I'm sitting in my charming room at at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville TN, lured by the SAP ASUG confab at this property - which apparently is the largest hotel property outside of Vegas - a rumored 3800 rooms and a place that I've got lost going to and coming from my room about 10 times already.
I'm no country western fan AT ALL but even I have to admit that its really kinda neat to have a wakeup call from Charley Pride one morning and then Wynona Rider another and have a choice of about 7 or 8 other country stars like Trace Adkins or George Jones to summon me from slumber. This whole place radiates a ginormous twang. Its lush with overgrown vegetation, huge high glass ceilings with those fly eye numerous planar facet cuts so that you get the idea you're part of this lively, giant hydroponics lab that has restaurants and shops.
Sometime in the next two or three days, I'm going to send y'all my look at the SAP ASUG event, somewhat unlike any other event I attend because it really is SAP fanboys who come to it. The dive on the products is deep. But, all that in a couple of days or so.
I've been sitting in my room this morning, reflecting on how this would be the best year of my career if it weren't the worst year of my life - and it made me remember something.
Best Year of Career
I've had an unprecedented year when it comes to my career. This blog was named the best blog in CRM by InsideCRM. I was named the most influential person in CRM (outside of vendor personalities) by InsideCRM in early 2008 and then named one of the most influential people in CRM last month by CRM Magazine (They called me "The Herald", which I loved). My brand has expanded widely and I'm known around the world. There are 85,300 google references to me as of this morning ("Paul Greenberg", CRM), I tripled my income, people actually seem to want to take what I say seriously - which is always a marvel to me and something I appreciate well beyond my New York bred self-sarcasm. This has been a career year and if what is working for next year (including the publication of the 4th edition of CRM at the Speed of Light) is any indicator, next year might top it.
Worst Year of My Life
Yet, it all pales when it compares to my personal year which has been marked in a major way by three events which I'll catalog but not dwell on for obvious reasons:
- My wonderful father died kind of suddenly in January at the age of 93 - no matter what anyone says about his long life - I wanted it to be longer - a lot longer.
- I had that incredible brush with death with that bizarre car accident on August 1 - which I'm still recovering from - that put me within about 6 inches of death and instead left me with lots of external damage but not much else bad. I'm thankful beyond words for that.
- Finally, our 15 year old most beloved animal ever - our cat Sweetpea - died in mid-August - something that I still deeply mourn - and if you're an animal lover - you'll understand. If not - try to.
All of this combined has allowed me to examine a lot in terms of what I do and how I act and what I want. While I have no final conclusions on much of it - since August isn't that long ago, I haven't had time to complete this phase of my thinking yet - I did realize a few things. And one of them, and the reason for this blog posting, is how we all think of CRM - or at least I often do.
When I speak with people about "customers" and "practitioners" and "vendors" - at best, in a normal conversation, I'm talking abstractly about them - almost as categories. Sometimes it may be "customers as segments" or "vendors a.k.a. specific companies like SAP or Oracle or salesforce.com." The practitioners" are, at best, companies that use CRM in their day to day doings. The practitioner discussion can get as academic as a discussion of the practitioners as a "case study."
But what is usually ignored except, on occasion, when we talk about "social networks," is the human beings that actually compose all these institutions and are the foundation of the abstractions we write and speak about. Even the social network discussion abstracts them - to "community members" pretty much.
The exigencies of our business and the sheer volume of people that are involved tends to diminish the individual humans who are the centerpiece of the interactions we so lovingly croon to. We forget that they are actually individuals (Or I do) with names and lives and things that they love and things that affect them, and dreams, aspirations, desires, fantasies, accomplishments and all that encompasses a life - not just a job, or a job description or a role or a "persona" that helps us sell to what we see often as mannikins with wallets.
They make up business and "not-business" institutions and they each affect each thing they are involved with differently.
I'm not sure that this really explains it. But there is even another element. There are people in the CRM industry who work really hard every day and either are not recognized for what they do, or are not recognized for the wonderful humans they are.
Its hard to explain this but I'm going to recognize a few of them that I know (out of thousands I know) for their special accomplishments and their wonderful human natures. Some you'll know - they get the public "industry" recognition. Some I'm exposing to the lights of your eyes for the first time maybe.None have any idea that I'm doing this. This entry and a subsequent one are dedicated to the personalities who do extraordinary things every day and may or may not be recognized for it. I"m recognizing them for it because they are wonderful. Hopefully, I've earned the right to do this in the eyes of each of you.
The 2008 CRM Personality Awards Winners, Part 1
I liked them a lot and know that others do too. I know that they are respected among those that know them for the same good characteristics that I recognize in them. They are good human beings who are known for that - and for how well they do what they do.
Today's awards, those who work for vendors. Tomorrow, the non-vendors which includes all the rest of the industry. There are many other just plain great and immensely talented people in the industry. These stand out even among those.
- Greatest Customer Advocate at Any Vendor (HOF-level) - Jim Goldfinger, SAP - Jim is, without a doubt, the best person I've ever seen anywhere when it comes to dealing with customers. His title? Senior Director, Customer Value Network at SAP. His title doesn't BEGIN to tell you his commitment to the SAP customers. This isn't a "have to engage customers thing" with him. He is the most caring person I've ever seen at any vendor - maybe anywhere - when it comes to making his customers happy. He throws parties - sometimes on his own nickel. His customers trust him so much that when he says to them you can call anytime, they take him up on it. The customers LOVE him. I mean LOVE him. I did an interview with him at ASUG that I suggest you listen to.The measure of the goodness of this man comes across in the interview. If there were a customer advocacy hall of fame, he'd be in it. Because he means it.
- Best Interacting with Media & Analysts - Dead heat here between Mei Li, the beautiful and beloved Senior VP of Corporate Communications at NetSuite and John Taschek, the astounding and warm (see below) Vice President of Product Marketing Strategy at salesforce.com. Two very different people with a common trait. The media and analysts love them because they are genuine. Mei Li, someone near and personally dear to me, even gets the crusty denizens of the traditional media - e.g. print media - to give her hugs when they see her. She has been a friend to dozens of damaged press brains, not only providing them with what they need in a timely way, but also providing them with a sympathetic ear for their personal travails. She treats them well, as people, not pencils with bodies attached. John I'm going to hold off on, because he is the winner of another award - and I'll tell you about him there.
- Most Gentlemanly Marketing Person - Derek Grant, Pardot. Pardot is a small company with a good marketing product. Derek is a big hearted man with a great approach to marketing. He is a gentleman. If you inhabit my world - and multiple other worlds like it - marketing people are calling all the time. All the time. ALL THE TIME. Most of the time you shrug it off, realizing they are doing their job - but that doesn't mean you take the call either - because they have a job to do but you also have a life, too. But Derek's approach is so charming, so just plain decent that I am happy to talk to him because I like HIM. Pardot is a good product for small businesses and have some good things down the pike too. But Derek has a welcome mat at the speaker of my cell and landlines because, well, he's a gentleman.
- Most Exceptional Executive Assistant - Jackie Lopez, NetSuite - Jackie is the EA to Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite. She is incredibly effective, getting everything done that has to be done in the time that it needs to be completed. She is warm, personable, and personal, yet professional at all times. There is no one I'd rather do business with than her. I'm glad to know her. There are lots of wonderful Executive Assistants, who like Jackie, are the indispensable right hands of the CEOs. But Jackie stands out from even them.
- The Secret Vendor Intellectual - Anthony Lye, Oracle - Anthony is the SVP of CRM at Oracle. He is one of the best at that, driving a large group of successful execs to meet a substantial annual revenue objective. Ahhhh, but, that's the public thing that senior management is tasked to do. What does my heart good is that he can discuss ideas, concepts, existential philosophical outlooks. He can formulate a way of putting something that is interesting and makes me think. For example, he had the idea of what I ended up calling an "outcome based social network" - essentially a short-term short shelf life social network that is tactical in purpose. An idea. Not a product. Not a road map. An idea. And THAT is why Anthony is so refreshing.
- Most Under-the-Radar Exceptional Person at a Vendor - Margot Heiligman, SAP. Many of you probably don't know Margot - hence the "under-the-radar" designation (duh). She is a Subject Matter Expert Manager for the Business Influencer Group at SAP - a program that I wish other companies would emulate - though, I presume SAP hopes they don't. Margot is extraordinary. Not only does she get things done in astonishing ways, but her range of knowledge and interest in things is both broad and deep and her genuinely good nature is always at the forefront - a lovely human being.
- They Get "It" - Most Under-the-Radar Senior Management - Large Company - Andy Mulholland, CTO Cap Gemini Ernst & Young - I met Andy after they did a note on CRM 2.0 a few months ago and the man is just sharp. Yet, while he's somewhat visible to all, not enough know him or what he knows. He simply gets it and can articulate that selfsame "it" when it comes to how the business/customer relationship works.
- They Get "It" - Most Under-the-Radar Senior Management - Small Company - That would be Brian K. Magierski, the Chief Development Officer of nGenera - the company that splashed on the CRM team by being the first serious Web 2.0 company to buy a known CRM vendor - Talisma months ago. He and I conversed a few months ago for CRM at the Speed of Light, 4th Edition. I was stunned by how cogent his explanation of what was going on was and how well thought out his solution to the transformation was. More should hear this man speak out about it. Hopefully, this is the first step in bringing him into a different daylight than the one that he already is in.
- Best Marketing Real Person - Jeff Pulver, VP Marketing, Workday. I've known this Jeff Pulver for over ten years and he is the most approachable, least hype-driven, smartest marketing leader I met. I'm not the only one who thinks that either. He was one of BtoB Magazine's chosen luminaries in 2007 and recognized throughout the industry. He has been the chief marketing person at Epiphany, Siebel, Rearden Commerce and now Dave Duffield's PeopleSoft reconstruction on demand - Workday. Mostly, he is an amazing funny friendly person who everyone loves. Marketing is his job. Living is his love. Great music dude also.
- The Incredible Decency Award (Vendor Version) - John Taschek, VP of Product Marketing Strategy, salesforce.com - He is hands down decent. He is a good man who's decency transcends his work and extends into the way that he treats everyone he knows. He radiates good will and all those who know him like him and trust him - and, take my word, there is reason to.
That's it for today's round. Tomorrow, we'll look at a bunch more. Sometimes, its about the human beings, not the abstract categories we often substitute for people. I want you to at least get a glimpse of some of them. Needless to say, my panel of judges consists of:
- My head
- My heart
- My hands