What Bothers You?

What bothers you…? When I first started at Microsoft, I took over for a guy named Chris. He was very effective and efficient in his work. In an environment where everyone had too much to do and was always running from one thing to the next, Chris had a calm about him. At the end of the year right before the review cycle, there was an endless string of kudos that he would share highlighting the accomplishments of his team and himself. I was often amazed at how much he got done even though he didn’t seem to work as hard as everyone else.

I asked Chris what his secret was. He said plainly, that every time he had a fire drill he took the time to write down what happened and then he created a system to make sure he never had to deal with that fire drill again. For example, back in those days, there were a lot of data requests from Redmond about PC shipments in our territories, or licenses sales by software resellers. Chris created a list from IDC, Gartner and several other analysts about PC shipments in his territory, when the request came through he already had the data – responding was a snap.

In the classic book The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker, (if you’d like a copy, let me know), Drucker points out that the role of the executive is to identify issues and create solutions that eliminate or mitigate those issues permanently. He goes on to say that there are very few new problems, most are a repeat of an unaddressed issue. An “effective executive” designs solutions to these problems so that the organization can manage them efficiently. It’s a simple concept – what is an example of a problem that you deal with on a consistent basis? Design a solution so that it’s never a fire drill for you again.

At Nordstrom, for example, the return policy was an organizational solution to resolve most any customer satisfaction issue – we’d just give the customer their money back. It’s a pretty simple solution to a huge number of problems… think about how much good will that earned the company, but also consider how much time and energy it saved the employees so they could take care of more customers. Have you ever been waiting in line while someone was making a return and been frustrated because it was taking too long? The cashier had to call the manager over, get an approval, fill out a form, all the while you just want to pay for your things and leave.

I’ll be sending out a survey to the company next week. I want each of you to identify one personal fire drill you could eliminate by being prepared, and one repeating corporate problem for which you’d like to see a solution. During your monthly one on one with your manager, discuss a consistent problem or fire drill and work out a solution. From the list of corporate issues, I am going to pick out a handful of issues and then we’ll convene working groups to resolve those concerns permanently. We don’t have to build Rome in a day or fix issues overnight, but we can make a difference every day with some good habits.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

What I Learned From My Best Customer

I want to tell you a story about one of my best customers, Gene. As a young account rep at Microsoft, I was tasked with managing the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). For some context: At that time USDA had 29 sub-agencies, over 100,000 employees and an IT budget of well over $1.5B. The organization, the mission, and the politics of the agency were so complex that I didn’t even know where to start. It turns out that even in a place as complex as USDA, there are a surprisingly limited number of people who actually have most of the influence and make a majority of the decisions.

Like most people I suppose, I looked at the organizational chart and set a meeting with the Chief Information Officer for all of USDA. We had a nice meeting… she was very friendly and appreciative to hear what Microsoft had to say, unexpectedly for me, she asked me a lot more questions about what was happening within USDA then I was able to ask of her. Like most executives, she wanted to know what was happening in the field and she recognized that she only received very filtered information. All and all, it was a great meeting that got me nowhere.

I quickly realized that the org chart and the real power structure within an organization were not the same thing. Eventually, I found my way to Gene. He was located in Davis, California – about as far away from the DC headquarters as you could get. He worked in a small regional office and had a relatively unassuming title. There is a long and very interesting story about how I found Gene that I am happy to share in person, if you’d like to know. Turns out Gene started at USDA when he was 17 years old and had been there for more than 40 years. He was someone who not only believed in the mission of USDA but had lived it most of his life.

In my first meeting with Gene, I passionately sold the value of Microsoft Software with all the features and benefits. He was patient, asked a few questions and politely allowed me to finish my presentation and then asked me to lunch. At lunch, he explained to me that he didn’t really care about all the features or benefits, what he cared about was how our software could impact the mission of USDA. He wanted to know if I even knew the mission of USDA. Without elaborating too much, he made it pretty clear that he saw vendors every week and all of them spent too much time talking about their product instead of talking about how they could improve USDA. He woke up every day thinking about how to make USDA a better agency, and he wanted partners to achieve that goal.

