What Are You Going to Do When the Digital Vortex Comes For You?

What Are You Going to Do When the Digital Vortex Comes For You?Digital Vortex: How Today’s Market Leaders Can Beat Disruptive Competitors at Their Own Game is the response to the new digital bogeyman, digital disruption. It adopts the approach that established businesses shouldn’t wait to become passive victims of technological disruption. They shouldn’t wait until they become the next “Blockbuster” or “Kodak”. Instead,”Digital Vortex” helps businesses prepare and adapt for that disruption before it’s too late.

What is Digital Vortex About?

According to Digital Vortex, established businesses fail to stop digital disruption (like Amazon, Netflix or PayPal) because they don’t fully understand the nature of what’s happening. Many established businesses of today grew up in an era where almost every component of business was physical and fixed. Your business, customers and even competition had a physical location, The goal was to amass as many resources as possible at the cheapest cost to get the prize (customers).

Digital disruption totally upends that thinking.

Digital disruption creates something that the book calls a “digital vortex”, a combination of forces that help digitally-based businesses (like Amazon or Netflix) crush their non-digital competitors. Because of technology, digital-based businesses are able to scale in a way that a traditional business can’t. Thanks to technology, digital businesses are able to reach a global audience without the need for an expensive budget or equipment. Also, because of technology, digital businesses gain deeper access to their customers’ habits and preferences, allowing them to create products and services with more value. In summary, digital technology is changing the way companies “do business”, forcing other businesses to keep up or go out of business.

Businesses that want to survive digital disruption can’t rely on the simple strategies of the past. They can’t superficially imitate their competition, either. They need an understanding of what makes digital disruptors like Netflix, Amazon, Google, PayPal and Apple work so they can adapt their businesses to successfully compete. That’s where Digital Vortex comes in. It helps readers gain a deeper understanding of the digital environment so they can better leverage their businesses around it.

Authors Jeff Loucks, James Macaulay, Andy Noronha and Michael Wade are all writers, expert researchers, and leaders in Cisco’s Global Center for Digital Business Transformation. Loucks, Macaulay and Noronha are digitization officers with Cisco, in addition, serving as visiting scholars of the Global Center for Digitial Business Transformation. Wade is the Chair of Digital Business Transformation for Cisco and a professor at IMD, a Swiss school for executives that partnered with Cisco to create the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation.

What Was Best About Digital Vortex?

The best part of Digital Vortex lies in the book’s analysis and breakdown of digital disruption. Many books treat digital disruption as some magical and mysterious thing that can only be pursued by companies like Google. Digital Vortex dispenses with all of that, arguing that any business can innovate competitively if it can adapt its business model and create value for its customers. To make this message clear, the authors break down the vague concepts associated with digital disruption in the business world into words that leaders can understand.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Technology doesn’t fix everything, something the authors of Digital Vortex readily admit in the conclusion of the book. In fact, technology creates a whole new set of challenges and opportunities that go beyond “digital disruption.”Some of these issues include labor in an age of automation, surveillance, leadership styles, budgets, etc. These issues have a strong influence on the business environment of the future. Future discussion into this area could help readers gain a better understanding of the field before they begin the assessment and diagnostic in the book.

Why Read Digital Vortex?

Digital Vortex was written for leaders of established businesses who want to innovate for the future but feel left out of the conversation. Many books make the mistaken assumption that innovation is about the product. This takes attention away from what should be the real focus, creating customer value. Digital Vortex contributes to the conversation by arguing that businesses need the right business model in order to create superior value for your customers. That business model should develop through understanding how digital technology impacts business now and how it could affect business in the future.

This article, “What Are You Going to Do When the Digital Vortex Comes For You?” was first published on Small Business Trends

The Network Imperative Shines a Light on Business Model Innovation

The Network Imperative Shines a Light on Business Model InnovationMost business owners accept that they need an online presence to survive in the digital age. Most business owners also accept the call to provide better service in this digital age. Most business owners, however, have not figured out how to powerfully connect technology at their disposal with a powerfully adaptive customer-focused business.

That’s where The Network Imperative: How to Survive and Grow in the Age of Digital Business Models promises to fill in the gap.

The book promises to help business owners transition into a powerful digital-based business designed for a rapidly changing digital age.

What is The Network Imperative About?

“Since 2000, 52 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have been acquired, merged, gone bankrupt, or fallen off the list.”
– – The Network Imperative

We are in a new age of business. We live in an age where the fastest growing and most profitable companies don’t focus on making physical things. They focus on making connections. We live in an age of Facebook, Google, Apple and Uber.

Despite all of the rhetoric about “preparing to be innovative and disruptive”, the authors of The Network Imperative found that most business owners still try to do business the old way (silos, incremental improvements, internally focused). This old way of doing business creates the paradox where businesses that are good at what they do end up stuck in their own success. Blockbuster, Kodak and Nokia didn’t fall because of what they did wrong. They failed because they focused exclusively on what they did right, assuming that the world would always follow their lead.

Getting out of this paradox by slowly and consistently transforming how you do business is the core message of The Network Imperative. The message, however, is much deeper than “Just start a Facebook page”. Instead, it is a reassessment of the assumptions behind your entire business model (how you measure assets, who makes decisions. what leaders are chosen, etc.) to slowly make that transition. For those businesses which have already made the commitment to “go digital”, the book helps readers determine the gaps between their current performance and their potential. (For those in the “already digital” the “Enterprise” case study might prove especially helpful.)

