Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

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Rate: 12 Stickies

Read: Cover to Cover

Category:  Big Idea, Communication

Twitter Review: You can catch more b’s (business, bounty, bank, backing, belonging) with honey than vinegar.

I’m pretty stingy with the stickies in a book review, but Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment is, well… enchanting.

He enchanted me into it.

He does what every great enchanter does – he charms, amuses, disarms, gives you insight without pontificating, and writes not so much with great efficiency, but as a great teacher with experience to share.

This is a book (as with his others) that brings concepts and ideas from many credible sources as well as his own, but he also brings his own (enjoyably irreverent) personality to the writing.   This isn’t a book about product, or disrupting an idea, or a new marketing gimmick.  It’s really the new “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  It really takes us back to the golden rules – amongst but not limited to, be kind, be likable and trustworthy, return a favor, don’t screw you friends, business partner or for Heaven’s sake, your best friend’s wife.

He argues the interactions you have with people, be they business or personal, shouldn’t be manipulative with the aim of getting what you want, rather, by enlisting their goals and desires in an honest, trustworthy way, and by framing a cause that others can embrace, you have the opportunity to change your own course, build a more enduring business, turn observers into buyers, all the while having a lot more fun.

I may be making this sound like a touchy, feely kind of book – and I want to assure you it is not. It is really a marketing, sales and communication book that simply puts forth a different (and much more interesting) way of doing business.

My Takeaway

This is a timely read, with the economy the way it is.  Independents, freelancers and small business people can sometimes appear desperate in securing customers, clients and an audience. They fallback on gimmickry, the hard sell, the push to close.  When you read Enchantment, you learn that having resources like being likable, honest, passionate, trustworthy and smart – attributes that you probably already have – are worth more to your business than anything you could throw money at.

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Continue to be awesome!

Elaine Joli

The Most Successful Small Business In The World by Michael E. Gerber

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Rate: *****

Read:  Cover to Cover

Category: Big Idea, Entrepreneur, Small Business

Michael Gerber should not be a new name to you (if it is, tisk-tisk).  He is the author of thirteen books, including what the PR guys call a mega-bestseller (sort of like a power seller on ebay).  If you haven’t read the E-Myth Revisited, I recommend you read that one before this one (maybe that’s how he got the mega).   As in his other books, he is like your wise grandpa (assuming your grandpa is Sam Walton on your father’s side or Warren Buffet on your mother’s), part philosopher, part inspirationalist, part evangelist and poet, but always passionate about steering you in the right direction.   And he has nailed one thing that, to me, has always been the stop sign, the red light and for some, the cyanide in growing our self-employed life.  He strips away all the extraneous help – better marketing, how to use SEO, be an expert, grow your business in three easy steps – he throws all that out the window and starts with a premise that no one wants to hear.   “That small and independent business are populated by owners working for a living…that all they ever wanted to do was create a job; to create control over their personal income; to create a place to work; a place to do what they know how to do.  In short, they want to be self-employed.”  What is wrong with that, Gerber says, is that it is no business at all.  He wants you to understand that you have the potential, the brains, the chutzpah, to look at your business as a business, not just a place to answer the phone when it rings, complete a job and wait for the next customer.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  But if you follow certain rules, you can change not only your own future, but you can change the world.  Yup, you can change the world if you change your paradigm to how you see what makes a business vs. what your business makes.  Great stuff.  But like all great grandpas, he hits you with his cane and then gives you a lollipop and says, “I know you can do better.”

My takeaway:

While I was reading the book, I had an inspiration from his words that will change my own business.  This is no easy feat – I am a “creative,” and ideas happen faster than planes landing at JFK.  But this was a BIG idea that will impact my present business and it came from Gerber’s chapter on the First Principle, “A Small Business, Built Rightly, Can Grow 10,000 times Its Current Size.”  So this is not just another book to read, say “Wow, that was great” and then go on doing the things you’ve always done.  You are reading this blog because you want to know if this is a book that can change/add/empower you in growing your business.  If you are interested in having job that you created for yourself, and just want to know how to get more business, this book is not for you.  However, if you want, nay need and desire to create a business that you can grow, sell, innovate and possibly change the world – this is a must read.

The Wealthy Freelancer, 12 Secrets to a Great Income And an Enviable Lifestyle by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage and Ed Gandia

Rating: ****1/2

Read:  Cover to cover

Category: Small business, entrepreneurial

I hate titles like “10 Easy Ways to Become a Millionaire” or “The Four Hour Workweek”, but let’s face it, it’s just me.  Publishers, authors, readers – everyone else loves tapping into making minute rice even faster in the microwave pouch.  I need to be rich, damn it, and I need it now!  So, I was reluctant to read The Wealthy Freelancer – to me a 12 secret oxymoron.  Title notwithstanding, the word “Freelancer” in the title moved me to read it, because the freelancer industry has an opportunity to boom in the coming years and the people I write book reviews for, well a lot of them are freelancers.  So here’s the more than pleasant surprise.  This book is (should I say it?) is the quintessential guide for all freelancers to read – but it will be the biggest disappointment for those who really thought they would get microwaved minute rice.  They talk about what “wealth” really means, dumping “ugly” clients (another great book on the subject of the client “dump” is Booking Yourself Solid by Michael Port), bringing focus to your business, creating a buzz piece, cultivating and nurturing your business, even how to make sales calls – all standard stuff starting from the beginning.  A lot of freelancers come to doing their own thing after they start hating their job, they don’t have job or they have a passion they want to pursue.  They may be good at what they do, but many lack the ‘well rounded’ skill set (sales, marketing, networking, book-keeping, pricing their goods/services) of running a complete business.  There are some really great ideas in this book – and I’m happy to say, my initial reaction was quickly proved wrong.

My Takeaway

If you are a freelancer or in a partnership this book is a must read if you don’t have enough clients, if your stomach drops when you see the phone number from an “ugly” client incoming, if you are on a roller coaster of cold and hot income spells, or think that sales, marketing and building a client base means you have a website, there is no time to waste.

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Zag: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands by Marty Neumeier

Rate: ****

Read: Cover to Cover

Category: Branding, Big Idea, Communication

I like a book that has the reader’s time in mind.  This is a very short book; Mr. Neumeier calls it an “airplane read.”  He has a few very simple (aren’t the simple ideas usually the best?) ideas that he puts into a chronological order using a hypothetical (wine) business to illustrate his big idea.  He is talking about branding – but since he started out as a designer, he combines form and function (and a little beauty) in the process.  He is on the same Tsunami as Seth Godin (Purple Cow), Luke Wilson (Disrupt) and many other surfers in the new (huge) wave of marketing and branding in the 21st century.  They all say there are really only two ways this thing is going down.  The first is to do what everyone else is doing, trying to build your brand by differentiating on price, speed and improvement on the same type of products and services, or putting your efforts to creating something that is really different and truly unique.  He calls the process “zagging” as in “when everyone zigs, you should zag.”  He gives you a short painless history lesson, and then just when you’re a little depressed because you realize you are doing these things, he opens the gate and let’s you walk on the stepping stones (from naming your company to truelines, taglines, core product, passion to engagement) to that big house on the hill or in his case study, the unique wine store he imagines, Bibli.

My Takeaway

An excellent read for small business, entrepreneurs and independents.  It’s even a better read for people just starting out with an idea.  But what kind of “zagging” can you do when you’re already “zigging?”  How do you “zag?”  There was not a good answer to that, because in the second part of the book the “zag,” described handling entrenched business models of corporations – diversification, competitive cycles… yawn.  Oh, excuse me.  So, for independents who are already in the “zig” (you already have  crummy name) look to this book for thinking about the quintessential “disruptive” idea for, maybe not your product (or maybe your product or service), but perhaps how you can engage your customers in a different way, create an outstanding design for your website, or by discovering the concept of pulling your customers in rather than pushing information out to them.  Still a terrific read with some incredibly valuable information.  Read it.

the Method Method: Seven Obsessions That Helped Our Scrappy Start-up Turn an Industry Upside Down by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry

Rate:  ****

Read: Cover to cover

Category: Branding, Entreprenerial

Twitter Review:  Build a product that has value, and don’t let anyone stop you.

Who doesn’t love a David and Goliath story?  This is a miraculous adventure taken by two guys, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry who decided to take on one of the toughest, most entrenched  industries imaginable – cleaning products for the home – Goliath indeed.   An industry that has a hundred year start, tens of thousands of employees plus millions of loyal customers.  What did they have?  An idea, a car and a belief that the world could be a better place if cleaning products not only worked great, but could be good for the environment, smell nice, look nice and, wait for it – cleaning could be an enjoyable experience?  What were they smoking?  I love the quotation of the back of the book by their parents, “We’re still in shock that two kids who couldn’t even make their beds without groaning would go on to start a cleaning company.”  What many saw as entrepreneurial suicide, they saw as an opportunity.  They looked at the size and power of these behemoths, and they countered with speed and agility.  They fought the giants with imagination, engagement, groundbreaking innovation and created a culture.  They also identified a tribe and a small niche market who maybe, just maybe, would love what they love.  This book is their story.  Full of heroics and failures, of genius and ignorance.  But more than just a tale of their unlikely success, this book is full of how they did it, why they did it, and just like their brand, they want to help you with specifics of building a brand that makes a difference, warts and all.  Oh, by the way.  I just purchased my first Method environmentally friendly dishwashing soap, and doggoneit, I feel a bit better about myself. Go figure.

My Takeaway

Although this book has a lot to do with the retail/wholesale sector, the backstory of selling their products out of the back of their trunk and growing the biz is a universally entrepreneurial one.  It took them ten years of experience before they wrote this book – and it is the quintessential idea of having a value based business – regardless of what product or service (or idea) you sell that in the end, will get you where you want to go if you start from an authentic and value based place; if the core of your brand is the values that drive it – not money, not growth for just market share, not by intimidation – but by plugging away at design, esthetics, and by building a culture internally that spread to the marketplace. Well written, engaging, easy and delightful to read, with some extraordinary concepts that entrepreneurs, freelancers, independents and small business could all benefit from.

Elaine Joli