Twitter can be a valuable tool for gathering up-to-the-minute collective intelligence and ideas from experts, leaders and conceptualizers. Indeed, the social media platform has changed enormously how we collect and collate information by directly connecting us to the innovators and industry leaders of our day. Our personal commentary on news, insights and trends is thereby not only reliable but immediate and efficient. One of Twitter’s leading benefits, over any other social media platform currently available to us, is that it enables us to network with, and learn from, others.
“Business leaders who truly embrace the concept of sharing and helping are worth following,” says Peter Shankman, who is globally recognized for his alternative thinking regarding marketing and social media, and features on our list of top 10 business leaders to follow. “They’re few and far between,” he continues, “but the ones who understand that there’s tremendous benefit in sharing their knowledge, not only for the good of all mankind, but financially- and revenue-wise as well…they’re the smart ones; they’re the ones worth following and retweeting.”
With this in mind, we identified the top 10 business leaders to follow on Twitter. We considered their influence in society or industry, the quality of their tweets, how frequently they tweet and how willing they are to engage with their network. So without further ado, here are our picks:
Twitter Handle: @j1berger
Why? He is the news-making, New York Times bestselling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On (2013, Simon & Schuster).
Need More Convincing? Berger made headlines this year with his assertion that there is a science behind whether a product, person, idea or so forth goes viral. The irony is that, since the debut of his book, Berger has become something of a viral phenomenon himself.
getAbstract connection: Check out our summary of Contagious.
How He Tweets: Conceptually.
Sir Richard Branson
Twitter Handle: @richardbranson
Why? Savvy business sense, philanthropy … and, well, he is Richard Branson.
Need more convincing? After almost three decades of beyond successful entrepreneurship, Branson could easily spend his days languishing on Necker Island. But instead, in the autumn of his life, he is using his Twitter following (numbering more than three million) and his wealth to solve global issues (such as HIV/ Aids and global warming), to comment on social issues including our enslavement to technology, and to share personal anecdotes. Besides, being Branson, he peppers his Tweets with wit. getAbstract connection: Look for our upcoming summary of his book, Like a Virgin.
How He Tweets: Philanthropically.
Twitter Handle: @marieforleo
Why? She’s a business-savvy, morale-boosting, Internet-marketing powerhouse.
Need More Convincing? Oprah named the B-School founder a thought leader for the next generation. Indeed, since Forleo first launched her business coaching practice in 2001, she has built a multi-million dollar empire. Her focus is personal development training for female entrepreneurs, but guys can learn just as much from her upbeat insights into success, marketing and simply being the best you can be.
How She Tweets: Responsively.
Twitter Handle: @sherylsandberg and @leaninorg
Why? The Facebook COO made more headlines this year when she published Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead (2013, Alfred A. Knopf).
Need More Convincing? The über successful working mom is now a leading activist for women’s rights via her spinoff organization, Lean In. She is one of the most significant executives in the digital world and is always featured in Fortune magazine’s annual 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.
getAbstract connection: See our summary of her trail-blazing TED talk and learn how she joined Facebook in 2008 as COO in our summary of Think Like Zuck.
How She Tweets: Being on the Board of Directors for Facebook, Sandberg herself isn’t that frequent a presence on Twitter; her organization, on the other hand, is prolific with its thought-provoking Tweets.
Twitter Handle: @rachelbotsman
Why? Botsman became renowned in business circles following her TED talk on Collaborative Consumption. The notion is gaining leverage as a key concept in today’s industry and Time called it “one of the 10 ideas that will change the world.”
Need More Convincing? The social innovator is a key proponent for collaboration. She believes that via collaborative technologies, we can transform business, public services and the way we live.
getAbstract Connection: See our summaries of her terrific TED talk and of the book she co-authored, What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption (HarperCollins, 2010) .
How She Tweets: Considerately.
Twitter Handle: @deepakchopra
Why? Many consider the Indian alternative medicine practitioner and prolific author (he has published more than 80 books) to be today’s leading spiritual guru.
Need More Convincing? Chopra drives forward the idea that we can achieve our goals through spirituality. His tweets often aim to inspire. Furthermore, being a savvy businessman himself (he partnered with Richard Branson to form Virgin Comics, and since 2005 he has been a board member of Men’s Warehouse, Inc.), Chopra often gives his thought-provoking 140-word “lessons” an entrepreneurial spin.
