God Honors Commitment.

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This morning I taught the last class in a 5 week Debt Free program at my church. This was my 2nd time teaching the class, one of the families who took the course 2 years ago paid off over $100,000 in debt since then!

It is my sincere hope that this second round will help more families do the same. This time we had 2 college kids attend the class, they will certainly benefit from what was taught, If every college kid in the United States took this class it would transform an entire generation.

Debt sucks, yet there is a trillion dollar marketing machine designed to convince the public that debt is ok, everyone does it, etc….

I always bring a pair of scissors to my last class and we encourage folks to chop up their credit cards.  One of my students was reluctant to chop up several of her credit cards, and this is what I told her:

“God honors commitment, by chopping up those cards you are making a commitment to your own financial stability, and your own freedom from debt.”

She actually went out to her car, got the cards and chopped ’em up! I was proud of her for taking that step, and that one small action will have huge repercussions for her financial future.

It was a great day.

Ben Alexander

December 2018

 

 

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Tone and Influence

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I run a sales team at Tampa Bay Solar, and one of the main challenges in that role is figuring out the best way to sell, then duplicating that technique with my team.

One of the best “natural salesman” I’ve ever witnessed is a friend of mine named Bill Siveter. He would go out with a door to door crew selling anything and personally close 25 deals in a few hours, while the next best guy might only close 10 or 15.

Bill was earning $50,000 a year selling newspaper subscriptions to hard-ass Philly customers when he was only 16 years old. Today he runs a nationwide marketing firm with countless sales reps working all over the country.

In a sales situation Bill always channeled a calm / good natured confidence and people intuitively trusted him. If he got an objection he would deflect it without losing his center. In many ways he was displaying an intuitive leadership energy that made it easy to close the deal.

In contrast to Bill I was recently watching one of the reps on my team at a sales call. To protect the innocent let’s call him “Joe”. Joe actually started speaking in a higher pitch when he was addressing the client… like the client was doing him a favor by talking to him. There was no leadership in that tone, zero influence. I stepped in at that point, turned the energy around 180 degrees, and closed the deal.

Joe had worked as a waiter before he joined my team, and the same type of submissive tone he was using with the client (that drove me insane) was similar to the tone he used to use as a waiter. Waiters are not leaders. No one follows a waiter.

No one follows a follower. Followers don’t close deals, they rarely earn a high income, and they tend to “settle” for a sub-optimal life. Fuck that.

In order for Joe to become a strong closer he needs to totally change his tone of voice and start to channel confidence and leadership in front of HIS clients.

Joe’s “waiter” tone actually rose at the end of each sentence, making him sound weak and unsure of his own statements. A leader DROPS the tone at the end of each sentence, this imparts solidity and strength to the statement.

In thinking about Bill and Joe I realized that effective salespeople have all adopted strong leadership characteristics. It is easier to trust someone who is clearly a leader, and trust is the unspoken objection in all sales transactions.

I’ve included a picture of MLK Jr. with this post because he closed one of the biggest deals in US history; he influenced our government to pass the Civil Rights Act, but more than that he showed people that change did not have to be violent. That’s leadership right there.

MLK Jr. was also a talented and passionate orator, a skill that he mastered as a reverend.

Ben Alexander

December 2018

 

 

Swipe Right, Swipe Left…

march-2011-028(This was originally published across several magazines in Tampa Bay as a three part series, I included all three parts in this post)

Part One:

So there I was, suddenly single after a 20 year marriage. I could go live in the hills in a cabin like the Unabomber and never meet anyone, or I could start dating again. I had met my wife in 1995, and married her in 1997. Dating was very different back then, you actually met people… then called them on a LANDLINE and asked them out on a date. Imagine that kids!

So how does a single guy meet people in 2018?

My work in the solar business is primarily with married people who own homes, and 99% of my coworkers are male, so I wasn’t going to meet anyone at work. How about church? I go to the traditional service at Harvester Methodist… the average age of our congregation goes down by a decade when I walk in the room. There are very nice single ladies in church, but they’re all 82 years old, and I’m only 44.

My single friends told me to go online, that’s where are the lovely single women are hiding, right?

The first site I tried was E-Harmony. This site asks you 500 questions that delve into your inner psyche and match you to the perfect person. I figured I would find someone awesome in 20 seconds. E-Harmony started matching me to 3 or 4 people per day, and they were… not attractive. About a week in I was finally matched with a woman whom I found attractive so I sent her a text message through the site. No response. Let me say in my defense that I’m rather hideous myself, with an average body and a very forgettable face.

It was much easier to date when I was 21 and trim.

What I did not know at the time is that women on dating apps only respond to about 2% of the texts messages they get, and pretty women are inundated with “shout outs” from men online. After talking to some single women I was shocked to learn that some pretty ladies get 200 to 300 messages per DAY from various online dating sites!

