What makes a business book so exceptional that it becomes a classic? Is its popularity alone or how many times people mention it in their conversation? Is it how it impacted the way we do business? Or is it because it has become such a reference that other authors use it as a pillar to build and develop their own theory. Since there are many great business books which already stood the test of time, picking only 10 books for our list isn’t an easy task, so forgive us if your favorite business book didn’t make the cut.
The inspirational author Og Mandino, a former World War II US Army fighter pilot and insurance salesman, overcame alcoholism, wrote 19 books and headed Success Magazine. The Greatest Salesman in the World is a story about an ancient merchant and his 10 mystical scrolls, each bearing a spiritual precept that is applicable to sales success. The author’s works have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.
This book is a collection of tips for people who wish to start businesses, or even, as author Guy Kawasaki claims, other sorts of projects, including nonprofit organizations. Kawasaki got his start in marketing at Apple Computer and went on to found several high tech businesses. He currently runs the venture capital firm Garage Technology Ventures.
This book presents the results of a research project that authors Tom Peters and Robert Waterman conducted from 1979 to 1980. They investigated the qualities common to the best-run companies in America. After selecting a sample of 43 companies from six major industries, they examined the firms’ practices closely. Although they did this study more than 20 years ago, their results provide a model of eight core principles for excellence that are still true for companies today.
From 1996 to 2006, Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery and Mark Thompson interviewed more than 200 “enduringly successful people,” seeking their personal insights as a follow-up to Porras’ bestselling book Built to Last. The authors began each interview with an open-ended question designed to provoke an unstructured conversation about the meaning of success. The authors drew from these highly personalized revelations to extrapolate the qualities that high achievers share, particularly a driving desire to have meaningful impact.
Sun Tzu was ancient China’s most renowned general. His classic text on strategy survived through the centuries and is still as applicable to war, politics and economics today as it was when Sun Tzu first drafted it. Many translations of Sun Tzu’s manuscript are available, but this one is both attractive and focused. General Tao Hanzhang supplements the actual text with his commentary. Sun Tzu has inspired countless generations of writers and businessmen including best –selling author Richard Greene who wrote “The 48 Laws of Power” and “The 33 Strategies of War”
Doug McMillon, the newly appointed chief executive of global megastore Wal-Mart, recently met with the company’s top execs, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. We’re not sure exactly what the meeting entailed, but we do know that it ended with a surprising assignment from McMillon: they were all told to read The Everything Store, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s book that depicts the rise of the company’s early days where it was run out of a garage, to its current standing as a leading global retailer.
It might seem strange, but in The Everything Store, Bezos reveals that the Wal-Mart business model was something he frequently referred to when developing a plan of attack for growing his online retailor. So McMillon’s thoughts? For a company that has seen five consecutive negative quarters of sales in the U.S., the executive team had to come up with a different strategy; why not learn from someone that successfully learned from their own company so many years ago?
In a manner of speaking, they had to look back to Amazon’s earlier days and, instead of thinking for the next (literally) big thing—i.e. expanding the company’s megastore presence—the real solution may actually be to think on a smaller scale…dial it back, so to speak. They need to look into developing convenience stores, modest-sized grocery stores and even freestanding liquor stores.
The company also readjusted its pricing schematics for its online sales. Whereas in the past, it maintained its low prices guarantee, it was decided to keep that limited to the brick and mortar stores, while the website would take on the Amazon model, with prices that fluctuate based on the market competition.
It’s a smart move on Wal-Mart’s part to make it a priority to study its competitors in the wake of slowing sales and the need to come up with a solution, and a practice we feel all business professionals should be on top of. If you want to check out The Everything Store and see why it is such a compelling read, you can find a summary of the book here.
Denise Yohn is an independent consultant, speaker and writer who specializes in branding. She advocates that a strong brand does not simply stem from visual identity and brand books but, instead, comes from the company’s entire ethos—from its corporate culture right down to the customer experience they provide. In her most recent bestselling book, What Great Brands Do (Jossey-Bass, 2014), Yohn identifies certain things that ‘great brands’ have in common. Surprisingly, these ‘things’ have less to do with advertising and communications and more to do with how companies run the business and cultivate their brand. We recently sat down with her to learn more.
