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

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

Great Teams

Hi Team,

Super Bowl 51 is coming up next weekend – the Championship for the American version of Football! There are many facets to a great football team, beyond talent… It’s teamwork. There was a coach named Vince Lombardi who was until recently the winningest coach in football. I’ve read his biography several times (if you’re interested in a copy let me know). His dedication and single-minded focus on achieving excellence were remarkable. Suffice to say, only your very best was good enough for him. He was a master motivator with a gift for summarizing his beliefs into great quotes.

As you know I’m a big fan of quotations, so I’ve put together a list of some of my favorites of his, by topic. I have an eight-year-old son and we watch a lot of football together. Last week, I had the following quote stenciled in big letters on the wall in his bedroom next to the logo of his favorite team: “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” I hope you find one or more of these quotes inspiring; share them with someone who needs to be uplifted or reminded about what is important. I’ll leave you all with my favorite Lombardi quote, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”

Have a great weekend… and please enjoy:

Teamwork
“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”
“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex footballdefenses, or the problems of modern society.”
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

Commitment
“Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while…you do them right all the time.”
“Unless a man believes in himself and makes a total commitment to his career and puts everything he has into it – his mind, his body, his heart – what’s life worth to him?”
“Once a man has made a commitment to a way of life, he puts the greatest strength in the world behind him. It’s something we call heart power. Once a man has made this commitment, nothing will stop him short of success.”
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”
“I would say that the quality of each man’s life is the full measure of that man’s commitmentof excellence and victory – whether it be football, whether it be business, whether it be politics or government or what have you.”

Success/Sacrifice
“Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
“To achieve success, whatever the job we have, we must pay a price.”
“Success is like anything worthwhile. It has a price. You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible. Most important, you must pay the price to stay there.”
“Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure, and the temporary failures.”
“A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive, and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.”

Discipline
“I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline”.
“There is something good in men that really yearn for discipline.”
“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call itcharacter in action.”
“The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It’s your mind you have to convince.”
“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”
“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
“Once you have established the goals you want and the price you’re willing to pay, you can ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’spressure and the temporary failures.”

Will to Win
“The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel – these are the things that endure and these are the qualities that are so much more important than any of the events that occasion them.”
“There’s only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything. I do, and I demand that my players do.”
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”
“You never win a game unless you beat the guy in front of you. The score on the board doesn’t mean a thing. That’s for the fans. You’ve got to win the war with the man in front of you. You’ve got to get your man.”
“If you’ll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives.”

Leadership
“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
“It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men. Men respond to leadership in a most remarkable way and once you have won his heart, he will follow you anywhere.”
“Leadership is based on a spiritual quality — the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow.”
“Having the capacity to lead is not enough. The leader must be willing to use it.”
“Leadership rests not only upon ability, not only upon capacity – having the capacity to lead is not enough. The leader must be willing to use it. His leadership is then based on truth and character. There must be truth in the purpose and will power in the character.”
“A leader must identify himself with the group, must back up the group, even at the risk of displeasing superiors. He must believe that the group wants from him a sense of approval. If this feeling prevails, production, discipline, morale will be high, and in return, you can demand the cooperation to promote the goals of the community.”

Excellence
“….I firmly believe that any man’s finest hours – his greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear – is that moment when he has worked his heart out in good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”
“The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel — these are the things what will endure and these are the qualities that are so much more important than any of the events themselves.”
“They call it coaching but it is teaching. You do not just tell them…you show them the reasons.”
“After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.”

Mental Toughness
“If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.”
“Teams do not go physically flat, they go mentally stale.”
“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it ‘character in action.’”
“Mental toughness is essential to success.”

Habit
“Winning is a habit. Watch your thoughts, they become your beliefs. Watch your beliefs, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character.”
“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”
“Confidence is contagious and so islack of confidence, and a competitor will recognize both.”
“If you don’t think you’re a winner, you don’t belong here.”

Faith
“I believe in God.”
“I derived my strength from daily mass and communion.”

Passion
“It is and has always been an American zeal to be first in everything we do, and to win…”
“If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you’ll be fired with enthusiasm.”
“To be successful, a man must exert an effective influence upon his brothers and upon his associates, and the degree in which he accomplishes this depends on the personality of the man. The incandescence of which he is capable. The flame of fire that burns inside of him. The magnetism which draws the heart of other men to him.”

Results/Winning
“Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization…”
“Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged on one thing: the result.”
“Winning is not everything – but making the effort to win is.”
“Success demands singleness of purpose.”
“If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?”
“Winning is not a sometime thing…it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while…you don’t do the right thing once in a while…you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit.”

Truth
“The object is to win fairly, by the rules – but to win.”
“Morally, the life of the organization must be of exemplary nature. This is one phase where the organization must not have criticism.”