Over the years Gene and I became good friends; he was a second father in many ways. We did a lot of business together and I am very proud of the positive impact we had on USDA. What I learned from Gene was that his organizational power wasn’t a byproduct of his position on the org chart, it was that for almost 50 years when he finally retired, he made a difference every day. So when he spoke or made a recommendation everyone listened. It was his fidelity to the organization that was the source of his influence and power. Secondly, he taught me that my job wasn’t to do product demos or send feature benefit spec sheets, it was to understand how my products could solve problems and improve his agency.

Now when I engage with our clients I look for people who care deeply about their company and their mission. I want to get to know those people because they are the ones who make it happen – they are the ones who I can partner with to make a difference because making a difference is what they do every day. We are a customer experience agency; our business is about making our client’s customers a little bit happier every day. Go find the “Gene” in your account, learn everything you can about your client’s business and start making a difference.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

The Importance of Personalization

I hope you enjoyed the retrospective on advertising and marketing last week. It’s important to know where we came from so we can understand where we are going and how big is the step is forward.

For those who were wondering, Mark Goode won the contest on the ad campaigns, and here are the answers:
• Plop Plop Fizz Fizz oh what a relief it is – Alka Seltzer
• The Energizer bunny – Duracell Energizer Batteries
• Quality is job one – Ford
• Just Do It – Nike
• Where’s the beef – Wendy’s
• The most interesting man in the world – Originally Dos Equis
• We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two – Farmers Insurance
• MMM MMM GOOD – Campbell’s Soup
• Melts in your mouth not in your hands – M&M’s (Mars company)
• Don’t leave home without it – American Express
• Because you’re worth it – L’Oréal Paris
• A diamond is forever – DeBeers Diamonds

As you’re reading, watching TV and surfing the internet, try to notice how marketers are influencing you with mnemonic tricks to change your brand perception.

Back to the importance of personalization. Companies that can provide efficiencies and a great experience win – look at Amazon, Uber, Lyft and Venmo. Simple, efficient, and they solve everyday problems. Social platforms have given rise to companies that enhance the human experience by connecting people and their choices… think of Facebook, Yelp, and Netflix – all tools for enhancing your experience.

When you think about Fortune 500 companies, they’ve been successful by increasing market share and refining business models over decades. They are empires with millions of customers and well-established practices for managing growth and profit. They have the most to lose as technology advances and consumer expectations change. One of our insurance clients was lamenting the fact that millennials are buying life insurance at an ever-decreasing rate when at the same time they are spending more money on monthly subscriptions to products and services – more than the previous generations by some order of magnitude. Why it so hard to get a millennial to make a monthly payment for something that is a wise financial choice?

I believe it has a lot to do with how people make purchases and how information is consumed today. Since most purchases now include some measure of research and glancing at customer reviews, this model lends itself to simpler, quicker, purchases that are amplified by word of mouth. So, if you’re a big company with an empire to protect, how do you maintain a relationship with your customer, evolve it over time, educate them and leverage the latest technology? And, if you don’t, some technology-enabled startup that’s in tune with the new purchasing paradigms is going to clean your clock.

We believe the answer is creating efficient and personalized experiences for your customers. ‘One size fits all’ isn’t enough anymore, and it certainly doesn’t overcome the complexities of building relationships and educating your customers so they make good decisions. We are helping our clients replicate human to human interaction digitally.

There is a great documentary called AlphaGo (you can find it on Netflix), about how Google built an AI program to compete with the best GO player in the world. GO is arguably the most complex game that humans have created.

At Tahzoo we are offering a profoundly different way to approach personalization, digital marketing and customer experience. We are leveraging the latest technologies and applying them in innovative ways to change the world, or as I like to remind everyone, we get to make millions of people just a little bit happier every day.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

During the advent of the web, the dominant paradigm for advertising and marketing was built on the notion of frequency and reach. The idea being that if a brand or product was promoted enough, eventually the message would sync into your consciousness. We can all remember TV ads that struck the zeitgeist and were showed over and over again. In order to capture the largest possible audience, ads were geared toward the lowest/largest common denominator and there were mnemonic devices like jingles and slogans that embed the message into your brain.