Co-authors Barry Libert, Megan Beck and Yoram (Jerry) Wind all know about the necessity of a new business model  for the digital age.

Libert is an investor, executive level consultant, digital board member and speaker. He is the CEO of Open Matters, a data science company.

Beck is the Chief Insights Officer at Open Matters and a consultant for the Wharton SEI center, an industry think tank.

Wind is the founding director of the Wharton SEI Center, a marketing professor, multi-book author and founding editor of Wharton School Publishing. His book Beyond Advertising: Creating Value Through All Customer Touchpoints was recently reviewed on Small Business Trends.

What Was Best About The Network Imperative?

The Network Imperative deserves a lot of credit for shining a light on the “business model” aspects of innovation. Conversation on innovation tends to focus on the external aspects (like the new app or money raised) with minimal attention to the internal business model. That focus stems from the authors’ in-depth business research which gives them a unique perspective. The perspective leads to a startling, but powerful statement: It isn’t the age of the business that determines their ability to innovate (although it is a factor), it’s the people inside that business.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Network Imperative isn’t designed for really small businesses, although the principles can be applied to a small business. It works best for businesses that have dedicated departments and resources to plan for innovation while keeping the current business running. The focus in The Network Imperative isn’t on capitalizing on a short-term success (the “scale your startup in 7 days using this app” approach) which could be conducted by a very small business. The focus is on building a sustainable system to withstand and thrive.

Why Read The Network Imperative?

It’s time to move beyond the typical “Just do whatever the current best-performing business is doing” advice. As The Network Imperative proves, this advice is riddled with problems. Many of the top-performing businesses of the past are no longer in business (or have merged) and many of the current top-performing businesses will not survive into the near future. A better approach for confronting the uncertain future of business is to develop a thriving system based on principles. Despite the kind of change business owners face, the principles of a thriving business won’t. The Network Imperative shows how to adapt the timeless principles of the past for the uncertain nature of the future.

This article, “The Network Imperative Shines a Light on Business Model Innovation” was first published on Small Business Trends

Look Reveals the Hidden Practical Value in Hide and Go Seek Skills

Look Reveals the Hidden Practical Value in "Hide and Go Seek" SkillsYou might assume good leaders already possess observational skills. You might assume that products are properly inspected or that editors have pored over every detail in a manuscript. You might also  assume that employees are taking proactive steps to stay safe. Still, you hear of product recalls, accidents, and simple factual errors that could have been avoided if the person only took the time to look. Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills is a resource guide to improving observational skills to help in this regard. It is a guide to improving error prevention before the error occurs.

What is Look About?

Look connects the dots between observational skill and your goals. Essentially, the book states, the same skills used in the childhood game of “Hide and Go Seek” can help adults locate product defects, missed opportunities (like clients) or potential safety hazards. The author emphasizes this connection because we often make the mistaken assumption that observational skills don’t need to be trained. After all, it’s just  a question of looking carefully, right?

Wrong!

Observational skills are more than just “looking.” They are a collection of skills that can be refined with time and practice (as the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes can attest!) Look, in particular, focuses on a primary observational skill: matching the correct observational perspective (long-distance, contrasting or focused) to your objective.

To teach readers how to do this, author James Gilmore introduces the concept of “Six Looking Glasses”, an idea he adapted from an expert in lateral thinking, Edward de Bono. As in de Bono’s “Six Hats” method, Gilmore explains how adopting specific mindsets allows an observer to achieve different perspectives. Specifically, Gilmore shows readers how to choose a “looking glass” to match the perspective and objective they want to achieve.

To show how this works, take an example given in the book of a person asked to check a car for damage. Ideally, the inspector would have a checklist of items to focus on. This approach is called the “magnifying glass” perspective. But let’s say that the inspector’s boss notices that a particular type of damage is under-reported. Instead of criticizing the employee, the manager might adopt a different “glass” (a different perspective testing out a different set of assumptions) and determine the results from using that perspective.

Gilmore is an author, writer, adjunct professor at the University of Virginia, lecturer and co-founder of Strategic Horizons, LLP. His book, “Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want” looks at how businesses can avoid being viewed as contrived, disingenuous or phony in a market where consumers are becoming increasingly perceptive.

What Was Best About Look?

The best part of Look is the physical and mental shift that Gilmore lays out for readers. Many books ask leaders to step outside of their current point of view to gain a new perspective. But few books actually show how they can do this. Look shows readers how to do this and gives them a framework to continue using their new found perspective — or even alter it further, if they wish! Gilmore’s book achieves this objective and reinforces the concept with a series of everyday examples —  grocery shelves etc. — designed to help readers practice the observational skills he promotes.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Look approaches observational skills from two perspectives: the physical — how you actually look at something — and the mental — how you think about the way you look at something. The book’s emphasis, though, is predominantly on the physical perspective. In other words, Gilmore emphasizes teaching readers how to go out and look for stuff. More emphasis on the mental shift and the business implications of that shift might make the book a bit more helpful for business readers.

Why Read Look?

At its core, Look is about thinking. It’s about matching the right tool to the right strategy. Business owners can become excessively focused on one view of their business — this month’s sales numbers, for example. This can cause them to lose track of the bigger picture — long-term survival. Many business experts have commented on this failure, but few offer a mental framework for coping with it. Look provides that framework.

