Connect with us


Interview with Claire Houston, Co-Founder of Houston & Ko



Interview with Claire Houston, Co-Founder of Houston & Ko

Paula (left) began her career in one of the big consulting houses, and she has spent most of her professional life focusing on the area of Mergers & Acquisitions. When it comes to detail, Sherlock Holmes doesn’t have a look in. Paula leaves no stone unturned, no question unasked and no business plan unscrutinised. Outside of work Paula can be found with her face as close to the snow as possible as she carves up the Swiss alps with her hardboard.
Claire (right) has had an international career that has taken her far from the green fields of Ireland, where she started with one of the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) giants, Coca-Cola. Her guiding light when it comes to project management has always been the collection, measurement and (she says ‘most importantly) use of data to drive value. When Claire isn’t measuring, analysing or managing something she can be found stretching her legs on the triathlon circuit.

Where did the idea for Houston & Ko come from?

Both of us grew up (professionally speaking) in large corporations such as Coca-Cola, KPMG, PWC, Hilti, and The Adecco Group, where we saw and experienced the benefits and challenges to both employers and employees of the traditional hiring model.

We have been imagining a different approach to talent acquisition, where organizations don’t purchase time, but outcomes. Of course, the freelance market was already in existence, but in its current state, is so complex that it doesn’t allow for effective collaboration with the fast-paced start-up world – and so the dream of a simpler, more effective, and more premium marketplace was born (and simply named Houston & Ko).

Today, Houston & Ko has more than 120 years of collective experience in providing freelancer services to various types of organizations all over the world. Our highly-skilled team is working from 17 different countries and speaks 12 different languages. Their experience allows us to deliver (almost) any type of freelancer support you might need, from administration support to marketing experts and finance professionals.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Uninterrupted working hours are gold – so we try to structure our day around this.

Paula and I track the time we spend on each topic throughout the day and split they key tasks on our business on a monthly basis, e.g one month Paula takes care of clients and I the team, the next month we change over.
This means (1) we don’t waste time and energy jumping from topic to topic and (2) as a bonus – we spend enough time focusing on one process that we get to know its good/bad/ugly sides and make the necessary changes.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We are doers.

It might not be the sexiest of responses, but so many brilliant ideas just never make it further than thoughts or conversations. It’s sometimes disheartening to talk to talented individuals about the amazing idea they have, only to catch-up two years later and find out that they never started.

In comparison Paula and I have a variety of ideas, some are truly awful, some mediocre and some pretty good, and we bring them to life (rightly or wrongly) by putting them into action. We aren’t afraid to try, fail and learn.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Would it be too predictable to say the freelance revolution?

Ok, we are going to say it anyway, because we are so genuinely stoked about this topic.

When done correctly, with reasonable policies and practices we believe that freelancing has the potential to provide numerous benefits to individuals, organizations and communities.

1. It has the potential to lift millions of people out of poverty
In developing countries like Kenya, Nigeria and India, full-time freelancers are making up to 14 times more than the current minimum wage.

2. It creates opportunities for truly inclusive employment practices
The flexibility and remote nature of the freelance economy means it welcomes skilled individuals regardless of gender, ethnicity, physical ability or personal circumstance.

3. It revives our small towns and villages.
Opportunities for increased proximity to nature and reduced cost of living encourage freelancers to move to, or remain in more rural locations. This moves income away from bigger cities to smaller towns and villages, distributing wealth more efficiently and driving investments in the local communities.

If you can’t get excited about contributing to a movement that could actually make a positive impact in the world – what can you get excited about?

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

We track our time.

Some people will be squirming in their seats reading this – we get it, it sounds a bit micro-managy, but bear with me.

Tracking our time makes us more productive for a number of reasons. The first being that we tend to work on one topic for a prolonged block of time, rather than switching every few minutes.

The second is that this blocking of time discourages us from procrastinating. If we have one hour to do operations, we tend to work through all of these open tasks methodically, rather than picking and choosing.

The last is that at the end of each day we see a detailed breakdown of where we are spending our time. This is important when it comes to assessing if we are spending time on the topics that matter most to our business.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Trying and failing is better than never having tried at all.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Being naive is a good thing.

As first time founders, we approach many of our challenges creatively and without the limitations that come with experience – which allows us to think in ideals, rather than marginal improvements.

