Relationship-Based Business

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” -Benjamin Franklin 

We are moving into our 10th year of being in business. It’s an exciting milestone and as I reflect on the last ten years; I am so proud of what we have accomplished. You are an important member of a team that is focused on providing groundbreaking, innovative, and meaningful consulting to our clients. We set out to improve the quality of the customer experience. We have lofty goals of making millions of people a little bit happier every day – our contribution to the world. 

We’ve learned that it doesn’t just require SDL Tridion skills, creative expertise or consulting skills, we’ve learned time and time again it takes great teamwork to achieve results for our clients. Teamwork is inclusive of our clients; our best accounts are the ones in which we become strategic partners with them. You can measure the health of a consulting company by examining the strength and quality of its relationships. 

When I think about goals for 2020, one is to improve our relationships, internally and externally. Go find a relationship that needs work and work on it. Make a difference in the little things and the big things. I always appreciated the saying… “people don’t care about how much you know until they know who much you care”. When I worked at Nordstrom, we sent thank-you notes to each of our customers, it was a little thing but a meaningful one. So, let’s show our clients and our co-workers how much we care.  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

People, Processes, and Technology

“I believe in these guys and they believe in each other. The biggest thing for us is never quit.” -Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez 

All of our engagements are about three distinct areas of organizations; people, processes, and technology. Our clients hire us to work through all of those dimensions to achieve a business objective.  
 
In that context, I want to start a conversation about “how” we execute on those three dimensions. One of our core values is we hire interesting people who are interested in change and I’ve written often about how as individuals and as a company we are agents of change. 

I’d like to stipulate that we do work in these three domains with every client. What I am concerned about is that we are not consistent in the way that we approach our client relationships recognizing that all three domains need a strategy and an execution plan. I think on the technical side of our business we are extraordinarily well documented, consistent and virtually every consultant within Tahzoo operates within a common and consistent framework. However, when it comes to people and process, we need more well-developed methodologies and execution plans.  
 
I’ve always been proud of how good we are at building relationships with our clients. Over the years we’ve become quite good at mirroring the corporate culture of our clients. These “connections” have enabled the change management processes but we should not be deluded into thinking that building strong personal relationships is our change management process. We need to be way more thoughtful and structured about how we are going to drive organizational change and assist our clients with designing, leading, and implementing change. 

On the process side, we have excellent Business Analysts and Functional Consultants who work very well with our designers and engineers to design and build a state of the art systems. We document the “as is” and the “to be” state quite well. But that isn’t sufficient when we are driving large scale organizational change. Not only do we need to design the “as is” state but we also need tools for rationalizing the ROI of the change and then a plan to drive wide-scale adoption of the new methods and procedures.  
 
As a company, we do many things very well and we need to continue to evolve our thinking and methodologies. I am raising this with each of you today to begin a companywide conversation about change management and how are we going to evolve the people process and technology aspects of our engagements. The combination of Sites and Docs coupled with the DAM/Aprimo workflow tools is leading us down this path regardless. We can’t just be good at implementing systems against business goals, we need to be good at leading change in all three dimensions. 

 Remember, rarely is the technology that is the impediment to success… it is the people, process, and change management issues. I believe we can be the agents of change that our clients need to push through and make the most of their investments.  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Be Your Own Boss

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist or accept the responsibility for changing them.” —Denis Waitley

You’re not the boss of me.  
In the 21st century, companies will thrive because they are agile. We are warping through a period where computational power is doubling, and the rate of technology adoption is moving at an exponential clip. For the most part, it’s why we are going to grow by 65, almost 70 percent this year. There is a very high demand in the market for a company like us to help our Fortune 500 clients take advantage of all of this change and opportunity.  
 
That brings me to each of you. 
In the 20th Century typical business setting you had a boss and you followed instructions. If you were competent and showed some initiative, you’d move up the ranks. You could pick a discipline, become an expert, and enjoy the requisite level of seniority. If your heart was in management and leadership, you could add that to your competencies and again move up the ranks, but you always had a boss. Someone you could depend on to tell you what to do. 

