Post-Hurricane Q and A with Michael Courouleau

Michael Courouleau

Michael Courouleau

Q: What’s a quick breakdown of the hazards that can be found following a hurricane?

Michael Courouleau: There will be chemical, physical, ergonomic and biological hazards to deal with.

Q: Where should cleanup efforts start?

Michael Courouleau:  The first job will be a thorough assessment of each one of these hazards; a checklist should be part of preparedness for these situations.

Q: Can neighbors help?

Michael Courouleau: Yes, post-hurricane, all neighbors will need to pull together, and neighbors can supply each other with useful information about each other’s facilities and damage.

Q: How important is communication?

Michael Courouleau: Communication is crucial for any job.

Q: Are there guidelines that teams can use?

Michael Courouleau: Yes. In these situations, there are publications from ACGIH, NIOSH and North American Emergency Response Guidebook that are indispensable for researching hazards. This information should be communicated to all hazmat teams, emergency responders, fire brigades and other cleanup and recovery crews.

Q: What types of information will they need to know?

Michael Courouleau: Things like the number and location of hazardous material tanks, locations of toxic or flammable materials, locations of electrical boxes.

Q: This sounds like information that should be recorded beforehand.  

Michael Courouleau: Yes, all this information should be part of any preparedness plan.

Q:What about ergonomic hazards?

Michael Courouleau: Too often, team leaders push their people too hard and get in too big a hurry. Things like strained muscles, back injuries and heat exhaustion are very common.

Q: What can be done to prevent these situations?

Michael Courouleau: Crews should be very mindful of hydration and proper lifting. Also, all cleanup crews should have proper protective gear and be up on their tetanus and Hep A shots.

Q: What kinds of resources can be used in evaluating a cleanup?

Michael Courouleau: There should be oxygen meters and LEL meters onsite, along with Drager tubes to pick up on any chemicals and toxins.

Q: What should the methodology be?

Michael Courouleau: Monitoring should start upwind and make its way downwind; also, biological monitoring should take in particulate matter.

Q: What additional safety measures should be kept in mind?

Michael Courouleau: The buddy system should be used on all these tasks, and teams should be in full communication with each other via radio.

Q: What can teams do to document their findings?

Michael Courouleau: Any suspected spills or breaches should be measured for severity, and their locations, size and magnitude should be recorded or mapped.

Industrial and environmental safety expert Michael Courouleau has seen the aftermath of plenty of floods and hurricanes. In fact, hurricanes are a near-constant threat in Metairie, Louisiana, hometown of Michael Courouleau.

Jeffrey Nimer Explains How to Shop, and Eat, Like a Star

Jeffrey Nimer

Jeffrey Nimer

Jeffrey Nimer is a Los Angeles Chef who boasts the Olsen twins and Ben Affleck among his clients. Today, Chef Jeffrey Nimer explains to us how to get the right ingredients to whip up a meal like Momma never could.

Gathering of Experts: Hi, Chef Nimer. Thank you for joining us today. We are very excited to have you.

Jeffrey Nimer: Thank you!

Gathering of Experts: Let’s get started. Grocery shopping: what’s your take?

Jeffrey Nimer: First, I have to note that I never buy second-rate products.

Gathering of Experts: And, why is that? Isn’t pasta, for example, the same no matter what box it comes in?

Jeffrey Nimer: I’ll counter that by saying to avoid boxed foods altogether if possible. No, not all foods are the same. The freshest ingredients make for the freshest tasting meals.

Gathering of Experts: And fresh tastes best…

Jeffrey Nimer: Exactly! Also, don’t cut corners. If you are making a dish that calls for white wine, use white wine.

Gathering of Experts: What about genetically modified foods? We understand you supported California’s Proposition 37.

Jeffrey Nimer: I did and still do. Organic is simply the best way to go. Knowing what is, or isn’t, in you food is always better than not.

Gathering of Experts: Let’s talk a little about meats. What’s your top pick for a nice meal?

Jeffrey Nimer: Any tenderloin cut because they are easy to prepare and can be paired with a vegetable and starch for a quick, easy, and delicious dinner.

Gathering of Experts: Where is the best place to get a good steak?

Jeffrey Nimer: No matter where you live, find a respectable butcher. And, make nice with him.

Gathering of Experts: And cooking equipment?

Jeffrey Nimer: Women in the old South used nothing but cast iron pans for everything and turned out savory meals with little to no preparation. You know why they did that? It’s because they were the best available at the time. I am a lover of classic cuisine and my passion for cooking extends to my equipment. I say use the best, use the items that are essential and have stood the test of time.