So I cancelled E-Harmony, it was too slow. I needed to increase the number of single women that I could contact. Several friends recommended a hook-up app called Tinder. Tinder is an app on your phone that lets you swipe a picture to the right if you like someone, swipe left if you don’t.

One of the guys at work told me “Just swipe right on everyone, see what you get”. That same day I got a text through the app that started with “Hey Daddy” then went R-rated soon after. Someone liked me…  she was only 24 years old and very pretty. I began to get suspicious. After a few texts she offered to come see me at my home… “but what would I give her in return?” My response was “??” Her response was “U look nice but I need 3 bills to come see U”. I thought about this for a minute. Three duck bills? Three dry cleaning bills? Oh. This beautiful R rated woman wants $300 to come to my house. Got it.

Delete, Delete, Delete. Maybe Tinder works for younger people, but I don’t want to have anything on my phone that leads to a sting operation with the Pasco County police. Or worse, I had images of this young lady coming to my home and letting in her jealous “boyfriend” who would then beat me over the head and steal my flat screen TV. Not my style.

Match.com seems to advertise all over the place, so I finally got on the site and had some luck.

I could send a text to an unlimited number of ladies, then they could look at my profile and actually read it, something that no one on Tinder actually does. There aren’t many pictures of me that are decent, but I found a few and put together a profile. I even showed my Match profile to some female friends and they approved.

The advantage of Match is the sheer number of single people who are on the site, from 18 to 80 years old. You can reach out to anyone, and you can filter the search box for variables like distance and age range. The disadvantage is that Match will keep your profile up even years after you cancel the service, which means you might be reaching out to someone who is no longer on the site!

But there is also a feature that shows you who has looked at YOUR profile. I started to text the ladies I liked on Match, then I would look to see if they took a gander at my profile.

Part Two

There are many kinds of dating sites for many different demographics. FarmersOnly.com for folks who know how to milk a cow and muck out a barn, JDate for people seeking a Jewish partner, Tinder for young people looking to hook up TONIGHT, BlackPeopleMeet.com, Grindr for men seeking men… and many others.

As a 44 year old middle-class guy I discovered that Match.com was the best fit for my stage in life. There are a ton of single people on Match from this area, and users pay a small monthly fee to interact with other singles. Charging a fee eliminates the people who are not serious, or can’t afford $22 a month! I made sure my profile was coherently written and free from egregious grammar errors.

From discussions with several women I discovered that men who can’t write are quickly eliminated from consideration, so are guys with fishing pictures, shirtless gym selfies and pictures of their Corvette. (However, I understand that pictures with your favorite Holstein gets you lots of attention on FarmersOnly.com!)

I tried to design my Match profile in such a way that I came across as an attractive human being with a job who was not harboring Ted Bundy proclivities on the side. After all, the major problem with online dating is the safety issue for women, and since I have 2 adult daughters I worry about this from a father’s perspective. Bill Cosby looked harmless when he was hawking Pudding Pops but he turned out to be a monster, who saw that coming?

In this regard I applaud all the brave women who have the courage to get out there and date online. There are basic ways to be safe; meet someone publically, look them up online, etc… but there will eventually be a point when you are alone with a new boyfriend, and you want to make sure he is a good guy you can trust.

So how does one go from looking at an anonymous profile to sharing a glass of wine at a nice restaurant? I would send her a message (through Match) and ask her if we could have a phone conversation. Apparently there are folks who will text each other forever and never go on a date! The goal is to actually meet, so if I was able to finagle a conversation with someone I could figure out if our personalities were a match before we met.

These conversations were really revealing. I had a phone call with a woman who had stunning pics on Match, she was lovely, no doubt… but I could tell our personalities did not mesh. I told her so over the phone: “You are a beautiful woman, but we are not a match, I can tell from this conversation.”

Then there were the times when the conversation was great… but when I met her she looked NOTHING like her profile pics. This is a common problem with online dating. People use decade old pics from when they were thinner, had less wrinkles, less wear and tear on the old chassis. I tried to use recent pics (last 2 months) on my profile.

For a few months I went on several dates per WEEK, perhaps trying to prove something to myself… and making the mistake of DATING quantity over quality. I’m old-fashioned in that I believe the guy should pick up the tab if he invites a woman out. Dating started to get expensive.

I discovered that being the FIRST to date someone after their marriage has just ended is a waste of time. It takes time to process a divorce, I dated a lovely woman who had been in a 15 year marriage with an abusive spouse, she had a ton of unresolved issues that she had not dealt with yet. My heart went out to her, I was the first guy she kissed since the end of her marriage, but the shadow of her past abuse darkened everything between us.

A little bit of therapy is not a bad thing, especially if you just ended a marriage.

And this is when I realized that I was being a knucklehead.

