Don’t Expect a Testimonial from Charleton Heston

Maybe half of you will comprehend the joke I tried to make in today’s blog title once I get cracking on mentioning the book I’d like to discuss: The Ten Commandments for Business Failure by Donald R. Keough. Did you get it? If not, spend some time on Google. The answer will come to you eventually.


The reason why I bring up testimonials is because of the sheer force behind the ones touting Keough’s book as a must-have for your bookshelf. These aren’t just your typical thumbs-up from quietly respected thought leaders. Testimonials from Bill Gates, Jack Welch, and former president George H. W. Bush are just three of the handful of positive remarks covering this book jacket. Oh, and did I mention that the foreword is written by the Oracle of Omaha himself, Warren Buffett?


Though the title seems negative, the lessons that Keough sets out to teach are valuable and important, and yes, sometimes it is a good idea to learn from your own—and other people’s—mistakes. Keough should know a business mistake when he sees one: It was under his watch during his tenure at The Coca-Cola Company that New Coke was rolled out and bombed. Keough shares his own stories of business failures, as well as those of IBM and Schlitz Beer to mention a couple. His lessons also stem from his long and diverse career: philosophy major in college, TV sports announcer, president, COO and director of The Coca-Cola Company, and chairman of the board of investment banking firm Allen & Company.


The book has been a fairly hot seller on Amazon, with user reviews ranking it highly. I’m not sure if it offers anything really new, but sometimes its good to review the fundamentals. And if you’re interested, check out this interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Life Is Like a Snowball…

The “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett is credited with the quote, “Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill.” If that’s the case, then for Buffett his life must be like one of those giant snowballs in the kids’ cartoons, rolling bigger and bigger.


In February 2008, Forbes ranked Buffett as the richest man in the world, worth approximately $62 billion dollars. Not bad for a 77-year old. He is considered one of the world’s greatest (and obviously smartest) investors, which only makes sense: He’s the son of a stockbroker.


Though he has long been in the public eye, Buffett has never written a memoir, though there are numerous books out there about him. In late September, there will be another book to add to that list, but this one is a bit different: It’ll be the first biography written with Buffett’s cooperation.


Bantam Books will publish The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder on Sept. 29. According to the book weighs in at a hefty 976 pages—not exactly a light beach read. Nevertheless, this book will be the quintessential book on Buffett, covering his personal life and business successes. Schroeder first met Buffett when she was working on research on his company, Berkshire Hathaway. Apparently Buffett was impressed by Schroeder and offered her access to his files and himself for the biography. My question is, will this book be as interesting as Alan Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence? We shall have to find out.

Nixing the Playground Rules

According to Michael Gurian and Barbara Annis, it’s not about who’s better at business in the “men versus women” debate; it’s about realizing the difference between the business strengths of both genders. I don’t think there are any playground taunts that can even begin to tackle that.


In Leadership & the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business, authors Gurian and Annis work together to offer readers a new view of gender diversity. Both genders have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to business: Men tend to zone out more in meetings, but they are also more competitive. Women often tend to run off topic, but they are also natural-born multi-taskers. But when it comes down to it, both men and women want control.


Both authors are experts on the topic. Gurian is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books (The Wonder of Boys and Boys and Girls Learn Differently!), a corporate consultant, family therapist, and co-founder of the Gurian Institute. His coauthor, Annis, is the author of Same Words, Different Language, a corporate consultant on gender intelligence and inclusive leadership, and CEO of Barbara Annis & Associates.


Be sure to look for a summary in our September package!


There’s nothing wrong with appreciating a certain brand of a product. Perhaps you prefer the fit of one brand’s jeans to another, or you like Coca-Cola over Pepsi (a regular debate over by the vending machines). But in these instances, it’s the product you’re focused on, right? Or have you been consumed by the marketing department’s clever and intriguing branding campaign?


Enter “Consumed” columnist for The New York Times Magazine, Rob Walker and his book Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are. Walker takes a careful look at why we buy stuff, sliding us under the microscope and dissecting how consumers interact with brands and the 360 degree advertising campaigns we have surrounding us. Case in point: One of my former editors always asked for a Kleenex, never a tissue, when she needed to blow her nose. Would Puff’s Plus suffice? She’d always look at me like I was slightly off and just say sure. Why? Because she identified Kleenex as more than the brand, it was the product to her. That’s what she grew up with, so from an early age they weren’t tissues, they were Kleenex.


Walker discusses how today’s youth is embracing brands as a form of self-expression; to them they’re not just buying a specific brand of clothing, liquor or vehicle; they’re buying a lifestyle.


And youths aren’t the only ones “buying in.” Look around your office and take note. Once you’ve finished that, take some time to check out this interview with Walker conducted by Jessica Herman of Stop Smiling Magazine and this interview by Newsweek. If you want to see what else Walker is up to, check out his blog.  Just a few things to keep your Web reading interesting.

Since When Do Businesspeople Read Comic Books?

Who can forget Archie Comics, with the antics of Betty, Veronica, Archie, Jughead and friends? Or what about heroes like Captain America and Batman, or villains like Lex Luthor and Posion Ivy?


We remember comics from our own childhoods, as well as the childhoods of our children and grandchildren. So what is a comic book going to be doing in the business book section of your local bookstore this fall?


Hitting the shelves in late October comes a business bestseller in a new format: manga. Manga is the Japanese word for comics and print cartoons, and many would argue that they’re a step up from what we typically know as comics. Patrick Lencioni, author of numerous bestsellers, has teamed up with Kensuke Okabayshi — a Jersey City, N.J.-based illustrator — to bring about an illustrated version of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: Manga Edition.

Since I’m not sure what the book looks like, aside from the cover image I came across in John Wiley & Sons’ Fall 2008 catalog, I’m not sure what to think. Is Lencioni trying to attract a new audience? Is he trying to pull on the heartstrings of our childhood memories? Or is he just trying something different for the sake of it? I guess we’ll all have to wait until the end of October to find out.

Join the “Responsibility Revolution”

From time to time, a book reaches beyond the business world to touch all parts of our life. One such book that comes to mind immediately is Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, which talks about thinking without thinking.


But it’s my prediction that another book will soon join these ranks – Saving the World at Work by Tim Sanders. Sanders was the chief solutions officer at Yahoo!Inc. from 2001 to 2005, and his previous book Love Is the Killer App was a New York Times bestseller.


Although the topic of bringing green practices and community responsibility to business is not new to Sanders, he brings research to bear on his contention that businesses can and must bring social and environmental responsibility into the heart of their companies to survive into the future.


He calls it a “responsibility revolution” and demonstrates that consumers are now making buying decisions based on the reputation of the company, and that workers are using this same criteria to decide where they’ll take a job. The best customers and best employees are being drawn to those companies with a strong environmental and social reputation and track record.


What is also compelling about Sanders coverage of this topic is that he provides concrete suggestions as to how companies can change their practices and build this desirable reputation. You can learn more about this revolution at his blog site. Soundview will publish the summary of this book in their November 2008 issue.



Not Your Father’s Business Book

Business is tough all over, but the publishing world has been hit especially hard in recent years. The news is filled with publisher consolidations and acquisitions, and major newspapers continue to shrink and revamp their formats to cut costs. Book publishing is no exception.

Because of this, book publishers and authors are becoming much more innovative in their methods to capture the attention of more readers. Here are just a few examples of recent innovations we’ve noticed in the business book field:

Seth Godin – With the publication of his latest book coming up in October, Godin has found a novel way to increase book sales while demonstrating the key concept of the book. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us introduces the concept that people tend to be drawn to a tribe: “a group of people aligned around an idea, connected to a leader and to each other.” So to drum up interest in this concept and the book, he invited marketers to join his tribe. The cost of admission: electronic proof of an advance purchase of the book. He sells books and these “first to join” marketers enjoy access to Seth and other innovative marketers.