On top of that, the book could finally help you find those pesky car keys you’re always misplacing!

This article, “Look Reveals the Hidden Practical Value in Hide and Go Seek Skills” was first published on Small Business Trends

Why the Middle Class Comeback Could Be the Key to Saving America

Why the Middle Class Comeback Could Be the Key to Saving AmericaWith the Global Recession, a housing crisis, the internet bubble, rising college costs, increasing student debt and more, the middle class has been hit hard in the past few decades. While these things may seem to cast a rather negative light on the prospects of America’s middle class, Munir Moon doesn’t think so. In his book, The Middle Class Comeback: Women, Millennials, and Technology Leading the Way, he argues that the middle class (both the current and aspiring members) is entering a period where their collective actions could radically transform America as we know it.

What is The Middle Class Comeback About?

If you ask any economist, magazine editor or politician, the middle class is struggling financially. To be more honest, it is shrinking and shrinking fast. This is important because the American middle class is the financial and social anchor of American life. It’s the image most people have in mind when they think of an “American” family. It’s the group politicians campaign to reach. It’s the group that all other levels of American society are measured against. Without the American middle class, there is no America as we know it.

Despite concerns about this pivotal group’s decline, Munir Moon believes there is a reason to be optimistic. The news isn’t all bad. In fact, there are segments of the population and sectors of the economy where the middle class ideal seems to still be a reality. Those sectors are where Moon argues we should be focusing. But where are they? Moon chooses to focus on two areas, demographics (women and Millennials in particular) and technology. He argues these groups — women, Millennials and the technology sector — have the ability to transform decades-old industries in need of rejuvenation. He also believes they can transform education, the workforce, medicine, politics and America’s taxation system.

The Middle Class Comeback contends that capitalism and democracy are adaptable. When a certain industry doesn’t serve its customer or client base, it fails or gets remixed into something that is useful to the needs of that customer base. The changes of the future will be fueled by the dynamic shifts of demographics and technology. There will be more Millennials, more women in the labor force and positions of leadership, and more technology transforming how society interacts. These changes will in turn bring changes in products and services consumers purchase, the politicians they vote for and the policies they support. With that collective power comes a collective potential for the middle class to completely revolutionize almost every aspect of American society.

Moon is an author, entrepreneur, and commentator on social policy and issues for the Huffington Post and LA Progressive.

What Was Best About The Middle Class Comeback?

The best part of The Middle Class Comeback is the action-oriented optimism that fills the entire book. Many books praise the ingenuity of the middle class, but they contain more political rhetoric than policy. The Middle Class Comeback maintains the same amount of optimism without falling into that trap. The focus in this book is on exploring the potential of America’s future by exploring the future created by the most promising trends of today.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Middle Class Comeback is a welcome dose of optimism for readers who are tired of hearing nothing but negative news. In that optimism, it glosses over social issues that don’t have an easily defined solution. To its credit, the book discusses the need for more work in the areas of race relations, women’s rights and representation, among other issues. The book, however, doesn’t really provide more than a simple optimistic overview. A deeper exploration of those issues and how they relate to the economy, possibly in future books, would yield more solutions for the future of middle-class America.

Why Read The Middle Class Comeback?

The Middle Class Comeback was written for those readers who want to dig a little deeper into economics (particularly in the areas of technology, healthcare or Millennials). The middle class has mythic status in the eyes of the American public and politicians alike. Moon dives into that mythic side and asks, “What makes America’s middle class so great?”. His enthusiastic, but nuanced, answer to this question is an exploration into the potential and hope behind America’s powerful social and cultural engine. Moon’s book shows why and how (in a lot of cases) America’s middle class has a lot more power than its members might believe.

This article, “Why the Middle Class Comeback Could Be the Key to Saving America” was first published on Small Business Trends

Rethink Your Definition of Alpha Leader

The New Alpha leader emerges as a totally different figure who turns traditional ideas of leadership on their heads.These images of “alpha” as a loud, physically powerful and usually male leader have been reinforced in magazines, television, books and social media and even celebrated in some parts of business. (Think about “Mad Men.”)

Just because this is the perception, does that make it a reality? Do you have to be an “alpha,” as society envisions it, to make a powerful impact in the world?

Danielle Harlan, author of The New Alpha, says you can change how you define alphas and how you become one, as a result.

What is the The New Alpha About

The New Alpha leader emerges as a totally different kind of figure who turns traditional ideas of leadership on their heads. Instead of using your energy, connections, and resources to establish dominance over others, you can use those same tools to collaborate with others (and within yourself) to establish a more powerful and lasting legacy. Harlan, argues that traditional alpha leadership is an unbalanced and unsustainable way to lead. Instead, ambitious and high-energy leaders can use the same energy and drive in a new model of leadership.

This framework is based on a set of core beliefs and principles in the book. The book further suggests everyone can access this kind of framework of alpha leadership. Harlan’s book is about helping readers reach this level, the “best version of themselves”, on a personal and organizational level. Under this view, the personal world of a leader is closely tied to the organizational one. The way you conduct your business on a personal level is magnified out in the world on an organizational level.

