Practice Makes Perfect

“The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.” –  Don Shula 

Hi Everyone, 

I’ve been a bit circumspect and contemplative this week. I am keenly aware that time is marching on even though each day is bleeding into the next. I find myself vacillating between forgetting which day of the week it is and being shocked by the news of the world into higher states of consciousness. I feel sleepy then I am suddenly awake with some epiphany. I am trying to focus on my gratitude as an antidote to this roller coaster ride. It’s not just the emotional highs and lows, there is something more profound happening for me during this process. 
 
It seems trite and selfish in the midst of all of this tragedy to spend time focusing on myself, but this question of my purpose keeps resonating through my thought process. Since I was very young, I’ve made a deliberate effort to monitor my internal dialogue. The narrative in my head has been a source of suffering at times, but also great insight. I share this with you because it’s my hope that each of you uses this gift of extra time to seek answers to some lingering questions in your life. Open the door as the moments of awareness present themselves and just sit with the questions. 
 
As a young teenager, I was very interested in philosophy and religion. Call it divine intervention or good fortune, I met a man named Don Williams who became a mentor and a second father to me. Don has a Ph.D. in world religions, a Master of Divinity, has written a dozen books, and wrote the articles of faith for the Vineyard church. He became famous as a young pastor in the late sixties for giving a sermon called the “The Gospel According to Bob Dylan,” which drew over 3,500 attendees to the Hollywood Presbyterian Church. If you’re interested in learning more about Don, feel free to reach out to me, or check out the documentary on Amazon called “Salt and the Light.” 
 
The reason that I bring up Don is that I spent a lot of time with him contemplating the meaning of life and how various religions approached the concepts of enlightenment and salvation. As a teenager, Don played a critical role in shaping my thinking and how to consider larger life questions. We had a very Socratic relationship; he would give me books to read and then we’d talk about them. There is consistently a thematic approach across all these religions and books which is the idea of life as a practice. A practice being a set of meditations/prayers, a demonstration of values, daily activities, and habits. The point being is that you set your life’s course and incorporate the concept of practice into your daily life. More easily said than done for sure, but it has been a guiding life strategy for me. It’s another reason I wrote out the company values for Tahzoo before I even begin building the business plan. 
 
The people I admire most in my life, my heroes are people who have struggled to live their life as a practice in service of a higher calling. 
 
This week Don Shula passed away. He was the coach of the Miami Dolphins and led the team to the only undefeated season in NFL history. It’s an unparalleled achievement in a team sport. Certainly, this accomplishment is the headline of his life’s work, but it belies the mythology of success in our culture today. Success is not found. it’s not luck, and it’s not the façade presented on social media. Success is a way of life, it’s a practice. 
 
Don Shula presented at a Microsoft event I attended. It was a great speech, all about the pursuit of perfection and the importance of practice … practice, practice, practice. When most NFL teams were practicing once per day Shula had the Dolphins practicing three times a day. I was thrilled to hear from him but not as thrilled as my mentor from Microsoft, Jason, who grew up in Miami and has been a lifelong Dolphins fan. Jason had the honor of escorting Don Shula and his wife throughout the event. 
 
Jason shared a story with me this week that sums up the essence of Shula’s life and the main point of this letter. The speech kicked off at 8 AM sharp and there was a rehearsal scheduled for 5 AM. A Vice President from HP was going to introduce Shula, it was all written out and very specific. Sure enough, 5 AM came rolling around and the VP was a no show. Shula lost his temper and demanded that someone go get the VP out of bed and get him to the stage asap to practice. Disheveled and barely awake the VP arrived and gave a very poor first dry run. The VP had clearly not practiced and was expecting to just wing it. Shula angrily turned to the team of people prepping the event, including Jason, and said, “and that is why we F*#$ing practice!” 
 
