Are You a Chicken or a Pig?

When I was working at Microsoft, I organized a large project called the Geospatial Data Gateway. It was a database project with all the orthoimagery of the US Department of Agriculture coupled with all the tabular data associated with a common land unit. In one system, you could visualize a plot of land and have all the associated soils data, crop yields, ownership rights, easements and regulations etc. Check out the site; it’s a late 90s UI, but it’s cool to see plots of land in your neck of the woods.

While this type of system is commonplace today (Google maps, as an example), back then it was a feat of computer science and engineering. I was working with a gentleman from Microsoft Research and Development who was providing the technical leadership and direction for the project. He was / is a remarkable man, who to this day, still leaves me in awe that he could be as equally gifted technically as he was at working with and motivating people. I’ll share more stories about him another time.

We were all sitting in a government conference room in Fort Collins Colorado… there were about a dozen of us. Tom opened the meeting by stating, “Are you a chicken or a pig? Because I only want to work with pigs!” For a moment, I thought Tom had invented a USDA farming joke and we’re all going to have a nice laugh. However, he went on to say that software development projects are a lot like breakfast, in that there can be different levels of commitment. The software project we were going to accomplish was going to require significant commitment. In the way that chickens provide the eggs for breakfast, they are involved… but to have bacon, the pig has to be committed. We did, in fact, all have a chuckle.

Tom was making a point that whenever you’re going to tackle a difficult project, you need commitment, not just from the leadership but from the entire team. All too often, I see projects struggle or fail because the team was involved but not committed.

Over the last three weeks, I outlined my vision for the type of company I want Tahzoo to become, and the passion I have for doing something remarkable that can change the world. So, my question to you is, “Are you a chicken or a pig?” Because I only want to work with pigs.

Let’s go be great,
Brad

Shared Values

In order to do all of what has been written about in my previous two notes, we need to be a team and a family of co-workers that share a common value system. The first act of the company was to establish a core set of values:

  • If you care about your customers and your employees you’ll have a company worth caring about
  • We hire for character before we hire for capability
  • We hire interesting people who are interested in change
  • We believe in the marketplace of ideas
  • We believe in Smart and Happy people


  • These values reflect my core beliefs about how to run a business. Often times this discussion is limited to moral values but I think of this more broadly. The careful orchestration between individuals and teams is what really gets me excited.

    In order to accomplish our goals, we need to have multidisciplinary teams execute flawlessly. So while many companies can achieve success – if not over achieve – with committed, hardworking employees, we cannot. We need to have teams of people who work for different managers with different skills come together and inspire one another to solve customer problems.

    Great teams and great companies are purposefully built and more importantly, the values and expectations are consistently driven every day at every level of the organization. If you want to know how healthy our company is or how well we are doing… don’t look at the balance sheet or the financial reports, look at yourself and your team and ask, “Are the values and expectations of the company being driven by me every day at every level?”

    Let’s go be great,
    Brad

    Transforming Experiences

    When we started the company, our tagline was ‘Driven by Big Ideas’…

    As I mentioned earlier, we live in a time of unparalleled change and opportunity. The signs of economic turmoil are ever-present, and it’s because the way in which business is conducted is changing. Over the course of history, during these transitions, companies that established themselves as a force for change and as the instrument of change have shaped the world.

    I aspire to work for a company and be part of a team that changes the world. For whatever reason, I can’t and won’t rest until I’ve accomplished this… The problem I aspire to solve is changing the way business is conducted.

    We live in a time in which the rise of mega-corporations, consumerism, and technology have sterilized and dehumanized the interactions between people and companies. My dad still goes to the bank to get cash rather than an ATM, and when I ask him about this, he explains that he likes to see his ‘friends’ at the bank, and then rattles off the names of all the tellers in the bank. To be clear, I don’t see us returning to some 1950’s style world in which everyone purchases from the neighborhood store… the efficiencies of globalization are too compelling to be ignored. I do see how Gabi is friends with the UPS man who delivers goods purchased online every day… we’re still able to have humanity in how we buy and sell.

    We are currently working on personalization strategies; I never saw this as an end point – only the beginning of how we transform the customer experience. Let’s aspire to build a company that brings some humanity, some relevancy, and some good old fashion customer service to how people buy and sell goods. For me, it’s an obligation and moral imperative that we work hard to make the world a better place.

