Book Reviews

Must read 2014 business books – before diving into 2015’s top reads!

So we’re already into 2015 and a bunch of new hotly tipped business books are already hitting the shelves. Before diving into these, here’s a summary of some of the stand-out must read 2014 business books:

Inc magazine‘s Top 3 went with:

1. How to Be a Power Connector – Judy Robinett

As somebody who is often overwhelmed by people who want to “connect” with me, Robinett’s system of differentiating between levels of contact was truly a revelation. It’s one of those books I wish I’d been able to read two decades ago.

Sounds impressive – one to add to the list…

2. The Ambitious Woman – Esther Spina

Interestingly, Girlboss was voted No,1 by Goodreads. There appears to be a theme here…

3. Money: Master the Game – Tony Robbins

This features across most of the Top 10 lists for 2014 and its Robbins’ first book in a while on a subject he apparently feels quite passionate about. Although I’ve yet to read it, I’ve heard its quite US-centric but the interview sessions in the back are apparently worth the price of admission in of themselves. It took the No.1 spot in the New York Times best seller list for 2014.

Entrepreneur magazine put The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership by Richard Branson at the No.1 spot in their list of Amazing Books in 2014. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson and How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg came in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Pikkety’s Capital in the 21st Century took first prize in the FT (good to see this available to borrow for free within the Kindle Unlimited library) whilst Creativity Inc seemed to be a repeat star across the majority of top 10 lists.

Forbes magazine looks to Blinklist to help get through as many of their suggested top 10 books in as little time as possible – a kind of Cliff’s Notes for business books. Incidentally they put Ben Horowitz’s The Hard thing about Hard things as the only 2014 book in that list aside from First, Break All The Rules, Marcus Buckingham.

So having run through this whistle-stop tour of the top business books in 2014, I can see my library getting even bigger – perhaps I’ll need to take a leaf out of Zuckerberg’s book (pardon the pun) in reading a new book every other week

Any books from 2014 that you loved that we missed?

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Using free writing to unleash creativity

Idea generation is at the cornerstone of all successful marketing and strategic thinking.

Mark Levy has written a truly brilliant and fresh book on effective idea generation called Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content. In this book, Levy encourages readers, in essence, to write faster than your conscious mind can think – no time to stop and ponder – in order to get all your ideas, thoughts, concerns etc on paper / screen. In doing so you effectively empty your mind. He suggests you aim for 10 or 20 minutes non-stop ‘free writing‘. You should then pause to pick through and organise important stuff, links, ideas and concerns by highlighting or bolding key sentences or thoughts. Once you’ve sorted key points you can then set off on further 10-20 minute bouts of free writing to dig even deeper.

I’ve found free writing exercises to be extremely helpful in unleashing more creative and productive ideas which have turned into really interesting plans and actions. It is so easy to get caught up in endless thought-loops and free writing can help unblock these frustrating dead-ends by getting everything out of your head. Once in full flow I’ve found myself (or subconscious mind) willing and able to dig far deeper and, only by finding channels such as this, can potential new openings and ideas be unlocked.

I recommend you get hold of this book and give it a try – especially if you’re looking for that elusive creative breakthrough or killer idea.

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Weekend Reading: The A-Z of Persuasive Communication

As business owners, we sometimes struggle to clearly convey our business message to potential customers e.g. exactly what benefits we can bring or what pain we can alleviate?

In a noisy marketplace we can’t afford to miss selling opportunities – which makes effective communication skills increasingly important.

Fortunately, Andrew Thorp has come to the rescue in the North West with his series of Speakeasy events which aim to help entrepreneurs and business owners hone their business message.

Andrew released a short free ebook fairly recently called The A-Z of Persuasive Communication which is a good incisive read capturing many of the key learning points.

Armed with these tips you’ll feel more focused, confident and ready to get out there to speak to potential new clients and targets.

Delivering Happiness – as only Zappos knows how

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh (pronounced “Shay”) CEO of world-famous Zappos is released and available in all good book stores from today.

Having been lucky enough to receive an advance copy to review, here are my thoughts on the book:

The BIG idea behind Delivering Happiness:

Tony Hsieh led Zappos from being an online footwear retailer with virtually no sales in 1999 to over $1bn in sales in 2008.  This astounding success and growth has been built upon a relentless focus on developing a thriving internal company culture that puts delivering a WOW! service for customers at its heart.

In essence, Zappos has grown by delivering happiness to its customers, employees, suppliers and stakeholders.

Major highs:

Delivering Happiness is an easy to read book with plenty of interesting anecdotes wrapped up in Tony Hsieh’s chatty written style.

It is open, honest and transparent. Much like Zappos. Tony is open about the bad as well as good times e.g. most of us are aware of Zappos’ roaring success however, I was not aware of how close Zappos had come to folding in its early days, plus there’s a frank account of the difficult decisions made to lay-off some of the Zappos “family” during the 2008 economic storm. Tony also reprints some of the emails written to the Zappos employees covering the highs and lows which is open and revealing.

Chapters are interspersed with short interludes written by Zappos employees or associates. This helps emphasise key points from different perspectives as well as providing interesting diversions and interest. Tweets to live by is also a nice touch.

The famous Zappos company values along with the accompanying internal detailed narrative as provided to all new employees is reprinted which provides a further fascinating insight into the internal culture of the company.

I will not attempt to steal the thunder from the many fun, weird and cool ideas that the company engages in to grow its business and brand suffice to say that I would be stunned if reading this book did not make you rethink your business…

Minor moans:

I would have liked to have learned a little more about the day-to-day running of the business and in particular how the Zappos culture and energy is maintained. The book pin-points the main turning points of the business and touches upon many of the less conventional ways of doing business but I would have liked a little more depth – perhaps I’m being greedy!

I found the chronological order of the book  a little tedious in parts, for example, the book kicks off with Tony Hsieh’s early entrepreneurial dabblings which might have worked better as flash-backs from the meat of the Zappos story rather than being addressed in isolation first.

Tony sets out some academic findings in relation to the effects of happiness at work but these are presented as short / “further reading” summaries rather than being weaved into the story itself – either a missed opportunity or a chance for a follow up book perhaps?

Rating

8/10 – a must read for all entrepreneurs and business owners.

If you would like to get your hands on a free copy of this latest book, please email me via the contact form with “Please Deliver Happiness” in the email. One lucky winner will be picked at random. Good luck!