Tag Archives: business

Saving the World at Work – Tim Sanders

What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference

I keep trying to read these kinds of books, and often they just aren’t very good. This one was definitely better than the rest. The idea of course is that there is lots of stuff you can do to make the world a better place, and some of it is at your place of business. This is all true and good, but what irritated me was his main point was that you don’t have to be a CEO to affect change, and yet his main case study in proof of this was of an intern getting her mom to give her boss some sort of book about how bad the carpet industry is. The boss left it on the CEO’s desk (with no comment) and it wasn’t until the CEO faced some sort of external pressure for change from shareholders did he see the book on his desk. This seemed more like serendipity then a how-to on getting CEO’s to change direction.

I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more tips for non-CEOs.  As employees it’s harder to get high-level change, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can’t do on our own. For example, I am unsubscribing us from junk mail. You can also put CFL bulbs in your desk lamps, and if you have a kitchen, bring some old silverware and place settings for people to use, instead of disposable products. You may be able to convince who ever orders supplies to make some more eco-friendly choices, especially if you can prove that the company will be saving money.

One thing that I really enjoyed about the book, was something I felt was a little misguided, but I liked the spirit of. The author believes that this newest generation of employees cares about their impact on the world as a whole, and wants to work for a company that not only treats them well, but also tries for a better impact on the world as a whole. Whether it’s a mission based business, or just a responsible company. It’s something I certainly feel strongly about, but I am not convinced enough that my peers are. But, I liked it anway.  It seemed an appeal to CEOs and HR to make sure they are offering benefits that reflect a more progressive world view as they only way to attract great employees (benefits for domestic partners, paid time off for volunteer/community work). I really love the concept, and it’s something I hope to accomplish in my future career goals. There was one interaction Sanders described, which I am paraphrasing here:

Recruit: Do you offer benefits for domestic partners?

Interviewer: Why? Are you gay?

Recruit: No, but but I am evolved, and I want to work for a company that is as well.

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Hug Your Customers – Jack Mitchell

I had some really high hopes for this book, and it’s been getting a lot of press in my circle lately, but I just wasn’t impressed.

A very large part of my job is customer service, and I love reading books about it. This was kind of pitched to me (or it pitches itself) as a “why excellent customer service and going above and beyond is so important book.” And while it exceeded at making that claim – I am not sure that claim really needed to be made. And if it did, then this didn’t really seem to be the best way to make it.

What this did succeed at was at being a great CEO – case study of “Mitchells” and “Richards” clothing stores. It made me want to shop there, and be a customer. It also got me jazzed up about the idea doing more for my own customers (all the advice wasn’t really translatable) and it triggered my recurring (and ridiculous) daydreams about being even closer to the service industry.  I just wish it presented itself as “The Story of Mitchells.”

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Getting Things Done – David Allen

“The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”

Okay, its okay to point and laugh and call me a nerd. I get it. I am not only reading semi-self-help books, I am reading books about personal productivity.

If you haven’t heard of Getting Things Done then you are either A) not a total geek or B) don’t work in an office or any type of corporate environment. But, I was finally convinced to read it – and you know what? I liked it! That’s right, I said it. I liked it! And I will probably read more.

That said, this book took me forever to read. Not that it was difficult, but it was one of those that you can’t just read on the subway. In fact, I am SOOOO dorky, that not only could I not read it on the subway, I came up with a highly complex method (okay, it was just two different colored stickies) of organizing my thoughts while I read the book.

What? You don’t believe me?

Photographic Evidence of My Shame

Photographic Evidence of My Shame

And I made lists! And messed with my IGoogle! And became more productive in a week than I had in a year. I did dry cleaning, gave clothing to charity, set up payment plans for my bills, cleaned out my junk drawer, updated my regular files, researched and utilized financial software, made appointments with doctors and got some work stuff done that I had been procrastinating about – including organizing my office. And my co-workers want my help on getting their inboxes sorted. And my boss thinks I may have gone off the deep-end, but he is beaming with Nerd Pride.

GTD (Yeah, that’s what us nerds in the know call it) has kind of a simple theory – Get stuff out of your head and into managable lists of projects. Then you  break down projects by the next physical action you can take on them. There is of course more to it, and Allen obviously hates trees. You should see how he wants you to organize yourself with folders and pieces of paper and … Greenpeace would not be pleased.

I kind of started on my GTD journey already, although I skipped some steps that Allen would be disappointed by. And I think I want to read a few more books before I figure out what works best for me, but for now I will put my color-coding to good use and bullet out some of the thoughts, concepts and quotes that stood out for me. There’s also these few paragraphs on page 241 in my copy that talk about why it’s usually intelligent people that procrastinate. This of course made total sense to me, in a very self-congratulatory “ha! I am disorganized because I am smart!” way. I am insufferable.

