I Believe, Help My Unbelief

I am sure many of you will regard this as odd and perhaps I will get a few unsubscribes. So be it.

Frank T Kless 1943 – 2015

What follows is the text of the eulogy delivered by my Uncle Richard Kless at my father’s funeral earlier this week.

Thank the Lord for Marriott stationary. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Frank’s little brother, Richard, and this is the third time I’m doing this for one of my siblings. You know, they talk about sibling rivalry, how they always pick on the little guy? You got him, right here; Thanks to my brother. It was my brother Frank that suggested that perhaps I should say some remarks when my mom passed away, and I didn’t know it was going to turn into an industry.

Father, please forgive us for laughing in the sanctuary, and I want to thank you for a beautiful liturgy, and a wonderful mass. You saw enough of my brother in the gospel readings, so I’ll try to give some reflection too. Frank was the oldest of both sides of my family, in terms of cousins, the oldest of my three siblings, he had a lot of roles, so as Father mentioned, he was a great teacher. He did a lot of things, and I was reflecting so much that I can stand up here forever, when I thought of the many roles that he had.

When you have 10 years between your oldest sibling and yourself, there’s this ten year lapse of the little intimate snapshots. It’s not so much a video, but it’s these little pictures in my mind, and Skip was always the big guy in my life. He didn’t speak much, as a lot of you know. He wasn’t the easiest guy to communicate with. You’d wait that half hour for the, “Yes.” But I think of the many roles that he played: Big brother, oldest cousin on both sides of my family, my mother’s side and my dad’s side, and he was looked up to. He was this quiet guy.

I got an email from a good friend of mine, who was actually writing to my sons, talking about their uncle, and he said, “Your brother, your uncle Frank was always a kind and considerate man,” and that’s how we knew him. I think of the roles that he played as the oldest sibling, the oldest cousin, and then, as he went through life, I remember him deeply, and I was thinking about the first real memory I have of Frank.

He took me for a bike ride around the block in Brooklyn, New York, and if you  knew, growing up in Brooklyn, New York, your street was the world. And when he took me around the block, wow. That just opened up my horizons. And I remember him as the oldest sibling — my mother would drag me along, my brother was in a play — through high school years and all that. I look at these roles, and he fulfilled each one that he had, and not only as a sibling, where I think his quiet demeanor spoke much more than the words he could ever say. As he went through life, he became a boyfriend to a girl who only lived a block and a half away, and they met in the first grade. They went through grammar school together, and when they went to a wedding, he caught the garter, and she caught the bouquet, and the greatest role that he played was as a husband.

And then, he was asked to do some more: play the role of dad, and it was awesome to see him as a dad.

I, again, as the youngest, always had the great, nice way of going out and spoiling my nephews, and nieces and would just go back to college, and leave them all in disarray, to annoy Frank. But he was a husband, and a dad, and the role he played as grandfather was his finest that he would play, through 11 grandchildren. In all those roles that Skip played — I can call him Skip. That’s all I ever knew him– I think I only called him Frank, like twice in my life. I really mean that. To me, he was Skip, and the inspiration that he gave to us.

Some people say, “You know, it’s tough to get to know your brother. He doesn’t say much.” And look at his whole entire life. His life was speaking volumes. You have these poignant moments when someone dies, and the other day, when we went in to the funeral home — and Paul want to thank you too on behalf of the family; you’ve been a great godsend to us — Peggy started lying to her children and me. She started saying, “I am sorry I am not strong.” And Eddie said, “Ma, the last six years say otherwise.”

And I think of Skip’s last six years, the suffering that he went through. Never once would Frank complain. I remember talking to him, saying, “Why are you watching the food channel? You can’t eat it. Why are you doing this?” But he loved cooking, and it was almost–he could watch the food channel, and taste what they were doing, and he was okay with that. And I was like, “You’re sick. What’re you doing?”

But to know Skip, Frank, you have to know his faith. He was a deeply devoted Christian, Catholic man. Father alluded to that. And he was really proud of me when I was going for my masters in theology, and I think that’s the one thing, that he was always proud of other people’s achievements. When he was coaching in high school, he coached three national champion hurdlers and sprinters at Mt. Vernon High School. He only coached for five years, but he did his best.

He read up on coaching techniques, he talked to a lot of people. I know he became very good, close friends with my high school coach, and they just couldn’t believe where he got these talents from. It had to do with his great mind. He loved to read, but we know, he loved to direct too, and he taught so much.

But it’s in his quiet faith, his quiet and unassuming faith, that I would say that you would really have to know the depth of my brother. We once discussed, I remember this a few years ago. It was after he had a stroke, and he could not eat anymore. And he once asked me what my favorite scripture passage was. And I said, “Well, that’s kind of too difficult.” I have a couple of favorite ones, and one that we used in the gospel tonight is one of my favorite. But I said, “I think it’s the one in Mark’s gospel, that it’s the shortest prayer that I ever heard, but it’s the most honest prayer.” I want my relatives to know this, and Skip’s friends to know this, and I told him.

I said, it is, “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.” And I got talking to him about that, and he said, “That’s pretty honest, right?” You don’t believe, but you believe, and you kind of want to believe some more. And I know after a stroke, this is very ironic, you know, Kathleen passed, Jimmy had passed, and it was just he and I. Peggy told me the other night, “There’s no more bookends.” He would often say we were the two twins separated by ten years. But getting back to this mention of faith, I know that there’s some of you who don’t believe in God. I know that you’re here out of respect, but I would also say, if you want to know my brother Frank, you’d have to know the depth of his belief in the Lord Jesus. Often times, we are asked, what is it about death? We are the Kless family, so we are the family that puts fun in the word funeral because we do it so well. And again, I mean no disrespect, but I would say part of that fun, is your faith.

It’s that little seed in all of us. That says, “I believe, help my unbelief,” because Jesus honors that. In the face of death, in the face of loss that we all have, I’ve looked for it. I know other people have looked for it. And there’s only one person that has an answer for this, and that’s Jesus. And my brother knew that so well. Frank knew it so well.

Jesus hated death, and death is not the natural order of things. It’s life everlasting, it’s the love that we have for one another. It’s the love that mocks death, as Jesus would, and says come into the kingdom. The last vision I have of my brother Frank, is sitting up at the Father’s banquet, and boy, enjoying those ribs, and everything else he saw on the Food Channel. He had a beautiful understanding that men and women are the crown of God’s creation, and as great as this universe is, as great as this creation is, God loves us beyond the grave. God does not allow this to be the final word.

That was Frank. He lived it. He did not have to say too much about it. He was a kind and considerate man. As the scriptures told us, we honor him. He honored us in his life, his quiet life that he led by example. For this, we are all grateful. Thank you.

And here is the audio.

New Member of Ed’s List

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAVuAAAAJGQ0OTQ5ZDAwLTgyZmEtNGE0Yy05N2FjLTM5YzM0NmM3NTUwYgThis weekend I received a message from an attendee of one of my early Sage Consulting Academy classes. He has recently started his own company and wrote to ask that he be included on Ed’s List.

Here is the message:

I’d be honored if you add my software consulting and development firm, Monkeys Amok Software Consulting, to Ed’s List. Your conversations on fixed-price engagements and service guarantees still ring in my ears from when I first heard you speak at the Sage Consulting Academy years ago.

When I started my own company a few months ago, two things were obvious. For one, I’ve never had the illusion that hours spent has any relationship to the value I deliver to a customer; hence, I have no interest in doing time-based billing. Secondly, I expect my customers to hold me accountable so, of course, I offer an unconditional money-back guarantee on my services.

These things should be common sense, right? Keep the posts coming!

All the best,

Chris Burriss

I am thrilled to add Chris and Monkeys Amok to Ed’s List. Welcome!

If you are aware of any other organizations that meet the criteria, please let me know.

Value Pricing Twitter Chat

Today, I had the honor and pleasure of participating in a Twitter chat sponsored by my employer Sage. (Honestly, sometimes I think, wow, I get paid for doing this, really‽)

My thanks to the entire team at Sage but especially Mark Redstrom who made this incredibly fun and easy. Thanks also to all who participated in the fast paced banter in 140 characters or fewer.

Below is the “Storified” chat session.

I’ll have a Yogi Berra please

Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015)
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015)

While I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Mets (well, and Yankees) legend Yogi Berra this morning. I felt compelled to share a conversation had on my Facebook page during which Yogi gave us one last chuckle.

One commenter suggested that Yogi was the “Arnold Palmer of baseball” to which I responded that we needed to create a drink in honor of him. I came up with the following:

  • Half club soda
  • Half seltzer
  • Half carbonated water

My plan is to order one at a restaurant in the near future. Here is how I envision the conversation:

Me: I have a Yogi Berra.
Server: Never heard of that sir. What is in it?
Me: Easy it is half club soda, half seltzer and half carbonated water.
Server: Okay… Wait… what?

As a youth I proudly wore number 8 in honor of him. He was the manager of the Mets at the time.

Yogi is truly a hero of mine. Not only is he the only person I can think of who bridges the Met-Yankee divide, but his legendary reformulations of quotations are always inspirational.

When speaking I often refer to him as “that great American philosopher, Yogi Berra.” In my book he is up there with Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and Will Rogers.

My personal favorite quote: We made too many wrong mistakes.

Much wisdom in that.

RIP, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015)

On Airquotes Firm of the Future Thinking

Firm of the Future BookYesterday, a former colleage of mine sent me this piece by Jim McGinnis of Intuit. In the interest of full disclosure, and as many of you already know, I work for a competitor of Intuit’s, Sage. Please note this is not about me slamming a competitor from a product standpoint, but rather I am calling out errors in Mr. McGinnis’ thinking. I have never met him and I am sure he is an affable fellow.

This is not an attack on him, but the ideas presented (or lack thereof) in the post.

Mr. McGinnis proposes a three step process to becoming a “Firm of the Future.”

  1. Get on the cloud.
  2. Become a trusted advisor.
  3. Get connected.

Needless to say, I find this listicle a bit, err, lacking.

For example, the first sentence of the first paragraph of his first step is:

In the cloud, you can meet client expectations, stay relevant through improved efficiency, achieve greater collaboration, realize more time savings and lower your costs.

Oh where to begin.

Let me offer a listicle of my own as a critique. I shall entitle it Five Ways This Sentence Completely Misses What Being a Firm of the Future Really Is About. (I know, my headlines suck.)

  1. “In the cloud” – The “cloud” is just a technology. It is not a change in a business model which is what moving to The Firm of the Future really is. It is a change to how the organization creates value for and captures value from its customers. Admonishing folks to “get on the cloud” is a akin to saying “use pencils instead of quill pens” or “use Excel instead of an adding machine.” Yes, it is important to do, but it is not a business model innovation.
  2. “Client expectations” – As advocates for The Firm of the Future, both Ron Baker and I suggest using the word “customer” not “client.” Why? Well I wrote whole blog post on that one.
  3. “Improved efficiency” – Customers do not care about the efficiency of a firm, they care about the firms effectiveness. Ask yourself this, if you have a brain tumor, do you want an efficient surgeon or an effective one? Clearly the latter. At VeraSage there is an entire blog category dedicated to the topic of efficiency versus effectiveness. We call it the “Eff’ing Debate.” I believe that great business strategy is the art of staying one step ahead of having to worry about being efficient.
  4. “Time saving” – Time cannot be “saved.” Time is a constraint to which all of us who live in this time/space continuum are subject; it is not a resource. Our time is not “worth” anything. There is not a single customer of a professional firm who wanted to buy an hour of time; they wanted the results of the hour. Peter Drucker said, “Sell what your customers buy.” DUH! Yet, professionals keep putting “hours” on invoices. Nobody wants hours. In addition, when one is billing by the hour what exactly does “time saving” do? It reduces your price. The more efficient you are the less money you make. What a terrible model! Some argue your rate will go up. Perhaps, but the reduced time it takes is sometimes a factor of ten or more. Nobody’s “billing rate” increases by a factor of ten, perhaps even over the entirety of their career. The author even acknowledges this later in the post.
  5. “Lower your costs” – Beside the above mentioned “and your price” if you bill by the hour, this  is simply not true. Costs do not change much in any professional firm since they are overwhelmingly fixed. Cost allocation might change, but again, customers do not care how you allocate your costs. Have you ever walked into a Starbucks and thought, “Gee, I hope these guys have their costs allocated correctly.” I doubt it.

