13 People Share The Books That Changed Their Careers

Who says summer reads can’t have substance?

by Rebecca MullerEditorial Fellow at Thrive Global

Everyone has a book that changed them. Leading up to National Book Lovers Day on August 9th, we asked our Thrive Global contributor community to recommend the books that made an outsize impact on their lives — and we were floored by the number of amazing recommendations that rolled in.

Welcome to the first installment of our Books To Thrive By series, which focuses on books that will change the way you view career success. These reads will reignite your drive, motivate you to think outside the box, and even inspire you to make big decisions about your career.

Look out for three more posts this week, recommending books that will alter the way you see yourself, your relationships, and the world around you.

Want to evangelize your own game-changing book? Share a photo of the book on Instagram with the hashtag #BooksToThriveBy for a chance to be featured on Thrive’s Instagram.

Happy reading!

How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott

“This book changed how I viewed time and productivity. It made me realize you can’t manage time, but you can manage your attention. And if you know when you are at your best and your attention level and energy is highest, then you know when you can do your best work. It has also changed my relationship with my inbox — I no longer dance to the tune of everyone else’s to do list — I work out what I need to achieve each day on my big projects and prioritize those.”

–Jackie, law firm executive, London, England

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

“Written by the co-founder and creator of Nike, this book takes you on the journey of how Nike came to be, and candidly shares the trials and tribulations of all of it. It’s a must read for anyone with a pulse, especially if you own a business or are interested in creating one. It has allowed me to view building a business in a more positive light.”

–Jennifer Leibick, cycling instructor/health coach/domestic engineer, San Francisco, CA

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

“This book was such a game changer for me in so many ways, but a few wins include: launching my own business, finally paying off student loans, and a seriously improved my mental mindset. I’ve revisited this book time and time again over the last 2.5 years and it’s never let me down. It’s just the right mix of wisdom, humor, and motivation to get you going on building a life you love.”

–Teresa Ruiz Decker, entrepreneur, Santa Cruz, CA

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

“This book gave me reassurance and helped me value my “gut instincts” about my personal and professional decisions. After reading it, I understood that these gut instincts are actually based on our ability to process and filter key variables we experience quickly.”

–Jennifer Zar, sponsorship manager, New York, NY

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

“It opened my eyes to what the business world could be like, and it inspired me to become a better leader. My life did a 180 after reading this book. I went back to school and got my MBA. I left working on a farm for an office job and joined the tech world. This book made a direct impact on my life and my success.”

–Meredith Crawford, business coach, Oakland, CA

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

“This book allowed me to succeed. It made me realize my imposter syndrome was common, and I wasn’t alone or crazy. It made me realize that it was normal to struggle as a woman in business, and that the path to career success wasn’t a straight ladder, but a weaving jungle gym. I read the book when my career was stagnant, and after reading it, I was inspired to take action and get back on track for professional success.”

–Charelle Griffith, marketing consultant, London, England

The Dip by Seth Godin

“I was maintaining two careers and had my current business as a side hustle, and this book convincingly showed me that I was never going to be truly great at all three of them. It become clear to me that I was scared to commit to one of them out of fear. Rather than waiting until I had to make a change, The Dip helped me approach the decision as what I got to change.”

–Charlie Gilkey, author, Portland, OR

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez

“This book caused me to look at business in a completely different way. It helped me realize that we can so easily remove ourselves from the rat race of life if we can simply understand the concept of ‘enough’ – enough money, enough house, enough car, enough stuff. It also explains that money is what we trade our life energy for; doing so will make you reconsider that next purchase when you think about how long you had to work to earn the money you’re about to spend.”

–Michael Hambrick, personal finance coach, Atlanta, GA

See You At The Top by Zig Ziglar

“This was the first book that exposed me to the thinking that I’m in control of what happens to me. It taught me that it’s up to me if I succeed or not.”

–John Boudreau, consultant, Wilbraham, MA

Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu

“As a new mom, I was majorly struggling to balance work and home life. This book inspired me to focus on the things that matter most and let go of society’s ridiculous expectations of women. It allowed me to feel more free and productive than ever before.”

–Taylor Bento, financial paraplanner, Knoxville, TN

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenge by Amy Cuddy

“This was an incredibly empowering read about how women can control their confidence from the inside, and that confidence is not a gift or something that needs to be earned…it’s something inherent within us all.”

