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

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

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

Across the Country

I spent the week on the road and saw most of the country. David Sterenberg and I drove from Washington DC to Phoenix about 2000 miles in three days. We were on a southern route through Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and then to Arizona. Needless to stay there were several BBQ stops. Our first night we stayed in Memphis TN, we ate at Central BBQ; it was serviceable, but not great BBQ. We were really hoping for something great in Tennessee – but alas, it’s hard to find good BBQ. In Texas, we had a great meal with some fellow Tahzooligans at Sammy’s BBQ… Great food and great company!!! On our last day, we ate at Stateline BBQ, famous for their beef ribs. I had eaten there 15 years ago and was happy to visit again. The ribs were great and we enjoyed the ambiance. At the Stateline, you park in Texas but eat in New Mexico… either way great food.

For those of you who don’t know, David was a professional race car driver. He drove for several teams including Porsche and Mazda. I’ll let him tell you his racing stories when you have a chance to visit with him. Needless to say, we pushed our car to the limits, especially through Texas and New Mexico, nothing quite like long straight desert roads to let the car fly. I won’t say exactly how fast we went, but it was faster than I’ve ever traveled before. In case you’re wondering… no speeding tickets of any kind. It was a fun trip.

I spent the day with a potential client today. It was our second meeting and I am excited about the possibilities of working with such an esteemed company. We’ve been invited back to present our thoughts and ideas for improving their customer experience. The company is hitting its stride with all the new opportunity in front of us. Our messaging, creative and critical thinking around improving the customer experience is resonating with world-class brands.

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.

Gratitude

As our colleagues in the US prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I’ve been reflecting upon the impact of gratitude in our day to day lives – both personally and professionally.

Our HR team has a long-standing practice of sharing their ‘weekly gratitudes’ at the end of each week via email. This simple, yet profound gesture encourages a focus upon not only what is going well, but in how challenges became opportunities and struggles became successes. This sharing of stories often provides encouragement to others.

Gratitude is powerful when made part of a regular personal practice, and even more so when we share those observations with colleagues, friends and family. I am grateful for each of you, and for the invaluable opportunities we have to do great things together here at Tahzoo.

Have a great week as you enjoy time with family and friends, reflecting and celebrating.

Conflict Resolution

I’ve been thinking about conflict the past couple of weeks. I thought it would be a good idea to share my perspective and some thoughts around the inevitable conflict that arises when humans work together and how to manage it from my perspective.

I wrote out the company values in an effort to provide some guide posts around how we should decide things, standards that can be applied to specific situations to facilitate quicker outcomes. For example, caring for our customers or our employees is our first value, then simply any decision which puts that value at risk is off the mark. The first step in resolving conflict is to apply our values to the situation and make a determination.

A habit I learned a long time ago, which I borrowed from Stephen Covey is seek first to understand and then to be understood. Most conflict arises when two sides are advocating their perspective but not listening to one another. This does mean you won’t disagree with each other but at least you’ll be able to acknowledge the things that you agree upon so you can focus on the differences. While I was at Nordstrom, I managed a lot of customer complaints, more often than not people just want to be heard, their issue to be understood and then real meaningful resolution can begin.

No matter how mad I might be… that email I wanted to send in the heated moment never, I mean never is the right thing to do after I’ve had time to think it through. My drafts folder is full of emails that I wrote and never sent. There is something cathartic about writing out your thoughts and feeling but better to have never pushed the send button. Additionally, I’ve found that email is about the worst medium for resolving issue possible, only text messages might be worse… so don’t do it. Pick up the phone and call someone, talk it through and exchange energy and ideas. Emailing is a cowardly way to conduct a disagreement.

What are you fighting for? When I get mad I have another habit which kicks in, I ask myself why and I mad? Who and what am I fighting for? It’s tough especially in the heat of the moment, but when I recognize that my issue is about me or how I feel or how I think things should be… I am usually off base. My best energy is spend furthering the big ideas and focusing on the desired outcome. If we agree on the high level goal or objective the we can have a discussion about how to best achieve our goal rather than argue about a way of working.

Quantitative decision making, reviewing the numbers and the measurable outcomes is a great way to remove emotional discourse. As I’ve mentioned in the past one of the downsides of qualitative decision making is that it lends itself to a gut feeling which isn’t easily shared. When you want to change the system or a way of working look for some numbers facts or figures that you can use to justify the work and level of effort required for change.

My last piece of advice on this subject is to remind everyone that by and large people are well intentioned. They may have a different approach or see the world differently than you but they are working hard, just like you. When I assume that someone is well intentioned then it’s hard to not treat them like valued colleague or friend. My mom used to tell a story about the word “respect”, if you respect someone then you’d “re-look” at them. You’d make sure that your underlying assumptions about them were still valid and if they’d had changed, you would change your perspective too. It’s all too easy to see someone as categorically one way or part of one group when really they are just like you and trying hard in some cases desperately to make things better. We are part of groups but we are individuals. We share a common vision and a common goal… So next time you feel conflict brewing, take a moment of pause and remember you are all on the same team.

Persistence

I’ve just finished a wonderful book called Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg. He spends most of the book articulating how to be more efficient and effective in your life. The book details the psychology and cognitive science around motivation and achievement. Many of the techniques and mental models that are described are habits that I’ve unwittingly cultivated over the years.

As a young salesman I learned that success in sales was primarily a function of persistence. Dedicating oneself to a big goal and then breaking down the individual steps required to achieve that goal and not giving up no matter how hard things get. Some people say that you’re limited by the size of your dreams, my belief is that is only partially true, you also have to have the ability to commit to a path and stick with it.

We recently achieved some great results because we set a big goal but then broke down the steps into manageable and achievable sub tasks on a daily and weekly basis. As I’ve learned from my colleague Tom in the Agile development process, if you can’t describe how you’re going to accomplish your task within a week or two of work then you’re likely guessing at what needs to be done or how long it will take.

We’ve had some great results in a short period of time, which I chalk up to persistence and consistency in our approach. The Desk of Brad, which I write weekly for our team, is another example of persistence. I encourage each of you to set an aggressive big goal and then break it down into digestible parts… If it works for you let me know how you’re doing and how I can help.