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BUSINESS BOOK REVIEWS

A good coach needs three things: A patient wife, a loyal dog, and a great quarterback - not necessarily in that order.  (Bud Grant former Minnesota Viking coach)

 

Strategy Moves  Jorge Vasconcellos e Sá, Prentice Hall 2005

   Often it seems that when a new company enters the marketplace or an existing company expands and moves into a new market sector the success or failure is not understood.  After reading "Strategy Moves"  I realize this isn't the case.  In fact the success or failure can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy.  The author explains in detail the six attack strategies, giving examples along the way.  The methods to introduce new products or enter new markets are discussed and when each attack strategy is appropriate.  However the  market or product entrance is complicated because in most cases it will be met with a defense strategy.  The eight defense strategies are presented once again with real life examples.  My recommendation is that you read chapter seven first, then start at the beginning.  In doing so you will see how powerful the attack strategies can be and how they were planned and implemented.  Every business person needs to study, not just read, this book.  Luck is no where enough in today's world. 

 

Emotional Branding Marc Gobé, Allworth Press,2001

   Finally on the last page (306) I understood what it was all about and I quote. " Branding is a people to people business, not a factory to to people business. A brand needs to have human qualities and emotional values - it needs to have a personality, expressing corporate culture through imagery that engages people.  If you can make customers desire a partnership with your brand, you have created an emotional connection that spells long-term success."  I struggled reading this book and on at least a couple of occasions almost gave up.  The author makes some good points and presents plenty of examples where companies have been successful in developing an emotional bond with their customers. However I would only recommend this book to those who are in the business to promote a product or service.  If this isn't you forget it! 

 

Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? Louis V. Gerstner jr. HarperCollins Publish, 2002

The IBM company was the place everyone wanted to work.  When I graduated form college I interviewed with only one company, IBM.  In the sixties, seventies, and eighties IBM provided great wealth for its employees and stockholders.  How could it be in what seemed like only a few short years the IBM company went from the richest of the rich to near financial collapse.  Could anyone save the stumbling giant?  The board of directors, who in themselves were a major contributor to the collapse, looked outside of the company for a savior.  Why would anyone want to assume the challenge?  Lou Gerstner asked himself this question many times both before and shortly after he became CEO.  However in the end he did what no other person could have done, he saved the giant.  This is a truly interesting documentation of how he did the impossible and changed the basic culture of the IBMers.  In his own words "In the end, an organization is nothing more that the collective capacity of its people to create value."

On Top of the World, Tom Barbash, HarperCollins Publisher 2003

This is an account of Cantor Fitzgerald and its CEO Howard Lutnick - The nearly total destruction of the firm on September 11, 2001 - the hell that followed and the recovery that seemed almost impossible.  When the Boeing 767 with twenty thousand gallons of fuel hit the 93rd floor of tower one of the World Trade Center, 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees perished. The devastating effect on the families cannot be expressed in words.  The impact on the firm from  a business point of view was impossible to estimate.  The majority of its employees were gone, all its offices, records and computers were turned to dust.  Howard had survived only because he had taken his son to school but he had lost his brother, and best friend and all he had worked so hard to achieve. Almost immediately he realized that the only way he could help the wives and children of all the workers that perished was to save the company.  What follows are the seemingly insurmountable challenges that those who survived would face. To rebuild the business would require a Herculean effort, but to do it while facing life without your best friend, brother, sister or spouse was almost too much to bear.  This is a truly great story.  Cantor Fitzgerald was saved and the families who had lost their wage earner were ensured a financial secure future. Is it a happy ending? Of course not, with the tremendous loss of human life that is not possible.  The only guarantee is that, when you read this book, there will be many tear stained pages in On Top of the World.

 

  The Neglected Firm, Jorge A. Vasconcellos e Sá,  Palgrave Publishers Ltd.  2002

"The Neglected Firm" is a very compelling discussion on how to prepare a firm for the future.  A second and quite appropriate title  might be "A Survival Guide for companies in the twenty-first century".  The author demonstrates why every manager, CEO, and or leader must direct two companies at the same time.  The present company and the future one.  Neglecting either company can spell gloom and failure for the business.  this is a text book for business leaders, and is a must read for everyone with the responsibilities of running a company.  Jorge, in a professor like manor, takes the reader through the seven steps to managing the future firm.  A very positive side effect is that in the process of planning for the future you learn new and important information about the effectiveness and efficiency of the present company. a significant part of the book is devoted to the planning department.  That group that will guide the CEO and the firm along the path to the future company.  The two real life companies that are used as examples make the lessons described come to life.