Your Sport is Your Career

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”   -Melody Beattie 

Can’t stop, won’t stop…  

You cannot break up with yourself, you cannot grow apart from yourself. No matter where you are in life, the rest is up to you.  
 
There are a lot of reasons that I started Tahzoo and a very important one is that I wanted to test myself. I wanted to see if I could build a company that did meaningful work and provided an environment where each person would have the opportunity to grow to find their best self. It is the most important thing to me. Over the last 9.5 years, I’ve been tested in so many ways, so many unexpected ways. I’ve found new reservoirs of strength and at the same time been left grieving over my failures and inadequacies. There was a show called ABC Wide World of Sports with the tagline “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. I used to love to watch this show as a kid, watching various athletic competitions with a detailed storyline about the contestants. I really enjoyed hearing the back story about the athletes and how they progressed through their training to compete at the highest levels. 

If I learned anything from the show, I learned that being good is hard but being great is a whole different level of effort. Even with all the practice, all the training, and all the effort, sometimes you come up short… but do you really? Or is it more about the effort and what you learn about yourself along the way?  
 
Your career is your sport. You work hard, improve your skills, and hopefully one day you’re executing at the highest levels. Sometimes you’ll be extraordinarily successful and sometimes you’ll come up short, but every day is a chance to learn about yourself and make improvements. I want Tahzoo to be a place where you have a chance to excel.  

I’ll continue to work hard and engineer the company in ways that increase the opportunity for each of you to be successful. Some days we’ll enjoy the thrill of victory and some days the agony of defeat, but you’ll never ever see me stop trying to make Tahzoo a better place and I hope that I can count on each of you to do the same.    
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

The Power of a Smile…

Have you ever noticed that a smile from someone can just make your day?

When I was a phone operator at Nordstrom (I’ve had almost every job at Nordstrom), we used to talk about having a smile in your voice when you answered the phone. Have you ever noticed how much more approachable a friendly voice is rather than a grumpy tone? I personally want to talk to a happy person, don’t you? 

When I was a young manager at Nordstrom, I would walk the floor every morning and consider how to reorganize the floor to increase sales, merchandising based on the day, the weather or hot products, etc. One day my store manager walked up to me and said, “what’s wrong?” I was surprised… and she said, “you look angry.” I was not angry, just focused. I realized when I concentrate, when I’m focused, I don’t always smile because I’m thinking about things. It was a lesson learned for me and a reminder of the importance of smiling. 

In our business, as a consultant, our clients are looking to us to give them the ideas and the energy to change. To persevere through difficult transitions, to be open-minded about new approaches and new opportunities. No matter how compelling your argument, no matter how sound your reasons, absolutely nothing starts a conversation off better than a smile. So even when you’re busy, even when you’re concentrating and especially when you’re with a client, remember to smile. 

Have a smile on your face, a smile in your voice and use your smile to brighten someone’s day. 

Let’s go be great!
Brad 

Being a good consultant, like being a doctor

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” 
-Leo Tolstoy 

My grandpa never met a stranger, he loved people and loved talking to them. My grandma used to say, “waking up, when his feet hit the floor his mouth started moving”. As a small boy when I spent time with them, we’d have coffee cake in the morning, and grandpa would talk and talk the entire time. My grandma trying to read the newspaper, growing frustrated would finally say, “Bernie, give your mouth a rest”. He’d be demurred for a few minutes and then start talking again.  
 
My grandma wanted to make her point a little more clearly one day hung a nicely carved plaque that said, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason”. It was part of their routine and some of their playful banter that I experienced growing up.  
 
It left an impression on me about how to conduct myself. I love talking too, but I also enjoy learning and listening. It’s funny what you remember from growing up and how it shapes your life.  
 
However; this desk of Brad isn’t about my childhood memories. It’s about being good consultants and good advisors to our clients. 

As consultants, we talk way too much. We don’t ask enough questions and we aren’t taking the time to really get to know our customers and understand their problems. Yes, that is a pretty strong statement from me and may feel categorically unfair but it true.  
 
Over the last six months, I have been working with many of you in our accounts, involved in several workshops and new business pitches. I see these beautiful decks, I hear our smart thinking, our leading-edge solutions … it’s all great but we aren’t asking questions and when we do, they aren’t very precise.  
 
Being a good consultant is like being a good doctor. They need to figure out what is going on with the patient, what they are experiencing and where is the pain BEFORE they begin to diagnose the problem and solution. So, what does the doctor do? Ask a bunch of questions. There is a pattern to precision questioning, you start broadly and then drill into specifics.  
 
