Persistence

“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” – Voltaire 

Persistence 

   
Hi All, 
 
As I walked into the office the day before yesterday, there were two gentlemen waiting at the front door to speak with me. They were from a bank that has been wanting to do business with Tahzoo for some time. I haven’t been available to take a meeting and they weren’t willing to wait, so we had the meeting on the corner in front of the office. Nevermind the fact that it’s been extraordinarily warm in DC this week. For those of you who don’t know, I sold Culligan water systems door to door. I spent a lot of time knocking on doors in the hot sun to get a meeting with a potential customer. I must say I was impressed with their perseverance. 
 
My success in life has been a byproduct of my persistence. I have never been the smartest or most talented person in the room. I recall when I first started working at Microsoft, I would meet these brilliant people and think to myself, “How in the world did I get a job here?” Well, it was persistence. I had 16 interviews before I was offered a job at Microsoft… I knew I wanted to work there and I didn’t give up. 
 
The work we do at Tahzoo is difficult and challenging. We are accomplishing things that have never been done before. We are working for some of the most respected companies in the world. The expectation of us, and for each of you, is very high. 
 
If they’ve hired Tahzoo, they’ve put their career on the line and give each of you an opportunity to prove they made the right decision. If I’ve hired you to work at Tahzoo, I expect that you have unyielding perseverance to make our clients happy and to deliver fantastic work. I can abide by mistakes or failures of action, but I will never accept quitting on our clients. Would you get to an office early and wait in the heat to meet with a client? Would you do 16 interviews to get a job?  I would and have, you should too. 
 
Let’s go be great, 
Brad 

Evolving Our Business

“Learning experiences are like journeys. The journey starts where the learning is now, and ends when the learner is successful. The end of the journey isn’t knowing more, it’s doing more.” –  Julie Dirksen 

Our business is changing. We are zeroing in on delivering contextually appropriate content and personalized experiences as our core value proposition. As I discussed a few weeks ago, the CMS business is declining and consequently not generating the entrée into large accounts as it has in the past. The launch of MarketerCX last week is a major step forward for Tahzoo. We now have a platform to sell (or at the very least a way to demo) the value of personalization. Although the work that we do is very complex, we need to obscure the complexity for our clients and make it look simple. MarketerCX will show what ‘is possible’ so we can drive the right discussions with our clients. 
 
In concert with this effort, we are retooling the Strategy team. Over the years, we’ve delivered a wide range of strategy services, research, and personalization planning. We’ve consolidated the service offerings into three large buckets: Management Consulting, Personalization Planning, and Digital Marketing Strategy. 
 
The Management Consulting practice is focused on providing the business acumen and financial analysis necessary to support an enterprise-wide digital transformation effort. The work that we did at Starbucks as part of a global MarTech assessment is an example of this work. Darrell and John will be hosting a brown bag session to review the deliverables. It’s great work and important that you see an overview of the work and the quality of our engagement. 
 
The Personalization and Planning Practice is focused on guiding clients through a process to deliver contextually appropriate and personalized experiences. We have broken up the offering by asking four key questions: 

  • How do you understand customers? 
  • How do you understand your content? 
  • How do you build customer interaction models? 
  • How do you define content journeys?  

To answer these questions, there a dozen discreet projects in each category that need to be completed. We have developed very valuable IP and market-leading approaches that place us in the leadership quadrant for this type of work. 
 
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning software tools are coming to market and are going to radically change our business. I’ll write more about this software space in the coming weeks. In short, these software tools are more effective with a broader range of artifacts and data points to consider. Our personalization practice will provide 4 dimensions for modeling various outcomes, which is well beyond what most agencies can provide. If we can take the lead in this market space, we can keep it for the foreseeable future. It’s an opportunity for a huge strategic advantage for Tahzoo. 
 
The Digital Marketing Strategy and Execution Practice are focused on operationalizing the efforts that are a derivative of the first two practice areas. This team will ensure that we provide critical thinking and ideation around motivating human behavior and driving desired outcomes. The systems and models that we build are quite sophisticated, and our clients will depend on us to run these systems with a high degree of expertise and efficiency. We will do the data curation, segmentation, campaign plan, and measurement on behalf of our clients. 
 
We are moving into a new world; more than two-thirds of our pipeline are strategy-led or include strategy as a significant component of the project. I am thrilled to see this manifesting in our business and with our customers. We need to continue to build the bridges and bonds between our teams and ensure that everyone in the company can articulate our value proposition. At the all-hands meeting in August, I will discuss this in more detail; in the meantime, ask lots of questions and attend the brown bag session. 
 