For some fun, I am going to throw out a few examples and see if you remember the brand or product behind the slogan or jingle:

Plop Plop Fizz Fizz oh what a relief it is
The Energizer bunny
Quality is job one
Just Do It
Where’s the beef
The most interesting man in the world
We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two
MMM MMM GOOD
Melts in your mouth not in your hands
Don’t leave home without it
Because you’re worth it
A diamond is forever

My guess is that most of you’ll know the majority of these… I’ll send a copy of Ogilvy on Advertising to the first person who replies with the correct answer to all the slogans.

In the era of the mass market media, there were three basic forms of advertising: print, radio and TV. Targeted marketing began in the 80’s and 90’s with segmentations based on household demographic data (age, income, gender, and the number of people within a household). Snail mail was delivered to a home in an effort to provide a targeted offer that drove a business outcome. One could argue this was the beginning of personalization.

With the rise of the web, most marketers took the view that the web was essentially another version of print advertising. In the early days of the web, we spoke a lot about the promise of dynamic experiences, demand-based pricing, and segmented content – however, it ran contrary to the dominant paradigm and there were not enough CPU cycles, hard disk space and bandwidth to support many of these concepts. As a consequence, websites were built in a one-size-fits-all model and the end user was left to traverse the content as they saw fit – a choose your own adventure model.

In the late 90’s, e-commerce began to take hold, replacing the catalog business or the travel agent. In these scenarios, sorting the offers and providing recommendations became an explicit requirement. This began the next wave of personalization. We saw things like Amazon’s “people who bought this also liked this” and A/B testing models in which small units of content or offers were selectively presented to audiences to see what was most effective. Unfortunately, these models reinforce the tyranny of the majority; if 51% of the visitors respond to the red button then everyone eventually gets the red button.

Concurrently, many of the Direct Marketers began email marketing campaigns. Electronic direct mail with ads and offers designed to promote an action. While email marketing was dramatically less costly, it was also less effective because the second step in the process, taking an action – buying something or signing up for something – requires a landing page or a web experience that supported the offer.

Targeted marketing through e-commerce and email marketing became the new paradigm. Define a segment, create a variety of ads, test and then optimize… Rinse and repeat. We’ve spent more than a decade in this model. You could call it personalization, but I’d argue it’s just informed guessing.

Because these programs are relatively low cost when compared to TV ad campaigns, marketers have accepted shockingly poor results. We have one client who was bragging about their 1:1,400 click-through rate on banner ad campaigns. When I pressed on the results to find out how much revenue was being generated from these campaigns, I discovered that the click-through rate was measured by how many people visited the site, not how many insurance policies were issued!

The convenience of e-commerce has fueled tremendous growth, so the paradigm of targeting content, offers and testing has continued to reign, but the technology hasn’t stood still. As more and more information was posted to the web and the social media wave took hold, it meant that any purchase could be researched and validated with a broad audience of friends and consumers. The notion of a considered sales cycle, one in which a consumer conducted a fair amount of research, now applies to virtually any purchase – big or small. Furthermore, consumers began to share their experiences with a product or service supplanting or marginalizing the advertising delivered through a frequency and reach model. You can advertise that “Quality is Job One” but if your product sucks, everyone will know about it.

The nexus of information and social media has given rise to the experience economy. Not only does your product have to deliver on the brand promise, consumers need to be able to share their experience. I have written a long whitepaper on the experience economy which is available on my blog. Another way to think about the experience economy is, “it is not how much you have, it’s how good you have it”. A great product and a sharable experience work together to create brand resonance.

This brings me to why the current personalization paradigm of targeted content optimization is not sufficient. Consumers want to learn about products and have experiences that are pleasing and sharable. This means they will conduct research and experience products over multiple visits to the web. Marketers need to sequence content and experiences in ways that help consumers learn about a product and that reinforce the brand. You can’t just test the red button vs. the blue button or review A vs. review B. You need to model human to human interaction, think in terms of how people learn, what their expectations are and how they want to be engaged.

