Monday, December 30, 2013

Getting "PIN" -ed Down

The company, Target, had their bulls eye painted on their chest this past week.  We all read about the loss of nearly 40MM sets of credit card data.  What we didn't know, because they told us it hadn't happened, was that the PIN numbers were compromised as well. 

Once that truth came to light, then all of their credibility was lost and they now have a real consumer problem on their hands.  It begs the question, "Why didn't they just tell the whole truth the first time?"

There are so many examples we have of other companies who get in a crisis that it's not like any of us are learning this for the first time. We also know that the companies that are applauded for their transparency and forthright actions are the ones that we remember positively and keep on buying and consuming from them. 

Target chose the other path, or it so appears, and that might well haunt them for many years to come. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Long Walk

I've been known to say that our careers are much like running a marathon, because just like a marathon, being 26.2 miles, a career of 26.2 years (and more) is no matter how you add it up, long. And we don't really run our careers, we more walk them through and do the best we can to keep at it when the hills are in front of us, when we are in the valleys and when the long, unbending road in front of us seems only to end where our eyes can't see any further. This is our career. It's a long walk for all of us regardless of what our careers are and how many changes we have along the way. And in some years, like this one, I know of many people who have felt like it has taken all they have to just keep one foot in front of the other.

My favorite movie of all time is Lawrence of Arabia. I don't know why, but some of the scenes in the desert and the long journeys that they take in that movie have always stuck with me. Maybe because the movie is so long too, I don't know, but I know that I have felt on more than one occasion that like the movie, the future was nothing but a mirage on the horizon and that there couldn't possibly be that much distance between here and there.

One foot in front of the other has been a mantra for me on more than one job and one part of my career. Our careers are long walks that if we don't know where we are going and why, it can for many days, weeks, months or years, seem intolerable.

But, if we know why and where we ultimately want to achieve then each step is forward for a purpose.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Teflon or Velcro Culture?

Is your organization filled with Teflon or Velcro? 

What do I mean with that question? 

Teflon organizations don't let negatives get them down.  They don't allow the comments of others to stick, but instead get the meaning across and then roll off.  These are cultures where those from the outside can't understand how plainly and sometimes bluntly people can speak the truth.  These cultures can also be ones that move faster with less friction. The downside is that positive comments can also roll off too fast and should stick a little longer. 

Velcro cultures are just the opposite.  Everything sticks and nothing is easy to move.  One small comment can be debated and fretted over forever and then everything gets jammed up.  Funny thing about a Velcro culture is that the negatives still stick way more than the positives. The positives, are almost like the Teflon culture in that they get drowned out and ignored quickly, because there are so many negatives sticking around. 

Which is your culture? 

Which are you supporting inside of the culture?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Slipping In!

Could there be any more talk about all things monitoring us?  Phone records, cameras, satellites, listening devices.  Yes, they are all there and aren't going away.  But, we also personally benefit from all the technology that is letting everyone slip in around us. 

A big electronic seller this season is going to be wireless speakers.  Sonos has their Sonos 1 down to a very reasonable price point and is receiving (wirelessly I might add) great reviews.  We love for technology to slip into our world.  We are not that far away from being able to walk into our homes and wave our hands and we watch the house come alive. We like when technology seamlessly becomes friendly and useful.

As I write this, I just watched a fox (ironic, huh?) slip down our ice covered street and into the bushed behind our house. 

When, and if, we can have our products and services feel like they just slipped. like a fox, into our lives, like they were always there, then we know we have made it!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Got Your Back!

It's always great to have someone who has your back, regardless of what you do and the mistakes you make. Even better is to have someone who looks forward for you and gives you guidance on what to do next, paving the way for you to assure that you only get the best.  As you read this, are you thinking this is your boss?  Your mentor?  That would be nice, but unfortunately, those people also have their own lives and careers to watch over first.

This morning it was reported that William Morris Endeavor will pay $2.3B for the purchase of IMG.  That's $2.3B of having the backs of others.  Oh don't we all wish we had an "agent" who we could call on and allow them to manage our careers so we could just go do what we are good at doing, without the usual petty concerns of the office?  But, that's not in the cards for most of us. 

But, what we can do is think like we have an agent.  We can start asking ourselves what would would we do today if we were our agent.  That extra thought could be worth a lot. 

If WME sees $2.3B in managing others, we can surely see value in the 100% managing of ourselves.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Heat Seekers Will Always Be There First!

Beyonce surprised everyone (well maybe Jay Z knew) with her new album last week.  With no marketing, no pre-hype build up, no leaks, no radio promotional copies, no early singles, she just released a full album with music videos prepared and all.  With her record breaking sales of 828,773 albums sold on itunes in the first 3 days, she proved that the heat seekers still are out there. 

We think we need to prime the market to get the hard core fans the people who want what they can't get to be there first. Beyonce proves that the "heat seekers", the ones who want it first, show up no matter when and how they hear about it. The PS4 and the XBox One also both saw their heat seeking fans this holiday season.   The videogame consoles have to tell everyone well ahead of time because they need the developers to be building games that will play on them when they are shipped, but I suspect that if everything could be kept under wraps (like Beyonce did), that they too could prove that the heat seekers will always be there. 

Do you know who your heat seekers are in your business?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Audacious and Outlandish Hope!

 A famous U.S. General said, "Hope is not a method."  He is right and even in my own company, I used to ban the word "hope" from being used in concurrence with business plans and objectives. But, let's not underestimate the power of hope for causing people to dream, imagine and innovate.  

If vision is "A description of those things not yet seen", then hope is the magnet that can get vision to come out of us.  

If we hope for better, then we will be drawn to come up with our own ways to make it better. The word hope got overused politically and maybe we shy away from it now because we don't want to get labeled, but let's not give up on hope.  

