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A review of “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

by on Sunday, April 19th, 2009, under Books, Business, Reviews

Good to Great

Good to Great

The book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” is all about identifying the things that differentiate good companies and great companies.  This may sound a bit obvious in the title, but there is something very different about this book in comparison to many of the other books I have read.  The “identifying” part indicates that these differences are based on studies, data, and real world evidence, not the authors “opinions” on what makes a great company.  These studies consist of many good companies, great companies, and even extinct companies, and they take a deep look into what internal changes occur as a good company transitions to a great company.

I love the way this book looks historically at the actual data to determine which criteria will identify a great company, what makes that company meet said criteria, and then includes the relevant data with every technique and characteristic that the great companies employ to show how these things promote greatness.  This book seems to hold very little bias (if any) to the authors preconceived notions of greatness, and focuses on the brutal facts.  I am confidant that the research team has identified consistent and accurate differences between the great companies and everyone else, and then manages to explain why these concepts help great companies while, in their absence, they hinder good companies.

As an aspiring entrepreneur, this book has really helped me to define my business ideas and to identify how I can best pursue them.  I have enjoyed the stories about great companies in their infancy since I can relate to them the most, and I was very happy to hear that my venture plans thus far are quite similar to how Hewlett-Packard got started (declaring at a high level what the company would do, and later trying out a number of products in very unrelated markets before deciding on which markets and products to target.)

Summary

This is one book that I have already started rereading as I feel there is a lot of valuable information here that warrants a second absorbtion.  So needless to say, I would recommend Good to Great to anyone who is either running a businesses currently, or who intends to run one in the future.  The book has changed my thought process in how to handle business, and I am confident that it can help your business too.  Even if your company has already transitioned to greatness, the insight into other great companies holds plenty of value, and more likely than not, it will reveal some new ideas.

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Sunday, April 19th, 2009 Books, Business, Reviews No Comments
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A review of “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss

by on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009, under Books, Reviews

The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek

The title of this book attracted me at first sight.  I mean, who could resist the idea of a four hour workweek?  This book is certainly an interesting read for anyone who is an entrepreneur as it covers a number of topics around working more effectively, and then automating your duties in ways that, realistically, only an entrepreneur in certain industries can.

For the employee, the author details many ideas built around focusing intensely so that you can complete more work within smaller amounts of time.  Ideas like only checking your business email once or twice per day, avoiding office interruptions by wearing a telephone headset so people will assume you are on the phone, saying no to meetings, and so on.  Once you learn how to be hyper-productive, you can try to use this as a bargaining point for reduced hours to help free up your time.  Later in the book, the author discusses how you can convince your employer to let you work from home which will leave you capable of traveling while you are working.  This methodology is clearly only valid for certain industries, and it would tend to leave one far from a 4 hour work week.

The title gains much credibility in the entrepreneurs perspective.  The author makes some very good points that help reduce the time required to run your business (like NOT actively pursuing your customers who consume 95% of your time and only generate 5% of your revenue).  If you run a nutritional supplement company (as Mr. Ferriss does), it is much easier to unload your duties and still be able afford your cost of living.  There are also many great resources in the book for starting up a business, marketing processes, manufacturing, and managing customer service all with the goal of automation in mind.

Summary

This book is very inspirational and quite funny as well; I cannot tell you how many times I have busted up laughing while reading it.  I love the part where the author walks you through a fill-in-the-blank method of getting fired.  Many people who have read this book claim that it has changed their life, and I can see that.  I do think about my time a little bit differently now as it is the one thing that we cannot “reverse” once we lose it.  We shouldn’t be working so hard during the most physically capable years of our life so that we can relax only in our old age (assuming we live that long).  As an entertaining, insightful, and motivating read, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to run their own business someday.

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Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 Books, Reviews No Comments
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A review of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

by on Sunday, April 5th, 2009, under Books, Reviews, Self Improvement, Well-Being

How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People

I recently picked up this book to learn how to become a more effective speaker not knowing that I would take so much away from it.  The lessons in this book seem to extend far beyond the limits of speaking, and I find that it is a very good read for anyone who assumes a leadership role in business and in life.  Whether you are leading a team of employees through a tight deadline or a group of children to the dentist, this book will help you decide how to handle many situations and get the results you want.  Dale Carnegie introduces his ideas while also providing many useful (and true) stories that illustrate how to execute the techniques.

The main point I take away from this book is to always make the interactions you have with people a positive experience for those people.  For example, don’t criticize people directly for doing things wrong, but rather focus on their strong points and subtly indicate ways they can improve.  Make them think that the ideas of what needs improvement were their ideas and they will run with them.  Don’t argue with people; you can never win an argument.  If you’re wrong, you will lose, and even in you are right, you will have left the other person with damaged pride and you ultimately spent all of your time arguing rather than getting anything done.  If you simply admit that you may be wrong (even if you know you are not) and if you emphasize the points in their argument that you agree with, the situation will be diffused and the other person will start listening to you with an agreeable attitude.  This is one area where I know I struggle because I am “always right” in my own mind.  It will be interesting to see how my interactions change with people.

After reading this book, it is clear to me that some of my past employers (and my current employer) have a grasp on the concepts presented in this book.  Maybe they have even read it.  The interesting thing about the companies who utilize the techniques in this book is that their employees generally work towards the common interest of the company, not just for a paycheck.  The general mood amongst employees is positive and turnover rates are lower.  Of my departments current employees, the average employment term is approximately 8 years.  I honestly believe that there is nothing more important to this factor than the leadership techniques of the management and the owners.  We are all friends outside of work and most of us enjoy coming into the office on a day to day basis.

The more recent revisions of the book have four major sections which cover the following concepts in depth.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a man’s Name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. Avoid arguments.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never tell someone they are wrong.
  3. If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Start with questions the other person will answer yes to.
  6. Let the other person do the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  9. Sympathize with the other person.
  10. Appeal to noble motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to other people’s mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes first.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise every improvement.
  7. Give them a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Encourage them by making their faults seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

Summary

I think that everyone could benefit from reading this book.  Some of the stories provided seem to be a little far fetched to think their results would be common, but that is my only criticism and I would call this book “money well spent”.

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Sunday, April 5th, 2009 Books, Reviews, Self Improvement, Well-Being No Comments