How He Tweets: Mindfully.
Twitter Handle: @ariannahuff
Why? She is, quite frankly, one of the most powerful women in media.
Need More Convincing? As one would expect, Huffington has her finger on today’s pulse and tweets regularly to comment on social and world issues. She is opinionated and smart, aims to inspire and uses Twitter wisely to connect with her audience via personal anecdotes. If you’re lucky, she’ll send you a personal tip for success.
getAbstract Connection: She’s the primary example of how a blog can grow into a multimillion dollar business. Read how in our summary of Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone, Mitch Joel (Business Plus, 2009).
How She Tweets: Interestingly.
Twitter Handle: @missrogue
Why? Hunt is the CEO of Buyosphere and a leading expert in ecommerce, entrepreneurship and women in tech.
Need More Convincing? Via her Twitter page, Hunt (an author, speaker and startup founder) shares marketing, social media and entrepreneurial advice, peppered with personal anecdotes. She’s a “pioneer in online marketing and one of the most respected authorities on online communities.”
How She Tweets: Personably
Twitter Handle: @thebenbernanke
Why? He is a world-renowned economist and the current chairman of the Federal Reserve. Oh, and he is also seen as the leading expert on interest rates.
Need More Convincing? Surprisingly, Bernanke tweets pretty regularly with thought-provoking, financially spun ideas alongside of-the-minute economic news and updates. The well-published former professor knows fiscal policy like no other in the “Twitosphere” and deftly teaches a thing or two via his 140-word posts.
getAbstract Connection: See our summary of Ben Bernanke’s Fed: The Federal Reserve After Greenspan, Ethan S. Harris (Harvard Business Press, 2008).
How He Tweets: Knowledgeably.
Twitter Handle: @petershankman
Why? Shankman is a thought leader on customer service.
Need More Convincing? Shankman’s amicable tone has earned him a mighty following. His posts tend to convey a thought-provoking idea or a useful tidbit of information, which frequently solicit a response. He also serves up glimpses of his everyday life. Today, via social platforms, Shankman has been credited with redefining the art of networking. Indeed, in 2011, he authored a Tweet that was voted one of the Top Ten Tweets of the year by Twitter. getAbstract connection: Learn how long his Facebook list is in our summary of e-Riches 2.0: Next-Generation Marketing Strategies for Making Millions Online, Scott Fox (AMACOM, 2009).
How He Tweets: Approachably.
When you’re a small business owner, efficiency is everything. You’re up against the big dogs in the world, so you have to make sure all of your priorities and resources are well-known, because one misstep could make or break all that you’ve worked so hard to build. Deadlines must always be met, but without sacrificing the production quality of your product. This means you have to be on top of the company’s schedule, your schedule and the schedule of all that report to you.
It can be an overwhelming task, to say the least. So here are some tips to help make sure your small business runs like a well-oiled machine.
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
When you’re trying to grow a business from the ground up, it may seem like a great idea to take on every opportunity that comes your way and run with it. But you have to prioritize. Which opportunities seem like they have the most potential? Which can you realistically take on without spreading yourself too thin? Only commit to solid opportunities that your time and resources align with, so that in the end, you deliver something that is up to your standards.
Even Your Strengths Can Be Improved
What is it that is driving the most profit to your business? Identify this and then scrutinize it and determine what you can do to make it even better. There’s always room for improvement, and that leads to increased success.
It’s Okay to Say No
Running your own business is a full-time job; you don’t really get to take a day off. So when it comes to being bombarded with side requests from friends, family and even employees, stop a moment and think: Is this worth my time? Do I actually even have time for this? Or, in the case of an employee: Is this something they should be able to figure out for themselves? If the answers are “no” and “yes”, respectively, respectfully decline and eventually you will have established boundaries.
It’s beyond important to have a set list of deadlines in order to ensure that everything is done in a timely manner. Be sure to adhere to these deadlines, because the minute you let a few slide, you’ll soon find yourself buried and it can become difficult, if not impossible, to recover.
Take a Breather
Yes, running a business is essentially a non-stop job. But in reality, you need to allow for a little time to yourself. So while you may be in the middle of a hectic day, make a point to step away for 15-30 minutes. Going nonstop can result in poor decision-making, so taking this time—which you may feel is time you can’t afford to lose—will actually help result in improved work and decision-making.
