“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill
There is so much talk about privileges, or the advantages that some have over others. In my opinion, it is waste of energy to think or argue about such things. You cannot change your skin color, your gender, where you were born, how wealthy or poor your family is, or those things in other people.
The truth is that there is no promise or guarantee in life of equality or privilege, of happiness or humanity.
No government or person can make such a promise.
Only you can decide to take control of your life instead of letting life control you. Only you possess the individual ability to seize opportunity no matter where you are and create happiness and success for yourself.
Every day you are alive there are new opportunities, regardless of where you are. If you only focus on what you do not have, on the disadvantages you perceive exist and cannot control, you are defeated before you have started – waiting for someone else to deliver on a promise that cannot be kept.
Last night, I met up with a former colleague from my days at VitalSpring Technologies.
It was great to hang out and catch-up, and I’m looking forward to doing it again. Good friends are important.
As we’ve talked over the last few days, and reminisced last night, I learned that our former CEO, Sreedhar Potarazu (MD), has plead guilty to $30 million in shareholder fraud, and $7.5 million in employment tax fraud.
Dr. Potarazu is an incredibly talented surgeon. He had a great idea to build a software system that gave companies more insight into where their health insurance dollars were going, and how to create targeted wellness programs for employees to improve overall care.
The office environment was intense, and turn-over was high. There were days when several people would quit. And we all knew – because whenever a person quit, HR sent out a new code via e-mail to access the secure office areas. Some days we’d get 2, 3 or 5 emails from HR with a new code.
Everyone was passionate about the work we were doing.
We were excited about saving companies like McDonalds millions of dollars on their health insurance, and helping other companies create wellness programs for their employees.
And there was the relationship with SAP, and the prospect of being acquired down the road.
But Sreedhar never wanted to let people do their jobs. He insisted on controlling everything.
One day, without any warning, he sat down with me and my marketing team. In a soft voice, he said, “Today, I will accept your letters of resignation.”
I remember feeling my heart stop. The words “stunned” or “shocked” cannot begin to describe how I felt.
I remember sitting there and wondering… Why?
Then Sreedhar looked around at the room, and gave us a choice. We could resign, or we could market his company the way he told us to. There was profanity mixed in as well.
To say working at VitalSpring was a roller-coaster of emotions would be the understatement of a century. Because there were days when I had many meetings with Sreedhar in which he was polite, intelligent, and highly complimentary.
But there was another side to his personality. One that let his greed and arrogance drive his actions.
As principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo noted, “Sreedhar Potarazu created a complex web of lies to deceive VitalSpring shareholders, using false documents, fictitious websites, and fake potential buyers to induce investments and conceal the precarious financial status of the company, including millions of dollars of employment tax that he diverted from the U.S. Treasury.”
He called Sreedhar Potarazu’s conduct, “criminal.”
It’s sad to think about what could have been.
But it is a lesson that ideas are never enough.
Integrity and ethics are essential.
As is the need to trust your people to do their job.
In many ways, hiring the right people and trusting your team can save us from ourselves.
Building out a new website for your company, campaign or organization is a significant undertaking.
There are decisions to be made on who you select for your team, what technology to integrate, what platform to build on, the needs to your target audience, vendor selection, identifying who will manage the vendor, identifying the right internal stakeholders, setting the budget and a million other things that require careful evaluation.
One area that causes significant challenges and is often the most over-looked is correctly defining the scope of the project.
Failure to define what work needs to be done, your core needs and the technological realities, is the fastest way to blowing your budget out of the water with multiple new work orders and consulting fees, as well as to create a sour working relationship internally and externally with your vendor.
The construction of a new website should never just be the sprouts from the vision of a few executives or a project run by an isolated group in the marketing department. If you do not have someone who can anticipate a person’s online behavior, who understands site architecture and has a blend of marketing, social media and technological know-how, you are going to end up with a website that has significant holes and user-flow problems.
Here are three questions to ask yourself when defining the scope of your website project:
1) Do we have someone that can help the team to create a visual site map, and discover the initial design gaps before the site goes to build?
2) Do we have someone who has several years experience in SEO that can build a strong URL, page and content structure for the website that will generate the necessary search engine juice and help drive more organic traffic?
3) Do we have an expert in social media, online engagement and user behavior to evaluate the effectiveness of the new design and page structure?
If you have someone who can address all three of the above, then you have someone who should be part of the team that builds the scope of your project and sets the technical requirements.
Most people don’t consider how difficult it is to make a decision.
I think this is largely due to the fact that very few people know what it really means to decide something.
Sitting down to map-out how to start a business is not the same thing as deciding to do it. Creating a long list of creative ideas for marketing campaigns, or perhaps the desire to use social media to enhance customer service for your organization also are not decisions. Neither is setting a goal to lose 10 pounds before Thanksgiving, to move out, to file your taxes, to find a companion to share your life with or give back to your community. These are all examples of hopes, dreams, concepts and ideas, but not decisions.
Decision-making is difficult, because decisions require action. Often times, they require action we’ve been putting off because we presume the work is tedious or unpleasant.
In short, many of us create mental barricades around the action needed to make our dream or idea a reality, because while we want to fulfill our dreams – we associate too much pain, frustration or fear (sometimes all three at once) with taking the first step.
One way around this is to flip the pain, frustration or fear you feel to NOT taking action. Think of all the things you will end up denying yourself in the short-term and the long-term.
“Let’s make it happen.”
How often do we engage in the exchange of ideas and hear a senior level person or executive say this in response to a suggestion we make? More times than not, you are left wondering, “Did we just make a decision to really do this, or what?”
As a strategist and creative thinker, I am often looking for a way to do something better or a solution to fix a specific challenge. Over the years, those words have come to sound more like Tapps to my ears than the clarion call of opportunity one would think they represent.
The challenge begins with people in senior level positions and management. They need to recognize that ideas can flow in a number of different directions, however, implementation and company directives need to flow from the top – down.
In short, it’s one thing to say, “Cool, let’s do it!” It’s quite another to demonstrate leadership, pull people together and actually get it done.