The future is about remote work, not fancy offices. GitLab leads the way. My remote working experience has been productive whether I’m zooming with local colleagues or in far away places like India and Japan. Tech companies that generously offer remote working opportunities will outpace those that won’t (especially during a crisis).
With much of the world on lockdown, there’s never been a better time to come together, establish a meditation practice, learn yoga, eat healthily, consume inspiring content, and stay connected using the latest technologies. Most importantly, this ’extra’ time gives me the chance to support my family like never before.
I don’t know how long this contagion will last, but I survived another strain of Coronavirus known as SARS while living in Asia. SARS didn’t survive once summer arrived. Maybe the only upside of global warming is that it can help eradicate viruses. There are fewer cases currently in warmer climate zones. I find it odd that the media rarely cites this finding and instead concentrates on negativity (maybe to boost ratings). I expect things to return to normal this summer. Of course, we have to be vigilant now to curtail the spread.
The stoppage of physical movement gives my world a chance to sink into stillness and find inner peace. If you are a people-connector and prefer extroversion, these are particularly hard times. However, it’s hard to become mindful when busyness and travel take over. The great writer Pico Iyer once wrote about stillness and going nowhere. I’m rereading his book.
Like most Americans, I’m always on the go. Sometimes I travel great distances to retreats, resorts, or sporting events to slow down. Now, I can’t go anywhere. It’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me. There’s a lot to fix at home. Work won’t end since I’m in the tech world. Learning shouldn’t stop for anyone if you are updating skills online or completing educational requirements.
This blog will refocus on my inner journey and how I plan to grow during these uncertain times.
Kudos to Southwest Airlines for issuing the following comms: https://mobile.southwest.com/travel-advisories/0
(See Travel Advisory)
While I don’t think it’s safe to fly on a long haul flight, I trust companies which prioritize passenger and customer safety. I’m a frequent flyer on several major airlines.
Most seem frozen in time, given the need to do something. Overcommunication is better than none. Crisis communication is paramount. I’ll always trust Southwest Airlines: link
Back in Houston. Not a fan, but I trust the cancer hospital here. I feel fortunate that we are in good hands even in trying circumstances. The journey never seems to end.
In the last 5 years, customer success has emerged as a key role in most cloud-based companies. It’s ranked #6 (US) in LinkedIn’s annual Jobs report: Link
The top roles in the report are technical and well-defined. Customer Success has matured and requires specialized skills. Recent reorgs by SAP and VMWare demonstrate how customer success can survive —- absorbing support, professional services, and even some sales functions. Over the last 5 years, platforms such as Gainsight created a category and differentiated from traditional CRMs. The CAGR forecasted for customer success platforms is over 25% in the coming years. I witnessed a few companies buy CS platforms or get acquired themselves. Deal flow is a good sign in most industries.
The plus side is the growth potential for anyone entering this field. The downside is that it’s a political role and requires being savvy given the exposure in an org. I know very few customer success professionals who stayed in the same role for over 3 years. Of course, many shifted roles within the org, but many more didn’t survive reorgs.
I’m happy to endorse this career for anyone just after college, but recommend it as a stepping stone to technical or product roles. There is much talk of the Chief Customer Officer owning revenue and becoming the Chief Revenue Officer. Ultimately, I don’t think customer success is ready to replace the Sales function, but CS will always be Sales’ best friend.
Upon reflecting on the classic scene from Glengarry Glen Ross, the coffee is for closers only. CS professionals are unlikely to succeed when Sales slow down. 😂
However, a well-supported Customer Success function retains and grows the customer base even during tough times.
The Keizai Society throws a great party every year at the Palo Alto Hills Country Club. It’s worth attending if you have deep ties to Japan. They honor local folks as part of their festivities. Guy Kawasaki (of Apple fame) and Kaname Hayashi, founder of a personal robotics company, received prizes.
Guy served on a panel I helped organize years ago as part of the annual TIECON. He was Chief Evangelist at Apple — which was a hybrid combination of what marketing and customer success are known as today (Link).
Hayashi-San is part of a brilliant generation of Japanese entrepreneurs escaping the cubicles of corporate Japan. His A.I. robot called Lovot is a fantastic product — already being used to help the elderly in Japan with intelligent companionship beyond the scope of almost any pet.
There are so many use cases for such an invention — from retail and hospitality, as well as healthcare and childcare.
Love from Lovot is available for a price ($3000+). A couple of clips below.