Thanks, 
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

Being a Free Market Capitalist

“For all great innovations, someone took a risk. They risked capital; they risked their energy; they risked their opportunity cost; and more important, they risked failure. We can’t innovate without the belief that we can succeed, the confidence that others will be there to help us on the journey, and the security that we will not be punished if we fail to reach our goal. A fast-moving world demands innovation for long-term success.” – Dov Seidman 

Opportunity  
I’ve been in the Netherlands this week coordinating the final efforts for the restructuring of Tahzoo. I see how the separation of concerns will lead to greater opportunities for long-term success for all involved. I’ve spoken many times about the importance of caring for your customers and your employees as a first principle for how I approach my job every day. The new Tahzoo will continue to be centered on our core values. 
 
Next week we will be sharing our new culture book, and an updated organizational chart focused on ensuring that we can make decisions closer to our customers, grounded in quantitative metrics as well as the qualitative. 
 
In the final analysis, I am a free-market capitalist. I believe that everyone should have the right to pursue their passion, and through their work have a sense of accomplishment and achievement that is consistent with their life goals. As I’ve built Tahzoo, I have endeavored to create the freedom necessary for employees to have the opportunity to pursue greatness as they choose.   
 
It’s up to each of us, every day, to do the hard work and to make the hard decisions required to achieve our dreams. I wish each of you a life that is fulfilled and rich with a sense of accomplishment for the values you hold most dearly. 
 
Rest assured that Tahzoo is a great company and we will achieve our goals of being a market-leading CX agency. 
 
Thanks, 
Brad 

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 for 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 to 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 am 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 spent furthering the big ideas and focusing on the desired outcome. If we agree on the high-level goal or objective then 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 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 of 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.

Client Partner and Delivery Lead

I am asked from time to time to better define the role of Client Partner and the Delivery Lead. As part of a project kick-off, I spent a few moments outlining the basic working relationship in an effort to ensure a successful engagement. The following is an excerpt from the letter that I wrote to the team…

Not unlike a pilot and a co-pilot, (the client partner and the delivery lead) they are responsible to fly the plane. It’s hard to imagine any circumstances in which they are not locked at the hip working through strategies and solutions to ensure the best possible experience for our client. As a team, they need to ensure that we have the right people on the job, that we are delivering a level of quality that makes us all proud to be a part of Tahzoo, and thirdly that we are building our business within the account. While the division of labor between the two may change based on the client and individual expertise, the entire company needs to be operating in support of the pilot and the co-pilot. It is their plane; their account they are accountable no exceptions. There is no delivery view and sales view of the world that is acceptable to me. Tahzoo is not a hierarchical company… we are all here to serve the client or serve people who are serving the client. If you are in a position of leadership or expertise or administration you are at Tahzoo to give the team what they think they need to be successful.

The first deliverable from this team should be a vision statement/document that details what success looks like for this account. Keep in mind that we are a CX agency – our view should include the entirety of our client’s customer experience. We need a north star so that everyone who works on this account knows what we are aiming for and what are the major success milestones. I would expect this deliverable to be a page or so and a must-read for everyone involved.

Process and Procedure Is No Substitute for a Great Relationship

I thought I’d share with you some of the pictures from my holiday in Washington state this week. Like most Americans, it’s a working vacation but none the less it’s been an enjoyable and thoughtful time. I have a sense of renewal and focused determination coming back from holiday. One of the best things about being away for a few days is the opportunity to think about the big things. I’ve been reading a biography of President Roosevelt who led the US through the great depression and World War II. What has been remarkable to me was how much of his life’s work boiled down to key moments, decisions, and most importantly how his temperament guided the arc of his life.

Brad Summer Pic

I know that you’re expecting a paragraph on my insight or plan for the company or what I think are the big decisions that need to be made. We’ll get to that another day. I would like to tell you, I am grateful to work every day with a bunch of smart and happy people. Of course, we have lots of work to do, plenty of big decisions to make but the future of the company is in the strength and quality of the relationships that we build at Tahzoo. They will carry us forward today and in the future.

