Soundview Executive Book Summaries


How Does Your Company Rate?

Although we’re seeing some slight improvements in our economy in recent weeks, we still have a long way to go to a full recovery. However, some are looking beyond the present crisis and see signs of a strong economy in the future – that is for those that make the grade.

In Good Company, Laurie Bassi and her co-authors make the case that to succeed in the future a company will need to meet the criteria for what they call a “good company.” They have developed a rating system (The Good Company Index) which takes into account certain criteria that are becoming essential in the new economy.

  1. Good Employer – they use a starting number based on ratings from Glassdoor.com and the Fortune list of 100 best companies.
  2. Good Seller – they use the consumer ratings of wRatings regarding quality, fair price and trust.
  3. Good Steward – they based this on statistics regarding a company’s record on the environment, penalties/fines, restraint in executive compensation and contribution to society/community.

As they state in their book, “A good company is one that starts with good intentions and then puts those into practice concretely through its actions in these three areas. Is your company good or moving toward good?

If you think that your company may not rate well and would like to move it up the charts, join Laurie Bassi and co-author Ed Frauenheim for our Soundview Live webinar Business Success in the Worthiness Era coming up on March 1st.

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Book Trends Part II

Leadership and communication are trends that have been and will continue to be with us, but some business book trends come and go with the hot topics of the business world.

Not too surprisingly, social media is one of those hot topics that are currently generating new books. Everyone wants to know how to make money with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Coupled with this subject is that of customer empowerment, that through the use of social media the customer has taken the reins and is telling companies what they want.

Chris Brogan is among the authors filling the need for information in the social media arena, with Trust Agents which he wrote with Julien Smith last year, and Google+ for Business coming out in November. Shel Israel and Robert Scoble discuss blogs in Naked Conversations, Adam Penenberg demonstrates the power of viral media in Viral Loop, and Robert Bloom explains the new power of the customer in The New Experts.

In tandem with the green movement, we’re also seeing an emphasis on corporate and personal responsibility. Customers are making product, service and investment decisions based in part on how good a “corporate citizen” a company is, rather than just on how good the products are.

Carol Sanford just released a book entitled The Responsible Business, about which we’re hosting a webinar tomorrow. Daniel Goleman recently shifted from emotional intelligence to Ecological Intelligence.  Joel Kurtzman emphasizes having a Common Purpose that looks beyond the bottom-line. And Tim Sanders discusses the responsibility revolution moving through corporate American in Saving the World at Work.

One more trend that needs a mention is innovation. Although this topic isn’t new, there has been a strong emphasis in the business book world on recreating companies to be innovation powerhouses. Clayton Christensen is a leader in this arena, with the concepts he introduced in The Innovator’s Solution, and then is applying to other fields like healthcare, with The Innovator’s Prescription. Josh Linkner explains how to empower employees to be creative in Disciplined Dreaming, and Norihiko Shimizu describes the continuous innovation practices of Toyota in Extreme Toyota.

One great thing about these prolific business authors is that they are ready to fill in the information gap when a new trend comes up on the horizon. Our challenge as businesspeople is to find the time to read and apply this information before the next sweeping change takes place. That’s why Soundview is in business – to cut down the time from book to application.



The Responsible Business

What does it mean for a company to be responsible? In the past the focus was on treating employees fairly, obeying the law, and not polluting the environment. Dictionary.com defines corporate responsibility this way: duty and rational conduct expected of a corporation; accountability of a corporation to a code of ethics and to established laws.

But a shift has taken place in recent years away from the idea of just doing no wrong, to a forward-looking idea of doing more right. This is the new corporate responsibility. Recent books that touch at the many aspects of this change in thinking include Common Purpose by Joel Kurtzman, Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and Tactical Transparency by Shel Holtz and John Havens.

But Carol Sanford, author of The Responsible Business, takes it a step further by looking at the very heart and soul of the company and how it operates. One key principle that Sanford emphasizes is having a workforce of CEOs, where “every person in the co-creative group (employees, suppliers, partners, contractors) think like a CEO and feel responsibility for the success of the whole, including financials, in their everyday decisions and actions.”

In this way of thinking, responsibility is taken down to the level of the employees – the people who live in the community, have children in the local schools, and see the day-to-day effects of the decisions made by the company. If a company is accountable to the larger community in which it functions, this can have a huge impact on how it does business.

If you’d like to hear more about Carol Sanford’s thinking on corporate responsibility, please join us for our Soundview Live webinar with her on October 13th at noon EST. The webinar is aptly named Becoming a Responsible Business, and there will be ample time to ask your questions regarding the implications for your company.



The Sun, The Law and a Great Summary

As the summer sun rages in the sky above the offices of Soundview Executive Book Summaries (and most of the United States), lawmakers in the nation’s capital are debating whether or not to bring the industry devoted to harnessing solar power to its knees. The U.S. House of Representatives has its sights set on reducing or cutting federal grant and guaranteed loan programs for the development of solar power. While it’s not the purpose of this blog to offer political comment on any decision by the federal government, the notion of cutting funding for the solar power industry has a more critical effect on business that is worth mentioning.

The potential interruption of funding opportunities could have a wide-reaching impact. In an article in USA Today, Roger Efird, managing director of Suntech America (a part of Suntech Power, the world’s largest producer of solar panels), said, “Is the solar industry going to die if we lose these programs? No, but we’re going to stall.”

His quote led me to reflect on a recent summary published by Soundview Executive Book Summaries. In Flash Foresight, author Daniel Burrus reveals that plotting your business’s course for the future is dependent on your ability to analyze hard and soft trends. I had the opportunity to interview Burrus about his book, and when we discussed hard and soft trends, he said the following:

When the government passes a law, it actually creates a series of hard trends and you can profit from those. You have to pay attention to what’s happening.

Applying that to the news today about the potential cut for the solar power industry, one imagines that there are companies currently working on other alternative sources of energy that could potentially benefit in the future. If you read the summary of Flash Foresight, you’ll gain a better understanding of Burrus’ methods to see the trends and capitalize.

To get your copy of the Soundview Executive Book  Summary of Flash Foresight, visit Soundview online at Summary.com.



Wal-Mart Goes Local for Harvest Season

As more and more companies search for ways to create sustainability, retail giant Wal-Mart is making its own strides in the green movement. In this Associated Press article, the retailer reveals its five-year plan to increase the amount of locally-grown produce it features in its stores. The company also hopes to lower the amount of food waste at its stores by as much as 15 percent depending on the market. It’s not clear whether the retailer’s plan is in response to the growing number of consumers who support “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” campaigns that draw business away from Wal-Mart and toward smaller farms and produce retailers.

What I found intriguing is Wal-Mart’s plan to educate local farmers on sustainable agricultural practices and ways to increase efficiency. The company would like to train more than 1 million farmers in emerging markets on crop selection and sustainable farming techniques. While some may criticize this decision as an attempt to paper over a low-cost supply chain, Wal-Mart deserves some credit for attempting to create a commitment to sustainable agriculture.

Soundview has previously covered the topics of sustainability and consumer demand for green products. If you’re looking for great book summaries on these topics, I’d highly recommend the following two titles.

Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. The percentage of customers who base buying decisions on a product’s eco-sensibility is increasing. In this summary, Goleman examines the shift in transparency and how it plays into succeeding in the developing eco-marketplace. If you read the summary and want to learn more, Soundview also held an excellent installment of Soundview Live that featured Goleman discussing Ecological  Intelligence.

The Necessary Revolution by Peter Senge, Sara Schley, Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz and Joe Lau. If sustainability is a subject about which you need complete understanding, few books handle the topic better than this one. Senge and his co-authors deliver memorable takeaways that will help any executive direct his or her business toward a profitable approach to solving global environmental issues.

For these and other great titles, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com to learn more!



Repositioning on Four Wheels

If you’re like many Americans, you’ll probably spend a portion of the Independence Day holiday weekend sitting in traffic. Somewhere between muttered curses toward rubbernecking motorists and the realization that you should have stopped at the previous rest area, you may lament the amount of gas your engine is burning while idling on the highway. At times like this, we tend to speculate about the arrival of the electric car as a permanent replacement for internal combustion engines.

Here’s an interesting piece about that very topic from the New York Times. The article profiles automaker BMW’s public commitment to changing the way we approach automotive engineering. The company is in the process of designing a battery-powered car. I have to give extra credit to reporter Jack Ewing for a sly backhanded remark about the potential audience for the vehicle. Did you spot it? Perhaps I’ll reveal it in a future post if you send me a few comments with your guesses.

Clever reporting aside, the story and BMW’s efforts fit with the theme of Jack Trout’s recent book Repositioning: Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change and Crisis, a book recently summarized by Soundview Executive Book Summaries. Trout makes the case in the book that the normal approaches to marketing are undergoing a shift. Companies that traditionally positioned themselves need to reevaluate their standing. The solution is to reposition oneself by using the competition and its differences to help set your company apart.

BMW is certainly making strides in this area. If the company can blend luxury with environmental consciousness, its competitors will see nothing but BMW’s taillights disappearing in the distance.

If you want to learn more about the changing tide of eco-business, check out our summary collection Going Green for more tips that can help your business.



The Art of Conservation

If you’re a visitor to the site that hosts my little blog, you’ve probably seen the “Freshly Pressed” page. This listing of six or eight attention-getting blog posts always offers something intriguing. I’ve made the list before, an accomplishment that I’m sure would hardly impress my children, but I digress.

This post from a nature blog caught my eye because of its message. Soundview headquarters is located in the Philadelphia area, and we’ve received an extra dash or two of snow this year. In fact, more fell last night, so the first three photographs in this post are quite similar to images I saw as I left home this morning. The blogger makes a brilliant point about leaving a city to build a home in the pastoral beauty of the country. The first step involved in building such a home is destroying the very environment we sought to enjoy when we left the city. The blogger’s plea for a more mutual coexistence between man and his surroundings echoes an important point from one of our current summaries.

Once we’ve finished knocking down trees to build a house, we stock the house with stuff. It’s the stuff with which we stock the house that has author Daniel Goleman concerned. In his book Ecological Intelligence, Goleman provides key insights for consumers and manufacturers alike about the need to reform our manufacturing and purchasing practices.

In a conversation with Soundview, Goleman said, “We’re using up fresh water. We’re using up forests. We’re using up non-renewable resources all because of, basically, our individual decisions when we go shopping because we are collectively the wheel that’s driving a gigantic industrial commercial machine that is harvesting the planet. People are seeing that we can’t do this in the same way. It’s not sustainable.”

The summary of his book is a great place to start with information about how to make the changes we need. In the meantime, maybe we could follow the blogger’s advice and let those hedges at the edge of the yard get a little ragged. After all, they look rather nice when covered in snow.