I know things are challenging right now for all of us. There has never been a more important time to remember what’s important to you and make sure that every day, you’re practicing.  You may be practicing something that you’ve done all your life, or you may be practicing something new to you, and it’s frustrating to not get it quite right… that’s not what matters. It’s the effort, determination, and dedication to a constant pursuit of excellence that counts. Practice is a way of life. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

A matter of perspective

“Life cannot be calculated. That’s the big mistake our civilization made. We never accepted that randomness is not a mistake in the equation – it is part of the equation.” – Jeanette Winterson 

 Hi Everyone, 

I write these letters every week and sometimes they are easy to write and other times I’m confounded. It’s not usually writer’s block, it’s more reconciling the week and deciding on what I’d like to emphasize. I’ve had a dizzying week and I sit here today wondering if I could even possibly pick just one thing to write about. Nonetheless, time marches on and the Desk of Brad is due to be published. 

We all use events as markers in time. They are artifacts that help us organize our lives, think of them as the constructs or the lattice we use to give ourselves purpose and emotional stability. All of these rituals and habits settle our minds so we can function in a world of randomness. So, I want you to imagine yourself getting ready in the morning. You’re thinking about the vacation you’ve got planned … your mind wanders through the details; you smile as you think about the beach and how much fun you’re going to have. You make a mental note about seeing if you can use your miles to upgrade your seat on the flight and then remember that you need to buy a new swimsuit. Off you go, your day gets started. 

What isn’t immediately obvious is that the whole rest of your day is full of random events. You might unexpectedly run into an old friend at Starbucks or your computer hard drive will suddenly fail. Even though life follows basic patterns that you’ve constructed, it’s interspersed with random events. Some are considered good and some are considered bad, but either way, your whole life is a mental expectation that is interrupted by randomness. An interesting book that I’d recommend is called The Improbability Principle by the renowned statistician David J. Hand. His position is that one in a million events happen all the time. He goes so far as to say that statistically speaking, we experience a miracle event roughly once a month. 

The reason I mention all of this to you is that whether you recognized it or not, you live in ambiguity. None of us really know what today or tomorrow brings. As I mentioned earlier, the challenge with our lives today is that all of the suppositions and constructs we use to create stability have been interrupted, so we need to invent new methods of coping. The isolation and ambiguity of the COVID-19 crisis can be overcome with a little reframing and shaping of your thinking. 

I’d like to leave you with a famous Proverb that my mentor at Microsoft used to share with me whenever I was worried or stressed. It has become a permanent part of how I choose to approach my life. 

The Story of Chan: 

A farmer named Chan and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away, and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

The moral of this story is, of course, that no event in and of itself can truly be judged as good or bad, lucky or unlucky, fortunate or unfortunate, but that only time will tell the whole story. No one really lives long enough to find out the ‘whole story,’ so it could be considered a great waste of time to judge minor inconveniences as misfortunes, or to invest tons of energy into things that look outstanding on the surface, but may not pay off in the end. 

The wiser thing, then, is to live life in moderation, keeping as even temperament as possible, taking all things in stride, whether they originally appear to be ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Life is much more comfortable if we accept what we’re given and make the best of our life circumstances. Rather than always having to pass judgment on things and declare them as good or bad, it would be better to just sit back and say, “It will be interesting to see what happens.” 

While we are all challenged during this time, remember that none of us can see the whole story, we all experience it one moment at a time. Let’s focus on being grateful and put our energy into supporting our loved ones, and each other. 

Let’s go be great, 

Brad 

Staying calm and taking care of yourself

“Life is 10 percent what you experience and 90 percent how you respond to it.”  – Dorothy M. Neddermeyer 

Hi Everyone, 
  
I wanted to follow up on my letter from last week. I ran into Tom and his wife Cori a couple of days ago and found out he closed two more remodeling contracts! Wow, I guess spending time at home has many people getting to all of those “Honey Do” projects that they have been putting off. 
  
About three or four months ago I changed the locked screen on my phone to a quote from Mark Twain. “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” Read that quote again… it took me a second read to get it. 
  