Gathering of Experts: Where can the average Joe get some great kitchen gear?

Jeffrey Nimer: One of the most accessible places is William Sonoma but check online, too.

Gathering of Experts: Any final thoughts?

Jeffrey Nimer: I have to get this out: don’t mess with simple. Take pancakes, as an example. I see so many young chefs experimenting with this already perfected method. Start with a classic recipe and the food with speak for itself.

Jeffrey Nimer is the founder and head of Haute Chefs, an LA catering firm for movie sets, social events, and more. For more information of Haute Chefs or to contact Jeffrey Nimer visit



Conversation with Peter F. Spittler on Energy Conservation

Peter F. Spittler

Peter F. Spittler

A Gathering of Experts Blog sat down for a conversation with Peter F. Spittler of Forum Architects today. Peter F. Spittler is an architect and designer with a considerable track record in energy conservation, green-building and sustainable designs.

Gathering of Experts: Welcome, Peter F. Spittler, thanks for taking some time with us today.

Peter F. Spittler: Certainly, glad to be of help.

Gathering of Experts: To begin, how would you respond to someone who said building construction or refits to energy-conservation specs can be expensive?

Peter F. Spittler: That’s a pretty common misconception. Yes, there are things that can cost more money on the front end, but that money is more than made up for over the years, in terms of energy savings and ROI. Also, many building product and system manufacturers have caught up to the Green movement and today product and systems are more available and less costly.

Gathering of Experts: I’ve heard a lot about LEED. What exactly is LEED?

Peter F. Spittler: LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Gathering of Experts: What does LEED do?

Peter F. Spittler: LEED sets best-practice guidelines and benchmarks in place for energy-efficient building designs. LEED is a third-party, market-driven system, and awards certifications to building designs that meet their marks.

Gathering of Experts: Aren’t there incentives available for LEED compliance?

Peter F. Spittler: Yes, the federal government extends incentives for builders who meet LEED benchmarks. The deal can be sweetened further with incentives from state and local governments.

Gathering of Experts: What other sorts of misconceptions have you come across in green building?

Peter F. Spittler: One of the most prevalent ones is the idea that all solutions are high-tech! Things like skylights to let in more natural lighting, reflective white roofing material that doesn’t absorb heat, or shade trees to protect buildings during the hottest part of the day…those are all great green building ideas that make a real difference.

Gathering of Experts: Those actually sound like fairly old-fashioned ideas…

Peter F. Spittler: They are. Some of those designs were incorporated into buildings hundreds  of years ago, and we lost sight of them.

Gathering of Experts: Is LEED certification mainly for new construction?

Peter F. Spittler: No, we’ve done plenty of refits of old buildings to bring them into compliance.

Gathering of Experts: Such as?

Peter F. Spittler: The building for the Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria, Ohio is a great example. That building is upwards of 70 years old, and we managed to do a complete overhaul that made it much more energy-efficient without sacrificing the building’s heritage and character.

Gathering of Experts: That’s a great idea!

Peter F. Spittler: Yes, the owners of the paper felt a commitment to their community and didn’t want to leave an abandoned building in the middle of town, so it worked well for all involved.

Gathering of Experts: Thanks for taking some time with us today.

Peter F. Spittler: Absolutely. Glad to do it.



Reward by Recognition | Rich Von Alvensleben Says it’s the Only Way to Motivate

Rich Von Alvensleben

Rich Von Alvensleben

Building a reliable sales team means letting the producers know they are appreciated, says Rich Von Alvensleben.

In sales, the most important element to success is happy people, remarks Rich Von Alvensleben, a former sales lead and representative for National Safety Associates. In his career, Rich Von Alvensleben has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in sales revenue and helped countless other find the same success. Here, Rich Von Alvensleben offers tips on how to grow an innovative and prosperous team.

Forge Friendships

According to Rich Von Alvensleben, people may drudge through their days and get by on minimal effort for a boss. But, when they are working to help a friend, the sky isn’t even a limit. Rich Von Alvensleben says establishing a level of trust and camaraderie with your team can mean the difference between success and failure. The best business leaders are those who are available for one-on-one chats and know how to instill the values of confidence and reliability in their team, adds Rich Von Alvensleben.

