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233 posts categorized "Business Book Musings"

April 10, 2011

ONWARD | Howard Schultz

NOTE: To understand my Starbucks bias, scroll to read my disclosure statement.

OnwardI can’t recommend Howard Schultz’s book, ONWARD: How Starbucks fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, to every business book reader. I can only recommend Howard book chronicling his second go-round as Starbucks ceo to about 250,000 people.

ONWARD will only appeal to the current 200,000 Starbucks employees, thousands of ex-employees, thousands of wannabe employees, analysts working on Wall Street, and a handful of Starbucks customer zealots.

ONWARD has such focused appeal because it’s all inside baseball stuff. Howard positions too many insignificant details as earth-shattering business defining decisions. The only people who can fully appreciate and understand the minutia Howard writes about are those 250,000 people whose jobs are linked to Starbucks or whose lives are fanatically linked to Starbucks.

For example, Howard spends time writing about the switchover from the old automatic espresso machines to the new automatic espresso machines. He waxes poetically about giving Starbucks baristas “world-class technology at their fingertips.” And he agonizes about finding the opportune time to “announce the Mastrena to the marketplace [Wall Street].” Palpable stuff for those closest to Starbucks and not really for anyone else.

Another palpable moment in the transformation story of Starbucks detailed by Howard is the decision to remove heated sandwiches from the stores. Howard felt, and rightfully so, the smell of burnt cheese overtook the smell of coffee in the stores. So we, the reader, get to learn all the details about Howard being conflicted in removing the sandwiches because sales would suffer and Wall Street wouldn’t be happy.

We also get to learn the nitty gritty in how Starbucks cracked the code on serving heated sandwiches without overtaking the smell of coffee. Turns out, according to Howard, “... by moving the cheese to the top of the sandwich and lowering the baking temperature to about 300º F, the cheese was less likely to burn. The result was, I had to admit, a breakfast offering that was worthy of our coffee.”

Now do you understand the limited appeal of this book? This is all great stuff for Starbucks employees to know and for prospective employees to be aware of, but not necessarily anything anyone else would be remotely interested in.

AWWARD_cover Besides the book’s focused appeal, ONWARD has many AWKWARD moments. One such awkward moment is where Howard refers to himself, multiple times, as the founder of Starbucks. (Jerry Baldwin, Zev Seigal, and Gorden Bowker might have something to say about that.)

Another awkward ONWARD moment deals with Starbucks positioning its lighter-taste profile coffee, Pike Place Roast, as “... nothing less than our reinvention of brewed coffee.” Howard writes, “For customers, Pike Place Roast ushered back in some of what had been missing in our coffee experience. Aroma. Freshness. A little theater. And... Pike Place would be proof that the company was actively reclaiming its coffee authority.”

Most people I talk to and the Starbucks employees I’ve talked with have a different opinion about Pike Place Roast. It’s lacks the bold flavor Starbucks built its coffee reputation on and in no way, can this every day coffee be viewed as reinventing brewed coffee. It’s simply a coffee that tastes more like coffee people can expect from Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s. Howard even admits Pike Place Roast is “... a bit light for [his] personal preference.”

Perhaps the most awkward moment is the many times Howard derides how Wall Street measures the success of a company based upon short-term financial figures. Yet, Howard essentially claims victory in transforming the company because in fiscal 2010, financials for the company were at an all-time from revenue to operating income to operating margin. It’s too early and born of too much hubris to proclaim victory.

Awkward moments aside, there are many VANGUARD moments in ONWARD where Howard shares smart, thought-leading business advice for entrepreneurs, marketing managers, and business owners/operators. However, these vanguard moments are hidden deep inside in the 330+ pages of overly dramatized details.

I’ve collected ten VANGUARD moments in this SlideShare presentation. Along with the smart business advice snippets, I’ve added in some audio commentary to explain why that moment is a VANGUARD moment. Click the play button to view the slides and hear my commentary. Enjoy...

AUDIO INSIDE | click the play button below

DISCLOSURE: I am a biased reviewer of anything Starbucks. Why? I worked there for eight years a marketer in the mid-90s and early 2000s. I wrote a book sharing some of the fundamental business and branding principles Starbucks followed to become an iconic brand. The consulting advice I pass along to businesses is steeped deep with my knowledge of how Starbucks became a beloved brand. I also know too many of the long-time Starbucks employees who were laid off during the bad times. My perspective is influenced because of my experience but my opinions are also shaped by now having an outsider’s view of Starbucks. (Also, while I receive many business books from publicists and publishers, I bought my copy of ONWARD.)

UPDATE: I received a free copy of ONWARD from a publicist. It has been donated to the Austin Public Library.

January 16, 2011


Long-time readers know I read lots of business books. Over the years I've written reviews, shared "money quotes," and done kooky dramatic readings of interesting business books. In 2011, we're resurrecting the money quotes method of sharing worthwhile snippets.

First up are marketing-related money quotes from the recently published, NOW... BUILD A GREAT BUSINESS from Mark Thompson & Brain Tracy. Nothing in this book is groundbreaking. However, it serves as solid refresher material for owners and managers of emerging/enduring businesses.

For example, on page 21 the authors list vital questions businesses must ask to achieve ongoing success...

Leadership: "What results are expected of you, and what do your people need form you to contribute their full potential to you business?"

Strategic Plan: "What is your plan to generate sales and profitability, and how is it working? Could there be a better way?"

Team Building: "How do you attract and keep great people and inspire them to perform at their best in achieving business results?"

Product: "What are great at building, who are your ideal customers, and what product or service qualities will attract more of them?"

Marketing: "What is your competitive advantage--that factor that makes your product or service superior to anything else available, and how do you convey this message to your potential customers?"

Sales: "What must your potential customers be convinced of so that they want to buy from you rather than your competitor?" [SOURCE]

There are more knowledge nuggets from the book, including some marketing-related advice shared in this slideshare prezo ... enjoy.

[NOTE: I often receive free copies of biz books from publishers and publicists. I was sent a free copy of NOW... BUILD A GREAT BUSINESS to riffle, read, blog about, or use as kindling. The embedded amazon links are NOT affiliate links. That ain't how I roll, dig?]

December 28, 2010

2010 Novel Piece Prize for Business Strategy Luminance

The NOVEL PIECE PRIZE award recognizes excellence in business book writing. The first recipient was Youngme Moon. The second recipient is celebrated below...

Why do service firms ranging from ad agencies to consulting businesses to creative professionals succumb to the pitch process of giving away free ideas in order to win new business? This year's recipient of the Novel Piece Prize in Business Strategy Luminance answers that question as well as provides a framework for all types of businesses to use in order to profitably gain new business and new customers in the book, THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING MANIFESTO.


Blair Enns, business development advisor to marketing communication firms, believes creative professionals have become addicted to the frenzied adrenaline rush of the pitch presentation. According to Enns, this is counter-productive to beginning working relationships with clients because "at a time when we should be conversing, we are instead cloistered away preparing for the one-way conversation called the presentation."

Writing in THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING MANIFESTO, Enns derides the practice of service firms giving away free ideas in proposals and presentations to prospective clients as flawed. He equates such an arrangement to that of a doctor and a patient. "A client," writes Enns, "asking for unpaid ideas in a written proposal is like a patient asking for diagnosis and prescription from a doctor he refuses to pay."

Enns contends clients, in many instances, come to service firms with self-diagnosed problems and with surgical procedures already identified to help restore their business health. Unfortunately, Enns says, "[service firms] are far more likely to proceed with such a flawed approach than any medical practitioner." Enns urges services firms to "view the act of prescription without diagnosis for what it is: malpractice."

To orbit the new business pitch process hairball, Enns instructs service firms to develop a "Deep Expertise" by making "The Difficult Business Decision" of choosing a tightly-focused specialty. From there, firms must "articulate that focus via a claim of expertise" and "work to quickly add proof" to the claim. Then, service firms must diligently work to achieve a "true thought leadership position" and use its earned expertise to "trigger in the client the idea that perhaps his performance in a certain area could be improved."

Enns readily admits it isn't always possible to derail the pitch process. In those situations, Enns advises service firms to "gain the inside track" because the "default assumption should be that somebody always has the inside track." According to Enns' strong position, if a service firm cannot derail the pitch process nor gain the inside track, the firm should walk away from the potential business.