Achieving this new level of alpha leadership involves an understanding of three specific things: what drives you, what interests you, and what educates you in order to figure out your own “personal leadership identity”. Your “personal leadership identity” is the book’s concept for your own nuanced approach to leadership. Each person, the book claims, has a particular way of leading. If you better understand that process, you can better adapt your leadership to the situation. It is this focus on introspection Harlan feels traditional alphas miss. In trying to be better than everyone else, those who cling to the traditional alpha model of leadership lose sight of the very things that support their leadership.

Harlan began her teaching career as a Teach for America member. That initial start blossomed into an international teaching, consulting, and speaking career that helped her land a spot on Silicon Valley’s “Top 40 Under 40.” Along the way, Harlan acquired a doctorate in Political Science and Centennial Teaching Awards, completed a TedX speech, and completed service as a former Chief of Operations at the Carnegie Foundation.

What Was Best About The New Alpha

The best part of The New Alpha is that it recognizes the nuanced nature of leadership and uses it to redefine a traditional (and predominantly male-oriented style of leadership). Harlan’s book recognizes that leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. It’s something that is built and reinforced through training, your experiences and your support system. By encouraging readers to look into those resources that feed into their leadership, they can take proactive control of their leadership in the future.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

The New Alpha covers both personal and organizational leadership, but the predominant emphasis is on personal leadership. This leaves some room for additional discussion on a potential topic like “alpha businesses” that reflect the kind of leadership Harlan is advocating.

Specifically, examples of alpha businesses (of all sizes) could be provided to showcase how these organizations navigate the complex reality of business. The book details the characteristics of “alpha businesses” but more examples could be used to showcase that reality.

Why Read The New Alpha

The New Alpha is targeted toward a specific kind of person, specifically those with high energy, high ambition, and a high social influence but it can be realistically used by anyone who wants to improve themselves. The book offers a “results-at-any-cost” leadership that focuses on a reader’s strengths, not an abstract standard set by someone else.

If you are the kind of person who wants to explore the foundations of your leadership potential and uses those foundations for improved future success, The New Alpha can provide a framework and series of easy-to-complete (but psychologically impactful) activities to get started on the path.

This article, “Rethink Your Definition of Alpha Leader” was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Must-Read Books to Launch Your Small Business Idea

10 Must-Read Business Startup Books to Launch Your Small Business Idea

Whether you plan to launch the next multi-million dollar business or have plans for something a little smaller, your company needs to acquire the right set of resources to accomplish your goals an either launch your business or take it to the next stage of development. There are plenty of resources out there for business owners who need angel investors, venture capital or just want to polish their elevator pitches to help them get up and running or expand.

Business Startup Books to Launch Your Next Big Idea

But what if you don’t need (or even want) all of that? What if you just want to pursue your BIG business dream without getting caught up in the complicated world of raising investment dollars? We’ve got a list of business startup books you should read.

business startup booksSmall Time Operator

by Bernard B. Kamoroff C.P.A.

One of the biggest issues when starting a small business is, in fact, taking care of all the details. As a business owner, you are responsible for filling out the right paperwork and paying the right fees to the right people so you can stay in business.

Written by business taxation expert, Bernard B. Kamoroff, this comprehensive, beginner-friendly guide walks readers through the information they will need to obtain the proper permits and licensing, set up bookkeeping, and pay taxes at the local, state, and federal level.

In addition, the book covers tax and business planning information for doing business in the new “gig” economy including starting a work-at-home business, working with your spouse, working with freelancers and even working within a work-owned collective. Small Time Operator is a must have for small business owners who need help laying the financial groundwork for their own home businesses, who own a small local business or franchise, who run a husband-wife partnership, or do anything else in between.

business startup booksClarity For Solos

by Adam Dudley

What if you want to own a business by yourself? While working by yourself might seem like the ideal situation for any over-achieving person with drive and a good business idea, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Clarity for Solos was written to help with those difficult times.

Written by Adam Dudley, a productivity coach and solopreneur himself, the book offers practical strategies for dealing with the mental and emotional chaos that can ensue in you business when the entrepreneur in charge (that’s you) is getting overwhelmed. Readers will find tips on reigniting your dedication to your business, strategies for improving productivity and methods for refining your business to develop a better work-life balance.  In “Clarity for Solos”, Dudley taps into his own personal experience and coaching with other solopreneurs to provide a book that is tailored for the solo professional who is simultaneously in charge of their business dream and of the path to get there.

business startup booksTools of Titans

by Tim Ferriss

Performance is the one thing that separates great businesses from good ones. How do businesses perform well? It starts with the day-to-day activities and decisions of the staffs in those businesses. In Tools of Titans, author Tim Ferriss delves into the same topics as he does in his highly-acclaimed podcast but on a deeper level.

Ferriss, writer of one of the best-selling business books in modern times that revolutionized the world of work The 4-Hour Workweek, offers a peek into the life of the habits and routines of world-class performers. Some of the people quoted in this book include Tony Robbins, Daymond John, Morgan Spurlock and Seth Godin, all interviewed with the insightful depth and quirkiness for which Ferris is known. Throughout the book, Ferriss takes some time to break down how these habits and routines can be adapted to your life. For any fan of Ferris or of productivity in general, “Tools of Titans” offers a unique perspective of performance by taking an overview of success and mapping out a path to help the reader duplicate it.

business startup booksIdea Craft

by Sarah Korhnak

It is said that everyone has at least one idea that could become a profitable business. If you’ve ever seriously considered turning that business idea into a business reality, Idea Craft can help guide you through the incredible array of options out there to find the perfect business that works for you.