Speaking of Reliability

Another element to overall success is showing your team that you, yourself, are reliable and able to produce on your own. When they see success in action, says Rich Von Alvensleben, they will want it for themselves. And, if they like you, they will want you to enjoy more success – which in turn they will share in. Rich Von Alvensleben reports that his best producers were also the ones who built teams of dependable people. Leading by example is their secret to success. When a sales team knows that you are steadfast in your efforts, and see that this consistency has put you in a position of power, Rich Von Alvensleben knows from experience that they will work even harder to become your equal.

Recognize Real Potential

Rich Von Alvensleben says that every person thrives off praise. In a sales situation, the recognition of closing the deal is almost as important as signing the papers. It’s a well-known fact that people want to be noticed for their hard work; otherwise, they would not invest so much effort. According to Rich Von Alvensleben, the financial rewards a team creates for themselves isn’t enough. They also need to be recognized for a job well-done.

Public recognition of positive actions motivates in two ways. First, says Rich Von Alvensleben, it makes the target of your praise feel like his or her work isn’t in vain. Second, according to Rich Von Alvensleben, it feeds the rest of the group and makes them hungry for the same acknowledgement and show of respect. However, Rich Von Alvensleben cautions against praising underperformance as a means of motivation, as it makes the praise far less sincere and rewards the slackers.

Preparedness Peaks Performance

Rich Von Alvensleben has spoken with numerous groups over the years and points out that one central theme underlying success is preparedness. A sales team must be ready before they are sent out into the world, says Von. It’s imperative that they are given the appropriate tools to do business, and that they are able to use them. However, Rich Von Alvensleben has also noted that experience is the best tool of all. Encouraging new or inexperienced persons to push on will afford them the opportunity to create this instrument of success for themselves.

Push Past Political Preferences

It might sound like a no-brainer, but one major mistake new team leaders make is putting their emphasis on their favorites. Rich Von Alvensleben says that this must be avoided at all costs. Rich Von Alvensleben insists that fairness to all involved is not only the right way to conduct business but also the way cement your status as a reliable and consistent front-runner of your industry.

About Rich Von Alvensleben

Rich Von Alvensleben is an entrepreneur and successful businessman from Rocklin, California (a Sacramento Suburb). He has a diversified background that includes working in Antarctica as an underwater water filtration installation specialist. He has also worked extensively in the construction industry. As well, Rich Von Alvensleben worked for many years as an extremely successful sales representative for a large national safety products supplier. This range of skills carried Von into his most current venture as a CEO of One Up Construction (a California Licensed General Contractor) and Operations Manager of Von Vesting, Inc. (a real estate investment firm specializing in distressed properties).

In his spare time, Rich Von Alvensleben and his wife Tiffani enjoy spending time with their children and participating in outdoor activities like snowmobiling.

Dr. James D. Sterling Recalls Time Spent with Renowned Family Therapist Olga Silverstein

Dr. James D. Sterling

Dr. James D. Sterling

Dr. James D. Sterling has had many accomplishments in his 45-year career, but among the most formative is the training he’s been fortunate to receive from some of the world’s most respected therapists. The ability to learn from these experts has helped Dr. James D. Sterling develop his own, well-rounded take on couples and family therapy.

Among these experts was Olga Silverstein, says Dr. James D. Sterling. Olga Silverstein was a respected author and therapist who pioneered the theory that parents tend to push male children out of the home too soon. Her goal, Dr. James D. Sterling tells us, was to show parents that just because a young male doesn’t want to leave home immediately following graduation didn’t mean they’d failed as parents.

Dr. James D. Sterling regularly works with parents and families as part of his practice, the New York Center for Psychotherapy. Located on Park Avenue in New York, the practice of Dr. James D. Sterling focuses on individualized sessions that encourage open communication. Dr. Silverstone taught at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, a New York training institute that focuses on therapy for couples and families.

Silverstein’s most enduring book is The Courage to Raise Young Men, a book that tackled the parent-son relationship in a way no other book had at that time. Dr. James D. Sterling reports that Silverstein used her own familial experience, combined with her years of providing therapy, to describe the issues she’d seen in families with male children.

According to Dr. James D. Sterling, Silverstein also co-wrote The Therapeutic Voice of Olga Silverstein and The Invisible Web: Gender Patterns in Family Relationships. Following her death in 2009, Dr. James D. Sterling says the Ackerman Institute developed an award in her name. Each year, the Olga Silverstein Training Award will acknowledge one student who has successfully finished Ackerman’s clinical program and is heading into the first year of externship training, Dr. James D. Sterling explains.

