An Open Letter from the CMO: If It’s Not Personal, Why Bother?

by Alys Scott - January 12, 2018

“Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”

This quote was a turning point in the 1996 drama/romance film “You’ve Got Mail”.  Truth is, I cannot remember many details of the movie beyond the cursory storyline and the luxurious two-hour “brain candy” escape from business plans and young children, but this one line has always stuck with me as particularly valuable in both life and work.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, the story began more than a decade ago when Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks collided again in a gurgling stew of love and hate as Kathleen (Meg Ryan) lost her beloved third-generation children’s bookstore, in the big business takeover rendition of David and Goliath, as Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) of Fox Books opened his Barnes and Noble mega-chain equivalent around the corner.

I am pretty sure this film did not top the critics’ charts, and it is probably fair to say that the plot was a bit predictable and played, but as a professional woman with kids in high school today, at the time, these actors fell squarely within my demographic’s cultural literacy, and the storyline danced with my favorite aspirations around hard work, fairness, loyalty, family, and friendship … with the endless possibility of romance.

I was reminded of this movie, and that particular line, when I sat down this week to write an earnings release for our business and to talk with our remarkable Founder and CEO about an update letter to our customers. The news is especially good. Salary.com recorded a 34 percent increase in new business bookings in 2017, we added hundreds of customers, and we expanded our 175-person team. That is not, however, what really struck me. I already knew I had the good fortune of picking a winning product, strategy and team when I joined this company last April (and, well, I was glad they picked me too). We have launched two incredible new products in that time, we have won two major industry awards for technical innovation and customer service and support in our market, and we continue a trajectory of considerable momentum that has my scarf flapping madly in the wind each day.

The real story behind the headlines

All of this accomplishment provided the headlines, but the real meat, the true story, the best lines of our movie, came out in the behind-the-scenes conversations I had across this business with so many team members to prepare these standard communications documents.

Every single conversation was informed by a true desire to help and improve – to help each other and our teams do their best, to continuously improve customer experiences and support, and, in every interaction and engagement, to make it personal, genuine and meaningful.  This type of brainstorming plays out on the business side with the launch of regional customer events in most major cities next year, with a strong new education series designed to help our customers succeed in their discipline, and with new product and services expansion across our solutions.

Well, pile it on. 

That’s a lot more work for our group and my team, but I, as do so many around me, feel energized to lead them and join them in doing it.  I work for the leading compensation data and analytics firm, so I am not going to pretend that my salary doesn’t matter to me.  It does. It is a measure and a guidepost, validation and an enabler. That said, over the years, I have found that both deep fulfillment and accelerated success have come from one’s ability to help others to be and do their best.  It is inspiring and motivating to the individuals around you, whether bosses, team members or customers, and, it turns out, as the numbers support, it is good for business too!

For all of us – those of us who spend time away from kids, from partners, from pets, from friends, from the lives we live and enjoy outside of the office – what we do every day is, in fact, personal … or why bother.

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