The first part of the book helps solidify and narrow your potential business dreams into something that matches your personality. (Note: A business, no matter the size, must match your lifestyle and personality in order to work and scale.) Following that, the next two sections focus on taking that dream and shaping it into a viable business that can grow and evolve along with you. The co-host of a business podcast for mompreneurs, author Sarah Korhnak uses her life’s story and experience to help any prospective entrepreneur find and define their business idea into a viable and profitable business reality.

business startup booksThe Entrepreneur’s Garden

by Divya Parekh

Despite all of the high-tech innovation that is fueling business, entrepreneurship is and will always be about relationships. In The Entrepreneur’s Garden motivational speaker and leadership coach Divya Parekh helps readers understand how relationships impact everything in their personal and professional lives.

Parekh uses the fictional story of Sally and Dee to illustrate her point. Dee serves as a mentor to Sally as she struggles to maintain the relationships she has with the people (like partners) and resources (like money) in her life. Through their interaction, Sally comes to learn that these relationships aren’t an obstacle, strain or something on a to-do list in her entrepreneurial journey. They are a part of that journey. In order to succeed in her personal and professional life, she has to cultivate those relationships. And by learning to do the same, every entrepreneur will be able to live a full and proactive life leaving a legacy and planting seeds of inspiration to motivate others. Thus every entrepreneur’s legacy is to motivate others who continue in the pursuit of excellence he or she began.

business startup booksSmall Giants

by Bob Burlingham

As discussed in Small Giants, the business world has become obsessed with the “growth treadmill”. It’s all about getting the most money, the most customers and the most attention in the quickest amount of time. Is this chase on the “growth treadmill” actually leading to a sustainable profitable business, however? Not necessarily as journalist and editor Bo Burlingham found out.

In “Small Giants”, Burlingham explores the decisions and consequences of business leaders who decided to step away from the “growth treadmill” and instead chase excellence. Burlingham explores the history and (most importantly!) the series of decisions that caused these leaders to “opt out” of the traditional approach to growth. The companies discuussed include Anchor Brewing, a microbrewery with roots starting in the 19th century, and Zingerman’s Deli, a small deli that became famous for its food as well as for the long lines waiting to get that food.  In striving for excellence instead of for the more traditional definition of growth, Burlingham suggests these small businesses decided to become big where it counts, with their customers.

business startup booksSuperconsumers

by Eddie Yoon

As a business owner, you earn profits by always  striving for more. You either get more customers or a greater share of their wallet. For those business owners looking for a greater “wallet share”, Superconsumers, by expert growth strategist Eddie Yoon, suggests a strategy he believes has the greatest chance of success. That strategy is to target something Yoon calls the “superconsumer”. Superconsumers are the dedicated users of your product or service who integrate your business into their personal or professional lives at a deeper level of commitment than the average customer.

Although the superconsumer resides at the very top of the sales funnel, they have a large (and growing) influence on businesses. Yoon, who claims to have helped companies earn over $1 billion in profits, shows businesses how they can leverage this new breed of “consumer” to achieve a deeper “mind share” of the customer base as a whole. From there, “Superconsumers” shows readers how to maintain that culture so that more and more customers cross the line into the “superconsumer” category.

https://www.amazon.com/Company-Women-Inspiration-Artists-Entrepreneurs/dp/1579655971/In the Company of Women

by Grace Bonney

Written by design blogger Grace Bonney who created a design blog generating over 75,000 daily views, In the Company of Women invites readers into the world of female entrepreneurship in the creative economy. The book shares how women all over the globe are tapping into their creative potential to create successful businesses. In the Company of Women is more than an interview with 100 creative women.

It is a look into what allowed them to step forward and bring their creativity into the world. It is also a look into how these successful women maintained their creativity while sustaining a business, something that is difficult for business owners of all types to do. Yet it’s something that’s also critical to maintain in a world where creativity is a strategic and financial asset.  With beautiful photographs, In the Company of Women is a work of creative art in its own right, that provides inspiration, strategy and guidance for women who have the drive and discipline to transform their creativity from dream to a very real and sustainable reality.

business startup booksLead The Ship

by Edward and Rebecca Plant

Written by a husband and wife team, Lead the Ship is a look at the difficulties organizations face when trying t achieve a sense of teamwork among employees. The book analyzes how leaders like Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson completely revolutionized the way leadership was viewed. Because of their leadership, they were able to attract and maintain a culture of exceptional talent that helped them reach ever higher levels of performance.

After analyzing those leaders, authors Edward and Richard Plant then help readers develop and refine a new vision of their leadership based on this expanded and redefined view, a view the authors say will allow them to achieve extremely high levels of productivity and financial success. From this point on, the book helps readers leverage the self-sustaining culture they co-create with their workers based on timeless principles and experience from high-performing teams like the military and many high-performing business brands.

business startup booksHopping over the Rabbit Hole

by Anthony Scaramucci

Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole talks about the subject that most small business owners don’t want to discuss — until it’s too lat. That topic, of course, is failure. Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of a $12-billion investment services firm, helps business leaders find the practical value of leveraging failure for business gain. Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole encourages business owners to use smart strategies to transform their fears into lessons and opportunities for stronger relationships and more resilient leadership.