Dr. James D. Sterling is an educator himself, serving as Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Having worked in clinical instruction for the hospital’s department of psychiatry since 1982, Dr. James D. Sterling is always seeking to improve his knowledge of the field in order to pass that knowledge on to others. Dr. James D. Sterling holds a Doctorate from the University of Chicago.

A family man, Dr. James D. Sterling lives in New York with his wife and daughter. Dr. James D. Sterling has served on the board of directors of the Alcoholism Council of Greater New York and held memberships with the American Psychological Association and the American Group Psychotherapy Association.

A Gathering of Experts: Tips for Office Holiday Parties

When it comes to the holidays, one of the biggest social minefields can be the annual company holiday party. And a Gathering of Experts wants to help people avoid any common blunders that may make the season a little less merry and bright.

One of the most common mistakes employees can make is to complain about the venue, food or lack of an open bar. No one enjoys being around someone with a sour attitude, but it can be particularly bad if the employer overhears one of his or her employees running down the event–let alone the person who planned it. If an office party seems sub par it’s best to keep complaints to oneself and try to enjoy oneself anyway. Not everything is going to be perfect for everyone, but it’s always a good idea to be gracious – even if the feast is just a hot dog party on the roof.

Giving appropriate gifts at appropriate times is always a good idea. If someone is friendly with the employer, don’t give a personal gift in front of others at the office. It comes across as rude to other co-workers. And don’t give co-workers a “joke” present re-gifted from a crass brother-in-law. No one likes junk and very few people like off-color gifts as well. When in doubt just give co-workers a cheerful holiday card and try to stay away from any gifts that could offend.

When it comes to alcohol, less is more. A little self control usually means more dignity on Monday morning. The general rule of thumb is to avoid over indulging, because while it may seem hilarious at the time, drunkenly dancing isn’t going to do anyone’s career any favors.

Finally, remember that not everyone may be in the mood to celebrate at all. The holidays can be stressful, and forcing people to partake in an event can come across as overbearing. Simply wish co-workers a “Happy Holiday” and pay attention to social clues as to whether or not they want to take the conversation further.

The holidays can tricky, especially in an office. But by keeping these general rules in mind, the office party can be a much more harmonious occasion.

J Kale Flagg Answers “What Is Success?”

J. Kale Flagg

J. Kale Flagg

J. Kale Flagg has made a pretty good success of himself over the years. Flagg is an alumnus of Yale University, and has hosted seminars on the secrets of success. J. Kale Flagg also serves as General Partner of the American Redevelopment Fund, a real-estate investment group that focuses on distressed property in the Western United States. J. Kale Flagg has given a lot of thought to the formulas for success over the years, and in this brief Q&A he provides some of his views on what makes a person successful.

Q: Looking back in history, who do you look up to for his or her success and business acumen?

J. Kale Flagg: I’d say that Andrew Carnegie is a perfect example. Carnegie moved over here from Scotland in the 19th century with pennies to his name and became one of America’s first billionaires at a time when staying a hotel cost about a nickel per night!

Q: What was Carnegie’s formula for success?

J. Kale Flagg: That’s a good question; it’s something that Carnegie himself reflected on a great deal.

Q: Didn’t Carnegie make a study of it?

J. Kale Flagg: Yes, he did. He hired a young man named Napoleon Hill, who went and interviewed men like Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford and William Wrigley. After two decades of research, Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich…

Q: What were Hill’s conclusions in the book?

J. Kale Flagg: Napoleon Hill broke it down into a formula of two groups: 97% who are the “worker bees,” and 3% who are the “rulers.” When the 3% control so much of the power and wealth, the 97% may wonder how things shook out that way, but that’s a topic for some other time.

Q: What is it that the 3% do differently?

J. Kale Flagg: Bottom line is that the 3% think differently then the 97%.  The look at opportunity instead of requirements.  Napoleon Hill talked about OPI (other people’s ideas), OPM (other people’s money), and OPE (other people’s efforts) all playing into the successes of the 3%.

Q: OPI, OPM, and OPE?

J. Kale Flagg: Yes, you could re-frame it as credit and investment, duplication and hard work, and a proven system. And if there’s one thing that ties many of those stories together, it’s the willingness to take big chances against measured odds.

Q: So what would be your takeaway, then?

J. Kale Flagg: Successful people don’t necessarily need to invent anything or make any grand discoveries. What they do is read the signs, get the lay of the land, and seize opportunities when the timing is just-so. They find or develop a great product at the right time, and then recruit and convince other people to get on board with you to help bring it to market.