Adieu Simply Partnership

On Saturday, September 24, my friend and and former Sage colleague of mine, Rob Johnson, delivered the closing luncheon keynote at the last Simply Partnership Conference at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

imageJennifer Warawa, the newly minted vice president of partner programs and channel sales for Sage Small Business Solutions, and her team, in conjunction with Kimberly Dorony and the fabulous Sage Events team, did their usually outstanding jobs in putting on a great event.

In addition to our keynote (slides below), Rob and I performed our version of Wear Sunscreen as a commencement address. Here is the text of the speech:

Rob: Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of 2011:

Ed: If we could offer you only one tip for the future, backing up your data would be it. The long term benefits of backing up have been proved by technologists everywhere whereas the rest of our advice has no basis more reliable than our own meandering experiences… We will dispense this advice now.

Rob: Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve a network connectivity issue by using bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you in your office at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Ed: Do one thing every day that scares you.

Rob: Sing.

Ed: Don’t be reckless with your customer’s emotions, and don’t put up with customers who are reckless with yours.

Rob: Floss.

Ed: Don’t waste your time on being jealous of other Sage partners; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Rob: Always accept a mint if offered to you.

Ed: Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this; tell us how.

Rob: Stretch.

Ed: Keep your old customers thank you notes but, throw away your old manuals.

Rob: Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Ed: Enjoy your mind, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Rob: Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

Ed: Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Rob: Read the directions, even if, like me, you don’t intend follow them.

Ed: Spend more time with your parents; you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Rob: Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Ed: Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few that you should hold on to, work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Rob: Travel.

Ed: Spend some time in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; spend some time in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Rob: Respect your elders.

Ed: Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Rob: Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a triple A customer, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Ed: Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

Rob: But trust us on backing up.


On My Tour of Zappos

Last Thursday, I had the privilege to tour the headquarters of Zappos in Henderson, NV just outside of Las Vegas with my friend and Sage partner Judy Thornell of Baytek. (Thanks, Judy for arranging the tour!) Without question Zappos is an amazing organization. If you ever have the chance to go on the tour, I highly recommend it to a friend/colleague. (A little NPS humor there.)

imageAs soon as you walk in you notice, the place is loud. The lobby/reception area is like no other in that it bustles like a Las Vegas Strip street corner with friends (more later) walking through, talking and high-fiving. What is more this is clearly not an accident, the location was chosen precisely because it is busy. The Zappos culture is on display. It was further demonstrated by this pillow made from a tee-shirt that was on the couch in the reception area.

IMG_0506Jerry (in the red shirt at left) was the ringmaster. He greeted everyone warmly (and loudly) and peppered us with a series of one-liners throughout our wait. At one point, one of the tourists asked about where the men’s room was. Jerry replied without hesitation, “We just use the bushes out front.”

Our tour guide was the effervescent Rocco (on the megaphone above – I told you it was loud) whose title on his card is, I kid you not, Culture Magician. Throughout the tour he referred to his co-workers as “friends in department name” or “my fellow Zapponians.” The use of friends was genuine and did not sound odd, except the first time he said it.

The first and largest department we visited was the CLT – Customer Loyalty Team. This 24-hour a day team is talking on the phones, replying to email and conversing via chat. Chat is the newest part of the team which has increased from 11 people to 55 in the last year. Their mantra which they shouted to us as we walked by is, “Once you go chat, you’ll never go back.” Too funny!


Every new hire regardless of their position with the company does four weeks of CLT training (that is what they called it). This serves two purposes: 1) it instills the Zappos values and 2) it serves as a backup for their busy Christmas season. Since everyone has done time at CLT they can all pitch in rather than hire temporary workers who do not understand the culture. Brilliant idea!

If the new hire is on the CLT, they then serve an additional three weeks of what is called “incubation: before they are fully on the team.

Every six months the CLT undergoes what is called a “shift bid.” This is where the teams reshuffle and through a bidding process people move from shift to shift or from subteams (like email) to subteam (like chat) in the CLT.

We then met the gal who holds the record for the longest call – 8 hours and 25 minutes. Someone on the tour asked if she took a bathroom break. “One,” she replied. They are currently producing a video about it, but in the meantime you can view this one about the previous record holder, Jennifer S. Her call was a mere four hours!

One of the coolest employee program that Rocco mentioned was the  concierge service for all employees. They can drop off their dry cleaning, get their cars detailed, or even, have a gift purchased for a loved one. Now this is not a free service, the employee pays a fee, plus the price of the purchase, but again, it is a stellar idea.

Next up where the friend on the legal team. For privacy purposes they are the only team that has offices and even they are decorated with big red awnings that are too big for the narrow hallway. CEO Tony Hsieh has a cubical on what is called Monkey Row because it is decorated like a jungle. “Don’t worry, the fire department has approved,” we were told by Rocco.

