Suspending The Belief In Unicorns!

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

Leaders of newly founded professional services firms are likely to encounter an invisible shield on the journey to success that inhibits growth and assaults confidence.

To have assumed that a plan, any plan, would be pursued sans turbulence, is as likely that Unicorn’s truly exist!

This inflection point is oftentimes when an organization hovers around 100 client/customer facing incumbents, or when geographic expansion removes line of sight to early hires.

Regardless of when this phenomenon becomes visible, adeptness and agility are required to overcome obstacles.

Discussion Partner’s recently embarked on a study of 22 firms whom are poised to grow: but struggle with the elements required to exploit their respective marketplace opportunities.

Our client experience and research suggests that there are four separate and distinct phases that have to be navigated to promote success and if not overcome, the net/net is disappointment or in extreme circumstances, extinction.

Stage 1-Trial and Error
When a firm is founded, there is unbridled optimism in support of the “big idea”.

The concept in search of a context is to address the questions, “how big, how fast, how many, how much”?

Essentially, unless the business model is a planned smallness, there is a hope that a growth trajectory can be promoted.

Assuming there is a market for the big idea, the “now what” question arises.

Unless an owner/founder or initial population has a crystal ball, regardless of leadership sophistication, there are four areas that have to be incorporated into the business model.

  1. How to manage the numbers, or more importantly how do the founders gain an understanding of the undeniable truths represented in the “financials”
  2. How to create the infrastructure balancing need vs. cost, vs. an understanding of implication whether it is IT, Real Estate, Finance, Marketing, Logistics, Human Capital, or alternative foundations, the need is to manage the platform or run the risk of funding Chateau Briand on a Cheeseburger budget
  3. How to manage population control how many, doing what, measured by, and consequent engagement outcomes….the successful prosecution of this element is the secret sauce for growth.
  4. How to avoid self-delusion confronting vs. ignoring the inevitable dislocations on the journey regarding leadership style and dealing with disappointments.

Stage 2 Aspiration Plateau
Assuming the founder or founders survive Stage 1 without accepting the job at Pottery Barn or becoming a recluse on a mountain, the joy and rapture only continues.

The second stage is true channel management, how does the company and it’s leaders make the “great leap forward” into the realization that all successful lessons learned, have to be challenged with the operating mentality of “slash and burn”.

This is a provocative way of having to address the question of “what no longer works”?

This is true pain as it encompasses:

  • Culture-degree of formality vs. informality
  • People-the rack and stack of folks in terms of alliance with growth vs. achievement against more modest expectations while appearing to disregard loyalty
  • Access-how to prioritize where and with whom do senior leaders spend their time
  • Keeping Score-raising the bar in respect to goals, expectations and accountability

All of the above require decisiveness. Moving slowly or even worse ignoring the need to address, has unfortunate outcomes.

Stage 3-Replenishment

The replenishment question requires the embryonic but seemingly stable enterprise to address the following:

  • The need to raise the average IQ by saying goodbye to “originator” staff, and hiring newer folks whom have a commercial mentality
  • The need to have an on-going economic, psychic, or material cost vs. benefit mentality whereby necessary vs. nice is the criteria for adjudication of moving forward or disposal
  • The need to hold people accountable where the “dog ate my homework” excuse is substituted with the metaphor of “I am the dog and although cute, can bite”
  • The need to think of client experience, infrastructure, innovation and new product/service offerings as interdependent “projects” with time-lines, resources, and success metrics that need to be taken as serious as marriage vows, as if not addressed results in a depletion of resources similar to divorce attorneys
  • The need to recognize it is better to move fast and make mistakes vs. be overly deliberative applies ….the metaphor of speed now elegance later is the desired attribute
  • To address all of the above in the context of a framework or “plan” where there is prediction, milestones, and clear definitions of success

Stage 4-Momentry Sustainability

Presuming your survival at least for the time being, you need to conduct a realistic assessment reminiscent of the French Resistance workers in World War ll, “am I a boy, playing a soldier, whom can cause damage” or “am I a pretender in hopes that I will survive with a glorious reputation” or “an unselfish contributor to the war effort.”

