Ten years

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything deeply personal on this site, but today deserves an exception, for today is the tenth anniversary of my marriage.

Had you asked me in the summer of 2000 how life would play out, I would not have painted the picture I have now, living on the Upper West Side, preparing to send my oldest child to kindergarten in the city, getting ready to take a vacation in a car older than my wedding vows, four weeks into a new job, a dog come and gone from our family, living in a rented apartment after moving twice in fifteen months. Who could ever guess such things? Not I.

That said, here’s what I hoped would happen, all of which has played out to plan: I’m married, I have two wonderful boys, I’m thoroughly jazzed about my career, and I love the new apartment and the fact that I’m still in Manhattan. And I’m beyond lucky to be married to my wife, Amy, who is sharing this wonderful moment in time with me and, frankly, continuing to make everything in our lives happen the right way.

We’ve made each other laugh, we’ve consoled each other when we’ve cried, we’ve celebrated personal and professional victories large and small. We routinely sacrifice our own desires to accommodate the other. We brought two amazing people into this world and we strive as partners to give them all the love and support and perspective they can handle. We see the world the same way, and when we don’t, we learn from each other. We are smarter, savvier, more thoughtful people by virtue of our being together.

Since we got married, Amy and I have traveled the world, together and separate, across five continents. We’ve spoiled ourselves at amazing hotels and, at least once, feared for our well-being in another country. We’ve indulged in everything from business class international travel to $13 ninety-minute footrubs in Beijing (you have no idea). We have seen many a Broadway show and Hollywood movie. We’ve swooned over foods of all stripes, not least of which include a spicy tuna roll in the Village and a spaghetti with clams on Amsterdam Avenue. We’ve bought furniture, art, china, gadgets, real estate. Almost always, we’ve done these things as a team, by mutual decision or consent.

We’ve supported each other countless times and ways as our careers have evolved. Amy has watched me explore five (sheesh) full-time employers, a handful of startups and freelancing and consulting opportunities, business trips from Staten Island to Sydney, and two years in business school. I’ve watched her make it 13 years at the same job, going on film shoots from Punta del Este (I went on that one) to Prague (hey! I went on this one too), advancing to the upper ranks of her field, winning awards and producing work that has, on more than one occasion, become an instant classic.

I have often joked that I am so bad at project management that I married a producer for balance. Our marriage truly lets us play to our strengths. We are the epitome of balance, to the point where we subconsciously stagger our emotions when we’re sad, so each of us can take a turn providing support and perspective for the other. I conceptualize, Amy executes. She packs, I carry. Amy does most of the laundry, I do most of the grocery shopping. Unique? Probably not. Satisfying? Unspeakably so.

All of which is prelude and subordinate to the other members of our home, Nathan and Eli, who are pure bundles of joy and pride in our lives. Neither would be here without my wife’s sheer willpower and determination, in myriad ways, and neither would be as bright-eyed, responsible, organized or well-dressed without their mother’s magic touch. Not a day goes by that I am not appreciative of the sheer parenting that Amy puts into running our home.

Ten years of marriage, two careers and two kids often puts a relationship into an operational mode. It’s rare that we get a chance to reflect on things and enjoy the moment. So we took a night for ourselves this week, going out to a fancy dinner to celebrate our enduring love as a couple; and tomorrow, we head to Martha’s Vineyard—our eighth visit to the island together—for a week away with the kids. It’s a great way to cap a milestone in our lives.

A few weeks ago, when I had to take our sick toddler to the pediatric emergency room, and my wife was orchestrating our well-being from two thousand miles away, and her sister the doctor was checking in on us feverishly while talking to both our pediatrician and our ENT, and a swarm of family support rained down, I took to Facebook and posted, simply, “I married well.” I couldn’t have been more accurate.

I love you, Amy. Here’s to many more decades of great things together.

On the business of pricing

Two interesting articles came out this past week that provide interesting perspective on pricing models for service businesses.

One, in The Economist, declares that businesses need to get better at charging more. In a typical competitive market, firms are always looking to undercut rivals in order to secure business, which leads to ever-decreasing margins. Instead, many consultants are now advocating that firm pricing structures, tangible benefits, well-managed customer expectations and smart framing can boost asking prices and, in turn, the bottom line. Finding differentiators is an effective counterpoint to price competitiveness that leads to higher grosses.

The other article takes this notion and runs with it. In the New York Times, Adam Davidson asks, What’s an idea worth? He then explores companies that have pushed themselves away from hourly billing into business models that value expertise over pure labor. By identifying a niche or selling a targeted execution, firms can balance predictable costs with more valuable, and thus pricier, customer acquisitions. An important takeaway here is that hourly billing dates to the 1950s—perhaps revealing that it, like many other twentieth-century business paradigms, is approaching the end of its usefulness.

“It’s clear that the fundamental nature of work has changed,” writes Davidson. “In today’s austere age many businesses cannot depend on rising sales volumes to lift their profits,” notes The Economist. Both pieces point to the same conclusion: selling more specific, high-quality services improves both profitability and customer satisfaction.

Ideapad’s new photos

Curious about the images atop this blog? The Twenty Eleven WordPress theme includes a randomizer, which I’ve populated with my own photos. As of summer 2013, this is the batch on display:

  • On the Li River, China, November 2004
  • Looking out my old bedroom window, New York, sometime in 2007
  • Sunset in the U.S. Virgin Islands (I believe the picture is of St. Thomas, although our fun was had on St. John and at Jost Van Dyke), February 2008
  • The last day game at the old Yankee Stadium, New York, September 2008
  • The deli on the corner of 21st and Broadway, New York, sometime in 2010
  • Inside a cafe in Buenos Aires, January 2012
  • Motif No. 1, Rockport, Mass., August 2012
  • Outside a boulangerie in Roussillon en Provence, France, April 2013

 

Moving forward, reaching back

I am pleased to announce that on Monday I became Vice President, Global Ecommerce at PR Newswire, where I’ll be evolving the company’s online ordering systems and collaborating across product, development, user experience and strategy teams.

It’s a fascinating place right now: with nearly 60 years as the inventor of and leader in content distribution, PR Newswire has been progressing with its clients into a targeting, tracking and monitoring and workflow company, all while staying true to its roots. As information delivery becomes increasingly digital, having the right tools in place for communications professionals to distribute media is key. I’m looking forward to finding the optimal solutions for company and customers alike.

For me, this is also an intriguing moment, because it’s the first time in my career that I’ve moved back. For nearly 20 years, I’ve constantly explored new paths, more than once moving laterally out of intrigue. I’ve said it elsewhere before, but in my career, I’ve been all of the following: editor, writer, designer, blogger, manager, director, information architect, user experience consultant, marketer, strategist, business developer, and chief executive. My positions have run the gamut from education to media to consumer products to small and large agencies, from startups to 14,000-employee holding companies, with nary a linear move in more than a decade.

This week, I decided to head back into the things I know and enjoy. Back into ecommerce. Back into an in-house environment. Back into media and digital content. Back, in short, into what I do best. I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to deepen my expertise and help lead a strong, smart organization.

Part of my mandate at PR Newswire is thought leadership for the industry, and I look forward to increased blogging and public speaking in the days ahead. Stay tuned.

The all-new Ideapad

Hello from 2013! This page is still a bit of a work in progress, but I’ve migrated Ideapad to WordPress, after many reliable years on Movable Type. Some visual and structural updates were overdue, and while launching a WP blog is far from revolutionary, it’s a breath of fresh air around here.

In the update, I’ve also, for the first time, done a proper content migration. All my blog posts from 2001 to the present, covering the MT era and prior years in a home-rolled PHP CMS, have been pulled into the new layout. I seem to have lost some paragraph spacing in the transition, but all the entries are properly categorized with working HTML.

At the same time, I’ve managed to maintain my flat-file archives dating to 1998, which I invite you to explore, if only to laugh at the things that were interesting to me a dozen years ago.

Welcome.

My thanks to David Miller for ongoing tech support.