Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tampa Tech Company Relentlessly seeking Rock Star Tech Co-Founder Tired of Making others Wealthy

I am in search of someone amazing to partner with me in a journey to turn the travel industry on its head.

I am a "special snowflake" and as you read this, you know exactly what that means and want to know what I'm up to and want to get in on the game.

I have already funded this company to the launch of a minimum viable product and need a tech partner to own the product for the rest of the ride.


  • Hate the status quo as much as I do
  • Was programming as a child before it was fashionable
  • Can't believe that people have been putting up with hotel searches near city centers and airports for multiple decades versus getting where they are really going
  • Are an incredibly talented architect and developer yet humble with a giving heart - you really mean it when you say that you want to leave a legacy
  • Are able to leap tall challenges in a single bound
  • Are in a position to take the biggest but most sure risk of your life
  • You want and need and are driven by innovation and differentiation
  • Have never met an API that you couldn't conquer
  • In the dictionary, the word DETERMINED has your picture next to it
  • Vision that has a 40k foot orientation, but able to create a practical and powerful architecture to get the job done
  • Have always dreamed of living in a place with palm trees and sand
  • Want to have a meaningful piece of the company that you help build. but appreciate that you aren't starting from a blank sheet of paper or having to come up with the "idea"
  • Ability to attract other talented people that share your vision and believe in your talent and leadership
  • Can make other people laugh at will and having fun at work is a top priority

The Company:
  • Is based in Tampa, Florida
  • Part of an industry leading advisory firm that was founded 20 years ago and has serviced many companies that you have heard of and admired
  • Has already pivoted multiple times based on real world learning about client needs and business model
  • Embraces the Startup Owners Manual
  • Wants to change the world, one trip at the time and our business model makes that happen in a measurable way
  • Is committed to innovation and puts our money where our mouth is
  • Has already launched minimum viable product and is monetizing that now
  • Has just signed 3 new client contracts that will drive repeatable, transactional revenues
  • Has already designed the next phase of the product, but are just waiting for your input on our planned approach
  • Need your vision and passion
Fit the bill or know someone that does?  Call me.  813-925-0789

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bucket list inspiration - Salar de Uyuni

This morning I saw this amazing place on Facebook in one of those posts that makes you stop and say - where is that?  I want to visit!

Now you can.  Click on the image and begin planning your trip to Bolivia.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Just inspire or enable the experience? With TripPlanz Toolkit, you can do both.

Social media is the great enabler. We get to live vicariously through our friends that are at Wimbledon or those visiting the ruins of Tulum in Mexico or dining in a restaurant in a cave in Italy.

But what if you want to actually visit the place that you see online?   Until now, you had to do the research to find out where it is and then start the trip planning process.

Today, I was browsing through my timeline on Facebook, something that I don't get a chance to do during the week.  I saw this amazing restaurant that was embedded into a cave on a beautiful body of water.  My immediate reaction?  I want to go THERE!

Grotta Palazzese

The post was done by a company called La Bioguia and it was in Spanish.  The caption read:

Un restaurante dentro de una cueva, Grotta Palazzese, en los acantilados de Polignano a Mare, provincia de Bari, Italia.
Thanks to embedded translation in Facebook, I saw that it was actually a restaurant inside a cave; grotta palazzese, in the cliffs polignano to mare, province of bari, Italy. 

If I were looking for a place to go on vacation and I was open to going to Europe, this would certainly be on my list.  So, I figure that if I feel that way, so do others.

And since I have just built a cool piece of technology that can trip-enable these kinds of posts, I do what I do.  I research the place, find the images and maps and build the link so that others that view this place can actually plan a trip to go there and find a hotel nearby.  

Voila!   Click on the image above and plan your trip to see this amazing place.

It took all of 3 minutes.  

 If you are a blogger or a media company and this kind of capability sounds interesting to you, we have built out a self-service capability for you to do this on your own.   And if you drive more than 10 hotel bookings in a month (or for an event), we will reward you by upgrading you to our PRO Partner program, where you will get a regular royalty check for bookings made through this unbiased, secure booking platform. 

Try it, you'll like it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Marketing Mischief - Stale Branding

Oh my.  What a week.  Actually, what a couple of months. 

When MK got back from down under in February, we got together in New York and we started working on our personal branding.  Each of us had things we had been well known for in the past and some had to go, some were tweaked and new things emerged. 