Well, that is soooo 20th Century. At Tahzoo you are your own boss, you don’t have a boss. You have a small group of people who are here to support you and help you achieve success and your career objectives. You don’t have to be on a specific track or have a singular focus on a discipline… you have agility, you have mobility and you have options. Now back to my original statement, 21st-century employees need to be agile. When I meet some of you, the technical skill you were hired for doesn’t even exist anymore… are there any former flash developers in the house (ahem Dara Keo, VP of Technology)?   
 
We do complexly bespoke consulting to Fortune 500 companies with very difficult, expensive, and unique business problems. Where you started, where you are and where you finish will most assuredly be different. 
 
Considering all of this, in September I implemented “the choose your own career coach” management model. I did this because you don’t need a boss, you need a small group of people, for now; your career coach, your account executive, and your practice lead to support you in reaching your goals and assist you in servicing our clients with acumen and aplomb. 

Guess what- it’s hard, it means that you need to develop and manage at least three relationships within the company and as many or more on the client-side. That requires emotional agility, it requires that you have a plan and you work the plan. If you think that you’ll have a boss who will tell you what to do and you can merrily tune out, you’ve missed the point. Each one of you is your own boss, you decide how you’d like your career to progress, the skills you are going to develop, and frankly, you are only limited by your ambition.  
 
Everyone will be receiving feedback from their career coach within the next week or so. Please take the time to talk about your career and your ambitions, develop a plan. Tom Wanat, VP of Delivery Operations, called it a personal learning journey. I like the ring of that… 
 
It’s almost 2020, computing power and the solutions that are a derivative of that are going to double in effectiveness within 18 months, are you ready for that level of change? Have you thought about what skills you need to be developing to take advantage of the change? Are you learning to be agile in your approach to work and who you manage your career path?  
 
Invest in yourself, leverage your three core relationships, and have a plan. You are your own boss.  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Career Coaching

“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.”  -Pete Carroll 

Career Coaching 

As you all know, yesterday was the close of the first round of selecting your career coach. I’ve had conversations with many of you and there seems to be a mix of enthusiasm and some concern. With any new system, there are going to be lessons learned and some unintended consequences. The first period is only four months, after which each of you will be given the opportunity to stay in place or select a new career coach if they have an opening. What is at stake here is a novel way to ensure that everyone in the company is receiving the coaching they deserve and enjoying the freedom to learn about different parts of the business. 
 
I have been speaking regularly on the importance of agility for 21st-century companies. Agility is a derivative of focus and decision making. We have to work in an interdisciplinary model for which the definition of success is a happy client. While each of us will bring expertise to the account, we have to work together collaboratively and understand all the disciplines that are being brought to bear within an account. For example, it makes sense to me that the project management model for strategy work, creative design work, and technical build work will all operate slightly differently. If the goal is a happy client, then the handoffs between team members are critical.  
 
The language used by the various practice areas needs to be consistent and well understood across the company. When a team shares a common understanding and a common language then decision making is accelerated. Bespoke consulting for Fortune 500 companies is hard. Our clients have large bureaucracies and shifting power structures that need to be attenuated. The only way we can successfully navigate within a large account is to have great team communication and to speak with one voice to the client. Every account team in the company should be talking about and striving to improve communication, collaboration, and decision making. The career coaching model should provide more exposure across disciplines, and hopefully breakdown some silos and improve our common language.   
 
One of our company values is “we hire interesting people who are interested in change”. It is my hope that this new system sparks a wellspring of knowledge sharing within Tahzoo. That each of you has a chance to thoughtfully consider the coaching and experience that will advance your career. Be intentional about your career, don’t just let it happen to you. Think about where you’d like to be in 5 years or 10 years and ask yourself what experiences, what knowledge do you need to acquire? Where do you have a curiosity that should be explored? Finding a good mentor is about the most important thing that someone can do to advance their career. I trust that this new model will give each of you the opportunity to strengthen relationships, explore new areas of the business, and enrich your Tahzoo experience.  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Climbing the Bumps

What are you proud of? 