Well, I started with the brands themselves and really tried to qualify what is a great brand, because I think there’s quite a bit of subjectivity. You may love a brand but I have absolutely no idea what their deal is. So, I tried to be objective by looking at things like profitability, market, consumer esteem and preference. Then, once I kind of came up with this list of, let’s say 100 brands I started looking for the strategies that worked behind them and uncover the central, common and defining principles.
Right. For some of those companies there’s a lot of available information but for others I really wanted to talk to somebody at the company who would help me understand what they were doing. So, in the case of Lululemon, I actually was able to interview the head of marketing and branding to learn from perspective as to what made Lululemon so successful so quickly. It was great to kind of get some behind the scenes looks at several brands like that.
Unfortunately, in the last year or so, they’ve run into some problems. So, it’s a really interesting study. People ask me now, “Do you regret including Lululemon in there?” No, because you can look at how quickly they grew. And I still like their future prospects. But, the two things that their head of brand and marketing pointed to, were, one, that they are very innovative and always looking for what’s fresh, and bringing those ideas to their customers. So there’s this constant drumbeat towards innovation, not only in style and design, but also in fabric and finishes. Then, the other thing she pointed out, and what I ended up talking about in my book, is that they are very clear about who they’re looking for as a customer. They’re not trying to appeal to everyone. Granted, a lot of different kinds of people buy their products, and the brand is committed to serving everyone well, but they’re very much focused on their target customer that wants to live, these are my words, a yoga-inspired or yoga-centered lifestyle and really focusing on what does that woman want? They demonstrate the principle that great brands don’t chase customers.
It’s bad enough that recent college graduates are having a hard time finding employment, but a new study conducted by Wells Fargo shows that four out of 10 people that fall under the millennials age group—anyone born in the early 1980s through early 2000s—are overburdened by their debt. Half of those in debt spend 50 percent of their paychecks on paying off debts, with 56 percent saying they live paycheck to paycheck.
The three things millennials are struggling to pay off the most? Credit cards, mortgages and student loans. Despite the financial struggle they’re undergoing currently, 72 percent are actually confident that, down the road, they will bounce back and be able to save up enough money to have a comfortable future.
Recently, the student loan law was expanded so that, starting next December, repayments could not exceed 10 percent of a person’s income, which is just a two percent drop from its current cap of 12 percent. Additionally, if loans are not paid off after 20 years, the remaining balance is forgiven.
Even though so many are experiencing this financial onus, the study found that millennials still understand that saving for retirement is crucial; however, only 55 percent of them are actually actively putting funds into such an account.
Are you a millennial struggling financially? Be sure to check out our selection of finance books to help you figure out how to best manage your income.
In Permission Marketing Seth Godin wrote: “The Internet is going to change marketing before it changes almost anything else and old marketing will die in its path.” Fifteen years later, Jeffrey Rohrs in his first book, Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans & Followers, takes a new look at the changing nature of consumer relationships with brands through email, mobile, and social channels. He concludes that audiences are critical business assets. He notes that marketers should stop focusing solely on producing content for their numerous communication channels and start thinking about proprietary audience development instead. Jeff is a dynamic keynote speaker who has been featured in many leading marketing conferences around the world. Jeff took a few minutes off his busy schedule to share his thoughts with us.
One of the great outcomes of the internet/ social/ mobile revolution is the ability for companies to go direct to consumers and build direct relationship with them through the myriad of channels that we have at our disposal, from email to Facebook to Twitter to YouTube to Pinterest to podcasting, and so forth. Each of these channels allows product and service providers to build direct audiences with their customers. Over the past four years as I have travelled the world researching how companies communicate with their subscribers, fans and followers, I have discovered that there is an awful lot of emphasis on content creation as content marketing has grown in adoption and influence.