As a small aside, on that trip MK mentioned to me that she thought my logo needed a little "softening". 

The funny thing is that I loved my logo. 

I had switched to the Solutionz brand in 2004 and the wife (now ex-wife) of a friend of mine in Barbados had developed the original logo.

The past week, we've been working with 99Designs to get a design template for our family of brands. 

We have our advisory services firm, Solutionz Services, and our tech company, Solutionz Technologies.  We also have our Media company.  Of course, Solutionz Media.  We have always had a network of associates but missed the opportunity to brand them as the Solutionz Network. 

Today we settled on a new logo and I have to tell you that I am in LOVE.  It is light, it is more modern and it really speaks to who we are as a company. 

Out with the old (on the left) in with the new (on the right).

Yes, it is simple, but simplicity is good.

Check out our new website as well.  Fresh branding deserves a new look.

Oh, and thank you MK!!

Is your branding stale?    Stop the mischief.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Daily Mischief - My mailbox had consumed me...

AUTHORS NOTE:  After I wrote this email, I looked at this past week's stats and saw that a post that I wrote on email in 2009 was the #1 post last week.    I obviously didn't learn my lesson.  If you are struggling with your email, go back and read that one.  There was some very good, timeless info there.

By any measure, 20,000 emails is a lot of email. 

Each time that I tried to weed it out, I barely made any progress before 200-300 more would pour in.

The problem?  Unscrupulous marketers that say that they don't sell your list, but in fact they do.  And UNSUBSCRIBING just takes too long and often doesn't stop the flow of mail.

And trying to go through them to figure out what to save?  At one minute per email, that could have eaten up as much as 333 hours.  And for what?  Complete and total mischief.

Today I took back control and it feels good.  I moved off all 20,000 emails out of my inbox into a mail archive folder.  If I need to find a specific one, when I search for a name or a company or an idea, it will be there.   

From today forward, my email box ends up empty.

No more mail mischief.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Product Management Mischief - Dare to differentiate

In a world of commoditized products and services, it is important to set yourself apart.  While this example is extreme, each time you see one of these little cars in the future, I guarantee you that this one will stick in your mind.

I encourage you to dare to differentiate.    Here are some steps that you can take:

  1. Determine what will set you apart, gathering information from your sales and service front line 
  2. Talk to your customers, as it is important to get their input on your ideas
  3. Don't forget to talk to lost customers and to your prospects
  4. If you are going to charge for the product, test the willingness to pay (focus groups are a good way to do this)
  5. Map out your rollout plan, including both the PR and the implementation and support plans
Don't forget to "toot your horn" as you come out with the new product!    

Friday, March 20, 2015

Time Management Mischief: No time to blog

For our loyal readers, I beg your forgiveness for the lapse in writing.  MK and I are busy designing our next success and it has taken us away from the task of blogging.

We leave you with this particular piece of mischief, inspired by my favorite vacation - cruising.

Have a great weekend.  Next week, back to blogging!

Chicke Fitzgerald
Chief Mischief Officer

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Innovation Mischief - The Word Impossible

Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.

This quote, by Robert Heinlein, is a challenge to us all to think outside of the status quo.
I don’t know about you, but the minute that someone says that something can’t be done, my brain automatically goes into motion to figure out how to get it done.  Inventors everywhere are motivated by this same thing.
A Road Closed sign just causes me to hit the “reroute” button that is somehow, miraculously a part of my DNA.
Every day we get to choose how we react when roadblocks are put in our way.   
Be the one that removes the word impossible from your vocabulary.

Chicke Fitzgerald
Chief Mischief Officer

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Innovation Mischief - Why Skunkworks may be your only hope

I read an article today about Why Corporate Skunkworks Need To Die. The article was published last month in Forbes and it was written by Steve Blanks.

While I totally understand the premise of continuous innovation that +steve blank makes, I believe that he has missed the fact that in some cases, you just can't get there from here.

In fact, for some companies/industries, I believe that a skunkworks may be your only hope.

I made a comment on his article that in the travel industry where I have spent my last 35 years, I have seen companies try to innovate from within. With few exceptions, most skunkworks quite frankly, don't work, or they focus on products that support just their existing core focus, leaving true innovation beyond their grasp. Other companies simply rely on acquisition to fill out their product suite.

In almost every case the major players in the travel industry are just taking their existing products, focused on the air traveler, and tweaking them. [I would love for someone to prove me wrong on this point.]

