TrustedPeer Blog

What we're thinking about

Philip Bouchard

TrustedPeer Next Experts Program with Cal Poly

The Next Experts Program enables students to have access to the expertise they need to become the next business leaders.

Click to view a short documentary about the Next Experts Program -

This great mini documentary of the Program was directed by Cal Poly students and Next Experts, Jenna Hoffman and Niki Moshiri.

And congratulations to Executive Producer, Brian Morris and 12-time Emmy Award Winner, Jon Dann, as Line Producer. Both Brian and Jon are TrustedPeer Experts


Philip Bouchard

Tom Brady and the Patriots: Deflating their Brands?


Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are more than star quarterback and Super Bowl championship team. They are brands – Brady as an individual and the Patriots as an organization and corporation.

So what happens to those brands, individually and within the context of a corporate brand, when they are the subject of intense negative publicity such as the "deflategate" controversy?

TrustedPeer Experts are top-of-field business consultants who have worked with companies across a broad range of challenges. We asked them for their thoughts about lessons learned from Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.  

Their answers reflect some of the same dividing lines that have appeared in fan and public reaction to the story, including geographic proximity, the willingness of constituencies to "forgive and forget," and the very nature of celebrity itself.

STEVE POTTER, managing partner, Odgers Berndtson, LLC:

Personal brand is just like a corporate brand: It takes a long time to build up and only a few minutes to destroy. 

On the corporate side, you can always fire the people who screwed up and recover over time.

On the personal side, it’s a bit hard to fire yourself. So the script there is to apologize, admit wrongdoing, and do a lot of charity work for years… and hope the public forgives or forgets. They have forgiven Bill Clinton but not Pete Rose. Go figure!


DAVID WARD, CEO, Telegraph Hill Program Initiatives:

Sport franchise brands like the Patriots and the brands of individual stars like Brady are all about winning. Fair play is secondary, and pushing the boundaries of the rules is expected – "just win baby." Inasmuch as Patriots fans want and expect Brady and the Pats to win, and they did, I don't think the current episode will be remembered much or tarnish their brands.

In my industry, technology, I compare this situation to the Microsoft antitrust case of the 90s and continuing into the 00s under Gates: Is the Bill Gates "brand" much diminished by they way he pushed his business practices beyond the edge of customary competition? He is still the richest man who ever lived (i.e., still winning, brand intact). Microsoft's brand was tarnished by the decade-long stock price slump after Ballmer took over (not winning, brand diminished). Only recently do we see that brand starting to revive under Satya Nadella, and we'll soon see if he's a winner.

In my opinion, this Pats/Brady episode (like similar ones in the MLB and NBA) is more about a regulatory agency (the NFL) proving its oversight bona fides so it can justify its own brand image – not to mention its exemptions from antitrust scrutiny

RUTHY BENNETT, regional energy manager, Towns of Arlington and Bedford, MA:

Tom Brady is a brand. He is what Ralph Lauren was looking for, what Tommy Hilfiger tried to advertise for. Brady is All-American – wholesome and strong. His beautiful wife and children did not hurt, but he himself created his brand –  hard-working, team member, involved in the community and yes, very good-looking. The Patriots were no fools when they stood behind him. He has become them. 

His parents have built the same brand. They live in California in the same house Tom grew up in. No gates, no gold-plated faucets, no mansions...

Brady told Bob Kraft a long time ago that drafting him was the best thing the Patriots could have done. He was confident and he also proved his worth. Patriot fans love, love, love Tom Brady.  Facebook is awash in love for him on the New England side of the country. The Patriots were brilliant in changing their FB cover photo to his jersey. I shudder to think of the roar in the stadium when he plays his first game in the 2015-16 season. I bet the price for those tickets could rival Super Bowl ticket prices.  