All answers are negotiable, the lack of introspection however is not! Regardless of conclusions, there is a need to embed the lessons learned on the journey into a leadership style that promotes ambitious strategy supported by an aligned organizational model.

As important is a need to a) promote collaboration, b) be the poster child or children for unselfish behavior, and c) think of yourself from now on as the surfer whom is relentlessly outpacing the wave.

Firefighters do not sit around waiting for the fire, they train as if the fire will take place in the next 15 minutes….Special Forces, do not just bulk up, they develop and train against possible scenarios to stay edgy.

In the commercial sector, self-satisfaction, complacency, and forgetfulness of how hard it is to become successful and even harder to sustain this achievement, are self-destructive.

Some interesting statistics combining multiple sources.

  • Since 1980 84% of “new” consultancies have lasted less than 5 years
  • In the same time frame, 63% have not achieved 100 client facing incumbents
  • In the same time frame 71% of those entities which did not achieve the 5 year time frame disaggregated into a firm of less than 10

Putting one’s faith in the continuance of a successful platform as the status quo is risky!

Failure like Clint Eastwood is constantly in the background saying “go ahead make my day!”


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Running Out Of Tomorrows!

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

Consultants have a healthy respect for coincidences. In the past week I have experienced two separate discussions on leadership that suggest there are limitations to the definition of Talent Readiness, when “ready now” should be ignored in favor of taking calculated risks.

The discussions were focused on a company in crisis where retired executives were asked to return as the current leaders were deemed not up to the task.

My working hypothesis before being challenged was “good… the company is taking advantage of an expanded talent pool to resolve their issues”. The alternative point of view assertively expressed was “that is so wrong on so many cultural levels, why are the current leaders not ready, and how can they not feel insulted by these decisions?”

One of Gandhi’s more meaningful quotes was “the mark of a true leader is not their number of followers, it is the number of leaders they themselves create”. Easy to articulate, but difficult to execute given the historical and current state of enterprise focus on “the numbers”.

The most recent edition of Harvard Business Review (July/August 2015) features an article promoting the need to “Blow Up HR”. Not coincidentally this is the 10th anniversary of Why We Hate HR! this appeared in Fast Company.

The article presents a sensible case for this being a strategic need as the current processes are un-responsive and dated as was my working hypothesis!

Recalibrating a point of view first requires an acknowledgement of error….never easy….what is also necessary is an alternative.

The alternative, after consultation with other Discussion Partners is three-fold:

  1. Elevation of Leadership Development to a strategic intent at least if not more important as the more traditional measurements of success
  2. Public sanctioning including displacement of executives whom do not take this objective seriously.
  3. Retiring the managerial well intentioned mantra of “I will spend time on staff development matters tomorrow” as no longer acceptable… leaders we have run out of tomorrows!

In the context of a starting point for Leadership Development the following capability shortfalls surfaced in the prosecution of our work with executives assessing the “readiness” of their Successors.

Early in our work when we posed the question “are your successors up for the challenge”, we frequently heard the response “no”, “not yet”, “not sure”, or “hard to tell”.

Initially advisors were somewhat cynical about the response as Type A personalities have healthy ego’s. However, when we dug deeper into the comments number in-common concerns were articulated by our clients.

Essentially they see the “deficiencies” or “shortfalls” in the following areas:

Global Preparation-given that most of the new wave of leadership began their careers during the recession of the late 80’s and early 90’s, the ability to secure an expatriate assignment, or participate in extensive international travel, was sufficiently curtailed. Moreover, the cost constraint mentality that existed unintentionally discouraged pan-organizational initiatives in favor of “home grown” strategic intents. Thus the ability to learn more about global challenges were bereft of opportunity.

Collaboration-the above also has to be put into the context of “how we now collaborate”. Since the late 90’s collaboration has devolved to a state of electronic touch points.

