Are You a Chicken or a Pig?

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go be great,
Brad

Shared Values

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

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


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

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

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

    Let’s go be great,
    Brad

    Transforming Experiences

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

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

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

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

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

    Let’s go be great,

    Brad

    Making a Difference

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

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

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

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

    Let’s go be great,
    Brad

    Culture Book

    Hi Everyone,

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

    View Interactive Book (Click ‘Fullscreen’ mode)

    Thanks,
    Brad

    Opportunities

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

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

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

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

    Let’s go be great,
    Brad

    The Present

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

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

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

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

    Thanks,
    Brad

    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