If we had a firm understanding of the challenge we were undertaking, we would likely never have started.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Build a resilient business because despite having passed what seems to be the heat of the most recent crisis, the business world will remain turbulent and volatile and only those with a robust, adaptable, and antifragile business model will be able to thrive.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Being a customer-led business.

Our entire business strategy for growth centers around building a business that solves real-world challenges for our customers. This sole belief drives the conversations we have, the content we create, the people we hire, the services we provide and much much more.

It means asking not assuming, listening not talking and speaking with, rather than at our customers.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In our first year of business, our biggest failure was the inability to discern between business and profitable business.

We took on nearly every project that crossed our paths, a practice that drained our time and energy and while it brought us revenue, it didn’t bring us profit.

At the end of the year, we recognised our mistakes and implemented a yearly business review.

Now we sit down and look carefully at all the projects we undertake in terms of profitability and success. We decide consciously what services we will offer next year and what services we will discontinue or find a different model for.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Oh you are going to make us shy now. In another life Paula and I were experienced apres-ski instructors and had the idea to create a real-time GPS tracking system to show you where the best parties were on the ski slopes.

We talk about this quite often with a healthy mix of absolute embarrassment and fondness because it was our first baby steps into the wild world of entrepreneurship.

We still have the domain – so if anyone reading this fancies it, the idea, website and first two customers are up for grabs!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Starlink. For Paula and I freedom is everything, but wifi connection comes in a very close second. Starlink is helping us balance our personal and professional life by giving us the freedom to travel and the security to know we will be able to run our business from (nearly) anywhere in the world.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We are obsessed with Loom at the minute. Essentially it’s a video messaging tool that helps you get your message across by recording your camera, microphone, and desktop simultaneously.
We use it to explain what we mean when an email just doesn’t cut it, as a lead generation tool and to document standard operating procedures and processes.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

If you want to build a business that doesn’t stop when you take time off, we recommend reading Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself by Mike Michalowicz

What is your favorite quote?

Unsurprisingly, one of our favorite quotes is about freedom by Danielle Colding.

“Quality of life is having the freedom to make choices that are not fear based. Whether it’s the ability to choose the kinds of projects I want to take on and can learn from, or the ability to take a month off to travel. Freedom to choose is the ultimate luxury.”

Key Learnings:

  • There are few misunderstandings that can’t be solved by a phone call, but many that can be exacerbated via WhatsApp.
  • Every single day is a school day – teammates and clients, the best teachers.
  • Learning how to exclude ego from conversations exponentially improves nearly every relationship in life.
  • The grass is not greener on the other side, it’s just different grass and your experience of it will depend on what you value in life.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.


Exclusive Interview with The NET ZERO ENERGY Buildings Expert Anastasia Makarska: Shaping a Greener Future



Anastasia Makarska

Welcome to an exclusive interview with Anastasia Makarska, a renowned figure in the world of commercial real estate development. Anastasia’s resolute commitment to sustainability and her unique background in physics and engineering have revolutionized the real estate landscape, transforming spaces into sustainable and coveted marvels. 

In this interview, we delve into the concept of Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) and the challenges associated with building codes for NZEB. Join us as we explore the visionary force behind Anastasia’s remarkable projects and her dedication to shaping a greener future.

Anastasia, thank you for joining us today. Let’s start by discussing the concept of Net Zero Energy Buildings. Could you explain to our audience what exactly is meant by a Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB)?

Anastasia: Certainly. A Net Zero Energy Building, or NZEB, is an approach to construction that focuses on creating energy-efficient buildings that are connected to the power grid while also generating renewable energy to offset their energy consumption. The aim is to achieve a balance where the amount of renewable energy produced either on-site or nearby matches or exceeds the building’s annual energy needs, resulting in virtually no net energy consumption.

That’s fascinating. It’s clear that NZEBs hold tremendous potential in terms of sustainability. How are developers and building owners embracing this concept, and what are some innovative features we can find in NZEBs?

Anastasia: Developers and building owners are increasingly interested in constructing zero energy buildings, driven by corporate objectives and regulatory requirements. The building and design community is actively embracing this challenge and leading the way with innovative and forward-thinking projects.

NZEBs incorporate a wide range of energy-efficient strategies, from simple to highly intricate. These include maximizing the utilization of passive solar heat gain and shading, integrating high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, appliances, windows, and doors, enhancing insulation, natural ventilation, air sealing, and incorporating advanced renewable energy solutions like solar photovoltaics and geothermal energy systems. 

The goal is to create buildings that regulate temperature fluctuations, minimize energy consumption, and reduce environmental impact.