All things being equal it’s been a year of challenges and triumphs. I’ve watched many of you grow over the last year, myself included. I read a book when I was a kid named “The bumps are what you climb on”. The premise being that challenging yourself and enduring challenging times in your life promote growth.  
 
Smart and Happy is infectious. I see it everywhere and the company and I are jealous for more of it. One of the great joys of my job is participating in and watching each of you grow and mature. I see the confidence-building individually and amongst the account teams. I didn’t want to miss the moment to reflect on our accomplishments one more time. I’ve listed out the things you were proud of in 2018 and 2019. I know some of you don’t like to speak up or need more time for consideration, however, I strongly encourage each of you to review this list and if you didn’t have a proudest moment on the list, I have one request.  
 
Take this Desk of Brad, drop it in a word document and add to it the one thing you were most proud of in the last year, whatever it is. Then add one goal for 2020, just one thing that if you accomplish, you will feel like you’ve checked a major box. Save it in a file and when we get ready for our totally rocking 2020 10th Anniversary Company meeting, I am going to ask you to reflect on both 2019 and 2020. There’s a lot of power in writing things to down, so invest in yourself and Tahzoo and spend a moment reflecting on the last year and the year to come. 

Let’s go be great! 

Brad 

Modeling Good Consulting

Dear Team, 
 
I am nothing but thrilled about the progress we’ve made in our business over the last couple of months. That is not to say that we still don’t have a long way to go but we have a direction now and the opportunity to do great work. We grew up doing SDL Tridion implementations, we started out as builders and we also need to become consultants. We need to be solution-focused and very adept at bringing many different skills together to deliver for our clients.  
 
So what does it mean to be a good consultant?   
 
We need to practice being good consultants to one another. Again, we can’t expect to be a good consulting firm externally and not act like one internally. You can’t loaf in practice and go win the big game, it just doesn’t work.  
 
Good consultants do a few things really well, aside from being Smart and Happy. They are experts, they have opinions, they run effective meetings concisely and beautifully present information.  
 
As an expert in your field, you are expected to be always learning. You are expected to take growing your knowledge seriously and you are expected to contribute to the thought leadership of the company. As Tom has recently coined, everyone needs to be on a “Personal Learning Journey”.  
 
You have to have an opinion. You cannot be an expert and be afraid or unwilling to speak your mind. It’s important to recognize this means that you have to be well prepared and immersed in your client’s issues so that you can have opinions. It should never be acceptable for one of our consultants to be a wallflower. Of course, as leaders, we will have members that are so opinionated that they are ineffectual or just stubborn, but you’ll coach them appropriately. We believe in the market place of ideas. Our clients should be enamored with our critical thinking and brilliant ideas.  
 
Running an effective meeting. This is a real area of opportunity for improvement for Tahzoo. An effective meeting has the following attributes; An Agenda is sent out ahead of time, it starts on time with all members present, all the necessary information/reports are available, decisions are made, and meeting minutes are sent out as a follow up with action items detailed.  
  

Agenda 

Start on time 

 All members present 

 All information/reports available 

 Decisions are made 

 Meeting minutes are sent out  

 Action items are documented 

  
Just put yourself in our customer’s shoes; they are hiring us, every hour, per person, seems to me this should be a minimum expectation for each and every one of us … and everyone who works at Tahzoo.  
 
Concisely and beautifully presented information. Our work needs to be perfect, not just good. Each of us needs to take the time to do perfect work and to ensure that the work that is being produced by our team is perfect. We cannot count on perfect work from our teams unless there is a process of inspection. There is an old saying of mine, “you get what you inspect, not what you expect”. 
 