Audacious and outlandish hope may well be the breakthrough that you have been looking for (and hoping).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bottom and Top

It was on the front page and first story of every business paper, show, blog and news site.  General Motors promoted Mary Barra, to their CEO role.  The press wanted to make a big deal of Ms. Barra being the first woman to helm a car company, and that is right and fine of them to do this, but for me, the bigger story is that Ms. Barra is a 33-year employee of General Motors who began her career there as an intern and now is leading the company.

For those who are missing the amazing feat this is, consider that I believe it is harder to rise up from within a company to become CEO than it is for a Board to go to the outside and bring in someone new.  Why, you may ask?  Let's think about, "The grass is always greener on the other side".  It's human nature to think that the new and shiny object is better.  But even more so why it is hard to rise from within and go from the bottom to the top, is that people have history to deal with. 

In her 33-year career, Ms. Barra must certainly have crossed paths a few times with people who wouldn't today endorse her for the job.  She surely has made mistakes.  It would be naive to think that she hasn't had a few choice words with people along the years, who might still hold a grudge.  But, even so, she rose above the rest and made it through the gauntlet of time and experience to get to the top. 

My hat is off to her today!  Three cheers for the long-tenured and loyal who stay, believe, succeed and rise to the top!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What's Left Unsaid

I wrote yesterday of what a slip of the tongue can do to bring a company and it's founder to a low point, and in this case, the eventual ouster of the founder from the company. We must be careful with our words.  They matter and people are always listening and looking for a tweet moment. But, just as powerful are the words that we leave unsaid. 

A few weeks ago I was asked by the CEO of one of the Boards I sit, to talk to a senior member of the executive team who had a job offer at another company.  The CEO wanted to save the executive and so did I.  As I listened on the phone to why the executive was considering leaving, it was not about what had been said to him, it was about what hadn't.  In sports vernacular, this executive is a "franchise player".  We have been building the company around him with him being a key player going forward.  But, he didn't know that.  Why?  Because we never told him.  

Here's the deal.  Those that we love the most are many times the ones that we tell that to the least.  We worry about those that we think need worry and we leave alone those who we feel are secure.  But, no one is totally secure and everyone needs to be told that they are loved.  

The holiday season, the end of the fiscal and calendar year is a good time to make a list (and check it twice) so that those who are important to you on your team, know it and feel your love. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's All Good....Until It Isn't

The company Lululemon looked unstoppable.  Stores opened regularly and became profitable in short order. Their consumers were loyal, almost cult-like loyal. Wall Street loved them.  Other than being pricey, what was there not to like about Lulelemon?.  

And then, their then CEO and Chairman, Dennis Wilson made one slip of the tongue and then Lululemon went from sweet to bitter.  You can look up the disparaging comment he made about his customers whose thighs were larger. This was in the context of why their new set of yoga pants were too sheer (turned out to be a manufacturing problem, not a consumer size problem...duh).  One slip of the tongue and it can all fall apart.  Wilson is out of the company now, the company that he co-founded. 

As the famous Hill Street Blues quote said, "Let's be careful out there."  We are on the front lines all the time in our companies. We have to think and act like mature leaders as one slip can be the beginning of a long and hard fall.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

GRAMMY Foundation 2013-14 Board Members' Favorite Holiday Albums of All Time

In this past week's GRAMMY Foundation Board Meeting, Senior Vice President, Kristen Madsen, asked each of us to name our favorite Holiday Albums of All-Time.  This is the list.  You can also check out the Spotify playlist I put together as well here: GRAMMY Foundation Board Favorite Holiday Albums


Leroy Anderson Sleigh Ride
Harry Belafonte  Wishing You a Merry Christmas
Andrea Bocelli  My Christmas
Mariah Carey  Merry Christmas 
The Carpenters Christmas Portrait 
Ray Charles and Betty Carter "Baby It’s Cold Outside"
Bing Crosby Merry Christmas 
Ella Fitzgerald  Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
GRAMMY Camp New York kids GRAMMY Camp Christmas Card
George Frideric Handel Messiah 
Dave Koz A Smooth Jazz Christmas 
Ramsey Lewis Sound of Christmas
Nick Lowe  Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection For All The Family
Johnny Mathis  Merry Christmas 
New Christies Minstrel Christmas with the New Christy Minstrels
Frank Sinatra A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra & Bing Crosby Christmas Sing With Frank and Bing
St. Olaf's Choir Christmas at St. Olaf: Rejoice, Give Thanks, and Sing
The Temptations  The Temptations Christmas Card
Various Artists A Very Special Christmas (benefiting The Special Olympics)
Various Artists  Love Actually Soundtrack

Monday, December 9, 2013


I was lunching in Los Angeles last week with someone who said to me, "Gosh, if you guys were doing SNOCAP now, you'd be sitting pretty."  SNOCAP was the company I ran from 2005- 2008 that was yes, ahead of its' time.  And yes, this former music attorney was right; if we were now running that company it would be very important in the scheme of what is happening right now within the industry.  But, this is 2013, not 2008 and indeed timing made a difference. 

From my business experience, it is easy to be late, a lot harder to be early and really difficult to be right on time. But, that is what we have to strive to do with our products and services.  

Business ideas that come too late are worthless.  Those that come too early are expensive and ignored.  Those that come just at the right time when the market is accepting and ready, well, those are the ones that we remember.  

Each of us likely have something we are considering "rolling out", either externally, or even internally.  The question we must ponder and be able to answer, is this the right timing?  It's not easy to answer, but it is a question that must be answered and addressed honestly and boldly. Otherwise, we might be setting ourselves up for disappointment and/or failure.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela: One Man

There wasn't any of the normal "surprise" when the word came through that Nelson Mandela had died. At 95 and ailing, it was just a mater of time.  But still the world stopped for a moment and reflected on what one man, who was willing to go all the way for his cause and beliefs, could do to change a country and ignite change in a set of beliefs worldwide. 

It is only fitting that we remember and honor his contribution and legacy.  In doing so, we best uphold his ideals by ensuring that we never let ourselves take the easy way out or cut a corner on our principles.

