Caring for Employees

When I share this value with others, I am often asked: “What does that mean?” The sentiment behind this ideal is a reflection of my work history, as I’ve been fortunate enough to work for a series of leaders who not only cared about my performance, but also took an active role in helping me improve and further my skills. There is a quote on my desk which says, “Our chief want in life is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be” – by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

One of the more remarkable things about the leaders who have mentored me is that they expected the best from me and gave me the support and education to actually achieve at a higher level. All too often, there are leadership discussions around setting clear expectations, which is meaningful, however we all need more than just clear expectations to succeed. Most of my bosses have been incredibly demanding of me but I also knew they cared for me personally and would give me the tools I needed to be successful.

I believe in something defined as servant leadership, which is to say that the management and leadership of the company is here in service to the employees so they can do a great job for our customers. You should work for someone who not only cares about you, but cares enough about you to help you be great and hold you accountable. Much of my work these days is ensuring and instilling this idea into our thinking and processes whenever possible. You can help me with this by making sure you have regular meetings with your manager and are soliciting feedback on your performance. It is also important that you share with your manager the ways in which they can help you be better in your job.

Right after the start of the company we created the rate your week survey. Although we were really small at the time and I could see from the results of the survey exactly how someone’s week went, I knew it would be important to have a pulse on the organizational health of the company. As a side benefit I want to make sure that everyone felt they could provide feedback to me so I could improve the company.

Understanding the strength and quality of the relationships within the company is the biggest predictor of success for Tahzoo. It’s why we survey you all so often, I really do want to know what people are thinking and how they are feeling. Most CEOs focus on the financial metrics of the company (which are also very important), I know however that if the internal relationships are strong and our people know how to work together, then all other goals and problems are more easily met.

We need to be a learning organization. It is my belief that if we can build and maintain strong working relationships, then we can ask teams from around the global or with many different disciplines and backgrounds to work together to create new ideas. In this way I hope that we can always be addressing the leading edge of the market place and holding our position as a premium brand company. If we are able to maintain and grow this ethos across Tahzoo, we’ll be a great company to work for and we will have ample opportunity to do meaningful work. 

When I wrote out the values of the company, in my mind I thought it would be great if we could create a company that provided employees meaningful work, with an opportunity to grow. It was also crucial that this value of caring for our employees was at the top of the chart because I knew as the company grew it had to remain top of mind for everyone who joined the company. It is also an important filter for making decisions going forward … the simple question is “does this action or decision demonstrate that we are caring for our employees?” It is a great context for deciding “what is right.”

A Mighty Big Country

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I am on holiday this week driving from Seattle, Washington to Washington DC with my family. This is an annual trip for me and some of my best thinking and reflection occurs during these holidays. In addition to the family trip every year, I’ll occasionally do a solo cross country trip to really get away and think (and stop at some of my favorite BBQ joints along the way).

It was on a solo trip a little over 5 years ago that I found the courage to start Tahzoo. I was listening to an audio book called The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, his book was born out of a lecture he gave in September 2007 entitled, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”

For those of you who don’t know the book, Randy was asked to give a lecture and share his wisdom and perspective a month after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis. It is a heartwarming, albeit deeply emotional book given his circumstances. The main point of the book and his lecture, is that your dreams and aspirations matter and that setting yourself on a course of achieving those dreams is the cornerstone of a life well lived. As you achieve your dreams you can then focus on enabling the dreams of others. His book had a profound impact on me and has changed the way I live my life. Among them is that I wanted my work to be a source of meaning for me, not necessarily a place that provides me a sense of self-esteem but a place where I can serve a purpose greater then myself.

A big part of the process for me taking inventory of my dreams and what I’d like to be a part of … only after that, did I begin framing out what we’d do and how we’d do it …Tahzoo is culmination of several dreams for me. 

I believe in great customer service. I can think of very few things as satisfying than taking great care of a customer. I often tell people that waiting tables was one of my favorite jobs because I got to create a wonderful evening for my customers. We remember the experiences we’ve had far more than the stuff we’ve bought. The web has made the world more efficient, but mostly at the expense of the experience- let’s change that! I wanted to a build a company that I could take pride in the way that it impacted the lives of others. In our case it’s that we should help our clients deliver an experience that makes their customers happy. We can be responsible for creating millions of pleasant moments everyday… that possibility makes me happy.

I believe that in order for Tahzoo to be a great company we need to take great care of one another. I have been fascinated with how people work together since I was a boy. I have been fortunate to be on several great teams in both sports and in business, I have found this experience so compelling, so profound, that I’ve spent most of my adult life seeking to be a part of or helping to create great teams. Every great team that I have been part of has had one common thread… a high degree of trust and commitment to one another. I see pockets of this at Tahzoo but not nearly enough to feel like we’ve got it figured out. The irony is that a great company is a byproduct of the people… not the actual company. I need your help and your commitment to making your team a great team.

I want Tahzoo to be a platform for all of us to learn and change. We have the opportunity to solve really interesting problems, explore different aspects of our thinking and ideas, all while helping our clients be successful. One of the things that appealed to me was the idea that if we worked on leading edge problems, we could get paid for doing cool stuff. The interesting challenge I am working on is how do we create a company that encourages people with different backgrounds, disciplines and perspectives to work together collaboratively on behalf of a customer? See it’s so much easier to hire a bunch of likeminded people and ask them to work together, however; the best companies, leading 21st century companies are the ones that bring many perspectives together… the best results and decisions are made by teams that work all sides of an issue. That’s an example of how I see Tahzoo as an opportunity for me to explore how to do something better. What is the idea that you’re working on? How are you seeing your time at Tahzoo as an opportunity to explore and deliver a big idea?

In any event, I thought I should share with you how I got here, how we got here. I decided these dreams of mine were too important to just think about or to hope that one day they’d come true. I set out on a course of action to make them happen. I am not done yet and there are more dreams to be shared and pursued. I hope in some way this inspires you to participate in my dreams and I hope that Tahzoo is a place that can enable your dreams. It can be as simple as just being a great place to go to work every day or inventing the next generation of human to computer interfaces … either way it’s up to you. Tahzoo has a remarkable future in large part because of all of you. I am so proud to be a part of this company.

Hi … (insert customer name here) how can I help you?

My first real job was working at Nordstrom, when I was 15 years old. At that time, they only had 7 stores and the beginning of what would become a nationally recognized reputation for great customer service. I grew up at Nordstrom, and in many ways much of how I approach business is a byproduct of the experiences and lessons I learned while working there. So, flash forward a few years, well more than a few … I am running a digital agency that builds branded digital experiences for our clients. We focus on helping our clients create engagement by delivering personalized experiences on any device, in any format, on demand.

At Nordstrom we believed in personal service … we paid attention to you, said hello, created a pleasant environment, and worked hard to make sure you found what you were looking for. It’s a pretty simple approach to making clients happy and building lasting relationships. There are many stories about the legendary customer service, but I’ll save them for another time. Tahzoo is a service driven organization and we believe that if you take care of the client and you take care of the customers, you’ll have a company worth caring about.

I’ve started this blog to discuss how we think and approach building engagement on behalf of our clients. Simply put, just because your experience is online doesn’t mean it can’t be a personal, pleasant and a satisfying experience. I’ll spend the next few months discussing how technology innovations, when applied to the marketing function, are creating a new world of possibility for building customer connections. Most people who know me, know I like to debate so don’t be shy with your comments: good, bad or indifferent.