However, there is not a companion growth in the professionalization of audience development. You have all these great channels where you can build direct audiences but there’s nobody in the marketing organization with a 360-degree view of all the audiences being built and what their engagement level is.
So out of that came this notion that if we’re going to have content marketing and we’re going embrace the fact that, on a certain level, we’re a media company as we produce content for audiences, then we also have to embrace the other responsibility that traditional media companies have internally. Think of it this way: A television network doesn’t just produce TV shows and hope people watch. They produce television shows and then they have an audience development department whose job is to advertise those shows, to engage the audience, and to get them coming back for more, time and time again. We do not currently have that department in our corporate marketing departments and that’s where proprietary audience development comes in. I think we’re going to see the rise of a new kind of professional role within marketing departments—people who look horizontally across all of these different channels, tactics, and devices to make sure that we have got an audience that is growing in in terms of size, engagement and value to our organization in order to create a competitive advantage over those folks that we compete with head to head who don’t have that kind of attention to detail when it comes to audience.
When you’re given the daunting task of ensuring that all of your company’s employees—spread out in 443 offices in 157 countries—are continually receiving and benefiting from leadership training and personal development, how do take on such a feat?
Not too long ago, Ken Finneran, chief people officer, Americas for Hellman Worldwide Logistics was faced with this very problem. As he noted, “The real challenge is whether we are learning and developing as fast as the world is changing.”
Despite the sheer number of employees, he had to take into consideration the different languages spoken around the world. While the company executives all spoke English, since it’s Hellman’s designated corporate language, the lower level workers didn’t always. Finnernan had to come up with a time-effective solution to help all levels of employees get access to the latest in business development, and he needed to make sure that it was all easily digestible.
Enter: getAbstract. Finnernan turned to getAbstract and made relevant titles in our vast library available to employees of multiple levels, which he said has fulfilled his objective completely. And, while he acknowledges that, since the majority of getAbstract titles are in English, there are still a few hurdles, but the availability of titles in several other languages has been a huge help.
“We talk from the time an individual joins the organization about how their development is primarily up to them with the support of their manager and the organization. With getAbstract, we’re putting a tool in the manager’s hands to help them do just that.”
Andy Stefanovich, author of Look at More: A Proven Approach to Innovation, Growth, and Change (which was an Inc. bestseller and included in AdAge’s “Ten Marketing Books Your Should Have Read” in 2011) is a prominent—and much sought after—thought leader and innovator. Stefanovich, a TEDx speaker and guest lecturer, has been invited to share his ideas with some of the world’s leading corporations and institutions, including Yale University, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, NASA, Coca-Cola, and Disney. He is also a frequently invited commentator on CNBC. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Andy to discuss inspiration, innovation and life balance.
AS: Inspiration and passion inspire me. Inspiration is my inspiration and passion is my passion. These abstract, but critical, elements to anyone’s life can serve as fuel to create, innovate, and lead a great existence.
AS: My five Ms explained in five lines:
Mood: The company’s ethos, i.e. the climate for creative energy within an organization.
Mindset: The individual’s propensity, passion and capability for creating.
Mechanisms: The tools, techniques and technologies used to create.
Measurement: What are we measuring to drive innovation and what might we consider measuring that we are not?
Momentum: Assuring creative energy is not an event or episodic, but instead a part of an ongoing cultural underpinning.
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Überpreneurs are heroes who work to solve the world’s greatest problems and improve the lives of millions. Among those thought leaders are Mo Ibrahim, Jeff Bezos – Founder of Amazon, Bill Gates – from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, James Oliver (“The Naked Chef”), and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus.
When you think about the average intern, you typically picture a college student, willing to work (mostly) unpaid in order to get the experience needed when they enter “the real world”. But, as Fox Business reported, with 13 percent of the workforce facing unemployment, is there a benefit to biting the bullet and accepting either a low-paying or completely unpaid opportunity?
There are some perks to interning. If you’re unemployed, sure, you may be doing your best to get back on your feet, but the lapse in employment doesn’t necessarily look good on your resume. An internship, though maybe not as glamorous as your previous paid gig, can provide the experience and networking to help get you back in the game, as long as you’re selective about which one you pursue and accept.
Is your dream job not actively pursuing interns? Don’t let that stop you. Get in touch and propose an internship, or temporary contract work. They may not be ready to offer you a full-time position, but may be willing to explore a short-term gig, which could lead to a permanent job offer down the road (or at least open up other opportunities elsewhere).
Lastly, if the internship doesn’t lead to full-time employment, the experience looks good on your resume. However, the term “internship” can give the implication that you’re inexperienced. So, without lying, you want to be sure to give yourself an accurate title. It helps to market you to prospective employers; just be sure to let them know that the contract work was a part of your strategy to get back into the workforce in a tough economy.
Being successful in one’s career is not easy. Sure, your expertise in any given field may help you advance faster than others, but still, it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and you have to know how to play the corporate “game”. Success isn’t something that is guaranteed. You don’t simply earn it from longevity. You have to learn your company’s recipe for success and stick with it. Granted, each company has a different recipe, but as pointed out in a recent Forbes article, there are four steps that are consistent across the board. Following these steps can help to guarantee your advancement up that corporate ladder.
Don’t Rely Too Much on Others
While teamwork is undoubtedly essential to getting the job done, you can’t rely 100 percent on the members of your team. In order to advance in your career, you have to stand out in the crowd. If you’re constantly relying on your team and not going above and beyond, what is it that sets you apart from any other person? Constantly be prepared for any situation that might unexpectedly come up. Think ten steps ahead. When you have a reputation of being reliable in any given situation, it will not go unnoticed by your superiors.
While it might not put an end to your career, if you are someone that is consistently inconsistent, chances are, you will find yourself at a standstill. Your inconsistencies may not be enough to send you packing, but they certainly aren’t going to help you move forward in the company. Don’t overpromise and under-deliver; know your bandwidth and make promises that you can keep. And always be sure to deliver quality work.
Manage Your Reputation
It should go without saying that, beyond just the quality and consistency of your work, how others perceive you plays a huge factor in your success. Establish yourself as a leader that can be counted on. Think of your identity in the work place as your own personal brand. What can you do to amplify the success of your brand, without being too self-promotional?
Associate with the Right People
It’s important to establish working relationships with the right people. Be aware of people that have hidden agendas that will accept favors from you in order to advance their own careers, but won’t do the same for you. Though they may not be aware they are doing it, be aware of the people that are holding you back. These are not always the obvious and can include friendly coworkers, office enemies, superiors and even direct reports. Once you identify the negatives, focus on the positives, on the people helping push you forward, and figure out best ways to maximize those encouraging interactions.
How many of your clients and prospects are focusing strategies around their corporate brand? I’m betting no matter what the number is, it grew from last year. And it’ll grow even more in the coming years. In fact, the 2014 CEO Challenge report I shared a few months ago showed an upward trend in CEOs focusing efforts and strategies on corporate branding, not just to attract customers but to also attract top, desirable talent.
So What is the Recipe for Creating a “Simply Irresistible” Workplace?
Can you guess what some of the top “Simply Irresistible” workplaces are? If you guessed companies such as Google, Amazon and Zappos, give yourself a pat on the back. Leaders in those companies have mastered instilling purpose and passion into their workforce. They inspire, lead with kindness and invest in their people. Camaraderie, work-life balance and opportunities for growth are all part of the recipe for creating a “Simply Irresistible” company.
“Simply Irresistible” companies provide:
• Meaningful work
• Good management
• Flexibility and inclusion
• Growth opportunity
• Trust in leadership
What makes leadership such a popular business book category? Business books are a resource that people follow in order to achieve success, with the goal of taking their career or their business to the next level. Leadership books, on the other hand, are almost the opposite, in that their goal is to inspire people to stop following and start leading. An intrinsic quality of those books is that they challenge the status quo, teaching us that we should not be afraid to act and think differently from the rest. Three books epitomize this notion: “The Rebel Entrepreneur: Rewriting the Business Rulebook” by Jonathon Moules; “Fear Your Strengths: What You are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem” by Robert E. Kaplan and Robert B. Kaiser; and “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love,” by Cal Newport.
