Relationship-Based Business

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” -Benjamin Franklin 

We are moving into our 10th year of being in business. It’s an exciting milestone and as I reflect on the last ten years; I am so proud of what we have accomplished. You are an important member of a team that is focused on providing groundbreaking, innovative, and meaningful consulting to our clients. We set out to improve the quality of the customer experience. We have lofty goals of making millions of people a little bit happier every day – our contribution to the world. 

We’ve learned that it doesn’t just require SDL Tridion skills, creative expertise or consulting skills, we’ve learned time and time again it takes great teamwork to achieve results for our clients. Teamwork is inclusive of our clients; our best accounts are the ones in which we become strategic partners with them. You can measure the health of a consulting company by examining the strength and quality of its relationships. 

When I think about goals for 2020, one is to improve our relationships, internally and externally. Go find a relationship that needs work and work on it. Make a difference in the little things and the big things. I always appreciated the saying… “people don’t care about how much you know until they know who much you care”. When I worked at Nordstrom, we sent thank-you notes to each of our customers, it was a little thing but a meaningful one. So, let’s show our clients and our co-workers how much we care.  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Ways to Improve Communication

“I urge you to please notice when you’re happy … and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is – Kurt Vonnegut 

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen.  

We chose happiness, we chose a positive frame of mind, we chose to see the best in one another… we have a choice. Sometimes those choices are hard. As intended or as perceived … it’s a central question in all human interactions. Which is the dominant frame of reference for you? When we perceive that a colleague has communicated or done something that is negative, do you react with vengeance or do you ask them what did you mean by that? Or why did you do that? 

How many times have you spoken with a colleague and they took what you said all wrong, not as you intended but quite the opposite? Think about that for a second, you made a well-intentioned comment, but the other person’s frame of reference caused them to hear your comment very differently… Happened to you before? It’s the basis of a lot of human conflict and comedy. Watching two people speaking past each other is the basis for many great dramas and comedy skits… “Who’s on first?” 
 
I have a few tips to share about how to improve the quality of your communication and hopefully reduce the number of times you find yourself in an unintended miscommunication.  
 
1. Assume the best in your colleagues, we are a company full of smart and happy people. If you start with this frame of reference the likelihood of miscommunication declines dramatically. 

2. “Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood” – Steven Covey. Ask why and listen, really listen to what your colleague intended to communicate. Often, conversations are really two people waiting for each other to finish so they can make their point. That’s not listening and rarely leads to resolution.  
 
3. Emails don’t convey tone very well. If you receive an email from one of your colleagues that triggers you, remember that it’s probably better to pick up the phone and apply tips 1 and 2. Sorting out miscommunications over email or worse yet exchanging hostile emails almost never has a good outcome.  
 
4. My mom always used to say if you respect someone, it means that you frequently re-look at your underlying assumptions about that person. For example, a colleague could be working hard to reply to emails quickly or be more attentive in meetings but because your underlying assumption is that they are always late, you won’t recognize they are working hard on making a change. Your frame of reference about your colleague is the lens that you’ll use to interpret their communication, make sure you’re up to date.   

5. A quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg – “it helps sometimes to be a little deaf”. When being interviewed about her long and successful marriage, she said, “On the day I was married, my mother-in-law, took me aside and said she wanted to tell me what was the secret of a happy marriage.” Not every slight needs to be prosecuted or understood, oftentimes it’s better to let things slide and just choose to hear the best in what your colleague said to you.  
 
Remember all communication is a choice. A choice about what you communicate and a choice about how you interpret the communication. Choose happiness and to see the best in each other.  
 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Great Customer Service

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers 

Great customer service starts internally…  

I see it. We are well on our way to a great finish to 2019 and a great start to 2020. As with any opportunity, it can be squandered. I have been emphasizing the priorities of the business.  
 
The number one item is “Great Customer Service”, no dropped balls, no last-minute cancellation of meetings, no unreturned emails. Check up on how your client relationship is doing. Make sure that you’re putting in that extra effort to delight your clients. Deliver great work.  
 
You’ve all heard this from me at various times, however, I thought that I should remind everyone that great customer service applies internally as well as externally. If you can’t keep your promises to your coworkers, then it’s foolish to think that you’ll deliver your promises to your clients. See, you can’t be one way with clients and then another way with your coworkers. We are all creatures of habit. Which means each of us to follow patterns of behavior that are relatively consistent. So, if you receive feedback from your peers about your service, your conduct, or the quality of your work, it’s most certainly the experience that our clients have of you.  
 
I’ve always said, “how you are perceived internally is also how you are perceived externally”. So, remember that great customer service works in both directions, take good care of your client relationships, and your Tahzoo relationships too. We hire smart and happy people for a reason…The strength of our company is built on quality relationships and that starts with treating one another with great service.     
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Alignment towards Excellence…

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” -Colin Powell 

Hi Everyone, 
  
I want to thank everyone who submitted ideas for the T-Shirt contest. The winner has been selected and is now at the t-shirt print shop… super exciting! It was a tough one, thanks for all the cool ideas! I wish I could pick more than one!  
  
Now let’s talk about the Tahzoo business case submission. So far, we only have one entry… I know everyone is super busy, but we can’t be so busy that we don’t have time to improve the company. Like I always say, “you can’t be too busy drowning that you don’t have time to grab the life preserver”. I know that each of you can think of a few things to improve the company. Review the priorities that I articulated last week and build a business case to make a difference.  
 

In case you’ve missed it, I’m giving the winner $1,000 cash money. As Gabi likes to say… “C.R.E.A.M. cash rules everything around me!”.  
  
So now, a little about excellence; I tried a new restaurant a couple of days ago. It’s a new spot in DC, it was buzzing and looked fun. It made me think about our business and the anticipation that our clients have when they begin working with us.  
  
Imagine you walk into a busy restaurant where everyone is having a good time and is enjoying their dinner. Your anticipation is peaked, you’re excited about this fantastic meal and you imagine the spirited conversation and fun at the table. That is the feeling our customers have when they start an engagement with Tahzoo. They are excited, their expectations are high, and they are looking forward to solving problems that they’ve been struggling with for some time.  
  
We need to be disciplined and focused as we serve our clients. When it’s busy like this it’s easy to get distracted, tired, and push off things that matter, but you can’t! Our clients are looking forward to a great experience working with each and every one of you. You matter, your attitude matters, your attention to details matter, and most importantly your client’s experience matters. We are in the long-term client relationship business; we’re hired to solve hard problems and that is super exciting.  
  
Our clients are looking for a perfect experience. Everything needs to be perfect, not just good, but perfect. In the list of priorities that I outlined last week, the second was the quality of our work. We need a peer review process and a level of consistency that rivals a Michelin Star Restaurant service. We are a premium brand with the client’s expectations to match.  
  
We will discuss this in more detail at the company meeting in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to spending time with all of you!  
  
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

4 Big Priorities

“One truth I have discovered for sure: When you believe that all things are possible and you are willing to work hard to accomplish your goals, you can achieve the next ‘impossible’ dream. No dream is too high!” 
– Buzz Aldrin 

We have a lot of work going on within the company these days and I wanted to share my four core priorities. I met with the leadership team early this week to discuss these, but it is imperative that the entire company participate in achieving our goals.  
 
•  Great Customer Service – no dropped balls, no phone calls left unreturned, no emails unanswered. We are always either building up or tearing down our client relationships. 
 
•  Perfect Quality Work – Every deliverable needs to be reviewed for excellence before it goes to a customer. We systematically review all the work, so we KNOW the quality is there. We have lots of new people in the company, each of you is an avenging angel and teacher of perfect work.  
 
•  Focus on Profitability – Eliminate unnecessary expenses, be mindful of T&E spending (we are closely reviewing expense reports), ensure everyone has billable work, hire accurately, and don’t give away hours by spreading resources across a project. Maximize our margins. 
 
•  Resolve Differences Quickly – Get real with one another, don’t leave things unsaid, agree on priorities, and come to me or your manager to adjudicate or resolve issues. Make decisions quickly quickly quickly! 
 