The days where mission focused teams were created, and participants entered a room prepared to persuade others to their point of view are waning. The use of electronic communication is now the norm. A compelling example of course is Facebook as a principal communication vehicle. This type of interface can be extrapolated easily to implications for collaborative efforts

Written Communication-as a rapidly aging baby boomer I still remember the Palmer Method, the nuns obsession with good grammar, and living in dread fear that my mother a Masters prepared English teacher would want to review my homework.

Having survived the above, I do look askance at the quality of writing that is offered today.

We have become executives who believe that well presented PowerPoint decks, are the bastion of good communication, and the more graphics the more forceful the argument.

The art of creating a persuasive paragraph, to be incorporated into a White Paper, or Education treatise has suffered according to our clients.

Intellectual Curiosity-most Boomer CEO’s are voracious readers of Biographies. In addition to reading books about or written by, Jack Welch, they focus on Geopolitics and Political Biographies.

To reinforce the point the acceptance of books by Ian Bremmer Superpower, Roosevelt and Stalin, Susan Butler, Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lincoln (Team of Rivals), and Roosevelt/Taft (The Bloody Pulpit) as well as biographies of Churchill and Wilson are offered.

Twice a year Discussion Partners creates a Reading List for our C-Suite clients based upon what we are being told are the books they are focused on at the time. What we learned through this initiative was that the C-Suite, wants to understand, “how they dealt with adversity”.

Our clients concern is that this lack of “wanting to understand” is of secondary importance to domain expertise.

The above “concerns” do not detract from the comprehensive work being done on Succession Planning efforts. Moreover, our clients would also stipulate that the above has to be put into the context of the “world and work” are changing as well.

The observations of our clients do however suggest, that there is a need to be aware that if the lack of opportunity and/or focus of the incoming wave of leaders is perceived as problematic, an organized response for this constituency and likely the next generation coming behind them.

The adage Running Out Of Tomorrows is Discussion Partner’s point of view that Leadership Effectiveness should go to the front of the line in terms of enterprise priority and no longer be a when “time allows” managerial afterthought.

A strategic intent when an enterprise is challenged of “un-retiring” executives because the incumbent leaders are unprepared should be characterized as it is….an embarrassment and unacceptable.

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The Pirate Paradox

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

Consultants love acronyms. It helps us organize our thinking, reinforce points to clients in stark terms, and in the realm of self indulgence…sometimes makes us think we are smart!

Of course it can have a down side!

To correct a deficiency in my leadership style I coined the term VAR to promote self-awareness encompassing:

  • Visibility-representation to the enterprise through presence…not symbolic: but tactical inclusive of decision making real time, and as importantly “in person”
  • Access-promotion of an image whereby peers and subordinates are encouraged to approach with requests (supervisors usually are not made to wait)!
  • Responsiveness-aggressiveness in closing the loop on requests clearly avoiding having to be asked twice!

The personally embarrassing episode was when in the office on a Friday I was confronted by an employee whom was “introducing himself”.

The discourse went something like this…

  1. “Hi Tom I’m Brian”
  2. “Hi Brian, how are you doing”
  3. “Good it has been interesting”
  4. “That is good to hear…. how long have you been here”
  5. “About 4 months”
  6. “So who do you report to”
  7. “Actually you Tom”

I created the VAR tool initially for myself and have over the years used it with clients as well.

This led to the Pirate Paradox as If you say “VAR” real fast as one of my Partner’s ventured….”you sound like you’re Long John Silver”, “all that is missing is the Parrot on your shoulder.”

Allusions to Treasure Island aside, for myself and clients with whom I have referenced the acronym it is a not so gentle reminder that the Woody Allen comment “80% of success is showing up” has merit.

I would suggest if you find yourself in the situation of feeling that you are not sufficiently visible with those with whom you should be, think of VAR.

Be advised that if you find yourself sharing VAR, say it slow to avoid being called “Matey.”

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Successful Executive Transitions

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

2015 is a transition year for many Boomer Executives whom will be reaching the milestone age of 65!

Granted Charley Watt’s of the Stones and Ringo Starr are 74 and still touring….yet there is something magical about this age as It was the age when most of our parents left the work force.

