What is it about?
This book is half autobiography by Tony Hsieh and half company history of Zappos. Tony Hsieh communicates what is important in his life and how Zappos reached its extraordinary customer focus.
Be happy: Happiness is the key. E.g. Tony Hsieh quit Microsoft, after selling LinkExchange, although this move lost him $8 million. He did it, because he wasn’t happy. He recognized over the years that the most important thing in his life is being happy.
Build a culture: Zappos is famous for its core values. The people at Zappos act according to the core values and they only hire people who fit into this culture. This allows Zappos to deliver constantly remarkable results. Without a culture a company converts rapidly to a faceless corp.
Don’t outsource your core competencies: In their first years the management of Zappos decided to outsource their logistics. This lead to undesirable results in the whole process of buying shoes. Therefore, they decided to run their own warehouse that executes according to their culture.
WOW people: WOWing people is one of Zappos’ core values because people will remind it, they will love your company and probably recommend it to their friends. Even if it’s something small like faster delivery, people will be astonished that your company don’t act like every company.
Although Tony Hsieh has an impressive vita, he never acted arrogantly. He embodies the core values of Zappos and so does the book. It is very well written, got some funny anecdotes and shows how a great company is built over 10 years.
What is it about?
Michael E. Gerber reveals an important fallacy of being an entrepreneur. He thinks that most entrepreneurs are technicians (e.g. engineers, copy writers, biologists) who think that they just have to do the work they’ve done before as employees.
You should work on your business, not in it: The problem, so Michael Gerber, is that most new entrepreneurs just do their old job. This mostly leads to exhaustion and too much time working. The solution is to work on your business, i.e. building a business model which could be replicated even without you.
Establish a culture: The first thing to do is to find your biggest aim. What do you want to do? What should your business do? It’s about building a culture which lives in every employee and every product.
Make yourself futile: Before you hire people you should try to document as much as possible. Start out with your organization chart (yes, even for solo founders) and define what each position have to do. You could build checklists with each step that has to be done. Eventually, you built a documentation system, which allows you to run the business without you.
Hire open and inexperienced people: You could hire some experienced managers or technicians but they maybe too expensive. Rather aim for open and inexperienced people. They will rather accept your culture and learn how to do things by your company manual.
Test, Test, Test: If you documentation leads to garbage your employees will deliver garbage. You have to test as much as possible to achieve the highest success. What should your employees wear? How should they welcome people? To whom should they sell? Try to find the best solution. Though, the world isn’t fixed. You/your employees have to test new methods and update the manual if these new methods are more successful.
I would call me a non-bureaucracy guy but I’m kind of falling in love with the concept of scaling businesses. It’s about the simplicity of using checklists instead of 1500 pages forms ;). Seriously, this methods allows even disorganized people to work in a business and deliver constant results. Furthermore, he wrote the book as a conversation with a woman who runs a small bakery, which helps to learn the main points of his book. Lovely!
What is it about?
Scott Shane summarizes various scientific studies in genetics on work, leadership and entrepreneurship. He shows what genes can do and how they act in these different situations.
We don’t know so much about genes: Genetics is a complex topic and it isn’t easy to test hypotheses. Most studies cited in this book are based on twin studies, i.e. you can only check if there is a genetic difference but not where it actually is. Scientists have extracted some genes which are responsible for characteristics like risk taking or impulsiveness but they affect a lot of different behaviors. In conclusion, it is really hard to find (all) genes which are responsible for a particular behavior.
Look at indirect effects: However, it is possible to extrapolate differences which are generated by genes. E.g. your temperament or your OCEAN (Big Five) personality traits are much influenced by your genes. These account for about 50-60% of your characteristic.
What we know is that there is influence: Your personality traits, in turn, influences many of your decisions, like what job you are going to choose. So, genes actually influence your decision whether to become an accountant or a salesman but mostly indirectly.
I think that this book is a good draft which should be extended if there are more scientific discoveries. Many studies aren’t replicated and scientists are only at the beginning to understand how everything works. Nonetheless, it is an interesting book that shows what could be possible in the future. Like identifying your strengths more easily or more efficient forms of education.
But your life isn’t determined. Genes don’t explain all the variance, i.e. your environment (parents, your actions, friends, etc.) explains the rest.
What is it about?
Al Ries and Jack Trout talk about their 22 laws for successful marketing. They explore which failures companies made in the past and how they can be fixed.
Be first: Your brand/product should be recognized as the first and leading product in the market. If you think of Cola, you think of Coca-Cola. If you think of eco-friendly cars, you think of the Toyota Prius.
If you can’t, be different: If you came too late you should find your niche. Pepsi did so in targeting young people. You shouldn’t try to fight the No. 1 with their attributes, instead choose a new attribute which describes your product (e.g. healthiest cola).
Focus on one thing: Use one attribute. Don’t describe your product as easy, best and cheap. People probably won’t believe you.
Don’t extend your line because you can: If you have built a successful brand you shouldn’t just throw new products in new markets. A lot of people tried this and failed. If you introduce new products, focus on the these laws and make them unique.
This book is just incredible. The chapters are short, there are enough examples of how to apply these laws and situations where companies have failed to do so. I read the first edition from 1993 and the two authors made some recommendations for companies like Burger King. Surprisingly, about 10-15 years later a lot of these recommendations where finally executed. Nice!