Japanese philosophy makes simplicity profound. Whether it involves work, family, or some ritual in one’s life, these three things create happiness for me:
1. Something to do
2. Something to love
3. Something to hope for
The table stakes show that higher levels of engagement, passion, and vision improve satisfaction. The opposite of happiness comes in the form of inaction, aversion, and hopelessness.
Quality of life improves by optimizing the sources of happiness.
Companies like Airbnb, Uber, Tinder, and WeWork have really changed how techies work and socialize. As a result, there’s an explosive growth of digital nomads and experience-seeking junkies — many of whom are tech workers who’ve managed to have fun while earning a paycheck in far-flung places.
Will the insatiable desire for new travel experiences translate into more unique remote-working opportunities? These gigs offered by startups like WiFi Tribe look much more exciting than being moored to a dock at home.
Things built to last and meant to be sustainable are losing out to the ephemeral and the disposable. I like the idea of spending a year or two in Timbuktu, but not sure how one can grow by becoming a full-time carpetbagger. I ended my carpet-bagging days when I just couldn’t maintain my health and well-being.
I wonder if this trend will fade once the global economy cools down. I can’t imagine having to work while CouchSurfing. 🧐
Reading this book. I really like the organizational blueprint highlighted here by entrepreneur Safi Bahcall. Whether you are an artist/innovator (developer, R&D scientist, UX designer, engineering, etc.) or a soldier/operations guru (marketer, sales, HR, customer success/CX, project manager), you’ll need strong collaboration in order to generate the best results for a firm.
Re-thinking the process about how we organize ourselves could improve the execution of big and small projects, alike. Artists and soldiers represent two wings of the same bird.
How do we make the bird soar and solve the biggest problems? Can a simple shift in mindset fuel success?
Great presentation by Keri Keeling from Oracle about formalizing the account planning process…
My favorite record store in Austin closed 15 years ago. If I want the Tower Records experience I have to go overseas.
When I visit Japan every couple of years or so, I can still drop by Tower Records in Shibuya and the Toys ”R” Us Japan headquarters in Kawasaki (where I was a consultant many years ago). Toys ”R” Us never shut down in Japan. Japan loves vintage ’American’ brands.
Struggling retail brands continue to find success in Japan where the population density swells in city centers usually near train stations. Thanks to a strong public transit system, the foot traffic is endless for stores which rely on customers to visit the old-fashioned way.
While shopping malls shrink in America due to the smartphone lifestyle, the Japanese remain loyal to big-box retailers making the effort to market themselves and provide ”omotenashi.”
If you enjoy classic rock, I recommend Phoenix where old bands keep strumming. If you love old school shopping experiences, visit Japan and think about opening a store there.
Few large cities in America offer master-planned communities and estate homes similar to Houston for a fraction of a million dollars. It’s rare to find metros in the South that have successfully built industrial sectors capable of surviving recessions and globalization.
The Energy Corridor (77079) in Houston employs over 100,000 folks. The Texas Medical Center (77030) supports a similar figure enabling another growing cluster for jobs. These two zip codes help power Houston’s economy. The tech sector is a big part of the growth story in Houston. Austin and Dallas have tech stories of their own which are masked by higher real estate prices than Houston, but nothing like the mediocre housing on the East or West Coasts.
I don’t know many people on the East Coast or West Coast who have joined the migration of ’housing’ refugees coming to Houston. Houston attracts all walks of life from across the globe which creates a unique diversity and mishmash of cultures.
Austin or Dallas first comes to mind whenever I think of Texas. If Houston can fix its flooding and crime issues, it could become a third coast gem for families seeking normalcy amidst the bluster of high-strung living on expensive coasts. There are plenty of tech jobs in Houston— to go along with cheap gas and doctors on standby. 😆
With wealth inequality increasing in almost all large metros, Houston counters the trend with a not so secret sauce: by developing strong industrial sectors around affordable housing. By limiting zoning laws, residential communities and condos (that are actually affordable) sprout up all over the city, near the key zip codes where people work. This trend is definitely changing, but Houston has done a good job of addressing the affordable housing crisis plaguing NYC, San Francisco, and Seattle. Houston will become unaffordable in 5 to 10 years —- when everyone starts moving there after Austin and Dallas get saturated.
The jobs growth must continue because Houston is not the most exciting or geographically-pleasing place in the world. These two zip codes are worth looking into if you are expanding your business or organization.