When the U.S. economy tanked in 2008, it took a while for everyone to come to grips with what was happening. There was so much conjecture and misinformation being thrown around, no one seemed to realize the magnitude of what was occurring—or that anything substantial was happening at all. As the dust began to settle, it became clear that the crash was not an isolated national crisis—it was a worldwide catastrophe.
I bring this up because it serves as a perfect reminder of something financial experts have come to realize on a new level: Borders are more illusory than ever before. My 15 years of revenue-generating business development experience have shown me that the world is no longer comprised of a series of vaguely connected markets. There is only one market—a global one—and those of us who can’t think on a global level are going to lose touch with the modern economic and world situation.
Seeing the Big Picture
The easiest way to bolster your ability to think globally is by keeping yourself informed of the trends occurring around the world. The more you know about the world situation, the better you’ll be able to understand the macro environment in which you manage assets.
Knowing what is happening at the macroeconomic level, both globally and in regions or countries, is now a requirement to make sound investment decisions. Being able to align this knowledge with the assets you manage is invaluable to your career and competitive advantage. Whether you’re new to the industry or a veteran, today you are expected to understand international business trends and to understand the evolution that banks are undergoing as they operate and expand into global markets interconnected by new technologies, alliances, and influences.
With technologies like smartphones, banking transactions can be completed anytime from anywhere. This is going to have a huge impact on the financial industry, and it won’t be just banks that change the way the field works – tech, aerospace, energy, and a variety of other industries are intimately tied to finance. And the way all of these fields interact is becoming increasingly complex.
What the Smart Players Are Watching
Smart stakeholders, such as government policymakers, multinational financial company executives, asset managers, investors, and business executives, are all looking at a few specific trends. They’re interested in watching tech issues such as cyberattacks and Bitcoin, world economic development, climate change and energy consumption, the national debt, the recent push toward “entitlement” reform, the Euro crisis, and banking reform.
Information about these subjects can be found through a number of sources, but here are five reports I consider comprehensive, useful, and necessary:
“World Economic Outlook: Transitions and Tensions” – International Monetary Fund
Everything changed on a world scale after the recent recession, and the capable analysis presented by the IMF in this report is essential for economists, business executives, and bankers who want to know where the international economy stands now and where it’s headed.
“Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis” – The IPCC
After five years of research, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released its findings in its Fifth Assessment Report, and the news isn’t good. The bottom line is that global warming is real, we caused it, it’s getting worse, and its effects are going to be wide-ranging for a long time.
“Diminishing Dependence: Shrinking U.S. Oil Imports” – Economist Intelligence Unit
After hitting an all-time high in 2005, U.S. oil imports have plummeted due to new domestic supplies and lower demand. This has shifted the world energy industry in a fundamental way, and the EIU’s analysis does an outstanding job of explaining the situation.
“Regionalization vs. Globalization” – IMF
The IMF’s analysis of the relationship between regionalism and globalization has drawn many interesting conclusions. While globalization is undoubtedly rampant, regionalization is also going strong, in many ways acting as a counterbalance to its global cousin. The IMF’s conclusions are highly useful for creating governmental and economic policies.
“The Mutating Euro Crisis” – The European Central Bank
Economist Francesco Paolo Mongelli provides an in-depth explanation of how the Euro crisis began, what steps were taken to address it, and how to project for the future. It’s a highly informative read for strategic planners.
These are my five favorite reports of the year, but don’t limit yourself. Seek out any other resources that can strengthen your understanding of the global situation, enabling you to see the macro “big picture” that your micro company is operating within. Success comes to those who are best informed – and most willing to see what’s happening around them.
Losing an employee costs more than developing a new one. U.S. businesses lose $10 billion annually due to employee turnover, and as the economy improves, workers who feel their employers aren’t investing in their professional development are leaving to pursue better opportunities.
So, why are some companies dragging their feet and refusing to invest in employee development? In some cases, it comes down to an insecurity most managers don’t want to acknowledge: the fear an employee may become become overqualified, outgrow his job, and leave the company to pursue a better position elsewhere before a promotion is available. This fear isn’t completely baseless. Young high achievers job hop frequently to earn a higher salary, and on average, leave their jobs after only 28 months.
Withholding professional development from employees is not the right response to this fear; it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Employees seek professional development to achieve successful careers, and when companies don’t invest in this development, employees leave.
The True Cost of Disengaged Employees
The real cost of insufficient professional development equates to unmotivated and disengaged employees. According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report, 70 percent of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” That’s a scary thought.
Active employee disengagement costs the U.S. an estimated $450 to $550 billion per year. When employees are less engaged in their work, they require more supervision, make more mistakes, and cost their companies more money.
On the other hand, employees who know their employers not only value them, but also invest in their future, become more engaged and motivated at work. Engaged employees see higher productivity, higher profitability, and higher customer satisfaction ratings. They also make fewer mistakes. Perhaps surprising to some is that engagement levels play a bigger role in employee satisfaction than corporate perks like vacation days and flex time.
Most employees feel satisfied and engaged when they’re encouraged and equipped to contribute to the company’s overarching mission. This mission must, of course, be well-communicated, focused around a greater purpose, and go beyond the shareholders’ value. Employees want to feel like strategic partners. When they are given the necessary educational tools to participate, they become more motivated to help the organization work toward its goals—and will stay longer at the company.
Make Your Training Worthwhile
Employee training is often viewed as tedious, dull, and time-consuming—not a recipe for employee satisfaction. So, how do you develop a training program your employees will enjoy and actually find valuable? The key to effective employee development lies in thinking beyond traditional training, putting the infrastructure for learning in place, rewarding ongoing education, and getting out of the way so employees can teach themselves.
1. Understand Employees’ Learning Styles
People learn in different ways: There are visual learners, auditory learners, or kinesthetic learners. Others learn best on their own or in small groups with other people. An employee may decide to read training materials on his smartphone riding the morning train, instead of on his computer at work. The more flexibility offered to your employees for their training, the better.
2. Play to Employees’ Strengths Instead of Improving Weaknesses
According to Gallup, building employees’ strengths is a far more effective approach than trying to improve their weaknesses. The benefits of the strength-based approach range from better relationships with managers and increased productivity at work to decreased stress levels, fewer sick days, and fewer instances of developing a chronic disease.
3. Don’t Waste Their Time
Sometimes during a learning “intervention,” people feel the opportunity cost for learning is greater than the benefit of the lesson learned. Stay mindful of this as a manager. Don’t create a five-hour sales meeting that could occur in three 30-minute increments, or require people to read a full book on a topic when they could grasp the concepts from brief summaries.
4. Let Them Take Charge of Learning
Employees are adults who are fully capable of teaching themselves what they are motivated to learn as long as they have access to the right resources and experts. A good leader has a teacher mentality and motivates his team to learn. After providing the right learning assets and opportunities (on an ongoing basis), these leaders step back, and they allow the employees to build their own development plans, apply their lessons, and collaborate with others.
The fastest way to capture the hearts and minds of employees is to make them feel valued and, thus, motivated in their jobs. While it may seem counter-intuitive to train employees to advance beyond their current roles, investing in employee development will increase their loyalty to the company, help them stay longer, and allow the employee to build bench strength at the same time. As a result, you’ll have a highly engaged team of productive employees working to advance the company as a whole.
Richard Laermer is a New York-based PR veteran with 25 years and four books under his belt. His firm, RLM PR, focuses on helping clients pinpoint perceived competition and break it down with the taste-test approach, i.e. differentiating what the client does versus what the competition is doing. With the right tools (surveys, third-party validation, and advanced market research), Laermer asserts that he can point to what’s failing for the competition in order to redirect customers to the client.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Laermer to discuss his bestselling book, Full Frontal PR, and explains how, 10 years since it was first published it is still relevant.
RL: It never ceases to amaze me that 10 years since it was first published, Full Frontal PR still sells in healthy doses. When you’ve been doing PR for as long as I have, you notice trends in the industry before they’re widely spread. That’s why this era of PR is a little mind-blowing—because what us older PR practitioners do (did!) for our clients is no longer valid. Sometimes I think that we don’t even do PR anymore and what the industry needs is a brand new word to describe it. This has nothing to do with the Internet or the fact that everyone’s a publisher, or even that brands do their own PR by communicating directly with consumers. It does, however, have everything to do with what has always been at the crux of our profession: Content.
PR is, after all, mixing story ideas with angles and hooks, then bringing them to “influential” media who in turn make our clientele into stars, or in some cases, superstars. (However, only when it’s a huge trend with a ton of stories following it does the coverage move any sales needles.)
That said, content is now bigger than ever. And there is so much of it! Indeed, everyone is producing something and, oftentimes, it is impossible to say where it came from. In realizing this through incessant arguments with untrusting/ untrustworthy clients I just got tired of standing up for what we did. Or that we “actually” did it. The derivation of an article or blog post shouldn’t be important. Oh, but it is. In our office we hung a sign to display our distaste for this questioning: “Who Gives A Hit!?!”
Today, I am in the process of reviving the book so people in PR realize their own power, and do something with it. The new Full Frontal PR will be released in early 2014 as a series of chapters, in which I will discuss the most sensible, aggressive and creative tactics that we have to make money for our clients.
Today, everyone’s a guru and a broadcaster, so as a PR professional, how do we use our truly specialized skills to help our clients take down the competition? It is my belief, that the only thing that always works (as opposed to the crapshoot of today that is the “no metric PR”) is ensuring that the third parties we once used to extoll the virtues of our client are now “utilized” to portray the horrific practices of our clients’ competitors. Let me explain.
No one knows what is going to happen to the economy—we just witnessed how easily it can fall off the tracks. Yet we know our clients will always have competitors that will try to eat their lunch. So let’s help get rid of them. That is a tactic that will never go out of style. We have to be the ones who are un-do-without-able.
Traditional PR tends to celebrate a mediocre message that needs to get “signed off” on by too many people. This is the message that people already know: brands saying we’re great, we’re here, we do things that you like, and so forth. But a new voice is waiting to be heard. This is the voice that understands the precise weaknesses in competitors and “perceived competitors”, and knows how to use third parties in order to bring down the competition, thereby making the client the de facto winner.
It’s basic economics that businesses thrive on competition. Successful businesses, however, demonstrate to the marketplace their ability to outthink, outmaneuver, outperform and out-goods and -service the company across the street. It’s time to thrive at the expense of the competition. It’s the new PR. It’s what I call Insurgent PR™.
All you really need to do (I do it every day for my clients) is research, then recognize, what competitors missed the mark on, misconstrued, or mistakenly made matter (or lied about). Then get it out there in every single way possible. Use the online tools available and get those weaknesses known. Removing the competition is something you, as a PR person and expert in this field of newfound insurgency, can take advantage of, and, in doing so, you will make yourself invaluable.
Marc Worth is often billed as being an Internet pioneer. After founding WGSN, the now celebrated trend forecasting website of product development tools for the fashion industry in 1997, he sold it to Emap for a cool £142mn in 2005. Since then Worth has invested in a couple of start-ups, attempted to resurrect cult seventies label, Ossie Clark, and—since 2011—has been working on his design inspiration service, Stylus.com, which is aimed specifically at the hospitality industries.
We were fortunate enough to be granted a tête-à-tête with Worth to ask him about his successes, failures and advice for trailblazing entrepreneurs.
MW: It sounds simple but I woke up one day with an idea. My brother, Julian, and I had a company, Heatseal, which made labels, badges, t-shirts etc. Because of this, we had 10+ graphic designers on staff who were churning out artwork non-stop. However, business had been crap that summer and we had to cut costs in order to maximize the value of what we were doing and I thought that maybe there was something we could do with the designs we were creating… Could we, perhaps, create a website whereby people could download and buy the rights to the artwork? Believe it or not, this very elementary idea was the catalyst for what became WGSN. Of course, we soon realized that this initial concept was not enough but, about three or four months later, we had a product that went far beyond being a graphic library. Instead, it boasted shop window directories, trend boards and so much more. It took us between six and nine months to go to market but we were launched by August 1998, with a product that is not dissimilar to what WGSN is now.
Having spent 25 years in the fashion industry already, Julian and I knew what it needed and wanted. Timing was on our side, we rode the crest of the Internet wave and we had a firm belief in our assessed interest and the industry’s need for it.
MW: Between 1998 and 1999 Julian and I invested a lot of our own money into WGSN but we still had Heatseal. The positive of that was that we still drew an income, the flip was having a weight to carry when—by now—we were so heavily focused on—and invested in—WGSN. So between 1999 and 2000 we sought to raise a lot of money from Venture Capitalists and, in just over nine months, we had generated £20mn from interested investors in exchange for one third of the business. As a consequence we were able to give up Heatseal (which we sold to management) because the future of WGSN now seemed pretty secure.