At the time however, after they got their gold watch, took a cruise, there was not much life left based upon actuarial tables and cultural norms.

All of that has changed now…..just ask Ringo, a new album, book, and summer tour!

Discussion Partner’s launched a Transition Advisory Service offering in 2013 after the publication of our book Executive Transitions-Plotting The Opportunity!

Since that time we have worked with several hundred executives in a variety of sectors.

We have organized our Transition Advisory support to executives in four phases.

Phase 1-Preserving The Legacy-succinctly put taking proactive steps to insure that the efforts you undertook, and the success you engendered are recalled in the most positive terms.

In Discussion Partner’s experience regardless of age and psychographic profile it is prudent to substitute the question of “How will I focus my energies for the next 3 to 5 years” vs. “What will I do with the rest of my life”. This is the principle of Inflection Point we utilize in our discussions with executives whom have an extensive work history often with one to two employers.

Transition Principles
The below represents a baseline from which we develop tactics for executives whom are departing from a “continuing concern”.

  • Control the Communication Process-avoid relying only on the formal elements of communication. There is a need to augment this effort with an informal communication process to personalize, and engage in conversations with selected managers
  • Confirm the Legacy-there is a need to define “how I want to be remembered”, with “how I am perceived”. The most effective way to do this is to have a dialogue with trusted advisors where you point blank ask the question, “what will you remember about me”
  • Networking-Classify your internal and external networks capturing the contact information for managers whom would provide insight/access for you in the future, what we refer to as the “Nifty 50”. This is the minimum! There is a need to commit to interact with these folks at least on a quarterly basis, recognizing that the interactions will be sustainable provided the dialogue has mutual value.
  • Relationship Sustainability-The first order of business is to prepare and send subsequent to the formal announcement an e-mail to at least these 50 executives internal and external embedded with a. preliminary thoughts as to career focus, and b. contact information
  • Accessibility- independent of the networking activity above there is a need to utilize multiple vehicles e-mails, social media, and the lost art of letter writing to maintain contact with a broader number of executives

Phase 2-Ensuring Enterprise Continuity- making sure that care and thought are given to the preservation of momentum as manifested in the Succession Plan….through constructive access, advice, and prescriptive documentation.

Interim Period Issues-Post Successor Selection
Be mindful there is oftentimes a “rock in the middle of the river” attitude to be avoided in a post announcement environment. Be advised we usually find it well intentioned and focused on the executives “best interests” so as to “not bother them”.

Still however it is difficult to be working in an environment that seems to have forgotten one has a pulse.

We use the sequence of John Wayne to reinforce the point in terms of reinforcement of a visible career.

Career Segment                      Description

Early On                                  Who IS John Wayne
Traction                                   Get me John Wayne
Popular                                I need more John Wayne’s
Waning                   Get me someone who was like John Wayne
Exit                                          Who WAS John Wayne

The key here is two-fold:

  1. Don’t take it personal….it is the normal cycle
  2. Consider acceleration of your departure from the office in favor of working remotely at some point….

Regardless of timing there is a “Snagglepuss” phenomenon, the appropriate time to “exit stage left”! The time frame is accompanied with the likely outcome of SARA even though it is your decision.

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Rejection
  • Acceptance

There WILL be a feeling of emotional disorientation associated with departure. It is most advisable to recognize that Retirement is a platform to other areas of personal and creative expression.

I can presume the suggestion of this exercise may seem odd; however our experience is that it is very useful when a Successor may not be up to the task immediately. It is also non-trivial in reaffirmation of legacy.

The value of having a brief treatise on your experience with a limited distribution is it a) helps others see “your role through your eyes” and b) it reduces “blowback” in that after you leave, it reduces the possibility that you would be blamed for others mistakes.

Our concept is a 1 to 2 page memorandum that focuses on the following:

  • The initiatives you feel were executed well
  • Those that are in process and/or you feel were deficient
  • Two to 3 top of mind suggestions for securing progress in your previous role

Phase 3-Rejuvination Break-taking a break to recharge and reflect on next steps in career trajectory. DPC perceives as inevitable regardless of means, age etc. as those whom are Type A….don’t change their DNA.

The Concept of the Commercial Sabbatical
The foundation for the “Commercial Sabbatical” concept we promote derives from our research and client experience. Based upon Executive Demographics and Aspirations, it is embedded into our hypothesis that successful executives after a period of rest, are desirous to reengage in commercial activates

  1. Older Executives (65 plus)-focus on 2 to 3 activities part time post-employment
  2. Bridge Executives (55 to 65)-focus on 2 to 3 activities part time post-employment for a period of approximately 2 years then return to “work” in an Advisory and/or Employee capacity at a level of at approximately 50% of the time until age 65 or older
  3. Off-Ramp/On-Ramp Executives-(55 and below) focus on 2 to 3 activities for a period of approximately 1 year and then return to work as Advisors and/or Employees until age 65 at a level in excess of 50%

Phase 4-Cyclical Planning- conceptualization, deliberation, and implementation of the plan developed prior to departure and refined subsequent to departure.

Transitioning Executive Research
The below represents our current thinking on the question. “Where are Executives likely to spend their time post-employment”? Our assumptions are derived from a research project of over 2,000 executives and our Transition Advisory work with clients.

 DPC Theoretical Framework-Creation of a scenario strategy for 3 to 5 years embedding the context of Commercial Sabbatical.

Discussion Partner Transition Focus Assumptions (2 to 3 Part-Time is our experience)

  • New Role/Alternative Employer
  • Consulting Advisory
  • Academic Pursuit as Adjunct Professor
  • Author/Blogger
  • Personal Investor
  • Commercial Board Membership
  • Political Involvement
  • Philanthropy
  • Social Responsibility(including NGA Boards)
  • Higher Education-Student
  • Arts
  • Entrepreneur-non Commercial
  • Start Up Initiator
  • Sports-Recreational
  • Other-Rock Star?

Board Memberships

As this is likely an area of “pursuit” we wanted to provide some additional detail. DPC has a matrix approach for thinking of Board positions. Our mental model is that the maximum be three Boards to avoid becoming a “professional” member. Essentially, if you are on more than three, you are working close to full time.

Board        Primary Role
1                   Chairperson
2                  Committee Chair
3                  Key Committee Participation

As you can see from the above 3 Boards could be very time consuming.

Tammy Ericson, Ken Dychtwald and Bob Morrison in their seminal HBR article It’s Time To Retire Retirement asserted in an elegant way that Retirement is not a phase down from relevance. Moreover it is a platform for one to pursue alternative interests and avenues for personal satisfaction.

 Discussion Partner’s research and advisory interdictions, would reinforce their hypothesis. Moreover, given the stabilization of the economy and emerging career opportunities, it is optimum to be mindful of how to channel personal and enterprise Executive energies.

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Unfulfilled Promise – The Fault Line!

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

Just as frequently as we hear the words “they are terrific” and “I am so happy with their performance” we encounter the words “they are a disappointment” or “we expected more”.

In business when we assess the disparity in achievement outcomes we usually blame the employee without a modicum of enterprise self-introspection.

The forceful question of…..”Was it our fault”? Is rarely if ever asked.

The Pygmalion effect whereby we broadcast our faith in success to an incumbent still has merit.  If we show doubt in the remotest way, the end result is likely to be a disappointment.

There is a great scene in The Hoosiers where Gene Hackman says to at best a marginal player whose free throw could win the game “after you sink the ball etc.” He obviously tried to hide the fact that his nose was growing: but he did inspire the requisite confidence.

It is highly unlikely that the raw talent necessary to execute a task is not resident within or can develop in an employee IF the hiring process is rigorous.

While there are of course hiring, promotion, and performance errors do occur….however the rush to judgment the root cause of deficiency resides with the employee should not be an automatic response.

As important to remember is that employee “failure” is not time-bound.  One can be a Prince or Princess one day and a Frog the next.