–Sara Reed, career and life coach, Milwaukee, WI

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“This book changed my professional life. I read it during a stage in my career in which I was longing for a sense of inner peace. This simplistic, though powerful, book, has taught me that the discovery of the worldly treasures we all seem to be seeking, at certain stages in our lives, is indeed found within.”

—Jassir de Windt, communication expert, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

“I read this book after I lost my mom. I turned 30 a few weeks later and had a midlife crisis. I no longer knew what my purpose was, all I knew was that I wanted to bring value to the lives of others including myself. This book taught me that everyone has a ‘why. Why do you get up in the morning? Why does your organization exist? Your why is your purpose that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with why, you can inspire others.”

–Karee Upendo, entrepreneur, Racine, WI

Feast and Famine: 6 Actions to Keep Your Startup Running Smoothly

It happens to every startup at some point: booming business trails off and in the blink of an eye, you go from feast (extreme highs) to famine (extreme lows).

While it can send you into a spiral wondering when the next client or customer will arrive, here are three foolproof actions to take during both periods that will proactively protect you during each phase.

When business is booming and you’re in feast mode

  1. Build up your cash assets. Many startups keep margins slim so they can continue to grow and keep their investors happy, but end up not being solvent enough when famine hits. Don’t assume you will be able to raise funds at the drop of a hat when famine starts to set in (or that your investors will write you another check). Deposit an amount that feels ambitiously large on a regular basis into your cash reserves. This will become your marketing budget in a time of famine—NOT cash used to cover operating expenses.
  2. Build visibility. Optimize your website’s SEO, run ads, hire a PR agency (if you can afford it) or growth hack your own PR. Visibility is a long game, and can be expensive, so get a jump start on it now while you have the cash flowing in. Achieving the visibility your startup deserves requires both time and consistency. Challenge yourself to complete at least two activities a day to bring visibility to your startup. These daily activities could include posting on social media, sending out inquiries to a handful of media contacts, submitting an article to relevant industry media sites, FAQ boards or Quora.
  3. Cultivate relationships with customers. While your startup is still in feast mode, get to know each of your customers on a personal basis. Find out their interests and areas of expertise. Get to know your customers on a personal level, not just a professional one. Find out how your startup has changed their lives.

When business is taking a dive and you’re in famine mode

  1. Run marketing campaigns. Just as the stock market when you want to buy low, you want to dive into your marketing cash when sales start to drop off. I’m sometimes asked how much money a company should expect to spend on marketing during the lean times. While the answer is somewhat dependent upon that individual company and industry, a good rule of thumb is that you should plan to dedicate at least 20 percent of your revenue on marketing to grow your company. Make a splash and run a bold omni-channel marketing campaign in a hyper-targeted market.
  2. Leverage relationships with customers. Remember those relationships you built with your customers during feast times? Now is the time to cash in on them. Use your current customer base to find new customers. Offer referral promotions and other incentives to entice your customer base to share your products and services with friends and family. While often overlooked, referral promotions can increase the number of customer testimonials in your marketing materials (including website, social media, referral sites, ads, etc.). Social proof and word-of-mouth marketing is a strong motivating factor to get someone to try your startup’s products or services, and now is not the time to be shy about the benefits your customers have experienced as a result of your business.
  3. Stay the course. Change can take time, but it takes even more consistent effort. No matter what size company you have or what phase you are in, famine is part of the natural life cycle of a business. It is just a matter of time before persistence pays off.

3 Secrets To Building A Strong Personal Brand

Photo by Shutterstock

Maybe you’re looking to level up your career or launching an entrepreneurial venture, and you’re not sure where to start with personal branding. Maybe you’ve already started and you’re trying to gain more traction.

Whatever your case may be, you can use these three tips from Meredith Crawford, founder of Solerno Media, to build a memorable brand that will attract a loyal fan base and endless career opportunities. Meredith has served for years as CEO of an email marketing platform company, where she was tasked to create a cohesive story and manage multi-million dollar campaigns. She has not only done it successfully, but has now shifted her focus to small business owners and works with them to build strong, marketable and profitable brands.

