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.