Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Price Wars by the Book
October 30, 2009, 2:20 PM
Filed under: Books in General, From the Editor, General Business | Tags: , , ,

I ran across two separate articles today discussing the “price wars” over best-selling books. Major retailers such as Wal-Mart, and Target are in fierce competition to snap up the considerably fewer dollars that shoppers will spend on books in the upcoming holiday season. Here’s one article from The Washington Times discussing the fight by the American Booksellers Association to get the federal government to investigate the deep price cuts that the major retailers are undertaking.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal offers an article that explains the tightly regulated publishing market in Europe. It’s an interesting read when you consider that prices for nearly all new releases are set in advance and discounts are verboten (I couldn’t resist, since Germany is heavily featured in the article).

One point brought up in the Journal article that I wanted to bring to your attention is the lawsuit that occurred in French courts against the French branch of The suit in question concerned the famous “free shipping” offered by the online retailer on purchases of a certain amount or more. This lawsuit was also referenced in one of the key business books of 2009, FREE: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. I’ll have a little more to say about Anderson and this book in the coming weeks, but the fact that both he and the Journal discuss the French Amazon case gives indication about the ongoing fight over pricing in today’s economy.

The entire price war debate reminds us once more of the desperation occurring in retail. I suppose if I can take anything positive away from the situation, it’s that there is still a great demand for books of all genre.

The Vanishing Middle of Consumer Goods

If you check in with us from time to time, you’ve probably noticed that I have a bit of a fascination with business titles that deal with consumerism. Part of the interest is rooted in the frequent observation that Americans today have more material wealth and technological convenience than any previous generation, yet they continue to be less and less happy. On another level, I always enjoy the consumer titles because I’m fascinated by branding and the unique combination of factors that can propel one product to the top while a similar one collects dust on store shelves.

In that vein, I was delighted to read this review of a new book by Kevin Maney, a writer for USA Today. Maney’s book Trade-Off examines the gap that exists in the modern world of retail. Customers are drawn more and more to two distinct sets of products. They prefer either inexpensive goods that offer convenience but not quality, or they splash their cash on high-end items that carry a certain clout or trendiness. Products that fall in between these two categories, Maney argues, are likely to be ignored by the majority of the buying public.

Maney is not the first author to tackle the widening gap in consumer goods. Michael Silverstein examined this topic in his book Treasure Hunt, a title we summarized. What’s interesting about both books is the notion that consumers of all income levels cherry-pick from both groups of products. Maney’s book seems to suggest that quality suffers in the pursuit of the lowest price. However, he also remarks that most consumers are comfortable with this idea. I suppose that more and more consumers are willing to live with the adage “You get what you pay for.” Something to think about the next time the person in front of you at Wal-Mart pulls an iPhone out of an expensive handbag before paying for discounted household items.

These Messages Do NOT Self-Destruct

How many times have you composed an e-mail in anger or frustration, sat back to review it, and then hit the Delete button? I expect that the delete feature has saved many a career. In fact, it’s good to be able to delete and forget many haunting, spontaneous actions we may have done. And maybe we’ve gotten a little obsessed in our digital record saving. We probably should be doing a little more deleting when you think about it.

This notion has the support of Viktor Mayer-Schonberger author of Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. He believes that in our saving frenzy we are not losing enough of our digital data and are guilty of “failing to forget.” He also points to examples of stalled careers and lost jobs through events captured on Facebook and YouTube, among other things, to prove his point.

In the Wall St Journal review of this book, the writer points out that perhaps it isn’t all bad that the digital world has such a long memory. It may just cause us to be more careful about what we post in the public realm.

Certainly, the recent surge of digital-themed books would lead one to believe that perhaps caution is the better solution than deletion. Here are just a few of the titles that we have been checking out recently: Behind the Cloud – about’s development of cloud computing, Viral Loop – how to grow a business from scratch through the use of social media, Twitterville – using Twitter to help a business thrive, and The Laws of Disruption – disruption technologies in the digital age.

Since the digital realm shows no signs of slowing down, or moving with caution, perhaps we as individuals should make more of an effort.

Do Bosses Need Managing?

Here at Soundview, as we watch the steady flow of business books pour across our desk, there is a recurring trend that doesn’t speak well for bosses. It seems that many people aren’t happy with the way their boss does his or her job, and they’re looking for ways to either work around their boss or “manage” him or her.

The most recent title in this vein is Lead the Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up by John Baldoni. In the acknowledgment portion of his book, Baldoni says his urge to write the book began with the needs of the men and women executives who he has coached, many of whom were “excelling in their jobs but found it sometimes difficult to get the attention of, interact with, or persuade senior leaders.” “Leading your boss,” he tells us in the prologue, “is really a metaphor for leading from the middle,” which actually encompasses leading your boss, your peers and your team for the ultimate good of the organization.

Other similar books published in recent years include The 360 Degree Leader by John Maxwell, Leading Up by Michael Useem and Managing Up by Rosanne Badowski and Roger Gittines. Maxwell even ventures to say that “the reality is that 99 percent of all leadership occurs not from the top but from the middle of an organization.” In the final Special Section of The 360 Degree Leader he mentions, “More than two-thirds of the people who leave their jobs do so because of an ineffective or incompetent leader. People don’t leave their company — they leave their leader.”

Clearly, good leaders are needed throughout an organization, not just at the top. But issues around trust, lack of transparency, ineffective communication and unclear direction — plus a few poor interpersonal skills — can easily undermine the effectiveness of any leader at any level. If you or your boss could use some perspective on effective leadership or management strategies, visit Soundview Executive Book Summaries for access to some helpful book titles.

Ferrazzi’s Ferocity Can Help You Create Lifelines

In Soundview’s November 2009 edition, we’re pleased to feature Who’s Got Your Back? from Keith Ferrazzi, author of the classic Never Eat Alone. One of the major reasons we selected Who’s Got Your Back?  for summarization is the book’s unique look at networking. Ferrazzi brings an intensity and sense of drive that echoes through the pages of his book. One of the key insights in the book is Ferrazzi’s discussion of the necessity to form three “lifeline” relationships. The definition of “lifeline” and the method needed to forge these relationships is certain to change a lot of people’s minds about networking.

For subscribers, you’ll be fortunate enough to hear Ferrazzi’s intensity firsthand. We’re featuring an mp3 interview with Ferrazzi in which he goes into further detail about the method to forming lifeline relationships. I was also pleased to hear Ferrazzi’s personal revelations about how many of the elements of the book came from events in his own life. It’s easy to see why, at one point during the conversation, he points out that the people who form his own “lifeline” relationships are the ones who tell him to slow down and not take on too much.

By the time I was done listening to the interview, I was ready to charge out into the world and start cementing the bonds of my strongest relationships. There’s no doubt that he’ll give you the same spark!

If you’re not currently a subscriber, visit us at for more information on how you can receive these FREE interviews with today’s top business authors.

Soundview Live: Tune in Today!
October 15, 2009, 11:04 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized

I just got off the phone with our editorial contact who’s sitting in the offices of Zenger/Folkman.

We’re just a little over an hour away from our Soundview Live Webcast with John Zenger, Joseph Folkman and Scott Edinger, the authors of The Inspiring Leader.

If you’ve signed up, make sure you log in shortly before the Webcast starts at NOON Eastern.  From what my colleague said, we’re expecting a large audience. This conference should definitely benefit leaders at any level of an organization.

I’ll be listening, and I certainly hope you will as well.

If you’re not currently a subscriber and you’d like the opportunity to attend future Soundview Live events for FREE, visit us at for more information on how to subscribe.

Get Ready for Live Inspiration

I just wanted to remind everyone that we’ve got a fantastic Soundview Live event coming up on Thursday, 10/15  at noon Eastern. We’ll be hosting an interactive Web event with the authors of The Inspiring Leader: John Zenger, Joseph Folkman and Scott Edinger.

Leadership is one of the most popular topics with our audience. We probably receive more requests to cover leadership titles than any other subject area. I think this is what has me looking forward to the event on Thursday. We’re pleased when we can offer our subscribers a chance to interact with authors who are experts in the audience’s major area of interest. I was lucky enough to get a preview of some of the material that will be covered in the authors’ presentation and I can say that it will definitely open the eyes of anyone who feels he or she needs to improve his or her leadership abilities. I learned a couple things about my own leadership habits that I had never considered. I also love the fact that the authors’ presentation is just the launching point for the overall Soundview Live experience. Our audiences have been fantastic at driving the conferences to new heights with their questions and interpretations of the authors’ material. Join us Thursday at noon Eastern and get the answers to your leadership questions!

One other advantage to being able to peek “behind the scenes” is that I can see how many of our subscribers are taking advantage of this FREE interactive Web conference. Not to put any pressure on anyone reading this, but if you haven’t signed up, I wouldn’t wait too much longer. Subscriber response to this event has been tremendously … inspiring, one might say.