We should grow north of 60% this year. The only way to achieve that is to maintain our quality and satisfy our clients’ expectations to improve the way we work. We need more sustainable and foundational ways of working, better systems and processes. Remember that we are not a large company, each of you plays an important role in our overall success, each of you should be making a difference and contributing to the improvement of the company. I am looking forward to all of your business case submissions!  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Consulting 101

“You’re alive, that means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential.” – Neil Gaiman 

Consulting 101 

Over the past several weeks we have all been hustling to close and deliver new work. I cannot tell you how proud I am of all of the energy being put into our new client, Zimmer Biomet as well as our other clients. Each of you is delivering world-class work product for our clients and I am so excited about this next wave of Tahzoo. 
 
As we onboard these clients and begin working together I thought it was a good time to refresh everyone on our standards for consulting. Let’s call it consulting 101.

Here are the main overarching themes: 

  • Perception is Reality: Be on time for meetings. You never get a second chance… This is a basic fundamental.  
  • We are Tahzoo, you are Tahzoo: You are representing all of us. It doesn’t matter the request, we all chip in and have each other’s backs. 
  • The Client’s Success is Tahzoo’s Success: Ask yourself “What can I do to make our client more successful?” 
  • Listen Before you Act: Don’t talk about solutions yet, first define the problem we need to solve. 
  • Understand the Problem: Go on the client journey together. 
  • Understand the Solution: Understand where the client is coming from, have an open mind.  
  • Take Action: Talk is cheap- do something! 
  • Follow Through: Your word is your promise. 
  • Results = Success: Show the difference you are making! 
  • Rinse and Repeat: The more we do this work, the better we will be. 
  • Everybody is a Client Manager: Build Relationships- listen for opportunity, make the most of our team. 

We have to hold ourselves to high standards. There is no such thing as an undisciplined, yet a successful team. 
 
I am proud of all of you- we’re moving in the right direction, just keep going! 

 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Intelligent Content Transforms Customer Experiences

“The more you read, the better you’re going to become as a storyteller.” – Stan Lee 

Hi Everyone, 
 
As I mentioned in my Desk of Brad last week, we had a very successful SDL Connect event. During my speech, I spoke about the impact of technology on society and the natural evolution we’ve all experienced as part of the information age. In many ways, this talk is an overview of the theses for founding Tahzoo and a road map for how we will continue to drive the company forward.  
 
It’s imperative that everyone in Tahzoo understand that the foundation of the company is predicated on the integration of Content Solutions and Data Solutions for the benefit of our clients. Frank Taylor’s Isidore application is a great example of the type of solutions we need to be developing and promoting to our clients. Here is the link to the video, please enjoy! 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration

“System in all things is the soul of business. To deliberate maturely, & execute promptly is the way to conduct it to advantage. With me, it has always been a maxim, rather to let my designs appear from my works, than by my expressions.” 
– George Washington 

Innovation – Searching for the “Best Way” 
 
Innovation is often thought of as creativity. Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt points out that “Creativity thinks up new things, Innovation does new things”. By recognizing that it is not just the consulting work that we do which demands innovation, but also the process by which it is sold, we aim our innovative energies at the way in which business does business. How our business interacts with the consumer is more important than what it sells. 
 
Innovation is the heart of every exceptional business. 
 
What is standing in the way of our clients getting what they want from our business? For the evolution of innovation to be meaningful, it must take the client’s point of view. At the same time, innovation simplifies our business to its critical essentials. It should make things easier for clients- otherwise, it’s not an innovation but rather complication. 


Innovation then is the mechanism through which our business identifies itself in the mind of our customers and establishes its individuality. It is the result of a scientifically generated and quantifiably verified profile of your clients’ perceived needs and unconscious expectations. 
 
It is the skills developed within your interactions with each other and our clients that should be asking, “What is the best way to do this?” knowing, that we will probably never discover the best way, but by asking we will assuredly discover a way that’s better than the one we know now. 
 
Innovation is the “Best Way” skill. It produces a high level of energy in every company within which it’s nurtured, fed, and stimulated- energy that in turn feeds everyone the company touches; its employees, customers, suppliers, and lenders. In an innovative company, everyone grows. Innovation is the signature of a bold, imaginative brand. 

Quantitative – “The truth is in the numbers”  
 
To be at all effective, all innovations “the best way” needs to be measured.  
 
By becoming quantitative, I’m talking about the numbers related to the impact that innovation creates, I am also talking about how we measure and understand our business and our performance. In the past, at Tahzoo we have reflexively leaped to qualitative analysis instead of examining the numbers.  
 
Few companies thoroughly quantify innovation, even those who believe in measurement. Transforming Tahzoo into quantifying everything related to how we do business will profoundly change our success and culture. Questions and measurements about topics such as: 

  • How many positive client interactions do we have each day? 
  • What was the measurable business impact of our work? 
  • How efficient in terms of utilization is our client solutions team? 
  • How large is our pipeline and what is our close ratio? 
  • Does our pipeline match our staffing expertise? 
  • Are our rates commensurate with our cost structure? 

Eventually, we will think of our entire business in terms of numbers, we will measure everything. We will be able to read our business’ health chart by the flow of numbers. Because without numbers we can’t possibly know where we are, let alone where we’re going. With the numbers, our business will take on a totally new meaning…it will come alive with possibilities. 
 
Orchestration – Consistency in execution  
 
Once you innovate a process and quantify its impact on your business, orchestration is the elimination of discretion, or choice, at the operating level of the business. It is about ensuring a consistent result for our clients. 
 
Without orchestration, nothing could be planned, and nothing anticipated- by us or our client. If we’re doing everything differently each time you do it, if everyone in the company is doing it by their own discretion, their own choice, rather than creating order, we’re creating chaos.  
 
For Tahzoo to grow and scale, discretion is the enemy of progress, standardization, and quality. We must be consistent in how we manage ourselves and deliver results for our clients.  
 
If you haven’t orchestrated it, it won’t be consistent and we won’t be able to depend on it. If we can’t depend on it, we don’t have a business model. No matter how *smart and happy* our people are, we won’t consistently satisfy our clients.  
In short, the definition of a business model is simply our unique way of doing business. It is the Tahzoo way. The Tahzoo way must provide the vehicle to facilitate predictability. To give our customers and employees what they want every single time. Unless our clients get everything they want, every single time, they will go someplace else to get it! 
 
Orchestration (The Tahzoo way), is the glue that holds us to our customer’s perceptions. Orchestration is the certainty that is absent from every other human experience. It is the order and the logic behind the human craving for a reason. 
 
Orchestration is as simple as doing what you say you’re going to do, saying what you mean, meaning what you say, and following the Tahzoo way consistently for as long as it works and produces the results we want.  
 
Once we’ve innovated, quantified, and orchestrated something in our business, we must continue to innovate, quantify, and orchestrate it. The world will collide with whatever we’ve previously created and sooner or later destroy it. We will need to continue to evolve Tahzoo in a structured and methodical way. 
 
In short, Innovation, Measurement, and Orchestration are the backbone of every extraordinary business… and I want Tahzoo to be extraordinary!  
 
So, when you think of Orchestration absent Innovation and Quantification, you’re describing an action stripped of its purpose, its meaning, its vitality. 
 
Smart and Happy People – Knowing how you contribute to this mission 
 
Within this process, with the continuous Innovation and Measurement that precedes the Orchestration and the consistency that follows it, with this endless investigation into the way of work, the work itself becomes key to our own personal transformation.  
 
The work itself becomes something other than a habit; it becomes an exploration into who we are and how we express ourselves in our relationships to something much larger. First your role on the account. Then the function you fulfill. Then within Tahzoo understanding how your role and function fulfills both you and the business, without which Tahzoo wouldn’t exist. Then the world in which Tahzoo exists and the purpose it fulfills and the impact on people with whom, and for whom, it comes into contact. 
 
Our mission is to make millions of people a little happier every day.  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Collaboration

I appreciated the opportunity to speak with all of you yesterday. I received a fair amount of feedback from many of you and I will continue to do these calls on a more regular basis. Let me reiterate that as we work our way through the transformational process, I want your feedback, either directly or through the weekly Voice of the Culture survey. 
 