Andrew Yang is a long shot, but as long as the Democratic Party and liberal media networks like MSNBC focus on ‘beating Trump’ versus focusing on the needs of the American family, 2020 will bring little change. This excellent op-ed points to what is missing — Andrew Yang deserves more air time to share a positive vision for American families.
The originator of advertising shared this tidbit long before the internet age began.
In this age of the customer, the conscientious consumer will impact business decision-making. Consumers are becoming more aware of sourcing, sustainability, and responsible investing. Business ethics and corporate social responsibility take center stage. Salesforce does a great job of highlighting this at their conference — making it ripple out to partners, customers, the United Nations, and beyond.
The famous bookstore in Paris is 100 years old. I was there when it turned 99.
Will it make it to its 200th birthday? Will there be enough bookworms to preserve it throughout this century?
There’s something to be said about the largest e-commerce company in the world beginning as a bookseller twenty-five years ago. It will be interesting to see if the Paris bookstore outlives Amazon.
Scott Heiferman founded Meetup just after the dotcom bubble crashed. It scaled over time and gained a global following. Before Facebook and LinkedIn, Meetups were the platform of choice for anyone interested in community-building. Evite was another similar tool at that time.
Scott decided to sell the company to WeWork a couple of years ago. As someone who relied on Meetup for all kinds of networking including running a community myself, I’m not sure if I’ll renew my subscription. The biggest benefit offered to Meetup community leaders was the usage of swank office space at WeWork locations for free. The cost of admission was often free in the Meetup world. Things seemed too good to be true. It’s impossible to run such a business for too long.
It’s a shame if Meetup gets shut down because there are so many folks like Scott who scaled amazing communities and connected with each other. I hope Meetup survives the WeWork reorganization.
If you grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen, this movie is for you…
The empty chair mantra has caught on at many companies starting with Amazon. Jeff Bezos alludes to the customer who needs representation, so the idea is to keep an empty chair in every meeting.
What if the empty chair also became a civic lesson for companies to give back. What if the empty chair was kept for disadvantaged youth, for the homeless, or for the stranger who’s terminally ill.
I helped with a recent program focused on customer experience and social impact. I couldn’t help but think about the empty chairs there representing those who may never get the chance to ascend the lofty heights of SF. At the same time, I felt gratitude towards the inspiring speakers and sponsors for shedding light on customer experience, employee experience, and volunteerism.
It’s why corporate social responsibility has become the primary reason younger generations chose an employer in the first place. I believe the more a company aligns social impact to its mission statement, the more likely it is to survive in the long term. Companies like Salesforce, DocuSign, Zendesk, and Medallia clearly understand what’s at stake. The employee who cares about the empty chair is a keeper.
CAR-T is a new treatment for cancer which is now available at over 100 hospitals. It re-engineers a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer. It was one of the hundreds of trials at MD Anderson which successfully reached the mass market. Patients get access to such trials at the largest research hospitals. For anyone who gets diagnosed with complex cancer (stage 2 or greater), the best chance of survival is at a research institution.
Fortunately, my relative was able to join a breakthrough trial in Houston. As someone who studies processes and systems closely, I’ve learned more at MD Anderson than any other hospital because of the transparency, the quality of care, and aggressive vision which adopts the latest technologies such as Oncora. MD Anderson even has a yoga program.
Here’s a well-written essay by a Stanford doctor about her experience treating current patients with CAR-T. Huge strides are being made in the race to cure cancer.
(we began at Stanford and made our way to MD Anderson where we found access to such trials as well as a better patient experience)
The tech world has become much more hands-on in the last decade. Nearly all founders and CEOs build, configure, & implement products and services. Customer success becomes everyone’s mission when project execution happens with customers in perpetuity.
Proposify is a cool tool I’ve used. It’s made by a tiny Canadian company. In the world of Customer Success, it’s an unknown startup (with global ambitions) but has managed to scale from zero.
I really like how they’ve grown the customer success function from scratch. Founder Kyle Racki outlines how they made it happen.
Customer Success(CS) is often coined as a subset of Customer Experience(CX). The reality is that Customer Success drives CX initiatives. Based on anecdotal evidence, CX professionals seem to have fewer job opportunities than CS pros. Bob Thompson expounds on the dilemma here. CX needs CS more than ever.
It’s ok to lose some competitions. Every battle is not worth fighting for. I’ve seen a recent spate of successful people pass away well before their time, not from accidents, but from illnesses like cancer. Almost all were fierce competitors who led stressful lives.
Sometimes, losing really means living.
