Bijan Sabet: Yahoo + Tumblr -
I met David Karp, the founder/ceo of Tumblr when he was 19. I was immediately taken with his passion and drive to create wonderful things.
Those days, David was building within his consulting company called Davidville. My friend Fred Seibert made the intro and I’m forever grateful for…
An awesome result for a great company & a great story. And not for nothing, #propz to Marissa & Yahoo for this one.
I don’t know why we celebrate failure. Somewhere along the line, we started to think that if I point out to you what you don’t do, or didn’t do, it will inspire you to do. That doesn’t make sense to me… —
Rita Pierson, educator, Ted speaker
Garnett: 'We out here scrapping' -
“Get your hard hat on…let’s do this.”
I love KG.
A few months ago Jack Dorsey (founder, CEO of Square) wrote a post & letter to his employees condemning the use of the word “users” to refer to Square’s…well, users. In his post, he compels his team to replace the term “user” with “customer” in all future communications. The idea being that his team will build better products and offer better service to Customers vs Users. It’s worth a read - it offers an interesting perspective from a dude that is/has in many ways defined much of our modern web experiences.
With that said, I don’t really agree with Jack in this case. While I understand the main point and reasons for his stance (if Howard Shultz was on your board and asked the same question, you’d have the same reaction), I disagree with his extreem stance on the term user.
USERS ARE CUSTOMERS
Before you kick me out of SoMa (Jack’s kingdom), let me explain.
At Traackr, we sell an enterprise software solution. We have Customers. And we also have Users.
For us, Users are one segment of our Customer base - the segment of people who actually USE our product. But we also have two segments of our Customer base who do not use our product (so we don’t refer them as Users):
Our Customers Types/Segments =
The breakdown of our Customer universe looks something like this:
The majority of our Customers are Users - and only Users. Some of those Users are also Decision Makers (and vice-versa); some of our Decision Makers are also Buyers; but we don’t have any Customers who are all three (that I know of).
I think this is probably a fairly common pattern for most enterprise software offerings. Consumer applications will have a different patter - in many cases, the vast majority of their Customers are Users (until, of course, they try to bring on advertisers).
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
I would argue that breaking down & deeply understanding your Customer base is essential for great execution across the whole organization. Using one blanket term to describe all your customers just isn’t good enough.
When we develop/build our product, we focus mainly on Users (and a bit on the Decision Makers).
When we market our product, we focus mainly on the Decision Makers (and a bit on the Users).
When we sell our product, we focus mainly on the Decision Makers, but often have to convince all three Customer Types before closing a sale. So knowing them all is essential for our sales team.
When we support our product, we focus completely on the Users.
GO EVEN DEEPER
And I don’t think you can stop with these three, high-level buckets either. You should go deeper. At Traackr, we have broken down each of these Customer Types into very specific sub-types - each with a very specific & deep persona attached (persona building is probably worth another post). We have:
The point is - we need to know how to build for, market to, sell to, & support each one of these different people. With every operational decision, we try very hard to understand for whom it is we are working. For us, this is a robust exercise and ongoing process.
JACK ISN’T SO WRONG…
In short, I partly agree with Jack. Using USER as a universal term to describe your customers is not a good practice. But, I don’t have a problem with the term User. I don’t think it carries a negative connotation and I don’t think it carries any less weight than the term Customer.
The fact is, whatever terms you use isn’t much more than a matter of semantics. It’s the understanding behind the terms that is most important. The needs of someone who actually uses your application on a regular basis and the needs of someone who has the power to pay for your product are of equal importance.
So, whatever language you use to describe these people isn’t really the issue. Knowing, understanding and respecting them all as important stakeholders in your business is what really matters.
For those who live or grew up outside of Boston (or New England), this phrase doesn’t hold much meaning. Just a collection of words, maybe a nice sentiment, but not much beyond that.
But for Bostonians, this phrase is a mantra. It’s a phrase that defines our spirit as well as our outlook on the world. Mention this phrase in any bar across greater Boston and you’ll get a nod of recognition and a smile. In some ways, this phrase can serve as a password to an exclusive club.