As you begin writing your next deliverable, preparing for a workshop, or creating a pitch deck, start with the questions that need to be answered. We are a collection of smart and happy people, no doubt we are hired for our expertise, but we are not educators or professors. We are consultants, we need to analyze the problem and then use our expertise and solutions to solve problems. If you can’t tie your work product to a well-articulated diagnosis, then you didn’t ask enough questions.  
 
Back to my grandpa for a moment, he was the best salesperson I’ve ever known and although he talked a lot, he asked a lot of questions. He used to say “interested, is interesting”. The reason he never met a stranger is that he took the time to get to know everyone. Let’s spend our time learning more about our customers and their challenges. No more preaching teaching and assuming we know the answers … A great consultant first and foremost, asks great questions.  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Beware of the Ides of March

“As we live, we can learn” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg  
 
Happy Birthday, RBG! 

“Beware of the ides of March” 


I am sure many of you remember this phrase from Shakespeare’s play, Julius Ceasar. First whispered by the Soothsayer, then falling into the dialogue between Brutus and Ceasar, finally, Ceasar dismisses the Soothsay as a dreamer and ignores the concern. In a moment of great foreshadowing by Shakespeare, the audience is warned of Ceasar’s peril. 
 

Today is the Ides of March (the 15th) and since it’s part of our cultural lexicon I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the subject… 
 
I read a fascinating book a few years ago by Daniel Kahneman, Think Fast Think Slow, where he articulates how your brain naturally processes information in two different ways; quickly based on pattern recognition and training and slowly based on contemplation and absorption. Two examples would be reacting to the crack of a baseball bat and then deciding what college to attend. Our brains are powerful parallel processing engines that track vast amounts of information that don’t always reach the conscious mind. Did you ever wonder about the number of mathematical calculations that your brain makes when you throw a ball down the field to someone who is running away from you on a windy day?    
 
When you have an intuition about a situation or a person, how is that formed and what level of concern should you have? Great storytelling leaves clues for the audience to follow as the plot progresses. 
 
I wonder if in our lives we get clues, intuitions, or signs that we need to pay better attention too. Each of us has a perspective on divine providence, the fates or how randomness affects our lives, I won’t tip into a theological debate that’s for each of you to sort out. However, I am convinced that our brains are amazingly powerful tools, skilled at pattern recognition if, in a moment of mindfulness, you have an inkling, intuition, or an epiphany it might just be foreshadowing in your life.  
 
So, on March 15th or any other day, it comes to you “Beware of the Ides of March”.       
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

The Marketplace of Ideas

It takes all kinds of people. 
 
One of the things I enjoy most about Tahzoo is the diversity in thinking and talent within the company. We are truly a team of SMART and HAPPY people. Over the last few weeks, as we’ve onboarded new clients and projects, I’ve seen the best of our company has to offer. One of our most important company values is that we believe in the Marketplace of ideas.  
 
This means that each of us has an obligation, an imperative to listen to one another and absorb the great thinking that surrounds each of us. I am often asked what is the most challenging part of running Tahzoo? It’s creating space for all of the bright but very different minds within our company. We have engineers, creatives, strategists, mathematicians, writers, and analysts, imagine all the different perspectives that are brought to bear on our client’s problems?  
 
This also means that sometimes, well-intentioned, well-meaning teammates can have an entire point of view on how to solve a problem or approach a client solution. The point isn’t that the marketplace of ideas is supposed to sponsor conflict, quite the opposite the marketplace of ideas is that we hear one another with an open mind and work towards the best solution for the client. The only right solution is one in which the client’s business goals are achieved, not that your idea is adopted or that you’re proven right.  
 
It takes an entire team of skilled professionals to deliver solutions for our clients. Next time you find yourself advocating a position, take a moment to ask yourself if you’ve considered your teammates’ perspective, or rather spent your time trying to win an argument. We are all motivated talented people with a passion for our craft and our customers, let’s create space to hear one another and let the best idea be the boss.   
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

The Difference Between Average and Exceptional Experiences

“Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning.” – Robert Kiyosaki 

We live in a time of change where the established patterns of consistency and sameness are being challenged. The new mediums of the web and social media are positioning everyone to contribute to the next big cause, the next cool band, the next great restaurant, or the next extraordinary customer experience firm. 
 
Good enough stopped being good enough a long time ago – So why not be great? Why not be worth talking about? Why not be exceptional
 
Average now equals mediocre  (i.e. not worth seeking out, not worth talking about, boring – you get the idea). Defending the image of an average is exhausting. Think about that… the difference between defending what you know is your best work versus something that is nothing special. 
 
We are in the business of helping people sort out the intersections between technology, marketing, and sales. We have important processes, tools, and talents to complete that task, and candidly we are good – but we can always push ourselves to be better. Do you know why our job is hard sometimes? We are in the business of helping our customers change. We are all agents of change… and people fear change. 
 