Nelson Mandela saw a wrong that needed to be righted.  When we see wrongs within our companies, no matter how big or small, are we standing in the shadow of Mandela to ensure that the wrongs are eliminated? 

Sometimes we think we don't have any "say" or we are insignificant.  Our ability to impact and contribute is only as small as we allow our self-perception and thinking to be!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Corporate Citizenship

Our political system has been spending many fruitless cycles on immigration and citizenship.  We seem to be stuck in an argument about whether or not we want more citizens.  A citizen is one who gives their allegiance to their government and in turn receives that government's protection. 

We can say that inside of our companies we have "citizens".  When someone joins our organization and becomes provides their allegiance to the vision, mission and goals of the company and management, then in turn the company protects them with a salary, benefits, opportunity to work, etc. In return, when this works correctly, we get good citizenship from our employees and that in itself is good. 

But, how often do we think of our employees as citizens, versus just hired help who just come and go? Do we get allegiance this way?  Do we think about protecting our talent?  This is where most companies miss out. 

If we stopped and thought about someone making that all important choice to come to work for us, versus someplace else, as a desire to "join" us and to become a part of us, as citizens then we might well approach the whole relationship differently, and assuredly more productively.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Opinion: Apple is Sitting on Their Own Treasure Trove of Information - Why Don't They Mine It?

We all have read of Apple's purported $200MM purchase of Topsy.  TechCrunch speculated that part of the reason for that purchase is for Apple to have a better read on App Store relevance. I read that and chuckled because Apple already is sitting on a treasure trove of relevance and for the life of me, I don't understand why they won't just go and mine it from and for us.

I have had this conversation with every Apple Executive I know and unfortunately I don't have the relationship with Tim Cook (who I admire greatly) that I did with Steve Jobs. Long ago I would have emailed or called and he would have (like he did on multiple occasions) responded with either, "That's a good idea" or something like, "Why would I do that?" (which was his way of telling me he thought it was a stupid idea).

So, since I don't have that and the Topsy acquisition happened, here we go and maybe this will make its way back to Cupertino.

Please answer these questions and '"follow" along:

Do you own an iphone, an ipad or an ipod touch?

If you answered yes: Do you have any apps on your device that you downloaded through the App Store?

Still answering yes?

I have an iphone and an ipad.

I have downloaded both free and purchased apps.  I downloaded one yesterday in fact that I paid $7.99.

Do you know what it was?

Do you know any of my apps?

Do I know any of the apps you have?

Do you want to know mine?

I want to know yours!

If you knew mine, would you be inclined, just possibly, to try or purchase one because you discovered something new that I already knew and had tried and liked?

I know I would reciprocate, but I have no idea what apps you have on your device or in the cloud. But, I know you have something there that would pique my curiosity.

See where I am going?

Apple is sitting on at least the second largest social network in the world and billions of downloads (and missed dollars) by not letting us "Follow" each other's App Downloads.

They don't need Topsy to know what is relevant.  My friends and those who I follow shape relevance, or I influence relevance for them.

Turn it on Apple!  You have it all waiting for us; for your App Developers and a community (yes, I know that sounds so 1999) that is waiting for you to go develop!

Anything I can do to help, just let me know!

Standing by...

PS: I think Apple has something bigger up their sleeves for Topsy applications than App Store relevance and I'm excited to see what that might be.

Cyber Wow!

Yesterday appears to be a day of cyber wow!  

Early reports are saying that Cyber Monday shopping topped $2B in sales, achieving a 17.5% increase over last year.  For those not used to keeping score, that is a huge year over year gain.  Without a doubt we have crossed over the online hurdles and even with sales tax being collected in most states, and no Amazon drones delivering our packages yet, we are firmly okay with search, buy, and wait.  

Traditional retailers were scratching their heads after the lackluster days on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, but when they add it all up, it might just be okay. That is, unless Amazon took the biggest bite from the apple.  I know anyone reading this has already accepted that online is the future, now the question is how that future unfolds.  On this post Cyber-Monday Tuesday, I'd be thinking now about what we can do for next year to further engage and ready our consumers for next year so that we are their first choice.  

To do that, we have to go well beyond the lowest price or the the most extensive choices.  We have to create (and yes this will feel so 1999) "community" that brings them back over and over.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


There is a quote in the TV show, Game of Thrones, that stuck with me.  The Queen Mother says to her young son, who has just become King, that he better needs to understand the commoners. She says to him, "People not like us expect to lose important things in life."   What she was saying is that those not in royalty can find themselves living their life expecting to lose, not always holding a manifest destiny to winning.  The business world is the same.  

Those on top, expect more.  Those who are struggling, smaller, and trying to keep their head above water, appreciate and look at their business differently. The front page of the New York Times business section today, reminds us of a time in Silicon Valley, 1999, when all was great and nothing could get in our way to success. We knew no risk.  We expected only the best.  And, when it went away, and we were humbled, we appreciated and became more thankful of what he had, what we had learned and what we could expect going forward. 

The lesson?  

We need to keep ourselves in check and recognize that losing will bring greater appreciation and thankfulness, so how can we cultivate that spirit of humility and gratitude, even in the best of times?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Business Tagging

"Kilroy was here."  That was a popular "tag", or graffiti back in the day.  Apparently Kilroy started in World War II and lasted for decades.  Now, we tag everyday.  We "check in" on Facebook or Foursquare.  We post or tweet a picture to prove we were someplace and in our own little way we are putting our"mark" on a place or an event. Business is one of the few places in life that we mostly just "pass through", without much emotional or historical connection.  

I remember watching a consultant pull out of the audience someone who was high ranking in his company.  He was the Chief Accounting Officer of a very large and prestigious company.  He brought him on the stage and interviewed him about his job, his impact, and the legacy he was trying to build within the organization.  The Officer felt pretty good about the what he was doing and that his legacy would stand in the company.  The consultant humored him and then asked, "What was the name of the person who had your job before you?"  The executive answered quickly.  The consultant then asked who was in the job before him? The executive stood their baffled as he had no clue.  The consultant made his point about legacy building within companies. 

