Dave Gardner’s “Thank God It’s Monday” 26JUL10

July 26, 2010

“Thank God It’s Monday” is to help companies thrive!

This week’s focus: leadership

Silicon Valley recently lost one of its most successful CEOs: Father Paul Locatelli, past President of Santa Clara University, a Jesuit university and my alma mater.

John Baldoni introduced me to a book called Heroic Leadership subtitled “Best Practices of a 450-Year Old Company That Changed the World” written by Chris Lowney, the story of what “16th century priests can teach 21st century sophisticates.” Chris writes:

“But the stereotype of top-down, immediate, all-transforming leadership is not the solution; it’s the problem. If only those positioned to lead large teams are leaders, all the rest must be followers. And those labeled followers will inevitably act as followers, sapped of energy and drive to seize their own leadership chances.

The Jesuit model explodes the ‘one great man’ model for the simple reason that everyone has influence, and everyone projects influence—good or bad, large or small—all the time. A leader seizes all of the available opportunities to influence and make an impact. Circumstances will present a few people with world-changing, defining moment opportunities; most will enjoy no such big time opportunities in their lifetime. Still leadership is not defined by the scale of the opportunity but by the quality of the response.”

The notion that everyone is a leader can help your company thrive.

Read more about the attributes that made Father Locatelli so successful here in my Fast Company article.

Thought for the week:

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and your find yourself in a great, wonderful world.”  – Patanjali

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Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

© 2010 Gardner & Associates Consulting  All Rights Reserved

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Dave Gardner’s “Thank God It’s Monday” 19JUL10

July 19, 2010

“Thank God It’s Monday” is to help companies thrive!

This week’s focus: configurable products and services

Traditionally, companies with configurable products and services build and maintain elaborate, electronic menus—often referred to as “configurators”—that describe the array of options available.

Many companies offer so many choices that prospective customers are overwhelmed leaving them to wonder, “Where do I start? How do I begin to understand what product or service is appropriate for me?”

Companies that thrive will offer selling tools that are better aligned with customer needs than their own needs.

Read the entire blog post: “How to excite a la carte customers.”

Thought for the week:

“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” – Mario Andretti

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Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

© 2010 Gardner & Associates Consulting  All Rights Reserved

Note:  To receive an email version of “Thank God It’s Monday” to start your week, please subscribe here.  I would very much appreciate your suggesting to others that they subscribe.

Privacy Statement:  Our subscriber lists are never rented, sold, or loaned to any other parties for any reason.


Celebrating the life of Father Paul Locatelli

July 14, 2010

As much as I’d like to not write about the passing of the past President of Santa Clara University and someone whom I had the pleasure of working with as a student in an MBA accounting class when he first came to Santa Clara University,  I’m unable to set aside writing this.

I want to acknowledge and celebrate the life of a great man and a great human being: Father Paul Locatelli, a Jesuit priest, professor and leader. Let me share how I came to know him.

I had to repeat my first accounting class as I had received a “D.”  I received a “D” on my first exam, missed the second mid-term test, and agreed with the professor that whatever grade I got on my final exam would be my final grade.  My failure in this class set up the opportunity to work with Fr. Locatelli.

The first evening of Fr. Locatelli’s class, he asked that anyone who was repeating the course speak to him individually after class.  I thought this was an exceptional offer from a professor–to find out what had gone wrong. As I shared my experience with him, he took particular note about my final exam input from the prior class.  The 2-hour final consisted of 200 questions: 100 true/false and 100 multiple choice.  To be able to determine the correct answer required being able solve 200 accounting problems in 120 minutes.  Fr. Locatelli seemed quite surprised.

Fr.  Locatelli told me later than he had gone to see the professor, told him that he was looking for test ideas and wanted to see his final exam.  Fr. Locatelli said he was convinced my final grade was based on my first mid-term exam as there was no way that anyone could have completed that test in 2 hours, not even Fr. Locatelli! He said it would have taken hours and hours.  I appreciated his candor with me–he didn’t try to defend the actions of my first professor.

While I don’t like the idea that I received a “D” in my first accounting class, I am grateful that I had a chance to get a much better foundation in accounting with Fr. Locatelli.   And, I’m grateful that I got to spend time with this compassionate, thoughtful man.  I couldn’t begin to guess the name of my first accounting professor, but, I surely never forgot Fr. Locatelli.

Fr. Locatelli soon became President of Santa Clara University and led the university through an amazing period of growth and transformation.  The San Jose Mercury News has a splendid write-up about him that I encourage you to read.

I last saw Fr. Locatelli at a Santa Clara University Alumni event in Boston back in 2001.  Though it had been a quarter of a century since I had last seen him, it felt like it was only yesterday.