What’s In A Fitbit

Since receiving a Fitbit Charge 2 for my birthday, I’ve been wearing it every day for a month now, and I’m fascinated with what I’ve learned. The Charge Two tracks heart rate, sleep patterns, number of steps taken, estimates the number of calories burned each day, and so much more. The device even reminds me to take time to breathe and focus on my mental health. Turns out, I am in pretty good shape – my Cardio Fitness Score is ‘Good’ given a score of 39, and when I make it to 39.6 I’ll graduate to ‘Very Good’. All in all, I make an effort to maintain my physical fitness by going to the gym 4 to 5 times a week, running and lifting weights.

However, now that I have all this data about my health, I feel compelled to make good use of it. For example, if I lose 14.2 lbs. and increase my cardio by 20%, I would achieve a score of ‘Excellent’ for Cardio fitness. I am currently training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon in March, so there is a good chance that I’ll meet my goals. The point however, is that data and feedback loops give you the information you need to make better decisions and the necessary improvement toward your goals.

Over the last month, I’ve been working with the finance and project leadership teams to create a standard package of reports to share out to the entire company. The reporting package (not unlike a Fitbit) will provide each of you a monthly summary of Utilization, Billability, and Chargeability as well as summarizing by team and division the operating and performance metrics. We will be extending this to an account base view as well, so we can see revenue, profitability and the overall employee satisfaction of the Tahzoo delivery team.

With this new feedback loop will come individual goals and opportunities for improvement. We are fortunate to have tremendous market opportunity… but we need to be better stewards of our business and ensure that we are profitable and growing at the same time. For some of you this will be an adjustment, as I will be expecting everyone to make their targets, and more importantly, to show improvement in efficiency over time. Traditionally we haven’t run Tahzoo by the numbers, but this is the road ahead for us. If we want to be a world-class Customer Experience Management agency, we’ll have to operate in a world class manner.

I am excited about this new level of awareness – not only on a personal level, but also for our business. I’ve written extensively about how we need to bring more rigor and quantitative thinking into our business; this reporting is the beginning of building this operational strength into the company. Over the next three weeks we will be rolling out the expectations and reporting package within the US business, and to the rest of the company in the following month. We have created a framework for each of you to meet with your manager to align on goals and expectations. As we roll this out, I’ll be looking for feedback from you through the Voice of the Culture survey.

Looking forward to starting 2017 with clear goals and expectations for all of us.

Thanks,
Brad

Happy New Year

I am excited for the new year… I am still in a California state of mind so please enjoy the analogy. When there is a storm in the Pacific, it generates a swell – the waves begin to get larger over the duration of the storm and then gradually subside to normal levels. When you’d go down to the beach and see big waves breaking, you’d tell you buddies that the waves are “pumping”.

All the energy of the storm creates wind momentum and eventually, waves; let’s call them waves of opportunity. We have invested energy and enthusiasm into our business development over the past year, but more importantly our current customers. Let’s call this a storm of activity over the last year. We’ve clarified our message, built deeper relationships and expanded our service portfolio; our wave is getting bigger. Let me go so far as to say that the waves of opportunity for Tahzoo are “PUMPING”!!!

It’s going to be a big big year for Tahzoo. So, when the waves get really big you’ll have to paddle harder to get out past the break, but the ride is soooo much better. However, you must make sure you don’t get “caught inside”, meaning that you’ve surfed too far in, or the white wash of the waves have caught you and you can’t get past the break. In Tahzoo terms, not only do we have to keep up with the opportunity, we need to get ahead of it… better planning, better resourcing and better hiring. Otherwise, the white wash from the waves will collapse us onto the beach; this is called “being in the soup”, usually with catastrophic results. We are going to have to work really hard this year, mostly because of all the momentum we’ve generated in the market.

When you’re surfing, believe it or not – it’s easier to learn new things on bigger waves. Essentially, you have a little more time to practice or try new a new trick. We have the momentum to build our service offering and grow within our accounts… We are going to see our experience design business become a leading growth engine for the company. It’s going to be an “EPIC” year!

Let’s go be great!
Brad

Surfing, and Making It Better

I spent the evening with an old friend last night, someone who has been like a second father to me. Rick and Jan took me in as a teenager and were instrumental in shaping who I am today. Rick is a remarkable man, he has four undergraduate degrees, two masters and two PHDs, not all of them are in related fields. Among other things, he is a mechanical engineer; we spent years building things together and talking about life. He just recently retired from full-time work and is now making surf boards in his shop. We spent most of last night discussing how we could make his latest invention for body surfing more effective. It’s a buoy that you wear that provides a small plane or fin to stabilize the ride on a big wave. I’ve attached a picture of bodysurfing at Boomers in La Jolla so you get a sense of the size of the waves; it’s my favorite place to bodysurf, and I’ve spent many summers trying to master this break.