Yes, we've finally started doing a good job with mobile and knitting in location based services. Uber and HomeAway and airbnb have given us some new options, but they are still focused on those that "magically" land in a given destination.

We've gotten smarter about everything that touches the air traveler, from the time that they leave their homes to the time that they arrive at their destination, as long as that destination is an airport or a city center.

Bravo. That is until you realize that this particular market segment makes up just 13% of all overnight trips in the US. Yikes. What about the other 87%? We have summarily ignored them.
If your destination is much further away from the city or the airport, or God forbid, you need to drive to more than one destination, all of the sudden, booking travel gets hard.

I've been talking about this for nearly a decade now and am still amazed that there has been no movement on this front. I will give the major players in my industry the benefit of the doubt. I've spoken to many of you about this and even invested time in helping some of you to understand the opportunity.

Some of you are public or owned by private equity (or even by VCs) and are caught up in the quarter by quarter pressure for profitability. Or you are not given sufficient time to allow an idea to germinate and or you are not given enough resources to allow the idea to sprout into a full fledged, profitable business. I know. It is sad. Or if there is excess cash on the balance sheet, acquisition can be a tempting solution.

The challenge is that those companies that make it on an acquisition target list generally have already turned an idea into a business and quite often their products and services only provide incremental improvement to a core product line.

The real mischief is that if you are focused on your product rather than your customer, you may miss an important product or service trend.

Take a look at Weight Watchers. They have been focused on their core product - their eating/tracking product, coupled with their meetings and their online platform and tools. They completely missed the "wearable" fitness device trend and their customer base is down by 15% as a result. I believe they have also missed the opportunity to do remote meetings using online meeting technology, such as Google Hangouts, or even just plain old conference calling for a weekly meeting with busy executives that don't have time to get away for a meeting. Or how about a weekly "walk!".

The other innovation mischief is that there are many innovators still out there who have created amazing products and services, but they do not have proper funding to take their ideas to market. Those firms may not be able to attract capital and they definitely don't make it onto the acquisition list. I think that this is a mistake and these firms could provide significant acceleration to firms that want to differentiate, particularly in a commodity world.

Perhaps there is compromise to Blank's premise.

I believe that a skunkworks can be used not only to foster innovations and build new businesses, but properly run, they can create a model for organizations to infuse consistent, integrated innovation into the mother ship.

Through an integrated, strategic planning process focused on execution and integration, the fully built product or fully defined service can then become a part of the more mature parent organization. The learning, both good and bad, can be shared with the core organization and of course, all along, the parent would be providing guidance and insight, as well as funding to the skunkworks.

I believe that this is a viable model to launch totally new products, models, markets or even new ways of organizing or leading.

What if there were an organization willing to run the skunkworks and even do it as a joint venture, with a vested interest in its success. And just maybe, that firm has a bit of technology that could make a real difference in the landscape of one or more industries.

As always, I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is. Anyone game to turn the travel industry on its head?

Stay tuned. Skunkworks Solutionz™ may be around the corner.....

Chicke FitzgeraldChief Mischief Officer

Monday, March 02, 2015

Life Balance Mischief - Juggling the balls of life

It would be nice if we were made of a substance like one of those really durable, big, fat rubber bands. No matter how much you stretch it, it just continues to expand.

But we are not. No matter how capable you are, there is a limit to how much we can pile on without everything crashing in.

Some of us are better at multi-tasking than others. When people look at me as an example, they can't believe that I can keep all of the various balls in the air that I do.

But I remember back to the days when we ran 40 projects for 20 customers in a year. That makes "writing a book, launching a new technology and doing select consulting engagements for people that I really love" seem like child's play. Balancing three things plus being a mom of two active teens? No problem.

Yet, that year that we did all those projects -- that was the first year in more than a decade that we lost money and I nearly killed myself physically. I ended up with chronic anemia and later that year had to have surgery. Fortunately, my team was able to pick up the slack when I was out recovering for three months, but after that, I decided that I couldn't keep up that pace and in fact had lost my passion for consulting as a result.

The life balance mischief is thinking you are invincible and not knowing which of the balls that you are juggling are fragile and which will bounce back if you drop them.

I have seen the following attributed to Bryan Dyson the CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises from a commencement address, someone else claimed to hear it at Price-Babson Fellowship Program and have also read this quote in a book.

No matter the source, take this one to heart:
Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.
But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.
p.s.  I have since regained my passion for helping companies heal from the inside out, a company medic of sorts.  Many don't know their true problems and are just treating symptoms.  I find that most organizational problems begin with people and it isn't until you get to the bottom of those that you can free a company up to achieve its true potential.

Chicke Fitzgerald
Chief Mischief Officer

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Good Mischief - Blazing a Trail

"Whether your ship is big or small, always blaze a trail."

I believe in trail blazing and leaving a legacy. It is the air that I breathe.

Whether your company is the industry leader or you are a new entrant, or somewhere in between, adding incremental features or benefits to your prospective clients just isn't enough to blaze a trail.

Talk to your customers. Talk to the ones that you were never able to close. Talk to those that you have lost. Talk to those that are mad at you.

They are the keepers of the secrets of your success. They will tell you what they need to blaze their own trail.

Blazing a trail is "good mischief". Go see what mischief you can stir up today.

Chicke Fitzgerald
Chief Mischief Officer

Team Mischief - Who is your wing man?

A wing man is someone that will always stand by your side and who will have your back. 

In this photo, even though the main airplane seems to be totally self-sufficient, with a huge radar component embedded in the fuselage, this pilot still needs his wing men.

I am so blessed to have a number of people in my life who play this role. 

You know who you are.

Who is your wing man?

Having one or more key people in your life that you know will always be there is critical.  These people may or may not be a part of your direct team.  

It is good mischief to have a wing man [or woman].   I call them the board of directors of my life.
They are the first people that I call when something good happens or when there is a crisis.

Write down those names right now.  And write them a handwritten note telling them how much you appreciate having them in your life.

Chicke Fitzgerald
Chief Mischief Officer  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Marketing Mischief: Travelport 2014 Results - $3.5 billion left on the table

Travelport today broadcast their investor call to talk about their results.  I am struck by two things.

First, Gordon Wilson shared that their "attachment rate" of a hotel to an air ticket is up to 43 hotel segments out of 100 air tickets sold.   While on the face, this sounds really wonderful, the focus on selling hotels to an air traveler is actually the core problem of the travel industry and a major opportunity for the GDS companies.

In the US alone, out of the 1 billion trips taken that involved an overnight, 87% of those were by car and NOT by air.  Therefore, if you are measuring your attachment rate to air, then 43 out of 100 is a miserable number.

In the US, there are 130m trips by air, so 43% of those are just 55.9m trips.

That leaves the hotel bookings for 870m trips on the table.  At Travelport's average segment revenue of $4.10, by my calculations, that is $3.5 billion left on the table.  

The continued focus on the air traveler will eventually be the death of the GDS, as someone else will snatch up their dominant market position, gained by this air focus over the last 30+ years.

Second, I noted that without the sale of Orbitz Worldwide in 2014, Travelport would have lost $265m.  

That is a sad state affairs for a mature business, but it is a result of focusing on a stagnant sector of the business (the air traveler) and ignoring the part of the market that is completely underserved.  Marketing mischief at its finest.

Nuf said.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Brand Mischief - Just how many brands can one OTA manage before consumers catch on

We have all shopped at the grocery store and seen competitive brand such as Tide and Gain sitting next to one another on the detergent shelf, with one as a premium brand and one as a budget brand.   The same with Pampers and Luvs.   Makes sense.  Get the high end and the low end.  Either way you win.  

P&G's 23 brands span beauty, baby, family, home care, health and grooming.  With those brands, the company has revenues of $82b and a market cap of $242b.   Their brands are each worth roughly $10b.

Expedia is one of the top online travel agencies (OTA) in the country.  It is traded on the NYSE: EXPE and has a market cap of $11b just for its own brands, which include, Egencia (corporate travel),,, Trivago,,,  Expedia also owns more than 56% of Chinese site eLong.  .  

The company has recently gone on a brand spending spree to bolster traffic, revenues and of course profitability.  It now boasts nearly as many brands as P&G, but all selling the same basic products, with hotel rooms and airline tickets at the top of the product list.

In late 2012, Expedia bought a majority stake in relative newcomer, Trivago for $632m.  Recently Expedia purchased Travelocity from Sabre for $280m and just today announced they were buying rival Orbitz for $1.34b.  

Bravo Barney Harford and company for getting 25% over your market cap for the company.  And for Barney, who used to be an executive with Expedia, it is a bit like coming home, but the home is getting a little crowded.  

By the time Expedia had acquired Travelocity, they had shed their Travelocity for Business corporate travel counterpart and  They had also sold Travelocity's Partner Network to none other than Orbitz.  So the partner network, which Expedia didn't want, is now theirs by default. 

The interesting thing is that when you look at their traffic, you wouldn't think that there should be such disparity in valuation of Travelocity and Orbitz, but the fact of the matter is that Expedia had already taken over the operations of Travelocity more than 18 months ago and all that was really left was the brand itself and a very small team focused on branding and marketing.    

So now we have just two major players in the US in the OTA space.   Priceline, whose primary brand has approximately 23 million unique visitors a month and Expedia.  Combined, just the two new sister brands give Expedia nearly 22m additional unique visitors per month, not counting all the "children" of Orbitz.  Those include Cheaptickets, EBookers, Orbitz for Business (who competes head to head with Egencia), HotelClub, RatestoGo,,, Adventure Finder and  

Had Expedia hung on to TripAdvisor, rather than spinning it off in 2011, it would now be head and shoulders ahead of Priceline, with TripAdvisor's 80.6m unique visitors per month.  Spin off remorse???  

Even funnier, if Travelocity had not shut down iGoUGo last year, Expedia could now compete with TripAdvisor head on.  

All I can say is I hope that they have a lot of brand managers and a big pot of money to drive traffic to their now more than 20 brands that all sell hotel rooms, air tickets and car rental as their primary product lines.

But my concern goes beyond the brand spending that will be necessary to compete with the Priceline/ machine.  How long before the consumers catch on that these sites are all owned by the same company and provide precious little differentation.  Oh and did I mention that all of their brands focus on the air traveler and only 11% of all overnight travel in the US is by car? 

Brand mischief at its finest.

Stay tuned,

Chicke Fitzgerald
Chief Mischief Officer


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

IPO MIschief - The GDS Industry: An oligopoly where all three players have gone public twice. Really?

Consistently, as I look at the statistics on my blog, one of the top blogs is the one where I talk about the biggest GDS (Global Distribution System) company.  This week was no different. 

I can only imagine that the rumors about Sabre buying Abacus are fueling the renewed interest in my 2011 blog "Who is the biggest GDS".  Or perhaps it is the fact that Orbitz is on the market and anyone thinking about an Online Travel Agency (OTA) has to first understand the Global Distribution System (GDS) market.

For those that don't know, the three main oligopolists are Sabre (based in Dallas), Amadeus (based in Madrid) and Travelport (based in Atlanta with executive offices in the UK).  I know that term sounds obscene, but truly, I looked it up!

One of the things that you may not know is that all three of these companies have had not one, but two public offerings.  That is right, two IPOs each.   Personally I think they should have to call them SPOs (secondary public offering).  

Really, I don't think that it matters a bit which GDS is bigger.  Big can be measured in the most users, the most countries served, the most bookings processed or the most revenue or profit.  But what really matters is what the market believes that the company is worth.  
For the GDS companies that is not only what the public markets think, but what they have been able to get the Private Equity community to invest and what kind of an exit the PE companies can get from taking the company back to the public markets after going private yet again.

I have to admit that I completely missed Travelport's most recent $480m IPO, where they sold approx. 68% of the stock.  The offering is Travelport’s second attempt to go public in four years and that doesn't count their first IPO in 1997, which brought in $783m. The company said in 2010 that it planned to raise almost $1.8 billion in a London IPO. The share sale was later canceled due to volatility caused by the European sovereign debt crisis.  When measured by revenues and by profits, Travelport comes in third.  The company comes in second when measured by booking share.  Overall, a solid 3.

Earlier this year Sabre went public, selling 20% of the company for $721m.  Their first IPO was in 1996 for $545.5m.  TPG and Silverlake took the company private in 2006 for $4.8b. The company currently has a market cap of $5.4b.  They are second in revenues and profits, third in bookings and #2 in valuation.  Overall, a solid 2.

By all measures, Amadeus is still the biggest - the most bookings, the most revenue, most profitable and is valued the highest by the marketplace, by a huge margin.  Amadeus also went public this year, for the 2nd time.  Their offering was a resounding success, raising $1.74b in Europe's largest IPO since 2008.  This likely accounts in large part for their market cap of $17.9b.  