To deliver true personalization is to closely model the same experience you would have when you walk into a Nordstrom store and ask for help. A good salesperson assesses your needs, guides you through a selection process and ensures that you leave satisfied. Tahzoo’s personalization solution provides technology to understand your customer, all of your content, the context of the engagement and where they are in the journey before the content is presented to a customer. We are not just testing units of content for a better result, we are providing a framework for unique experiences for each customer that is differentiated and evolving. Much like a good friendship, it grows and become more intimate over time. As the experience becomes more resonant it also becomes more frequently shared, creating a virtuous cycle. Next week I am going to get into the specific techniques and technical aspects of the Tahzoo solution, but this week I wanted everyone to have some perspective on where we’ve been and where we are going.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

The Pivotal Moment

In every sporting event, there is a pivotal moment that determines the outcome of the competition. While that moment may seem a matter of luck or stoke of greatness, it is inevitably the byproduct of years of hard work. We celebrate the wins, but what we should be celebrating is the tireless effort and dedication to excellence, to perfecting our craft.

When we started Tahzoo, we had an idea that we could change the nature of the customer experience for our clients and improve in some way – maybe just a little bit – the lives of millions of people every day. It’s a lofty goal, but it has driven me and all of you at Tahzoo. We began perfecting our craft by building large scalable SDL Tridion implementations, DIRECTV was our first client, then HP.com, Norfolk Southern, then TD Bank and the list went on; we haven’t looked back and we’re still consistently winning in the enterprise. We chose SDL because it was and still is the most scalable web platform.

If the goal was to deliver personalized experiences that customers found pleasing and clients could use to change their business models, then scalability is the biggest problem to be solved. Suffice to say that when it comes to building and running the largest web platforms in the world, we are among the very best. This is no easy feat and a result of the engineering excellence and rigor that has always been a part of the core of Tahzoo.

Over the years, we’ve added additional services to take advantage of our engineering prowess. Just like finding the right combination of ingredients in a gourmet meal, through trial and error we’ve perfected our recipes. For the first time in many years, my vision for the solutions we could provide our clients has been replaced with the confidence that we can deliver a complete and world-class set of solutions to our clients. This means we have the know-how, the acumen and the technical expertise to deliver personalized experiences at scale. In this respect, we have a healthy advantage in the marketplace. Is it easy? Do we have all the communication patterns and practices worked out? No, but we are well on the way. When we talk about ‘The Tahzoo Way’, there is enough experience and documentation for us to build just about anything.

Then it’s about the people. Do you go to work surround by really smart and happy people? I know that I do. The more time I spend with clients and each of you, the more grateful I am for the talented people we have at Tahzoo. There is certainly no shortage of passion and opinions, all of which when harnessed properly is the foundation for innovation and a great company. We have more work to do in this category; sometimes that passion is taken as an affront rather than something to be celebrated… I see this in teams frequently. One of my goals is to work with the teams and encourage ways to see the best in one another and to put the client first. Our individual differences can be resolved over time – our clients expect excellence from us in our work every day.

At Tahzoo, the quality and strength of the relationships both internally and externally are the single greatest barometer of success. If you wake up every day thinking about how to improve your relationships, then you are on the right track. Honestly, if you go to work each day and that isn’t top of mind, you should take a hard look at your contribution to Tahzoo. You may be technically or functionally excellent at Tahzoo, but that’s not enough; you need to have strength in your relationships so you can make others better. Occasionally I hear that management isn’t doing enough or that leadership is out of touch. I’d like to remind everyone that you are management, you are leadership… If you want to make changes in the company then just get started. We are not a hierarchical organization, we are a meritocracy… Go make Tahzoo great. Lead through influence and don’t be discouraged when you meet resistance. The power of your ideas and your conviction will win the day.

I constantly preach change and innovation… Often times I suggest change because I am trying to create energy and critical thinking for each of you about how to make our business better. In 2018, shake it up a bit, drive great ideas and work with your colleagues to create the change you want to see in the company. The guide posts are as clear: follow the company values and then make sure the solution has buy-in from your colleagues and the rigor to take root within the company. We need to be clear about our measurable expected outcomes and the specifics of how we get there. As I mentioned last week, the leadership team is tackling one idea per week, I suggest you do the same. If we all put our energy towards one great idea, one great improvement per week, imagine where we’d be in a year!

At the end of 2018, what do you imagine? What do you want to see out of your experience at Tahzoo? These are important questions for each of you to consider. There is no happiness, there is no greatness by accident. If you want a happy and successful life, you need a vision for your future and the willingness to work hard to make it happen.