Rick is one of those guys who is always searching for ways to do it better. Even if the current model or design is great, he wants to make it better. Rick instilled this idea in me and it has become a part of how I live my life. Even though things are working just fine, I feel compelled to see if we can make it just a little better. I wanted to share this story with you because I know that sometimes it might feel like I am meddling or never satisfied, which isn’t the case, it’s just that I want to make things better.

Tahzoo’s business model is changing and it’s for the better. We’ve been preaching the need for a better customer experience and the market is finally catching up with us. Our customers are asking for help creating and delivering experiences. We spent the first few years working on our technical competencies and now we need to ensure we have the same level of expertise on the experience design side. As with all new systems, we will design it and continue to tweak it until it’s perfect. Most important to me is that we don’t have two sides of Tahzoo, but we are one company that helps our clients deliver fantastic customer experiences. We are being engaged for ideas, our strategy, our creativity and our technology.

I just finished reading the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biography “The Notorious RBG”. She is an amazing woman, who over time has had a huge impact on all of us. She has been the champion for the right of individuals and the rights of women in our society. As I read her book, there was a clear theme about making consistent, incremental progress towards lasting change. We are going to be making changes and steadily improving the company to take advantage of market opportunity. There was a quote from RBG, “figure out what you want, then go do the work”. That phase has been sitting with me for the last week and has stirred my thinking considerably. We are going to be recognized as the world leader in Experience Design and Delivery. Now that we know what we want, we just need to go do the work.

Wishing you all a relaxing and joyous holiday season. Looking forward to doing the work to make Tahzoo the best it can be.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

Innovation

As our Innovation Day (Innovatiedag Herfst 2016) events draw to a close this week, I’m proud to see the strong spirit of innovation clearly evident in our Tahzoo family. I’d like to thank the attendees, presenters, planners and all of the hackathon participants who contributed to this successful event.

This is a perfect time to revisit a note from a while back, which serves as a good reminder about the value of innovation. It focuses on three of my favorite innovators and the lessons we might draw from their experiences that can inform our thinking about our own innovative spirit. You see, I believe that innovation is not a matter of fleeting inspiration, but rather a skill that can be learned, practiced and, most importantly, improved over time. Like taking up a musical instrument, all that is needed to innovate is the right attitude and the receptivity to change ourselves.

For any new company to succeed there has to be innovation—often a lot of it. Apple. Amazon. Uber. Facebook. The examples are easy to come by. The message is pretty simple: to stand out, you have to do things differently than those who went before.

That’s why we talk a lot about innovation here at Tahzoo. We are not in the game of operational efficiency, or of trimming expenses to preserve a razor-thin margins of profit, nor of selling volumes upon volumes of widgets. We are in the marketplace of ideas. Our clients turn to us for our ability to think differently than the herd of consultants out there. We must, therefore, place the highest value on innovation to assure that we always stand head and shoulders above the competition.

The first lesson of innovation is effort. In this, there can be no greater role model than Thomas Edison. The man held at least 1,093 patents when he died—including as you know the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and motion pictures. Think about that for a moment. He “held” 1,093 patents, but there were surely numerous ideas the at didn’t pan out. He certainly knew more than his share of failure through all that. This is a lesson in believing in an idea so strongly that one is willing to soldier on in pursuit of the dream, never relenting, never giving up.

Speaking of dreaming, that brings me to another of my favorite inventors, Nikola Tesla, who, it was said, often dreamed of his inventions before he set to inventing them. Tesla bragged of his ability to perform realistic “dream experiments,” while fully awake.

This is a lesson in vision. Innovation often requires one to be able to imagine an ideal state or a solution to a particularly vexing problem in order to make that vision a reality. Interestingly enough, Tesla was such a good dreamer that many of his most interesting and ambitious ideas never came to fruition during his life because they were too ahead of their time. He imagined television and cellphones long before they ever became everyday things. He also dreamed of a way to power electrical devices without wires that is still a largely unrealized ideal today. So, take it from Tesla, if you’re going to dream, dream big!

Lastly, innovation requires perspective. No one but Einstein himself is our role model here. He conceived of his mind-boggling “Theory of Relativity,” while working as a humble patent clerk reviewing closed-loop train switching patterns. Einstein’s breakthrough was in his ability to apply learning from one field to another—of shifting perspective. It’s interesting to me that the lessons of perspective that Einstein imparts are in some ways a distillation of Relativity itself, which held that our perception of time is relative to the speed of light. That is: perception changes as perspective changes.

So, there you have it: innovation in a nutshell. It takes effort. It takes vision. And, it takes perspective. If we all apply these lessons to as many aspects of our personal and our professional lives, we cannot help but develop innovative ways to see and do great things.