Tanya Sudolnik December 22, 2016

Twelve is a symbol of cosmic order. Twelve is the number of space and time. There are twelve months in a year and twelve zodiac signs. Apollo 12. Twelve people have walked on the moon. Twelve has an ancient meaning of being the number of perfection. Time is measured in two groups of twelve. There are twelve days of Commerce.

Wait, what?

As I wrote in a previous blog, late last year we made the commitment to invest time, resources and energy to improve our content licensing business, Wazee Digital Commerce. Here we are at the end of 2016, wrapping up a successful year for our product development and looking forward to a launch of the new Commerce product in Q1 of 2017. Back in November our executive leadership team challenged me with a request to come up with something that would get our entire company excited about the next generation of our founding product. Thanksgiving rolled around and it was (finally) time to listen to holiday music. As the “Twelve Days of Christmas” played, the idea for the Twelve Days of Commerce was born.

Much like a year coming to an end and new one beginning, we wanted to celebrate the old while bringing in the new. Naturally, the First Day of Commerce honored our past with an online companywide trivia game that had a 90% participation rate. Clearly the team was engaged, and activities were designed to be inclusive of remote employees.

Work spaces were decorated…

…holiday attire was worn…

…exercise was had at CrossFit…

…and the skating rink.

Of course, a few social events were sprinkled in including happy hour at Union Station…

…and Taco Tuesday.

So how can a group that CrossFits, skates, potlucks, competes, dresses up, decorates, donates to @ColoradoGives and shares a festive beverage together (on a couple of occasions :) ) stay focused on the task at hand – building, migrating and launching a new product?

We focused the balance of the time on tasks that need to be done on the product development and migration fronts. Feedback on the product beta release was eagerly gathered from demos to customers, data was reviewed and flagged for cleanup, reports were audited, and essential processes were refined as well as documented.

But after it was all said and done, I am sure there were several who asked themselves if the past 12 days meant anything real. What can we learn from them? Michael Townsend wrote that there are twelve pillars of success when you are transforming your business. To be clear, I did not design the Twelve Days of Commerce on these principles; but I use them here because a) there are 12(!!) and b) they so very well summarize what we have done here at Wazee Digital to transform our licensing business in the past year.

1. Have a strategy: after an extensive analysis of the business it was clear we needed to rebuild our product, refine our procedures and reinforce business development.

2. Manage both the short term and the longer term: rebuilding the Commerce product is a long-term engagement; balancing that with providing exceptional service to our existing customers was sometimes complicated but always a priority.

3. Look beyond SWOT, reimagine the business: we could have settled for our position in the industry and our flat revenue pattern; instead we are carving an innovative path to a successful content licensing business.

4. Have an open mind - don’t just stick to what you know: in certain areas of the business we had to make tough decisions; what worked five years ago was no longer working and had to be changed.

5. Always have your customers in mind: this one is easy for us - we are our own customers as we will be the first to use the Commerce product and by doing so will ensure it meets the needs of our clients.

6. Generate new income streams, offer genuine value: our new Commerce product is not being designed in a vacuum; not only have we refocused the licensing business, but we are transforming it as part of our overall story as just one leg of our product portfolio.

7. Move from self-interest to collaborative-interest: we value and grow our partnerships as they make our business better every day.

8. Develop an inherently sustainable product: what better place to run your business than from the cloud?

9. Be more holistic, transparent and accountable: we are these things on the inside and out - we keep our customers for the long term because we work so closely with them every day, they respect our accountability; we utilize internal tools and processes that promote holistic and transparent views of the business and its activities.

10. Incorporate a period of transition: we will use our new Commerce product extensively for a couple of months; this will have many benefits but will also give us the time to plan for the smooth transition of our customers.

11. Align with business operations: a product is only as good as the team that supports it; we strive to have the right people, with the right skills, doing the right things.

12. Have the right culture: we empower our people to be brave and take their ideas forward; so many members of our team from all areas of the business have stepped out of their comfort zones this year to put forth new ideas, develop new revenue and forge new career opportunities.

Along the company culture lines, on the Twelfth Day of Commerce we had a final social gathering. Amid a blistery storm, we enjoyed each other’s company and delicious eats. But in the end the event symbolized much more than a holiday party; it was the culmination of Twelve Days of the Team. It’s the Wazee Digital team that got us here, and it’s the team that is going to take us to new feats and accomplishments in 2017.

In the spirit of sharing fun facts about the number twelve, there is a tradition in Spain and South America that if you want to ensure good luck for the coming year, you need to eat one grape for each month at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Keep that in mind as you ring in the new year and please have a safe and happy holiday season from all of us at Wazee Digital.

P.S. Stay tuned for more excitement in 2017 as we re-launch our Wazee Digital Commerce product!