Monday, January 27, 2014

Someone should have protected Tom Perkins

Yes, Tom Perkins' letter to the WSJ was shameful, but now, 48 hours later, I too feel shame.

If you missed it you can read his letter to the Journal here, and then his follow up here. The Twittersphere lit up, everyone piled on (including me) that his comments were stupid, and the rants of a now irrelevant old man, and tone deaf about the gap between the 1% and the 99%, and an insult to the Jews, venture capital etc. etc.

But this morning I am wondering how did his family, or the WSJ for that matter, let this happen? Tom Perkins was born in 1933. He was alive when Kristallnacht happened. I am sure, if asked 20 years ago, he would not have said these things even if he thought them! He would have known it was reputational suicide.

I spend a lot of time around old people these days, and I am grateful for the time with them. On one side we have Alzheimer's and on the other we have healthy, honest-to-goodness old age. And I'm learning that, as people age, the self-governors can come off. My father and his friends can sometimes say things that make me cringe, and that I know they would not have said even ten years ago. But they're older and less tolerant, and frankly care less about what other people think. So they speak their minds and sometimes reveal prejudices that they were taught as children in the 1930s, which they suppressed as thinking adults, and which are re-emerging as they age. Sometimes idiotic, sometimes upsetting, but often just raw and unfiltered.

But Tom Perkins is considered a fair target because he's a billionaire. Because of who he is, and because of his prior role as both a founder of the venture capital firm that bears his name (Kleiner Perkins) and a former board member of News Corp., he was given the platform to speak his 82-year-old mind. And, unlike conservative friends at a private dinner, Tom Perkins was allowed to embarrass himself in front of the world—and to destroy his reputation in a single day.

But should he be a target? Should we not remember his age? Or if he is still a target in our society, then surely someone should have stopped him?

Yes he's rich, and has been crass with his wealth, and offended a lot of people, but now he's at an age where his mind may be weakening and his judgement may very well be off. He is no longer in power. He's not on HP's board, he's not involved in KPCB in any way, he's out of the picture. I'd feel differently if he was still driving companies and investments, but he's not. The WSJ should be ashamed for publishing his letter, realizing how tone deaf and inflammatory it was -- chasing clicks at the expense of an octogenarian.

And I hope his family now knows they need to protect him from humiliating himself in public.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How to be one of the 1-in-3 that know

How many of your sales people talk to their customer blind? How many don't know what the latest breaking developments are for their customer's business? How many don't understand their end market?

According to Marc Benioff it's 66%. That's 2 out of 3!

 

Here's one of Marc's slides from Dreamforce 2013. And yet there is no reason for it. Today you can easily get your hands on simple information about your customers even with general purpose sales intelligence tools, and with FirstRain you can get that magical "in depth understanding". With personal business analytics you can look at your customers through your own personal lens. See every development, tie your strategy to the trends your customer cares about and is talking about.

I know -- enough selling -- but seriously—when your enterprise sales people cost you at least quarter of a million dollars a year, why wouldn't you give them the ability to deeply understand their customer's business, real-time, each and every day so they are smart on the phone?

A living example of how the "princess romance" theme can backfire

If you were raised on Disney princess movies, and Hollywood musicals, as I was, you were probably brainwashed into thinking that to be happy you had to find a man. Even a few years ago in Sex and the City, the girls were all pursuing relationships as their ultimate goal. Most movies don't pass the Bechdel test because what few women are in the movie have only one topic of conversation—relationships with men.

But this weekend I was reminded of how very toxic this brainwashing can be. My mother-in-law is now 83 and in assisted living dealing with slowly-progressing Alzheimers. Some days she's good, some days she doesn't want to get up and just lies in bed staring out of her window. Saturday was one of those days.

As I sat on her bed quietly talking with her, trying to cheer her up, I asked her what she thinks about. She told me she thinks about the past and all her good memories are about husbands. Part of her sadness now is that she sees no future for herself because without a man she has no future.

Margit was married first at 19 in Malmo, Sweden, and divorced at 20. She then moved to New York, a beautiful Swedish girl who spoke little English in the early 50s—a time of fur coats, night clubs and martinis. There, she had a part-time job in the New York Public Library but quickly started dating, and then married, a man 30 years older then her. She and Harry were happily married for almost 20 years when he died at age 70.

Once widowed, Margit took off, dropping all contact with her teenage kids until she had another husband (they learned to fend for themselves younger than most). Again she married an older man, this time a Swedish restauranteur. He died after an 8-year marriage and at 53 she had a facelift, lost a lot of weight and set out to find another husband. This time, she chose a man her age with whom she lived happily for 20 years. But when he fell ill and died, she was truly alone, and her attention latched onto her son, my husband, whom she now expects to be the source of all her care and attention.

What's so sad listening to her talk as she looks back is that she has never lived an independent life where she was happy with herself. She's never really worked, never really spent much time with her kids, her whole existence revolved around her husband—and now that she doesn't have one she has no center or purpose. She has told me she is embarrassed to be without a husband and, while she's had a few female friends through her life, she's not making any now. When we discuss events happening to my family and friends she always asks me what Bret thinks, or my father thinks, because my ideas don't really carry weight unless validated by one of the men in my life. With my kids she openly favors our son, and has little time for our daughter or her own daughter.

Why, I wonder? Why build your whole existence, your whole source of happiness, around whether you have a man or not? And yet in film after film that is the woman's sole objective—find your prince, marry him and fade out. I'm all for being in happy, stable relationship, but not as your entire source of happiness.

Which is why it is so very important that we support filmmakers who show independent women living full lives without a prince. Why Geena Davis' work on the portrayal of girls in media is so critical. And why we must help our girls get to college, have meaningful careers and build independent lives so that their husband, if they chose to have one, is a part of their life—not their whole life.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why CMOs won’t lock CIOs out of the C-suite

Published in the Economist today

Money talks. It's common knowledge that people with money tend to get what they want, and today’s business dynamics are no different. A new Accenture study shows that CMOs are claiming more of the tech budget share. Much to the chagrin of CIOs, it is coming out of the IT purse.

Regardless of how much injustice CIOs feel, the success of their companies is increasingly reliant on their teams learning to align with CMO teams whose priorities—and very nature—are incredibly different from their own.

CIOs and IT professionals are, of course, very good at evaluating and implementing complex software processes. They have been doing that for CFOs forever, which is one of the main reasons they are not going to be rolled under the marketing umbrella anytime soon.

Despite the fact that marketing professionals have tended to see IT as more of a support organization, they now need the CIO for the same reason finance always has: they need the technical expertise to help them choose the right system and then implement it. So, rather than have the CIO report to the CMO, they need to work together in a true partnership to make sure that they get the right sales support technology for their businesses.

But how will that work? Beyond the inherently differing priorities of the CIO and the CMO (case in point: protecting data vs. using data), IT people and marketers are two very different breeds. So we find ourselves with yet another example of why diversity is so important in today’s environment. Marketing, as we have already discussed, is becoming increasingly digital, so the “creative types” will need to learn to work with the more technical staff, and the “math nerds” will have to figure out how to deal with people whose main concern is responding to the capriciousness of public interest.

There is no doomsday on the horizon for CIOs. CMOs need them just as much as ever because the systems that marketers want and need are technologically sophisticated. Just because they are in the cloud doesn’t mean that creative types know how to buy them and run them. In order for a business to be successful, both teams are going to have to come to an agreement on what is important and adapt to achieve their goals—together.

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