I put this on my lock screen because I spend every day running through scenarios in my head about how to drive the business, manage conversations, make decisions, etc. It’s a very useful habit for the job I have but it was also adding to my stress level. When I read this quote it gave me the freedom to be more dispassionate and analytical about things. It was a way to remind myself not to allow my brain to run wild, generating anxiety around worst-case scenario outcomes. 
 
It got me thinking about anxiety and how I manage that in my life. First of all, let’s just be super clear, we are living in a time of heightened anxiety and stress. Each of our lives has been disrupted and the timeline for the end of all of this is at best, ambiguous. So, it’s normal and okay to be anxious these days and you won’t always recognize it when it’s happening to you. You could find yourself short-tempered, not sleeping well, or just having trouble motivating yourself … anxiety manifests in many different ways. 
  
I want each of you to take a quick anxiety self-inventory – a little homework for each of you, so grab a pen and paper or open notepad and answer the following questions: 
   

  1. How do you feel when you recognize you’re anxious? Describe the physical feeling … do you feel tension in your shoulders or sick to your stomach? Whatever it feels like for you, write it down. 
  2. What was going on in your brain right before you become anxious? What were you doing or thinking about? For example, as I mentioned today, my Mom went into the hospital last night and I found myself working and the random thought of “what am I going to do if, God forbid she dies,” popped into my head. 
  3. What triggers an anxious thought or loss of focus for you? For me, it’s two things, random thoughts and when I consciously play out worse case scenarios. As with all of these questions, everyone is different, so do your best to write down your experience. There is no right or wrong here. 
  4. When you’re triggered how does your communication or thought process change? Do you talk differently, does your choice of language change? For example, when I am anxious, I talk a lot faster than normal. 
  5. Write out a list of 5 things you do that cause you to lose track of time. For me they’re reading, writing, tennis, chess, playing with my kids, going on long drives, watching movies, and a few other things. Write out your list. 

I want you to do this exercise so that you can be more aware of when you’re anxious, and what is going on for you when that happens. I don’t have a magic pill for you but as you can imagine I have a stressful job, so I’ll share some of my techniques to manage stress. 
  
I watch comedies – laughter is great medicine. My brother Matt has a few impressions of President Camacho from Idiocracy that have left me rolling on the floor a couple of times. 
  
I’ve turned off all of the notifications on my phone, except the ringer. I make a conscious choice to use my phone, but I don’t let all of those notifications trigger my anxiety or remove me from the moment. 
  
I walk around a lot, I don’t mean I take a lot of long walks, but I mean I get up and move around. 
  
Several times a day I stop what I’m doing to focus on breathing and relaxing. I also try to enjoy a view. I look out a window or at a piece of art or at something that’s aesthetically pleasing to me. 
 
I exercise. You just can’t beat the restorative power of exercise. Get up and do something, go for a fast walk. 
  
I write out a to-do list every day. Doing this gives me a feeling of control and I make conscious choices around how I am going to spend my day. 
  
Lastly, try to do something every day that makes me lose track of time. Go look at your list and do more of it! It will help inoculate you from moments of stress. They call it being in flow, go look up Flow theory, there are many benefits to being “in flow”. If you’d like to learn more start here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology) 
 
These are a few of my coping techniques. Each of us has our own patterns, take the time to be conscious and present about feeling anxious so that you can manage it. I realize that for some people anxiety is a medical condition and my techniques may not get the job done, that’s between you and your doctor. 
  
I want each of you to know how proud I am of you. As a company and as a collection of teams, we’ve come together in this difficult time and done an amazing job of supporting one another. We have done some of our best work in the last few weeks. I see everyone hustling and working hard, I am so appreciative and proud. Remember we are agents of change, that’s who we are and that’s what we do. We can spread positive energy and we can reduce anxiety in ourselves and for each other. We can make the world a little bit better every day. We are Tahzoo. 
 
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 

Be Like Mike

“When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, 
that means they’ve given up on you.” ― Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture) 

In loving memory of someone who made me try harder… 

We continue to enjoy good fortune in the marketplace. As I wrote yesterday, happy clients and perfect quality work create a virtuous cycle that needs attention and care. I wanted to take a moment and remind all of you about the priorities for the business we discussed at the all-hands meeting.  
 