The Pats let Belichick be the ugly guy – literally and figuratively. He is smart but gruff, rude to the press and barely smiles. He wears worn-out clothing (have you see how Giselle dresses Tom?).  He is like a rodent – ferreting out every obscure rule to use in his offensive plays (for example, switching eligibility right before a play starts). Belichick is the one who people love to hate and he brings it on. Brady gets to be the superstar without trying to take the limelight. The Pats set it up well.  

What has hurt the NFL and has helped the Patriots is that whether Brady was/is guilty or not, he stayed true to his brand – hard-working, clean-cut, friendly and a team player.  He spoke to the media with a smile in "hard-working" clothes (sweaty shirt interview during deflategate as opposed to his very designer outfits on most other occasions).  He kept his head down. He did not lose his cool, he did not mouth off.  

In fact, part of the Patriots brand is the opposite of the Oakland Raiders. You'd be happy to have any of these guys meet your mother. Belichick and Kraft run a very tight ship.  There are no bottle caps at Gillette Stadium. If you buy a water bottle, they take it off for you – so there's nothing to throw. There is a "family" section, and you can text the stadium if someone is cursing, drunk or otherwise bothering you. Clean-cut, family-friendly, hard-working and in the end – major major winners.

I can't wait to read the college and master's papers written about this "gate." I bet there will be more on this topic than for Chris Christie's George Washington Bridge "gate."

DAN BEEBE, president, Dan Beebe Group:

In the sports world, there is a continual balance that has to be struck between the club or league brand and those coaches and players who become successful and revered. It presents a big risk if the individual(s) become bigger than the university, professional club or league. 

As a former NCAA investigator, I also saw situations where those in more vulnerable positions would not be forthcoming about the misconduct of the powerful because of the risk it posed to their livelihoods and future.  Look what happened at Penn State. 

JONATHAN DANN, president, Jon Dann Communications:

Personal branding (within the context of a corporate brand) has become much more fragile and ephemeral in the present era – resulting in less value and ROI.

The very notion of celebrity has changed dramatically. In the old days, someone achieved fame for an accomplishment or heroic deed. In the age of the Internet, celebrity has been turned on its head.

People all too often achieve their fame through bad behavior or pushing societal boundaries. This phenomenon has never happened before.

In the Internet era, the politics of personal destruction (coupled with a lack of personal privacy) are particularly vicious so that even those who have achieved fame through honest achievement find themselves under attack.

The result: a diminished personal brand.

The above does not suggest that personal branding lacks value, only that tying a corporate brand closely with a personal brand must be much more closely scrutinized before entering into a partnership with a celebrity.

JOHN PHILLIPS, president, Colony Marketing:

In the case of Tom Brady and the Patriots, think of the Patriots as an umbrella brand and Brady as a sub-brand.

Two criteria for good sub-branding:

Umbrella brands and sub-brands need to be aligned in terms of their promise, visual identity, etc. 
There should be a clearly defined sub-brand strategy and architecture.
As a New York sports fan, I find there is no branding issue in this case. Unsportsmanlike conduct is a tightly-aligned promise between umbrella brand and sub-brand.

KATE MONTGOMERY, TrustedPeer editor and former marketing executive at the Wall Street Journal:

Interesting topic. I'm actually exploring something related to your personal brand question for a book project I've recently started.

Regarding Brady, I'm not following "deflategate" too closely, but it seems he was suspended because he knew the ball was deflated, yet said nothing. It is likewise another example of a group of people we would like to admire who are caught cheating in order to "win" a big prize. No longer an unusual event, unfortunately.


Steve Cadigan

Nurturing a Culture of Innovation

steve cadigan.jpg

Everywhere you turn today, you hear and read about innovation. All companies want it, but few really offer it.

Why? Because as employers try to unlock the most creative, innovative ideas within their organizations, they often have no clue what it means to nurture a culture where innovation can thrive.

Based on my experience, it can be done. It's not easy, but it can be achieved.