It’s impressive how NZEBs combine various technologies and strategies to achieve sustainability. Now, let’s delve into building codes. What role do building codes play in the construction of NZEBs, and what codes and standards exist for this purpose?

Anastasia: Building codes play a crucial role in guiding the construction of net zero energy buildings. Currently, there are codes and standards in place to assist designers, architects, builders, and contractors in creating more energy-efficient and sustainable structures compared to previous years.

In the United States, professionals in the building industry can refer to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which has been adopted in approximately 44 states and territories. Across North America, ASHRAE 90.1 provides significant guidance, and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) serves as another valuable resource. In Canada, there are the National Energy Code of Canada (NECC) and the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB).

That’s helpful to know. Given the increasing need for more rigorous energy and building codes, what are some of the challenges faced in developing codes specifically tailored for NZEBs?

Anastasia: The development of codes specifically tailored for NZEBs faces several challenges. As industry professionals and officials work on designing new codes to facilitate the transition to net zero energy, there is still no consensus on the structure of the code, its comprehensive scope, and ensuring that buildings achieve net zero energy status throughout their lifecycle.

To ensure buildings perform as intended, it is essential to establish post-construction reporting, analysis, and a framework for oversight and enforcement. 

Current codes and standards often rely on energy proxies without a requirement for actual quantification of energy usage. There are also gaps in the inclusion of certain types of energy usage in calculations. 

To achieve the goal of net zero energy buildings, methodologies need to evolve, modeling capabilities should be enhanced, and real-world outcomes must be measured.

Overcoming those challenges will be crucial for the success of NZEBs. Could you tell us about the advantages that net zero energy buildings offer to building owners, occupants, and the environment?

Anastasia: Absolutely. Net zero energy buildings provide several advantages. Buildings account for a significant portion of fossil fuel energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. By increasing the number of net zero energy buildings, we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and effectively lower carbon emissions.

Some key advantages of NZEBs include protection for building owners against future energy price hikes, enhanced occupant comfort, health, well-being, and productivity, reduction in energy consumption and associated costs, improved reliability of energy supply, increased resale value due to high demand for net zero buildings, contribution towards achieving zero energy targets, and minimized environmental impact. These advantages create value for building owners, occupants, and the planet.

Those advantages make a compelling case for embracing net zero energy buildings. As a visionary force in real estate development, how do you see the future of NZEBs and their potential impact on communities and the environment?

Anastasia: I believe the future of net zero energy buildings is incredibly promising. As awareness of the need for sustainability grows, NZEBs will become the norm rather than the exception. They have the potential to reshape communities and serve as catalysts for positive change.

Net zero energy buildings can create vibrant, sustainable communities that prioritize the well-being of both residents and businesses. By reducing energy consumption, minimizing environmental impact, and offering enhanced comfort and productivity, NZEBs have a transformative effect on the communities they serve. They not only contribute to the preservation of our planet but also provide value for investors, businesses, and communities alike.

Thank you for sharing your insights, Anastasia. Before we conclude, could you tell our audience about any upcoming projects or initiatives that you’re particularly excited about in the realm of net zero energy buildings?

Anastasia: Certainly. I’m thrilled to be working on a groundbreaking project that aims to create a net zero energy residential community. This community will embody the principles of sustainable living and showcase the potential of NZEBs on a larger scale. It will integrate cutting-edge technologies, energy-efficient systems, and sustainable materials to provide residents with an exceptional living experience while minimizing the community’s environmental footprint. I believe this project will serve as a blueprint for future developments and inspire others to embrace the vision of net zero energy living.


As we conclude this insightful interview with Anastasia Makarska, it is evident that she is a visionary force transforming the real estate industry through sustainable development. Anastasia’s dedication to creating sustainable and desirable spaces, her commitment to excellence, and her unwavering belief in the power of net zero energy buildings have positioned her as a leading authority in commercial real estate.

Through her innovative projects and expertise, Anastasia is shaping the world we live in, one groundbreaking project at a time. Her visionary approach, fueled by her unique background in physics and engineering, has redefined the boundaries of commercial real estate development and paved the way for a greener and more sustainable future.

Witness the remarkable journey of Anastasia Makarska as she continues to revolutionize the real estate landscape and leave an indelible mark on the communities she transforms into sustainable and coveted marvels.