In search of a more democratic internet (from an academic’s perspective)…
Here’s a quick recap of Ramesh’s talk. Algorithms power the fastest growing companies. Tech companies monopolize and monetize exchanges. A handful of platforms and apps control nearly all of the world’s data. Here’s a popular slide he shared.
Silicon Valley tech leaders continue to determine technology access and user experiences for most of the world’s population. While good intentions drove them to success, the lack of awareness (and governance) of the unique needs of global cultures has resulted in cultural misappropriation and inefficient use cases. While most of us benefit from the new technologies, our data is being used against our future livelihoods, and for insane profits. Ultimately, the data will be codified to usurp our jobs. It’s already happening.
Ramesh portrays hope for an alternative tech universe focused on community, equality, and shared opportunities. He showcased some real breakthroughs of rural tech entrepreneurship —- mostly off the grid — insinuating that success is possible without being part of the global technology hegemony.
The viewpoint shared here is not entirely new. Populist movements have been railing against harm from the U.S. technology sector’s consolidation of power through data collection. Everyone from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump has expressed concerns. The least concerned appear to be the politicians controlled by the U.S. Tech lobby.
Some data issues are being addressed by GDPR and other government controls, but little has been done so far. We have embraced the Facebooks and Amazons of the world and given them all of our data. Yet, it’s frightening to think about indigenous populations, and what they might do to us if they made it across our borders. 😉
What if the same people were brilliant tech entrepreneurs trying to get us off the ‘grid’ as we know it?
A culture of empathy makes Japan a bit more frictionless than most countries. Omoiyari or empathy is a minimal expectation, not something which needs to be taught or enforced.
MD Anderson strives for as much human interaction as possible — creating a patient-centric experience that does not lead with technology. Rebecca Kaul, Chief Innovation Officer, outlines a world-class experience for patients and their families. I can attest to it — having walked the halls and seen hundreds of smiles.
It’s terrifying to think of hospitals just becoming factories of automation where doctors become obsolete. Some tech innovators should take a closer look at the human side of care. Huge efficiencies can be achieved through technology, but medical leaders shouldn’t replace the white glove treatment that extends care and keeps hope alive.
Entrepreneurship is often derived from life experiences rarely witnessed in America. Challenges yield creativity. Lual Mayen escaped Sudan and now runs a gaming company in DC. The son of another refugee entrepreneur Abdul Fattah Jandali is none other than the great Steve Jobs. America’s success comes from a culture of inclusion, not derision.
The former Soviet Union instituted the “continuous workweek” known as neprervka almost 100 years ago. Weekends didn’t exist. Families couldn’t see each other much. Burnout was pervasive. The experiment didn’t last long. In today’s workforce, flexibility is the expected norm with the caveat that work can get done anywhere and at any time thanks to technology. Instead of balance, we work much harder today and don’t know our neighbors.
Life in America works when there’s a calendar otherwise we lose sight of the life we have to live. Japan is another schedule-driven society I know all too well. The work we do overtakes the work needed at home and in the community. Technology is creating more imbalance when it should make us more civic-minded citizens.
This insightful article highlights some startling examples such as Home Depot’s evolution from FT retail employer to just another revolving door for part-timers. Technology helps with scheduling and workforce productivity. A business succeeds thanks to technology but hurts the average worker. The end goal is seemingly to employ 24×7 part-time workers just like the failed Soviet experiment. If we work all the time we won’t have time to revolt with our neighbors against a government and business world suppressing civic life. One-dimensional plutocrats lacking maturity and human empathy take reins because we didn’t have time to do our homework with our neighbors.
Home Depot was a recent client of mine. Back in the 90s, I recall it being a company of experts. The retail stores excelled with full-time workers and experts. You could always count on the friends you made at Home Depot. Home Depot’s band of experts created a positive employee and customer experience. Things changed in the 2000s when Home Depot changed its full-time work culture into a part-time one without experts. The store experience was pretty bad, and the online experience was even worse.
When I fast-forward to the most recent years — as I helped Home Depot move its customer service capabilities onto a smartphone — things have dramatically improved as Home Depot connected its brick-and-mortar experience with its mobile and online channels. The low-cost flexible workers have become ‘experts’ with customer knowledge at their fingertips. While over-scheduling a part-time workforce has certainly been good for Home Depot’s stock performance and for customers like me, the employee experience hasn’t improved. Only store managers are full time. They watch their stores like hawks, replacing workers frequently.