While the full year 2014 results won't be available from the three companies for another 3 weeks, I decided to put together an infographic today that gives a snapshot of the GDS companies.  I promise to update it at the end of February when all their results are in.

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Execution Mischief - Choose your Tools Wisely

On Friday we talked about what happens when you develop a plan and do not have an execution plan. The statue of the bicycle was a visual representation of what can happen when you beautifully bind your plan and put it on the shelf.

I loved one of the comments that I received via email from a colleague in Sri Lanka who said "that is like keeping the plan on a high pedestal and daily making an incense fumes offering to the plan". He also likened it to "a patient who after the written prescription is given by the doctor, only reads it three times a day", never getting it filled.

Today we are talking about execution of your strategy. The tools that you utilize to develop the detailed plan and to get things moving are as important to a strategic plan as the strategy itself.
Our graphic today points out that you can't take the same old tools and believe that they can work in every situation. We call that execution mischief.

Of course if you don't have nails or screws or staples, then having a hammer or a screwdriver or a staple gun is futile.

The starting point is getting a plan in place that is a stretch, but that it is still achievable. Clarity and specificity are a must.

The plan must cover WHO will be responsible, WHAT you are trying to accomplish, WHEN it will be done (broken down into milestones), WHERE each initiative will be done (internally, with the customers or with your suppliers) and HOW you will get each initiative done.

If you are implementing a strategy that impacts the entire company, then you need an integrated plan. That is best accomplished by talking through the plan with a small, dedicated group that represents each of the impacted areas.

There are firms that specialize in integrated planning. Make sure that if you hire an external resource, they provide an executable, measurable plan as the work product from your planning sessions.
If you are trying to roll out a plan that is complex or spans more than three months, you need an experienced project manager (PM) that can stay on top of all of the tasks and move people along to meet their commitments. Sometimes it works best to hire someone from the outside to be the PM, reporting to someone in the C-Suite, as that way they will not be put off by the team members as an internal staffer might be.

No doubt abut it, your strategy and the budget must be aligned. But at the risk of mixing metaphors, your budget can't be the tail that wags the dog. Starting with the budget would be like hitting the hammer with the nail. I think you would agree that is total mischief that will never help you build anything.

Your team will believe in your ability to execute if you have the right tools in your hands to meet the task at hand and if you allocate resources to actually measure your results against the plan.

Investing in an integrated planning process will save money later on. Products will get to market faster, customer service will improve quicker and profits will materialize sooner.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Strategic Mischief - Confusing form with motion

When I saw this picture, I just had to write a blog about it. Ridiculous and beautiful at the same time, everyone knows that this bike is art, not transportation. 

Having been a strategic consultant for some of the top companies in the travel industry for the better part of 20 years, I have worked on lots of business plans. I have watched many firms put an enormous amount of energy into research and planning and have presented to more boards than I can remember, only to watch those same companies slide slowly and comfortably back into the status quo.

The only difference is that the status quo is not beautiful. 

Moving forward requires not only the form of a strategic plan, but motion, known in strategic circles as execution. 

An execution oriented plan is different and this is where most companies fall down. They know what they want to accomplish and perhaps even by when and they have a financial model that shows what they would be tracking along the way, but they miss the measurable, executable detailed planning part. That is because it is hard. But it is not impossible. 

At Solutionz we help companies develop that integrated plan for motion across all business disciplines within your company. It takes just 3 days and that is the magic of it. 

Taking longer to do a plan doesn't produce better results. In fact, we believe that is what causes companies to stumble. 

Don't confuse the beautiful blue bike on the street with riding it to get where you are going. A bound business plan on the shelf is no better than the statue of the bike. It is strategic planning mischief at its finest.

Fund it. Staff it. Measure it. Do it. Celebrate it.

Chicke Fitzgerald
game changing strategist

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Product Mischief - Build it and they will Tweet

Oh some do get lucky. But most don't.

Great ideas can come from anywhere. Inspiration is funny that way. And we have all seen the viral ideas that just seem to take off, as if by magic.

Sometimes you just know in your bones that you have built the most amazing thing and that once you release your product, everyone (and I do mean everyone) will go wild and share it with the world.

Yep, your business plan shows your unique visitors growing by leaps and bounds, reflecting how amazing your product is and how it will be received. You just know that you know.

That is product mischief at its finest.

By the way, if you look in the mirror and you see Kevin Costner, grab a Snickers bar quickly, because this is not Field of Dreams.