If you would like to get in touch with Anastasia Makarska you can contact here

Continue Reading


From a Small AC Repair Company to a Household Name in Austin TX



AC Repair Austin

The Success Story of Grande Air Solutions

What makes a successful company?

Well, while there is no one secret alone that can make you a success in the business world, the story of determined employees and aspiring entrepreneurs shed light on what makes a business thrive. Grande Air Solutions was established in 2011 by young, honest entrepreneurs Isael Garcia and Petra Lugo. They are both described as honest entrepreneurs ready to take on any challenge, which is what drove them to make this company a success. You’ll be able to find Isael and Petra engaging regularly with their customers and employees. As both will tell you, honesty is the first and foremost important feature to have in a company. Customers look for honesty in an AC repair Austin team when they’re looking to spend their money on a service. Whether the customer needs a new HVAC system or AC repair, they want to make sure that they’re getting their money’s worth.

Grande Air Solutions | Best Austin Heating And Air Company

Reliable and Affordability Make a Difference

Another key aspect that can take an HVAC company from a small-sized business to a household name is reliability. It can be a distressing situation when the AC breaks down in the middle of a hot summer day. The homeowner does not want to wait for hours on end waiting for the technician to arrive at their home. An HVAC company like Grande Air Solutions that is known for reliability will always be there for their customers, especially if it’s an HVAC emergency. Along with reliability, affordable prices are other factors that can make any company a success if it’s done right. This is where Grande Air Solutions shines as well. They offer their services along with affordable prices for all customers.

Building a Solid Reputation

How do you stand out from the rest of the competition?

It can be difficult to achieve a level of uniqueness among your competitors. However, this is where this company has also succeeded when it comes to Austin heating and air services. Building a solid reputation for years has propelled Grande Air Solutions from a small AC repair company to the well-known, trusted name it is today within the Austin area. The company has been able to deliver high-quality service to its customers, which has resulted in returning customers. This is also known as customer loyalty. The business has many five-star reviews, which potential customers look for in an HVAC company. Isael and Petra envisioned a company that carries the type of professionalism and friendly service that has exceeded the expectations of many of the company’s customers. In a nutshell, the entire team of employees are the ones who have helped build a respectable reputation for Grande Air Solutions.

Trusted and Trained Technicians

A company is only as good as its members. Another reason why this HVAC company has excelled in every aspect of the business is the team. The company’s technicians are well-trained and experienced in the HVAC field. When the technician arrives to fix or install the HVAC system, the customer knows exactly what they’ll be getting. The homeowner will always get quality service because it’s the results that speak volumes. Grande Air Solutions hires technicians who are experienced in the field and properly trained. Having the proper credentials also essential for any successful HVAC company to have, such as certifications and proper licensing. 

Connecting With the Community

Starting from a small, humble HVAC company, Grande Air Solutions has been able to grow significantly thanks to the help of people. As a family-owned business, the company also knows the importance of closeness in the community. The company has been able to give back as much as they’ve received from their local communities. In fact, the company strives to give much more. By collaborating with local charitable organizations, they are able to offer the basic necessities of life, much-needed monetary donations, help for nonprofit organizations, and other support. Being a household name among the people holds a responsibility to provide a role model as a reliable HVAC company in all aspects, including helping the community. 

Expanding Service Areas

Although it may be difficult to expand services in the beginning as a smaller business, one of the reasons the company has been able to grow is because of its determination to expand. Now, Grande Air Solutions is proud to offer Austin heating and air services throughout more of the areas. The company has been able to offer services in Buda, Cedar Park, Georgetown, Kyle, and more, just to mention a few. All of these cities are located in Texas. Investing time and money in their employees is one reason why the company has become a household name in Austin. As the team grows, more service areas are sure to open in the future.  

Offering a Wide Range of HVAC Services

Knowing about the HVAC basics is important. However, this company has been able to expand and grow because its technicians are always learning something new in the field. As technology advances, the area of HVAC also continues to improve. This can include learning about smart thermostats, the new A2L refrigerants, and the new UV light purifiers. Whatever the case may be, the company has continued its success by offering new and improved HVAC services. The wide range of alternatives gives customers the power to choose what they want for their home.

Continuing the Success Without Letup

It can be discouraging and even disheartening when the challenge of a business gets you down. However, the key is to keep on going. Just like this company has shown continuous effort to succeed, it is vital for a business to keep on going without letup. Any business is likely to face ups and downs as they continue to expand. The important thing to keep in mind is that you are doing everything for the customer. Grande Air Solutions is an excellent example of a company that has put its customers first. It is their top priority to deliver quality AC repair, installations, and other HVAC services. Rest assured that the future looks bright for the company as it holds a special place for the residents of Austin, Texas, and nearby communities. 