As I mentioned in our discussion, we need to center our client relationships on business outcomes as the guiding principles of our value proposition. Understanding and contributing to meeting those objectives is the primary job responsibility of everyone at Tahzoo.
 
In my prior Desk of Brad, I asked each of you to go and read through our current thought leadership papers and review our Tahzoo Design Showcase – if you have not done so please take the time to complete this. It’s important that everyone understands our point of view and our solutions so that you can share with your clients, help us innovate and bring the best solutions to market. 
 
I think Chris Hibbard said it best, we define business requirements, which become functional requirements, which become technology solutions, and then optimize the solution for continuous improvement. When you examine most of our solutions they are patterns of customer engagement that should be measurable, optimized with data, and improved over time. Grounding ourselves in these patterns will improve the quality of our solutions and the value to our clients. As I mentioned on the call, the methodologies that we apply to our client’s solutions should also be applied to Tahzoo. If we can utilize this thinking and create a continuous improvement mindset, we will steadily improve the company. 
 
The last point to touch on is ambiguity. I read an article today from Brown University on how the tolerance of ambiguity improves collaboration. It’s an interesting read, and poignant, given the amount of cross-functional projects within the company. Take some time to reflect on how you might approach collaboration differently. 
 
I mentioned some organizational realignment as we embark on this new phase. While I’ll be publishing an updated organization chart next week, this is not the North Star for solving problems at Tahzoo. The organizational chart is designed to provide clarity around areas of responsibility but not to be the end all be all of the decision-making within Tahzoo. We will always be a matrixed organization; there are times when your obligations are to the account team that you work on, or to a project that supports the company or helping your colleagues when they need additional support. An organizational chart will not provide all the guidance required to navigate these obligations. Look to the Tahzoo values, use good judgment, focus on collaboration, and remember that taking the initiative to solve problems is never a bad thing. 
 
I will be working with all of the functional areas over the next week to define the goals for the next two quarters, and once those are solidified I will publish that in the Desk of Brad. Thanks for the hard work – I am excited about what we are going to be accomplishing over the next couple of quarters. 
 
Thanks, 
Brad 

Research

Hi Everyone, 
 
Our all-hands call is scheduled for next Thursday – I’m looking forward to speaking with all of you. John Kottcamp has created a SharePoint folder with all of the thought leadership the company has produced over the last few months. In addition to the whitepapers, I hope you took a moment to review the Tahzoo Studios Creative Showcase.
 
One of the things I enjoy most about Tahzoo is the diversity of intellect within the company. We have many different mental models – engineering, creative, administrative, and analytical to name a few – this brings me great joy. I get to talk with all of you and see the world from a slightly different perspective. If we respect one another and bring our collective talents to our clients’ business problems, there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish. 

About 10 years ago, I started following the research of the Santa Fe Institute. The following is an excerpt from the mission statement of the institute: 
 
Searching for Order in the Complexity of Evolving Worlds 
 
Our researchers endeavor to understand and unify the underlying, shared patterns in complex physical, biological, social, cultural, technological, and even possible astrobiological worlds. Our global research network of scholars spans borders, departments, and disciplines, unifying curious minds steeped in rigorous logical, mathematical, and computational reasoning. As we reveal the unseen mechanisms and processes that shape these evolving worlds, we seek to use this understanding to promote the well-being of humankind and of life on earth. 

 
One of the things that struck me when I started following their research is the importance of multidisciplinary research. For those of you who don’t know, multidisciplinary research is the combination of disciplines to solve various problems. As I began thinking about creating Tahzoo and what I wanted our company to be, it was clear to me that “making millions of people, a little happier every day” was going to require a combination of expertise and talent. As I’ve said many times we are agents of change. To help our clients change, we need to bring it all together for them so that we can deliver the best experience possible for each customer.   
 
I always have and always will see Tahzoo as a company of talented but different people who work together to make a difference. We have made a lot of progress over the last eight years, but we need to continue to evolve. During our all-hands call, I am going to outline the Tahzoo transformation to a fully integrated customer experience agency.   
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad