I was interviewed last week by Jennifer Sherman who runs a video blog called The Influencer Collective Show. I’ve included a link to the interview. Please take a moment to watch it in its entirety here.
The interview is a discussion of what it means to be an influencer, my philosophy about the Tahzoo corporate culture, and how it takes its shape. I would love to hear from you about what you think makes someone an influencer, our culture, or any other commentary you’d like to share.
Let’s go be great!
I’ve never faulted someone who gave their best effort. That’s not to say that I believe in participation trophies either. We are a premium firm and as such, our clients expect premium results and a premium work product. The quality of our work is what distinguishes us from the big consulting firms. Great service and a great product will allow us to thrive and prosper in a time when clients need to deliver on digital transformation.
Our differentiator that we’ve learned over the years is – every client is different. They have different cultures, different business problems, and are seeking different solutions. The reason we win business over our competitors is we provide bespoke and custom solutions for our clients. We are not a one-size-fits-all shop; we believe that relevant and personalized experiences are the key. The aftermath of COVID is increasing demand for more efficient and relevant digital experiences… another way to think about this is that our clients need agility in their systems and processes to quickly respond to market changes.
Our engagements always start with a piece of software, we paint a vision that is well beyond the immediate impact of the implementation, and then seek to transform their business. This model is about helping our clients extract value from their technology investments.
The quality of our work isn’t just about perfect deliverables with no spelling errors or bug-free code – that is the bare minimum for a premium firm. Quality is about how well our team collaborates and communicates with our client. We often divide the client work into sub-tracks and smaller teams, which make interteam and cross-team communication even more important. Every member of an account team should be able to explain the value of the work being provided to the client. That does not mean you need to be able to describe how we write code if you’re a digital strategist, but you should be able to explain the benefits of the work to our clients.
I’ve been talking with the Leadership Team about how the status quo for engaging our clients’ needs must change. We need to update our patterns and practices; after 11 years we do many things well, but we also have opportunities for improvement. I’d like to see the Account Teams spending more time discussing and presenting the work to one another a week ahead of time. A robust process of peer review and collaboration around how as an Account Team we can make our client successful should be a weekly habit. We win together or lose together; every facet of an Account Team needs to be communicating and striving to create success. Consulting is about communication, good ideas, and collaboration. If our teamwork is strong, I am confident that with all the talent we have a Tahzoo, our clients will be successful.
Let’s go be great!
The fundamentals of our business can be simply boiled down to a few things: great customer service, high quality work product, and a passion for improving our clients’ business. It’s easy to overcomplicate your work or how a business runs. I spend a lot of time trying to simplify things – today’s DOB is just that, encouragement for all of us to focus on the basics.
Great customer service is so easy and so often unattained. It starts with being Smart and Happy; if you have a good, cheerful and positive demeanor, you’re giving your clients energy. Nobody wants to work with (much less pay for), a grumpy consultant. The second point to great customer service is just being responsive and following through on your commitments in a timely fashion. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep and for the good of our company, if you’re going to miss a deadline, please overcommunicate and do it early. Our brand promotes how, “You’ll enjoy working with us, we’ll enjoy working with you, and together we will do great things.” This is our promise.
My brother Paul always said to his kids, “It’s nice to be nice.” I’ve used the same with my kids and I’d say the same thing to each of you, it’s nice to be nice! Go be nice to your clients, go be nice to one another. I’ll talk next week about improving the quality of our work, in the meantime put a smile in your voice and go call your clients.
Let’s go be great!
I’m about 2/3 of the way done with my favorite BBQ drive, along with my 13 year old son, Mitch. There are two restaurants left for today and two more tomorrow. The funny thing about BBQ is it’s mostly the same, then you occasionally find a good place. Here are a couple stand outs for both good and bad…. “Porters” in Gallup, New Mexico was tragic… meatless ribs if you can believe it. I would not recommend to a friend, or even my worst enemy.
|The “Whole Hog Cafe” in Santa Fe, New Mexico is a great example of somewhere you must arrive early. Unfortunately my car totally broke down on the way… by the time I got there, they only had pulled pork and some sides left. I’d been across the street prior at “Cowgirl BBQ”, more of a bar really… live southwestern country music – a fun place for a drink but BBQ not worth having. The leftovers at the Whole Hog were great, just get there early!|
|Now, “Tyler’s Barbeque” in Amarillo, Texas is a place to show off. Very good barbeque in-line with Texan tradition. Mitch had his brisket chopped instead of sliced. I think pork is better chopped rather than brisket, but overall a top contender.|
|We passed through a scary town and wound up at the best so far, “Whole Hog Cafe” in Little Rock, Arkansas. This is not to be confused with the “Whole Hog Cafe” in Santa Fe as they’re not related – just a popular name. This location has won the BBQ World Championship several times over and you can tell. The ribs were unbelievable…|
|Last night we went out on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee to a dueling piano bar. They performed some good singalongs and we enjoyed ourselves. A couple more days of driving until back we’re back in DC! |
I hope you all take time to do something you really enjoy this weekend.
Let’s go be great!
Seems so long ago, late in February of 2020 I was writing to you about how excited I was to go on a cross-country BBQ trip. Wow … that didn’t really work out! I wound up getting stuck in San Diego because California shut down and I wasn’t sure if I was even allowed to drive, eventually I raced back up to Seattle and hunkered down with my family. Like all of us when Covid started our plans we’re dashed, and the road ahead became uncertain (no pun intended). Flash forward, life goes on, and the world continues to spin … I am starting my cross-country BBQ drive today!
For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, I’ve been doing these drives for many years now. When I first started, there weren’t smart phones. I would read up and have a general plan but the best BBQ joints I discovered through word of mouth. I would go to the local truck stops and ask around, but the best referrals were always by the cops. As the years passed, the internet and smart phones became ubiquitous, and the planning has become much easier. Although one of the things I enjoy most about these trips is meeting people. BBQ is a quintessentially American tradition that brings family and friends together. I’ve never met an owner of a BBQ spot who didn’t have a story to tell about how or why they started their business.
I’ll be headed south from Seattle through Idaho, Utah, and eventually to Santa Fe where the BBQ portion of the drive will begin in earnest. I will mostly follow interstate 40 … Oklahoma, Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Winston, Richmond (big shout out to RVA!), and then D.C.
I am looking for any suggestions you might have for places to stop on the way. If you happen to be near my route let me know and we can meet up. I am always down for a BBQ joint and/or a Tiki Bar.
Let’s go be great!
Well Happy Fourth of July! Gosh, I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy a BBQ and time with family and friends. It is truly amazing to think about where the country was at a year ago. I was worried about Covid, Tahzoo, and the political discourse in our country, and many other things. Here we are a year later – the Covid vaccine is widely available, what a miracle of modern medicine! Tahzoo is making progress and improvements in many areas, I am excited about launching our software business in earnest, more about that later. As difficult as the election and post-election events, the country is still moving forward and the rule of law has held firm; our Founding Fathers had amazing insight to build in safeguards and protections that have held us together.
I cannot tell you how many times I have shared this quote by Mark Twain and reminded myself daily that allowing my mind to wander into the darkness of terrible consequences is a bad mental habit: “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” The more time I spend reminding myself what I am grateful for rather than worrying about things outside of my control, the happier I am. As I write this DOB today, I am keenly aware about the importance of having perspective. I would encourage all of you to take the time to reflect on the last 4th of July compared to this year and ask yourself, “How does my perspective, my perception of the world, and my attitude influence my wellbeing and happiness?”
This letter in no way is meant to diminish the real tragedy and suffering that people experienced in the last year, just a reminder that how you choose to spend your mental energy and time really matters. A final quote on this topic from Randy Pausch, Author of the book The Last Lecture: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
Again, Happy 4th of July!!! Have a great weekend and we’ll see you next week!
Let’s go be great!
Next week I will resume sharing my thoughts and plans about Zoodio and our software business…. In the meantime I wanted to reshare a note I wrote about 5 years ago that’s still relevant today…
We’re in the relationship business
When I think about the skills required to execute our mission, not only does it include a high level of expertise in the areas of marketing and thought leadership, it also means that we are excellent at building and maintain great relationships with our clients.
If you were asked what does Tahzoo do? Would your answer be; we build great relationships with our customer so we can help them change? Or would it be something like we do digital marketing? Or we’re a customer experience agency?
We are in the relationship business. It just so happens that the primary value add of Tahzoo is we work on customer experience problems. Here are my thoughts on developing a great relationship with your client.
You care for your clients –
Caring is not defined by how you feel, but by how you act. I’d go on to say that it’s a commitment. A commitment to your client’s success, to treat them with respect and to care enough to do your best work on their behalf. If you truly care about your client, you obligated to find a higher purpose in your relationship with them.
You’re a servant –
You put the client before yourself, before the company and before profit. With a servants heart you assist your client in any way necessary to ensure their success. Zig Ziglar a famous sales trainer used to say “ you get what you want by helping other get what they want”.
You’re honest –
Honesty requires courage. Good consultants have opinions and in a respectful way they share their perspective and experience. If the primary goal is to ensure the clients success, then they need to hear from you what you really think. The better the communication, the stronger the relationship, build the trust and have the confidence to engage your customer in the market place of ideas.
You make Friends –
I make friends with my clients. Many of my clients from my Microsoft days are still friends. Your work is important but a friendship creates a basis for trust. We are a company full of smart and happy people… share your happiness, be friendly and get to know your client.
You’re Patient –
The work we do is hard…we are agents of change. Our clients built tremendously successful business over a long period of time and although technology and consumer expectations are changing rapidly, they need time to catch up. Be patient, take the time to explain things and don’t be afraid to stick with your client while they work through the internal challenges of managing change.
You’re loyal –
Trust is a function of consistency over time. The client needs to know that you’ll be with them through and through. Same is true for our software partners, if we are introduced to an opportunity by SDL for example, then we win when they win.
You check in regularly –
If you have a great relationship with your client, then you’re be continuously checking in to ensure that you share a common vision of success. Working together, building together, failing and succeeding together (all while pursuing a common definition of success) is what great relationships are made of.
You Have fun –
Find the joy in your work and share it. Enthusiasm is infectious and sometime your client will need your energy. All great relationships have an element of fun. Smile, laugh and find reasons to celebrate.
Let’s go be great!
One of the reasons I picked the name Tahzoo was because it didn’t mean anything, the way I figured it, was that you never know how things might evolve. If I had named Tahzoo, Brad’s Digital Marketing Agency, we’d always be limited in our opportunity to grow and expand. We certainly couldn’t then become a software company. I wanted to create a company and a Brand.
A brand imbued with an ethos, an idea, and a promise.
When setting up the company, the first thing I did was define our values. As you’ve heard me say many times, our first value is “If you care about your clients and your care about your employees, you’ll have a company worth caring about”, that represents an ethos, a character or cultural attribute that defines us, defines Tahzoo. Although there are additional values to articulate, I think “We hire Smart and Happy people”, also needs to be mentioned because it describes who we are. We can do many different things and still be true to our brand so long as we stick to our values. Richard Branson’s Virgin brand is an example of this … regardless of the business, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Records or Virgin Galactic (https://www.virgingalactic.com they have a cool website), the essence of the Virgin Brand is persistent.
One of the reasons our mission is “To make millions of people a little bit happier every day”, is that it gives us broad latitude to pursue innovation and business models in service of that ideal. If we are making people happier, then any new business can fit into the Tahzoo family of businesses. There is much more to say about the Tahzoo brand and the stewardship of our business, but I’ll save that for another DOB. The point is that we are going to grow and grow significantly over the next few years, our Brand gives us the basis for not only growing the consulting business but also expanding into new businesses.
As I map out the next few years, I see us building three distinct but interrelated businesses: Our Consulting business, our Software business, and our Content business.
We’ve spent more than a decade learning how to drive digital transformation for Global 1000 clients. We have successfully targeted and won businesses with an amazing roster of clients. Our client list would be the envy of any agency in the world and puts us in competition with some of the most successful consultancies. We work for the best, we compete with the best and for our size, we are the best at what we do. What I find amazing about Tahzoo is that we do so much, there are a lot of agencies that can do UX, or Digital Strategy or Technology etc. but very few of them can put it all together. As much as we complain to ourselves about how “The Tahzoo Way” needs to be better documented and improved, we have to remember – we have case studies for a couple dozen Fortune 500 clients across a broad range of business problems and technologies.
Last time I looked, we’ve done business with 58 Fortune 500 clients, and we have active Master Services Agreements with 28 of them. We have a lot to be proud of. For me, I am most proud about our cultural agility – we’ve serviced clients in Asia, Europe and across the US, we’ve tackled business problems for Banks, Retailers, Consumer Packaged Goods, Healthcare and Global Manufacturing. From Starbucks to BCG to Viking River cruises, we are in very rarified air when it comes to consulting and our ability to be agile. The scope of what we deliver, and the breadth of our clientele is a core strength of Tahzoo. We do cool work for cool clients.
Over the past couple of years our growth has slowed, I think mostly due to Covid but also, we need to refocus on our quality and our customer service. A major reason I’ve reorganized the company with Darrell leading existing and former client growth and Dave driving new business is so we can be more focused and more targeted in our business development efforts. The work that Matt, Dara, and Tom are driving throughout delivery is directed at improving our quality and customer service. Gabi, Arden, and I are working on improving the employee experience. If we execute against these strategic initiatives, we can restore Tahzoo to the levels of growth we saw in the first five years of the company. As a reminder and if you weren’t with Tahzoo at the time, we were on the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies in America three years in a row, one year we were as high as 85 on that list.
At a minimum, I’d like us to be growing at 40% per year, consistently profitable, and have VOC scores above 3.8 on a weekly basis. To achieve this, we need your help. Every day, each of us makes Tahzoo a little better or a little worse. Did you go the extra mile for a client today or did you sit back and watch someone blow it because it wasn’t your job? NMP, (Not my problem) started out as a joke, but I fear it’s become a cultural artifact of Tahzoo. Although our work is challenging and our clients are challenging, that is not why our growth has slowed, it’s because too many of us have allowed neglect to persist. I take personal responsibility for this issue within Tahzoo, and I will work tirelessly to eradicate it from our company. Let me frame this for you, if you are in the position to see that someone is struggling and might fail to meet a client’s expectation and you choose not to take action to ensure that the client experience is excellent, then you are the problem, not your colleague.
Our Brand promise, “You will like working with us, we will like working with you and together we will do great things” isn’t a slogan, it’s a way of doing business, it’s an expectation that we all need to uphold every day. Like a great restaurant, you don’t earn Michelin stars because you’re occasionally brilliant, you win them because you’re consistently brilliant. Nordstrom built their business on consistently great customer service; we are going to do the same. What I learned working at Nordstrom was that great customer service was not a grand event or a new system, it was a lot of little things – the cumulative impact of an entire organization focusing on the detail of good service. The only difference between Tahzoo and Nordstrom is that we also make the product … That is why I frequently mention that Tahzoo needs to improve the quality our work and our service because they are uniquely interdependent. Keep this in mind as you’re working to make Tahzoo a better company.
We will be measuring our topline numbers in the consulting business more diligently and sharing out our score cards, so that each of you will have the data to make better decisions and improve our business. I will be paying particular attention to the growth with our existing and former clients, it is the easiest place for us to drive growth. How do you know if your clients are happy? They buy more services from you … It’s just that simple. This might be the most important lesson in business I learned from Mr. John Nordstrom.
To sum up our strategy for Tahzoo consulting over the next couple of years, we will improve the quality of our consulting and customer service, while using data to drive better decision making across the company. 40% growth, 3.8 VOC scores, and 2 new Global 1000 clients per quarter, leading us to 25 Global 1000 clients spending $4MM with Tahzoo per year. Time for us to buckle down and make it happen. I don’t know about you, but I am excited about our opportunity and how the market is aligned for Tahzoo to thrive and grow in the coming years.
I had intended this to be a two-part letter, however I think I want the strategy for the consulting business to sink in and be discussed next week. I will outline the strategy and goals for the Software business (Smart & Happy Inc.) and the Content business (Zoodio.io) in subsequent DOBs.
Let’s go be great!
This is the first of a two-part letter about Tahzoo and our plan forward. I see the next six months as a pivotal time for Tahzoo and for each of you. We have a lot of opportunity to grow and be profitable, however that is dependent on how well we execute. We are a team; everyone has a role to play contributing to the success of Tahzoo. We talk often about how we are smart and happy people who are passionate about improving the quality of the customer experience for our clients. Those traits need to shine bright in the coming months for us to achieve our goals.
A strong, healthy, growing business creates opportunities for Tahzoo. It will allow us to expand into new practice areas and start adjacent businesses. The market is ripe for disruption, a new way of doing business and we are in the enviable position of leading the change in the marketplace. We are only limited by our ambition and our ability to work together as a team. Growth will provide career opportunities and financial rewards for each of you.
A golf tournament takes place over four days and 72 holes. The third day is called moving day. With only 36 holes left to play if you’re not one of the leaders by the end of the third day, you’re not going to win the event. Unless the tournament is a Tiger Woods style blow out, about 10 or so strokes separate the contenders from the leaders. If you don’t play well on moving day, you run out of time and you cannot make up enough strokes to win.
My swim coach Mike Troy used to say something similar “all races are won or lost in the third lap”. His point was that everyone has extra adrenaline as they finish a race but in the third lap you can make up ground or extend your lead. All his emphasis for conditioning and race strategy was focused on being at your strongest in the 3rd leg of the race.
With July just around the corner, Tahzoo is about to enter the third leg of the race or in golf parlance, Q3 is our moving day. Given the circumstances we have had a decent first two quarters, not great but we’ve set the stage for real growth and success for the remainder of the year. As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s all going to come down to execution over the next three months.
We have some ambitious plans to address the needs of the market. We are going to expand into three areas: growing our consulting business, launching our software business, and launching our Zoodio business.
Our market opportunity –
The pandemic has changed everything. Our value proposition is more in demand today than it’s ever been. Improving the quality of the customer and employee experience is being mandated by every CEO and Board of Directors within the Global 1000 companies. The sudden shift in consumer and business-to-business behavior is threatening the empires that our clients have built. For example, one of our clients were happy to have Amazon and big box retailers manage sales distribution of their products into the US markets. A marriage of convivence, that’s not looking like a good strategy these days as big box retailers are going out of business and Amazon is increasing their cut on every transaction. Left unchecked, their margins will be eroded and the connection between their customers and the brand will be diminished. While this may not be an immediate problem, over time this is how business fail. They lose touch with their customers and a cheaper or more efficient competitor takes away revenue and profit. There are so many examples of companies not responding quickly enough only to see their empires crumble. We create experiences that just work and drive increases in revenue and customer loyalty.
Our business-to-business clients need to educate their customers, so they can win the hearts and minds of potential customers. They typically have large sales forces and distribution models that are predicated on human-to-human interaction. Well as we all know, it will be a long time before the number of conferences, seminars and in-person sales meetings, get back to pre-pandemic levels. Our clients need to be excellent at sequencing content to prospects in a way that accelerates the sales process. A one-size-fits model doesn’t work, if your goals is to persuade all of your customers. Let’s take BCG for example, how do they communicate their thought leadership and eminence in a way that drives engagement and ultimately sales? It’s going to be through providing experiences that are tailored to the unique business needs of each potential client. We help our clients drive engagement which drive revenue and repeat business.
Often overlooked, but just as important – empires are built and managed on operational efficiencies. COVID broke many of the systems for how information is communicated within a company. We are fortunate to have digitally savvy employees who can easily navigate content systems to collaborate and find the information that they need. Most companies do not have this expertise embedded within their workforce. They are primarily built on specialization and more specifically, specialization within a domain of knowledge. Let’s take our client Deloitte, they are trained accountants and auditors who use technology, but technology is not their core competency, it’s accounting. When you’re not all in an office together, how do you share knowledge efficiently? We are much better at asking questions than we are at writing search queries. Deloitte has 80K auditors globally, that is a huge number of people who need the right information at the right time and in the context of the task they are performing. They can’t just walk down the hall and ask a more senior person a question about an accounting regulation. These are huge problems that all of our clients need to solve. Improving the operational efficiency of your staff by 10% is worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of additional profit each year. What do we do for a living … we help our clients get the right information in a contextually appropriate way, we drive additional profit.
To put a fine point on my examples, we help our clients, grow, be more profitable and build loyalty by providing experiences that make millions of people a little happier every day. We could not be in a better position to meet the demands of the market. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time, that is Tahzoo.
Next week I am going to dive into each of the three businesses, our goals for the next six months, and how we will drive synergy and growth for Tahzoo. These are exciting times for us and I want each of you to remember that in business there are windows of opportunity that come along every now and then, the winners are not the ones that can see the opportunities, they are the ones who can execute against the opportunity.
I’ll leave you with my all-time favorite quote by William Shakespeare – From Julius Cesar:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”
Let’s go be great!
We launched a new Tahzoo.com today… Yeah!!! Not a full site redesign – we made updates and changes to give our brand a new look and feel. Please visit the site this weekend and if you see something that needs attention, please pass your observations along to Eddie.
Coming out of COVID we have had some good new account wins, but not nearly enough. Between the natural completion of existing projects and some quality and customer satisfaction issues, we are not growing our existing accounts as expected. We are also not winning enough new accounts to fill in the gaps and accelerate our growth. We should be seeing growth numbers in the 30% to 40% range for the year.
A couple observations that I’d like to share:
We have improved our case studies, we’re launching a new site, and we have several outbound direct marketing campaigns in progress. While I expect that we’ll continue to improve and attenuate our outbound marketing, that will never be a substitute for thoughtful and meaningful conversations with our clients, their personal goals and projects down the road, are a simple and easy way to find new opportunities for Tahzoo.
We don’t need everyone in the company to become business development experts, far from it. What we need is for each of you to feel comfortable talking with your clients about how we might be able to help. Ask about their martech stack, what is working well, and where they are missing their numbers. If you sense an opportunity, just drop a note to Darrell or your Experience manager.
The power of our company is that we are a boutique firm that offers many if not all of the services of others, we are just better and are less expensive than our competitors. We play on the A basketball court; we really are the best at what we do and I would take Tahzoo over our competitors any day of the week. We are not only a great shop, we are able to change our engagement model to fit our clients’ culture. Take a look at our new case studies and our client roster on the website.
If you have a complex customer experience challenge and you need a firm to help to drive change and deliver on a vision, then we’re the team for you. So get out there and ask a few questions the next time you have a moment with your client.
Let’s go be great!
Happy Memorial Day weekend! I want to take a moment to remember our fallen soldiers and give sincere gratitude to families who have sacrificed so much for this country and our freedoms. We owe all of them a tremendous debt. I hope that this weekend is a reminder to all of us that brave men and women have given their lives for our independence. The Bill of Rights and our unalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness applies to all Americans. Although we have many differences of opinion in our country, we should have no disagreement about the need to protect our constitutional rights.
I’ll leave you with this though that keeps ruminating for me and what I’ve been talking to my children about lately… If our constitutional rights do not apply for every single American citizen, regardless of their race, color, creed, gender, religion or sexual orientation… for every single American, they are not constitutional rights, they are privileges. Equality under the law is an unyielding term of art; equality does not provide for other than or different. If we agree that we all have equal protection under the law, all Americans are entitled to these rights.
Let’s go be great!