One of the first events I attended at the Delft office included two nice women who were handing out written compliments to all of the guests. One of them spoke with me for a few minutes and then wrote out my compliment, even from a stranger I was touched. So imagine a working world where we took the time to say thank you more and share what we appreciate about one another? Imagine what that would do for our relationships. So if you’re on holiday or just coming back, take a moment to share some compliments and your appreciation… make someone’s day… it really does make a difference.

brad-summer-1

I am grateful to have such brilliant and talented people that I get to work with each day, thank you all for everything you do to make Tahzoo something so remarkable.

brad-summer-3

Why Tahzoo

I spent the week driving across the United States visiting BBQ restaurants and meeting people. I am always fascinated to hear the stories about how the restaurant was started and to feel the passion of the pitmaster. One thing strikes me about BBQ, nobody gets into the business for the money, maybe the fame but usually because it’s a family tradition. Inevitably, we have a discussion about recipes and techniques for making the best BBQ, there is a lifetime of debate to enjoy. But that conversation is about the How and I am most fascinated about the Why.

I was visiting the Richmond office last week, and Ari Ugwu who is a long time Tahzoo employee, one of the first 20 in the company, made a comment about how much he appreciates that we are spending more time talking about the Why instead of the How (full credit to Ari for pointing this out..thank you).

Simon Sinek wrote a great book called “Start with Why”. On these road trips, I get time to think and maybe more importantly I get extended periods of time to contemplate an issue and consider all of the possibilities. I’ve spent a lot of time on this trip asking myself… Why?

Tahzoo exists to improve the customer experience, that is our Why. That experience is delivered by how we help our clients take care of their customers and in the way in which we treat our clients. Not unlike the BBQ enthusiasts I met this week, I developed my passion at an early age but rather than being handed down through my family, I was taught by working with the Nordstrom family. It is an ideal that has driven me for my entire adult life… That is my Why.

You are part of the Why… You are Tahzoo. Every day in big ways and small ways you make the company great. It’s important that you know you’re why. You are part of something that aspires to change the world. Your contribution is unique and you have every opportunity to be a part of the Why. I am so proud to be a part of this great company, to visit each of the offices and feel the passion from each of you. On the best days and the worst days, remember why you are here.

Our Values

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn 

Our Inspiration, Our Values, Our Mission… 

 
This is the second in a three-part Desk of Brad series returning to the core ideas at the heart of the company, which I wrote four years ago. I have recently re-read them and have decided to republish them. (I have updated them only slightly.) I think it’s valuable to return to these sorts of statements periodically to assess whether we as a company and we as people are remaining true to the principles that make us a great company. 
 
This week we return to Our Values:   
 
Character is one of the most important things for me. The very first act of Tahzoo was to establish a core set of values. In a Starbucks, in Northwest DC, I wrote out a list of values that would guide our company. This happened before we incorporated, before we hired anyone, or had even settled on the name of the company. It is the most important thing I’ve done at Tahzoo.   
 
Tahzoo Values:   
-If you care about your customers and your employees, you’ll have a company worth caring about 
 -Hire for character before capability 
-Hire interesting people who are interested in change 
– Believe in the marketplace of ideas   
 
Genuine caring implies conscientious stewardship of our personal relationships. What more is a company than a collection of relationships, after all, organized to solve problems for our clients? We go to work every day so we can enrich our lives and provide for our families. Our clients make that possible. Do not ever forget that. 
 
We should be grateful for our clients and we should be able to count on each other. This is my first purpose, above all other demands in the business. I see this as the primary lens for decision-making across the company. If we institutionalize this value, we will always find our way.     
 
You have to trust the people around you. It’s more important than how smart or capable they are. It is the foundation of teamwork. As a growing company, we can’t ever jeopardize the relationships that we’ve built. We must resist the temptation to hire those who present well but lack character. We’ve chosen to tackle difficult and challenging problems for our clients. We are going to need to collaborate and debate. Many times, we won’t agree, but if we are fair, honest, and committed to each other, we will do great work.   

In my experience, people are interesting because they are engaged, passionate, and curious. As I’ve mentioned earlier, we live in a time of unparalleled change. In order for us to be great and to lead our clients through this wave of innovation, we need to be thinking, writing, and dreaming about what happens next. We are fortunate to part of a company that doesn’t just see the future, we create the future when we work together, hire well, and work hard.   
 
I believe in passionate debate. Great ideas are born and given life in the cauldron of a collective perspective. This is the energy that will drive our company forward. If you trust the people you work with; then trust them with your ideas.   
 
We need to be a team and a family of co-workers that share a common value system. In order to accomplish our goals. We are multi-disciplinary teams execute flawlessly. So, while many companies can achieve success, if not over-achieve, with committed, hardworking employees, we cannot. Tahzoo must have teams of people with different skills to inspire one another to solve customer problems in new ways. 
 
Great companies are purposefully built. Their values and expectations are driven consistently through every level of the organization. The health of our company is not reflected in our balance sheet, but the quality of our relationships and our adherence to our values.   

 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad