Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Have You Experienced Zappos?

As most business people and consumers are aware, Zappos is a shoe and apparel website with a reputation for superior customer service. It was started in 1999 as shoesite.com and after a hefty investment by Tony Hsieh became zappos.com. In 2009 the company was sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion, just 10 year after it began.

But what some people may not know is that Zappos’ commitment to customer service goes beyond its own doors. They have developed a program called Zappos Insightsto help other companies also excel at customer service. Although the company may seem like a wacky one-time success, this success is built on a set of principles that can be applied to any company.

Joseph Michelli, in his book The Zappos Experience, provides us with these principles from his research of the Zappos business, with ample cooperation from its employees and CEO Tony Hsieh. Here are the five Zappos principles:

  1. Serve a perfect fit – Zappos has a rigorous application process to make sure new employees fit with their culture, and let’s all unsuccessful applicants know why they weren’t accepted.
  2. Make it effortlessly swift – Customers are less concerned about WOW service then they are about getting satisfaction without a lot of effort.
  3. Step into the personal – Zappos finds ways to create individualized experiences that extend beyond their solid service platform.
  4. Stretch – Zappos understands that a key to retaining great people is to keep them challenged and learning.
  5. Play to win – High levels of workplace fun are consistently associated with increased creativity and productivity.

If you would like to hear more about these five principles and how they can be applied to your company, join us on February 16th for our Soundview Live webinar The Zappos Experiencewith Joseph Michelli. You’re sure to learn something that can help your business succeed, and perhaps have some fun in the process.

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How to Capture New Markets

What do James Watt’s steam engine and Apple’s iTunes have in common?

For both of these innovations the inventors looked beyond their competition to invent a whole new market. Watts transformed the world, as steam engines were harnessed to power new motors not conceived of before. Although iTunes was not as world-transforming, it completely changed the music industry and the way we listen to music.

But how does an individual or company be that one that captures a new market? Stephen Wunker provides the answers in his book Capturing New Markets. In a comprehensive manner, he first builds a case for the importance of new markets, then explains how to assess what doesn’t yet exist, and from there lays the foundational steps for how to capture that new market.

As Wunker states, “In business as in comedy, timing is everything.” And so he devotes a whole chapter on how to know when is the right time to enter the market. The business history books are filled with companies that did, and didn’t, get that timing right.

Perhaps you or your company is looking for that next great idea in your industry. If so then you’ll benefit from attending our Soundview Live webinar with Stephen Wunker on January 19th. Wunker will review his strategy for capturing new markets, and will be taking questions from participants along the way. Join us by registering for How to Capture New Markets, and invite your colleagues. You can fill a conference room since registration is per site.



How to Be a Benevolent Dictator

As has been shown with the recent rebellion in Libya and the fate of Moammar Gadhafi, dictators are not popular. In fact the very word “dictator” stirs up images of cruelty and oppression. So it’s a bit surprising when a business author writes a book suggesting that the only way to launch a successful company is to be a dictator.

But this is what Michael Feuer does with his book The Benevolent Dictator. Feuer of course qualifies his use of the term with these words: “… this designation is not always a pejorative when combined with the modifier “benevolent.”  In fact, the case could be made that being a benevolent dictator can make the difference when starting a business from scratch and with a scarcity of time and money.”

He explains further, “As business history has taught us, success comes from a combination of focus, determination, diligence, pure grit, a good dose of luck and a touch of chutzpah.  The successful entrepreneurs I’ve known possessed all of these qualities and one other characteristic that is seldom discussed – that of being an autocrat.”

Feuer’s point is that in a new business venture, tough decisions need to be made, risks need to be taken, and this requires someone who will bite the bullet and move forward. These kinds of tough decisions require a strong leader ready to take the risk, and also ready to put himself or herself at the head of the battle.

While we may not be comfortable with the idea of working for an autocrat, I think we can understand Feuer’s point that someone needs to take ultimate responsibility for the hard decisions. And what’s even more convincing are the many companies that he points to when making his case for start-ups having a strong leader.

If you would like to hear Feuer make his case for being a benevolent dictator, we invite you to join us on November 4th for our Soundview Live webinar with Michael Feuer and his co-author Dustin Klein. He’ll be ready to answer even the toughest questions about starting a new business.



Enchanted to Meet You . . .

Enchantment. When I hear this word, I can’t help but think of fairly tales and Disney movies. In fact, Disney actually has a movie entitled Enchanted. So what does enchantment have to do with business? It just happens to be the title of the latest business book from Guy Kawasaki.

Kawasaki is known for pushing the envelope, with books like Reality Check and How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, and with a following on Twitter of 398,722 (as of today). Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com which he calls an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and is a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Also, not surprisingly, he was previously the chief evangelist of Apple.

In Enchantment, Kawasaki argues that in business and personal interactions, your goal is not merely to get what you want, but to bring about voluntary, enduring and delightful change in other people. The book explains all the tactics you need to prepare and launch an enchantment campaign; to get the most from both push and pull technologies; and to enchant your customers, your employees and even your boss.

If this is an enchanting idea to you, then please join Soundview and Guy Kawasaki on September 8th for our latest Soundview Live webinar, How to Change Hearts, Minds and Actions. Hopefully you’ll come away enchanted with the idea of launching your own Enchantment campaign. OK, I know I’m over doing the whole “enchantment” thing, but we’d love to have you join us, and to bring your questions for Guy.

You’ll receive our summary of Guy’s book with your registration, or you can purchase the summary here if you’re not sure you can make it to the webinar.



Are You Ready for m-Commerce?

Do you have your cell-phone handy? You’re certainly not alone. Over 70% of the world’s population now has a mobile phone — that’s over 5 billion people. And in the U.S., 9 out of 10 of every man, woman and child have a phone – Digital Buzz Blog .

So it’s no wonder that companies are paying attention to this phenomenon. Whether you manufacture cars, grow corn, or teach school, you must pay attention to the proliferation of cell phones. In The Third Screen, (http://amzn.to/p4Mtq3 ) Chuck Martin makes the case that no one can afford to ignore this trend.

Martin states, “The third screen, the mobile device, is a game changer. It enables customers to communicate directly with each other and share information and opinions in real-time and on location. The third screen revolution is about dramatic technological and behavioral change.”

Because of the importance of this game changing technology, Soundview has invited Chuck Martin to share his observations and recommendations with us in our Soundview Live webinar tomorrow at 12:00 noon EST.

This webinar, entitled How to Succeed in the World of m-Commerce, will provide our subscribers and the general business public with an opportunity to look at the impact cell-phone usage is having on businesses and what they can do to take advantage of this technology phenomenon. As always, we are leaving plenty of time for attendees to ask questions about how this mobile craze will affect their business strategy.

We also invite you to add your comments here as to how you see the “untethered consumer” affecting your business.



A FREE Resource You HAVE to Use!

There’s a reason I tend to conclude my posts by telling everyone to visit Soundview’s Web site, Summary.com. The site is regularly updated with information about newly released executive book summaries, book reviews (1,000 FREE reviews and growing!), upcoming Soundview Live Webinars and other great business learning resources.

I’ve got great news about another new resource available at Summary.com. How much do you think it would cost to attend an event where you hear vital business lectures from speakers such as Bill George, Patrick Lencioni, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Paul Krugman and David M. Rubenstein, among others? The event is the World Business Forum, and a ticket can cost as much as $2,500.

Fortunately, Soundview has partnered with HSM Global, producers of the World Business Forum, to bring you exclusive audio summaries of the event’s major speakers. These audio summaries are available for you to listen to for FREE!

Each audio summary is a 10-minute MP3 that features a narrated overview of the speech. The summary includes actual clips from the live speech given by the presenter at World Business Forum. If these tough economic times meant that you weren’t able to spend $2,500 on a ticket to the World Business Forum, these FREE audio summaries allow you to hear what you missed.

I need to stress here that you do NOT have to be a Soundview subscriber to listen to the World Business Forum audio summaries. These exclusive content pieces are FREE for everyone to learn from and enjoy. In fact, I’d recommend starting with Patrick Lencioni, whose latest book Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty is now available as a Soundview summary!

To listen to the audio summaries from the World Business Forum, CLICK THIS LINK!



No Better Buyer than Buffett

I came across this review of a book released earlier this year that discusses R.C. Willey, the furniture and electronics store purchased by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. I wonder if people didn’t focus on this book because it dealt with Bill Child, the founder of R.C. Willey, rather than on Buffett himself. That’s a shame, because Child is a fascinating character whose efforts helped propel his business to blue chip status in the eyes of the world’s most famous investor.

How to Build a Business Warren Buffett Would Buy does more than just give readers a peek into how to remodel a business from one that struggles to one that exceeds expectations. The book goes beyond numbers into the aspects of moral character and trust that form both a good workplace and a company profile that Buffett admires.

In regard to ethics, Child’s own belief in the adaptability of a business and the importance of creating a loyal work force have been echoed time and again in books about Buffett. When we reviewed Alice Schroeder’s comprehensive Buffett biography, The Snowball, we were struck by how often Buffett executed acquisition decisions by paying as much attention to the company’s philosophy as he did its balance sheet.

As the reviewer in the article above notes, the acquisition of R.C. Willey made Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway a substantial profit, while Child certainly benefited from receiving “A” shares in Buffett’s company as part of the buy-out. Without going into a long explanation, “A” shares in Berkshire Hathaway trade for a significantly higher price than “B” shares. It just goes to show that there is still a value on companies founded on a strong work ethic and firm moral character.