding the problems that occurred with the solar tax credits in the 1970s, when poorly functioning systems gave a bad name to solar water heating. All solar water heaters that have earned Energy Star certification (products from about 20 manufacturers) satisfy the tax credit requirements, but the tax credit is not limited to Energy Star products.The tax credit provisions do not dictate the type of solar water heater. Eligible systems include those with flat-plate collectors, evacuated-tube collectors, and “integral-collector-storage” or “batch” systems. Solar water heating systems for pools and hot tubs do not qualify.Photovoltaic (PV) systemsTo qualify for the tax credit, PV systems have to meet applicable fire and electrical codes, but an independent certification of performance of the system is not required, as it is with solar water heating systems. I wish independent certification of PV systems were required, as I fear that poorly functioning systems could give the industry a black eye. This lack of oversight puts the onus on consumers to do the research on reliability and effectiveness of systems they are considering.Take advantage of the solar tax credits while you canThe 30% tax credits for solar water heating and PV systems do not have a cap, and they are set to remain in place until the end of 2016. But I don’t expect these provisions to last very long. Here’s why:First of all, the tax credits a really good deal, and as more homeowners become aware of it they’re going to take advantage of them. That will create work and stimulate the economy, which is good, but it will cost a lot, which is bad for the federal deficit. I’m predicting that we’ll shortly see a reining in of some of these costs, either limiting the maximum tax credit that can be received, or ending the opportunity well before 2016.Second, I think the no-upper-limit tax credits for solar (and wind and ground-source heat pumps) will be seen as give-aways for the rich, and that won’t play well in the political world. If an investment banker spends $500,000 from his annual bonus for a huge PV system on a second home in Aspen, the rest of us tax payers will subsidize that installation to the tune of $150,000. Once a few high-profile news stories like this have made the rounds, I think legislators will decide to put a cap on the credit.So, if you want to take advantage of the tax credits for solar water heating or PV, I’d recommend acting sooner rather than later.To obtain the solar tax credits, use IRS form 5695. This IRS guidance bulletin is also useful. Consult with your accountant or tax attorney for specific information on compliance; information provided here is for general guidance only.I invite you to share your comments on this blog. Is having no cap on the solar tax credits a good idea?To keep up with my latest articles and musings, you can sign up for my Twitter feeds.last_img read more

How to Be Intellectually Curious in Sales

first_img Essential Reading! Get my 2nd book: The Lost Art of Closing “In The Lost Art of Closing, Anthony proves that the final commitment can actually be one of the easiest parts of the sales process—if you’ve set it up properly with other commitments that have to happen long before the close. The key is to lead customers through a series of necessary steps designed to prevent a purchase stall.” Buy Now If you want to develop your business acumen, your situational knowledge, and your ability to create value for your clients and your dream clients, you need to become intellectually curious. You have to seek to understand how things work, why people do things a certain way, why people want what they want, and when it makes sense to do something.When I was young and first started selling, I developed the practice of asking my clients questions. At first, the questions I asked were direct, and my goal was not to understand, but rather to elicit the client’s dissatisfaction. The word we used to describe “what is keeping the customer up at night,” assuming they knew what should be keeping them up at night and that they were willing to share it with a salesperson who might be able to help). Later, after I became a better salesperson from having studied Neil Rackham’s work, my questions switched to what his model called “implication” questions. I started asking the question, “What happens if you don’t do something different?”At some point, I realized that creating greater value for my clients meant learning more about their business. I started to ask a different set of questions designed to obtain a real understanding of how their business worked, how they thought about their business and the competitive landscape, and how I might be more helpful to them.One of my clients was responsible for an enormous logistics operations. In a meeting I attended, the attendees from his management team continuously talked about “throughput.” I knew what the word meant, and I had some understanding of how what I sold would impact their throughput, but I wasn’t certain. So I asked my client to explain it to me, and then to share with me how I might impact that metric in a meaningful way. And then I asked five more clients to give me their views on the same metric, and in doing so, I became more valuable to my clients and my dream clients.Ask HowIt is valuable to know how different business models work. If you want to create value for the teams that manage and run businesses, you need to know how things work. You want to understand their overall strategy as a business, something you can quickly learn to discern by reading The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema. You can also learn a good bit by simply watching or listening to CNBC, especially in the morning, when they interview CEOs and business leaders.To be intellectually curious, you have to want to know how things work. You can ask your client how they compete in their marketplace and what they believe differentiates them from their competitors. You can ask how they handle some process or execute something that provides you with a better understanding of what they think they need to do to be successful. You can even ask how they feel about some strategic or tactical decision they need to make for their business.In exploratory or discovery calls, the depth and breadth of what you discover—and what you help the client discover about themselves—is going to be based on the level of questions you ask. Asking “What’s keeping you up at night” might still be a useful question, and you will have clients who want to share the answer and acquire some help solving those problems. However, that question doesn’t demonstrate a real interest in their business, nor does it indicate you have a deep enough understanding to be considered a future partner.If you work selling to and serving businesses and the people that run them, you have to intellectually curious enough to understand business principles.Ask WhyFrom time to time, you will be baffled by some of the things your clients and prospects do in pursuing some result. Sometimes you will see them doing something that doesn’t seem to make sense, only to find out is working well for them, giving you new insight as to how you might do something different or better. Other time you will see your dream client doing something so wrong that it’s difficult to believe. What you want to know is “why” they do what they do.If you are going to be intellectually curious, you are going to have to ask why, without being judgmental. You will have clients who seem to be doing things in ways that make the outcome they need difficult for them, only to find out there is a good reason why they do things in a certain way. How you provide a solution that gains their commitment to work with you may very well depend on you knowing how to improve their results in a way that doesn’t disrupt something that needs to be done in a certain way.But asking why often reveals areas where an improvement is available to your client because they don’t know there are better ways available to them. If you believe that salespeople are no longer necessary because their clients and prospects can research on the internet, likely, you don’t work in sales. The intellectually curious salesperson has the benefit of learning from clients and prospects, coupled with the experience of working with clients to know more about the nuances around decisions and solutions that exceed anything one might learn from researching company websites.Taking care of your clients and prospects requires the curiosity to understand why certain things are done, sometimes this way, and other times another way. You need to know how to think about trade-offs, what this is better than that, and when it makes sense to do something.What They WantSuccess in sales in large part depends on effectively working with and for other people. Even though you are supposed to believe relationships no longer matter in sales, the truth of the matter is that matter more now than ever in a world being pulled in two directions (super-transactional and super-relational). It pays to be intellectually curious about what human beings want and why.Let me give you an easy, sales-related example. I once heard a purchasing manager explain that his compensation was, in part, based on price savings over prior years. He wasn’t interested in cost savings if those savings weren’t visible as a reduction in price, as he was not compensated on the difficult to capture, but very real soft costs.Some leaders invest in outcomes and will willingly pay more for things like speed to market, greater market share, innovative ideas that create a competitive advantage, or any number of things they want. If you’re going to be intellectually curious, you’ll ask them why they want what they want, why it’s important to them. There may not be anything more interesting or useful than understating human psychology and motivation, something worth learning to understand (as much as it can be).If you want to be better in sales, a better sales manager, or more effective leader, and an all-around more successful person, being intellectually curious is as good a place to start as any.last_img read more