However, by 2003 the money had almost run out and at that point, now looking back, we took some enormous risks, remortgaging our homes for the second time and so forth. In short, we put everything on the line. We reassured ourselves saying the timing was right… And, thank goodness, we were right. Pretty soon after that, the sales increased and the overheads decreased (from £1.2mn to £750k), thereby making us profitable and “out the woods.” Within six months we became cash positive and in 2004 we were able to buy our investors out for 30p on the pound. We were fortunate; we became very successful very quickly. By 2005 we were made an offer we couldn’t refuse and sold WGSN. But that was part of our plan—we always saw WGSN as a means to an end; in fact our 1997 business plan even states our ambition to sell for £100mn in two years. It took us a bit longer, but we also got quite a bit more than that £100mn. And, in truth, Julian and I had taken WGSN to a certain level, beyond which it required a larger organization to run it. We were also very blessed that we were able to walk out the door the day we sold it. Typically, there is a two-year earn out but in this case neither party wanted it. Thankfully.
MW: My top pieces of advice would be (1) It is essential to look at your competitive landscape. For us, there were already so many businesses in the fashion and eCommerce space, even back in 1998, so we had to establish how we were going to differentiate and stand out from all the others competing for the same money. (2) Leave fundraising as long as you can until you can show traction. Ideas that are pre-revenue wind up giving too much of their business away as they try to raise funds. (3) Choose people who know your space—both its information and its industry. You don’t just want people who will look at the numbers but will understand why your product is important for the market. (4) Make sure you have a market looking for a product, rather than a product looking for a market. If it’s the latter, don’t even bother.
Judith R. King is one of the most prominent and respected names on the New York PR circuit. As the charismatic owner of King + Company, Judith is known for her abundance of enthusiasm, which comes bundled up with her high-energy persona; together, these are unquestionably at the core of her charm. These qualities, alongside her commitment to delivering stellar results for her clients—of course—are undoubtedly at the core of Judith’s success.
Over the course of her career, Judith’s ingenuity and passion for crafting bespoke branding, PR, and social messages have earned her the respect and custom of star players in the non-profit arena (with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Susan G. Komen For the Cure and The Estee Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign among them), as well as consumer brands including household names like Rodale, DreamWorks Classics, Marquis Jet, Ritz-Carlton Club, and David Barton Gym.
When she’s not busy crafting slogans, conceptualizing ad campaigns or writing top-notch marketing materials, Judith travels the country giving media training to CEOs, celebrities and prominent figures who are facing the public eye.
A couple of weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to grab five minutes to sit down with Judith for a quick tête-a-tête during which we picked her brain, learned about her career track, and discovered a little about what makes her tick.
JK: I was working at Dan Klores as a writing and ideas consultant—or a freelance writer—call it what you will. One evening, I was driving somewhere with my parents and my mother turned to me and asked “Judith, do you believe being charming is a career? Because, quite frankly, your father and I do not.” She then continued her diatribe during which she advised me to use all my gifts as well as the abundance of interpersonal relationships I had generated in order to get my career on track. And that is what I did—I started a small PR firm. Of course that makes it sound so simple but, really, simply using my contacts and my friendships, I did it! And I have since grown it into a company that grosses a revenue in excess of $3mn a year.
I got the best advice from my good friends Ian Schraeger and David Barton: you must always look to the word ‘modern’ as the most important concept there is. Meaning, STAY RELEVANT.
To this, I would also add the following advice:
1. Nothing is ever wrong or boring when you have the right ideas—you can never saturate the market enough with good ideas—they’re what keep your company fresh and your clients impressed.
2. Nimbleness is not as important as constantly innovating. You see, PR victories have very short shelf lives so you must always be thinking on your feet. It is essential that you remain engaged with your client and the world around you because you can always learn more. And I have to tell you, I don’t want to ever wake up thinking “I know enough.”
3. Nobody is indispensable but everyone is important, including yourself. Make the people around you feel that and believe it. It’s infectious. Seriously, I wish more people in my position understood that, as a leader, you can’t just command—you have to commend. I believe it’s because of my attitude that my team knows that, while I am the boss and I expect a lot from them, I want their success as much as my own. I can honestly say that for this reason I’ve never come into the office in a bad mood… ever. It’s not fair for bosses to put their own negativity on the people who are just there to do their best for them. At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to be kind than unkind; so bring your life to work but don’t make work your life. I believe that it’s essential for both our success and our wellbeing that we all come to work as fully engaged human beings, approaching each new day with a love for it.
4. And last, but not least: Be fearless but not destructive.
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.