We need to help our customers deliver exceptional experiences. An experience that is worth writing about, talking about, and sharing. Average experience is the new mediocre; let’s help our customers be great
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Showing That You Care

Saturday evening, I was traveling home in an Uber after a long day. I was tired and ready for a good night’s rest. My best friend had given a podcast on meditation, mostly related to the mind-body connection. The two hosts had those dreamy, serene voices that you’d expect when talking about meditation. Although tired, I was in a peaceful state, and I might add, the weather was fantastic. The windows were rolled down and the warm air added to the sensation of Spring… it was great.

For some reason I looked up – maybe the mind-body connection was at work, maybe I was in such a peaceful state that I could sense something was wrong, or it could have just been serendipity. A car in the far-right lane swept in front of us as she tried to make a U-turn across four lanes of traffic. We had no chance.

We broadsided her car (a Volkswagen Jetta) at full speed. My driver had just a moment to angle our car, a full-sized Suburban, so that we didn’t strike the driver side door head-on. Most of the impact was just behind the front wheel. Out of my peaceful state, everything went flying – my cell phone bag and headphones. Because I looked up, I was able to put my hands up and brace for impact. Needless to say, it was a serious accident, fortunately, no one was grievously hurt, just a lot of cuts, bruises, and soreness.

The Jetta was totaled, and as you would expect the Suburban was damaged but will likely see the road again. My Uber driver was amazingly professional, he checked on me to ensure that wasn’t seriously injured and then attended to the driver and passengers in the other car. I wasn’t long before a fleet of police cars and fire engines arrived; there was a bunch of fluid leaking out of one of the cars. After providing my information and report to the police, I was allowed to leave the scene. As I left, the police were giving a sobriety exam to the driver of the Jetta. I don’t know for certain, but I think she was either drunk or at least very affected.

I was a couple of blocks away from home, so I decided to walk the rest of the way. I figured after being shaken up, a walk would do me some good. I was reflecting on the fact that sometimes life has a way of interrupting – in spite of my mindful state, the world had grabbed my attention. In some stroke of irony, because I was so relaxed and connected, I was able to absorb the impact without significant injury. I’ll say that I had a moment of gratitude that my friend had recommended the podcast. By the time I got home, I began to think about how odd it was that the Uber driver had just “stopped” my trip and that if I hadn’t been so close to home I would have had to call for another Uber. I went to bed with a large glass of wine and some Advil.

When I arose the next morning, I expect to see an email from Uber, but nothing. I went to the app on my phone and the first thing was a prompt asking me to rate my driver. I thought, ‘Well, he did a great job, but what about the fact that we were in an accident?’ It took me awhile, but I figured out how to report that I was in an accident. Again, how weird they were expecting me to provide details including a picture of the cars (this was a mandatory field in the application, what if I hadn’t taken a picture?) I was sent an email from support notifying me that they “corrected” my fare with a refund. I appreciate the refund, I suppose – but I wasn’t looking for a refund. Seemed to me that someone should know that I was in an accident. That was it, the fare “corrected” email – was the last correspondence I had from Uber.

At Nordstrom, we used to talk a lot about service recovery and how to take care of customers when something went awry. This was our moment to shine, to make it right, and to give our customers a story to tell about how Nordstrom cared and solved a big problem. You’ve heard the stories and they are true, someone did return a pair of tires to the Alaska store. Where was Uber in all of this, I thought. I am a good customer and yet they couldn’t figure out a way to check-in and show they cared? You’d think the Uber driver’s application would have some notification that would call for another car to get you home and set up a series of emails or messages to see if you’re ok and let you know they cared.

There is no doubt this would have to be done carefully as there are legal considerations, but any legitimate legal team and PR firm could figure this out. What a missed opportunity for Uber to give me a story to tell about what a great company they are, and how they took care of me in an unfortunate circumstance. But sadly, I think the lack of any interaction belies the corporate ethos.

The driver, however, was my hero. My earbud case and one of my earbuds flew out the window during the accident. He and I both looked before I left but I assumed they were gone, run over, or just lost. My driver kept looking and eventually found them and returned them to me. On top of that, he sent several text messages to make sure I was ok. If there is a rating higher than five stars, he deserves it.

Things go wrong, life happens, mistakes get made – you can’t always prevent them but you can always show your customers that you care.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

Passion

We are only gated by our ambition. I was chatting the other day about my heroes and what I found so remarkable about them. I was recounting the first time I met Richard Branson, and what amazed me most was the way he thinks in terms of “Why not?”.