DPC would submit the least likely excuse for failure is a lack of talent.  The most likely is the failure of the organization to successfully on-board, develop, lead, and measure the proficiencies of the employee.

For most companies this process can best be judged as informal beyond the traditional administrative tasks of logistics, benefits enrollment, etc.

DPC would suggest that the assignment of a longer tenured employee to a new role, geography, and/or circumstance should ALSO be perceived as an On-Boarding event.

To be the most impactful the process needs to be “leader driven” whereby clarity around role architecture, impact measurement, development opportunities, and senior level access form a covenant of mutual obligation vs. a “let me know if you are having any problems “approach.

There is no professional attribute of “perfection on demand”.  Proficiency attainment and sustainability is an arduous exercise that is never ending.

To increase the chances of success it is necessary to engage in a serious Trilogy dialogue encompassing the following:

  • This is what we know you know
  • This is what we know you don’t know
  • This is what the company is prepared to do to bridge the gap0

The true professional regardless of career stage is constantly looking to raise their “IQ”.  It is incumbent on their company to be a partner vs. spectator in this quest.

Clarity of Expectations
In the movie Animal House a fraternity was informed after the fact that they were on “double secret probation”.

Unfortunately for many employees regardless of tenure there is a moving target on which they are being assessed.

Beyond the fairness of this, it is south of sensational as a leadership strategic behavior.

Employees crave clarity along the lines of President Regan’s assertion of his public policy goal with the then Soviet Union, “we win, they lose”.

The psyche of an employee whom is committed is not abstract…..they want to understand what they have to do to be successful…..and they don’t’ think in terms of disappointment.

The two most critical elements to embed the above into an organization’s human capital posture include Feedback and Reward.

Reward is simple…..if you get superior performance recognize the energy and outcome in a generous way!  Sanctions should be utilized if and only if the achievement level is not at standard AND it is adjudicated to be the consequence of incumbent proficiency.

Feedback is not….it requires leaders to step outside their comfort zone and confront problems, deficiencies, and disappointing behaviors.  None if which is easy!  However it is essential!

People fail to meet expectations….such is professional life….what should not be automatic in the leadership mentality however is the pre-supposition that the enterprise is blameless and the outcomes were pre-ordained.

Publication Announcement-Discussion Partner Collaborative is pleased to announce that our upcoming book “Inflection Points-Risk Readiness & Failure Fearless!” will be available in mid-June in the States and Globally July 1st.

The focus of this book addresses the question “are their common denominators to consider between and among senior executives, career focused South American women, and returning military veterans as they assess and plan their career options”?


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In Praise of the Youngest OR Count Yourself Lucky

Welcome to 2015!

Over the holidays my wife and I enjoyed a long overdue dinner with family members.  We had just finished a cruise, and candidly during the dinner I realized this was not my “first” as I  had erroneously been communicating.

In point of fact I had been on a family cruise 50 years ago!  I had forgotten!  This was not an issue of repressed memory or trauma.  Well maybe a little trauma!

The catalyst for recollection was the dinner discussion regarding family sequence, oldest child, middle child, and youngest child.

Two of us at the table were the “oldest” and our spouses “middle”.  So we thought it only fair to be hypercritical of the benefits derived from being the youngest.

So what does this have to do with a cruise 50 years ago?

During the cruise we had a respite in a Canadian resort which the young staff referred to the guests as “the newlywed, the nearly dead, and the overfed”.

Being invaded by an American Irish family of 7 children, with a particularly gregarious and loud father, concomitant with a tolerant mother, one would think would be disruptive.

And it was for the guests: but the wait staff and others went out of their way to be assigned to us because we were fun!

Granted based on observation their definition of “fun” may be described as us having a pulse….

But back to the topic of this opus…..the benefits accrued to being the youngest.

During out stay our four year old sister thought it would be a brilliant idea to pretend to disappear.  This prompted a search of the hotel, the waterline, etc. by family members, hotel staff, etc. We eventually found our Princess hiding under the bed.  All the while thinking this attention was just fantastic!

What struck me at the time beyond universal relief was the lack of recrimination ventured in her direction by our parents. Notwithstanding some minor “don’t you ever” sentiments, I  thought if it had not been her the associated punishment would have bordered on Capital!

Years later as I was entering the military I asked my father who was the youngest in his family why the difference??

His response was “I can speak from experience the younger you are in most if not all families the more tolerating are the parents”.

Of course in his family he was the youngest!  The oldest in his family, once admonished her daughter, “you were born into the #1 slot in the family-your siblings will spend the rest of their lives trying to get there”.

I have always appreciated the wisdom of my Aunt and Cousin!

So my conclusion remains….”timing IS everything”.

For those of you who are the oldest, I feel your pain!

For the middle child I would concur that you are often overlooked however …..Suck it up……if you are looking for adoration download Paul Simon’s Slip Sliding Away!  As often you also are pardoned as well!

For those of you who are the youngest…..don’t venture too far out on the ice when it is sunny!  You also can be surprised by Timing!  Cute isn’t everything!

In closing I want to revert back to my youngest sister.  She was always quiet to the point we had to make sure she was not left behind in restaurants, hotels etc., given the numerical disadvantage she suffered having 6 older siblings.

At given times each of us was assigned the task of “not forgetting your sister” by our parents.

On one occasion she did however slip away and was later found sitting in the dressing room of the Four Seasons, sitting in Frankie Valli’s lap explaining how he should comb his hair.

As one of my brother’s once said…..”often forgotten…..but never lost”.

I and my Partners want to wish you an outstanding and prosperous 2015!

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They Lost Us At Paperclip

On behalf on myself and my colleagues at Discussion Partners and Next Generation Advisory Services we would like to wish you and your families a terrific Holiday Season!

As we exit Black Monday and scramble for the perfect gift for the holidays, it is helpful to reinforce the issue that an outstanding customer experience is sometimes less about the product: but the level of service that supports the transaction.

There is an oft repeated line from the Jerry McGuire movie…”you had me at hello”!

Unfortunately I have an alternative less glowing rejoinder based upon an experience with a former cable company “they lost me at Paperclip”!

Several months ago on a Sunday night our TV started acting up in a manner that clearly indicated a problem with the provider.

Unfortunately this episode was in addition to diminished capability at predictable hours, and the fact that the wireless capacity seemed to run out of steam if it had to climb stairs!

On the above two issues we had the “Tech” out several times with no discernible improvements.

The problem with the TV however was new!

We called our provider and asked for some assistance.  They told us to for them to help “first you will have to put a paperclip into the Cable box!”

We were stunned on two levels a.  in these days of high technology why should the effectiveness of a machine rely on a paperclip and b. in the world of e-files did we even have a paperclip?

Turns out we did….and got the TV back…..eventually, but the ridiculousness of the situation was dormant in memory.

It resurfaced when to avoid looking ridiculous to grandchildren we bought a larger TV.  The Retailer and Installers both indicated that the Cable Box was “old style” and our provider had a new model recently available.

Ever hopeful we went to get this new model with the objectives that not only would the picture be better…..but other deficiencies would be mitigated.

You have to envision going to a provider in a strip mall, whose offices look like they were created when Leave it to Beaver was a hit!

When we asked the service rep for particulars on the capability of the new machine she was clueless…..her response was “the new one is more high tech”.

I resisted asking “so now we don’t need paperclips”, but instead we focused on the capabilities of the new machine in the context of our problems…..again we heard “high tech”!  We probed again “what does that mean” and got mostly a befuddled stare… the point where we walked out.

Within 2 hours out of frustration and hopefulness, we switched providers……

At the moment, we are not certain if that was the correct move…..we only know that continuing with a “high tech” machine that apparently does not require us to have a paperclip handy, seems the wiser course.

Most importantly in our decision making process was that uninformed and unsupportive people ostensibly there to be of assistance should NEVER be subsidized when their services are found wanting!

I hope you find the above useful n some capacity if for no other reason than paperclips do in fact retain a purpose in life.

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