I was not ready for another relationship, especially after ending a 20 year marriage. I took a realistic assessment of my own life and decided to shut down my Match profile for a few months. I manage a sales team for a solar company, so I invested my time in working with my team. I started teaching a Debt Free class at my church. I took my daughter hiking in the Rocky Mountains and we had a great time together. I even finished writing my third book.

There are times when dating online makes sense, and there are times when that time is better spent working on other goals…

Part Three

In the first 2 parts of this series I wrote about my experiences with different dating sites, and making the mistake of dating too much before one is ready.

Quick disclaimer; this is written from a 44 year old hetero-male perspective, so some details might be different for a straight woman or someone dating within the LGTB community.

But there are also some things about dating that are universal, no matter your gender or your preference. After taking some time off from dating (and using that time to write, pay down debt, grow my career, etc..) I realized that I wanted a very specific type of partner in my life; someone pretty and nice, with great character and honesty, intelligent and organized, a woman who was impressive in every way.

BUT, in order to attract a great partner with all those amazing characteristics I had to work on the guy in the mirror FIRST.

In order to attract an honest woman I had to make sure MY integrity was unimpeachable! We can’t change a mistake in our character from the past, but we can decide to be unfailingly honest moving into the future. Integrity and character can be intentional.

If I wanted to attract a healthy and attractive partner how was my health? I started to exercise more and clean up my disastrous eating habits. I had been ignoring my health for a few years, it was time to fix that!

If I want to have a partner with good finances how good was I at paying down my debts? For the last few years I had been paying off all my debt, at one point I started teaching the debt free class at my church! During my time off from dating I paid off over $20,000 in mortgage debt…

If I wanted an emotionally stable partner how stable were my own emotions? Sometimes this is hard to self-evaluate. At one point I found myself mourning the loss of my marriage, so I leaned into that and let the tears flow. Emotions come and go, like clouds in the sky… and there was a point when I needed to ask God for forgiveness and move on.

I’ve been single for just over a year now, and I’m ready to meet the right woman. She’s out there right now, maybe even reading this article!

I’ve been blessed with a big heart and the capacity and willingness to really love the right woman. God has a plan for me, and that plan might be a period of time as a single man. 1 year, 5 years, who knows?

One of my big goals is to totally pay off my home in the next year or so, something that very few men in my age range have done. The right type of woman should appreciate a man with that level of work ethic and financial discipline, right?

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If you have an unusual online dating story feel free to email me:

Ben@TampaBaySolar.com

Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

Ben Alexander

December 2019

 

Marriage and other stuff…

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Me and Ms. Lemons have an uncomplicated relationship, she sleeps on the chair in my office and occasionally runs around the house, I feed her and keep her litterbox clean.

Sometimes she jumps on my lap and I pet for a minute before she runs away.

I’m OK with that. I’ve been surrounded with female energy my entire life, in addition to Ms. Lemons my oldest daughter Claire lives with me most of the time, and her sister Grace is here during college breaks.

There are some guys in our culture who are negative about the fairer gender, especially guys who were taken to the cleaners in messy divorces. I don’t feel that way, I was married to Rachel for 20 years…  I’m eternally grateful that we were together long enough for Claire and Grace to happen, so to speak.

So, I’ve been single now for over a year. It was weird not having someone next to me when I woke up in the morning. I made the mistake of getting out and dating too soon. I learned very quickly that quality is far more important than quantity, I also learned that I needed to slow down.. I even stopped dating for a few months.

Work was a bit of a distraction, in the last 12 months I recruited and developed a sales team. This resulted in a deep sense of satisfaction and a nice income.

Cut down some palm trees in my yard, and cleaned up the gardens.

Got a new roof on the house, along with a 10 kilowatt solar array.

Built a nice firepit.

Spent lotsa time hanging out with my parents, they both turn 70 this year.

Took Grace to hike the Rockies in June.

Went to church each week to atone for my various sins, past and present.

Wrote a book about selling solar, which is now in the final editing stages.

Got a gig writing articles for several area magazines.

Paid off lotsa debt.

Time went by, healing wounds, granting me wisdom and perspective on all of it.

And I feel like God has a plan for me, even though it might involve being single for a few years, especially if I have more lessons to learn. I was never good at PATIENCE.

Why was I blessed with such a big heart if not to love someone again?

December 2018.

Rooftop solar is the most efficient power source, and the cheapest as well.

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My solar array will pay for itself in less than 5 years. The ROI on solar is no longer 10 to 15 years. If someone tells you that they are flat out wrong.

Most of the electricity in Florida is created by burning natural gas, burning coal, or generated via a fission reaction at nuclear plants. That power has to be transmitted  hundreds of miles across power lines at high voltage to meet the power needs for the 21 million residents of this state.