I've been in the talent business for 30 years. I've worked in the fashion industry, the insurance industry, the semiconductor industry, among others. But it wasn't until I came to work in the Web industry with a new startup, a company you might have heard of, LinkedIn, that I truly discovered the secret of creating a culture of innovation.

What's the formula? Would it surprise me to say I can't tell you, but I know what it is? Well, that's exactly the case.

In my consulting career, I have worked with some of very interesting organizations. They all want to be innovative and ask how I helped create this innovative culture at LinkedIn. But as I said earlier, it's akin to asking, "How do you fall in love?" There is no single answer. You cannot control the outcome here and there is no formula that perfectly unlocks innovation because all of us are different and every organization is unique in so many ways. But there is a starting point, and it's the belief that to foster innovation means engaging people in ways that are not traditional, in ways that are not about control.

Fostering this culture begins by asking your employees what you can do to make them more productive, finding out what work settings and organization structures and communication schemes produce the best outcomes. You have to get close to your individuals and teams to learn who works best in small groups and who works best in large groups. Having an effective listening strategy is essential because ideas sit and flow everywhere. You need to tap into these insights in every way possible--and build systems, tools and work environments that foster free flow of ideas and insights. The companies that I see innovate well spend a great deal of effort making sure they are fostering cultures that surface insights quickly, and action them just as fast.

One of the big keys, of course, to successful cultures of innovation is having leaders who really get that their most important deliverable is unlocking ideas from their teams and putting the best ones into practice. These leaders spend a great deal of time observing, asking questions, being available, and finding ways to bring out the best in others. Innovation is not always a new product--it could be a new way of spending time, communicating, holding a meeting, or leveraging a new tool or tech.

At LinkedIn, we innovated but we didn't start with a plan saying we are going to innovate. We started with a belief that we wanted to be the best place our employees had ever worked and we relentlessly listened and adjusted and changed course based on constant input. Our ability to listen, move quickly, fix issues and surface great ideas became a great part of our success and I see this in many companies today that realize great outcomes--they are dedicated to constant iteration, to trying new things and adjusting course and engaging their whole teams in this endeavor. Building the ability to quickly change and adjust is becoming more important as a leader today than the ability to frame a long term plan because the future is so unpredictable.

On the other side, I still see too many companies who still think that performance reviews are the best way to run a company. Most of the companies I work with today are scrapping annual performance reviews for weekly conversation bursts that offer targeted feedback, focus and alignment in 15 minutes--so both employees and leaders can learn from one another, adjust and focus on the right things. This is the new reality.

When I was at LinkedIn we didn't even have a specific plan for innovation, yet in the end we completely disrupted the recruiting industry. In less than 10 years, we built a company worth over $25 billion. In the four years I worked at LinkedIn, we hired close to 3,000 people off a base of 400 against the sexiest, most competitive brands in the world. Google made more money in a day than LinkedIn made in a year in those days. Try growing talent in an environment like that. In the end, with a culture of innovation as the main driver, we grew our share price 7,000 percent in a five-year period.

LinkedIn proved that if you allow innovation to thrive, if you listen and learn, you do not need world-class experience to be a world-class organization. Most of all, to drive innovation, you have to get out of the way of your people and find ways to let them be great. Silicon Valley's insatiable hunger for talent is going to spread. No matter what sector you represent, you are going to start to feel it. If you want to create a culture of innovation then ask your workforce, your people, what keeps them from being their best. When you get those answers and begin to act on them, you will be off and running towards creating a culture of innovation.

* Originally published by Steve Cadigan here.


Lynn Hunsaker

Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management: Do This, Not That

Universal to most business-to-business customer experience management (B2B CXM) scenarios is the existence of a “village” of people who influence B2B buying decisions. This single fact means a lot. If the purpose of customer surveys is to accurately monitor customers’ likelihood of re-buying, then you must gain an understanding of each influencer’s expectations and sentiment.