You see, in Boston, There’s always next year, is a phrase that has, for many years (certainly all the years of my youth), signaled the end to yet another soul-crushing Red Sox season. And anyone who knows anything about Boston knows that the Red Sox are a great deal more than a baseball team. They are more than an institution. They are an identity. They are Boston. The moods and emotional stability of the entire region hinges on the play of this beloved team.
But up until 2004, when the Sox ended one of the longest, most brutal losing streaks in sports history, they tortured us all with season after season of near misses and heart-wrenching underachievement And during this time, at the end of every disappointing Red Sox season, Bostonians, with our hopes and dreams once again shattered, would eventually dig ourselves out of our collective state of depression, shrug our shoulders and utter the phrase that has come to define us.
And with those simple words we wiped the slate clean and moved forward. We looked to coming year (ie - Red Sox season) with a dogged (ok…stubborn) optimism that didn’t leave room for “crying over spilled milk.”
So, in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy this week - the second Boston Massacre - I was reminded of this statement. Much like the Red Sox, the Boston Marathon is also more than just a race. More than an institution. It’s an expression of the best of the human spirit. Growing up, what I remember most about the Boston Marathon was not the race itself, but all the stories covered in the days leading up to the race. Amazing stories of perseverance and achievement against all odds. Cancer survivors; 80-year old men and women running for the first time; veterans; parents carrying their disabled children on their backs. Endless stories of underdogs, all running an unthinkable (to me) 26.2 miles - not for fun - but because somewhere along the line, they were told that they couldn’t do it. With bellies full of dogged optimism, and an entire city at their backs, they ran that race.
But this year, for reasons none of us will ever understand, someone thought it made sense to challenge that optimism and take a shot at the hopes and dreams of us all. Obviously, the tragedy of this event far exceeds the that of a failed Red Sox season, but the approach of the people of Boston will remain the same.
As a Bostonian, I know this. If the goal of these brothers (and anyone else involved) was to produce tragedy, chaos, physical damage, and a spike in international news coverage…then they succeeded.
But if their goal was to loosen the ground beneath our spirits and produce a long-lasting foundation of fear and weakness that would force us to forever change the way we live our lives - then you can already see they’ve failed at that. It became very obvious today and with each passing day, this failure will become more and more evident.
Just as Stephen Colbert said earlier this week, it was obvious that these losers didn’t really understand Boston or Bostonians. I hope the at some point this evening, during his struggle to stay alive in the hospital, someone whispers in the ear of this young degenerate and, on behalf of all Bostonians, tells him:
Don’t ignore your dreams; don’t work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy. —
Paul Graham’s ToDo list
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. — Albert Einstein (via Seth Godin)
Jack's: Let's reconsider our "users" -
1. A person who uses or operates something, esp. a computer or other machine.
2. A person who takes illegal drugs; a drug user.
During a Square Board meeting, our newest Director Howard Schultz, pulled me aside and asked a simple question.
I think Jack’s perspective on the term “user” vs “customer” is an interesting one. I don’t totally agree, but I like where this dialogue is going…
Ahhh….I believe it was “intriguing” you were going for, not “confusing”…
I saw an email today from a colleague commending another colleague on his/her “professionalism” in making an important decision for the business.
Which got me thinking about this word - Professionalism. And what it meant in the context of this email - as well as in the context that it used more generally.
We hear it all the time. We (not me per say, but a lot of other people) receive kudos from, or give kudos to, co-workers who display great professionalism.
“She’s such a professional.”
“He’s a real pro.”
Or on annual reviews, I’ve even seen a assessment category for Professionalism. Apparently professionalism is an important enough attribute to justify grading people on it.
But I’ve never really understood this so-called ‘virtue’ - Professionalism. It always struck me as odd. I mean, what does it mean to be professional? In the case of the email I saw today - and most other examples - I would suggest that professional really translates to well behaved. To be professional means to fall into line and do the sensible thing. A professional in this sense is someone who doesn’t rock the boat. Someone who makes reasonable decisions and holds, as his/her highest priority, the comfort level, or the feelings, of their coworkers in the making of those decisions. At its worst, when I hear this term comes down from a superior, I find it akin to saying, “Good puppy! I said sit and you sat without even barking…good dog!”
Being professional is being safe. Being professional is the opposite of being crazy. Of being bold. As I rack my brain to think of all those people that I admire in my field, or in any field I’ve worked in before, professional is not a word I would use to describe any of them. In most cases, quite the opposite. John Scully is/was a true professional. Steve Jobs, not so much.
Some of the best people I’ve worked with in various careers:
Creative? World class.
Crazy? Borderline insane.
Volatile? Big time.
Professional? Not at all.
Professional is one of the the last words I would use to describe some of the best, most successful, people I worked with at any stage of my career…
So that makes me wonder at what point in life does this idea of being professional become a virtue. As kids, did we aspire to be professional? I know we aspired to be a professional athlete, or a professional actor, etc. But, as kids, in that context, the word ‘professional’ meant ‘great’ - one of the top people in a specific field. A star.
As adults, at some point, the meaning of professional changes. We use it in a positive way, but I don’t think many people have spent much time thinking about what it really means and/or why we classify it as a virtue.
One theory I’ll toss out there: The truth is that becoming a professional is much easier to achieve than becoming an artist. It’s tangible for the majority of us. As we get older, we realize that the risks involved with becoming an artist are just too high. So we recalibrate our sights and aim for professionalism. And, in our heads, we make it an achievement. Why is it an achievement? Well…because it’s achievable. But in reality, it’s a false idol. Somewhere, someone has placed a high value on this thing, professionalism, and many of us have been fooled into accepting that value.
The problem with placing value on a person’s professionalism is that it’s a concept that is not tied to any level of achievement or success. You can be highly professional in the way you go about your work AND produce nothing of value. Professionalism has really nothing to do with output. And this is another reason why it’s so easy to achieve. Because you don’t have to actually produce anything to wear the badge. You just have to stay in your seat, do what the text book says and don’t raise your voice too loud in the auditorium. A true professional.
So….what is wrong with being professional? Nothing…really. On the surface, at least. If your goal is to survive, advance incrementally and get people to like you - it’s a good thing. Plenty of people lead fine careers and fine lives being totally professional. So, I am not saying that professionalism is a bad thing. I’m just saying that professionalism isn’t necessarily a good thing. It’s fine. Just…fine.
A ‘professional’ soldier is a soldier that does what he/she is told. Falls into line and doesn’t question authority.
But there is a big difference between a professional soldier and a Warrior.
A ‘professional’ writer is someone who gets paid to write things that other people want them to write.
But there is a big difference between a professional writer and a Novelist.
A ‘professional’ filmmaker is hired to direct projects that other people conceive.
But there is a big difference between a professional filmmaker and an Auteur.
A ‘professional’ accountant knows the ins and outs of a balance sheet and how to derive meaning from complicated financial statements.
But there is a big difference between a professional accountant and Warren Buffet.
You get the point.
I can’t remember ever being commended for my ‘professionalism’ (anyone who’s ever worked with me would probably laugh at even the suggestion). And I’m just fine with that. In fact, if I were to ever be commended for my professionalism, I would have to take a good hard look in the mirror and question whether or not I was playing hard enough.
When all is said and done and my train arrives at its last stop, I really hope the best thing people can say about me is NOT that I was ‘professional’. I don’t want my gravestone to read, “Loving husband, supportive father and…a true professional.’ You might as well write, “…one grand underachiever” on that marble slab. To me, there is nothing inspiring about aspiring for professionalism.
I’ll end this thought with a message to my kids (which I find is the best way for me to summarize this kind of thinking):
Dear kids -
Please don’t spend your lives aiming for Professionalism. Of course, I don’t want you to be assholes or treat people in ways they don’t deserve to be treated…but don’t settle for being a professional. Don’t take pride in conformity or always doing the ‘sensible’ things. Become an artist. Make waves. Write new rules and always aim for something better. It’s true, you may fail in your attempts. But, I promise you, failure in the pursuit of artistry will always be more fulfilling than success in the pursuit of Professionalism.
And eat your vegetables. Raw.