The guy realizes that airplane travel is terrible and that people want a fun and premium experience – next thing you know, he buys two used Boeing 747s and starts Virgin Atlantic. Which by the way, in my humble opinion, is the best transatlantic airline. Why can’t we have an airplane that flies from London to Sydney in a couple of hours, while as a passenger you get a chance to orbit in space? Boom… next thing you know, he starts Virgin Galactic.

Look at Elon Musk, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs – they all had a vision – they saw it and most importantly, they went for it. You might say, ‘Well easy for them, they all started multi-billion dollar companies and have been wildly successful.’ There is no doubt they had the vision, picked great markets, and were in the right place at the right time – most critically, they did something about it. Success isn’t born of good luck, it’s born of hard work and ambition.

I saw this quote by Ijeoma Umebinyuo, a Nigerian author:

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just… start.”

We have so many good things happening at Tahzoo right now. We got started, and there’s more to start… let’s go!

Let’s go be great,
Brad

What I Learned From My Best Customer

I want to tell you a story about one of my best customers, Gene. As a young account rep at Microsoft, I was tasked with managing the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). For some context: At that time USDA had 29 sub-agencies, over 100,000 employees, and an IT budget of well over $1.5B. The organization, the mission, and the politics of the agency were so complex that I didn’t even know where to start. It turns out that even in a place as complex as USDA, there are a surprisingly limited number of people who actually have most of the influence and make a majority of the decisions.

Like most people I suppose, I looked at the organizational chart and set a meeting with the Chief Information Officer for all of USDA. We had a nice meeting… she was very friendly and appreciative to hear what Microsoft had to say, unexpectedly for me, she asked me a lot more questions about what was happening within USDA then I was able to ask of her. Like most executives, she wanted to know what was happening in the field and she recognized that she only received very filtered information. All and all, it was a great meeting that got me nowhere.

I quickly realized that the org chart and the real power structure within an organization were not the same thing. Eventually, I found my way to Gene. He was located in Davis, California – about as far away from the DC headquarters as you could get. He worked in a small regional office and had a relatively unassuming title. There is a long and very interesting story about how I found Gene that I am happy to share in person if you’d like to know. Turns out Gene started at USDA when he was 17 years old and had been there for more than 40 years. He was someone who not only believed in the mission of USDA but had lived it most of his life.

In my first meeting with Gene, I passionately sold the value of Microsoft Software with all the features and benefits. He was patient, asked a few questions, and politely allowed me to finish my presentation, and then asked me to lunch. At lunch, he explained to me that he didn’t really care about all the features or benefits, what he cared about was how our software could impact the mission of USDA. He wanted to know if I even knew the mission of USDA. Without elaborating too much, he made it pretty clear that he saw vendors every week and all of them spent too much time talking about their product instead of talking about how they could improve USDA. He woke up every day thinking about how to make USDA a better agency, and he wanted partners to achieve that goal.

Over the years Gene and I became good friends; he was a second father in many ways. We did a lot of business together and I am very proud of the positive impact we had on USDA. What I learned from Gene was that his organizational power wasn’t a byproduct of his position on the org chart, it was that for almost 50 years when he finally retired, he made a difference every day. So when he spoke or made a recommendation everyone listened. It was his fidelity to the organization that was the source of his influence and power. Secondly, he taught me that my job wasn’t to do product demos or send feature benefit spec sheets, it was to understand how my products could solve problems and improve his agency.

Now when I engage with our clients I look for people who care deeply about their company and their mission. I want to get to know those people because they are the ones who make it happen – they are the ones who I can partner with to make a difference because making a difference is what they do every day. We are a customer experience agency; our business is about making our client’s customers a little bit happier every day. To find the “Gene” in your account, learn everything you can about your client’s business and start making a difference.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

Achieving Happiness

“My philosophy of leadership is to surround myself with good people who have ability, judgment and knowledge, but above all, a passion for service.” – Sonny Perdue 

Achieving Happiness 

 
Lou Holtz has been a hero of mine for a long time. He has a gift for explaining how achieving happiness and excellence is simply a matter of perspective and choice. I recently saw this video of his commencement address at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I would encourage you all to watch the video – if you’ve seen it before, a second time won’t hurt you.   
 
We have the opportunity to make millions of people a little happier every day. The work we do matters and that perspective keeps me going. I talk about the company values all the time because I want each of you to internalize them; they will guide your decision-making. The first and most important value of Tahzoo is the following; “If you care about your customers and you care about your employees, you’ll have a company worth caring about”. When you do the right thing, people will trust you. Caring isn’t one big decision, it’s a bunch of little decisions every day. 
 
We are agents of change, leading our clients to adopt new perspectives, new technologies, and new ways of working. Our clients have put their trust in us; living up to that obligation is simply a matter of choice.   
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad