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Spring, 2016

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Since the last post, our third child (second daughter) was born.  Children are a blessing, and having three now is unbelievable to me.  Going from single to married with three kids in 8 years is almost insane and would drive anybody almost crazy.  Stress is daily, but expected and stretching / growing us, not breaking us.

2015 was a quieter year, coming off the heel of tearing apart our infrastructure and replacing it with a new and improved one.  We invested in software and new processes to better meet peoples needs, and this year we’ve done some computer hardware upgrades to further streamline things.  The heating and air conditioning work is relatively simple for technical people, but for them all of the business management processes can be inefficient and cumbersome.  The problems are apparent, and solutions within reach.  There are always new and improved tools, but integrating all those things together into an efficient whole, although a challenge, is also a joy to work on.  I am happy to have an engineering background and skills to address issues in a way I never could have prior to getting that education and background.  Complexity can be tough to manage, but with skills and tools available, a lot can and is being done here.

The first time I installed a geothermal heat pump, I got trained, but only then realized how little I knew.  I didn’t have equipment to put a ground loop under the earth.  I didn’t have a way to analyze the thermal conductivity of the soil for a vertical loop system.  I didn’t know how to determine the heating and air conditioning load of a home.  I didn’t know how to select equipment based on that load, and I didn’t know how to properly size and design an air distribution system to connect to that equipment.  That may be why that first system took me 6 months or so to install from first contact with the client, to installation of the ground loop and equipment by a third party contractor, to design and installation of proper ducts - not to mention understanding rules on disposal of asbestos covering the old system and dealing with the local municipality to get the proper permit(s).

We’ve gone from no customers to hundreds of them since starting, and we’ve reduced cycle time.  Now, we can offer multiple system options tailored to your specific project quickly, looking more thoroughly at all the issues involved with a highly engineered design process.  Reviewing this now, it appears we have reduced cycle time a minimum of 8 to possibly 16 fold, and we had to.  You cannot run a business, compete with everyone else and make a profit without stepping on the accelerator.  However, we aren’t speeding, we are getting people to their destination with a high degree of quality, ensuring a successful outcome for their project, along with better performance and comfort, as well as an installed cost that meets their budget.

We’ve also been able to add dedicated personnel, helping streamline maintenance and service work.

Please let us know if we can serve you, whether you need a tune-up, repair, or entirely new system.  Thank you.

2015 The Year Ahead

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

This last year, was another good year for Great Degrees. We were able to install several new, interesting systems.

We are also in an ongoing effort to streamline how we manage the business, investing in new, more efficient software to better serve you.  With the many items we have available to us to maintain and repair existing systems, as well as build new ones, it is a challenge to maintain data related to those items and pull it together efficiently.  There is a balance between working smarter and harder that needs to be maintained, and working smarter in and of itself can require working harder to determine what is smart or how to do things in a smart manner.

The winter has no doubt seemed long for many.  We’ve used this time to our advantage, taking care of heating system repairs as well as preparing for the future.  On the east coast, we have heard about the endless snow, making the piles here not seem so bad.  While driving in the van through Schaumburg to meet my wife our two children for dinner, I took a shortcut I knew of from my days as a single taking me behind the old Borders Books store.  The route requires a few turns, and as I headed directly into one, my headlights shown on a pile of snow, and I did a double take.  I had to stop, backup, and take a picture.  We had just celebrated (well at least our son was off from school for it) Presidents Day, and had a discussion about whether or not George Washington had really chopped down a cherry tree, and there he was in the beam of my headlights, a white wintery ghost from the past.


Side by Side Comparison

There is much speculation that George did not chop down the tree and that it was all just a story told by a flamboyant minister.  However, I think the gentleman, though prone to embellishment, was no doubt telling a great truth about our 1st President.  He was honest. I hope you enjoy this picture as much as I enjoy the story.

At the same time as taking this picture, I had also been in contact with a couple of software vendors in Boston who were in town for a show at McCormick Place.  They had so much snow in Boston this year that they had no more place to put it.  I did not envy them, and was glad to be here.  However seeing George and thinking of the snow piling up here and in Boston reminded me of a trip I took there a few years ago, when I had the opportunity to visit Boston for my first and only time, during wonderful summer weather.  I had no idea I would be seeing so much history, as I was there mainly for a conference / vacation with family.  Walking out of our hotel, I found myself on the Freedom Trail and was soon in a cemetery with tombstones of such greats at Paul Revere, right in the middle of downtown Boston, not realizing I’d be having such an experience.  The cemetery had an ‘other’ type feel to it (a feeling of long ago, calm, and great history).  If you ever have a chance to make it to Boston, do yourself a favor and walk the Freedom Trail.  You will enjoy it.

Snow pile George in Schaumburg is no doubt unrecognizable at this point.  I posted him to the Weather Channel’s site, but I didn’t see him go ‘viral’.  So, I am archiving him here in hopes that more will see him.  Happy Spring!

Website Redesign / Home Page Photograph

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

We are in the midst of a one year plus long project updating our little website.  New is a photograph by Chris Page.  I ran across the picture while looking at Google Maps at places that are remote.  When I first saw the picture, I had this immediate feeling that it was one of the nicest pictures I’ve ever seen.  I hope you have had a chance to enjoy it.

Our site is still missing a few basic pages, and we are planning to get those done so that the site has some cohesiveness to it again.  Then with that foundation, we can put in more content.  We really want the site to be informative, but that takes time and work.  Right now, I am just happy we have something back up.

Since the last post 2 years ago, a lot has changed.  We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to be able to provide you with more new equipment options faster.  We have a wonderful and comprehensive line of furnaces and air conditioners, as well as system accessories.  Technically, we still are striving to be the best.  And we want to handle more calls, and be more responsive to your every need.  Many fine people have come through our doors, helping us here and there.  Managing people is really hard work, and I am not trained as a manager.  Yet, I am enjoying learning and appreciate the patience of those around me who let me manage.

Thank you for visiting. Please let us know if we can serve you. Whether you need maintenance, a repair, or a whole new system, we have strengths that can benefit you.

Thursday, January 30th, 2014