These are the core skills of a consultant. We’ll practice working with one another and by extension become better consultants to our clients.   
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Coming to the End of a Great Year

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. 
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. 
You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” 
-Neil Gaiman 

Dear Tahzoo Family, 
 
As we approach the end of this year, I want to thank each one of you for being part of this family. I appreciate your great work, commitment, and dedication, which have been the reason for Tahzoo’s progress and success.  
 
Eight and a half years of operating in a competitive marketplace such as ours that is constantly and rapidly evolving is an achievement that I am particularly proud of – I am honored to be here, honored to work with each of you, and even more so to have done it on the back of our consistent strong values and high-quality service. 
 
There is still plenty to be achieved in Tahzoo’s evolution and I see next year lined up with many successes and great achievements. Our new project at Deloitte is shaping up to become a fantastic, long term client for us and I have high hopes for a continued reinvigorated partnership with SDL. 
 
As you know, we will be closed to celebrate New Year’s Day, I invite each of you to slow down, take time to breathe, ponder the opportunities that await all of us in 2019.  We should be thankful for what we have, and remember to embrace our loved ones and be grateful for the feeling of having them around and close. 
 
I wish you all a very happy new year, filled with success, happiness, and good health. 
 
Let’s go be great, 
Brad 

Content is the Missing Third Data Source

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” 
-Robin Williams 

Hopefully, all of you have a fond memory of an English teacher who taught you the joy of great literature. For me, it was Mrs. Moore. She asked us to read Paradise Lost by Milton, it was and still is one of my favorite books. My mind was blown, it was such a profound story and sparked an interest in language that has never left me. The phrasing, structure, and choice of words were really fascinating to me. For those of you who don’t remember it’s an epic poem about Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Not that I expect anyone would want to read this again, however, if you’d like a copy, I’d be happy to send one to you.     
 
As I read the poem, my mind was processing the language on many different levels. I was following the storylines, making connections between the characters and language, experiencing the emotional intent, and following a cadence of the poem, all of which helped me make sense of the story. We all do this when we read a book, see a movie, or watch a YouTube video. When you experience content, your mind follows a process of understanding the language, which is how you make sense of what is being shared with you. Most of this processing happens unconsciously. There is another great book call the “Secret Life of Pronouns”, Frank Taylor recommended this book to me. It explains how the use of pronouns belies your mental framework and underlying thinking on a subject. If you’d like a copy of this book, let me know.   

I’ve been sharing my enthusiasm for Linguistic AI and MarkLogic for a while because I believe those two technologies in combination will allow us to turn content into a data source. This will be the third pillar in advanced personalization technologies. If we are able to take Profile data (Data about people) Analytical data (Data about behavior) and use content as an additional data source, we can then plumb all of those data points into a machine learning system that would define the right experience for each person or segment.  
 
I need everyone in Tahzoo to start thinking about content in five dimensions; 
You naturally do this anytime you listen to someone. There is an area of research call NLP Neuro-Linguistic Programing. Neuro refers to your neurology; Linguistic refers to language; programming refers to how that neural language functions. In other words, learning NLP is like learning the language of your own mind. We are applying the learnings of NLP to create richer data models so that we can create an experience that feels right. 
By combining the three data pillars, we will be able to use Artificial intelligence to structure an organize experiences for the consumers. The system will be able to take into consideration, your context, your intent, and most importantly how you interact with content toward a specific objective. This will be a major paradigm shift in the way marketing and personalization are conducted today. Most personalization solutions are grounded in an e-commerce paradigm, where the marketer sets up a series of A/B testing experiments that try to identify what most consumers are responsive too. This leads to a wide variety of problems, starting with the tyranny of the majority, where because the red button is selected 52% of the time everyone gets the red button, never mind the fact that 48% of the customer like the blue button. When these models are applied to content or the sequencing of content it is very difficult to avoid content silo-ing where you create a reinforcing selection of the same content.  
 