And that is just the first sentence of the first step. Other errors:

  • Using “Trusted Advisor” I do a session on why professional should not use this term in the marketing. Short form of the argument – Saying “I want to be your trusted advisor” to a prospect is like asking “How many kids do you want to have?” on a first date. Quite a bit forward don’t you think. Oh, and another blog post.
  • Use of the phase “flat-fee pricing.”
  • Use of the phrase “value billing.” Again, a post on this subject from 2009.
  • The the choices of “low medium and high” are not meant to be target at “small medium and large clients.” There’s that word again.

I got more, it is an entire two day class.

On the Enterprise Software Podcast

espodcastAt Sage Summit 2015, I had the honor of being interviewed by Bob McAdam, Todd McDaniel, and Darcy Boerio, hosts of the Enterprise Software Podcast. They “talk all things enterprise software a couple of time each month.”

Specifically, they wanted me to talk about value pricing, but the conversation ranges from hanging out at the Mint Lounge (now known as the Spirits Lounge – see photo below) in the Holiday Inn in Fargo, ND to the best pizza place in Allen, TX.

spiritsYou can tell by listening that I was pretty amped up on adrenaline from being at Sage Summit. In fact, I blathered on so long they had to break it up into two episodes. That said, I think I did a pretty good job of sharing some of the basics of value pricing including why timesheets need to be trashed, the need to “move off the solution,” and how to work through Mahan Khalsa’s Five Golden Questions in order to extract the understanding of the value to the customer.

Have a list to both right here:

Part One

Part Two

On Jesus and Redistribution

The following meme was posted on a Bernie Sanders Facebook site:

As a Libertarian and a church-going Catholic I see zero contradiction in this. I personally believe the best way to “justly distribute the fruits of the Earth and human labor” is via the free market or what I prefer to call “market tested innovation and supply” in deference to Dierdre McCloskey.

The Church is a private institution. As long as government is not involved, members of a private institution can work toward whatever goal they wish, so long as they do not impose this belief on others.

In the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-14) Jesus says:

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

This is a pretty specific rejection of the notion that Jesus (or the Gospel writer) calls for “just redistribution” via coerce force.

Do we as a society have a moral obligation to help our fellow humans? Yes, we do. Furthermore, we get to decide what the best way to do that is for each of us.

Should government be the mechanism to insist upon this obligation? Hell, no!

Sage Summit 2015 Session – Changing conversations by asking effective questions

This is the third in a series of three posts I will be doing featuring slides and audio from my sessions at Sage Summit 2015. Sorry that the audio is not quite the best.

Changing conversations by asking better questions

This session is dedicated to the possibility that professionals can greatly increase the value they provide to their customers if they hone their skills at asking better, more effective questions. Developing and enhancing this skill is not easy because it requires us to rethink and relearn conversation habitss. If you would like to learn how this questioning approach can strengthen your customer conversations, join Ed Kless us for this discussion-based session.




Sage Summit Sessions – Creating vision and strategy

Unfortunately, the audio for these two sessions did not turn out at all listenable. Therefore, I am ust posting the abstracts and the slides. Please feel free to comment or contact me if you have any questions.

Creating shared vision in a small business

Have you defined a vision for your company and shared it with your teams? A shared vision enlists others in the work and provides guiding principles for day to day activities. Creating a shared vision can be hard work because it requires you to examine goals and beliefs and weave them into a cohesive picture of your future. If you’re ready to start this work on behalf of your organization, join Ed Kless to make this part of your 2015 action plan.


Creating strategy in a small business

Even small organizations can create and execute meaningful strategic plans. Creating a well-defined strategy is hard work and not for everyone, as it requires us to begin to say “no” to stuff we usually say “yes” to. You are hereby invited by facilitator Ed Kless, to open a dialogue about how best to go about creating a strategy for your small business organization.


Sage Summit 2015 Session – Leadership in the age of the quick fix

This is the second in a series of three posts I will be doing featuring slides and audio from my sessions at Sage Summit 2015. Sorry that the audio is not quite the best.

Leadership in the age of the quick fix

Leadership thinking is is often based on manipulation – trying to “get someone to do something” which isn’t necessarily effective. Coming to terms with this idea is difficult and not for everyone because it requires us to examine some of our most deeply held beliefs and either dismiss them or at least think differently about them. If you are interested in rethinking the way you approach leadership, you are invited to attend this session.