If you work in a big company, ask the same about your own job.  Do you know two to three generations before you who was in the job and what they accomplished and left behind?  

If we run businesses, this is the time to stop and think about what "tag" that is indelible that someone can feel they will have always left behind.  Figure this out and you will have unlocked something special and certainly long lasting.

Friday, November 8, 2013


I was sitting in a meeting the other day and I listened to one person condemn another (of course the person being condemned was not in the room) and without hesitation another person jumped on the the bandwagon to be shortly followed by another person. It was a bit of a bloodbath.

With one small push back that maybe this wasn't a fully fair assessment that was taking place, everyone backed down and adjusted their stance.

This interaction reminded me of how easy it is to tear someone down and how hard it is to get people to instead build others up. We are quick to condemn and we are fast to pass the blame and tag others for maybe what we should be stepping up and owning ourselves.

I've found that those who fluidly condemn others are not the same people who take accountability and accept their lumps when they should. These are also the same people who others either fear or even avoid because they worry that whatever is being said about others is also said about them when they leave the room.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


No one gets to be good at what they do without layering one skill and experience on top of another until they come to a place where they are really good, or even a master of what they have been working towards.

As much as it would be great to get good by just showing up, we have to layer and layer until we finally have built up enough to draw upon so we really know what we are doing.

There are many people who are not willing to spend the time and energy to build the layers. Either they don't believe that they should have to put in the time and efforts, or they are just too lazy to put in the hard work. Layering takes time. Layering takes patience. Layering takes an attitude of not believing that we don't need any more experience, any more practice, any more coaching, or any more discipline.

 Those that do layer and understand the importance of this are the ones who are able to have a few layers peeled back or punctured and still have much to work with going forward.

We must learn to layer and learn to do so with each and every opportunity given to us.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


There may not be a harder technology challenge than finding the perfect match.  Industries have been built from this need; biotech, digital tech, agriculture, just to name a few.  In digital technology we are always hunting for the perfect match, whether that be through dating sites, through job sites, and broadly between retailers/manufacturers and customers. 

The perfect match is one where two parties decide they want the same thing. T

his is hard work and with today's technology algorithms we get closer and closer to the perfect match.  Some will call them "recommendation" or "discovery" engines, but these are also all about matching what I like to what I might not yet know I will like. 

Matching is so important to all that we do that we should ensure that the understanding of the science of matching is resident within our companies. 

If we aren't almost obsessed with the pursuit of the perfect match then we are probably missing out on business.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Simple Syrup

Remember the movie Mary Poppins? Some will say, I don't remember the movie, but I saw the play on Broadway a few years back?  Regardless, Mary sings a verse, "A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down so nice..." 

We should all remember that as we deliver messages to employees, customers and partners.  The best "sugar" is usually that which is made of a "simple syrup" and this holds up true as well when we are communicating.  Breaking down messages to the most basic and simple is hard work and too many times we are too busy to think ahead so we go into a meeting or presentation and before we know it we are getting that blank stare of "I'm not following" and then then first question can be summed up as, "What did you just say?". 

These are high stakes moments that we can't take for granted.  We only get so many times to make something clear and simple before we lose credibility that can't be regained. 

If we are not spending twice as much time in preparation as it takes to deliver the message, then I can assure you that what you communicate will not be simple enough to be understood.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I believe that the adage is, "Necessity is the mother of invention."  I remember being taught in pee-wee baseball that "Hesitation is the mother of disaster".  It seemed true back then but as I have grown older, I would say that it is far from true in life.  

Like the eskimos have many names for snow, hesitation can be thought of as 1) Good- hesitation that allows one to stop, think, sort their head and weigh out the consequences of a decision or move.  2) Bad - hesitation that comes from fear and uncertainty and removes the  possibility of making a move, even when calculated. 3)  Worst - hesitation that gets one stuck with no possibility of moving forward but with extreme anxiety and stress from not having done so.  

So, hesitation as defined in scenario 2 and 3 are recipes for disaster, but scenario 1 can save us from disaster.  The question is, "How do we know the difference?"  

The antidote lies somewhere in experience, trusting one's gut and instincts, relying on trusted advice and counsel and not allowing pride, hubris or arrogance get in the way of hearing that calm and caring voice within us.  

It is an art, not a science. 

It cannot be taught without real-word learning lab experiences.  

But, mastering hesitation can be a game-changer and differentiation from good to great.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Ladder

I watched a worker as he climbed a ladder. At the first few rungs he bounded up, sometimes skipping rungs along the way.  In the middle of the ladder he began to slow down and he paid more attention to each footing and where he placed his hands.  As he got to the top of the ladder he was barely moving forward, hanging on with his eyes watching each move of his feet and hands to be sure that the grip and footing were precise. From where I was watching, it was hard to tell what it was that he was after but it was beyond the top of the ladder and he was going to need to go all the way to the top, ignoring the safety stickers he saw along the way.  As he went for that top step he had to do it all with balance as there wasn't anywhere for his hands to hold onto. He looked so alone there perched on the top step.  It was terrifying to watch and all better judgment of me and those around me told us that something bad was about to happen. And then it did.  He slipped and waving his arms wildly and shouting at the top of his lungs he fell.  Coming down the ladder he grabbed furiously at rungs, but he couldn't get hold and in a fraction of the time it took him to climb the ladder he was off of it, lying on the ground moaning, groaning, with tears in his eyes of humiliation, frustration and anger at himself and what had happened. It was awful to watch the fall. It had been exciting at first to see the ascent but even as a bystander it became anxiety filled as he worked his way through the rungs and it became clear that he wasn't going to stop, even when he was warned to do so.

Even now I wish he hadn't been so ambitious and taken that CEO job.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Will You Pay 10X?

