A Downside of Blogging about Work

I started at Intuit just over a year ago. I came into my new job as the Customer Care manager for PortfolioMinder having been strongly influenced by my experience with blogging at Sun Microsystems. I really believed in the power of blogs and the Internet to break down the walls between big corporations and their customers and to allow a company like Intuit with a new product like PortfolioMinder to build a strong constructive relationship with customers. I love the image of the bazaar where the vendors know their customers and the business relationship is based on trust.

As a result my goal as the customer care manager of PortfolioMinder was to build strong 1 on1 relationships with our customers and to have a productive conversation with them. I strove to get to know our customers and I talked about PortfolioMinder and my role on the team in my blog. Unfortunately there is a down side of personally identifying yourself with your company and building relationships with your customers. Although I always try to speak for Intuit and act as though this was my company and my product it is not my company and I don’t control what happens to PortfolioMinder. PortfolioMinder belongs to Intuit and Intuit’s shareholders. So when a decision is made like was announced today then it hurts that I personally vouched for our commitment to the product. I now understand much better why people hesitate to blog about what they do at work. I understand why support people might choose to remain anonymous. I understand why employees are hesitant to truly engage with a company and care too much.

I have written a lot of blog entries in my head that have helped me deal with my anger and sorrow about the death of PortfolioMinder but I think that as an employee of Intuit I am better off following the principal that if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything.

On a personal note, I am looking for a job and deciding what I am going to do next. The about link on the right has my resume. If the right opportunity presents itself I will stay with Intuit. If not I am confident that things will work out. I have enormously enjoyed building the PortfolioMinder customer care team. The PortfolioMinder sales and support agents are an amazing group of financial planning professionals with whom it has been an honor to work. Thank you Dave, Don, Faruk, Fred, Gail, Keith, Sandy, Stan and Todd.

One Year on the PortfolioMinder Team

Claire Giordano wrote a great post about habits and getting back in the habit of writing blog entries. I know I really want to start writing regularly again. My excuse is that I have been incredibly busy at work. At first I wrote "I’ve been busy at the new job" but I can’t really say that any more. I’ve been at Intuit a year now. It has been one of the busiest if not the busiest year of my working life. When I look at our progress on a day to day basis it seems slow. But when I look back over the past year the PortfolioMinder team has accomplished a lot. We  launched PortfolioMinder and are supporting automatic downloads from Schwab and TD Ameritrade.  We are building a customer base and most importantly we are learning a lot about the financial adviser market.

I am especially proud of the customer care team and the support we are providing. Since I am the Customer Care Manager for PortfolioMinder I may be biased but I think the support team we have created for PortfolioMinder is awesome. The team is a virtual team who are mainly financial planners and are located all over the U.S.  The expertise we are developing and the understanding the team has of the needs of advisers is very special. I really enjoy working with this team of great people.

I often think about what it takes to develop habits. In addition to getting back in the blogging habit I would like to get in the habit of lifting weights and exercising daily. I have been in this habit in the past but I let it slip. I really need to focus again on what is important. Exercising must certainly be on that list. I don’t understand why it is so difficult.

Ronni Bennett wrote about habits today in her Time Goes By Blog. She recently moved and says that moving spurs you to change your habits. I wonder what else is a catalyst to changing habits and what catalyst I can use.

It is Hard to Make Something Easy

I think I have mentioned before that as we get ready to launch PortfolioMinder we are doing a lot of watching people use the product. I would say this ability to learn from how people use our product is a core competency of the people in my group and I suspect it is a core competency of Intuit. It has been fascinating and a bit awe inspiring to watch how the designers and user experience experts work.

This really hit me in a research session on Friday. There is a part of the basic PortfolioMinder data architecture that is key to the product. Over the past year no matter how the screens were laid out people just weren’t getting it. It was fascinating and frustrating to watch how they would fill in the wrong information on the screen and then find that the data didn’t make sense. The designers have been trying different things to make it easy for people to get it right since the beginning of the product design.

On Friday we were watching a pilot tester use our latest build and he Got It! He put the right data in the right place. What was weird and cool at the same time was that it was easy. It was obvious and it seemed like no big deal. He filled in the data and everything made sense. No one will ever comment on how well this screen works. It just seems obvious. But I am really impressed with how hard it was to make it easy.

Busy, busy, busy

Work has been super busy lately. Along with helping to support the PortfolioMinder pilot I have also started talking to potential PortfolioMinder customer care agents. I blogged a while ago about the unique approach that we are planning to take  for agent recruiting and compensation. I have talked to some fantastic candidates. This is going to be great!

It has been interesting to see how people hear about the opportunity. One person read about it here on my blog, several have seen the posting on the FPA and NAPFA web sites, and others have picked up job descriptions I have taken to local FPA meetings.

Joel  Bruckenstein just published an extensive review of PortfolioMinder in Financial Advisor Magazine. It is a great review. I did PortfolioMinder webinar for him a couple of months ago so it is kind of fun to think that I contributed to his review.

PortfolioMinder Sales and Support

a few weeks ago we previewed PortfolioMinder at the conference. It was a huge success! There was a phenomenal amount of interest. I’ve never done so many demos in all my life. There were 5 of us demonstrating PortfolioMinder and we were busy almost all the time.

I told Duke that this is a good news, bad news situation. We may very well sell a lot of PortfolioMinder when we launch. That is the good news. The bad news is that all those people will need set up and support and its my job to provide wow customer care for all of our customers. I guess that’s not really bad news it is just a great opportunity.

We plan to use a unique approach for PortfolioMinder Customer Care and Sales. We will build a PortfolioMinder Sales and Customer Care Network. Advisers in the PortfolioMinder Sales and Customer Care Network will be Intuit agents who sell PortfolioMinder, and provide pre and post sale support for PortfolioMinder. Agents will work on a contract basis and will be paid for their services on a per case basis with pay per case dependent on customer satisfaction and agent responsiveness. Sales compensation will be based on the agent’s PortfolioMinder sales. Agents will be expected to bill Intuit monthly for their services at preapproved rates.

My vision is that financial planners who are either building their practice or want to augment their current practice will support and sell PortfolioMinder and be paid for their services. One of the wonderful things about this is that these people can do this work from anywhere. We have no geographical location requirements.

We want to find a few awesome people to start providing these services. If you know of anyone who might be interested drop me an email or call me at Intuit at 650-944-3919.