A logical follow-up to this is the need to integrate the viewpoints of the “village” to paint a realistic picture. In consumer situations, there are usually only a couple of viewpoints to integrate for any purchase: husband and wife, parent and child. But for B2B situations, you may be grappling with integrating the views of the user, purchasing agent, plant manager, and gatekeepers for IT, safety, facilities, and quality, among others.

And another commonality among many B2B relationships is extensive post-purchase interaction. This may be related to a complicated deployment such as enterprise software, or peer-to-peer, such as engineers from the supplier and customer companies meeting to work out usage details, or a customer appointee who interfaces with multiple locations of the supplier company in a single morning.

Here are 3 keys to getting B2B customer experience management right: capture the whole buying decision equation in your VoC, integrate influencers’ inputs to paint an accurate picture, and ensure post-purchase customer experience consistency.

1) Capture a More Comprehensive Buying Decision Equation: Why try to tie CX to financials without understanding who’s driving what?

DO THIS:  Identify all parties within a customer account with the power to kill a buying decision. Characterize each party’s expectations and design your customer-listening portfolio to keep a radar on their sentiment. Quantify the consequences of meeting or missing each party’s expectations.

NOT THAT: Assuming that whoever signs the contract or transacts with your service organization is a spokesperson for their company, or that a series of transactions represents the customer experience that can be reasonably tied to bookings.


(voice-of-the-customer questions from the ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study)

2) Integrate Influencers’ Inputs to Paint a More Accurate Picture: Simplification of the complex picture is essential for tackling the issues and formulating better strategies to capitalize on opportunities.

DO THIS: Weight and nest the parties’ inputs for more realistic linkages to bookings. Make your customer intelligence reporting compelling: consider show the parties’ interests through flow-charting, cause-and-effect diagramming, activity network diagramming, or interrelationship digraphs. Make sure action plans reflect inputs from all influencers.

NOT THAT: Assuming that averages and bar charts convey what’s needed to be actionable and effective. Don’t ignore the opportunity to get valuable insights from your dedicated sales team. And don’t let the account teams obscure insights that can help the rest of the company help them. 


(voice-of-the-customer questions from the ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study)

3) Ensure Post-purchase Customer Experience Consistency: Why work so hard to manage perceptions but ignore these vital touchpoints?

DO THIS: Make it easy to capture informal comments. Then stream informal feedback to relevant groups throughout your company. Establish cadence & methodology for originators to prevent issue recurrence. Motivate actions and follow-through on informal inputs. Set the stage for streamlined re-purchase decisions: share actions and progress to proactively influence rebuying.

NOT THAT: Assuming that inconsistencies will naturally work themselves out, or aren’t important to building trust and relationship strength. Waiting to send a survey when you’re already getting a goldmine of insights that you can work on right away to be more proactive in influencing repurchase decisions.


(voice-of-the-customer questions from the ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study)

B2B CXM has parallels with consumer experience management, but there are definite realities in B2B CXM that should be addressed in order to make the most of your efforts and investments. Experiment with these 3 B2B “musts”, or better yet, design them into your B2B customer experience management from the beginning. As the graphics above show, you’re likely to stand out from the crowd in your industry in doing so, and these methods may be an important customer experience differentiator for your company.

Note: The concept of "Do This, Not That" is borrowed from the popular book "Eat This, Not That", where the weaknesses of common practices and myths are brought to light and sensible replacements are recommended.

If you manage B2B CX, please join our Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management LinkedIn Group:


Alex Sortwell

TrustedPeer's "Next Experts" Program


TrustedPeer® is the easy way for corporations and executives to consult with world-class experts on-demand.  TrustedPeer’s digital consulting platform allows you to schedule micro-consulting sessions online with vetted, highly-qualified TrustedPeer Experts, who will create a customized action plan targeting your expertise need. Or you can search TrustedPeer’s extensive content library of best practices and common problems specific to your industry and operational area. Either way, TrustedPeer provides the information you need from The Right Expert, Right Now!