Create A Brand Around Your Passion

People like to know the story attached to what you are marketing—whether it be your talent or your products. They want to know why it is important or special, which is really what sets you apart. The combination of vulnerability and enthusiasm draws people into brands, services, and thought leaders. Crawford suggests you ask yourself, “Think about the WHY behind what you are doing. What fuels it? What is the difference you want to make with your company, in your local community or the world?”

Putting your passion at the center of your brand can feel risky at first. The truth is, no one forms emotional connections to brands that exist “to be excellent” anymore. Sharing the deep-seated reason behind what you do builds strong emotional connections with your customer. It’s personal to you, and as a result, it becomes personal to them. For example, Elon Musk’s passion for sustainable technology has powered the Tesla brand.

Flaunt Your Quirks

Build a brand that accentuates—not hides—what makes you (or your business) different. Reflect on all the things your friends and family say about you. What are your so-called “trademarks”? Is it a particular phrase? Organizing style? A well-ingrained habit, like rescuing animals found on the side of the road or drinking coffee every morning? Whatever they are, identify your quirks and work them into your marketing. Your customers will see them as something that makes you unique.

Give Others Something To Remember

Whether it is through prompt, frank and thoughtful communication or the interior design of your stores, or a hassle-free purchasing experience online, create a memorable experience for your customer. Crawford brought up her time working at a bookstore to illustrate this point.

Crawford’s example illustrates that point: “I worked at a 40-plus-year-old independent bookstore during the rise of the big box bookstores and Amazon’s Kindle release. This bookstore was something of a legend—it had survived two fires and was still family-owned. Although the industry was going through rapid changes, customers kept coming back and buying books from us because of our legacy. Alumni from local colleges brought their families back to reminisce. People came from other states to gawk at this fairly old, fairly large independent bookstore. Some still remembered the founder and the early days of the bookstore and wanted to experience its continued existence.”

I am what you could call a multipotentialite—someone with different passions and interests. I like to stretch my abilities and dabble in many different things, but at the core of everything I do is a desire to motivate and connect with people. I am the founder of millennial … MORE

New Year’s Resolutions to Accelerate Leadership

Tap into the Power of Deep Practice Meditation to Accelerate Your Leadership This Year

Take the time this year to journal and reflect on the lessons you are learning.

Journaling: it’s a practice whose benefits have been espoused by from everyone from Thoreau to therapists, wellness coaches and religious leaders. While everyone advocates journaling a little differently—focusing on writing down this rather than that—they agreement that slowing down to write something down improves an individual. As you jump into 2018, here is my preferred journaling method to get you started.

During my time as an equestrian athlete, I was introduced to a technique called deep practice meditation. Deep practice is a pedagogical practice used by high performance athletes to help them get into the flow and achieve peak performance by accelerating skill development. Often, journaling accompanies the meditation to record desired responses to stimulus, nuggets of wisdom and other learning moments. Olympic athletes, such as Courtney King-Dye, use journaling as means to rehearse peak performance outside of practice, so that practice time can be capitalized. Dan Coyle wonderfully breaks this practice down and explains the neuroscience behind it in his book, The Talent Code.

I started deep practice journaling as a businesswoman when I was first tapped to be CEO of a mature company. As when I was an athlete, journaling has become an invaluable part of my professional growth. A recent article by Dan Ciampa in the Harvard Business Review indicates I am not the only new CEO to embrace journaling as an effective C-Suite transition aid.

Why journal? Here are three key benefits I have received from it, both as athlete and a new CEO:

  1. It accelerates skill development

First and foremost, journaling helped me to embrace the steep learning curve I was on and accelerate the transition. It helped me to identify what I didn’t know so I could focus on leadership development in those specific areas. Organizationally, it assisted me by enabling me to more quickly see where the gaps were—both in my own leadership skills, as well as the organizational structure, processes and knowledge bases—to more effectively achieve my strategic vision. The faster I could begin to break down the capabilities and skills needed to achieve a component of my plan, the faster I could help the company develop the skills and capabilities needed for success.

➔ Here’s how you can tap into this: You have your strategic vision in place and all are marching towards it. Pick an area (say, entering a new market) and journal about the steps you want to take to get there. Be as specific as you can! Next, dig in and see what skills/capabilities/challenges confront your organization in executing your plan. As with the first part, be as specific as you can be. I frequently did this on both organizational and personal levels.