    Let’s go be great,

    Brad

    Making a Difference

    In many ways, I am thrilled at what we’ve accomplished – but it’s not enough, not nearly enough. I want to build a business that is inspirational, that aspires to change the way business is done and most importantly, is an expression of our core values.

    The business should be inspirational in the way that we work together to tackle difficult and challenging problems. This means that we offer bright and motivated minds which proactively provide solutions to our clients, that we all have meaningful and rewarding work. We will be an inspirational company when we inspire our clients to take action… to bet on Tahzoo solutions, that our clients bet their careers on our ability to deliver for them, and that we maintain durable, lasting relationships with our clients.

    See, we live in a time of change and during change people need leadership. We can and should be the company that provides this leadership. This isn’t just promoting our ideas through social media or articles written through PR channels; it’s about caring enough about our clients to take the time, to proactively start solving their problems.

    I want to dispel you of the notion that inspiration is a stroke of genius or the proverbial light bulb… it’s a way of systematically exceeding our clients and each other’s expectations. Having just spent a couple of days at Disneyland, it’s amazing how much attention is spent on ensuring a “magical experience”. For each of us this is a time to ask, what could we be doing for one another and our clients that would make a difference, a real difference? We can’t expect our clients to take action until we take action… until we build a system that inspires each of us and our clients every day.

    Let’s go be great,
    Brad

    Culture Book

    Hi Everyone,

    I am pleased to share the new Tahzoo Culture Book! This book was created to share our stories, talk about our values and provide some guide rails for how to be effective at Tahzoo. Please take some time and read through this thoroughly. We are going to be hiring many new people this year, and it’s important that we let them know why we’re here and what we are all about as a company and as teammates. A great culture has a shared set of ideals and stories that define them. We want to keep Tahzoo a place full of smart and happy people. A special thank you to Jen Adamski-Torres and Gabi Macy for all their hard work putting this together.

    View Interactive Book (Click ‘Fullscreen’ mode)

    Thanks,
    Brad

    Opportunities

    “Don’t look for opportunities to compare yourself to others, but look for opportunities to learn the best quality of every person you meet.” I wrote this down one day when I was a young manager at Nordstrom. I had created my own personal scorecard for how I was doing in my job – call it a checklist – that I used to review myself on a monthly basis. I am a super competitive person by nature, and I found after a while I was reviewing the performance of my peers, using my checklist. It was a way to push myself and at times, bolster my ego a bit.

    I received a performance review from my boss Steve, who gave me feedback that I was perceived as arrogant by some of my peers. It was a tough conversation and I was taken aback, as I thought of myself differently. It took some time wrestling with the feedback to recognize that I had become so competitive that I had forgotten that my peers were on my team.

    But the real turning point came for me a year or so later when I was talking with Jan, one of my mentors, about being happy. She is the pastor of a church and always seemed to be full of compliments and praise (she’s still that way today). In any event, she shared how much she enjoyed learning from people and how much she admired in them what she found most difficult for herself. I had the proverbial lightbulb moment – and realized that I need to start enjoying people instead of competing with them.

    So, my advice is: “Look for the best in others, as it will bring out the best in you”.

    Let’s go be great,
    Brad

    The Present

    One of my favorite books to give is called The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson. Think of the title of the book as a riddle.

    I had dinner last night with an old friend and we were talking about building relationships with customers. I’ve known some of my customers for years, and many of them have become good friends. There is a great Zig Ziglar quote, “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

    When you call a customer and say, “Hello, how are you?”, listen – really listen… If you can understand what may be happening for them, you can be a sympathetic ear or you might be able to help. All too often, greetings are treated as a ritual and not a real offer to connect, or, said differently, to be present. Go be a good friend to others and they will return the favor.

    If you’d like a copy of the book as always, please let me know.

    Thanks,
    Brad

    College Hire Program

    Hi Everyone,

    I am pleased to announce our new college hire program. A special thanks to Chris Barbeau, Don Low and Travis Kuhn for working on this project. We also have available a Powerpoint presentation which outlines the details of the plan – let us know if you’d like a copy.

    Our goal is to fill the company with bright young minds, (who are happy of course!!) and make them what we call ‘triple threats’! We are breaking out the candidates into two categories; business consulting and technical consulting. Once on-boarded into a discipline, they will work in three different areas over an 18-month period. At each six-month mark we will make an evaluation of their progress and then move them to the next discipline.