I am the last person to discourage innovation and enthusiasm. I'm working on a pretty amazing product myself (stay tuned). But I also know that if I am going to have a revenue line on my model that depends on traffic, I had better also have an expense line for marketing spending that produces results.

Find a great UX and SEO partner and get some great advice on driving traffic from people that understand your industry. You'll be glad you did.

And if you need some help, don't forget to call.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Time Off - Good Mischief or Bad Mischief?

MasterCard has a new commercial that is airing that has kids talking about how they don't get why their parents don't take vacations.  When you look at the picture below, I'll bet you are asking yourself the same question.

I just finished booking a week's holidays at a fabulous resort in Mexico for my 25th anniversary.  Yes, we are taking the kids (they would kill us if we left them home) and NO, I am not taking my laptop. 

Taking time off is definitely good mischief.  But you have to REALLY take it off.  So to my well-meaning clients, make sure that you don't need anything between July 19th and the 26th.   I'm giving you ample warning!

When was the last time you took a real block of time off and left work at work?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Brainstorming Mischief - The Catch-22 Attendee

I absolutely love facilitating brainstorming sessions, as there is nothing that gets me more jazzed that coming up with game changing ideas.   And those of you that know me, know that multi-colored sticky notes make my life complete.

And brainstorming sessions are the perfect place for good mischief.

What doesn't jazz me is this guy.  Tom Fishburne, the Marketoonist, calls him the Catch-22 guy.  He is the guy who is sent in to ensure that at all costs, the status quo is preserved.

Try bean bags in your brainstorming session if you must (great touch Tom), but do not -- I repeat -- Do NOT let this guy bring everyone else down. 

Facilitation is one part science and two parts magic.  That's why consultants get paid the big bucks.  Our job is to literally turn this guy around.  He is bad mischief.

I highly recommend that you listen to my interview with author Karen Hough, who wrote the Improvisational Edge to get some really practical tips on how to keep your team on track when this guy tries his bad mischief.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Visioning Mischief - the Ivory Tower

Sather Tower Photo by Bernt Rostad.
Ivory towers are a beautiful sight, particularly against a backdrop of a cloudless sky. 

Sather Tower, known to most as the Campanile, is perhaps UC Berkeley's most famous symbol. It was completed in 1915.  Visible for miles, it stands 307 feet tall and is the third tallest bell and clock-tower in the world. The observation platform, located 200 feet up, provides visitors with a spectacular view of the entire Bay Area and of the campus.

With such a majestic structure with such grand history, could there possibly be mischief afoot?

We think there is.

From the 19th century, the ivory tower has been used to designate a world or atmosphere where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are not aligned with the practical concerns of everyday life. In fact, living in the "ivory tower" is perceived as having willfully [and almost entirely] disconnected from the everyday world. 

Bottom line is that you don't want to hear your people ever use the word ivory tower in the same sentence with your name, referring to your leadership style. 

From a practical perspective, here's what ivory tower leadership would look like.

You would be running the company from inside the safety of this beautiful tower.  There isn't much room for other people to be with you, not even your inner circle.  Perhaps just your right hand person, but only to visit from time to time. 

You might position your desk near the windows at the top, thinking that the view would keep you connected to what is going on around you.  But no matter what direction you chose to face, some portion of your view would be obstructed.

And certainly your perspective would be skewed.  You are not seeing what everyone else is seeing.  

Without going to the observation platform, you can't see what is going on around you.  And without going down to ground level, you can't see what is happening there.  If you face north, you miss what happens in the south and if you face east, you miss the beauty of the sunset.  Oh and if you are using your rose colored glasses even on the observation tower, that is TOTAL mischief, and not the good kind.

Towers are a great place to visit when you are visiting a city or a university, but they are not ideal for visioning, planning or leading teams or efforts.

Get LOTS of different perspectives, including from the top of the tower.  Listen to perspectives that you are not exposed to.  Stay connected. 

And stay tuned for more mischief.  MK will be back from down under soon.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Visioning Mischief - Ground Level View

If you didn't read my blog from yesterday about the [good] mischief of visioning from 10k feet, I would encourage you to go back and read that so this one will make sense.

This is the view outside my client's office.  You can see cars and you can see clouds and you can see where the driveway leads you from the parking lot into the street.  But you can't see much beyond that.

