Sharon Secor

People talk. There's no getting around it. People talk about each other and about themselves because we are social animals who love to communicate. This month we look at talk from three different points of view: talk as a marketing tool, as a sales technique and as an organizational development device.

Talk is at the heart of The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word of Mouth Advertising by Emanuel Rosen. Why does a sleeper become a hit movie? Because people raved about it to their friends. Why did 65 percent of Palm Pilot users buy a Palm? Because someone told someone who told someone else the Palm Pilot was a great product. That's buzz, the largely immeasurable word-of-mouth network that spreads product information from one user to another potential user. This column is buzz, since I'm telling you about books I like.

Buzz is also the impression a product leaves with consumers. To create buzz, Rosen says, a product must have clearly identifiable traits. In addition to being innovative or solving a practical problem, the product becomes more useful as more people use it. If it also practically advertises itself (How many of your neighbors have blue New York Times bags on their lawn?) you've got buzz. How did you hear about the best-selling novel Cold Mountain? You probably read a review or someone told you about the book. That's buzz at work.

The Anatomy of Buzz follows the footsteps of Paul Lazarsfeld, a communications researcher who, in the 1940s, studied the influence of the mass media on election politics. He concluded that many factors played into voters' decisions, including the beliefs of "opinion leaders," people who influenced their decisions. The Anatomy of Buzz deftly links such communications theory with buying theory. This is not a stuffy research volume or a textbook, however. It's a layman's approach to a marketing strategy, one that many marketers have overlooked. They rely heavily on expensive ad campaigns that may not reap results. These days that's a huge and costly mistake. The Anatomy of Buzz should be required reading for anyone who works with new product development, advertising or public relations. Don't spend your money where it won't work, Rosen advises. As an alternative, talk is cheap and very effective.

Several years ago, the buzz word in sales and marketing circles was the "guerilla" approach to sales. Almost everyone knows a guerilla salesman at work. He's the guy with the take-no-prisoners attitude, who has perfected the hard sell and always seems to know what to say. In Three Steps to Yes: The Gentle Art of Getting Your Wayauthor Gene Bedell offers a primer for those of us who are flummoxed by guerilla tactics, but still need help in becoming effective communicators. Whether you're a salesperson, a PTA member or a job applicant, Three Steps to Yes shows you how to sell your ideas or yourself without subscribing to guerilla tactics.

Bedell refers to all of us who aren't comfortable with guerilla tactics as "poets." He prefaces Three Steps to Yes with the assurance that poets can learn to sell their ideas in ways that make sense to sensitive hearts. The author outlines a clear guide for instilling trust and respect in buyers, helping poets to say what they need to say. He teaches a method of understanding buyers' needs, all the while assuring poets that they need not compromise their values to make a sale Three Steps to Yes is peppered with stories from Bedell's home and work life. He makes it look as easy to talk with a 13-year-old as it is to win a new job. Illus- trated with cogent examples, interesting narrative and simple outlines, Three Steps to Yes helps poets slide quietly past guerillas in the war of words at work.

As the author of another new book sees it, all of us are "gorillas," and evolution can help us make sense of the workplace. In Executive Instinct, Nigel Nicholson uses evolutionary psychology to explain how organizations function.

This snappy, smart book convincingly draws parallels between the work environment and sociological models of human behavior. Executive Instinct gives common sense explanations of a range of human relations topics. Why do men and women have different work styles? Why do people need to share office gossip? Do you want to understand why your office atmosphere is stagnant and starched? Nicholson can tell you.

People enjoy gossip and networking because "evolution designed us to talk," Nicholson says. At the same time, we are not innately equipped to read and write. These attributes play out at the office and are reflected in workplace statistics. Nicholson notes that most managers show a strong preference for oral over written communications and hate to write. Employees also prefer talk, citing face-to-face channels as the top form of boss-employee communication.

Yet e-mail proliferates. Nicholson uses his evolutionary approach to argue that e-mail is causing a rash of communications disorders in organizations as people rely on it as a substitute for face-to-face meetings. Before you implement that new communications technology designed to put the whole company in touch, read Nicholson's book. What you may need instead is a new water cooler for employees to gather around. Our evolutionary instincts are clashing with our technological capabilities.

Executive Instinct is full of fresh, brash theories. Has evolution designed us to work in groups of no more than 150 employees? Nicholson says yes. He criticizes conglomerates that fail to make distinct small groupings within their organizations. Small groups feel more rational to humans, he says, because we have evolved in them. Companies like Dell Computer and Toyota, which have created rational groups, are the future, he says. Each has a modular structure and a decentralized supply chain. The best companies will manage with evolutionary insight, adapting organizations to nurture human nature. Briefly noted The Board Bookby Susan F. Shultz is a valuable tool for any business or nonprofit organization. Most CEOs underutilize or largely ignore their corporate boards in the day-to-day rush through business, but the collective wisdom, big-picture perspective and advice board members can provide is an invaluable resource. Best of all, it's free.

Shultz gives practical advice on how to choose, train and utilize a corporate board, and offers insights on managing board conflict and setting the stage for board leadership. Informative for CEOs and directors alike, this is a no-nonsense book that focuses on practical issues for board participation in the success of a company.

Sharon Secor is a Nashville-based business writer.

 

People talk. There's no getting around it. People talk about each other and about themselves because we are social animals who love to communicate. This month we look at talk from three different points of view: talk as a marketing tool, as a sales technique and as an organizational development device. Talk is at the […]

We have now entered what some call spring but what many think of as the post-tax hangover season. The trauma of April 15 has passed, and either you received a refund and have already spent it, or you have begun to worry about paying your next quarterly installment to the IRS. Like many others, I've made my annual vow to save (I'll never be cash-poor again!) only to be flummoxed by an inability to stop the money-spending cycle.

If you're searching for some fortitude, this month's bounty of books looks at wealth accumulation from a variety of perspectives. They cover all the bases, from big picture approaches to wealth to practical guides for making your money grow.

How the rich get their way

Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich by Kevin Phillips is one of the most interesting and provocative books of the season. This rich and intriguing history of money and politics hypothesizes that power and money represent one of the world's enduring covert partnerships, and that, even today, government support critically underpins success for both finance and technology. In this must-read book, Phillips, a well-known political analyst and author, documents the fascinating evidence that American wealth has fed itself by influencing government policies at the expense of the middle and lower classes. He deftly details the rise of the wealthiest American families and corporations, and shows how they continue to accumulate wealth and power, while the income of most American families stagnates and their confidence in the political process erodes. Wealth and Democracy is a timely and intellectually challenging book. The Enron disaster, the Microsoft trials, the September 11 terrorist attacks and the 2000 presidential race, funded by soft-money, lend Phillips' arguments their most recent documentation. In the end, Phillips spells out a gloomy prognosis for both the power of our democracy and the future of American economic growth if political power continues to be equated with wealth.

It's your money

The Great 401(k) Hoax: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Family and Your Future by William Wolman and Anne Colamosca is both eye-opening and incredibly topical. The authors argue that the term 401(k) seems to contain . . . the promise that the average American family, neither rich nor poor but middle-class, could stake a claim for its share in the prosperity created by the technological wonders that energized the American economy in the 1990s. In fact, they say, the rise of the 401(k) is an unparalleled fraud designed to protect American corporations and undermine their commitments to employee retirement plans. The 401(k) represents an implicit promise to middle class Americans that they can live off the income that they receive from stock ownership, just like the rich do. It is a promise that is impossible to fulfill. It is the great 401(k) hoax. With candor and intelligence, Colamosca and Wolman present a compelling argument for their hoax theory and present a practical set of investing rules for middle-class Americans. Using a combination of no-load index funds and diversification, the authors present a common sense approach to making the best financial sense of your retirement money.

A practical approach

The New IRAs and How to Make Them Work For You by Neil Downing is a primer for the individual investor. With new laws added every year, IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) have changed a great deal. Several years ago, only the self-employed and those with no retirement plan at work could contribute to an IRA; now housewives, part-time employees and even children can fund IRAs. Changes have also created IRA lookalikes such as the Educational IRA, the Roth IRA, SEPs and SIMPLE plans. The New IRAs offers simple but well-explained approaches to choosing IRA vehicles, explains who qualifies for an IRA and offers straightforward and practical advice on managing your investment from the first deposit to the last withdrawal.

One of the most misunderstood areas in setting up a retirement account involves choosing a Roth versus a traditional IRA. In some of the best language I've read, Downing devotes several chapters to simplifying and demystifying the choice between the two IRA vehicles.

Penny pinching

Get Clark Smart: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Rich from America's Money-Saving Expert offers savvy, penny-pinching advice from the Atlanta money-saving radio guru, Clark Howard. You'll love the no-nonsense, consumer-empowering advice on how to turn the fine art of penny-pinching into money in the bank. Ever laugh at your grandmother for saying, Don't buy anything you have to dry-clean? That's great advice says Clark. Dry-cleaning is expensive and often unnecessary for many clothes. You can also save money by buying jewelry at wholesalers and using free or low-cost Internet access sites. This compilation of right-as-rain advice ranges from the typical (how to save money on a car purchase) to unexpected cost-cutting tips on insurance and travel.

Get Clark Smart isn't a guide on how to become wealthy; it's a way to keep more of the money you earn and spend it on the things you enjoy most, so you can feel rich even if you aren't.

Sharon H. Secor is a writer based in Minneapolis.

We have now entered what some call spring but what many think of as the post-tax hangover season. The trauma of April 15 has passed, and either you received a refund and have already spent it, or you have begun to worry about paying your next quarterly installment to the IRS. Like many others, I've […]

It may seem like an absurd dichotomy to talk about employee retention in the face of a layoff economy. In an era when many corporate giants, high-tech firms and consulting agencies are announcing job cuts as a way to return to profitability, what's the point in considering how to motivate employees and keep their loyalty? In fact, as many corporate managers realize, the same factors that motivate employees can also help influence a company's profits. Hire well and treat your employees well and your bottom line will give you something to brag about.

This month we look at six books on employee motivation and retention, the antidote managers need to combat uncertainty in an age when corporate layoffs seem an inevitable piece of the landscape.

Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High-Turnover to High-Retention by Gregory P. Smith is a terrific how-to book for employee retention. After outlining the staggering costs associated with employee turnover (from $5,000 to $125,000 per turnover) Smith provides practical solutions to help any workplace retain employees and increase revenues. Using solutions from companies like Disney, USAA Insurance and Earthlink, he addresses absenteeism, teamwork and performance appraisals and shows how innovations from these companies helped retain the best and brightest and brought the also-rans up to a higher level of employee satisfaction and motivation. Some of his solutions are down-right down-home, like employee newsletters and flexible benefits, but these are solutions that work, and that's the bottom line. What works for employees will make employees work better.

Loyalty Rules! How Today's Leaders Build Lasting Relationships by Frederick F. Reichheld argues that too few companies take the high road to business practice. Instead, many focus single-mindedly on financial results at the expense of building the human structures necessary to create loyal employees and customers. Reichheld cogently argues that low-road strategies, like layoffs, may create short-term financial gains but don't give companies the tools they need when the going gets rough. In Loyalty Rules! he skillfully maps a plan for attaining employee loyalty and avoiding future layoffs. He does this by setting high standards for employee performance and compensation. In effect, his message is this: Don't set the bar too low for employee accountability, and you'll never have to show anyone the exit door.

Don't Kill the Bosses: Escaping the Hierarchy Trap by Samuel A. Culbert and John B. Ullmen addresses the internal company forces that kill loyalty and reduce employee motivation. Let's face it: layoffs are often the result of larger issues at work in any company. Culbert and Ullmen identify the factors that allow managers to walk away unscathed when an assignment fails, but allows them to fire the very people they hand-picked to achieve bottom-line results. Too often, they point out, the hierarchy of a company allows and encourages failure as long as the boss doesn't have to take the blame. That's a striking theory, but one that makes most of us shake our heads in tacit understanding! The authors carefully illustrate how and why hierarchy traps the innocent and makes the untrapped more wary, to the detriment of the company's bottom line. Two-sided accountability, they say, is the solution and this book makes it easy to understand and create. Motivating employees comes from giving them incentives to succeed. Learn how with this powerful new book.

How does an Olympian win a gold medal? How do tennis stars become Wimbledon winners? They find extraordinary coaches to unlock their athletic potential, that's how. In The Coaching Revolution by David Logan, Ph.D., and John King the authors argue that athletes aren't the only performers who need coaches. So do employees. Logan and King say productivity, efficiency, reliability and profitability (the equivalent of a dozen home runs) are the results of coaching people to success. In this smart and funny book, the coach becomes part-time psychologist, Olympic trainer, manager and motivator. He wants to takes a company athlete from "Duh, I don't know what's wrong with our company" to "Aha, I think I've got it" to "Wow, I've got the big picture" culminating in "Shazam, I solved the problem." Winning results happen when managers follow the finely tuned training regime which Logan and King have developed and which they encourage you to copy. Get out your coaching whistles and take your team to play-off victory.

The Talent Edge: A Behavioral Approach to Hiring, Developing, and Keeping Top Performers by David Cohen helps businesses identify what top performers do differently than the majority of their peers. Understanding the key employee shows companies how to hire better talent in the future through a process called behavioral interviewing. This unique interviewing process matches the right employee and the right job with much greater success than traditional interviewing, says Cohen. It allows companies to find employees whose resumes may not exactly match a job description, but whose talent and values do. This is a human resources book every HR manager should read. But CEOs should spend an evening reading it as well; it will make them reconsider the role HR decisions play in a company's overall health. In lean times, having the best and brightest means having the most creative solutions to lagging stock prices, outsourcing dilemmas and marketing failures. The Talent Edge will make a difference.

Finally, The War for Talent by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod is another excellent choice for executive reading. In this eye-opening report, the authors compile five years of research, including 13,000 CEO surveys and case studies of 27 companies. They identify five imperatives companies must develop to attract, train and retain employee talent. By developing a talent mindset the authors show that positive and successful companies embrace this change in management thinking. This book explains to the weary executive chasing success why it is imperative to rebuild a recruiting strategy, weave development into the organization and differentiate and affirm employee talents. In the age of layoffs, the right man (or woman) for the job becomes a meaningful phrase, not a tired truism.

Sharon Secor is a business writer in Minnesota.

It may seem like an absurd dichotomy to talk about employee retention in the face of a layoff economy. In an era when many corporate giants, high-tech firms and consulting agencies are announcing job cuts as a way to return to profitability, what's the point in considering how to motivate employees and keep their loyalty? […]

Lou Gerstner, the CEO of IBM, was recently asked on CNN's Lou Dobbs' MoneyLine to explain Big Blue's strong showing in the stock market. "IBM, fortunately, never chased the dot-com phenomenon very hard, and so we missed it," Gerstner said. "We have stayed true to our focus, which is that e-business and the Internet are about real business. It is not about simply putting up a Web site. It is about transactions, it is about transforming your enterprise, and those expenditures are still going on." No, this isn't a column on the enduring legacy of IBM, nor on the collapse of the Internet bubble. This month we look at books that echo Gerstner's optimism and describe what works in "Real Business," a strategy that says great businesses do more than post a Web site and wait for business to come surfing in.

One of the pioneers in Internet retailing was Amazon.com, which started off selling only books. I'll admit, I liked the company then. The customer service people loved to talk about the books you were buying, and your order arrived in just a few days. Can Amazon now succeed by selling everything from cars to tools? I don't know, but The Myth of Excellence: Why Great Companies Never Try To Be the Best at Everything by Fred Crawford and Ryan Mathews argues for a return to the old days when businesses operated to meet customer needs. In the introduction to this thought-provoking book the authors make a cogent argument that today's consumers may be more affluent but they aren't necessarily living better than their parents did. This recognition means American values are shifting, and those values are showing up in consumer surveys and attitudes. After years as consultants for global retailers, Crawford and Mathews thought they knew everything about consumer attitudes. But a survey of 5,000 consumers disproved much of what they assumed was true. People want "honest, consistent prices," not just low prices on a given day. They want to be treated with courtesy and respect, not entertained by customer service. In this must-read book, Crawford and Mathews write a blueprint for the Real Business of the future.

If anyone knows what a Real Business is, that person is Warren Buffet. In The Essential Buffet: Timeless Principles for the New Economyby Robert G. Hagstrom the principles of the Oracle of Omaha are organized to help investors sail through the New Economy and avoid the siren's call of get-rich quick technology investments. Hagstrom acquaints the uninitiated reader with Buffet's main investing maxims, then walks a tech stock through the Berkshire-Hathaway chairman's analysis process. Hagstrom says Buffet chooses not to invest in technology, but the underlying reason "is not that we don't understand a technology business or its product. The reason we don't invest is because we can't understand the predictability of the economics ten years hence." Buffet's internal goals for Berkshire-Hathaway pre-empt the use of technology stocks. As I read The Essential Buffet, I determined to re-examine my own portfolio for the long haul and to apply Buffet's principles to my technology stocks. My own motto: only Real Businesses need apply.

I am often asked, what's B2B? If you don't know, now is the time to read Understanding B2Bby Matthew Friedman and Marlene Blanshay. B2B stands for Business-To-Business technology. Essentially B2B is the online transformation of traditional business interactions. In the past a salesperson for a medical supply company may have written up an order for hospital supplies, then transferred those orders to a sales clerk who entered the order into the company's order processing system. Now many companies can enter standard orders online, saving valuable supply and sales time without sacrificing service or cost. In the realm of Real Business, the Internet can and does offer invaluable ways to streamline business transactions. Understanding B2B provides a useful explanation of the many ways B2B plays a part in international commerce. B2B is the future as Lou Gerstner envisions it for the remaining major players in the technology industry.

Our last book this month makes a strong case for the future success of the Internet if businesses learn to use it well. Customers Rule! Why the E-Commerce Honeymoon Is Over by Roger D. Blackwell and Kristina Stephan highlights retailers who succeeded on the Internet and tells us why they've prospered. The authors also detail the embarrassing strategic mistakes many e-retailers made. (No, none of those e-ventures are still in business.) Blackwell and Stephan found most e-retailers did not understand how or why consumers use information, i.e. Internet sites. They found most consumers go to the Internet to get more information on a product, not to buy it. Are you looking for a new washer and dryer? Consumers may search the web for products and prices, but most of us will march down to Sears for the final sale and delivery. Customers want back up; they want service.

Web sites are the equivalent of catalog sales, Blackwell and Stephan say, and the profit margins are about the same. Online sites are just one way of enticing customers into a store or solidifying an already existing relationship. For example, Sherwin-Williams, the paint company, uses its Web site to devise strategies that will satisfy and retain loyal customers. In the end, a Real Business knows its customer and uses the web to enhance the relationship.

Briefly noted

A Beginner's Guide to the World Economyby Randy Charles Epping, is a revised and updated version of the perfect gift for recently graduated scholars. In engaging question and answer format, Epping covers the 81 world economic concepts he says most people run across in their daily lives. Topics include everything from the World Bank and net worth to economic sanctions. Epping leaves complicated theories and explanations to people with Ph.D.s; this book is for the rest of us.

The Microsoft Edge: Insider Strategies for Building Successby Julie Bick has been released in paperback, making it a great summer item to tuck into a briefcase or beach bag. Bick crisply and humorously relates how the software giant got big and stayed that way through business practices any corporation or small business would be wise to duplicate.

Wharton on Making Decisions, edited by Stephen J. Hoch and Howard C. Kunreuther. Summer is a good time for quiet reflection on upcoming decisions and their impact for the future year. This summer, for the price of a book, you can get help with your decisions from one of the most formidable teams in academe. The Wharton School reveals the latest academic insights in decision-making with cogent and timely essays on the topic and supplies the tools needed for strategic decisions.

Lou Gerstner, the CEO of IBM, was recently asked on CNN's Lou Dobbs' MoneyLine to explain Big Blue's strong showing in the stock market. "IBM, fortunately, never chased the dot-com phenomenon very hard, and so we missed it," Gerstner said. "We have stayed true to our focus, which is that e-business and the Internet are […]

When David met Goliath on the battlegrounds of the Philistines, a young man with no armor slew the huge Philistine with a small rock. In today's business world, a few special leaders are challenging the status quo, trying to slay the behemoth and become king, and a slate of new business books tells their stories.

Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond (audio) is a jaunty book about the early, dysfunctional days and brilliant (albeit still young) career of Linux developer Linus Torvalds. Almost anyone who has heard of computers has heard of Linux, the computer operating system that is the closest rival to Micro- soft's Windows and, get this, is free. Not only free, but the code used to adapt Linux for different situations is widely available. Linux even requires users to share innovations under its General Public License an "anticopyright," Torvalds calls it.

Why would Torvalds do something to benefit thousands of companies and millions of users and expect little in return? Just for Fun takes a look at his somewhat radical procedures and explains that Torvalds created Linux with an Open Source philosophy, which he says illustrates "the limitless benefits" of allowing anyone and everyone to participate in a project's development or commercial exploitation. The theory says proprietary notions of commerce are wrong. Instead, the strongest products will be developed when the largest numbers of people are working on product development.

Imagine it . . . an operating system (or a product) that gets stronger and works better as time goes on.

The description of Torvalds' futuristic outlook and scientific philosophy is like a roller coaster ride inside a 21st century mind. Peppered with personal anecdotes about his kids and musings on the fate of Microsoft and others, this book is a real kick, brilliant, bold and not to be missed. It's a book about how David plans to slay Goliath, and tells him about it first.

At the other end of the spectrum, Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynastyby Dennis McDougal is the sad history of a great newspaper and the family who built it and tore it apart. A true epic, Privileged Son shares the story of the Chandler family whose fortunes were built, as were many great American fortunes, on the backs of anti-unionism and sly deceptions.

This history follows Times Mirror chairman Otis Chandler from youth through the sale last year of his family's media conglomerate, the Times Mirror Corporation. We meet Chandler in his youth as the country entered World War II and he experienced the attack on Pearl Harbor, a "day that marked the beginning of his personal cynicism" toward government. We follow his career as a newsman where he came to believe that the "newsroom was the heartbeat of the business," a sentiment neither his father nor grandfather, the paper's founder, shared.

McDougal, who wrote the best-selling The Last Mogul, links the best L.A. families to the early West Coast mob and chronicles the family infighting that led to the demise of Chandler family control of the newspaper. He details the expansion of Los Angeles Times news coverage to include bureaus around the world and notes that "curiously the further away it moved from its core audience, the less the Times power and might translated into automatic success." Also curious, McDougal credits the L.A. Times with challenging other California papers to pump up the volume in their papers in order to compete with the L.A. Times behemoth. In this captivating story, Goliath slays himself.

The Cheating of America: How Tax Avoidance and Evasion by the Super Rich Are Costing the Country Billions and What You Can Do About Itby Charles Lewis and Bill Allison and the Center for Public Integrity pits you and me, the taxpaying public, as David against the Goliath of industry whose tax evasion schemes rob billions each year from federal and state coffers. Whether you agree or disagree with the premise of this informative and eye-opening book, its catalog of offshore money havens, influence schemes of the rich and powerful and corporate tax-shelters provide an amazing primer on completely legal tax evasion by many large, influential corporations each year.

Did you know many wealthy Americans expatriate to another country each year to avoid paying U.S. income taxes? Or that Seagate Technology and Apple Computers are among two companies which set up offshore manufacturing companies to reduce foreign and U.S. taxes each year? Did you know the founders of some charitable trusts may take an income from that trust, with no limits, no matter how poorly the charity itself is doing? It's tax avoidance maneuvers like this that cost individual taxpayers more than $1,600 a year, says the IRS. Lewis and Allison chronicle the web of legality that surrounds much of this avoidance, causing the individual taxpayer to ante up more for the federal government. In light of the current debates on tax cuts and soft money for political contributions, this is a must read book for business owners and taxpayers alike.

On a lighter note, The Girls' Guide to Power and Success by Susan Wilson Solovic teaches women how to play the role of David. Solovic incorporates the use of power ("the power of expectations," "the power of 20/20 vision," "the power of balance") throughout her book, helping women build a successful battle plan for their careers. Although she avoids advising women to act more like men, Solovic gives clear and steady counsel on defining the terms under which a woman works. She also tells women they don't have to be Superwoman to have a great career, and she includes a few sensible tips get a cleaning lady and utilize professionals to help you manage all those parts of your life you can't get to during the workday.

I was struck by the usefulness of this book for human resource professionals as well as for the average career woman. The more HR people learn about female stereotypes, the better chance they have to incorporate women's leadership styles into the workplace and cull the best talent women have to offer. Maybe David and Goliath can work together?

Briefly noted

Clausewitz on Strategy: Inspiration and Insight from a Master Strategist edited by Tiha von Ghyczy, Bolko von Oetinger and Christopher Bassford. Culled from the writings of the 19th century Prussian philosopher Carl von Clausewitz, this collection includes excerpts from his seminal work, On War (1832), which are relevant to business leaders in their search for fresh thinking on the conflict known as business strategy. A fascinating primer for Clausewitz neophytes.

The Deep Blue Sea: Rethinking the Source of Leadershipby Wilfred Drath. Drath argues that we all have hidden leadership skills; we just don't recognize the traits in ourselves. Each individual personality creates different types of leaders, and each of us out there in the deep blue sea can develop our own leadership potential. Worthwhile reading for budding leaders.

Sharon Secor is a Nashville-based business writer.

 

When David met Goliath on the battlegrounds of the Philistines, a young man with no armor slew the huge Philistine with a small rock. In today's business world, a few special leaders are challenging the status quo, trying to slay the behemoth and become king, and a slate of new business books tells their stories. […]

Do we all approach the giving season with anxiety and trepidation? Do we wonder if a sister-in-law will read too much into a gift of Time Management From the Inside Out? Does the boss already own Who Moved My Cheese? When it comes to gift giving, there's no limit on the amount of anxiety many of us create for ourselves. The truth is plain: readers love to get books but some gift givers are just plain scared to choose them. Business books are no exception. Most of us don't know what to choose, we don't want to choose, so what can we do? This gift-giving season, BookPage has several suggestions on business books to help you make that difficult choice. Follow Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's advice, Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think. Here are six books sure to please both gift giver and reader.

An old-timer in the financial field writes one of the season's best new business books. John Bogle on Investing: The First 50 Years by John Bogle, is a perfect gift for newly minted MBAs, stockbrokers and young people considering a career in business. Rarely does one encounter a financial behemoth with Bogle's direct and no-nonsense approach to life, money and the mutual fund. John Bogle on Investing provides an antidote to the popular misconception of the materialistic money manager.

Bogle, recently retired as chairman of Vanguard Mutual Funds, begins the book with a primer on mutual fund management followed by an invaluable guide to the industry. This book, unlike his others, allows Bogle to share his views on integrity and values as essential ingredients for successful business. The point is, he says, ladies and gentlemen, greed is out. Integrity is in. And if you seek success and fulfillment, please accept my advice to hold yourselves to the highest moral standards. It will be 'good business' but it will also be good for your souls as well. Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, wrote the introduction to Bogle on Investing. He says, Vanguard's rise to preeminence in the world of finance attests to the soundness of its principles. For anyone who wonders whether the business world will steal her soul, this book resoundingly says no.

In general, little is known about the private life, education and daily habits of the man who has presided over the longest stretch of American economic prosperity. Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, seems a quiet man whose steady voice and black spectacles bespeak a life of economic contemplation. Certainly those who have not read Justin Martin's Greenspan: The Man Behind the Money imagine a sedate and solitary lifetime spent in banking and international finance interrupted only by daily reading of deep, dark tomes on political economy and finance history.

So it's a surprise and a delight to learn that the stoic figure with the unflappable demeanor spent his youth pining for a career in music (he briefly attended Julliard and then toured the country in a jazz band.) He enjoyed a long friendship with the author Ayn Rand and is married to former NBC news correspondent Andrea Mitchell. Despite initial appointments by Republican politicians, Greenspan has served as Fed chairman under President Clinton and enjoys a wide array of friendships on both the right and the left. In short, Greenspan is an interesting man whose life has followed many roads less traveled.

Martin's biography is part news account, part history and public policy analysis. His life of the Fed chairman reconstructs recent financial news such as the Asian crisis and Greenspan's chiding words on the nation's irrational exuberance, the phrase that set market tongues wagging. A perfect gift for history buffs, news hounds and anyone involved in the financial markets, Greenspan is a history of politics and intellect, blunders and gaffs, and the amazing man who possesses all those traits.

Executives seeking new jobs and companies trying to lure candidates will have a special interest in Joel Kotkin's latest book on trends in the New Economy. The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape reveals an all-too-evident truth: cell phones, faxes and modem lines are transforming New Economy notions of workspace and place.

Kotkin, a public policy fellow at Pepperdine and columnist for both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, notes the trend by yuppies, childless couples and artists to move back into urban environments for work and home. At the same time, Fortune 500 corporations are creating bucolic campus environments replete with child care centers to lure recruits who seek country havens for young families. Kotkin believes urban use and suburban decay will be a hallmark of the New Economy.

The author intersperses accounts of ancient Greek and medieval European geography for a stimulating journey into the past and future of the business environment. Human resource pros will love this book, but anyone with an interest in real estate, urban decay or city planning will also enjoy Kotkin's intriguing look at business locations.

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Damn Right! Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger by Janet Lowe should be required reading for Warren Buffet fans. Sometimes called the Brains Behind Buffet, Charlie Munger has served as right hand man to Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffet for 41 years. This biography highlights personal honesty, integrity and generosity as key ingredients in any rewarding career. In his introduction, the Oracle of Omaha credits Munger with making Berkshire Hathaway a valuable and admirable company. These days writing books on How to Get Rich Quick on the Internet seems to be its own popular get-rich quick scheme. The Sixth Market: The Electronic Investor Revolution is a refreshing change from all those promise-the-moon-and-stars guides to making a fortune as a day trader. The Sixth Market outlines a responsible, educated approach to becoming an online stock trader including a realistic guide to computer equipment. It even encourages further financial education, making a case for smart, long-term investing. Best of all, this short book could be used as a practical guide to familiarizing almost anyone with financial market terms.

Every homeowner should have one of those Reader's Digest How-to-Fix-Anything books on a shelf somewhere. And anyone who has a bank account should own The Wall Street Journal Guide to Understanding Personal Finance, now in its third edition. This is an eminently practical guide to everything from credit histories to mortgage rates. As useful as a dictionary, the guide features colorful graphics and simple language to make financial matters seem as easy as fixing a sink. Give this book to college students, newly married couples or anyone who wants to become a competent manager of their own money.

Sharon Secor is a Nashville based writer.

 

Do we all approach the giving season with anxiety and trepidation? Do we wonder if a sister-in-law will read too much into a gift of Time Management From the Inside Out? Does the boss already own Who Moved My Cheese? When it comes to gift giving, there's no limit on the amount of anxiety many […]

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