katie’s last day at schipul

[This post was written on December 16 and I never hit publish. I removed some of the mushy stuff. And as I have said many times “bad news fast” so let me say first that I regret the chaos of Katie’s last day. I’ll make it up to you Katie.]

Some people are just more difficult than others. And some people are REALLY more difficult than others.

Shut up. I’m not talking about myself.

I’m talking about Katie. Katie Laird. And I’m writing this on the last day she works for me. And that is sad for me as a person who will miss walking in to her office and rambling on about everything from Edward Bernays, to the latest Dan Keeney email that even we think is perhaps too full of candor, to our PR efforts to help April and the Silicon Valley office, or to discuss our latest ideas to save the cheerleader or at least save the world through Netsquared.

It is also a happy time for me because I love Katie in one of the 10,000 ways a person can love. And “love” isn’t a word I use without thought. Nope, this lady is unique. She is taking the next step in her mission and vision and I respect that. Even if I did manage to get us locked out on the 15th floor roof of our building on her last day because I wanted to say goodbye without 1000 interruptions that go with running a growing business.

Aaron hired Katie as a graphic artist ‘back in the day’. Kelly was our Communications Director at the time. Kelly was amazing of course, as she still is and I think she is even teaching the APR courses at PRSA Houston. When Kelly left, Katie proactively observed the (numerous) balls I was dropping and, well, I’m not even sure if she asked. She just did. She picked up the reins and was doing our PR in addition to her responsibilities as a designer. I’m not sure how it happened. That’s what happens with high performance individuals I have learned. Sometimes they run over you to achieve what is ultimately in your best interest as a leader and what is in the best interest of the company and the tribe. Katie did.

And Katie, or @happykatie as so many call her, did that. She just DID. I’m not even sure that I, as the CEO, had a vote in it. She is a force of nature.

Keep in mind this is a woman is a cupcake expert, a Nintendo gamer, a pilot (yes, like real airplanes), a Mom to an amazing little girl named Ella, a philanthropist who gives of her time and money to so many different causes. It’s kind of like shaking hands with a beautiful tornado. But not to worry, Katie is almost always in a great mood. (A desirable characteristic when it comes to tornados from Kansas.)

I have given so many talks over the last 6 years where not only the slide deck, but the research behind the slide deck, was done by Katie. She can meet with me for 10 minutes, ask a few questions, and two days later I have a presentation deck that makes me look like a hero presenting to a national section of PRSA in New York. She is that good. That and Katie herself is an accomplished and sought after public speaker in her own right. Check out Katie’s slideshare here. I have no doubt her public speaking requests will continue and surpass mine in the near future. She rocks as a speaker.

And OK, I admit it. It doesn’t hurt that Katie is the founder of Houston Dr. Sketchy’s. Always a great excuse to spend a Sunday afternoon at AvantGarden drinking wine and photographing models and friends. (Unless she revokes my “archivist” privileges, I know I’ll get to see her and Adam, and sometimes Ella, at least once a month.)

There is great joy in seeing people like Katie grow. Visiting her in the hospital when Ella was born. Jumping on an airplane to San Francisco for a one day trip with little notice to find out about this TechSoup Netsquared thing. Taking photos on the roof to show off the latest hand crafted scarf she made. Trying different advertising and acknowledging what fails, and trying again, and celebrating what succeeds knowing it is bringing in leads that become clients. To not get her a band aid, but instead say “wait, let me take a photo” when she skinned her knee riding a plasma car down the top of the parking garage. To enjoy those experiences with a co-worker you have to care. And I do. I care very much and to care it becomes personal. And Katie is leaving after over six years. And that brings a sense of loss.

Did I mention she planned and ran SchipulCon 2011 this year? Without Katie we would not have seen Dries and Matt on the stage together. It was a team effort, but she was the team leader for the whole event. (and a shout out to David and Al for the idea and the vid of course.)

And then Katie had me roasted. Very funny. Very Katie.

I know I am missing a ton of Katie’s accomplishments. And memories she created. She has been the driving force for the Schipul and Tendenci brands for years. So much so that she rejected a blog post I wanted to put on the Schipul blog because it wasn’t “on message.” (Her rejection notice/email said something about “snarky” but I’m not sure what her point was #heh). In fact I’m posting this on my personal blog and linking to it because I know Katie wouldn’t think this blog post was “on message with the brand” either. She is a true brand steward. She cares about her work.

I’m proud of Katie in that she is following her passion and going after what, after much introspection, she feels is the best next step for her.

As a CEO, you always feel a bit like a failure when you lose a top performer. It means that you didn’t grow the company fast enough to keep them challenged. Or you didn’t increase profits enough to increase their compensation commensurate with their new skills, abilities, knowledge and mostly the RESULTS they produce for the company. And the next person who tells me “don’t take it personal” gets bonked on the head by Ded Bob from the RenFest because it means they have never walked a mile in the shoes of a company founder. I’m not sure I would even want to be a person who didn’t feel the human loss as well as the professional loss when a high performer leaves the company.