On the subject of the CEO, we introduced next to the FACE team (they have lots of acronyms, but they are very self effacing about them). FACE stands for Folks that answer CEO email!

Near the end of the tour we were given the opportunity to set in their Royalty Chair. This area is a restaging of a room we saw on the tour previously where friends go to work through and personal goals with a coach. When they achieve their goals they get to sit in the chair. Below is my picture in the chair which they posted on Twitter.



After the tour Judy and I stayed for a brief round of Q&A with Rocco and Renea another tour guide. Perhaps the best answer was in response to a question on following process. “You don’t have to follow our procedures just get the job done,” Rocco responded.

PS – I learned about the Zappos app on iPhone during the tour. Mind you, it is unlikely that I personally will buy anything on it. This is not a reflection of the app, but the fact that my wife Christine is in charge of any and all wardrobe purchases. What is significant is that I showed it to my sister-in-law who initially poo-pooed it saying, “I like to go into shoe stores so I can see and touch and smell the leather.” Well, after five minutes of playing with the app, she said, “I am smelling the leather!”

On the Occasion of Rob Johnson Leaving Sage

imageAs many of you are aware of by now, my friend and colleague, Rob Johnson has decided to leave Sage and join Avalara (the lucky dogs).

Early today, our partner programs team had our last call with Rob at the helm. With their permission, I am sharing some of the content of this call.

First up was myself, playing (in my bang on the keyboard style) one of my and Rob’s favorite songs, Corner of the Sky from the 1972 Broadway musical, Pippin. (Please excuse the clunkers.)

Next up was a poem written by Joo Sohn DeView entitled: Our Lifetime Friend. Each member of the team took turns reciting the stanzas.

Remember your team and never forget,
The first time you became our boss and we met.

Youthful Christina has really come a long way,
She’s managing programs and taking care of a baby all day.

And what about Ed whose ideas were so grand,
Talented is he, he was even in the Sage band.

And sweet Diana who took pictures of you sleeping,
Now she is sad that you’re leaving and weeping.

And your dear friend Joo who always gave you a hard time,
Is now struggling to write a farewell poem for you that will rhyme.

Who could forget your “y’alls,” kicking your own ass, and nightly ice creams?
We really did have more fun than all of those other teams.

You really enjoy your girls, running and public speaking,
A replacement for Sales Academy we’ll need to be seeking.

You’re leaving a legacy of a boss who really cared,
Your hopes and dreams of soaring you happily shared.

You are entering a new chapter in your life that’s exciting,
We are eagerly anticipating the next book you’ll be writing.

Good bye dear friend, we will miss you a ton,
You’ve inspired us with your optimism and our hearts you have won.

Only one day left as our boss but a lifetime friend,
Our exciting time together will finally come to an end.

We’ve shared many laughs, frustrations and tears,
But through it all, it was the best time we had in years!

Then Diana Waterman, presented Rob with a customer shirt she had made on all of our behalf for him.


The front of the shirt depicts Rob, asleep in the back of Diana’s car while dreaming of a Robism, “Two thumbs up!” This was taken at Summit as they went out to an early dinner with him.

Lastly, we all said our “farewells” including Christina Parra, our programs specialist.

“There’s no crying in software. Talk to y’all next week,” Rob ended.

Rob, thanks! ‘Nuf said.


Sage Rebranding: My personal test

Much has been written on the announcement at Sage Summit 2011 regarding Sage’s decision to rebrand our products in an effort to increase the overall brand awareness for Sage here in North America.

I see the merits on all sides of the argument and do not intend to add anything that has not been discussed in other places. I do wish, however, to propose my personal acid test which, I believe, will be a reflection of the ultimate success (or failure) of this endeavor.

Last week, I traveled to Vancouver, BC to deliver the Sage Consulting Academy. After arrival I meandered through the line at Canadian Customs and Immigration and upon my arrival at the desk, the agent asked who my employer was. I replied, “Sage.”

“Sage? Who?” he asked.

“Accpac,” I restated.

“Next,” the agent called.

So, the test is simple. I know our rebranding efforts will be a success when I travel to Canada and am admitted expediently when replying, “Sage” to the question regarding my employer.


Blinded by Labels

In the past week I have been in meetings where a) the differences between the “generations” at work, b) Myers-Briggs tests, and c) PDP tests, have all been cited as the basis for decision making. In my opinion, they might as well have just added zodiac signs.

Over the years I have found these “tools” to be, at best, slightly amusing parlor tricks and, at worst, weapons used to psychologically maim people.

An example – one person retorted when I expressed my views on this hokum – “My profile says I need clear direction when given an assignment. I need to know why. When my boss gives me a “why,” I always do better on the assignment.” Really? Is there anyone who prefers to kept in the dark and doesn’t benefit from understanding why?