What people are really looking for is a solution that understands the context and expectation of your experience and then delivers this efficiently. The reason that content and language is that it is the basis of understanding and brand building. When you feel understood and you share a common language with your customer it strengthens their brand affinity and increases the likelihood that they will take action. We have a long way to go in modeling out human to human interaction patterns in a digital context but Haystack Tahzoo’s product for transforming content into actionable data sets is a huge step forward.  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Smart and Happy People: Knowing How You Contribute to the Mission of the Company

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard 

With the continuous Innovation, Measurement, and the Orchestration and the consistency that follows, this provides each of you the time to continuously investigate the way of working, finding “The Best Way”. 
 
When you spend your time exploring the possibilities for improvement, you will not only start to apply that at work but also in your life. The work itself becomes the crucible for your personal transformation. 
 
The work itself becomes something other than a habit; it becomes an exploration into who you are and how you express ourselves in relationship to something much larger. Our mission is to make millions of people a little bit happier every day. The framework of examination is different for everyone but work through this thought experiment for a moment; 

  • First, what is your role? 
  • What function do you fulfill? 
  • How are you impacting your peers? 
  • What is the strength and quality of your relationships with your client? 
  • How are you making an impact? 

With the answers to these questions in mind, start the process of investigating a better way. Tahzoo exists in the context of serving clients and one another, the purpose it fulfills, and the impact it has on those who come in contact with our company. 
 
The process of continuous improvement might start as a habit, but it becomes a way of being. It becomes an opportunity for each of you to find your best self and the best way of working when you consider that we are a family of people working together to make our clients successful. Without a positive impact on our clients and one another, Tahzoo ceases to fulfill its mission. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Practice Makes Perfect

The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary” 
 Vince Lombardi 

The first presentation is the first impression. You only get to do that once. It sets the stage for the meeting and expectations with the client. I talk about framing conversations in the sales process which is about setting up the criteria for selecting a service partner that favors Tahzoo. We are always the boutique alternative to the big guys, so clients need to evaluate all the vendors on what makes us different in order for us to win. If the presentation is written correctly we are subtly suggesting to the client that those criteria are more important criteria for selecting a service partner. At the end of the day, our clients are betting their credibility and career by selecting Tahzoo. 


 Often, I am asked why does Tahzoo have such a fancy client list? I mostly demure to good fortune, that our service offering is unique and that we are grateful for the opportunity to service our clients. It is a canned response, not unlike what you get during an interview with professional athletes after a big game. What it belies, is the tremendous amount of hard work and dedication that we put into pitching and winning in the big leagues. 
 
We have been transforming our brand and the quality of our presentations over the last year.  Kudos to Don, Bryan, and Kyle for all their hard work and effort to make that happen. We do a lot of different kinds of work at Tahzoo. There is no one size fits all presentation of capabilities that we can standardize for each opportunity. Every client has a different business challenge to overcome and how we go about making them successful is different. We need to tailor it so that we can properly set the stage. This takes a lot of coordination between the business development team, delivery team, and the creative team to ensure we are Pitch Perfect. It’s hard work. It takes patience and good communication between teams. I’ve never experienced a sales pursuit that didn’t include a fair amount of arguing about the win themes or approach. Having a strong opinion at Tahzoo is table stakes, remember our values “We believe in the market place of ideas”, however, we still need to get to consensus and execute. 
 
With the expansion of our partner strategy, the diversity of our service offerings, and that we are pitching work on three different continents, our pipeline is growing rapidly and the demand for presentations is increasing. The team is really coming together and I am pleased with our results. The fact that we could turn a world-class presentation around in less than a day is a testament to the hard work and focus on execution across teams. A big thanks to John Kottcamp for dropping everything he had to do yesterday and “owning the deck”. 

  

Let’s go be great! 
Brad