If I asked if you would pay 10X for something that you could buy for 10 times less elsewhere, I have a very good idea of what your answer would be, "Heck, no!  Who would do that?"

But, you see, we do it every day.  I watched my wife do it and with nothing but a little shrug and laugh made the payment.  And, believe me, she is thrifty.  What in the world would she pay 10X for? 

The answer: a banana.  She buys bananas in a bunch at the grocery store for 0.19 per banana.  But on this day, before boarding a plane at SFO she paid $1.82 for one banana.  She is not alone.  We do the same with a cup of coffee.  We can buy a pound of coffee for what one venti latte can cost. And the same is true of all of the food ingredients that we can make a meal at home versus eat out at nice restaurant. The irony is that we only do this with low cost items. For everything else we comparative shop and only allow a small markup. 

This is the new dilemma for those industries (especially food) where the DIY, grow it yourself market is booming. If what we produce or make and sell doesn't feel like there is enough "value" (or in the case of bananas and coffee, convenience) we will forever be chasing the lowest cost. 

As we create and think about our businesses, finding greater value and offers for the consumer allows for higher price point ratios between what they expect and what they will pay.

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Alignment Day

Every business has a day of the week that is best for meetings, planning and setting up the days ahead.  Usually that is Monday, but not always.

I have been doing some consulting work with a company that executes their business primarily over the weekend and it's not until Tuesday when everyone can take a deep breath and get ready together for the coming week. 

Regardless of the day of the week, there is one that we should be gathering to look back to celebrate and adjust and then to forwardly align and go into operational mode.  This day is really the first day of the week as if it is done right, all will flow from there. 

If you haven't put that day in place yet, you are missing an opportunity to get the team all on one page and to ensure that everything is in place to get out there and win.

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Net Promoter Scores

As we think about what we should do with measuring our businesses, a simple and easy to implement process is to adopt the Net Promoter Score measurement.  It's actually very clear and boils down a bunch of complex ways of looking at the business to a 10 point scale answer to; "How likely is it that would recommend (the name of your company) to a friend or colleague?"

That then allows us to stratify the answers into three groups: promoters, passives and detractors.  Once you have that then to get to the "net" part of the responses you subtract he percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters and that gives you an NPS Score. 

If this is done consistently and often, we can measure where the company stands today and where it is going.  Why this is important is that we when we can boil it all down to one simple measurement, then it gives up the opportunity to change other things that we think can influence that consistent scoring.

Whether it is the NPS, or something else, getting to a baseline core measurement can yield positive results.

(For a further faith-based application of this post, you can visit here)

Monday, October 7, 2013

#AddaWordRuinAMovie The Meme

may well be the funniest and best Meme I have ever seen on Twitter.  The Meme was created on Friday night and by the time I saw it on Saturday morning, it was blowing up.  Why?  The social media people in our marketing departments try so hard to come up with something that will go viral and catch the jet stream.  Millions of dollars are spent experimenting and trying to come up with something that catches on. And, then along comes something so simple that grabs a ton of attention.  Let's dissect why has taken off.  First, without even thinking much about it the Meme title intrigues us and we want to know more.  Once we click on the Meme we realize that it's a simple and fun game that anyone can play.  We all know movies.  We all can be creative enough to add a word to a movie title, and we can laugh, and sometimes be amazed, at the creativity of someone else.  A simple and compelling game that we can play with others. That's what we should be thinking about it if we want to create something that gets our customers/consumers engaged with our product/service.

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Records Retention - Where More Is Not Better

What to keep?  What not to keep? What to keep and for how long?  These were once loose rules that we each made up for ourselves, but today, we can get in trouble for not keeping something long enough, or worse yet, for keeping something too long. 

There are people who now make their living advising others on their records retention policies.  I grew up business-wise in the age of retaining. With the advent of the digital age we have gained with each year a greater and greater amount of available storage. The cloud and services like dropbox and box give even the smallest of businesses the chance to store and retain what never could have been kept before.

There aren't enough steel storage case cabinets available to handle what even one of us stores today digitally.

But, is this a good thing?  Ask a lawyer and the answer will be no.  Whatever is available is discoverable.  Whatever is randomly stored or randomly deleted is suspect. Knowing the different is the key.  It behooves us to have a policy of record retention, follow and embrace it. 

Ironic, but in this age of more availability, that less is still better.

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Offer

Have you seen the new Expedia TV advertisement where they walk up to a stranger with the Expedia suitcase and a plane ticket to anywhere in the world?  There is only one catch; you have to go directly to the airport, right then. 

I love the ad because it conjures up the, "What would I do?" and if I could be that spontaneous, "Where would I go?". 

The commercial is great in reminding us that we count on our customers and consumers responding to us when we present them with deals and offers.  When they don't make the decision on the spot, or decide to respond positively, we get disappointed and sometimes resentful.  The other part of the Expedia ad are the people who turn down the offer. 

It's a once-in-a-lifetime offer and they turn it down, on the spot.  It just goes to show you how hard it is to sell and convince a consumer!

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Premier League Time

It's only taken 30 plus years but in the last year, we now can watch The Premier League soccer (football) on national U.S. broadcast television. 

We all saw it coming as soccer became the most played sport by kids.  But, the demographic changes could only take time to grow up and become viewers and consumers who could through their buying patterns and power create advertising pull and viewership.  And now, we have to ask, what next?  Could we see finally the development of a U.S. based Major League Soccer League that would someday rival The Premier League?  Sure we could. 

Demographic shifts sometimes feel like boiling a frog, but then one day it seems so obvious.  There is great value in spending time projecting forward and trying to align to the shifts, pulls, pushes and all that comes with them. 

Sure, we might be wrong more often than not, but wouldn't we rather be wrong because we thought about it, not because we ended up flat-footed, surprised and late?