The most widely applicable business lesson from THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING MANIFESTO involves pricing power. Undifferentiated services firms, like undifferentiated products, have no pricing power because abundant alternatives exist. The simple business rule is: the more crowded a market, the more likely low price becomes the differentiator.

According to Enns, "winning while charging more is the ultimate benefit of effective positioning." The more selective a firm is in what they do (positioning), whom they sell to (prospective clients/customers), and how they deliver services (proof of expertise), the greater pricing power a firm will enjoy.

Please join me in celebrating the work of Blair Enns as the recipient of the Novel Piece Prize in Business Strategy Luminance for 2010.

December 20, 2010

2010 Novel Piece Prize in Marketing Luminance

Since this blog began in December of 2003, I've awarded and celebrated the best business books from the past year. The Brand Autopsy blog archives include award winners from 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007. (Instead of award winners in 2008, we shared a collection of worthy reads [2008].)

We're changing things up this year with the introduction of a new award to recognize excellence in business book writing. It's called the NOVEL PIECE PRIZE and the first recipient has just been awarded.

The Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice has decided to award the Novel Piece Prize in Marketing Luminance for 2010 to Youngme Moon for her analysis of heterogeneous homogeneity in maturing product markets .


Why do so many businesses focus on eliminating the differences between products in their competitive set rather than accentuating those differences? This year's recipient of the Novel Piece Prize in Marketing Luminance developed a theory which can be used to answer that question as well as provide strategic guidance to improve the marketing of any product.

Youngme Moon, the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, formulated a hypothesis to illuminate the destructive business practice of commoditization. Writing in her seminal book, DIFFERENT: Escaping the Competitive Herd, Youngme, theorizes "the more fierce the competition, the stronger the firm's commitment to differentiation should be." However, as Youngme posits, "companies have gotten so collectively locked into a particular cadence of competition that they appear to have lost sight of their mandate—which is to create meaningful grooves of separation from one another."

Youngme's findings reveal businesses today have become masters of imitation, producing dissimilar product clones resulting in product categories marred by "heterogeneous homogeneity." This herd competitive mentality produces "an explosion of choices, but those choices are meaningless to many of us."

According to Youngme Moon, achieving true differentiation "is rarely a function of well-roundedness; it is typically a function of lopsidedness." Deviance is the difference-maker and continuously approaching decision-making from a lopsided point-of-view will help businesses design products and programs to succeed "in a world where conformity reigns but exceptions rule."

Please join me in celebrating the work of Youngme Moon as the recipient of the Novel Piece Prize in Marketing Luminance for 2010.

December 09, 2010

Presentation Rule of Thumb

SOURCE: ideaSELLING | Sam Harrison

"If you need to explain a slide, you have the wrong slide." - Sam Harrison

October 06, 2010

RESONATE | in less than 20 words

Nancy Duarte has just published RESONATE, a prequel to Slide:ology. Inside RESONATE you'll learn the Duarte Design methodology for crafting killer presentations. The methodology is explained in-depth without being preachy or uninteresting. It's solid advice for any presenter needing to resonate with an audience.

However, you might be too busy to read RESONATE. If so, here's a far too short and ultra tweet friendly summary presented visually.

"Craft a visual story that takes the audience on a journey from WHAT to WHY to HOW."

DISCLOSURES: (1) For my summary, I borrowed heavily from a line found on pg. 23 of Nick Morgan's excellent book on presentations... "Take your audience on a journey from why to how." (2) The publisher, Wiley, sent me a free copy of RESONATE.

October 04, 2010

THE MESH | in less than 300 words

The following continues my irregular postings of business book summaries. I’m striving to keep these summaries to less than 300 words.

The Mesh
THE MESH | summarized in about 300 words

How do you categorize upstart businesses like ThredUP, Zipcar, Crushpad, and Etsy? Lisa Gansky, founder and CEO of numerous Internet companies, gives these businesses the label of being a "Mesh" business.

In her just-published book, THE MESH: Why the Future of Business is Sharing, Lisa Gansky explains the characteristics guiding Mesh businesses. She uses "The Mesh" as a metaphor "to describe a whole new phase of information-based services" that "share information to facilitate access to new customers, customer preferences, and goods."

The four characteristics of Mesh businesses are: Sharable, Smartphone friendly, Tangible products, and Socially-networked.

The basic offering of a Mesh business is "something that can be shared, within a community, market, or value chain." For example, ThredUP is a kids clothes swapping business where members, on the ThredUP website, list shirts and blouses they want to swap and want to wear. You choose, you ship, you swap, and your child wears something new.


Smartphone friendly

Since Mesh businesses are designed for the web-savvy, being accessible to conduct transactions by a smartphone is a must. Zipcar, a car-sharing business operating in 49 states, makes it easy for its members to use smartphones to rent a car for a few hours.


Tangible products

The Mesh, according to Lisa Gansky, "enables businesses to profit handsomely by streamlining access to physical goods and services."

It's not easy to get into the wine-making business. Meticulously tending to grapevines isn't an option for most, nor is having all the wine-making equipment needed to make and bottle wine. Crushpad gives regular wine lovers access to high-quality grapes and the equipment plus expertise needed to make and bottle their own wine.



One of the more compelling characteristics of Mesh businesses is how they've baked social media into how they engage with customers. Etsy, an online seller of homemade arts, crafts, and goods, has thrived because it fosters a community of engaged buyers and sellers who use social media to tell others about the cool stuff for sale made by a passionate craftsman.


Of course, "many Mesh businesses are at the beginning of their life cycles" so time will tell if the Mesh recipe is truly characteristic of business success today and tomorrow.


[NOTE: I often receive free copies of biz books from publishers and publicists. The publisher, Portfolio, sent me a free copy of THE MESH to review.]

September 30, 2010

The Macro Appeal of microMARKETING

As a social media marketer with Powered, Greg Verdino recommends "micromarketing" strategies to clients. In his book, microMARKETING, Greg shares with all of us his thinking behind why marketers need to shift our actions from mass to micro in order to realize the benefits of "tapping into the power of the few to reach to the many" through using social media.

To help promote his book, Greg is "tapping into the power of the few to reach to the many" by having 20 or so bloggers post chapter-by-chapter reviews. (More details here.) I'm reviewing chapter 9, From the One Big Thing to the Right Small Things.


To illustrate this point, Greg tells us the Cinderella story of Lauren Luke, a self-taught make-up artist.

In 2007, Lauren worked as a taxi dispatcher by day and as an eBay entrepreneur by night selling makeup brushes. To promote her brushes, Lauren started posting make-up tutorials on YouTube. Her most viewed tutorial shows how to get the smoky eye look made popular by Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" video. That one video tutorial has nearly 4-million views today and has forever changed Lauren's life.

Soon after posting the Leona Lewis smoky eye tutorial video, Lauren caught the attention of a marketing company who pitched the idea of starting a By Lauren Luke cosmetic product line. In 2009, Sephora, a big-time national cosmetics store chain, began selling the By Lauren Luke cosmetics line.

A Cinderella story indeed... but let's look at this from a different angle.

Thanks to social media, Lauren Luke was able to go from small-time to big-time. And thanks to social media, big-time companies can regain their small and meaningful connections with customers. As I've said before...

Social media helps small companies look bigger and helps big companies get smaller. Meaning, a small company can have a big presence online with customers through using social media. Conversely, a big company can get ‘smaller’ because social media connects companies to customers on a very personal level.” -- JOHN MOORE

In the pages of microMARKETING, Greg Verdino identifies "seven shifts" happening in marketing because of social media. He shares examples how small companies, like By Lauren Luke, are using smartly using these "seven shifts" brought on by social media to look bigger.

Interestingly, these "seven shifts" Verdino has identified can also be used by big companies to get smaller by being more personal with customers.

Verdino shows how Coca-Cola gets smaller in customers' eyes/minds through social media using its Facebook fan page. The Ford Fiesta Movement is highlighted as a way to develop micro relationships with bloggers to get macro awareness. Verdino also shows how Best Buy gets smaller by providing one-to-one customer service on Twitter through the Best Buy Twelpforce team.

No matter the size of your company, for it to grow bigger you must start getting smaller in how you connect with current and future customers. That's the lesson learned from chapter 9 of Greg Verdino's microMARKETING book. And that's the challenge businesses have today in order to succeed tomorrow.

DISCLOSURE: I'm an avid business book reader and because I blog frequently about business books, publishers will send me free copies. That explained, I purchased my copy of microMARKETING for this review.

September 20, 2010

Statistics are like a Bikini

Alan Murray has written a brilliant primer and an insightful reminder on what it takes to be a great manager. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO MANAGEMENT is a must-read for anyone in business.

Murray shares "lasting lessons from the best leadership minds of our time" by synthesizing, into bite-size chunks, business wisdom from Peter Drucker, Warren Bennis, Clayton Christenson, Jim Collins, and many others. (My "dog-ear score" for this book is off the charts.)

I absolutely love the quote about statistics he shares from Aaron Levenstein, former Baruch College business professor. Brilliant, just brilliant.

"Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is interesting. But what they hide is vital." -- Aaron Levenstein

September 07, 2010

Lesson Eleven | Movements Move People to Believe

Last week I wrote about the BRAINS ON FIRE book. As I mentioned, throughout the book we learn of ten lessons Brains on Fire follows to ignite and fan the flames of customer evangelism.

What I failed to mention was Lesson Eleven exists. This lesson isn't in this marketing book. It is, however, in our book of marketing lessons learned. Lesson Eleven was intentionally left blank so that we could add our experiences to the mix.

And I've done just that by sharing my Lesson Eleven on how to ignite powerful, sustainable, word of mouth movements.


"Any brand can ignite a movement with its customers, so long as the brand can move people to believe in the company, to believe in a better way, and to believe in themselves." -- John Moore

August 30, 2010



My friendship with the marketing agency Brains on Fire began in March of 2005. That’s when I heard Geno Church, word-of-mouth practitioner from Brains on Fire, share the Rage Against the Haze case study. Instead of a multi-million advertising campaign to convince teens in South Carolina to stop smoking, Geno showed how building a grassroots marketing movement was able to make a significant difference in reducing teenage smoking rates in the state.

From there, Brains on Fire built another grassroots marketing movement for Fiskars, the makers of the well-known but not necessarily talkable orange handled scissors. This movement was and still is led by thousands of scrapbookers known as The Fiskateers.

I’ve been fortunate to work directly with Brains on Fire and each time we work together, my fondness grows deeper for what they do — build marketing movements.

Writing in their just-published book, BRAINS ON FIRE: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements, we learn exactly how they define a marketing movement.

“No, we’re not going to pull out the dictionary. We’re just going to let you know that—for the purposes of what’s ahead—we have developed our own working definition of what a movement is: A movement elevates and empowers people to unite a community around a common cause, passion, brand, or organization.”

“So let’s take it a step further, since we’re talking about sustainable movements here: A sustainable move happens when customers and employees share their passion for a business or cause and become a self-perpetuating force for excitement, ideas, communication, and growth.

Throughout the book, we learn of ten lessons Brains on Fire follows to ignite and fan the flames of customer evangelism. It’s a worthy read for any marketer, especially marketers rooted in the evolutionist marketing mindset.

Robbin Phillips, the courageous leader of Brains on Fire as well as a co-author of the book, answered a few of my questions about the book and her company's approach to igniting marketing movements.

In the book you talk about the “quiet leaders” of movements. Why is this and where can a marketer find, among its brand fans, these silent leaders.

ROBBIN PHILLIPS [RP]: “First of all, let me back up and say this out loud: Movements need inspirational leaders. If no one is expected to lead, no one will.

With the rise of social media, companies and organizations all too often seem to get focused on finding and reaching out to the “influencers.” We don’t buy it. Many times, those folks are driven by ego and a desire to create more influence. They are not necessarily motivated by the desire to move a passion or a cause forward."


"Quiet leaders leave ego by the wayside. Diversity of leadership is important - it creates a quilt of inspiration. You need some folks who can make some noise and comfortably stand on the rooftops and shout. But the quiet leaders are important because often times they are the do-ers.

They also elevate those around them instead of always elevating themselves. And when you elevate others they never forget it. They stay engaged. They are loyal and often happy to return the gesture."

You write, “One of the secret sauces we’ve discovered igniting movements is that barrier of entry is vital. Yes, we want to keep people out of the movement; in fact, it’s a key to success, growth and sustainability.” Explain what you mean.
RP: “The barrier of entry notion gets a lot of push back from traditional marketers. But it is just so logical. A barrier of entry calls us to know what we don’t know.

Think back to the number of online communities you’ve signed up for. You go there, create a user name and password, click around a bit and never return. Often you can’t even remember your user name or your password. We call it password amnesia. If you’ve done any kind of social networking you’ve probably experienced it.

On the other hand, If you want to join the Fiskateers, one of the movements we highlight in the book, you have to be wiling to read the bio of a lead and connect with one of them personally. They usually ask you a question about your interest. We lose 50% of folks right there. Which is great."


"That’s why large numbers don’t impress us. We’d rather go for engagement and participation. Jay Gillespie of VP of Brand Marketing at Fiskars says it well, ‘For me it’s not about the numbers, it’s about growing even deeper relationships.’”

Outside of the work Brains on Fire has done with its clients, share a marketing “movement” that someone else has ignited that you wish Brains on Fire had been a part of.

RP: “I picked up INC. magazine the other day while traveling. And I stumbled on an interview with Leslie Blodgett, the CEO of Bare Escentuals. I got so excited, I wanted to call her on the spot. She understands the passion conversation (Lesson #1). It’s not about product, the makeup. Women just want to feel pretty.

She also understand that movements live both offline and online (Lesson #8). When her products were first being sold they were different and often women had questions. She didn’t have time to answer everyone online and she began to notice that other women were answering for her. She embraced them and started to hold training events and sharing knowledge (Lesson #5) at her salons. That led to cruises or “giant slumber parties” as she calls them. Her success validated some very important lessons we have learned.

She also cherishes her love letters. And says, ‘I read these letters before I go to sleep at night. They remind me of what we do. It's powerful. I don't want to be a business. I want to be a community.’"


"So that is just one example I’m recently happy to have found. I also hope this book introduces us to even more successful movements and new lessons learned. We have a Lesson 11 in the book and genuinely hope that others will help us write the rest of the story. And that the learning will go on and on and on.”


August 18, 2010

Listening Spurs Talking

According to Advertising Research Foundation president Bob Barocci, The single biggest opportunity in the history of consumer marketing lays dormant.” The opportunity Bob speaks of is LISTENING. And for those you deep into social media you understand the benefits of listening and how listening spurs talking from customers.

In an updated version of his book, 501 Killer Marketing Tactics to Increase Sales..., Tom Feltenstein plays off the listening angle and frames word of mouth in a way I haven’t heard before...

“The best way to word of mouth commitment from your customers is by opening your mouth. Talk to your customers, and listen to what they have to say. When they give you advice, try not to dismiss it out of hand. Instead, hear it, digest it, and take away everything that makes sense.”

Before customers spread word of mouth about a business, a business must first open its mouth (and ears) and talk (plus listen) to its customers. Love it.

July 12, 2010

You know you have a great marketing idea when...

In SAVE THE CAT! STRIKES BACK, Blake Snyder, accomplished screenwriter, shares “seven warnings signs” a writer has a great idea for a screenplay. It’s a good list and with a little massaging, Blake’s list also works for marketers. Here's my twist on Blake's list:

You know you have a great marketing idea when...

#1. You love talking about the idea with anyone, anywhere.

#2. You have no fear someone will steal your idea.

#3. You feel giddy knowing others view you as a smart marketer.

#4. You know the more you work on the idea, the better it gets.

#5. You poke at potential flaws in the idea, knowing it’s an opportunity to make the idea stronger.

#6. You have researched the idea and know no one has done it like you plan to do it.

#7. You know the idea is tactically doable and strategically reliable.

July 01, 2010

Tasty Quote from G.K. Chesterton

I riffled though CONSUMED: Rethinking Business in the Era of Mindful Spending today. Would have read it, but couldn’t get into enough so I riffled through it. As the title/sub-title suggest, this book identifies issues and the consumer/business sentiment with overconsumption.

Even though I riffled through the book, this tasty quote from British philosopher G.K. Chesterton made a lasting impression with me. Perhaps it’ll linger with you too...


[NOTE: I received a free copy of CONSUMED to review from the publisher.]

June 27, 2010

SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE | in less than 300 words

The following continues my irregular postings of business book summaries. I’m striving to keep these summaries to less than 300 words. Sometimes its doable, other times not. This summary is closer to 400 words. Enjoy

SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE | summarized in nearly 300 words

The failure rate of new Amish businesses is astoundingly low. According to a recent study, less than 5% of Amish businesses fail within their first five years. That’s astounding considering 50% of small businesses fail within their first five years.

Why do Amish businesses succeed while others fail?

In SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive, Eric Wesner explains why. However, the answers are surprisingly unsurprising.

The Amish, as a way of background, are deeply religious and live a traditional lifestyle that avoids most modern technology. Their daily life focuses on family, faith, integrity, and simplicity. Those same virtues also guide the daily business practices of the Amish, here’s how:

Amish Vision Puts the Why Before the How
Growth and financial success are not why Amish businesses exist. Instead, sustaining a growing family and supporting their church community are the reasons why the Amish start businesses. According to Wesner, “… the WHY springs drive and ambition. The WHY checks a person who is in danger of overstepping limits or sacrificing integrity. And fulfilling the WHY is what brings real joy and contentment in the long run.

Maintain a Learner’s Attitude
The Amish businessman is always seeking knowledge. Their learner’s attitude begins early in their business life. The Amish gain hands-on experience in their chosen trade before they start their own business. From there, the Amish will seek out mentor relationships with respected community business leaders to continue their business education. The successful Amish entrepreneur views every learning opportunity, including learning from competitors and customers, as vital sources of business knowledge.

Follow Time-Honored Principles
Hard work. Providing quality goods at a fair price. Treating employees and customers with respect and dignity. Those are the basic principles that guide the daily business practices of the Amish. These principles may not be trendy today but they have stood the test of time and when practiced, these principles, as exemplified by the Amish, will guide a business to lasting success.

Slowly but Surely
Fast growth isn’t in the vocabulary of the Amish businessman. Growing slowly but surely is how the Amish approach business growth. Maintaining quality before growth is of upmost importance according to Amish businessman Dennis Miller, “I’m always looking to grow, and I’m always looking to … get into new specialty markets. But your employees have to be trained … and it’s real easy to overcommit, and then your quality starts lacking.

Eric Wesner details more principles guiding the successful Amish businessman in SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE. However, do not expect anything overly complicated because, as Wesner puts it, “the lessons of the Amish are simple [but] simple does not mean easy.


[NOTE: I often receive free copies of biz books from publishers and publicists. However, I spent my money for my copy of SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE.]

June 23, 2010

TOUGH LOVE | a Business Book screenplay


My new business book is now published. It’s an ebook called, TOUGH LOVE: Scripting the Drive, Drama, and Decline of Galaxy Coffee.

Wait. It’s not really a book and its more than an ebook. TOUGH LOVE is actually a screenplay masquerading as a business book.

TOUGH LOVE reads just like a Hollywood screenplay with standard script format, seven main characters, and two plot lines that tell the story of how a rags-to-riches entrepreneur finds success building a company (Galaxy Coffee) to be bigger only to realize, the hard way, that smaller is better. Inserted throughout the TOUGH LOVE script are breakout business lessons and thought-provoking business advice geared towards entrepreneurs and small business owners.

It’s available as a .pdf download from ChangeThis ... click below to purchase.


You can learn more at; including a synopsis, character sketches, and an informative Q&A.

April 21, 2010

DIFFERENT | Youngme Moon

Todd Sattersten clued me in on a book about differentiation from Youngme Moon, a Harvard Business School professor. Yes, the business book landscape is littered with oodles of books on differentiation but Youngme's book is ... different.

You'll notice early on in "DIFFERENT: Escaping the Competitive Herd" that Youngme's writing style is more casual teaching than charismatic pontificating or hardcore drill-downs. It's an enjoyable read with approachable and actionable lessons.

For a preview of the book, watch this well-produced trailer...

February 15, 2010

THE BUSINESS TREE | in less than 300 words

I love business analogies. Connecting familiar, yet very different, concepts helps to bring about greater understanding to complicated topics. For example, I compare my marketing services of “Second Opinions” to that of a doctor. I’ve also compared the growth problems Starbucks is having to that of a garden needing weeding and pruning before it can achieve healthy growth again.

A credit union I know uses an interesting analogy to describe how they prep for future growth of opening new branches by saying, “Before we put up branches, we put down roots.” In other words, they lay down a foundation of community involvement long before they build a new branch of their credit union.

Interestingly, at the time I heard that branches/roots line, I was reading THE BUSINESS TREE written by Hank Moore. In this book, Hank makes the analogy of growing a business to growing a tree.

It’s a smart perspective and perfect for inclusion in my on-going series of business book summaries in less than 300 words.


THE BUSINESS TREE | summarized in less than 300 words

A business is like a tree. The roots of a “business tree” symbolize the strategic focus and future direction the organization is designed to grow. The trunk stands for the entire body of knowledge a business possesses. Branches stand for each department within a business. Twigs represent outside suppliers. And leaves on each branch symbolize employees.

With proper nourishment, the “business tree” will achieve healthy growth by growing steadily, optimally, and profitably. With neglect, the “business tree” will never reach its potential and eventually die.

To “weather the forces of change” that naturally occur in the marketplace, the healthiest “business trees” have a management culture that takes the time “to understand how the company has grown” and analyzes “the relationship of each branch, twig, and leaf to the others.”

Healthy, nourished, and growing business trees always:

1. Give customers products/services they cannot get elsewhere

2. Offer products/services at reasonable prices

3. Have leaders whose can-do spirit seeps throughout the total organization

4. Create an employee culture based upon trust and empowerment

5. Respond to the always-shifting winds in the marketplace

6. Foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing between all departments

7. Realize success is not an entitlement, but rather the by-product of smart and ethical growth strategies

Just like all healthy trees grow, all healthy businesses will grow. Proper nourishment is the key and companies that “plan to grow and grow by the plan” will build strong roots with a dense trunk, creating a regenerative and expanding system of branches, twigs, and leaves.


[NOTE: I often receive free copies of biz books from publishers and publicists. However, I spent my money for my copy of THE BUSINESS TREE.]

February 08, 2010

Fit to Flexible (the skinny edition)

Todd Sattersten has written a smart ebook, FIT TO FLEXIBLE, about pricing strategy. He blends together research from economists, theories from businesses strategists, and writings from journalists to concisely share four lessons on how businesses have more flexibility in pricing than ever before.

FIXED TO FLEXIBLE is good lunchtime read. (Gotta love it when you can digest thought-provoking business knowledge in the time it takes to eat a turkey sandwich.)

Not sure its possible to condense Todd’s message further. I like a challenge... so here’s my attempt to share the gist of FIXED TO FLEXIBLE in the time it takes to swig a double shot of espresso.

“The space between price and cost is margin.”
Margin is everything. Without margins, a business fails to make a profit and is destined to die. With margins, a business can thrive and is certain to invite competitors.
“Margin is a choice.” A business can work to raise prices or lower prices. To raise prices requires a strategy where the experience a product/service delivers is worth paying more for and is so uniquely special, competitors cannot adequately replicate. To lower prices requires a strategy where the longer a business does business, the less it costs them to be in business.
source | FIT TO FLEXIBLE (Todd Sattersten)

January 26, 2010

LINCHPIN | a dramatic reading

Experience Seth Godin’s newest book, LINCHPIN: Are You Indispensable, like you never thought possible ... thanks to this dramatic reading by the sultry “Miss Betty.”

[NOTE: The Video Blog Association of America has given this video a rating of PG-13, some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.]


[NOTE: I received a free, uncorrected proof copy of LINCHPIN. However, I will spend my money to buy the hardback version.]

January 11, 2010

PRICELESS | in less than 300 words

Next up on the “Less Than 300” project is William Poundstone’s PRICELESS.

(Truth be told, ain’t no way PRICELESS can be fully summarized in less than 300 words. No way. But, I’m giving it a shot.)


PRICELESS | summarized in less than 300 words

PRICELESS is an advanced studies book on pricing practices, perfect for MBA students, product marketers, and entrepreneurs. The author, William Poundstone, draws from studies by renowned economists to dive deep into the psychophysics of money to explain how the “mundane act of naming a price ... turns out to be a surprisingly tricky process.”

If you lack the mind of an economist, expect to occasionally get lost in the book. However, just as you find yourself befuddled, you’ll become intrigued as Poundstone shares smart, actionable advice on how to effectively use bundling tactics, anchoring pricing strategies, and menu design to optimize the margin potential of retail products and services.

Bundling tactics, such as combo meals at fast food joints and prix fixe options at spendy restaurants, effectively use the art of confusion to get customers to spend more money. By bundling a la carte menu items together, most customers fail to do the math to see how much more they are actually spending.

Although anchoring pricing strategies have been commonplace for centuries, they are still powerful pricing levers. When a company offers something at an outrageous price as well as offering something comparable at a reasonable price, it’s using an anchor pricing strategy. A retailer doesn’t expect to sell a $50,000 watch. They do expect; however, to sell lots of comparably more favorable $500 watches.

The science behind the design of restaurant’s menu is complex and customers who order solely based on price are unprofitable diners. To get customers focused on choosing dishes with fewer pricing distractions, Poundstone shares simple typography advice including, eliminating dollar signs and decimal points. This helps diners to not see a menu as a price list from which to order cheaper items.

PRICELESS is priceless in how it reveals retail prices “are influenced by factors the conscious mind would reject as irrelevant, irrational or politically incorrect.”


[NOTE: I often receive free copies of biz books from publishers and publicists. However, I spent my money for my copy of PRICELESS.]

January 08, 2010

Less Than 300 Project | TRADE-OFF

Business books have been a mainstay topic on the Brand Autopsy blog. We’ve done straight-up reviews, shared summaries, and done inane dramatic readings. This year, I plan to share concise summaries of most every business book I read. Concise as in... less than 300 words.

We kick off the Less Than 300 Project with Kevin Maney’s worthwhile book, TRADE-OFF: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t.


TRADE-OFF | summarized in less than 300 words

It’s common knowledge consumers make conscious decisions to trade up with some purchases and trade down with other purchases. Kevin Maney approaches this as a trade-off where consumers “make trade-offs between the fidelity of an experience and its convenience.”

Products and services with high "fidelity" have an aura about them and are valued as delivering remarkable experiences. Cost, in the broadest terms, for anything possessing high fidelity qualities becomes irrelevant. Benchmark example: anything from Apple and other brands with high margins.

On the other hand, "convenience" refers to products and services that are easily obtainable in every aspect from low cost to widespread availability. Benchmark example: McDonald’s and other low margin/big volume brands.

The worst place for a brand to be positioned is in what Maney calls the “fidelity belly.” In this spot, a brand is neither viewed as having fidelity nor being convenient, and thus has no marketability.

The best place for a brand to be positioned is either having “super-fidelity” or “super-convenience.” For those few brands fortunate to have such positioning, the difficulty comes in maintaining their “super-fidelity” or “super-convenience” status as competitors are eager to displace those winning products and services.


[NOTE: I often receive free copies of biz books from publishers and publicists. However, I spent my money for my copy of TRADE-OFF.]

December 14, 2009

THIS MATTERS NOW (and tomorrow)


Seth Godin asked 70 people to choose a provocative word and riff. Seth compiled the short essays into an ebook titled, WHAT MATTERS NOW. You’ll recognize many of the contributors. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired by their contributions to make your best contribution in 2010.

*** DOWNLOAD THE PDF here ***

Digitally riffle through the pages using Scribd.

Enjoy and share with others.

My contribution is titled, SACRIFCICE. It's on page 62. It's also below...


November 30, 2009


CONFESSIONS OF A PUBLIC SPEAKER by Scott Berkun gets the Marketing Masterpiece Theatre treatment.

If you regularly give presentations, you'll find yourself nodding in agreement with many of the stories Scott tells about presentations gone right and those that went terribly wrong. You'll also pick-up a few pointers on improving the design and delivery of your next presentation.

(Check-out Scott's presentation style by watching his recent gig at the Web 2.0 Expo 2009.)

Don't expect a drab how-to-present book. This ain't it. Scott mixes in his advice alongside well written stories about his life as a "freelance thinker."

Time to cue Sir Wilton Norman Chamberlain III for his dramatic reading ...

RSS Readers ... click here to view the video.

[NOTE: I often receive free copies of biz books from publishers and publicists. However, I spent my money for my copy of CONFESSIONS OF A PUBLIC SPEAKER.]

November 11, 2009

Beloved Companies Make The Right Decisions

As a customer loyalty-focused marketer, Jeanne Bliss has been in the marketing game with some notable brands: Lands’ End, Coldwell Banker, Allstate, Microsoft, and Mazda. She has seen how making the wrong decisions can lead to forging customer disloyalty and how making the right decisions lead to fostering customer loyalty.

I’ve known Jeanne for a couple years. Smart gal. And her latest book, I LOVE YOU MORE THAN MY DOG, is a smart read for businesses wanting to earn loyalty from customers. (Since Jeanne is a friend, she gave me a copy to read. Friends are nice that way. Thanks Jeanne.)

Jeanne is onto something worth reading by framing her book around exploring five decisions company’s make (or don’t make) to become a beloved brand.

To summarize key points from the book, let’s give it the Brand Autopsy "WHAT? – SO WHAT? – WHAT NOW?" treatment...


“When you make a decision, it results in action. And the accumulation of those decisions and actions become how people describe you and think of you. It becomes your ‘story.’”

“As customers and employees, we crave what beloved companies deliver. They enable people to decide and act from a corner of their brain that is congruent with doing the right thing. In doing so, they build an organization with energy and spirit that draws customers to them.”

“[There] are five decisions that set beloved companies apart. These five decisions reveal who they are and what they value.”

Decision #1:
Decide to Trust Customers and Employees

“By deciding to trust customers, [companies] are freed from extra rules, policies, and layers of bureaucracy that create a barrier between them and their customers. And by deciding to believe that employees can and will do the right thing, second-guessing ... is replaced with shared energy, ideas, and a desire to stick around.”

Decision #2:
Decide to be Guided by a Clarity of Purpose

“Beloved companies take their time to be clear about what their unique promise is for their customers’ lives. Clarity of purpose guides choices and united the organization. It elevates people’s work from executing tasks to delivering experiences customers will want to repeat and tell others about.”

Decision #3:
Decide to be Real, Genuine, and Personal

“... beloved companies shed their fancy packaging. Beloved companies strike a chord with customers. They decide to create a safe place where the personality and creativity of their people shine through.”

Decision #4:
Decide to Deliver Thoughtful Customer Experiences

“Beloved companies think and rethink how to conduct themselves, so they earn the right to their customers’ continued business. Their ‘experience’ is far more than the execution of an operating plan. [Beloved companies] leave customers thinking, ‘Who else would have done this?’ ‘Where else could I get this?’ ‘I want to do this again.’”

Decision #5:
Decide to Apologize

“When a beloved company apologizes for something that goes wrong, the intent and motivation is to make customers whole—to earn the right to continue the relationship. Many companies consider the apology as admitting defeat. In actuality, the reverse is true. A well-executed apology: one that is timely and delivered with humility and remorse ... often build a much stronger relationship. Both the customer and company win.”

Decision #6:

(This is a bonus decision you should make.)

October 29, 2009

BAKED IN | a dramatic reading

BAKED IN: Creating Products and Businesses That Market Themselves by Alex Bogusky and John Winsor gets the Marketing Masterpiece Theatre treatment.

(Yep ... it's another dramatic reading of an influential business book by Sir Wilton Norman Chamberlain III.)

RSS Readers ... click here to view the video.

[NOTE: I often receive free copies of biz books from publishers and publicists. However, I spent my money for my copy of BAKED IN.]

October 09, 2009

Exploiting Chaos

On the Post2Post Book Tour we’re talking about Jeremy Gutsche’s EXPLOITING CHAOS book.

Jeremy advises companies on trends and innovation. He also is the driving force behind His book is chock-full of case study examples on how to use “perspective,” “experimental failure,” “intentional destruction,” and “customer obsession” to thrive during times of change

I’ve compiled a short list of “money quotes” from the book.  Riffle through the SlideShare deck below for tasty knowledge nuggets.

View more presentations from John Moore.

For more thorough insights into Jeremy and his book ... read posts from the Marketing Fresh Peel, the Essential Orange, 800-CEO-READ, and Innoblog.

October 02, 2009

Your Call Is (not that) Important to Us | a dramatic reading

Emily Yellin's YOUR CALL IS (not that) IMPORTANT TO US gets the Marketing Masterpiece Theatre treatment.

RSS Readers ... click here to view the video.

September 01, 2009

smart advice from socialnomics

Over the weekend I bought and read Erik Qualman's SOCIALNOMICS book. It's a deep dive into how social media transforms the way we live and do business.

In chapter seven, Erik writes about "Winners and Losers in a 140-Character World." One line jumped out at me as a brilliant way to explain the best approach for businesses participating in the online conversation.


August 31, 2009


I had it to coming to me.

Someone spoofed my Marketing Masterpiece Theatre series of dramatic readings from influential business books. That someone is Jay Ehret from The Marketing Spot. Assuming the pompous persona of Sir Stamford Albert Winchester II, Jay reads from TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE.

I’m amused. Nice goin’ Jay. (Thanks.)

August 28, 2009

How The Mighty Fall | a dramatic reading

Jim Collins' HOW THE MIGHTY FALL gets the Marketing Masterpiece Theatre treatment. (Expect an inane dramatic reading of very smart book.)

RSS Readers ... click here to view the video.

August 27, 2009

Ignore Everybody | a dramatic reading

NOTE: A publicity firm sent me a copy of this book.

Hugh MacLeod's IGNORE EVERYBODY: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity gets the Marketing Masterpiece Theatre treatment.

RSS Readers ... click here to view the video.

August 26, 2009

TRUST AGENTS | a dramatic reading

NOTE: A publicity firm sent me a copy of this book.

Getting the Marketing Masterpiece Theatre treatment today is ... TRUST AGENTS from Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

RSS Readers ... click here to view the video.

August 25, 2009

FREE: The Future of a Radical Price | a dramatic reading

Chris Anderson's FREE: The Future of a Radical Price gets the gets the Marketing Masterpiece Theatre treatment. (Expect an inane dramatic reading of very smart book.)

RSS Readers ... click here to view the video.

August 24, 2009

Give your Speech, Change the World | a dramatic reading

Has it really been three years since the last episode of Marketing Masterpiece Theatre? It has. In ’05 and ’06, I had some fun doing dramatic readings of business books such as … The Long Tail, Brand Hijack, and How to Become a Marketing Superstar.

Hopefully you’ll find the humor (and smart knowledge nuggets) in this go-round of Marketing Masterpiece Theatre. All new episodes all week long. Enjoy!

Today's episode is a short reading from GIVE YOUR SPEECH, CHANGE THE WORLD by Nick Morgan. A must-read book for anyone responsible for giving presentations.

RSS Readers ... click here to view the video.

June 21, 2009

Letters from Leaders

Henry Dormann has compiled an interesting book of LETTERS FROM LEADERS including nobel laureates, CEOs, world leaders, and presidents. Each letter from a present-day leader was written to share advice for tomorrow's leaders. It's a provocative book with lots of money quotes.

(It's also interesting enough of a book to earn my money and earn a blog post as this was a book I purchased and didn't receive free from a publisher or publicity firm.)

Enjoy the money quotes and consider riffling through this book for more inspiration and guidance.

RSS Readers ... click here to read the Money Quotes/

May 24, 2009

PURPLE COW | act now!

UPDATED: The submission deadline has passed.

Seth Godin is updating one of the most important marketing books ever published, PURPLE COW. It's a simple book about baking "remarkability" inside everything a business does. The book is chock-full of case study examples highlighting businesses that do things to earn opinions from customers.

With the updated edition, Seth is sharing new case study examples ... including examples submitted by us. (Yep, by us.) ACT NOW! Submissions are due by midnight, New York time, tonight.

(I submitted a ditty about Mighty-Fine Burgers.)

April 20, 2009

The Designful Company

... from the Post2Post tour highlighting THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY


Consider THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY from Marty Neumeier as a manifesto on building a company based upon the pillars of vision, culture, and innovation.

His earlier books, THE BRAND GAP and ZAG, were also manifestos. THE BRAND GAP discussed the importance of marketers and creatives working together within a company to bridge the gap between logic (marketing) and magic (design). ZAG expressed, in irrefutable fashion, how to best develop and apply differentiation strategies. Both books are brilliant.

And, THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY is also brilliant.

Neumeier makes a compelling case for “DESIGN” being more about performance than style. Being a designer, according to Neumeier, isn’t limited to being an artist, architect, composer, etc. Not at all. Anyone, and that means everyone, who tries to improve a given situation is a designer. Whenever you work through any creative process, you are doing design. Dig?

To give you some flavor for THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY, I designed a three-minute video ditty sharing smart tid-bits from the book. Enjoy…

RSS Readers ... click here to view the video.

March 30, 2009

Notes on Directing

During SXSWi I spent time with Todd Sattersten from 800-CEO-READ. We talked biz books, beer, and barbeque. We also discussed a writing project I’m working on and Todd helped me to better shape the idea.

In our discussions, Todd suggested I read NOTES ON DIRECTING (Frank Hauser & Russell Reich). It’s not a business book. Instead, it’s a book on how playhouse directors should go about doing their business. (Hmm, interesting.)

The approach of managing a stage production with actors, stagehands, and a script is not unlike managing a project with core team members, sub-team members, and a project plan. (Makes sense.)

You’ll have to connect some of the dots here, but I’m sure after reading these money quotes from NOTES ON DIRECTING, you’ll gain insights into being a better business manager.

RSS Readersclick here to read these money quotes.

March 24, 2009

Taming the Search-and-Switch Customer

Jill Griffin has applied her customer loyalty thinking to today’s upended online world in a new book called, TAMING THE SEARCH-AND-SWITCH CUSTOMER. Provocative title for an important topic.

I heard Jill give a talk at SXSWi about the book and it passed my “Worth-It Test.” For those who didn’t hear Jill at SXSWi, the Society for Word of Mouth (SWOM) is hosting a SEARCH & SWITCH webinar happening on April 1. Hustle up to score some cheap seats to Jill's talk. The $9.95 early bird special will not last long.

Jill’s book gives lots of tactical advice on how businesses of any size can block customer switching tendencies. These money quotes from her book are high-level but once you read the book, you’ll gain all the tactical advice.

RSS READERS ... click here to view the money quotes.

March 03, 2009

Missing Chapter Found

The Post2Post series about The 100 Best Business Books of All Time is chugging along. Yesterday I wrote about it and today, Phil Gerbyshak writes about it.

(And, I’m still writing about it today.)

Anytime anyone lists anything, something is certain to be left out. I felt my favorite business book was left out of the mix in The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, THE DISCIPLINE OF MARKET LEADERS deserves to be included in this book.

The authors of 100 BEST knew debate and conversation would be sparked by their listing of only 100 business books they felt were most worthwhile in today’s business world. To acknowledge this debate and to encourage conversation, the authors have created

Go to the site, type in the title of your favorite business book, and share your testimony for how that book changed your life. I testified for the worthiness of THE DISCIPLINE OF MARKET LEADERS.

I didn’t stop there. I also wrote a fake missing chapter for the book that should have been titled, The 100 & 1 Best Business Books of All Time.

Click below (or here) to read the fake missing chapter highlighting the worthiness of THE DISCIPLINE OF MARKET LEADERS (.pdf).


March 02, 2009

Post2Post | 100 Best Business Books

from the Post2Post tour highlighting THE 100 BEST BUSINESS BOOKS OF ALL TIME

Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten strongly believe business books help people solve problems. They also believe people read the wrong books. That’s why they wrote THE 100 BEST BUSINESS BOOKS OF ALL TIME. They know too many people read too few business books despite the ROI upside.

Think about it. There isn’t a better business investment of $25.00 cash and 5-hours of time to be found. With that small investment, you can reap the returns of sharper knowledge, better ideas, and greater motivation ... all from reading a worthwhile business book.

Worthwhile being the key word. Finding worthwhile business books isn’t easy. 11,000 new business books are published each year. It’s hard to know which few are worth your money and time. That’s the problem Jack and Todd are solving with THE 100 BEST BUSINESS BOOKS OF ALL TIME.

Think of their book as an Investment Guide on which books to invest your money and time in order to produce above-average returns for your business life.

Having reviewed 1,000s, they’ve selected 100 worthwhile business sharing expert advice on critical business matters ranging from Personal Development to Leadership to Strategy to Marketing to Management to Innovation to Entrepreneurship to even more.

Enough evangelizing, let’s learn more about Jack & Todd and their take on their business book and the overall business book market.

Jack Covert is the founder of 800-CEO-READ, the leading online seller of bulk business books. Todd Sattersten has grown from a grasshopper to snatch the pebble from Jack’s hand is now the President of 800-CEO-READ.

I’ve known Jack & Todd for nearly four years and respect their perspective on business books. And as a business book author, I’m always asking them questions to better learn the market.

Since these guys run across 11,000 new biz books a year, I asked them how they first judge whether a book is worthy of reading or riffling.

JACK COVERT (JC): “The first thing a good non-fiction book, business or other, needs is a knock’em dead introduction. That gives the reader a look at the writing quality and the introduction tells the reader what to expect from the book. The value proposition the author is offering. Then looking at the Table of Contents and the index gives you more insight to the book. Then riffle through the chapters and look for any design value. Finally see if the chapters end with a takeaway. The five minutes you spend their can save you two hours in with the wrong book.”

Every author has reasons for writing a book. Jack has his …

JC: “Recognition of the company is very important. We wrote this book as our stick in the sand saying we know business books and if you as a business person/student want solutions, we can help. That would be a success, if we accomplish that.”

Every author has ways to measure the success of their book. Todd outlines his …

TODD SATTERSTEN (TS): “First, we will track how many copies of the book we sold (we are booksellers after all). If we sell more than 30,000 copies in the next 24 months, I will consider it a success. That will mean we have made money for us and our publisher. And that will give us chance to write another book.

Second, we will look back at the media impact. Before you start, this part is unpredictable. You don't know what journalists will be interested when your book hits. We have been fortunate with stories in BusinessWeek, Harvard Business Review, and CNBC. I also include online media in that as well. We have had incredible support from bloggers and podcasters. That part has already been an unquestionable success.

That fact that we completed the book and that it turned out as amazing as it did is the final measure of success. No matter what happens we will always have that. (Yes it is cheesy, but it is really true)."

Every author is surprised how the market reacts to their book. Todd was surprised in this way …

TS: “I was surprised at the strong feelings people have about books. Everyone has asked about why we left out ‘their’ favorite book. Why not more books written by women? Why such a heavy skew towards books of the last 30 years? Lists are naturally decisive, but I am not sure expected the strong responses we have gotten. I think it is good, creates great conversations and helps us find new books or new appreciation for old books.”

My all-time best business book was left out. THE DISCIPLINE OF MARKET LEADERS forever changed my life.

It was the first business book I realized the huge ROI upside of spending $25-dollars and 5-hours of time. I confronted Jack with this omission and demanded to know why THE DISCIPLINE OF MARKET LEADERS didn’t make the cut. Jack replied…

JC: “It was very close. I read the book and wrote the review. But as we got close to the end, we felt the message of MARKET LEADERS matched that of IN SEARCH FOR EXCELLENCE, GOOD TO GREAT, or PROFIT FROM THE CORE — the bottom line is stick to what you are good at. MARKET LEADERS is really good and would have no problem telling your readers to check it out.”

February 10, 2009

A Mix Tape Business Book

Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten are business book evangelists. Notice the use of “evangelists” and not “experts.” Sure, both have expert knowledge about business books, but they intentionally use this knowledge to evangelize how business books can help people make smarter, more meaningful decisions at work.

As the driving forces behind 800-CEO-READ, Jack and Todd know most businesspeople intend to read business books, but rarely do. They read one every couple of years, they have a stack of un-cracked business books, and they certainly need more direction on which business book are worth their time.

In writing THE 100 BEST BUSINESS BOOKS OF ALL TIME, Jack and Todd hope to give people more direction on WHY business books matter and HOW they can help people better achieve.

Sure, the title is hubris-heavy and begs for debate. A better title may have been, THE 100 MOST INTERESTING BUSINESS BOOKS OF OUR TIME. That’s because their book highlights only the most interesting and approachable books that are relevant to today’s business world.

In essence, they’ve created a Biz Book Mix Tape recommending worthwhile books on Personal Development, Leadership, Business Strategy, Marketing, Management, Innovation, Entrepreneurship, etc. With each recommendation comes a three-page summary to give you the flavor of the book to entice you to learn more by reading the entire book.

Trust me, go to the bookstore and riffle through THE 100 BEST BUSINESS BOOKS OF ALL TIME. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting enough to purchase and enjoyable enough to read. And hopefully worthwhile enough to take the author’s advice and revisit your stack of unopened business books.

We’ll talk more about this book on March 2 … we’re the first stop on the Post2Post Book Tour for THE 100 BEST BUSINESS BOOKS OF ALL TIME.

December 22, 2008

Must Reads & Worthy Reads for 2008

In year’s past, I’ve put together an awards list of “Best Marketing Books.”  You can read the winners (and some losers) from … 2003200420062007.

No awards this year. 

Instead, a listing of some books I consider MUST READS and WORTHY READS from 2008.

*** For clarification purposes, MUST READS are books that will definitely alter how you think, demonstrate, and articulate your business. WORTHY READS are interesting books that can positively impact how you approach making better business happen. ***


10 Commandments of Business Failure (Donald Keough)
“If a company never has a failure, I submit that their management is probably not discontented enough to justify their salaries.”  That’s just one tasty line from Keough’s book sharing super-smart insights on what NOT TO DO in order to better achieve success.  For more tasty lines, PEEP THIS.

Groundswell (Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff)
GROUNDSWELL is must-read material for all Marketing Managers and Marketing Directors who want to use the power of the Internet as an extension of their marketing department.  Since “the Internet is your marketing department,” might as well tap into it.  Unleash the power of the groundswell by reading and acting upon GROUNDSWELL.  LEARN MORE

Inside Drucker’s Brain (Jeffrey Krames)
Peter Drucker is the Rosetta Stone for the art of business management.  His nearly six-decades long career produced an unrivaled canon of business wisdom.  Problem is, Drucker wrote too much and shared too much.  There have been lots of attempts to summarize and update Drucker’s canon of business wisdom.  The most enjoyable and actionable of these attempts comes from business book editor and writer, Jeffrey Krames.  For much more on INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN ... GO HERE.


Pirate’s Dilemma (Matt Mason)
A fun read.  An informative read.  You will think differently about business strategy and the origins of “The Rave Party” after reading Mason’s intoxicating book.

Inside Steve’s Brain (Leander Kahney)
Portfolio Books is onto something with their “Inside {name} Brain” series.  This one from Mac enthusiast Leander Kahney shares insights from Steve Jobs on how to design kick-ass customer experiences, create lickable products, hire top talent, and foster innovation.

Obsessive Branding Disorder (Lucas Conley)
Playful and insightful. Conley takes jabs at brands relying on superficial branding maneuvers to best explain ”branding is an all-in-one ideology.”

This One Time at Brand Camp (Tom Fishburne)
It’s Dilbert for us marketers. I promise laughter will erupt, ideas will flow, and cringing will happen while reading all these spot-on cartoons about life in the marketing trenches.

Red Rubber Ball at Work (Kevin Carroll)
Go to the bookstore and read the intro chapter. It’s a summary version of a life-altering keynote presentation from one of the best presenters around, Kevin Carroll.

Do You Matter? (Brunner, Emery, & Hall)
A vital book. You’ll learn the importance of why baking meaningful customer and employee experiences inside a business matters.

Hug Your People (Jack Mitchell)
Jack’s used to run a small family business. He now runs a big family business. It’s now big because he knows why baking meaningful customer and employee experiences inside a business matters.  In this book, Jack shares the how (along with the why).

Age of Conversation 2 (237 authors)
An interesting collection of essays from social media champions testifying and evangelizing the merits of businesses using social media tools to better connect with customers.

Talent is Overrated (Geoff Colvin)
Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell)
Colvin’s approach is geared towards the business crowd. Gladwell’s take is more for the general audiences. Both books focus on how practice, practice, practice, and more practice is why the super-talented make it look so easy.

December 19, 2008

The IDB Project | Chapter 15

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


A Short Course on Innovation

“Tomorrow always arrives. It is always different. And then even the mightiest company is in trouble if it has not worked on the future.”Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker infused all his teachings with thoughts of tomorrow and change. As we learned earlier, any decision gets old the second it gets made. And, as managers, we are “not to impose yesterday’s normal on a changed today; but to change the business, its behavior, its attitudes, its expectations—as well as its products, its markets, and its distributive channels—to fit the new realities.” (MANAGING FOR RESULTS, 1964)

If we are to believe Drucker, which we should, the purpose of a business is to create a customer. And since a customer is always changing their needs and wants, a business must always evolve to deliver upon the needs and wants of a customer. Making changes to better appeal to customer is INNOVATION.

Providing more desirable products, services, and customer experiences is vital to the continued existence of any business. And that is INNOVATION.

However, complacency of any degree will stifle the ability of a business to innovate. And, fostering an insular corporate culture that thinks and acts more for the company than for the customer, will also cripple innovation.

With the publication of THE PRACTICE OF MANAGEMENT in 1954, Peter Drucker outlined a recipe for business innovation that is still relevant and actionable. This recipe involves answering three questions, which “will provide the foundation upon which goals, objectives, and strategies can be formulated.

Question #1: “What is our business?"

Question #2: “What will our business be?”

Question #3: “What should our business be?"

Regularly asking and answering these three questions will spark important conversations about the purpose of your business. It will also keep your business laser-focused on the reason your business exists: to create a customer.

After all, if your business is not innovating to better appeal to customers tomorrow, then your business starts dying today.

This concludes The IDB Project. (Phew. Thanks for reading.)

December 18, 2008

The IDB Project | Chapter 14

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


The Leader’s Most Important Job

“The most important task of an organization’s leader is to anticipate crisis. Perhaps not to avert it, but to anticipate it. To wait until the crisis hits is already abdication.”Peter Drucker

In MANAGING THE NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION (1990), Peter Drucker wrote in-depth how “leadership is a foul-weather job.” Meaning, a leader must be “capable of anticipating the storm, weathering it, and being ahead of it." To Drucker, when a leader successfully guides the business out of foul-weather situations, the result is “innovation, constant renewal.”

According to Drucker, managers need four leadership skills to effectively guide a business out of foul-weather.

The first skill is “the willingness, ability, and self-discipline to listen.”

Second is having the patient fortitude to over-communicate to ensure everyone understands what is happening when and why during a crisis.

The third leadership trait managers must have is to insist on perfect execution, yet have the ability to take responsibility for when imperfection happens.

Fourth is to never lose sight of “how unimportant you [the leader] are to the task.” A leader’s job is to serve his company and his team. Their job is never to serve themselves.

Next, Chapter FIFTEEN of the The IDB Project.

The IDB Project | Chapter 13

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


The Fourth Information Revolution

“For top management tasks, information technology so far has been a producer of data rather than a product of information—let alone a producer of new and different questions and new and different strategies.”Peter Drucker, Forbes ASAP article (1998)

Jeffrey Krames expertly chronicled Peter Drucker’s evolving opinion on the importance of computer-driven information within a business. As a business consultant for nearly six decades, Drucker experienced the technology revolution from mainframes to personal computers to the Internet to Google. Just as the technology evolved, so did Drucker’s opinion.

“Each manager should have the information he needs to measure his own performance and should receive it soon enough to make any changes necessary for the desired results.”

“The computer, being a mechanical moron, can handle only quantifiable data.”

1973 | MANAGEMENT: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices
“When the new computer arrives, a frantic search begins to find things for it to do. In the end, it is being used to turn out endless reams of information that nobody wants, nobody needs, and nobody can use. Keeping the tool going becomes and end. As a result, nobody has information.”

1999 | Beyond the Information Revolution (Atlantic Monthly article)
“The truly revolutionary impact of the Information Revolution is just beginning to be felt. But it is not ‘information’ that fuels this impact. It is not "artificial intelligence." It is not the effect of computers and data processing on decision-making, policymaking, or strategy. It is something that practically no one foresaw or, indeed, even talked about ten or fifteen years ago: e-commerce—that is, the explosive emergence of the Internet as a major, perhaps eventually the major, worldwide distribution channel for goods, for services, and, surprisingly, for managerial and professional jobs.”

Clearly, Drucker was a strong believer in giving employees access to information. Yet, he was skeptical about having technology interpret data (information). He also warned as technology advances, employees are given access to an ever-increasing amount of information — maybe too much information.

Drucker was a strong believer in making decisions. Unfortunately, the abundance of information can inhibit decision-making and lead to analysis by paralysis. As we learned earlier, Drucker was all about making decisions to the extent that failure to make a decision is worse than making the wrong decision.

While Peter Drucker was skeptical about the reliance of technology for decision-making purposes, he was a strong proponent of using technology to revolutionize how companies ultimately connect with customers.

Next, Chapter FOURTEEN of the The IDB Project.

The IDB Project | Chapter 12

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


The Strategic Drucker

“Defining the purpose and mission of the business is difficult, painful, and risky. But it alone enables a business to set objectives, to develop strategies, to concentrate its resources, and to go to work. It alone enables a business to be managed for performance.”Peter Drucker source

Peter Drucker once said it was “irrational” for a business not to plan for growth. He stressed every businesses must have a growth goal. Good thing he outlined a "Business Growth Playbook," which includes the following strategies:

1. Customers Dictate Action
“It is the customer who determines what a business is. For it is the customer, and he alone, who through being willing to pay for a good or a service, converts economic resources into wealth, things into goods.” (THE PRACTICE OF MANAGEMENT, 1954)

2. Plan for the Long-Term
Drucker warned companies to resist fire-fighting now-term issues rather than addressing fundamental long-term business issues. It is easy to become obsessed with delivering immediate results. However, doing-so may just jeopardize the long-term health of a business.

3. Resist the Urge to Please Wall Street
Jeffrey Krames summarizes Drucker’s advice this way, “He also urged managers to never manage their companies by that day’s Dow Jones average (meaning don’t let short-term price influence key management decisions).”

4. Not Deciding is Never the Right Decision
“It is better to make the wrong decision and carry it out than to shirk the job as unpleasant and painful, and, as a result, to allow the accidents of the business to set priorities by default.” (MANAGING FOR RESULTS, 1964)

5. Risk-Taking is with Worth-Taking
Drucker challenged businesses to adopt a risk-taking mentality. Without risks, no rewards are to be earned. Writing in MANAGING FOR RESULTS (1964), Drucker said, “The job is not to impose yesterday's normal on a changed today; but to change the business, its behavior, its attitudes, its expectations -- as well as its products, its markets, and its distributive channels -- to fit the new realities.”

Next, Chapter THIRTEEN of the The IDB Project.

December 17, 2008

The IDB Project | Chapter 11

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


Life-and-death Decisions

“Without a decision maker, you’ll never make a decision.”Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker stressed the importance of leadership within an organization because, without leadership, too much dithering and not enough decision-making would happen. In Drucker’s words, not making a decision “is as long-lasting in its consequences or as difficult to unmake.”

A company has life-and-death decisions to make every day. These life-and-death decisions concern people and priorities.

People Decisions
Whom to hire, fire, and promote rank as the most important of all decisions a company can make. Courage, character, discipline, and confidence are some of the qualities Drucker believe great employees should possess. (For more qualities, re-read Ch. 9 of The IDB Project.)

Peter Drucker emphatically contended, “Any manager or individual who does not perform at a high level should be removed.” He had little patience for holding onto to under-delivering employees because ultimately, their under-delivering will negatively impact the long-term prosperity of the business.

Interestingly, Drucker has a unique take on whom to promote. “I would never promote a man into a top level job who had not made mistakes, and big ones at that. Otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.” (THE PRACTICE OF MANAGEMENT, 1954)

Priority Decisions
In MANAGING FOR RESULTS (1964), Drucker explained, “Economic results require that staff efforts be concentrated on the few activities that are capable of producing significant business results. Managers must minimize the amount of attention devoted to products which produce primarily costs.”

Drucker preached a business is more effective when it is more selective. While not a mantra of his, “Fewer. Bigger. Better.” sums up Drucker’s thinking. Meaning, it is critical for companies to focus on fewer priorities designed to have bigger impact to deliver better results.

Next, Chapter TWELVE of the The IDB Project.

The IDB Project | Chapter 10

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


Drucker on Welch

"Jack Welch was, in many ways, a natural … Welch’s greatest strength is his ability to ask what needs to be done, to focus on priorities, and delegate everything else.”Peter Drucker

Simply put ... Peter Drucker had a MAJOR man-crush on Jack Welch.

Next, Chapter ELEVEN of the The IDB Project.