I’ve always worried about the kind of experience these part-time employees might be having since I consulted at the headquarters. Since I don’t think it’s fair to punish part-time workers struggling to support their families, I tended to give everyone 5-star ratings on the mobile experience surveys. The Atlantic article highlights the role scheduling has played in diminishing quality of life including time for civic life. As 2019 comes to a close, it’s become much harder to achieve the civic goals I set out for myself.
Neprervka has been resurrected in new ways. We are wired 24×7, tethered to our phones, becoming customer support for our companies, but not for the sake of customers. The end goal is survival — in order to pay the bills and raise law-abiding children. “It takes a village” was a proverb I heard often back in my schooling days. The culture of our hometowns — whether back in Texas or in the backwaters of Asia — has disappeared as we embrace what is tantamount to a socially-stratified corporate lifestyle in ritzy urban centers. The pressure never ends to be at the top of your game. There’s only one winner for every race. Losers go home. The carefree freedoms of the local coffeehouse culture (from childhood) have been replaced by a virtual prison — where our phones connect us to our humanity — not conversations around a cooler with our families and neighbors.
Making a difference in the world has become a big deal if you tie it to the opportunity to make a big sale. If you garner good enough PR you just might keep the government off your back. Corporate Social Responsibility deserves more executive ownership and visionary action since many government leaders are not up to snuff. As citizens, we need to reprioritize our lives to avoid rule by hegemonic forces such as the tech industry which has successfully hijacked our minds.
Nonetheless, our shared fate is being sealed by a faceless boardroom of plutocrats making painful decisions equivalent to those passed down by dictators like Joseph Stalin a hundred years ago. Our phones gave us this convenient lifestyle but also distracted us enough to elect stupid people into public office. Too many things on the schedule blind us from seeing the light.
Let’s join forces with our neighbors for the greater good before we lose our vacation and weekend time, too. 😁
This Japanese expression meaning “one life, one encounter” is a favorite. Time flies, but memories can be made to last. Behavioral psychology points to the younger population choosing experiences over things.
How do we keep up in the business world? I’ve learned that treating every initial customer and prospect with omotenashi (selfless hospitality) increases the possibility that they chose to return. At the same time, loyalty is becoming a thing of the past with so many consumers addicted to the pursuit of new experiences. The bar has been raised so high that every interaction requires additional creativity on top of selfless hospitality. Sometimes, this creativity requires provocation.
It boils down to creating memories with every customer interaction. The best marketers are memory makers.
Steve Jobs may not have been the greatest human being, but he left a permanent footprint in the sands of time.
I began writing this blog because I felt a lot of professionals, especially those in customer-facing roles, feel misaligned with employment that only leverages traditional business skills. Sometimes, an individual’s social values don’t align with some corporate missions. A growing population of young and experienced employees walk into a workplace equipped to get the job done but walk out feeling that their work — selling and delivering certain products — doesn’t make the world a better place. Hence, an immediate conflict arises. Medication or meditation keeps these folks sane.
A recent survey by Bloomberg shows Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) experience is not valued by recruiters when recruiting MBAs. Traditional hamster-wheel skills like sales, finance, high-tech, and marketing take the cake for top employers.
In a world that’s getting turned upside down, will there be a shift towards recruiting socially conscious workers? A new generation of empathetic problem-solvers, skilled healers, and mindful leaders with ESG skills deserve more opportunities. I believe the world has already shifted towards protecting humans not only as customers but as fellow citizens. Who would have imagined a crisis in 2020 where ventilators got produced by GM and faceguards got christened at a Boeing factory? Corporate America, led by Captain America, may save the day. 🤨
Salesforce has been a leader in bringing the ESG mindset to its workforce thanks to its leader Marc Benioff. However, many large companies lack a visionary purpose tied to their products. Greenwashing has overtaken social media. Sometimes, it takes a crisis to bring the global village together. Even before our current catastrophe, growing movements within these companies showed promise in delivering exceptional customer experiences through products that revolutionize the planet.
The following article by Atlanta-based consultant Andrew Dietz provides insights on how to grow a social venture and transform the customer experience, whether you are a social entrepreneur or corporate intrapreneur. This is a playbook to get buyers and fellow human beings to take notice. The “hierarchy of customer buying factors” is spelled out nicely. I’m sold by this approach by a product marketer. Ultimately, products drive social impact. It’s our job to win hearts and minds while connecting these dots. It’s much easier to focus on the ‘why’ when humanity depends on this new normal of living. Link