    We have selected a number of schools who are targeted near each of our offices. We need volunteers to staff the recruiting booths, assist in the interview process and most importantly, mentor our new employees.

    On the low end, we expect to hire an additional 40 people into Tahzoo this year. We’d like to make sure that we are building the next generation of experts and leaders for our company.

    In addition to the college hire program, we are going to be rolling out a training program within the Labs and Studios business, specifically designed to broaden the skill sets within the company. Given the focus on billability, everyone needs to have multiple skill sets that can be leveraged on projects. Additionally, we are winning projects that span new categories of technology and marketing programs; while we are great consultants, we can benefit from further training and expertise to be successful in any engagement. If you have non-billable time you should be working with your manager to first find billable work, and then secondly, getting the training you need to address more of the Tahzoo service offering.

    I am really excited about the college hire program and the investments that we are going to be making in each of you over the next few years.

    Let’s go be great!

    Brad

    Fearless

    Hi Everyone,

    I hope you had a great week, I certainly had an exhilarating one. There were some big highs this week and some real lows, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I was chatting with someone about Tahzoo and they asked me, “How do you keep going and how do you have the energy to keep pressing forward?” It gave me a moment of pause for sure, but then I simply said, “I cannot turn away from what I believe is my calling.”

    The following are the lyrics to a Pink Floyd song called “Fearless”. As with most Pink Floyd songs and great poetry, the words leave a fair amount of room for interpretation. Spend some time on Google and you can draw your own conclusions.

    As I’ve made big choices in my life, this song has been a grounding point for me. There is always the balance between what you are supposed to do, what is expected of you and what you actually choose to do. So as not to be too esoteric, our culture – and often our friends – don’t want to see us too far out of the mainstream or taking risks that they believe are too big or that could harm us. As well intentioned as all of this is, what matters is doing what you believe in… and I’ll share that because I believe in what we are doing at Tahzoo so much, that more often than not, I am Fearless.

    You say the hill’s too steep to climb
    Climb it.
    You say you’d like to see me try
    Climbing.

    You pick the place and I’ll choose the time
    And I’ll climb
    That hill in my own way.
    Just wait a while for the right day.
    And as I rise above the tree lines and the clouds
    I look down, hearing the sound of the things you’ve said today.

    Fearlessly the idiot faced the crowd
    Smiling.
    Merciless the magistrate turns ’round
    Frowning.

    And who’s the fool who wears the crown?
    And go down,
    in your own way
    And every day is the right day
    And as you rise above the fear-lines in his brow
    You look down, hearing the sound of the faces in the crowd.

    Let’s go be great; it’s on my website, it’s in my signature, it’s what Tahzoo is all about. You made a choice to be here. You made a choice to work at a company that aspires to do big things and change the way the world operates. We do work for some of the most influential companies in the world; you have the platform to think big and go for it. So what is it… what is that one thing that you want to do… do it, be fearless.

    Let’s go be great,

    Brad

    The Experience Effect

    The Experience Effect is changing how we do business. This is where Tahzoo comes in. No longer does one-size-fits-all content suffice. Today’s leading businesses need to consider everything they do in terms of “The Experience.” This goes for every company I know. If you make three-dimensional products; good for you, but that product is an experience. Look to the iPhone for inspiration, it’s as much an experience as a phone. If you provide a service, even better.

    We live in a service economy. Services are experiences, too. Technology has allowed us the privilege of learning what our customers want, need and desire and we can use that information and some pretty remarkable technologies to meet them on their terms. We can speak to them in their language and we can treat them to experiences they really care about. This is what the customer experience is meant to be.

    For you and I as individuals, the Experience Effect means we will increasingly define our experience by our ability to share them with our families, with our friends and with the world. For the businesses of the world, the Experience Economy will mean understanding that no matter what product or service we deliver, we are ultimately delivering an experience, some make that experience something different, something memorable. And lastly, companies must be honest and truthful about the experiences they create. Only when experiences are sharable, different and authentic can they truly transcend.

    The Experience Economy is real and it is changing the world. It has already altered every business on the planet and it will continue to do. Now, more than ever, the quality of what we experience is more valuable than the quantity of what we own.

    Let’s use that knowledge—and this moment in time—to change the world.

    Brad