I’m very saddened by the loss of Fr. Locatelli.  The world has lost a great human being.  My condolences to everyone who mourns his loss–there are thousands and thousands of us.  I’m so grateful for what Santa Clara University and Fr. Locatelli have meant in my life.

Rest in peace, Father, rest in peace.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com


How to excite a la carte customers

July 13, 2010

Customers expect companies to offer more than a “one-size-fits-all” product or service. The à la carte customerTM wants to be in control of what they buy. A prospective customer wants to know what is available, at what price and, if we’re talking about a manufactured product, how long it will take to produce.

Traditionally, companies with configurable products and services build and maintain elaborate, electronic menus—often referred to as “configurators”—that describe the array of options available. Many companies offer so many choices that prospective customers are overwhelmed leaving them to wonder, “Where do I start? How do I begin to understand what product or service is appropriate for me?” For example, Dell’s website, dell.com, offers a vast array of choices yet does not go far enough in helping a prospective customer converge on the best solution based on their individualized needs.

Most companies discuss their products and services using industry-centric language which may align poorly with the language and expertise of the prospective customer. If a prospective customer doesn’t understand a company’s lingo, there’s going to be problems. Here’s an example.

Imagine you have just arrived in Malaysia and you are taken to a local, traditional buffet. You know nothing about the food you see. Some things look like insects, some things look raw—you are going to have many questions. There will be language differences that make it difficult to communicate with your local host. There will be a lot of “yeses” and head nodding but you wonder, “Did she really understand that I can’t tolerate anything spicy? When she tells me it’s not spicy, can I trust she understands my definition of ‘spicy?’” It is no different speaking to a prospective customer who does not possess expertise about your products and services.

If a company does a poor job of helping prospective customers make appropriate choices through its selling tools, it forces the prospective customer to speak with someone to help them figure out what to buy or, worse, turns the prospective customer toward competitors who more effectively help an individual decide what they need to buy.

Sometimes, a prospective customer will connect with a knowledgeable sales agent and, at other times, the customer will speak to a sales agent who knows little more about the company’s offerings than the prospective customer. The prospective customer has no means to determine the skill and expertise of the sales agent taking their call. If the product or service doesn’t meet the customer’s expectations, the customer may never buy from that company again. The unhappy customer is likely to share their negative experience with others.

Most configurators fail to offer what prospective customers really need. What are the best practices that companies of configurable products and services must employ in next-generation configurators?

  • The configurator needs to be assistive to the prospective customer and the sales agent. Prospective customers require more than a “product selector” or “service selector” as traditional configurator solutions are presently constituted. Prospective customers need much more than an elaborate menu presented with little guidance about how to order or configure a product or service tailored to their individualized needs. Consider the trusted advisor role a waiter satisfies in a high-end restaurant—the waiter provides guidance and expertise to help the customer order a wonderful meal from a myriad of possibilities.
  • Configurable product and service providers must offer guided selling solutions that teach a prospective customer how to buy based on the essential mission or application required of the product or service. To do this requires matching customer-required attributes with attributes inherent in certain products and features.
  • Prospective customers need to know they are selecting the appropriate product or service based on attributes they have previously been prompted to provide. It is far better to fit the solution to the customer’s actual needs than let them buy something based purely on price that will disappoint them later.
  • Configurable product and service providers need to provide different entry paths to help a prospective customer converge on a solution—the tools must help the novice or infrequent purchaser as well as the expert.
  • Prospective customers need to have the opportunity to learn about products and services they never dreamt existed, creating excitement and engagement.

Has any company created what I call the “next-generation configurator?” Not that I am aware of. Most companies that have implemented configurators have done what I call Version 1.0 but need to be thinking about Version 2.0.  Version 2.0 offers companies an opportunity to distance themselves from the competition.

These best practices for offering and presenting configurable products and services via next-generation configurators will turn customers into committed, raving fans. That’s exciting!

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

© 2010 Dave Gardner


Dave Gardner’s “Thank God It’s Monday” 12JUL10

July 12, 2010

“Thank God It’s Monday” is to help companies thrive!

This week’s focus: innovation

The Reuters headline reads, “Google’s Schmidt undaunted by Apple or Facebook.”

And, so Eric Schmidt should be. He believes in Google’s standing in the world and is working hard to further enhance Google’s position as an innovator. There is no reason to believe that Google won’t continue to thrive in a sea of opportunity.

What is the lesson? Being an innovation leader is not about “follow-ship.” Just ask the companies that thrive.

Thought for the week:

“If you aren’t the lead dog, the view never changes.” Dog sledding expression 

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Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

© 2010 Gardner & Associates Consulting  All Rights Reserved

Note:  To receive an email version of “Thank God It’s Monday” to start your week, please subscribe here.  I would very much appreciate your suggesting to others that they subscribe.

Privacy Statement:  Our subscriber lists are never rented, sold, or loaned to any other parties for any reason.


Dave Gardner’s “Thank God It’s Monday” 05JUL10

July 5, 2010

“Thank God It’s Monday” is to help companies thrive!

This week’s focus: leadership

You have to decide where you want to take your business.

If you want to be timid, stop investing and wait for Wall Street to tell you everything is fine and it’s okay to invest in your business again, you’ll be too late for your competition will have stepped in to the vacuum you created while you decided to ride out the storm in a safe harbor.

This is the time when companies need to be investing in systems and processes, people, and new or enhanced products and services to be in the best position possible to thrive coming out of the economic downturn.

Read the entire Business Execution Insights blog post.

Thought for the week:

“80% of CEOs believe their brands deliver a superior customer experience; 8% of customers agree.” Tim Suther, Senior Vice President, Acxiom

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Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

© 2010 Gardner & Associates Consulting  All Rights Reserved

Note:  To receive an email version of “Thank God It’s Monday” to start your week, please subscribe here.  I would very much appreciate your suggesting to others that they subscribe.

Privacy Statement:  Our subscriber lists are never rented, sold, or loaned to any other parties for any reason.


What makes “Silicon Valley” Silicon Valley?

July 2, 2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Silicon Valley during June 2010 to experience first-hand what has made companies like Cisco Systems, Google and Facebook what they are today. Medvedev was joined by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In different geographic areas all over the United States and the world, people want to emulate Silicon Valley to create jobs and vibrant economies. Silicon Valley is often imitated but has never been duplicated.

I grew up in Silicon Valley, graduated from San Jose State University and Santa Clara University, and have had the pleasure of working and living here in the world of high technology. I offer my random thoughts on the “secret sauce” that makes our beloved Silicon Valley truly unique in the world. While some attributes certainly carry more weight than others, e.g., access to capital, it is the collective impact of all these attributes that make Silicon Valley what it is.

  • Access to capital (angel investor money, venture capital) from investors willing to take risks in exchange for a future “big payday” event
  • Terrific higher education system: Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, strong junior college programs
  • The western U.S. was built by pioneering folks who made great sacrifices; that pioneering attitude must be in our DNA as it fuels great innovation and a drive to succeed in spite of what are often long odds
  • Competitive benefits: medical insurance, personal time off (vacation, sick-time), 401-K
  • Burning desire of entrepreneurs and employees to compete and win in the marketplace—“failure is not an option” even though some situations lead to failure
  • Risk aversion: there is some measure of safety in knowing that you or your company can fail and there will be another employment opportunity somewhere
  • No one expects to join a company and retire from it
  • Big paydays: these used to occur with great regularity in the 80’s and 90’s when a company would “go public” by offering its stock on a stock exchange. In the decade of the 2000’s, big pay days are rare. Today’s strategy is more about companies being acquired rather than going public. So, instead of seeing the value of your companies stock go through a meteoric rise, you now watch the value of the acquiring company’s stock rise.
  • Opportunity to be part of something exciting, have some impact on the world and your personal finances.
  • Work hard; play hard
  • Tolerance for less than perfect operational systems—some systems are simply “good enough”
  • Willingness to sacrifice family time and personal life for company time—usually for a “big payday”
  • Dress code—we invented “business casual” and it’s gotten even more casual over the years
  • Lack of pretentiousness
  • Open door policy—eschew hierarchical or “command and control” leadership
  • H1-B visas allow people from other countries to come to the U.S. to work in high-technology—provides rich diversity and sufficient talent to do amazing things
  • Embrace diversity—Silicon Valley tends to be pretty inclusive rather than exclusive—people who come here from other geographies or nationalities aren’t treated as outsiders
  • Wonderful year-around weather helps to attract talent to the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Great companies of the world thrive here: Apple, Google, Cisco Systems, Intel, Applied Materials, Hewlett Packard, Oracle; these companies routinely acquire other companies

What Silicon Valley does not provide?

  • Pensions or retirement programs
  • Attractive home prices
  • Low cost of living
  • Attractive California state income tax system

Does Silicon Valley always get it right? Certainly not! The investment community understands this better than any single group. The dot com bust showed irrational exuberance on the part of investors and executives to create any Internet-based company they could. Lots of money was lost and many folks lost their jobs when the question, “who wants to buy and why” wasn’t asked and answered appropriately.

So, can Russia create its own Silicon Valley? Yes, but, it won’t be like the Silicon Valley I know and love. Russia will need to see a cultural shift to be more open and trusting.

Russia has some fantastically creative and talented computer scientists and engineers who, given the opportunity, will do some great things for themselves, their companies and their country. Best wishes to Russia and President Dmitry Medvedev on their journey.

I would love your comments and reaction to this.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com