Make no mistake, this is a loss for Schipul Technologies Inc. And a huge gain for my friend Jay Steinfeld, the CEO of Blinds.com where Katie is going. Jay, you don’t just owe me a beer. No sir. This calls for something more like a bottle of Opus One. But I can’t fault your choice of talent. You have excellent taste indeed.

Take care of Katie for me please. She rocks.

5th Ward Jam

5th Ward Jam by Dan Havel and Dean Ruck. Article about it on Chron. It is located at 3705 Lyons Street Houston Texas (and YOU should go see it!). Regardless here is a video from the brave quadracopter “yellow” and a few photos from the not so brave 5D-Mii:

Fifth Ward Jam

Fifth Ward Jam

Fifth Ward Jam

Fifth Ward Jam

tenderina

As I type this on the afternoon of December 10th, you have three more chances to see Freneticore Dance’s production of Tenderina. Tonight the 10th, then next weekend the 16th and 17th. Visit the Frenetic Theater calendar for more.

A few shots from Monday’s performance:

frenetic core theater

tenderina at frenetic core theater

tenderina at frenetic core theater

tenderina at frenetic core theater

tenderina at frenetic core theater

tenderina at frenetic core theater

movement

after

tenderina at frenetic core theater

judgement

“To understand more clearly what is meant by judgement, imagine a the TECH cafesingles match being played by Mr. A and Mr. B, with Mr. C acting as the umpire. Mr. A is serving his second serve to Mr. B on the first point of a tie-breaker. The ball lands wide, and Mr. C calls, “Out. double fault.” Seeing his serve land out and hearing, “double fault,”

Mr. A frowns, says something demeaning about himself, and calls the serve “terrible.”

Seeing the same stroke, Mr. B. judges it as “good” and smiles.

The umpire neither frowns nor smiles; he simply calls the ball as he sees it.”

– W. Timothy Gallwey, “The Inner Game of Tennis”

thinking men think, and therefore change their minds

Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal. – Robert Heinlein

Leadership, I frequently say, is about “making good decisions with limited information.” Not perfect decisions. But good decisions. You don’t have a choice in business: move quickly or die. And unlike CEOs on Wall Street, the small business CEO’s worst nightmare is to fail their employees and customers. I am not afraid of risk or failure as an individual, but I do have obligations and those must be met and that requires leadership during trying times.

There are three major factors that make leadership decisions difficult:

  1. Speed – you must make a decision and you never have enough information.
  2. Pressure – the pressure to make the right call, and make it now, is intense.
  3. Commitment – even if only 51% sure about a decision, commit 100%.

I suspect politicians face the same deadly triad when making decisions. And worse than letting their employees and family down, politicians risk being pilloried in the media, dragged through the hot coals of a PR disaster, and destroying the empire! Why anyone would want to be a politician is beyond me.

So it was with some relief this weekend when I read the letter to the editor in the Houston Chronicle by Charles Hamilton of Spring Texas titled “Thinking Men Think.” It was like someone with common sense finally stepped into the room. From his letter:

Regarding “Let’s give Romney time to sort out his positions” (Page B9, Friday), Gail Collins inaccurately notes a presidential nonqualifying trait in Mitt Romney‘s “not giving a fig” about undocumented workers clipping his lawn.

and

Non-objectively, she does not compare Obama’s many flip-flops (e.g., closing Guantanamo) with Mitt’s (e.g., abortion)…

Thinking men think. Man’s judgment of other men’s motives is often flawed.

Politician’s disparage each other to get elected because we the electorate remember bad stuff better. Witness the oft quoted and paraphrased “you get 10 bad reviews from an angry customer versus 1 recommendation from a happy customer.” Witness “if it bleeds it leads.” Witness Perez Hilton, the Drudge Report, etc… WE have trained the media and the politicians to feed us disparaging remarks about each other.

And the worst of those sound-byte-disparagements is she “s/he flip-floped on issue _____.” What does that mean in poli-parlance? It is slang for “the politician changed their position” with an implied “you can’t trust them.”

The White Houseflip-flopping,” by the media, is consistent with the actions of a rational human being. Feel free to ponder “what” changed. Be it pandering to the left or right. But SOMETHING changed in the politician’s world-view to have them logically take a new position.  The broad definition of flip-flopper can be painted on President Obama as well as on candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. And how does this help move us forward? It doesn’t.

Look, we all benefit from a healthy Presidential Election. Let’s talk about the issues in the primary and in the general election. But if you hear someone say “he is a flip-flopper” the person who is speaking is not thinking with acuity. Don’t we deserve a leader smart enough to move with the cheese?

As Charles’ said – “Thinking men think.” And thank God for that!

(this is a cross post – to comment please comment on the chron.com version here.)

it’s all about the intro

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood….

Teletubbies

I love you

Super Friends

Get Smart

Crockett’s Theme – Jan Hammer – Miami Vice

Miami Vice – In the Air Tonight

To Live and Die in LA

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

A wartime consigliere