Japan’s Rakuten; Crucial Conversations; Unique Employee Handbook; Recruiting Talent
August 30, 2012
Sir Martin Sorrell Tips; Scaling Hyper-Growth; Significant Overcapacity Warning
September 7, 2012

120 Days; 6 + 1 Key Books; How Companies Win

"…out-learning the competition"


6 + 1 Must Read Books — the six books listed below (plus one for the CEO) are MUST READs – each either pioneering new thinking or the undisputed classic in its field – ideas that will have a continued profound impact on your business and those you are entrusted to lead. But who has time to read when the last four months of the year is when most business leaders turn on the afterburners? Solution below, but first the list (the power is in the synergy of the ideas):

How Companies Win — Rick Kash and David Calhoun have written the most important book of the last 12 months. In essence, every leader must make a 180 degree pivot from the supply side of their business to the demand side i.e. spend as much angst over pricing as they do the cost side of the business; spend as much time in the field as they do fighting fires internally; and figuring out the 7% of the market that represents 25% – 50% of the profitability of the industry and laser focus on this segment with a 100% solution. It means giving targeted lists to sales people vs. letting them go after any low hanging fruit they can find. It's the most significant re-shift of focus since WWII.

The Leadership Challenge — Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner's 25 year old classic yet continuously updated 5 part leadership framework is the most practical and actionable model in existence – useful for frontline supervisors yet powerful enough for senior leaders. And Jim does such a beautiful job explaining how to implement and master each of the five attributes of an effective leader – it's rare to witness a master at work. And you don't need a list of 75 things to do as a leader – whew!

Uncommon Service — Frances Frei (my favorite strategist at Harvard) and Anne Morriss's book is the first to succinctly suggest that you must withhold things from customers as both a differentiation strategy and to make a boat load of money! Yet most entrepreneurs don't have the guts/inclination to do this and thus get crushed financially in the marketplace. Their book underpins the entire "One Phrase Strategy" stratum of my new 7 Strata of Strategy framework. This book will make you lots of money – and will further focus you on the demand side of your business.

Emotional Equations — I'm such a huge fan of Dan Pink (author of Drive), I'm going to steal his words to describe uber-entrepreneur Chip Conley's book. "In this remarkable book, one of America's finest entrepreneurs shares the wisdom that's helped him find personal and professional renewal in the face of some devastating life events. Chip Conley's equations are powerful tools for helping to make our emotions work for us, rather than against us, in business and in life. "Controlling emotions is critical to crucial conversations. FYI, Chip is CEO of Joie de Vivre Hotels.

Reverse Innovation — it's rare when someone creates a new biz term, yet authors Vijay Govindarajan (first professor of innovation at GE) and Chris Trimble have done just that with their term "reverse innovation." The future of all of our companies is to innovate products and services specifically for the third world and then bring them back to our own first world markets — if you don't, the competition overseas will. It's as much a mindset as a specific initiative. And it ties back to the demand side of the equation as mentioned in the first book (seeing a pattern yet?).

Crucial Conversations — everything that matters in business and life hinges on crucial (where there is disagreement or tension) conversations. I highlighted this book last Thursday, but didn't do it justice. Wrote Sebastian Ross, serial entrepreneur and HR guru "What they do brilliantly in this book is dissect the different elements and the subtle dynamics of a crucial conversation. After reading this book, my crucial conversations have become less of a black box where things somehow go wrong but I don't really know why and don't feel in control of the process. In my view, the tremendous contribution of these authors is that, first they give me names for the different pieces of a dialogue and then they put handles on these pieces so that I can consciously use them to steer the conversation towards its desired outcome. It is hard to put in practice, I have tried! But just having the mental framework to understand what is happing while it is happening is already a huge step towards becoming a more effective communicator."

Sins and CEOs: Lessons from Leaders and Losers That Will Change Your Career — I included Rich Moran's subtitle since it's rare a serial entrepreneur and VC talks so openly about the losers and their attributes!! This is the bonus book for CEOs-only – or anyone who runs their department or division as if they are the CEO.

So How to Read All These Books? Over the next 120 days left this year, carve out 2 days and come learn directly from these authors at the Fortune Growth Summit in Phoenix, Oct 23 – 24. Bill Gates took one week in the spring and fall to "absorb" 120 books, manuscripts, thesis, white papers, etc. so he remained relevant as a leader – and he was busy!!

But I Can't Implement All This Stuff! — it's not about implementing this right away, it's about having all these frameworks, models, and data bits running around in your head so you'll be slightly more educated and creative than the competition (it's all up there even if you're not conscious of it). Like for Olympians, it's a matter of milliseconds or tenths of a point difference between gold and no medal at all. At least we've narrowed the list down from the 6000 biz books written each year.

But I Don't Have Two Days!! — then you need this the most!! Seriously – the size firms we target, if you're still "doing" as a senior leader of the team vs. out learning from the market, competitors, gurus, etc. – and leading others to do better than you, these six books will give you the tools. See you in Phoenix Oct 23 – 24 (plus our $169 rate is good at the resort the weekend prior to the Tuesday-Wednesday Summit)

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.