If you need to get to Philadelphia, you can't see the best way to get there could actually be driving to the Allentown airport and flying.  Of course if you have a GPS, it gets easier, but there are still decisions to be made.

Yes, you can get to PHL faster, but then you wouldn't have your car on the other end.  And if your destination is really Tampa, FL, as mine was the other night, you wouldn't know that it was really fastest on USAirways to go through Charlotte, NC.

Even holding a boarding pass to Charlotte in my hand, pulling out of this parking lot into the street, I couldn't have known without calling the airline or checking on my mobile, that the flight was delayed and I would have to fly through PHL, getting home at 11pm, instead of 9pm as planned.

And if you wanted to get to Tampa before 9pm, you definitely wouldn't have been able to see that if you would fly non-stop from Allentown to St. Pete/Clearwater airport, that Allegiant would have gotten you there non-stop.

When you do business planning at ground level just based on what you see or what you have experienced in the past (the bad kind of planning mischief), you simply can't see each obstacle until you come upon it.   And the worst thing is that you have absolutely no perspective.

Think about Google maps.  When I went to Bethlehem last week, since I had never been there, I had no idea where it was.  When I first did my search, I could see it on the map, but until I "zoomed out", I couldn't see it in relation to what is around it. 

Once I saw it at that perspective (which by the way is WAY more than a 10k foot perspective), I could see that I could even have driven to Newark to take a non-stop to Tampa, or as I ended up doing, I could fly from Allentown to Philadelphia to get a non-stop home.

Are you doing your business planning focused on your strategic destination or are you mired in where you starting from, seeing only the ground level obstacles. 

It is time to "zoom out".  That is the best kind of planning mischief.  Plan with perspective.  It beats the perils of planning at ground level every time. 

Tomorrow, we talk about planning from the ivory tower.  While the height might give you some perspective, there are definite blind spots. 

Stay tuned.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Visioning Mischief - 10k Foot View

 Don't even attempt to see the detail in this picture.  It just isn't possible.

On Friday night, I was flying home from a client engagement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and it was as clear as a bell.  When I got to the airport, my flight to Charlotte was delayed, so I had to be rerouted through Philadelphia.

Since the Allentown to PHL flight is less than 30 minutes, we never got above 10k feet.  In fact, I had forgotten to turn off my Wi-FI (I'm sure that never happens to you) and I had continued to get texts and notifications and emails the whole way.

About halfway through the flight, even though the view at the detail level was not clear, something profound occurred to me.  Even though the plane has sophisticated instrumentation, this night, the pilot could have just used familiar landmarks to guide him to his destination.  When he took off from ABE airport, he could already see the lights of PHL in the distance.  Imagine that, seeing the beginning, the middle and the end of your trip.

Then it occurred to me that this is how God sees our lives and even our businesses (or should I say especially our businesses).  He isn't stuck down at our level, on the ground, trying to put one foot in front of the other.  He gives us not only the gift to see as he does, but He invites us to do so.

A dear friend of mine had just shared with me that day a reminder of the level of detail that God gave those building the Temple in Jerusalem, and also the Ark of the Covenant and I thought also of the precision of the instructions God gave Noah in Genesis for building the Ark.  They were so detailed that I have seen a scale model built directly from those very instructions.   

I've been a strategic consultant/board advisor for 19 years and a strategist much longer than that.  I was born with the gift of seeing things at 10,000 ft and over time have learned how to use familiar "landmarks" from one client to guide me through the next.  I've even learned how to do it in a storm and as high as 40,000 ft (e.g. long term planning), using past history and projections as my guide.  And amazingly, I've been able over the course of nearly 2 decades of consulting to even transition from one industry to another.   Having a little "God-perspective" on things helps, even in business!

And as I'm sure that you have figured out by now, this is GOOD visioning mischief.

You don't have to know every detail on the ground level to produce a solid strategy.  In fact, the more you know at that level, the less effective the plan will be, as it will focus in too narrowly on what is in your current field of vision.  It is a little harder to use your imagination there. 

So when we don't know what to do next in business, why stay mired in the detail at ground level.  Take a little ride to 10k feet where you can see the future a little more clearly than today.  Change the game.

I will leave you with this visual from Gaping Void, one of my favorite business cartoonists - Plan, Think, Work and Live. 

Plan Think Work Live @ Copyright 2015 Gaping Void

Stay tuned.  Tomorrow we talk about the perils of planning at ground level.  This is Visioning Mischief at its worst.

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