Powell & Associates Science Services

Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

The Data in Winter

The winter is upon us, a bit prematurely, and non-essential environmental field work is mostly behind us except for the brief respites from snow and ice that might occur until January. There is, of course, a lot of field work that has to go on, just like the delivery of the mail. Come rain, snow, sleet, or hail, the permit requirements have to be delivered.

But with the cold weather here in the Midwest, many of us settle in to assess the data from the “sampling season” and use those data in analyses of all sorts. We do this to better understand the needs of our clients and determine whether the path we are on is the best vector to resolving their problems or whether modifications will get us there quicker and more cost-effectively. It is during this period of focus and data exploration that we can clear our heads of the often spastic contingencies of field work and mentally wallow in the wealth of empirical information, as scientists have done for centuries.

This is the time to think back about the odd things, the little things in the field that seemed off, events, observations, and findings that just weren’t quite as we expected, and explore the data to see what we might be missing. Some clients might perceive these ruminations as a waste of billable hours, but the best consultants and the most aware clients know that this is the process where the money is saved; i.e., in the refining of the mental conceptual models of the site, filling in the holes, doing the calculations that result, running the models and stats, and creating alternatives to the usual “best practices” that save time, money, and regulatory rancor. Contemplation saves money; rushing through things is costly. Measure twice and cut once, rather than measure once and have to cut twice.

Stupid Paradigms that Need Shifted 1: Everyone is a Seller-Doer? Why?

No matter where you look in the environmental science consulting industry, management wants the scientists to be “sellers-doers.”  As an employee you are expected to not only find new clients continuously and both manage/do all the technical and regulatory work they require, you are expected to accomplish this without allowing your utilization to drop below 80 or 90 percent and, of course, the time spent marketing can’t be billed. Is there any wonder there is so much stress in the industry? Or, for that matter, is it any surprise that the industry overall isn’t really that robust compared to businesses that understand these roles are fairly distinct?

You might initially get hired as a field technician or a junior-level scientist, but ultimately environmental consulting companies want every environmental scientist or engineer to be a seller-doer. It is all you hear when discussing positions and careers and pretty much the entire business plan of many consultancies. Has anyone ever asked why? Why do you want your very best scientists and engineers, often your most senior technical people, to be out beating the bushes for clients, to spend countless hours on the phone? Were they trained to do this? No, of course they weren’t and I know that many of them don’t like the selling aspect of the job. I, for one, would much rather be figuring out what specifically the client needs, how to address those needs, assessing data that are required and available, and providing solutions. These are the things I was taught in school, the highlights of my experience, and the special capabilities that I bring to the table.

Conversely, why would you want staff with great people skills and the “gift of gab,” who don’t particularly want a life of sitting in front of screens filled with data, calculations, and reports, to be trapped doing that?  Wouldn’t their time (your payroll time) be better spent meeting potential clients, making some calls, doing some lunches, sitting up some roundtables, keeping current clients informed of project status, etc? You would not, in fact, need someone with a M.S. or Ph.D. to be out selling your capabilities. Why would the seller need to understand the details of metal complexation or all the various possible species of arsenic in the site soils? Beyond fundamental selling skills and an appropriate personality, all the seller really needs is a strong knowledge of the company’s range of capabilities, how it desires to expand those capabilities, an idea of workload, and a basic knowledge of the areas of environmental science involved. If a client is on the hook and needs to be reeled in, then the scientist can be brought to the table.

In other words, you need talented and capable businesspersons for the marketing and selling, backed up by a staff of scientists who “get” the business but are allowed to focus on doing science and addressing regulatory issues. These two groups will, of course, have a lot of interaction if the sellers need more specifics for selling and/or to address the questions and needs of new clients but, for the most part, they can remain focused on the areas where they excel. If the seller can sell full-time and the scientist can do technical work nearly full-time you might find that both areas become much more lucrative and have a decidedly happier staff.

Comments? Questions?

Website Update and Services on Sale!


This is my first Powell & Associates blog post with actual content! This time I’m focusing on the website and the business, including a sale on my services, with plans to focus on some scientific topics and issues going forward.

First, I just updated the website with both new and reorganized content as well as a makeover that includes additional graphics and an effort to get more consistency in the format, even while incorporating sections that have been present since the earlier days of the website. It is a website and will always be a work in progress, but I hope you agree that it is better than it was. I have more changes and updates planned as time permits, including sections on Environmental Forensics, Litigation Support, etc. One time-consuming issue with such updates is that it’s often hard to categorize the service/capabilities areas because they really aren’t discreet and separate from one another. Much like the science of environmental science, everything is cross-disciplinary, interrelated, and any boundaries on the website are somewhat artificial.

Second, to celebrate the update and my love for environmental science (it was just Valentine’s Day, after all), I’m going to offer 35% off my usual consulting rate of $154.00/hour to the first five client projects I get after finishing this blog post. This is a bargain basement rate for a senior environmental scientist of only $100/hour, guaranteed for the first year of the project! Just call me at (248)977-0317 or email me by going to the “About PASS” menu and selecting “Contact PASS.”

Check out the website, check out PASS’s capabilities, and hire me now for great savings no matter your environmental needs. Also, stay tuned for further blog updates and improvements to the website content!

Powell & Associates Blog Test

Blog test. If I can get this site completely remodeled I’ll try to post something interesting.

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