Do you see my point? This stuff is most universal assertions packaged in professional gobbledygook (thanks Michelle Golden for reintroducing me to that word). They are the business equivalent of, “I am a Scorpio, as a desert sign, I like long walks on the beach.”

The problem here is that these labels (Gen X, Gen Y, ENTJ, ISFP, High D, Low C, Aries, Scorpio) blind people to the truth. The best example I can give you is politics.

Last night I post this story and graph with the following comment – “Attention Republican/Conservatives, your party is not in favor of smaller government.”

My friend, John, replied, “Why would a well-paid, well-pensioned, government employee favor smaller government? And even if it’s their ‘platform’, why would anyone actually believe them?” Great point!

My reply, “For the same reasons that Democrats/Liberals believe that their president was going to end the wars – They are blinded by labels.”

Labeling people does not promote good decision making, it promotes blindness to the truth.

With New Employees It Is Easier to Put in Good Habits than to Change Bad Ones

Once your employee has learned a bad behavior, changing it will take considerably more time than would have been required to put in a good one. I am sure someone will have the answer to why it happens, but all too often a employee will learn a bad behavior in a split second that can be very difficult to change. Putting in a good behavior to replace it will take more time and more repetitions.

Do not feel your employee knows and will consistently offer a wanted behavior simply because he does it a few times on command. Often, we desire a behavior to be automatic with no command. If we are consistent, that behavior will become a natural and accepted habit.

Initially we provide guiding actions, controls, and controlling equipment, such as checklists. We also control with our voice and our body. Plus, we lure, reward, and reinforce the wanted behaviors to show our employee what is expected in everyday situations. Do it enough and the behavior you are guiding him into will become a habit. A well-behaved employee is simply an employee with good habits!

When training an employee, it is important that we do not make mistakes that create an unwanted behavior. Think ahead. Do not make a big issue out of imperfections, but learn from them and work to create a better action and avoid the imperfection the next time.

We are really helping the employee to learn. The employee should come to see our actions as rewards or non-rewards — and not be fearful of us in any way. The “reward” can be praise or another positive result. A “non-reward” does not mean punishment, but simply that you withhold the positive result. This way he will want to work with us and please us within the partnership. By thinking ahead and using common sense, we can achieve that.

Think training and education are still the same thing, click here for the original article. Don’t offer training to your employees and customers – educate them instead!

Hedgehog Revisited

Last week while delivering a Sage Business Strategy Workshop, the group had a dialogue about Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Principle (aka BHAG). I shot a brief video about the conversation. (Sorry, about the sound sync problem. I am still working some of this technology out.)


I have a couple of questions for you:

  1. What do you think of the idea of looking at the three bisections?
  2. Are the names we have developed correct? If not, what might you propose.

Here is a better view of the diagram. (Au is the periodic table abbreviation for gold. MM is maintenance mode.)



The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. – Edwin Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p. ix

edwin-friedmanThis quote, with which I often open a speaking engagement, has had a profound impact on my career and, indeed, my life. Its application ubiquitous – to family, to colleagues, to church groups, to political parties, to international relations – and I encounter its effects daily and often multiple times in one day.

The name of this post is, maybe not so obviously, an acronym for this quote. In the past week I have used it, the acronym no less than four times in various on-line conversations. (One person, after just seeing the jumble of letters, asked me if I was alright. I think, perhaps, they thought I was having a stroke.)

Just yesterday I was in a conversation with a colleague about some folks who seemed to be caught up in the past. In a meeting he attended with them, they were unmoved by the mounting evidence he was presenting that the situation was, in fact, changing. This was clearly contrary to their belief and they refused to accept it.

He then asked how I might approach changing their minds. I was, yet again, reminded of Friedman’s great quote. I replied that it is futile to try to change their minds because, well, it is their mind, not his.

I did suggest that in the future when confronted with a similar situation he ask the following question, “Are you willing to admit that there is a possibility that the situation could improve in the future?”

I said that only if he gets an affirmative response to this question should he agree to continue the conversation. Anything other than a “Yes” response would mean it would be futile to continue. If an individual or group is unwilling to recognize this possibility, no amount of data, evidence, anecdotes or emotional appeals will change them. Continuing the conversation will only heighten your anxiety and theirs.

Which reminds me of another famous quote by Robert Heinlein, “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

What about you? Are you open to the possibility of a better future?

PS – If you are interested in learning more about the work of Edwin Friedman this video provides an good overview.

Cool New Tool –

imageMy thanks to Sage partner Wayne Schulz at Schulz Consulting for turning me on to This free (there is a paid premium edition as well) web service allows you to publish your calendar to the site where your customers can see what your available time is and propose scheduled meetings.

In addition, you can add a widget to your web sites, see mine at the top right of this page.

Effective immediately, if you would like to have a conversation with me, please click on the widget and enter the information as instructed. You must propose at least two possible times to connect.