There are always distractions; they present themselves in subtle ways, slight detours from your goal, shiny new opportunities you hadn’t expected or the temptation to do slightly less than your best. Whenever I am confronted by these distractions, they are never clear-cut, they always appeal to some base unresolved issue that I am struggling with… in short, they seem like great opportunities and hard choices. However, as I’ve gotten older and slightly wiser, I’ve recognized the value of holding true to my vision. It’s what drives me and it’s what prevents me from making big mistakes. Take the time to have a vision for 2018, write it down and hold on to it tightly. It will be your shield and your guiding principle through the distractions – think of it as the star you’ll sail your ship by.

Oh my gosh – being happy and successful takes hard work! There is just no way around this. There are no short cuts or easy solutions to dedicating yourself to your vision and then just doing the work. The issue is, there are always obstacles, unexpected challenges, random life changes or newly discovered knowledge gaps, no matter what it is… it’s always resolved through hard work. There is a saying that greatness is just 5% extra effort – I think that is a crock of B.S. Greatness is doing the hard work and putting in the extra effort even when you don’t want to. As a young man, I struggled with this mightily. I procrastinated, I found excuses… usually in others. I thought I could trade natural talent for less than my best work. It wasn’t until one of my mentors pointed out to me that giving less than my best was an insult to myself and the gifts that I’ve been given. I used to think that winning was where I’d find satisfaction. I’ve come to learn that the satisfaction, the happiness is in knowing that I’ve done my best. Then in those quiet moments alone you can enjoy the peacefulness of knowing you’ve done your very best. Hard work – it’s fuel for your self-esteem, it will bring you success, but most importantly, it will bring you happiness.

If you find what I’ve written about meaningful and you’d like to talk more about these ideas and how to put them into practice, I am always available to meet you and share my perspective in more detail. We are all here to help one another and in this way, I hope to help some of you.

Let’s talk about my vision for Tahzoo in 2018.

On a personal level, I will be spending more time with each of you, in the work and innovating on behalf of our customers. I find so much joy in selling the Tahzoo value proposition that it will be impossible to keep me away from driving new business opportunities. I will be working closely with many of you to complete the rebranding of the company and improving our go-to-market strategies. A great year for me will be measured in the amount of time I spend with employees and customers. My goal is to spend at least 75% of my time on those activities.

For the company, I have three major goals for the year. There will be many projects that deliver on the vision; but first the broad-brush strokes:

1. Making customers and employees first
2. Becoming a data driven company
3. Re-capitalizing the company for growth

We are starting our Thrive review process next month. It’s a great time for each of you to reflect on the year that you’ve had, identify areas for growth and set some big goals for 2018. Be bold and ambitious in your goal setting. There is nothing that you can’t achieve in 2018 with some vision and hard work. You have the vision for 2018, now it’s time to translate that into your goals and how you expect to improve and operate more effectively this year. It will take all of us working together in a concerted way to achieve our goals – I am confident that we have the right people married with great customers and market momentum to make our collective and individual aspirations come true.

Happy New Year – let’s go be great!
Brad

Digital Transformation

For all the advancements in our technology and methods of communication, it’s still just one customer at the end of all those devices. I am regularly asked to speak to our clients about their customer engagement strategies. More often then not, they are concerned about a particular channel of communication… mobile, web, promotional, etc. This is always a curious conversation for me, as no consumer engages with a brand in a single dimension.

My first task is to broaden the conversation to include all the ways in which a customer engages the brand. Actually knowing your customer is the most important step in customer engagement. Many companies mistakenly believe that content optimization thru A/B testing is personalization, when in fact it’s just better guessing. Not to say that it’s not effective at times, it’s just not personalization. Worse yet it misses the opportunity to create customer intimacy because it’s one dimensional and is a channel-dependent strategy.

I talk about “knowing” people in three contexts…

What is their expectation when interacting with the brand?
The notion of understanding expectation can be most simply described as facilitating the expected experience. Creating circumstances in which the task or activity is quickly and efficiently delivered. Do they want to download a user manual or pay their bill? We can use personalization techniques, not just to optimize the content but also the UX and the UI. For a large bank, we created a form that would change font size based on the age of the customer. This area in particular is under-leveraged when we contemplate building systems for our clients.