•    Great customer service – no balls dropped, no phones left unreturned, no emails unanswered. We are always either building or tearing down our client relationships. 
•    Perfect quality work – Every deliverable is reviewed for excellence before it sees a customer. We systematically review the work of our teams and our teammates, so we KNOW the work is good. We are all the avenging angels and teachers of perfect work.  
•    Focused on profitability – Eliminate unnecessary expenses, be mindful of T&E spend, review your expense reports, ensure everyone has billable work, hire accurately, and don’t give away hours by spreading people across the project. Maximize our margins. 
•    Resolve differences quickly – Get real with one another, don’t leave things left unsaid, agree on priorities, and adjudicate or resolve issues expeditiously. Make decisions quickly quickly quickly. 
 
Everyone needs a coach; everyone needs a mentor, and everyone needs to be focused on perfect quality work. Not close, not good, not even great but perfect. Perfect happens when teams collaborate and review one another’s work. When you’ve done your best and you take the time to put it before others for critique, you have a shot at perfect quality work. It’s the only way anyone of us can get better. 

As some of you know, I swam competitively for many years. In a very big swim meet, I lost a race by one one-hundredth of a second. That is less time than it takes you to blink and less time than it takes to say faster. I was devastated, to say the least, I hate losing! I went to talk with my coach, a gentleman named Mike Troy. He was an Olympic goal medalist and a world record holder and a decorated Navy Seal. I thought he would comfort me and tell me that I did a good job because I tried hard. Quite the opposite, he laid into me … calling out the mistake I made at during the start, how I handled my turn and not the least which was not stretching my fingertips out to touch the wall … it just went on and on. He was mad at me because he knew I should have won that race, he knew I could do better, and he was right.  
 
I was a young boy at the time, it took me a couple of weeks to recover emotionally from the loss, it would have been longer, but Mike was unrelenting. We practiced starts, turns, and finishes for what seemed like weeks. You know someone cares for you when they expect the best of you and won’t let you get away with anything but your best work.  
 
So, go out and be a Mike Troy in someone’s life, push your teammates, and be open to criticism, it’s the only way to get better. We are a company that wins first place not second with a “nice try”.  
 
Mike recently passed away, but not before imprinting himself on my life, and this DOB is dedicated in loving memory to a man who loved me enough to never accept anything but the best from me. It would honor me for you to read more about this amazing man who helped shaped my life here. 

Let’s go be great, and I love each of you enough to never accept anything but the best from you. 
-Brad 

Help, I need somebody!

“Help, I need somebody!”  

There are lots of books about holding people accountable, oftentimes these books focus on the clarity of the responsibilities, measurement, or structuring conversations that cut through the excuses. Yes, these are all important things to focus on. What I don’t like about many of these books is that accountability is more often a byproduct of great teamwork. 
 
*No one who is committed wants to let their teammates down.* 
 
So, let’s assume that you work with Smart and Happy people who are committed… but for some reason, they are struggling in their job. What should you do to help them? Here are a few things I’ve learned in my career that have helped me bridge the gaps in my teams: 

  1. I always try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. What is going on for them, what is their workload, what is the work that needs to get done and how does it fit with their skill set?  
  1. Is the issue a repeating problem or a pattern or is it a one off?  
  • If it’s a repeating pattern then is the issue systemic, a problem with the way the company is organized, or is it a deficiency in that person’s abilities?  
  • If it’s one-off, is there something going on in the person’s life that we all need to take into consideration? Are they sick, going through a personally hard time, etc.? 
  1. Are they open to having a discussion with me about the concern or do I need to involve someone else (maybe someone in leadership) to address the concern?  

 
I seek first to understand before I make any judgments. It’s easy to blame people and it’s easy to assign reasons for why they are not meeting expectations, but that is laziness and shows a lack of respect. 
 
My mom always used to say that if you respect someone, you’re actively examining your beliefs about that person and re-looking your underlying assumptions.  
 
Once I’ve taken the time to understand, then I take a hard look in the mirror and ask myself am I contributing to or causing the problem?  
 
Then teamwork should kick in… What can I do to help? Does this person need encouragement? Do they need additional resources? Do they have a personal issue that needs attention? Or in very few cases does this person need a corrective talk? 
 
If it’s something that is just really difficult for someone (we all have stuff we suck at (responding to email for me)) then how can we change the system to help that person be more successful? Anytime someone on your team is not performing or meeting expectations… it’s almost never an individual problem; it’s a way of working, a way of resourcing, or a way of supporting someone’s problem.  
 
Don’t be quick to anger, quick to blame, or worse yet- stand around and watch someone fail. We win together and we lose together. 
 
Be the kind of co-worker that makes everyone around you better. It’s why we have Kudos in the desk of Brad, our better selves should be expressed in the quality of our teamwork.  
 
 
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 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

The Pivotal Moment

In every sporting event, there is a pivotal moment that determines the outcome of the competition. While that moment may seem a matter of luck or stoke of greatness, it is inevitably the byproduct of years of hard work. We celebrate the wins, but what we should be celebrating is the tireless effort and dedication to excellence, to perfecting our craft.

When we started Tahzoo, we had an idea that we could change the nature of the customer experience for our clients and improve in some way – maybe just a little bit – the lives of millions of people every day. It’s a lofty goal, but it has driven me and all of you at Tahzoo. We began perfecting our craft by building large scalable SDL Tridion implementations, DIRECTV was our first client, then HP.com, Norfolk Southern, then TD Bank and the list went on; we haven’t looked back and we’re still consistently winning in the enterprise. We chose SDL because it was and still is the most scalable web platform.

If the goal was to deliver personalized experiences that customers found pleasing and clients could use to change their business models, then scalability is the biggest problem to be solved. Suffice to say that when it comes to building and running the largest web platforms in the world, we are among the very best. This is no easy feat and a result of the engineering excellence and rigor that has always been a part of the core of Tahzoo.

Over the years, we’ve added additional services to take advantage of our engineering prowess. Just like finding the right combination of ingredients in a gourmet meal, through trial and error we’ve perfected our recipes. For the first time in many years, my vision for the solutions we could provide our clients has been replaced with the confidence that we can deliver a complete and world-class set of solutions to our clients. This means we have the know-how, the acumen, and the technical expertise to deliver personalized experiences at scale. In this respect, we have a healthy advantage in the marketplace. Is it easy? Do we have all the communication patterns and practices worked out? No, but we are well on the way. When we talk about ‘The Tahzoo Way’, there is enough experience and documentation for us to build just about anything.

Then it’s about the people. Do you go to work surround by really smart and happy people? I know that I do. The more time I spend with clients and each of you, the more grateful I am for the talented people we have at Tahzoo. There is certainly no shortage of passion and opinions, all of which when harnessed properly is the foundation for innovation and a great company. We have more work to do in this category; sometimes that passion is taken as an affront rather than something to be celebrated… I see this in teams frequently. One of my goals is to work with the teams and encourage ways to see the best in one another and to put the client first. Our individual differences can be resolved over time – our clients expect excellence from us in our work every day.

At Tahzoo, the quality and strength of the relationships both internally and externally are the single greatest barometer of success. If you wake up every day thinking about how to improve your relationships, then you are on the right track. Honestly, if you go to work each day and that isn’t top of mind, you should take a hard look at your contribution to Tahzoo. You may be technically or functionally excellent at Tahzoo, but that’s not enough; you need to have strength in your relationships so you can make others better. Occasionally I hear that management isn’t doing enough or that leadership is out of touch. I’d like to remind everyone that you are management, you are leadership… If you want to make changes in the company then just get started. We are not a hierarchical organization, we are a meritocracy… Go make Tahzoo great. Lead through influence and don’t be discouraged when you meet resistance. The power of your ideas and your conviction will win the day.