  • In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.
  • Most people have dozens of things that they need to do to make progress on many fronts, but they don’t yet know what they are. And the common complaint that “I don’t have time to ____ (fill in blank)”  is understandable because you can’t do a project at all! You can only do an action related to it. Many actions require only a minute or two, in the appropriate context to move forward.
  • The verb “process” does not mean “spend time on.”
  • “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

I will probably end up re-reading this, but I will save you the loser-ish details. Something else I learned? You don’t need to be some high-powered CEO or basket-case for these books to have a practical application.

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The Red Rubber Ball at Work – Kevin Carroll

“Elevate your game through the hidden power of play”

Chrissy got this from one of her clients in some sort of gift package. So, she passed it along to me. I don’t really know what to say about it. It was 1 – 2 page mini stories of entrepreneurs, thinkers, movers and shakers and related early childhood games to their success. It was cute. Like, waiting room coffee table reading.

(I have a cold. I am blogging because I am already forgetting what I read, but honestly –  I have no business putting pen to paper. Or keys to clicking? … see?)

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Grapevine – Dave Balter

“Why Buzz was a Fad but Word of Mouth was Forever”

This was an interesting book. Not only was it essentially a case study of case studies, but it got me thinking about a few things. It was written (unbeknown to me when I checked it out) by the Founder of BzzAgent, which is a group I belong to (referred to Bart – a champion Bzzer). I originally joining BzzAgent in order to get free stuff. It’s still the main reason that I like it, but after reading a book-length pamphlet for it, I got jazzed up about it again and updated my profile.

Anyway, the book is about the important of Word of Mouth marketing. It wasn’t a “how to” (since essentially this guy’s stance would be “sign up with BzzAgent”) but it was a “why this is effective.” It made a significant case, although I think at Tutor.com we have been trying to do that all along (giving out free samples, fostering feedback, etc.). But I did put it down and have two “takeaways.” The first being a validation that the idea of creating some sort of “wacky viral campaign” is ridiculous. I always found the whole concept kind of irrelevant and not sure how it boosted sales, and this had some decent info explaining why I am right (validation! Yea!). I think that the only people who think that these “Web 3.0” ideas are going to work fall into two categories – executives who read a book about it or heard about it second or third-hand and people my own age/generation who have no real experience in marketing, but think they are on the cutting edge because they are early adopters of other technology. It’s this really weird gap. I don’t know if I am explaining correctly, but I can see the archetypes (and real life counterparts) in my head.

The other thing that it left me thinking about was WHY we tell people about products and services we love. Sure, we are social animals and there are all sorts of implications and theories about why we look out for one another, etc. – but there has to be a little more to it. Do we want validation for our own choices? To have an association with a brand because we think that the brand’s appeal will reflect well on us? Do we want to be seen as an authority or cool or cutting edge? Do we want to promote the company so that it does well and stays in business for us to be able to utilize in the future? Would we not publicize it so that it doesn’t get big, and therefore ruined?

I think people speak (and don’t speak) about these things for a variety of reasons – it probably changes based on what the product is, who you are speaking to and a million other things. But it’s something I never really thought about.

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The Knack – Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham

“How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up”

I wish I blogged about this book right after I read it. I really, really liked it and had a bunch of thoughts that I have promptly forgotten. I actually think I may have read it before, or at least I think a lot of the stories in it must have appeared in Norm’s monthly column in Inc. magazine.

Writing a book about entrepreneurship is difficult. How can you give advice to someone who you have no idea what kind of business they are running, what markets they are in, what skills or start-up they have, etc. This book tries to deal with a more philosophical level, and I think it gives some great practical advice as well.

Again – case studies. I think I really, really like books with case studies. That, and Norm kind of feels like a grandpa. Not MY grandpa, but a grandpa I would like.

I really need to start taking notes.

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Kidfluence – Anne Sutherland and Beth Thompson

“The Marketer’s Guide to Understanding and Reaching Generation Y – Kids, Teens and Tweens”

I have been trying to read more books about marketing and marketing to teens, and yet – I can’t seem to find any that have anything new. I am just never show who the intended audience of these books are. Kidfluence seems to mainly be about why marketing to kids are important, cradle to grave and the kid market share. Great. Nothing new or groundbreaking here, but … well. Okay, its not new or groundbreaking, so it must be for people just getting into the concept of marketing? But who just getting into the concept of marketing is also responsible for pitching a whole new segment to a company? Is it for people trying to come up with a product or service and figuring out an audience? It didn’t FEEL very entrepreneurial…

The truth is – I have no idea.  It also cracks me up that I feel too advanced for this book, and yet by the author’s own definition? I am Generation Y. How meta.

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