Now, TrustedPeer is extending its knowledge base to higher education. As college and post-graduate options have become accessible to a wider audience than ever before, it has given rise to a larger national student body and greater competition in the job market. Graduates have to find ways to leverage and differentiate themselves from their peers just to find job opportunities, let alone ones that fit their interests, skill set, and passions.

To help solve this problem, TrustedPeer has partnered with the Orfalea Business School at California Polytechnic State University to create the Next Experts program. The program provides access for a select group of undergraduate business students to TrustedPeer’s on-demand business knowledge and Experts. The students are able to learn from successful professionals and then receive action plans to assist in their career pursuits.

Structure of the Program

Cal Poly selected five of its most promising business students to participate in the program; TrustedPeer selected seven of its vetted experts. The TrustedPeer Experts selected were Nancy Schaefer, David Burk, Don Transeth, Bruce Lincoln, Philip Bouchard, Brian Morris, & Rick Bragdon. The students and TrustedPeer Experts worked together to complete the program in two separate phases.

Phase 1:

The first phase of the program consisted of seven “group sessions” in which each TrustedPeer Expert engaged the student group in a conference call discussion. Prior to the call, the students researched the TrustedPeer Expert and prepared a list of questions about the Expert’s career, successes, failures, and advice for recent graduates.

Each of the seven TrustedPeer Experts then responded to the students’ questions in lectures that were recorded and transcribed, providing the students a 64-page library of career knowledge and advice.

Phase 2:

Next, each student selected two Experts to confer with individually. The students used TrustedPeer’s proprietary digital consulting platform (the same platform which TrustedPeer clients and business enterprises use) to conduct micro-consulting sessions with TrustedPeer Experts.

During the one-on-one consultations, the Experts offered graduate school recommendations, valuable career ideas and guidance, and a step-by-step plan on how to leverage themselves in the search of a career in a potential field. 

The students also received a TrustedPeer Session Summary Report outlining the discussion topics, their expert’s analysis and assessment, and the recommendations discussed during their sessions.


The Next Experts program proved beneficial for the students, for the Orfalea administration, and for the TrustedPeer Experts.

  • The students received invaluable preparation for the next stage of their lives along with access to an exceptional and exclusive professional network.
  • The administration gained knowledge on how to better prepare and educate their students for moving on to professional careers.
  • The TrustedPeer Experts gained a better understanding of how a technology-raised generation of new professionals will shape the business world of the future.


“These types of professional relationships offer significant rewards for students, the conversations with TrustedPeer Experts contextualized students’ learning, opened windows on new perspectives, and helped them think critically about the college-to-career transition.”

                                    -Lynn Metcalf, Cal Poly Marketing Area Chair


TrustedPeer’s Next Expert program represents a democratization of knowledge across generations. TrustedPeer Experts provide the next generation of business professionals a roadmap of successful practices for their careers; in turn, these Next Experts become a part of the professional network of TrustedPeer Experts and a valuable resource as the next generation creates new businesses amid rapidly changing technologies.


Future: “The Next Expert Network”

TrustedPeer is working to incorporate the Next Expert Network into the existing TrustedPeer web platform. The network is exclusive to selected business students at top schools participating in the Next Expert program. As the network grows, it will allow the brightest up-and-coming business minds across the nation to connect with each other on TrustedPeer’s digital platform to share entrepreneurial ideas, solutions to business issues, and business development strategies.

With functionality including instant messaging, forums, and sharing of presentations and documents, the TrustedPeer Expert and Next Expert networks provide the tools for incubating ideas and business solutions across generations. 

To see Cal Poly's press release on the Next Experts program please click here.Next Experts copy.jpg 

Left to Right: Lynn Metcalf (Cal Poly Marketing Area Chair), Kaulin Blair, Andria Posmoga, Alex Sortwell (TrustedPeer. Program Administrator), Samantha Foster, Rosie Toumanian, Taylor Sturtevant, Philip Bouchard (TrustedPeer CEO)