I constantly preach change and innovation… Often times I suggest change because I am trying to create energy and critical thinking for each of you about how to make our business better. In 2018, shake it up a bit, drive great ideas, and work with your colleagues to create the change you want to see in the company. The guideposts are as clear: follow the company values and then make sure the solution has buy-in from your colleagues and the rigor to take root within the company. We need to be clear about our measurable expected outcomes and the specifics of how we get there. As I mentioned last week, the leadership team is tackling one idea per week, I suggest you do the same. If we all put our energy towards one great idea, one great improvement per week, imagine where we’d be in a year!

At the end of 2018, what do you imagine? What do you want to see out of your experience at Tahzoo? These are important questions for each of you to consider. There is no happiness, there is no greatness by accident. If you want a happy and successful life, you need a vision for your future and the willingness to work hard to make it happen.

There are always distractions; they present themselves in subtle ways, slight detours from your goal, shiny new opportunities you hadn’t expected or the temptation to do slightly less than your best. Whenever I am confronted by these distractions, they are never clear-cut, they always appeal to some base unresolved issue that I am struggling with… in short, they seem like great opportunities and hard choices. However, as I’ve gotten older and slightly wiser, I’ve recognized the value of holding true to my vision. It’s what drives me and it’s what prevents me from making big mistakes. Take the time to have a vision for 2018, write it down, and hold on to it tightly. It will be your shield and your guiding principle through the distractions – think of it as the star you’ll sail your ship by.

Oh my gosh – being happy and successful takes hard work! There is just no way around this. There are no short cuts or easy solutions to dedicating yourself to your vision and then just doing the work. The issue is, there are always obstacles, unexpected challenges, random life changes, or newly discovered knowledge gaps, no matter what it is… it’s always resolved through hard work. There is a saying that greatness is just 5% extra effort – I think that is a crock of B.S. Greatness is doing the hard work and putting in the extra effort even when you don’t want to. As a young man, I struggled with this mightily. I procrastinated, I found excuses… usually in others. I thought I could trade natural talent for less than my best work. It wasn’t until one of my mentors pointed out to me that giving less than my best was an insult to myself and the gifts that I’ve been given. I used to think that winning was where I’d find satisfaction. I’ve come to learn that the satisfaction and happiness is in knowing that I’ve done my best. Then in those quiet moments alone, you can enjoy the peacefulness of knowing you’ve done your very best. Hard work – it’s fuel for your self-esteem, it will bring you success, but most importantly, it will bring you happiness.

If you find what I’ve written about meaningful and you’d like to talk more about these ideas and how to put them into practice, I am always available to meet you and share my perspective in more detail. We are all here to help one another and in this way, I hope to help some of you.

Let’s talk about my vision for Tahzoo in 2018.

On a personal level, I will be spending more time with each of you, in the work, and innovating on behalf of our customers. I find so much joy in selling the Tahzoo value proposition that it will be impossible to keep me away from driving new business opportunities. I will be working closely with many of you to complete the rebranding of the company and improving our go-to-market strategies. A great year for me will be measured in the amount of time I spend with employees and customers. My goal is to spend at least 75% of my time on those activities.

For the company, I have three major goals for the year. There will be many projects that deliver on the vision; but first the broad-brush strokes:

1. Making customers and employees first
2. Becoming a data-driven company
3. Re-capitalizing the company for growth

We are starting our Thrive review process next month. It’s a great time for each of you to reflect on the year that you’ve had, identify areas for growth, and set some big goals for 2018. Be bold and ambitious in your goal setting. There is nothing that you can’t achieve in 2018 with some vision and hard work. You have the vision for 2018, now it’s time to translate that into your goals and how you expect to improve and operate more effectively this year. It will take all of us working together in a concerted way to achieve our goals – I am confident that we have the right people married with great customers and market momentum to make our collective and individual aspirations come true.

Happy New Year – let’s go be great!
Brad