Marcus Buckingham – In his latest book The Truth About You: The Secret to Success, Buckingham brings his “strength” message to those who are new to business or who are trying to ramp up their career. But instead of providing the same old hardcover format, Buckingham spices it up with a multi-media kit including a hardcover book with exercises, a DVD with videos, and a ReMemo Pad for journaling your progress. These innovations bring more value to the purchase and provide more applications to the readers.

Jim Champy – Champy has published a new book entitled Outsmart!: How to Do What Your Competitors Can’t. In this book Champy gives case studies showing how a company can grow by outsmarting the competition, sometimes in counterintuitive ways. Champy is working with Amazon to outsmart his competition by providing additional content right on his Amazon product page. This includes an audio interview, a video and several podcasts.

With these and other ideas floating into the marketplace, it may no longer be enough to just write a good book. Today’s consumers may be learning to crave an entire experience. 

When Your Boss is a Low Performer

It’s tough enough to confront someone we supervise about job performance issues, but taking on the boss may seem impossible. Quint Studer of the Studer Group offers some great advice to any of us who may be working for a boss that is a low performer.

  •  Take a look at yourself first – Make sure that you’re doing all that you can to achieve the desired results in your department. Find ways to take things off your bosses’ desk. It always starts at home!
  • Identify what you boss does that is helpful – Focus on the positive first. Recognized this behavior when you see it by thanks and encouragement.
  • Confront the problem – Studer recommends a “support-confront-support” technique which combines what is working well, with your perception of what is not.
  • Move to “DESK” – This is a method of confronting the problem which includes Describe: the actions you don’t like, Evaluate: how you feel or how the behavior fits with the company’s goals, Show: with suggestions of how you boss could act, and Know: describing what will happen if a change doesn’t take place.
  • Get support when you need it – If necessary, reach out to the system your organization has in place for problems that have gone to far. 

Studer provides more details about this topic and many others in his book Results That Last, and on his article website . You can also hear Quint speak to these topics and answer participant questions at Soundview’s upcoming audio conference entitled Results That Last on September 23rd



Hot, Flat, and Crowded

Today’s blog title almost sounds like a description of a bad day on mass transit — well, maybe except for the flat part.  In reality, it is actually the title for Thomas L. Friedman’s newest book, fully titled: Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America.

The book, due out early this month, follows Friedman’s immensely popular bestseller The World Is Flat.  According to Friedman, growing world populations, the expansion of the middle class due to globalization, and global warming have led to the world becoming “hot, flat and crowded.”  Friedman already feels the planet is in some rough shape, and according to him, it’s up to the U.S. to step in with a strategy for conservation and clean and efficient energy — a strategy he calls “Code Green.”

I am definitely in interested in seeing what Mr. Friedman has to say about the U.S. stepping up to the forefront of a “green revolution,” but like everyone else I’ll have to wait a few weeks until I can get a hold of the book. Until then, check out his Web site for more information on the book and the Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Senge Did It Again

From the thought leader that changed the way we think about business with his 1990 bestseller The Fifth Discipline, comes a collection of strategies that companies and individuals can utilize to tackle important environmental problems worldwide. The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World debuted in early June after a much anticipated wait, published by Doubleday Business and written by Peter Senge — the man who was named by the Journal of Business Strategy “as one of the 24 people who had the greatest influence on business strategy over the last 100 years.”

Ever since our editorial staff read about the coming of Senge’s latest book in Doubleday’s catalog, we worked closely with their subsidiary rights team to secure the summary rights to a book that we felt would rock the business world.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones that thought this way.

Reviewers on—your peers—gave the book gave the book four out of five stars, claiming that the book “hits the nail on the head” and is “a compass and a roadmap for progress.” I couldn’t have said it better. Even more interesting is the interview that Jessie Scanlon of BusinessWeek conducted with the management guru; an excerpt of the interview can be found online here

And if you haven’t picked up a copy of the book yet, you’ll be happy to know that it’ll be available in our September package; so read up on some of the reviews, check out the BW interview, and start thinking about some changes your company can make to become more sustainable.