Besides the advice for your business after encountering failure, Scaramucci spends a considerable amount of time on the business owner during his or her entrepreneurial journey out of failure into success. The book details how to maintain your personal integrity and values under the trials of leadership. Scaramucci also discusses defining and protecting your personal and business brand, and working through the network of relationships that helps your business achieve the success it deserves on the other side of failure.

Pre-Invest in Knowledge Before You Invest in Your Business

As these business startup books demonstrate, there are lots of issues and decisions to work through in your business, whether you plan to create a side business or a multi-national brand. No matter what type of business you ultimately decide to build, business ownership is about one thing, connecting with people to leverage their inner resources (talent, creativity, etc.) to transform a business dream into reality.

By taking the time to really think through your business idea before launching it, you can move one step closer to creating the business you envision..

Books Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Must-Read Books to Launch Your Small Business Idea” was first published on Small Business Trends

Why Aren’t They Shouting? How Technology Changed Everything in Banking

Why Aren't They Shouting?: How Technology Changed Everything in BankingLike every other industry, banking has been disrupted by technology. Banks are able to do powerful things, like transfer trillions of dollars within 24 hours, because of it. The chief issue is whether this power is making banks more effective or more dangerous. Why Aren’t They Shouting? A Banker’s Tale of Change, Computers and Perpetual Crisis shares the story of one banker as he lived through the ups and downs of banking undergoing a technical revolution. His book provides a truly insightful look into the history of technology and what it could mean for banking’s future.

What is Why Aren’t They Shouting About?

“Put simplistically, banks are just people and computers, all the rest is nice to have but not essential.”
– – Why Aren’t They Shouting?

The book’s title stems from a past experience author and banker Kevin Rodgers recalls while leading a group of German visitors on a tour of Deutsche Bank where he worked at the time. As he describes, the tour was a well-executed success but Rodgers could tell that something was amiss. One woman asked a question that seemed to be on every visitor’s mind, “Why is everything so quiet?” This disturbed Rodgers for a while because he hadn’t noticed the transformation of his office from a shouting match between spot brokers into keyboard clicks and hushed chatter. Rodgers explains: “In short, computers had, in all but the direct emergency, reduced the need to shoot anything at all.”

That simple question by a member of a tour group became the starting point for a broader question Rodgers explored in the pages of his book. There he examines how technology transformed his career and the industry where he spent most of his professional career. Computers, he notes, have been a part of the banking industry for decades but previously they were limited and clunky. As computing power developed and became more portable, things started to change. Information became decentralized, jobs became automated, and financial products became more complex. With this rise in complexity and convenience came the lure that eventually collapsed the mortgage industry and threatened the entire banking system.

Rodgers’ book is an exploration of how the banking system evolved into that near-fatal condition and the situations that society will have to confront as we face even more technology in our banking future.

Rodgers is a former banking executive who worked in various aspects of the financial services industry from the trading floor all the way up to the C-suite. He has previously worked at Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, and Banker’s Trust and retired in 2014.

What Was Best About Why Aren’t They Shouting?

The best part of Why Aren’t They Shouting? is the detailed industry perspective Rodgers offers to readers about the bank industry, especially the foreign exchange market. Rodgers doesn’t just present details about the banking industry, he provides a look into the mentality of the bankers on the ground floor and executive suite. This perspective helps provide readers with some context for the decisions made by banks, particularly those leading up to the Great Recession. The lessons Rodgers takes from these days and from his wide range of experiences in the banking industry point to vital questions that bankers (and regulators) should be asking moving forward.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Why Aren’t They Shouting is an exciting personal ride through banking as it evolves, yet the book’s content can be a challenge. Although Rodgers makes several attempts to break the content down, many aspects of the global banking industry (particularly the foreign exchange market) can still be a little intimidating. Readers should have no trouble picking up on the overall issues (security, competition between banks, etc.) but they might miss out on the context in the terminology. For example, readers will probably understand that Collateralized Debt Obligations are not a good thing  from the author’s perspective, but they still may not understand how they work.

Why Read Why Aren’t They Shouting?

Why Aren’t They Shouting contains a needed perspective in a world where a post-recession economy continues to be disrupted by a dizzying array of new technologies. Rodgers brings humans back into the equation. His book explores “How did banks evolve to the current thing they are today?” and “What should we be on the lookout for in the future?” As his book cleverly points out, it will be the humans and the rules they create, not technology, that will sustain the banking industry. His book offers a personal view into an industry many consumers regard with wary concern. Through his words, readers get a chance to see the humans that are behind the banking headlines.

This article, “Why Aren’t They Shouting? How Technology Changed Everything in Banking” was first published on Small Business Trends

Help Your Employees Reach Their Potential by Bringing Out the Best in People

Help Your Employees Reach Their Potential by Bringing Out the Best in PeopleBringing out the best in your employees is not an easy matter, as evidenced by the increasing number of employee engagement strategies and philosophies ranging from suggestion boxes to quality circles. Bringing Out the Best in People: How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement hopes to offer some clarity for leaders who are tired of chasing the latest HR trends or fads. The book promises to offer the simple question, “What can I do to help my employees reach their potential at work?”

What is Bringing Out the Best in People About?