If you are currently a subscriber, or are interested in subscribing to attend Thursday’s event, visit this link for all the information you need.

How Accountability Takes F.O.R.M.

Accountability. Now, there’s a word that can send a shiver up most of our spines. Even the most diligent worker can occasionally fall prey to a strange sense of inner paranoia. “Did I really make that deadline? Did I remember to attach that presentation in the e-mail I sent our biggest client?”

Roger Connors and Tom Smith, co-authors of The Oz Principle and its companion Journey to the Emerald City, want to help put at ease the minds of executives and employees everywhere. An accountability procedure often fails because it creates a culture of fear, where information is hidden to seemingly prevent punishment.

In Soundview’s upcoming November edition, we’ll be featuring How Did That Happen. This recent title from Connors and Smith helps executives create a culture where people are held accountable in a “positive, principled way.” To give subscribers additional insight on the book, Soundview interviewed Roger Connors last week. I was fortunate enough to hear the interview before our studio creates the final master recording. There was an interesting point Connors made that I couldn’t wait to share with you.

One common problem that employees frequently point out is that their company declares every goal a priority. Because of this, there isn’t a good way to actually rank the importance of various goals or the part of the goal for which each employee is responsible. Connors points out that there are certain “key expectations” that form the basis of every accountability chain. To define these key expectations, he suggests executives use the acronym FORM. A FORM expectation is one that is “Framable” (meaning, can it be framed?) “Obtainable” “Repeatable” and “Measurable.” This gives leaders a method of creating expectations that can be clearly communicated to anyone involved in a project or goal.

Our complete interview with Roger Connors, as well as our summary of How Did That Happen, will be available in the November 2009 edition of Soundview Executive Book Summaries. If you’re not currently a subscriber, this month is a great month to start! Visit us here for more information.

Bank on an Inspiring Leader

I was interested to read about Bank of America’s continuing search for a new CEO. As the massive financial institution narrows its list of candidates to replace retiring CEO Kenneth Lewis, I began to wonder about the multitudes of staffers that work in the various Bank of America branches. A charismatic, level-headed leader can instill workers with a tremendous amount of purpose and pride. Media outlets have frequently pointed to Steve Jobs as an example of a leader who can affect remarkable change in an organization simply through straightforward communication and a dominant presence.

The heart of what separates the average leader from the truly inspirational is a commodity that business authors have frequently attempted to quantify. Next week, Soundview is very fortunate to offer subscribers the opportunity to delve a little deeper into the subject of inspirational leadership. On Thursday, October 15 at Noon (Eastern), Soundview Live will hit the online airwaves featuring an exclusive interactive event with John Zenger, Joseph Folkman and Scott Edinger, the authors of The Inspiring Leader.

Our Soundview Live Web events are generally very lively. However, I get the distinct feeling that this topic will bring even more intense discussion than we’ve previously experienced. The Inspiring Leader is one of a handful of books that generates a great deal of debate because so many people have an opinion about what makes a leader inspiring. Attempting to pin down the elusive qualities is not an easy task, but in my opinion, Zenger, Folkman and Edinger have done an excellent job of focusing on key characteristics which anyone can emulate.

If you’re not a subscriber, this would be a great time to come on board and gain FREE access to this Soundview subscriber exclusive. For more information on Soundview Live, or to subscribe, visit this link. I hope you’ll join us next Thursday at Noon (EST)!

When Salespeople Play Opposite Day
October 5, 2009, 1:47 PM
Filed under: Books in General, Sales | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve always enjoyed when we at Soundview work on business books that deal with sales. Selling is a key aspect of the success of any business and I have a lot of respect for the men and women whose job it is to make sales. They appear, to me, to have a rare combination of a winning attitude and skin made of Kevlar.

That’s why this article from the Newark Star-Ledger piqued my curiosity. Communication is the secret to sales success. There appears to be a bit of a growing trend toward the reversal of traditional logic about communication in the sales process. This article was refreshing because it addressed the main reason why so many salespeople struggle in today’s ultra-tough selling environment: they don’t spend enough time evaluating why their messages are or are not getting through.

It’s a concept that we’ve dealt with in many of the sales books we’ve covered. Check out Soundview’s collection The Art of Selling and see for yourself. There are new relationships forming between buyer and seller and salespeople need to be in control of establishing this bond.