  1. It helps you remember learning moments

Journaling was particularly invaluable in growing my leadership skills. Whether I was being drug into office politics or had to deal with a particularly difficult employee situation, journaling helped me to step back, look at the bigger picture and what triggers led to the situation. By pausing to reflect, I could then choose how to constructively respond. Moreover, by slowing down and looking at the situational triggers, I was better equipped to nip the situation in the bud the next time I identified a trigger and bypass a potentially unpleasant situation. This saved me valuable time and energy and kept my efforts focused on what mattered. It also served as a reminder of what strategies worked well—and what didn’t work at all.

I didn’t have a large bank of experience to draw upon, so journaling helped me to compensate for this shortfall. I recorded what strategies I employed to overcome which gaps, and what happened. By not being afraid to try new strategies and making note of what worked in which situations, I increased my effectiveness in transforming the organization. As an added benefit, I gained a reputation internally of being an effective leader.

➔ Here’s how you can tap into this: Journal after something unexpected happens. Whether it is a good surprise, or something more unpleasant, like a key employee suddenly quitting or a meeting not going as you had hoped, take the time to slow down and reflect on what happened. What led up to the unexpected occurrence? What factors were present? How did you respond? Where is the door left open to? As a result of the incident, what opportunities presented themselves? Also, try journaling about what strategies you/the company tried, and what the outcome was.

  1. It tracks growth by reminding you of where you have been

This benefit is more of a by-product of journaling than the other benefits. As time passed, the situations I felt ill prepared to deal with became fewer, and my ability to influence the outcome increased – I could direct the outcome, rather than just maintaining status quo. I could flip back through my journal and see how I dealt with difficult situations, what strategies I used to address company weaknesses to what avail, and how my leadership moved from passively transforming the organization to actively effecting constructive change.

➔ Here’s how you can tap into this: Journal regularly. Try to identify a few key moments throughout your week, such as after important meetings or other key leadership moments throughout your week to carve out 10-15 minutes to reflect and journal. I always journaled on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Take the time to build the habit of deep practice journaling into your leadership this year. As I’ve outlined in this article, it doesn’t take more than 10-15 minutes at a time, and you and your organization with both reap the rewards from this habit. You won’t regret it!

Revamping Resources


Businesses are talking about digital transformation. It’s a trend that has gotten a lot of buzz, but an increasing number of businesses are discovering it has pitfalls. This stems from a fundamental problem: High-tech tools alone cannot transform a business. It takes careful consideration and analysis for people to adapt successfully. In other words, you can lead your business to the digital transformation, but you can’t make it drink.

Before a digital transformation can take place, a business must be ready to change. Leadership must analyze stakeholder needs and prepare the way for success. Transforming a company digitally requires more than just selecting tools that are congruent to the company’s current processes. It requires carefully weighing and selecting tools that enhance the strengths of the team.

Notable contributors to the Harvard Business Review, like Stefan H. Thomke and Markus Hammer, have discussed the fundamental issue of why businesses must be ready to change if they are going to adapt a new tool.

According to a 2016 HBR blog post from Hammer and his research team, the effectiveness of a tool to transform operations stems from whether people “can use [the tool] to amplify longstanding skills and expertise.” They posited the most effective tools help people do more of what they’ve been doing best over their previous years of experience.

Additionally, Thomke has pointed out that to make progress in transforming operations, a tool “must be integrated into systems and routines that are already in place.” Thus, if using a tool falls too far outside of current processes, its adaptation will be an arduous process with an increased
chance of failure.

Charles Duhigg explains in his book, “Power of Habit,” it is easier to change an existing habit if there is something familiar in the new habit. In the book, he lays out a three-step habit loop — cue, routine, reward. Duhigg found the most effective habit transformations occur when the cue
and reward phases remain the same, and only the routine phase is changed.

Pulling this research together within the context of operational transformation, the “routine” phase can be thought of as “operational processes.” Changing a routine, Duhigg argues, is only possible when an individual believes change is possible — which often requires the help of a group.

Hammer’s team took this point a step further, stating successful transformation “requires a massive effort involving many changes at once, mostly centering on … role-modeling of new behavior, the transparency of communication, the fostering of new capabilities.”

