Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's Not About Me. A Note to the Pictage Staff

It is humbling to read so many comments with regard to my departure from Pictage and the differences so many see in the company over the last few years.  To be honest these things aren’t easy for me to read.  I’m my least favorite subject.

Yesterday when I had a chance to address the team at Pictage there were some things I tried to say.  As hard as I tried when it came down to it I couldn’t hold back the emotion and I’m not sure they heard what I wanted them to hear.  

These two thoughts are connected.

It’s not about me.  

When I arrived at Pictage I had a fundamental understanding of business and a love for photography.  I knew nothing about the pro-photo space or what “pictagers” expectations for the company might be.  There were a lot of misconceptions.  These things are normal.

Many people asked me early on how I knew what to do.  My answer was always the same.  It still is.  I didn’t know what to do.  The team at Pictage did.  I listened to them and I listened to our clients and I found that I was hearing the same things.  All I really did was set them free to do what they wanted to do.  

In my first speech as CEO to a bewildered and deeply concerned staff I asked them for two simple things.  I wanted them to be honest with me about the challenges they faced and I wanted them to be willing to work hard to solve the problems we faced.  They didn’t just rise to the challenge, they killed it and in doing so created a groundswell of appreciation between our customers and the team that fostered true community.  There are few things I love more than seeing the personal connections they’ve made and understanding the shared passion to work together to create something great.

In my tenure I was unable to solve all of the problems we had.  Far from it.  To be sure, we changed the perception of the company in the marketplace and in doing so we greatly simplified customer acquisition.  In 2012 over 95% of new customer signups are referrals from existing customers. We have no overt marketing activities.  The service either works or it doesn’t.  When it doesn’t, no harm, no foul.  We move on.  But the fundamental challenge created by industry change remains.

Many people who have commented on the blog, on the Pictage Forums and in so many touching and heartfelt personal messages have expressed the same sentiment.  “Will the new guy keep it the same?”  Frankly, I hope not.  I think he’s smarter than me.  I think he’ll figure things out that I couldn’t.  I think he’ll make changes that will make the company even more successful and in doing so, bring even better services to our clients and to their clients as well.  I’m going to be doing my best to help him.

But as smart as he is, we won’t succeed on our own.  True success will simply build on the patterns of the past.  The people who will drive it are the people who DID it when I was the head cheesebag in charge.  (the title that most Pictage staff know is truly mine).  After working alongside of them for the last three years my faith and confidence in them is immeasurable.

It’s not about me.  It’s about them.  It’s about the unique relationships they share with each other and about the unique connection they (we) feel with our customers.  It’s about listening and studying and being willing to risk and change.  It’s about being open to being wrong and being willing to fix it when this is the case.  It’s also about standing up when you’re right and having the courage to say so.  They have all of that.  They had it when I arrived.  They have it as I leave.  I may have fed it but I didn’t create it.  All of that is on them.  They’re still there.  I’m hanging around to help them and to continue to be inspired by them.

That’s what I was trying to say yesterday.  Maybe it’s better to have said it this way.




joy bianchi brown said...

Thank you, jim! You have been more of a friend than colleague, and I'm excited for what the future holds for you.

Jim Collins said...

I'm excited about what the future holds for you too Joy and thanks so much for all of your help along the way.

LoganHolliday said...

This in no way is good bye, just see you later. It has been a pleasure working with you and for letting off our chains.

Misty Miotto said...
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Rachel LaCour Niesen said...

I was sitting at an Irish pub in NYC today (not shocking), and discovered this term on the menu, printed alongside goofy, albeit sincere, exclamation marks:

“Le Chéile.” \leh ‘kāy-lah\

It’s a Gaelic phrase that has no English equivalent, but the feeling is universal. Literally it means “together.”

I like that.

It sums up the past few years at Pictage better than any speech ever could ;)

What's next is what's important.

Thanks for leading someone who resists leadership. I'm grateful.