Electricity takes 2 forms; Direct Current and Alternating Current. Both forms of electricity bleed off power the farther they travel, more so with Direct Current. The modern power grid generates and distributes Alternating Current, but there is still a huge loss of wasted energy.

Rooftop solar generates in Direct Current, is inverted to Alternating Current, then most of that electricity is used onsite at your home.

The picture above is my home in Wesley Chapel. The electricity on my roof does not have to travel more than 30 or 40 feet from source to end usage. My home is still tied to the power grid, during a sunny day it generates more than I need, and those kilowatts go back to the electric company and I get a 1 for 1 credit per kilowatt.

In the winter my kilowatt credits build up, when the summer months start and my air conditioning is using more power those credits come back to me.

My solar array is already paid off, so now I have an asset on my roof that will kick off $200 per month in electricity for the next 40 to 50 YEARS. My panels were manufactured by SolarWorld, with a 25 year warranty.

If I sell my home I can sell it for more, probably to a buyer who drives an electric car. As more people start buying electric cars there will be an increased demand for homes that self generate electricity.

Why not charge your car off your roof?

Ben Alexander

June 2018

It all starts with a conversation.

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As the Sales Director for Tampa Bay Solar I still go out on sales calls, in addition to hiring and developing our team. Before each appointment I print up the picture of the roof on Google, along with a list of references and some contracts that have various size systems. If the client needs a 40 panel array (for a larger electric need) I also print out some smaller options.

I don’t believe in canned sales pitches. When I sit down with a client I want to know who THEY are, what do THEY want, WHY are they interested in solar? I always ask to sit at the kitchen table, because this is where family meets, people tend to be relaxed and at ease in their kitchen.

During a friendly conversation you can start to get to know someone. What are they about? What do they believe? Where are they from? What season of life are they in now? If you’re in sales you have to find something to like about your clients, people can intuitively sense when you like them or you don’t.

In this regard selling solar is easy because our clients tend to be educated, well mannered, successful and progressive in their thinking. Recently I’ve been the point man on a co-op project in Citrus County. 95% of my Citrus County prospects are retirees who are buying these systems with cash. With this group all I have to do is be polite, answer their questions and be patient. I ask them to buy on the first appointment, but if the client is not ready yet I leave. When I get back to the office I send the client a thank you note and they tend to call me back when they’re good and ready!

When I meet with Baby Boomers I feel like I’m having a conversation with my Mom and Dad…. 2 people whom I like to spend time with on a regular basis.

One important aspect of building rapport is to simply be open and genuine. Be yourself and don’t try to be anything else. I’m not afraid to tell a client “I’m a single Dad with 2 daughters in college. I go to Harvester Methodist church in Land O Lakes… I have solar on my roof… ”

I think most people have a finely tuned bullshit detector, especially around sales people. They know when you’re being phony baloney, or giving them a false compliment.

The last part is to simply be relaxed and at ease no matter where you are. I’m going to be just as chilled out at your kitchen table as YOU are. Part of this comes from experience and really knowing your product, part of this just comes from confidence in yourself.

Sales ability is not some magical power that only select individuals are born with. Sales is more about just having a conversation, loving people, and loving what you sell.

Ben Alexander

May 30th, 2018

 

 

Job security for the next 40 years.

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This post is written specifically for the 20-something kid who’s just finished college and  has no idea what they want to do with their lives.

There are some professions known for a high income; hedge fund manager, medical sales, brain surgeon, etc. There are also professions that help society but the pay is minimal; school teacher, social worker, admin at a non-profit, etc.

Some jobs will go away as technology becomes more advanced… many jobs have been eliminated by technology; Blockbuster store manager, travel agent, highway toll collector, the list goes on…

If you get into the solar business you can help society AND make a decent income.

For the next 4 decades the solar biz will need installers and electricians, crew leaders, sales people, sales trainers, accountants, warehouse managers and general managers. Those jobs are all on the install side of the business, even if the panels and inverters are shipped in from overseas there will be many LOCAL jobs that can’t be outsourced.

LESS THAN 1% of the residential and commercial market has solar on the roof nationwide, our potential clients are anyone with a roof and a monthly electric bill!

I should add that solar is now cheaper each month than paying the local electric company… panel prices dropped until 2016, and now have leveled off.

As the Sales Director for Tampa Bay Solar I’m going to hire talented salespeople for the next 30 years at least, and many will earn a solid six-figure income IF they are willing to put the work in to learn the business. I’m encouraging all my sales reps to learn about solar by going on install a few days each week while they also learn how to sell.

My goal is to build my sales team to $1 mil per month in gross sales, and we’ll get there soon.

TampaBaySolar.com is also hiring installers, electricians and crew chiefs… with open positions for the next decade or so….

Don’t stay in a stagnant industry, jump into solar and be a part of the future!

Ben Alexander

May 21, 2018