When companies move to a work management system, they often discover employees struggle to log projects and keep the system updated. Successfully implementing a new tool takes several key people in the organization diligently updating the system and reminding others to do so as
well. This process fosters communication about how the tool should be used, and eventually leads to changes in workflows and processes.

To realize the greatest benefit from digital transformation, new digital tools can’t fall too far outside of the company’s current processes, even if the company is required to change some operational processes to use a tool to its fullest.

Adapting Salesforce is one example of this. The platform captures many key tasks salespeople are accustomed to — working off leads lists, updating spreadsheets with actions, dates and next steps — but teams often find they also need to make operational changes to unlock the full capabilities of the platform. For example, they need to communicate with each other differently and streamline integration of other digital communication vendors, such as their ticketing system, email provider and web chat tools.

To achieve a successful digital transformation, company leadership must select the right digital productivity tools and bring teams around to their implementation. Selecting the right productivity tools and developing a plan for implementation can be a time-consuming process. However, this process can be expedited if the team has done its homework and addressed the following four key elements of digital transformation.

The emphasis for a successful digital transformation is on the team and the workforce. They must change their operational habits and communication patterns with the support of the broader organization if they are to take full advantage of the potential power of digital change.

Note: Part of this article appeared on Customer Think on March 26, 2017. Read the article at

1) https://hbr.org/2016/05/the-dirty-little-secret-aboutdigitally-transforming-operations

2) https://hbr.org/2015/06/new-technology-wontautomatically-improve-your-operations

As the CEO of MindShare Design, MEREDITH RAWFORD is responsible for all facets of running the business, including overseeing SaaS platforms, WorkStraight and Savicom. Prior to joining MindShare Design, she worked with different organizations in customer service, sales & marketing and operations. Meredith is a regular contributor to CustomerThink, where she offers readers insights on strategy, execution, automation and small business concerns. Meredith earned her MBA from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

successful implementation of a digital transformation tool requires thoughtful analysis and changes in habit 1 users It may seem obvious, but “Who is this tool for?” is one of the most important questions to consider before selecting a digital productivity tool. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this tool primarily for supervisors to help them manage their reportees?
  • Will it aid workers in carrying out their duties?
  • Is it for the customers or for internal use, such as within the accounting/finance department?
  • Are there other stakeholders involved with the tool, either directly or indirectly?
  • Are the primary users of the tool the same as the people benefiting from the tools?

When evaluating options, distinguish between the intent and the user. For example, a supervisor may want to implement a digital productivity tool to streamline an approval process, but it would be their reportees who log-in and use the tool. While the supervisor — or even the executive team
— may be the people choosing and vetting the tools, they need to think with the end users in mind.

BOTTOM LINE: The productivity tool should offer features attractive to the leadership team and benefactors, but it should also offer ease-of-use that’ll be attractive to the tool’s users.

2 process When used appropriately, digital productivity tools improve an organization’s
processes. Ask yourself:

  • “What current process (or task) are we trying to improve?”
  • “How should it be improved? Does it need to be simplified? Re-envisioned? Automated? Digitalized? Delegated?”
  • What other processes and tasks will support the key process identified here?

It can be helpful to draw out the full process during planning to get a full view that includes the supporting processes and tasks. An organization functions like a jigsaw puzzle, and when one piece is changed, it paves the way for the surrounding pieces to also change.

For example, a department trying to streamline a workflow can find a solution that tracks who is doing what and when to better utilize resources. But in the process, they can also digitize — even automate — other supporting processes, such as obtaining supervisor approval and billing the customer.

BOTTOM LINE: The productivity tool should offer the functionality to provide holistic process improvements across the organization.

3 cost Go beyond the question, “Does this tool fit within the budget?” Also consider the cost implications for scaling this tool as your organization grows. For example:

  • Is it priced per user? As your organization grows, will there be an additional cost for each new hire?
  • Are there enterprise-level bundles for different numbers of employees at different price tiers?
  • How does the price-per-bundle option compare to the pay-per-user option?

Paying per user will drive up the cost of the tool as your organization grows, but if you only have a small number of users, this could be less expensive than paying for a large bundle. On the flip side, if you have a large organization with many users, purchasing an enterprise solution for many users could save your organization a tidy sum of money.