Jonathon Moules, author of “The Rebel Entrepreneur,” and a writer for the Financial Times of London, studied successful business owners who didn’t play by the existing rules, but instead forged their own path. He concluded that contrary to the stereotype of the start-up entrepreneur, rebel entrepreneurs are interested in neither funding their business with angel or VC capital nor trying out a brand new, untested business idea, even if they have the potential to be disruptive. Rebel entrepreneurs simply create new businesses that evolved out of already proven models. The author also identified the following traits that set the rebel entrepreneur apart:
5 Common Traits of the Rebel Entrepreneur
E-learning tools, which took off in the 90s—to the extent that companies collectively spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the software in 1999—are in need of revamping. Companies that use these tools realized—and are continuing to realize—that, despite the amount of money they spend on the software, intended to help their employees grow by taking advantage of these self-paced tools, only 25 percent even log into the services. Not only that, they only do so on an average of 1.6 times every year.
The reason the original e-learning tools are ineffective is simple: our brains are quickly being modified due to our everyday use of the Internet. The older tools typically had modules that took, on average, 60–90 minutes to complete. Plus, they delivered linear, logical and completely self-directed content. But our brains are wired to absorb information as though it is given to use in a similar fashion to a Google search. We want information condensed and to the point. And we don’t want any extra; tell us what we’re asking for, and please don’t stray off topic.
This type of thinking, coined “thin-sliced learning” by Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian journalist, public speaker and author, is the method that needs to be applied to successful e-learning platforms. When learning is incomplete, there is room left for coaching and collaboration. By 2020, 50 percent of all workforce will be Millennials so the importance of adapting to accommodate our evolving brains is essential for the success of any business.
Facebook, Google, Yelp, AirBNB, Square, Twitter and Dropbox were all started with angel investment money. In the book “What Every Angel Investor Wants You to Know,” authors Brian S. Cohen and John Kador provide this staggering statistic: “The US has 250,000 active angel investors who invest $20 billion in 50,000 start-ups every year.” Considering those numbers, you might assume that, since you have a great idea, securing seed capital from an angel investor is easy. But you would be wrong. Based on About.com founder and active angel investor Scott Kurni’s experience, every year “bad presentations kill great companies.” So, if you are an entrepreneur, how do you avoid making this mistake? Simply learn how to pitch an angel.
Generally speaking, angels are specialized in seed funding and early start-up stages where the average investment size ranges between $0.4mn to $1mn. On the other hand, VCs tend to be typically involved with growth capital and expansion deals which average between 12 mn and 28mn. However, it is not unusual for VCs in sectors with high business valuations like the tech industry to also get involved in seed funding and early stage, as well.
Guy Kawasaki – a prominent Silicon Valley VC and author of “The Art of the Start”- often reminds start-up entrepreneurs that the VC isn’t their friend and that they are in it only for the money. Therefore, the relationship isn’t based on buying into a vision and a belief in a technology or a product; it’s more about investing in the ability to deliver and execute the exit strategy. By comparison, an angel investor might be more patient, allowing additional time for nurturing and product development.
Last summer, Jonah Berger released his New York Times bestseller, Contagious. Its premise? To explain virality; in other words, why some things catch on and others, well, don’t.
Berger, a Wharton marketing professor, asserts that there is a secret science behind word of mouth and there are some almost fail-proof tools that entrepreneurs and companies can utilize in order to get more people talking about their product or idea.
We were quite taken with Berger’s “Viral 2.0” premise and we enjoyed his appearances on everything from NBC’s Today Show to Marie Forleo’s web TV channel (which consequentially made Contagious contagious). So we were delighted to have the opportunity to sit down with the Ivy League professor to ask him a few questions and have him explain Contagious in more detail.