What is the type and style of content they would like to consume?
Do you like watching videos on your phone? And do you read on your iPad? Or do you source social media for information? Much of our social data science work is centered around understanding the type and style of content people would like to consume. We identify characteristics of frequently shared content to better inform the content strategy. As we build our personas and customer journeys, considering the basic format of the content is an important part of delivering a personalized experience.

What are the patterns of behavior that can be identified and addressed?
Some patterns are obvious – For example, when it’s bill paying time or I’m responding to a marketing email. Subtler yet, is understanding people in context. While shopping for my daughter, I might be very fashion conscious, not very price sensitive and frequently return items, however, when shopping for my son, I am cost conscious (mostly because he’s 7 and he destroys most everything). In an e-commerce context, the experience needs to be optimized for two totally different shopping profiles. A good salesperson at a department store would easily navigate this and provide appropriate options. Our data science practice is quite skilled to help clients built a dataset that becomes the basis for behavioral research and understanding.

Armed with this understanding we can begin to break down organizational barriers and silos that prevent our clients from delivering a consistent message across channels or devices. Most marketing departments are organized by channel; you’ll have the web team, the email marketing team, the direct mail team, etc. The silos are further promulgated by the way budget and rewards are based on the performance metrics within a single channel. I consistently promote the idea that marketing departments need to reorganize themselves around discrete audiences.

This idea, once it takes shape becomes the basis for digital transformation and customer centricity. Sometimes I am asked, what is it that we do? Among other things, I tell them we are agents of change. We encourage our clients to open their minds to new ideas and new possibilities for engaging with their customers. Those new ideas require change, we need to be excellent and simplifying and motivating our clients to embrace the necessary steps to move forward. Tahzoo is one of the few companies in the world that can provide the data science, the experience design and technology required to make this complex journey achievable.

Our evolution as a company – our success – will not be measured by the strength of ideas, but in the quality of our execution. The idea of a better customer experience is powerful, but if we do work and don’t fundamentally change the customer experience, have we really done the best for our client? Let’s walk the talk… let’s be the company you hire for the Transformation in Digital Transformation.

Let’s go be great,
Brad

Adding Value

We are in the business of change. More specifically, we are agents of change. Change requires a reframing of someone’s perspective; and as leaders, we provide the guidance to help others achieve their goals.

I’ve been successful in sales because of my ability to diagnose business issues. Paired with my skills as a technical and digital strategist, I’ve been able to help many companies work through change. It has taken years of effort to develop my expertise in these areas. I share my white papers, presentations and my blog with our clients and prospects.

Each person in our company needs an area of expertise, outside of their functional area. One of our values is, “We hire interesting people who are interested in change”. What do you write or blog about? What presentations have you shared with your customers or within the company? Everyone needs a body of published work to establish credibility. The example being if you have a PhD, you are automatically considered smart… even if the topic being discussed isn’t your area of expertise.

I need each of you to pick an area of expertise that is related to our business. Research it, learn about it and occasionally write about it. I want everyone to contribute to the thought leadership of Tahzoo. I know we have smart and happy people. I know we have interesting people… but that’s not good enough; the rest of the world needs to know.

Jen and Chris are building out a calendar of content that will be regularly promoted to clients and prospects. It needs to be a blend of white papers, online articles, blog posts and infographics. We need everyone’s help producing enough content and thought leadership.

The next step in this process is for each of you to share Tahzoo content with your customers. Promote our subject matter experts. As I discussed last week, identify who you would like to build relationships with, and add value by sending thoughtful commentary and content to them.

In addition to thought leadership, there are a number of ways to build great relationships. How about thoughtful hand-written notes? How about delivering a Tahzoo logoed sheet cake to the lunch room for a contract award, final deliverable or the launch of a site? Drop off Tahzoo t-shirts, pens, stress balls and S’well bottles – they are also all thoughtful gifts. Candy wrapped with Tahzoo logos… the list could go on and on.

Most importantly – build relationships by adding value, exposing our clients to your thinking and the thought leadership throughout the company. We have lots of interesting people who have great ideas. Let’s share our vision for the 21st century.

Let’s go be great,
Brad

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