Dr. Aubrey C. Daniels is critical of much of the “employee engagement” trend that is happening in the modern workplace. He argues that many of the approaches coming from this trend (quality circles, suggestion boxes, “Employee of the Month” , etc.) aren’t working. These approaches, Dr. Daniels asserts, mistakenly assume something is wrong with the employee.

The numbers seem to back up Daniels’ claim. Despite years of employee engagement strategies, surveys consistently report that employee engagement hasn’t significantly increased.

The problem, Daniels wants everyone to understand, isn’t the employee. It’s the workplace.

The solution to fixing that workplace isn’t another “innovation” or fancy technique, Daniels explains. The answer, in fact, is psychology, a common denominator for every human being.

Using psychology, Daniels challenges many of the underlying assumptions behind traditional HR practices including profit sharing, “Employee of the Month” awards, commissions and training. He argues that a deep gap exists between what employers think they are doing and what their actions are reinforcing.

To give an example of how the workplace environment can sabotage engagement, we can look at commissions, typically used to reward salespeople for bringing in revenue. On the surface, they seem a reasonable idea. Top performers get a larger piece of the pie. In one workplace, though, commissions can overtly or subtly create a “results-only” cutthroat environment. In another workplace, commissions can overtly or subtly bring about an environment where luck is praised more than sales skill.

Use of commissions is just one of many practices that Daniels wants employers to rethink. He invites business owners and managers to consider whether their policies and strategies are actually producing the best results. Are they proactively reinforcing behaviors resulting in a positive work environment or are they unintentionally promoting mediocrity or worse yet a hostile work environment that rewards negative behavior?

Daniels, also known as the “father of performance management”, is a management consultant, founder of Aubrey Daniels International, keynote speaker, author and lecturer. A clinical psychologist by training, he argues that B.F. Skinner’s behavioral science can be used to improve the practice of “performance management”.

What Was Best About Bringing Out the Best in People?

Bringing Out the Best in People offers a compelling argument for the use of behavior analysis in the workplace. While Dr. Daniels doesn’t intend for business leaders to become full-fledged behavioral scientists, he does believe that some of the techniques can dramatically improve the gap between worker engagement and leader empowerment. His challenge of traditional (and often unquestioned) HR practices leaves much for the modern manager, business owner or leader to ponder.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Bringing Out the Best in People brings much-needed depth to the conversation on employee engagement. Daniels isn’t asking for employers to invest in a costly overhaul of their HR process in order to get results. Instead, he is asking employers to reflect on their current principles in light of behavioral science. The book isn’t a complete cure-all for every issue in the workplace, but it can provide the initial questions and suggest baby steps managers can take in order to begin making meaningful changes.

Why Read Bringing Out the Best in People?

Bringing Out the Best in People has applications for every single worker on the planet but offers the most relevance for executive leaders and higher-level managers.  Members of this group have the best ability to apply the lessons in the book. Daniels boldly confronts many of the assumptions behind employee engagement with a science-based perspective. Bringing Out the Best in People can guide readers into the main areas to consider when a gap exists between the intent of your policies and actual results.

This article, “Help Your Employees Reach Their Potential by Bringing Out the Best in People” was first published on Small Business Trends

The Social Leadership Handbook Helps Build Human-Centered Leadership in a Tech-Driven World

The Social Leadership Handbook Helps Build Human-Centered Leadership in a Tech-Driven WorldThe Social Leadership Handbook ushers in a new era of leadership in the world of work, the Social Age. In the Social Age, leaders must increasingly navigate in a world without the boundaries of the past. Previously, work centered around a fixed location (the office) for a fixed amount of time (usually 9 to 5) with a fixed hierarchy. In the mobile, always-connected global workforce of today, this world of “fixed” assumptions is crumbling fast. This change in the world of work requires a new leader, a “social leader”. The Social Leadership Handbook is about developing that kind of leader.

What Is The Social Leadership Handbook About?

Being an effective leader in the Age of Social involves navigating an uncertain and unsteady future compared to the past. Unlike the past, social leadership is defined less by formality and more by technology-leveraged connections. These connections can be across the office or around the world, anywhere, at any time. In this kind of world, a fixed identity is less important then the community you can build around you (social capital).

With social capital leveraged by technology, leaders can access a whole new level of connection. This level of access can provide anyone seeking an audience access to billions of people for promotion, collaboration and communication. On the flip side, this level of access can make leadership vulnerable as well. Previously, when a leader had an angry rant at the office, the impact of that rant stayed within the confines of that office. In the age of social, that rant can be shared with billions around the world.

Navigating this kind of world requires a different kind of leadership than traditional leaders are used to. As The Social Leadership Handbook points out, it demands a leadership that is based on collaboration, agility and experimentation. Instead of speaking from an ivory tower far removed from the group, social leaders actively co-create their roles with the people around them. Instead of trying to control every aspect of the communication message, they hone in on the core story behind the message and adapt it to fit the context of the communities they want to influence.

As The Social Leadership Handbook and other books argue, social leadership isn’t a loss of power for leaders. It’s a shift of that power into something more powerful. Previously, leaders only impacted their little “world”. Now, leaders can potentially impact the entire world.

The Social Leadership Handbook is the brainchild of author Julian Stodd. Stodd is the founder and owner of Sea Salt Learning, a global business helping other businesses prepare for the Age of Social. Stodd founded Sea Salt Learning after a career in the e-learning industry and postgraduate work in communication theory and educational psychology. In addition to his work activities, he is an artist, poet and photographer.