Continue Reading


An Inside Look at One & Only Electrical Service Inc. with CEO Moshe Sabag



An Inside Look at One & Only Electrical Service Inc. with CEO Moshe Sabag

With thousands of electrical problems solved and many years of experience, they’ve become a reliable and experienced choice for those in need of electrical solutions. In this interview, we’ll be speaking with Moshe Sabag, the CEO of One & Only Electrical Service Inc. We’ll explore the ins and outs of the electrical industry, the company’s commitment to quality service, and their approach to customer satisfaction. So, let’s dive into the world of electrical services with Moshe Sabag.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role in One & Only Electrical Service Inc.?

Moshe Sabag: My name is Moshe Sabag and I am the CEO of One & Only Electrical Service Inc. I have been in the electrical business for over a decade and have gained extensive experience and knowledge in the field. As the CEO, my role is to oversee the company’s operations and ensure that we provide top-notch service to our clients.

What inspired you to start One & Only Electrical Service Inc.?

Moshe Sabag: My passion for the electrical industry inspired me to start One & Only Electrical Service Inc. I saw a need for a reliable and affordable electrical contractor company in the Tri-Valley area and wanted to provide that service to the community.

What sets One & Only Electrical Service Inc. apart from other electrical contractors in the area?

Moshe Sabag: One & Only Electrical Service Inc. stands out from other electrical contractors in the area because of our commitment to providing exceptional service to our clients. We take pride in being the best local electrician for our clients.  We are licensed and insured, and our electricians are highly trained and experienced. We also offer a wide range of services, including EV charging station installation, smart switches ( Lutron, Brilliant, Leviton, Noon) installation, and all house rewire.

Can you tell us more about the EV charging station installation service you offer?

Moshe Sabag: We specialize in EV charging station installation and can install a charging station for any electric vehicle, including Tesla (car charger tesla ) and BMW. We also offer a range of electrical services, including recessed light installation,led light, electrical panel upgrades, and wiring repairs. We will assess your home or business and recommend the best charging station for your needs. Our electricians will install the charging station safely and efficiently, ensuring that it is up to code and functioning properly.

What is your approach to customer service?

Moshe Sabag: At One & Only Electrical Service Inc., we prioritize customer satisfaction above all else. We offer same-day service and are available 24/7 for emergencies. Our friendly and dedicated customer service representatives are always ready to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Can you share a success story from One & Only Electrical Service Inc.?

Moshe Sabag: We recently installed an EV charging station for a client who had just purchased a Tesla. They were thrilled with our service and professionalism, and have since recommended us to several of their friends and colleagues. It’s always rewarding to know that we’ve provided a valuable service to our clients and exceeded their expectations.

What kind of training and certifications do your electricians have?

Moshe Sabag: Our electricians are highly trained and experienced, and we make sure they are up-to-date with the latest technology and techniques in the industry. They are all licensed and insured, and have undergone extensive training and certification programs to ensure they are able to provide the highest quality service to our clients.

As a Bay Area electrician, what are some of the unique challenges you face when providing electrical services to your clients?

Moshe Sabag: “Being a Bay Area electrician, we face a range of challenges when providing electrical services to our clients. One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with the latest technological advancements in the field, as the Bay Area is known for its innovative and tech-driven culture.

What do you see as the future of the electrical industry?

Moshe Sabag: The electrical industry is constantly evolving, with new technology and advancements in renewable energy. As the demand for renewable energy sources increases, we will likely see a shift towards more sustainable and environmentally-friendly solutions. We also expect to see continued growth in the EV charging station industry, as more people switch to electric vehicles.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the electrical industry today?

Moshe Sabag: One of the biggest challenges facing the electrical industry today is the shortage of skilled labor. As the demand for electrical services continues to grow, there is a need for more qualified electricians to meet that demand. Another challenge is keeping up with the latest technology and advancements in the industry, which requires ongoing education and training.

What advice would you give to someone looking for a reliable electrician?

Moshe Sabag: When looking for a reliable electrician, it’s important to do your research and choose a licensed and insured electrical company. Look for reviews and testimonials from previous clients, and ask for references. It’s also important to choose a company that offers a wide range of services, so that they can address all of your electrical needs.

Continue Reading