Additionally, consider whether this tool consolidates or replaces any of the current tools in use.Does it integrate with your current productivity tools, or would you need to acquire additional tools to achieve your goals?

For example, if the company’s goal is to streamline the handoff between operations and billing, and a productivity tool enables the operations team to invoice customers directly — eliminating the need to go through accounting — make sure to ask whether it integrates with the accounting software. If the tool only integrates with QuickBooks, and the organization currently uses Quicken, you’ll need to factor in the cost of moving to QuickBooks or creating a custom integration solution.

BOTTOM LINE: The pricing for the tool should fit within the organization’s growth model and financial constraints.

4 added valueThe final point of consideration is, “What added value will the digital productivity tool provide?” Beyond making your workforce more productive, a digital productivity tool should provide additional value in the form of meaningful insights into the organization. Things to

  • What analytics would your organization find most useful? Perhaps additional insights into processes or workforce?
  • How do they handle customer support requests?
  • What data is your organization currently missing that would optimize processes? Will this solution provide the insights needed to make better decisions?

BOTTOM LINE: Select a productivity tool that keeps on giving. Look for features that provide
meaningful insights to further improve processes.

You Can Lead a Horse to Digital Transformation but You Can’t Make Him Digitally Transform

Digital transformation: more and more businesses are throwing this term around and an increasing amount are talking about its pitfalls. Notable contributors to the Harvard Business Review like Stefan H. Thomke and Markus Hammer have even gone so far as falling just short of discussing the fundamental problem of why high-tech tools alone cannot transform a business. What it comes down to is simple: a business must be ready to change if they are going to adapt a new tool.

According to a post from Hammer and his research team, the effectiveness of a tool to transform operations stems from “how people use [the tool], particularly if they can use it to amplify longstanding skills and expertise,” meaning the best tools help people in an organization do more of what they do best. Additionally, Thomke points out that to make progress in transforming operations, the tool “must be integrated into systems and routines that are already in place.” Thus, if using a tool falls too far outside of current processes, its adaptation will be an arduous process with an increased chance of failure. Charles Duhigg explains in his book, Power of Habit, it is easier to change an existing habit if there is something familiar on the beginning and the end than it is to create a new one.

Transforming a company digitally requires more than selecting a tool that is congruent to the company’s current processes. As Thomke explained, “companies can’t unlock the full potential of new tools unless they find new ways to operate.” Although the new digital tool cannot fall too far outside of the company’s current processes for it to be adapted, changing how a company operates may be required to use a tool to its fullest. Adapting Salesforce is one example of this. Although the platform captures many of the key tasks salespeople are accustomed to (working off leads lists, updating spreadsheets with actions/dates/next steps), teams often find that they need to communicate with each other differently and streamline their current digital communication vendors (ticketing system, email provider, web chat tool) in order to take full advantage of the power the platform offers.

Hammer’s team takes this point a step further, conceding that successful transformation “requires a massive effort involving many changes at once, mostly centering on […] role-modeling of new behavior, the transparency of communication, the fostering of new capabilities.” When we first moved onto a work management system, many employees struggled to log projects and keep the system updated. Adapting the tool took several key people in the organization diligently updating the system and reminding others to do so as well. This fostered communication about how the tool would be used, and led to changes in workflows and processes.

Duhigg lays out a 3-step habit loop of cue-routine-reward, as he demonstrates that the most effective habit transformations occur when the cue and reward phases remain the same, but only the routine phase is changed. Within the context of operational transformation, the “routine” phase can be thought of as “operational processes.” Changing a habit routine, he adds, is only possible when an individual believes change is possible—which often requires the help of a group. An extreme example of this in practice is the brand transformation Domino’s underwent in 2010. In this transformation, they not only overhauled their pizza, but also improved their operations, cleaned up their franchisees, and improved their service. As this relates to our organizational example, operational transformation will be most successful when the operations team has the support of the broader organization.

Successful digital transformation of a company requires more than the latest high-tech tool. It requires a tool carefully selected to enhance the strengths of the team and be compatible to the current processes in place. However, the team must change their operational habits and communication patterns with the support of the broader organization if they are to take full advantage of the functionality and power offered by the tool.

This post originally appeared in CustomerThink

What Businesses Can Learn Going Outside the Tech Bubble: Lessons From Acquiring a CMMS

As an Oakland-based email marketing software provider, we’re almost fully enveloped within the San Francisco Bay Area “tech bubble” where many of the next new technologies raved about are software and network infrastructure solutions focused on building value through sales to high paying IT clients. While awareness and usage of these solutions and services are almost vitally expected within the bubble, to the vast majority of the rest of the world lying outside the bubble, just being able to do their job is really all they’re asking for from technology.

A lot of us inside the “tech bubble” at first glance would have no clue what a CMMS even is. And only recently have Silicon Valley entities like Y Combinator taken a look at solutions serving facilities management and construction customers. After taking a tour of one of the emerging CMMS solutions I really began to see how this software speaks for itself in terms of the universal opportunities it opens for businesses outside the bubble. It was a calendar-driven system, where you could create projects and sub-tasks, assign tasks to others and receive inputs from other stakeholders (like marketing vendors). To an email marketer, this little platform could help keep someone on track with their email campaign pipeline and optimize their workflow. It could be used to help them keep track of when they needed to have the campaign components (links, HTML creative, lists) ready by, who was responsible for each component and help someone juggle getting multiple campaigns out at a time. It was a product whose usefulness was definitely apparent to us “within” the “tech bubble,” but it was quickly gaining traction from users outside of our norm.

As we started to ask questions about the platform, we were intrigued by how within a year it had signed up 15,000 customers all on minimal resources. What really sold us, though, were all of the glowing recommendations and testimonials from the customers themselves. Users seemed to genuinely LOVE the product.

Under our oversight and assistance, we believed we could leverage our resources to develop and market this product. Moreover, we felt that our company’s strength of assisting tech-newbies entering into the tech world could be leveraged and capitalized on here, as we increased outreach to facilities management and construction worker businesses—groups often left out of digital transformation and the tech world.

Maintaining our physical surroundings matters:

Learning directly from the customers of this service, did we really get an insight into the impact a solution like this has and the potential it does servicing more maintenance, operational and blue collar decision makers. The Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) oversees 413 K-12 schools serving over 270,000 students a year, employing 1,700 full and part time faculty and staff. SCCOE Compliance Monitor John Gomez sought a solution that would be easier to use and enable efficient execution of work orders to help the district ensure facilities were up to maintenance standards.

After signing up for the service at the start of the school term last August, in just the first three quarters of the school year, the time required to process 800 work orders were processed into the SCCOE system across 22 sites was significantly cut in half from 2-3 weeks to 7-8 days.

This past February, a severe rainstorm flooded parts of Santa Clara County forcing closures at 4 affected schools. Three of the affected schools were closed 1-2 days, while one was closed for a week after suffering upwards to $500,000 of building damage. School custodians and administrators, using the platform, were able to ensure efficient execution in getting these facilities up and running with minimal school closure time affecting faculty and students.

With users have ranged across many remote and rare industries ranging from operations executives from racing venues like Glen Watkins International to project managers at metropolitan and small town municipalities, hearing their stories really brought to light the operational needs of regular businesses outside of our tech bubble. We learned that the between the 1,830 acre racetrack venue and central office away from the track, Glen Watkins International, based in the heart of upstate New York relied mostly on email, memory, and old fashioned pen and paper to keep track of everything before signing onto a CMMS.

Outside of the bubble, where we do go from here?

We’ve recently taken the opportunity to visit regional facilities management industry meetups to hear out what the industry is really looking for technology to provide them. The feedback we received on the solution was overwhelmingly positive as these attendees were definitely “off the beaten path” for most software providers. Aside from us, there were only three other technology vendors with an on-site presence at this two-day event. One operations professional at the event even told us he would take this solution to his employer and ask him to sign up or else he’d leave the company from the overwhelming disarray of project management tracking processes that he has to do manually.

Ultimately, we found an opportunity to bridge processes within the tech bubble to needs outside the tech bubble. As a marketing company, we saw the value of a tool that keeps marketing teams like us organized on projects moving forward. In addition to that, taking a deep look at our lives outside of our work that our friends, acquaintances and extended family members outside of the tech profession, we noticed the broader way the tool can benefit their work in a very concrete way.