What Was Best About The Social Leadership Handbook?

The best part of The Social Leadership Handbook is that it deconstructs the vague advice often given to leaders who want to enhance their social leadership skills. The book centers on the values that drive a social leader, rather than a particular platform (like Twitter) or strategy (like “getting 1,000 followers in 1o days”). By focusing on these values, the book is able to foster the agility and flexibility that must be encouraged in leaders in the new Age of Digital.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Social Learning Handbook is more about the aspiring aspects of leadership instead of the technical aspects. In fact, readers won’t find details on social media ROI, advertising — or even marketing budgets. Instead, they will find a lot of conversations about aspects of leadership with which many might not be so familiar (It’s impact upon  issues like equal leave policies for mothers and fathers, for example.) For leaders who embrace this view of leadership, the book will detail specifics approaches that will help you excel. If you don’t embrace this view of leadership, the book might be too value-focused for your taste.

Why Read The Social Leadership Handbook?

Understanding how to engage online has fast become a “necessary evil” for leaders, whether you own a business or manage a Facebook group for avid PokemonGo players. Unfortunately, there aren’t many roadmaps that show leaders how to adapt their leadership as technology evolves. While there are plenty of books about managing your online presence using current technology, The Social Leadership Handbook helps leaders develop a framework for mastering technology as it continues to evolve.

This article, “The Social Leadership Handbook Helps Build Human-Centered Leadership in a Tech-Driven World” was first published on Small Business Trends

You Need to Have The Heart of Hospitality to Create a 5-Star Hotel Experience

You Need to Have The Heart of Hospitality to Create a 5-Star Hotel ExperienceWhat transforms a hotel from a temporary location away from home into a five-star experience? If you ask most people, they would say the amenities or location. Micah Solomon and the hospitality experts he interviewed for the book The Heart of Hospitality: Great Hotel and Restaurant Leaders Share Their Secrets, would disagree. While amenities and a good location can certainly help a hotel, these features don’t translate into a five-star experience. As the book explores, it’s a hotel’s “heart” that makes the difference.

What is The Heart of Hospitality About?

“The heart of hospitality, for me, is the ability to focus completely and totally on one person, even if only for a matter of seconds, yet long enough that you’ve got a clear connection.”
– – Chef Patrick O’Connell in The Heart of Hospitality

According to The Heart of Hospitality, a hotel’s “heart” consists of the customer service procedures that move a customer from check-in to check-out. Maintaining this “heart” is a lot harder than it looks. Besides ensuring the basics (clean room, smiling agents, clean towels, etc.), hotels have to attend to a lot of minor details to ensure the guest experience goes off without a hitch. Any break or gap in the process can lead to frustrated customers, angry TripAdvisor reviews, or even worse, lost revenue.

Exploring how high-performing hotels close their gaps in the customer service experience is the focus of The Heart of Hospitality. In the book, author Micah Solomon picks key practices and principles from some of the famous (and not-so-famous) hotels that were able to transform from excellent to superior service. These principles can range from the intuitive (“Anticipate what your customer needs”) to the more extreme (“Treat every customer like they are the last one on Earth”).

The irony is that, for the majority of examples, there isn’t a cost. The most powerful principle to turning your hotel into a five-star experience isn’t fancy and complicated marketing programs or technology. It’s the human element. It’s the process of carefully observing and refining the experience your hotel offers and then integrating that into your hotel’s “heart”, By paying attention to what makes a hotel’s “heart”, hotel owners can ensure happy customers and profits are flowing as they should.

Solomon is an author, keynote speaker, Forbes contributor, founder of Oasis Disc Manufacturing and consultant with expertise in customer service innovation and delivery. Solomon’s previous book, Your Customer Is The Star: How To Make Millennials, Boomers and Everyone Else Love Your Business puts a similar focus on customer service.

What Was Best About The Heart of Hospitality?

The best part of The Heart of Hospitality is the multi-faceted way that Micah Solomon reinforces one theme: Exceptional customer service should be a process, not an exception. In exploring this theme, Solomon doesn’t launch into an abstract “feel-good” customer service speech that could be part of any boring employee orientation. Instead, he gets down to issues that hotels actually face like wifi fees (yes or no?), room service wait times and the check-in process (automated, human touch, or both?). This approach gives readers a lot of options to choose from when trying to improve their customer service experience.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

While The Heart of Hospitality certainly gives readers a lot of options and suggestions for how these options can be implemented, there is no overall start-to-finish program for completely overhauling your hotel in this book. Instead, the objective is for the reader to pick and choose which options they would like to experiment with and compare their results to the book.

Why Read The Heart of Hospitality?

The Heart of Hospitality is designed for the hotel owner, manager or employee who wonders what a better “recipe” for customer service might look like. Solomon walks through several of the simple shortcuts, procedures and policies that help four and five-star hotels maintain their operational excellence. If you need additional cost-effective (and in a lot of cases, free) options to dramatically improve your hotel’s experience, this book will provide a basket full of options using insight from some of the top-performing brands in the hospitality industry.

This article, “You Need to Have The Heart of Hospitality to Create a 5-Star Hotel Experience” was first published on Small Business Trends