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Monday, September 23, 2013


What an amazing amount of noise that has been created from the new Apple iphone5S and its Touch ID fingerprinting security system.  If you haven't been following it the controversy ranges from the extraction of a fingerprint from a person and what can Apple and others do with the fingerprint, all the way to the absurd of people worried that while they are sleeping that someone would use their thumb to unlock the phone for snooping or reading their emails.  Even Senator Al Franken (not as a comedian) has joined the fray to check if what Apple is doing is safe for consumers. 

It will be fun to watch this play out, but I predict that it dies out as a concern soon.  Biometric data has been here all along and why wouldn't we use what is already there? 

What also will happen is that our phones now even become even more personal to us.  No one could have predicted how dependent we are on that device and all of us who are trying to reach consumers have to be thinking mobile and mobile personalization. 

Where will we be as in the relationship with our consumers if we don't figure out how to be front and center with them, in a personal way, in a mobile way?

(For a further faith based application of this post you can visit here)

Friday, September 20, 2013

You Have A Suggestion?

Sometime along the way in the life cycle of a business someone says, "what we need is a suggestion box". The suggestion box becomes the way for people to communicate to management about their ideas and/or complaints anonymously and without perceived repercussion. While on the surface and at the time, this looks like a good idea, we have to stop and ask the underlying questions of why and how did we get to a place where the people in our organization can no longer feel free to speak directly to management?

One of the early manifestations of the suggestion box will be when management wants to have a company meeting and they want questions taken ahead of time and they will ask for questions to be submitted through a question or suggestion box, in an email address. The reason this happens is because management thinks that people are fearful to ask the tough questions. FYI, they are not fearful of asking the tough questions, they are fearful of the toughness of the answer.

Once the suggestion box is set up, the culture and the tone of the company changes. An intercessory has been established and the direct communication lines have broken down. This is especially troubling when you see these communication crutches being created or supported when the company has created positions like Human Resources or Employee Relations to help facilitate and keep communication lines open. If the suggestion box is still hanging around after someone is being paid to be that conduit then that spells double-trouble.

Free-flowing direct communication with a boss, senior management and each other are hallmarks of the great companies as no great company is such without a communication pattern that is open and free from fear.

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Out of Tune

I was on an airplane and thought, "I'll watch a movie."  I scrolled through the Samsung tablet that I was given and nothing really caught my eye except for the movie, "A Late Quartet".  I'm a big Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken fan.  The thought of that much pure acting chops in the same movie seemed worth the watch.

The premise of the film is that a string quartet celebrating 25 years together is falling a apart because of many life reasons, with the catalyst being the character played by Christopher Walken contracting Parkinson's disease.  There are a lot of messages in the movie but one that has stuck with me is what can happen when one instrumentalist is out of tune, or out of synch, and what happens to everyone else.  What occurs is that everyone else will begin to play and tune to the one that is off key or off rhythm, thus destroying the sound of the whole.

This happens everyday in our jobs.  There will be someone who is off of their game, off color, offsetting, off of strategy, and the rest of us will "tune" ourselves to them, versus collectively staying strong and true to where we know we are supposed to be.  Teams get weak and fall apart because of this phenomena.

It's worth having someone or someway of consistently checking and tuning back to true so to not let one person, or one team cause everyone else to go astray.

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can go here)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I was very fortunate this summer to be able to play a lot of golf.  Before you categorize me as someone who is good at golf, let me be clear, I stink.  But, I love the game.  Partially because it is outside. Partially because you can get away from everything else for a few hours.  And mostly, because it is a game that ends on an accomplishment.  I love other sports too, but most sports end on someone or one team making an error or not accomplishing something.  Think about that for a second.  

Baseball ends on someone not getting a hit. Football ends on someone not scoring or someone not being able to stop someone else from scoring.  Tennis ends on someone not being able to get to a shot by the other player, or returning the ball unsuccessfully.  Golf always ends on the ball going in the hole.  It may be, and most always is, the ball going in the hole in more strokes than you desired, but the game always ends on an accomplishment of the ball finding the cup. 

 If more of work was this way, think how much more satisfied we would be in our jobs.  If only every day we ended on an accomplishment.  If only every interaction with a customer ended with a point of satisfaction.  If only every employee interaction ended on a positive and and accomplishment driven word of recognition.  We can make this happen.  It is our choice.  

Like golf, work is a long game and one that we only get better at with time, practice, patience and endurance.  But, like the game of golf, work can always end on an accomplishment.

(For a further faith-based exploration of this post you can visit here)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


It seems so long ago that we went to work with keys in our pocket. We had one for the door into the building and then one for our office and maybe another for the storage room, or even the washroom.  Keys are a thing of the past and before long all offices, cars and homes will be without them and we won't even need them any longer.  But, I imagine that even generations from now we will still use the word "key" and consider that those who have the keys are the most important.  

When I was a boy I told my Dad that I wanted to be the like the janitor at our school and have a big key ring with hundreds of keys on a ring that hung from my belt.  My Dad smiled and said to me, "No son, you want to be the person who only has one key on his key ring."  It was a great lesson and one I never forgot.  

We should think about this in our business as well.  Our customers, partners and employees want to feel like they only have to have one key to access everything they need.  

Consider how many keys we ask them to carry today and how hard or easy it is to open the doors that they desire to pass through?

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Looking Down

Can you imagine doing this?

Not for the fainthearted or those who would question their own ability and focus.  I watched this live when it happened.  Among many aspects I was fascinated that he never looked down.  In fact, one of the hardest parts was that he said many times that the optical illusions of the hillside made it hard for him to focus.  But, one thing for sure, he never looked down.  How much of our time and energy do we spend, looking down and worrying about the next missed revenue target, the next product failure, the next bad hire?  We tend to look down a lot and then we wonder why we fall.  

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Siren Servers

Jaron Lanier, the Author of "Who Owns the Future" and "You Are Not a Gadget" calls out the "Siren Server" as the evil of technology that is corrupting civilization. 

In an interview with San Francisco Magazine he said this about the Siren Server: "It's the biggest and best computer on a particular network.  They almost always have evil consequences, even though they're rarely designed with evil intent. A great San Francisco example is Craiglist. Craig is genuinely a sweet guy (something I can personally attest to as well), but even so, Craigslist is destroying newspaper revenues and harming local journalism. The most damaging siren servers are the ones that deal with money.  When you cross a siren server with finance, as happened in the housing bubble, you get the meltdown of the market, "too big to fail," austerity, and jobless recovery." 

Lanier's definition of a Siren Server does not have to be just applied to the large-scale.  As each of us become more aware and able to use big-data to disrupt and upend one thing, let's remember that there is a law of unintended consequences that will create reactions that without long thought, could be more damaging than good.

(For a further faith based application of this post you can visit:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Alot for a Little

I am amazed at how excited Patti gets from the discount she gets off of her gas from her grocery shopping.  At our place in Rhode Island, Stop-n-Shop gives a discount on cost per gallon at participating gas stations.  The most I have seen the discount add up for redemption has been $.60/gallon.  A ten gallon fill up equals a $6.00 discount.  Not bad, or so it seems. To get to that $6.00, she has to spend $300.00 in groceries.  So, one way to look at it is that this value is really more like getting a 2% rebate.  The beauty of this program is that they have transferred a savings from something expected to something not expected. The point here is that for very little, the positioning has significant perceived value to the consumer.  It begs the question, what do we have in our business that when transferred to some other area where discounts, sales or rebates would be unusual, that it would be perceived as very high value. 

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Milk or Wine?

Opportunities are like wine.  They can be taken advantage of now, or they can sit and under the right conditions, and get even better. 

Problems are not wine.  They are milk.  They don't get better with time, they get more spoiled, stinky and can turn into something that ruins lots of other things around them. Those that say that a problem deferred is a problem solved forget that their procrastination will only come back to bite them later.

Looking at those things in front of us and asking ourselves, will this get better or worse with time and being willing to honestly accept the answer can be a true competitive advantage.

(For a further faith based application of this post you can visit here)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Caddying The Load

Finishing up the last weeks of summer can feel like you are carrying three months of work back into the office. No matter how hard you try to ensure that you have "kept up" there are things that just got pushed to the back burner all summer and when talk turns to Labor Day, well, here comes the work.

Carrying the load and the bags of work is all part of the job.

For some people that is what they do, they "carry" the bags of others. And, they usually get looked down on because that is their job. I have been in many a job where it was my responsibility to carry the bags of my bosses and I always felt that it was an important part of business and an honor. It's kind of like the caddy for a pro golfer. Without them, a pro golfer wouldn't get too far. They are there for knowledge, instinct, advice, counsel, nerve-calming, encouragement, and strength.

I know a very high profile executive in a very high profile job right now who could use someone like this. He needs someone with him to fill in the gaps in his skill set and his intuition. Without someone to help him he has a hard time navigating certain areas. With someone by his side, he is the full picture. The problem is that he thinks he is the full equation regardless and doesn't recognize his deficiencies.

Many a person is like him and miss so many opportunities because they don't let others carry the bags and some of the load.

(For a further faith based application of this post you can visit: here)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Early The Next Morning

I am not just a morning person, I am an "early the next morning" person.  The distinction and difference is that when I have something important to get done, I will wait until early the next morning to work on it or to get it completed. 

Against the advice of those who tell us how to rest and sleep best, I take what I have to do to bed with me, let it sit in my mind, knowing that early the next morning I will be able to tackle it in the quiet before others rise and as the sun and the birds welcome the day. It is when I work best and when I am clearest in my head.  Early the next morning also allows for me to be done with that matters most before the mundane and the urgent take over the day. 

I remember distinctly once taking this approach to a problem I was trying to solve, only to find Patti standing at the door of my office at 3:00AM asking me what I was doing and me being wide-awake telling her that I had figured out what we (me and others) had been trying to solve.  Later that morning when others got to the office I had more prepared and solved then they imagined could happen. 

It was a very good morning and has always reminded me of what can happen "early the next morning."

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit: here)

Monday, August 19, 2013

New Year Today!

I was thinking over the weekend that I have a different "New Year's Day" than when the calendar does.  Of course, I look at January 1 as the official New Years, but for me I count the year as September 1st - August 31st.  I'm not alone in using that calendar, but it's not because I am an anxious and giddy schoolchild looking forward, or dreading, that first day back to school.  For me, I have found this annual pattern because the beginning of September signifies when Patti and I come off of our summertime in New England and head back to the West coast.  Lots of new activities pop up, meetings are set for strategies and plans, etc.  For me, it feels like the beginning of the year and and sadly, the end of August the end of year. 

Leaving my mental year at the end of the summer also always makes me appreciate what blessings we have in this life and how I can look forward to summer returning as quickly as I felt it flee.  Our businesses also may have fiscal versus calendar years so we get another new year put upon us. 

Consider how fresh and new each month, each week, or even each day can be if we bring to it the feeling of the beginning of a new year.  So, on this Monday, let's look to the new year that is in front of us and start today in making the most of it!

(for a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Protected Interests

We all want to do well at work. We all want to also be rewarded for doing well. It is when we think we are doing well and we are not rewarded to our expectations that we tend to get antsy, upset, disheartened and worse yet, disenfranchised. We then make decisions on how long to stay at the same job and how hard we will work and how much we will or won’t put of ourselves into the job at hand.

We all have examples of when we think the rewards and recognition doesn’t match up to our expectations and how we feel when that happens. It is a very hard conversation to have with our employers and sometimes we don’t even know with who we should have the conversation. Should it be our boss directly or some intermediaries like an HR person? Regardless of who it is, it is still a difficult conversation to have and one that if you can avoid entirely, then all the better. But what are we to do in the situation where something has to change? Other than the leverage of leaving the company, which is not the purpose or the desired outcome, there is not much we can say to potentially change the results. 

On the other hand, there are rewards to be gained if know the game that is being played. The key to the rewards desired is in knowing, fulfilling and protecting the interests of our employers. This sounds so simple and should be easy to do. But, it is not as clear as it looks on the surface. What are sometimes hard to discern are the true interests of the company, the ones that when pressed and threatened that the company would be stopped in their tracks. Listen carefully to what you hear your boss and CEO saying about where the company is putting its resources (human and financial) and align your work to those goals and objectives. If you are seen as one who is committed to protecting those interests you will be rewarded.

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit here)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


The adage is, "Where there is a will, there is a way."  That's mostly true, but maybe not always. 

I am sure that the Boards of American Airlines and US Air don't feel that way this morning with the news that the Justice Department wants to block their merger.  That probably feels like it is out of their hands at this point, but still if they have the will to do it, then with some compromises and changes, they can probably make it happen. 

Having the will is easier said than done. 

Sometimes the will means decades of work, or the draining of every cent we have and more, or giving up weekends, or subordinating our egos so that others can succeed.  The will is not an easy thing to have and something that we have to really understand if we are truly willing to to do what it takes, or not. 

I told a friend this about a project he is working on, "Somethings are better left not started, than to start it and not finish". 

It takes some will to start, it takes all-in will to finish.

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can read more here)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blurred Lines

No, this is not a post about the hit pop song of the summer.  This post is about what happens everyday in our work that causes all kinds of problems but can so easily be avoided.  Blurred lines are the discrepancies between what someone thinks they are supposed to be doing and what is actually expected that they do.  Let me give you an example:

"Can you update the group next week on our deal flow?"

"Sure, I've got it."

Next week the CEO asks for the update on the deal flow:

"I'm here to give that update"

"Great, can you pass around the reports?"

"I, uhm, didn't actually prepare any written materials. I thought I was just supposed to give an update".

"How can we understand the flow if we can't see the deals in process.  Go back and get this ready for next meeting and in the meantime, I guess we will just have to wait on you (said snarkily)."

In the debrief the conclusion is that this was a series of honest mistakes but no one is happy and the business has stalled because of blurred lines of what was supposed to have happened and what didn't.  A few clarifying questions would have solved the whole problem.  When in doubt, there is a high chance of blurred lines happening.  Following up with one question can nail it all down,

"So I am sure I have this right, what would be the definition of a home run success from what you are asking me to do?"

That will do blurriness.

(For a further faith based application of this post you can visit here)

Monday, August 12, 2013

charity:water - A Novel Approach We Can All Learn From

Yesterday's New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a great story on charity:water and its' founder Scott Harrison.  It is worth reading on many levels as Scott, who was an accomplished club promoter in NYC saw a need (clean water in Africa), felt a burden to solve the problem, and identified a gap in the market to meet the challenge (give people a way to see proof of their contributions).  Along with ensuring his funding through a very business like way of approaching the market, he has grown charity:water, as a non-profit to nearly $100MM in revenue and impact.  It's a fantastic story and we can all take lessons from Scott and his approach.  A non-profit that we can learn from in our for-profit businesses, that in itself is novel.

(For s further faith based application of this post you can visit: here)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Power of Availability, Part 2

Earlier this week was the first time I had been in NYC since they added CitiBikes.  I must say, I was amazed by the number of riders I saw using the bikes. But, I was even more amazed by the people I saw riding them.  Men, women, older, younger, dressed for work, dressed for hanging out, dressed for going out at night; all kinds of people using the bikes for what they needed to get from one place to another.

Before CitiBikes, they would have been in a cab, on the subway, or walking.  But, with a little availability of another form or transportation where they didn't need to buy, maintain, store, lock, or worry about their own bike, they were using a bike to get around Manhattan.  And, they were paying for it. 

What can we learn from this? 

What I see is that availability of everyday products and services, that when made accessible, that we will pay for the temporary use and fulfill a need.  Provide a bike.  How simple and to think how long it took us to get here.

(For a further faith based application of this post you can visit:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Power of Availability, Part 1

I just returned from two days at GRAMMY Camp New York.  As Chairman of the Board of the GRAMMY Foundation, I absolutely love going to GRAMMY Camp and seeing the best of the best high schoolers pursuing their dreams of making it in the music industry. 

The New York GRAMMY Camp happens at Converse's Rubber Tracks Studio in Brooklyn.  Converse donates the week of the studio's time and support to the GRAMMY Foundation. Having this availability to be in a state-of-the art studio is just amazing and so appreciated. What's even more amazing is that Converse makes this studio available to any musician and best of all they provide the studio for free, without any strings attached; Rubber Tracks Apply . When I tell people this they are taken back with Converse's generosity and just how cool it is that with this one gift of availability they are building deep loyalty and commitment with their consumers.  One band that forever remembers the one time that they were able to record that one album because of Converse will wear Chuck Taylor's forever.

Availability of what we have to offer; be it space, knowledge, people, services, etc. are powerful, powerful consumer brand and loyalty building tools!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Show Some Curiousity

There is a guy I know who knows something about everything. No, really, he knows a little something about anything you mention. Sometimes it comes off a little as a "know it all" but I see it more as an admirable trait that he is curious and always learning.

An executive was saying to me recently that he is so caught up in what is going on at his job that he feels like he has become myopic to other areas of his life and other people. This happens to the best of us. We have all the intentions to stay connected with others, to network outside of our jobs, to read, travel, learn, etc. But, the days turn into months and the months turn to a year and we wonder where the time went. What we realize is that we haven't put our head up or done much beyond our own jobs in quite some time. It doesn't have to be this way.

We can all start today changing this pattern by just showing some curiosity with those who work around us. Just down the hall, right now, is someone who would love more than anything to talk a little bit about what they are doing right now and tell you what they have planned for the weekend.

All you have to do is ask.

(For a further faith-based application of this post you can visit: