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Bring Your Human To Work Rediscovers a Workplace with Real People In It

The age of technology has ushered  in a plethora of social behaviors, among which is a reassessment of how we work. The number of people working remotely leaving companies struggling with whether or not to even have a central office.   These decisions impact how people work and decide how to bring themselves into a work environment. What is the real-life balance in a world where the virtual and the real are blurred? Erica Keswin tackles these aspects in her new book, Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Sure Fire ways to Design a Workplace That’s Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World.  As I started to read the review copy, I soon realized the book is as ambitious as the title is long. It is a worthwhile read for small business owners expanding their team and learning how to care about their workers. What Is Bring Your Human To Work About? The book covers the behaviors that managers should encourage to create a good work space.  An inclusive work environment is crucial for creating community and critical in maintaining that community feeling even when people are speaking through a computer or smartphone to get stuff done.  Given the rising percentage of remote work and debates about the merits of open space work places, Keswin’s choice to focus on human interaction is instantly savvy and timely. Each chapter has a human action plan with a brief description of three takeaways. Chapter 2 speaks about sustainability. On first blush the topic may sound like an examination of ecological issues, but what Keswin describes is the care managers must take of people.   The chapter talks about taking care of family, standing by employees during difficult times.  The push for better bereavement practices by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who lost her husband Dave Goldberg in 2015, is examined. Chapter 3 examines the balance of tech and social connection, noting how the restaurant Sweetgreen uses “intimacy to scale” as a way of determining the best ways to personalize their services. Other chapters address scheduling meetings, giving to the community and disconnecting…

Is Your Brand a Legacy In The Making or a Flash in the Pan?

We read and hear about how fast-moving society has become, thank due in part to people having online access and generating an always-on awareness. That awareness sometimes celebrates overnight success, instant gratification, and unfortunately hyperactive short-term thinking. With that environment in mind how can marketers craft messages and ideas that stick with people enough to attract a customer? Even deeper, how does a business establish the right operations for long-term….to even build a legacy? One answer comes in the book Legacy In The Making: Building a Long-Term Brand to Stand Out In a Short-Term World by Mark Miller and Lucas Conley. The authors offer ideas and solutions for how business leaders take the right operational risks to establish their companies for the long haul. Miller and Conley offer ideas based on in-depth research and insights from leaders at venerable brands like Patagonia, Lexus, and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Miller is the founder of the Legacy lab and the chief strategy officer at Team One. Conley is author of obsessive branding disorder and co-author of the method method. There is also a forward by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. What Is Legacy in the Making About? Legacy in the Making offers profile of leaders from the brands examining their decisions.   The authors advocate that business legacies develop from companies that really don’t stand still in their markets, offering the same approach to services or products. The current time has evolved the properties of legacy to require more dynamic thinking. “We are all familiar with the traditional meaning of a legacy … We see it in every leader who seeks to “cement” his or her legacy as if it were something set in stone and left behind on museum pedestal to gather dust … In contrast our lives or anything but static they evolved fluidly on a continuum.”   Each profile shares a scenario and lessons, noting how the modern age is revising long held views.  Examining the visions of the leaders is a similar format to another book I reviewed, Jewels, which examined the leadership of African-American women. The book include one page framework at…

Book on Creative Clarity Looks at Managing Creativity in your Business

Creative thinking is essential for developing innovation in products and services. But applying creative thinking in business can run into a brick wall — the philosophy of business is to apply uniform production processes to permit scale, making the unique aspects of creativity play second fiddle to cost and productivity concerns. The key to solve this impasse is to find strategies to leverage creativity where its value can be unleashed to benefit a business.  A book that offers advice on how to address this impasse is Creative Clarity: A Practical Guide for Bringing Creative Thinking Into Your Company  by Jon Kolko. It highlights creative skills and management products for use in running your business. Kolko is a partner at Modernist Studio and the founder of Austin Center for Design. He has worked with both startups and Fortune 500 companies so he brings a unique perspective and set of experiences to business management. What is Creative Clarity About? Creative Clarity: A Practical Guide for Bringing Creative Thinking Into Your Company is about applying creative skills as a way of finding new solutions to the rigorous demands of a business environment. As Koljo states on the opening page: “Most companies don’t know what creativity really is, so they can’t benefit from it.” The book encourages the reader to seek a problem solving framework — particularly when working with creative professionals like designers, graphic artists and journalists. Kolko goes on to provide a few frameworks for the reader to consider.  The aim is to incorporate good processes that leverage what creatives bring to the table and yet at the same time fit within the business constraints of product development. The fourth chapter Managing Spin, explains the idea of wasted creative cycles that do not push an idea forward. Chapter 5 offers insights on managing critiques, while the last chapter deals with building a creative culture. The book is a good read, only about 180 pages with supporting material at the end. What I Liked about Creative Clarity I like that the chapters within Creative Clarity: A Practical Guide for Bringing Creative Thinking Into Your Company focus on a mix of…

Cost-o-vation Examines Business Innovation While Watching Your Costs

When it comes to innovation, entrepreneurs must learn how to apply processes to extract value, not just sit with the idea in their mind. But once a product or service is being offered, entrepreneurs must look at how they can manage expenses. That kind of decision making becomes tricky when you are trying to innovate for customers — what expenses are worth the budget? One book that can help with that decision making is Cost-o-vation: Innovation That Gives Your Customers Exactly What They Want and Nothing More by Stephen Walker and Jennifer Luo Law.  The book offers the right blend of bringing forth innovative ideas with managing costs that support the effort. Both authors, leading execs at New Markets Advisors in Boston,  bring a wealth of business acumen and leadership on innovation initiatives.  Walker is a managing director of new markets advisors, a longtime collaborator with Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen. He publishes frequently in Forbes Harvard Business Review and Financial Times. Law is an associate principal at New Markets Advisors and a former Fullbright Fellow.  She has lead innovation initiatives across a number of industries. What Is Cost-o-vation About? The main idea behind Cost-o-vation is determining how to cut costs while still providing surprising innovations to delight your customers. The book’s focus is timely given the pressures to constantly innovate to keep up with competitors.  Fortunately, Walker and Law assert innovation does not necessarily mean give customers the world. In the book, they write, “Innovation is typically thought to mean more: more options, more features. What makes cost ovation so radical is that it flips this understanding on its head and says that sometimes the winning approach is to do less.” The chapter summaries explain the process needed to put this understanding into practice, while case studies examine successes including brands ranging from LegalZoom to Planet Fitness. Readers will hear success stories from various industries and from less well-known companies, such as Bridge International Academies. This company provides operation services for educational institutions in emerging markets.  A checklist at the end of the book is super handy for business readers that…

Motoring Africa Examines Business Opportunities in an Emerging Auto Manufacturing Industry

For years, consolidations in the auto industry have made the market seem as if opportunities for new entrants were limited.  But the changing economics in global markets have made this obstacle “appear” less formidable.  I say “appear” because building cars can seem simple, but building a manufacturing operation to scale is more complex. Anyone following Elon Musk’s automotive venture can see those complexities easily. Still the sky may be the limit for the right sustainable manufacturing ideas in Africa, according to Edward Hightower, an automotive exec who has written a terrific book, Motoring Africa: Sustainable Automotive Industrialization – Building Entrepreneurs, Creating Jobs, and Driving the World’s Next Economic Miracle.  The reader will walk away with global views of the industry and real-world ideas about how to best enter the market. Hightower has a very accomplished background in the automotive industry. He is a managing director of Motoring Ventures LLC, a private capital investment, operations and growth advisory firm. Hightower lead a crossover business unit for General Motors and has worked for BMW and Ford as well.  I heard about the book through the author’s brother, a developer friend who established a Ruby-on-Rails conference in Chicago.  I attended a book launch at the BlueLacuna incubator in Chicago, Hightower’s hometown, and purchased a copy for this review. What Is Motoring Africa About? Motoring Africa is a thorough look at the automotive industry on the African continent, but it also has a value as a primer for understanding the global automotive industry and sustainable manufacturing concepts. For example, in the book Hightower deftly notes how the automotive sector is more strategic for job creation: “While the combined market capitalizations of the tech companies are nearly eight times those of the automakers, the automakers create double the jobs of tech companies.” Early on, Hightower makes a reasonable case for economic trends in Africa. Check out this stat as an example: “The McKinsey Global Institute forecasts that by the year 2034, Africa will have a working age population of 1.1 billion, which will be larger than the workforce populations of either China or India.” He then takes those stats and emphasizes…

Make Smarter Choices in Business, Boost Your Growth IQ

Your strategy may seem savvy at first, but all strategies require legwork to execute properly.  Most days it means a lot of legwork. The key is to pick the right place to invest your efforts.  Furthermore, you need an innovative approach to the work you do nowadays to be competitive. If you want to learn more about where to invest your efforts most effectively, pick up the book Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices That Will Make or Break Your Business by Tiffani Bova.  The book shares a number of case studies from startups and larger brands to teach small business owners how to invest efforts more effiiently. Bova is a customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce.  She has lead large companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 businesses, on top of 10 years spent at Gartner.  Small Business Trends received an advanced copy of the book before its August 14, 2018, release date. What Is Growth IQ About? Bova provides a set of case studies a few pages deep, with key takeaways at the end.   The cases are arranged as Paths — the book’s name for growth strategies various companies in the study undertook.  Many of the takeaways focus on finding more innovative ways to invest effort and avoid relying on a business’s past strengths. This approach takes a unique look at strategies as an executable framework.  The information is thankfully presented in a brief enough format to fit the busy business owner’s schedule allowing it to be consumed quickly. Bova’s selection of businesses is very broad, incorporating recent business news such as Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. Successes examined include Lemonade Insurance, Shake Shack, Blue Apron, Netflix, Lego, Kylie Cosmetics and The Honest Company.  Traditional enterprises such as Sears, McDonald’s and Walmart are also examined. What I liked about Growth IQ What’s best here is how Bova has laid out the book for for the reader. You can see how each of the Paths have been tailoredto ake them easy for small business owners to follow without artifice or used-car-salesman slickery. Take the segment, Knowing When to Jump.…

Book Asks if You Are Born to Build?

Gathering resources for your business is never easy. It takes savvy, insight, and timing to make those resources work in your favor.  It also requires you know how to build alliances and gather resources well. One book aspiring to look at this process more closely is Born to Build: How to Build a Thriving Startup, a Winning Team, New Customers, and Your Best Life Imaginable. The book’s authors are Jim Clifton, chairman of Gallop, and Sangeeta Badal, Ph.D., principal scientist for the Gallup Builder Initiative. Clifton and Badal have written a useful guide for entrepreneurs seeking a balanced approach to building their business in the face of fierce competition. What Is Born to Build About? Born to Build addresses the mindset entrepreneurs typically bring to their strategic choices. The authors believe most people overlook the builder aspect of creating a business, and as a result overlook vital concepts for better managing their opportunities and resources. This book is about marshaling those resources and teaching entrepreneurs how to better assess themselves.  To accomplish this objective, Clifton and Badal outline what’s necessary to put the pieces into place. The authors open the book with a basic question: what are you building? They then extend the builder metaphor in part two of the book by introducing the Four Keys to Building: Being self-aware Recognizing opportunities Activating on ideas Building a team The authors follow up in part three of the book by detailing 10 talents of successful builders, so readers wishing to build a business understand what talents are needed and where to apply them. The book also contains Gallup Builder Profile 10, a process for assessing entrepreneurial capabilities. Readers can take an online assessment based on this profile.  The assessment vets readers’ innate talents,  allowing them to do a “SWOT” analysis to determine their ability to build the businesses they desire.  The last section of the book explains the research used to develop the assessment. What I Liked about Born To Build Clifton and Badal translate experiences from larger industries to speak to the anxieties and concerns of entrepreneurs with small scale businesses.  They show how those…

Straight Talk for Startups Gives you Rules for Pitching Your Business to Investors

In the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and its sequel series “Deep Space Nine,” the commerce-centric aliens known as Ferengi had a directive called The Rule of Acquisition. Well, entrepreneurs are not aliens, but start up complexity, especially when it comes to financing a start-up and managing its complexity, can feel alien enough to warrant a few rules. While there are a lot of books on startup rules, the best one is a straight talking resource called Straight Talk for Startups; 100 Insider Rules for Beating the Odds from Mastering the Fundamentals to Selecting Investors, Fundraising, Managing Boards, and Achieving Liquidity. Written by Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman, the book is a condensed series of concepts belonging in every small business library. Komisar and Reigersman have years of entrepreneurial and investment experience between them. Komisar has written several books on entrepreneurship, as well as being a frequent lecturer on the subject, while Reigersman serves as Chief Financial Officer of Leaf Group, a publicly traded consumer internet company. I feel these men have crafted a splendid primer every entrepreneur must read to make their pitches better. What Is Straight Talk for Startups About? Komisar and Reigersman share 100 time-tested ideas for building a start up from a financial and operational standpoint. This book is aimed at startup entrepreneurs who don’t have time for a deep dive into financial questions. Instead they need fast info to help when pitching to investors. The rules are organized into four parts: Mastering the Fundamentals, Selecting the Right Investors, The Ideal Fundraise, Building and Maintaining Boards, and Achieving Liquidity. What I Liked about Straight Talk for Startups I like how imaginative the authors were in creating this set of rules.  The book’s format allows entrepreneurs to highlight really terrific reminders applicable when finishing financial tasks or operating within teams.  Instead of suggesting a business plan, Rule 17 recommends developing an aspirational plan and execution plan.   Another rule suggests hiring a game-raising assistant rather than “a full-time seat filler.”  Phrasing like this helps you rethink how your business is positioned. Other rules deal with issues like liquidation…

“You Are Your Brand” Teaches Solopreneurs to Develop Their Businesses

Getting a brand started can sometimes feel like starting an old car. The ignition key does not turn when needed, you hear the engine struggle to get its pistons running, and you are on a prayer hoping the car will run well enough to take you where you need to go. Well, there is no shortage of books to help a brand get started. For first time entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, they may want to consider You Are Your Brand, a personal branding book by Felicia Shakespeare. Shakespeare is the founder of Integrity International Group, a full-service personal business and professional development firm based in Chicago. Like many small business owners, Shakespeare wears a number of hats: a published author, brand strategist, and an advocate for library media and education. But unlike many small business owners, she has cultivated her experiences to show how personal brand building leads to real value. I learned about the book after meeting Shakespeare at a mixer with another author, Julie Holloway, who started the TEW books series (I reviewed Volume 2 in 2014; Charles Franklin reviewed Volume 3 a few years ago).  Her book reflects the ideas solopreneurs and entrepreneurs who offer services should carry forward when establishing their own brand. What Is You Are Your Brand About? The book is focused on developing a personal business brand. In an environment where technology is essential for business development, small businesses must still rely on personal development, because so many of the early steps center on one’s perception of one’s own capabilities. Shakespeare addresses this need well by offering her insights on her brand while highlighting the experiences guiding her wisdom. She shares the outlooks she gained from her parents, her faith and her work experiences. All of these combine to explain how “focus should lead to excellence”.  Shakespeare does this understanding the challenges an entrepreneur normally encounters, such as the fear arising from the drive for excellence. “Having an expectation of excellence can provoke some level of fear in people who don’t live by this standard.  Being excellent requires one to strive to surpass just being typical…

Hacking Marketing Teaches How Adopting the Right Software Can Grow Your Customer Base

To say marketing has changed in the last few years is an understatement. Software drives not only marketing innovation but business innovation as well.   There are plenty of books and articles that offer an overview of the rise of software in business operations. But few authors have done as great a job at explaining how to leverage technology for marketing than Scott Brinker. His book Hacking Marketing, Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster and More Innovative, explores the right ideas in managing MarTech. Brinker is editor and chief at Marketing Technologist Blog where he covers MarTech related news and trends. He is also the program chair of the MarTech Conference, and co-founder and CEO of Iron Interactive, a marketing software company that counts Dell, Dun & Bradstreet and General Mills among its clientele. What Is Hacking Marketing About? Hacking Marketing advances a philosophy focused on how to manage software development that impacts your product or brand.  It’s not a workbook, as Brinker states.  He offers a unique perspective to help small business owners do it themselves and manage apps, chatbots and websites in a more cohesive manner. Brinker spends the opening chapters laying out how software development protocol became part of the marketing landscape. Here’s an example of why marketing automation is important and how software development has infused into every bit of marketing. “For many years, marketers mostly concerned themselves with only the design of their company’s website — the way individual pages looked — and the content inserted into pages, primarily static text, photographs and illustrations. But websites today are often much more sophisticated. They include functionality to let customers place orders, make custom service requests, and check on the status of their accounts.” The next chapters outline Brinker’s thought process about how marketing relates to technology.  He explains how marketing automation is programming, and diagrams approaches for how teams should manage information and resources with agile marketing and scrum tactics in mind.   He also notes examples of leadership concerns related to current technological practices. What I Liked About Hacking Marketing What I liked about Hacking Marketing is that Brinker simplifies each chapter topic…

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