Category Archives: Books

Build A Referral Engine Right

The Referral EngineI love this paragraph:

There are three ingredients necessary for a rewarding and successful business experience: You must enjoy what you do and feel a sense of purpose; you must be good at what you do; and you must be able to convince other people to pay you for what you do.

That’s from John Jantsch’s new book, The Referral Engine, which is out on the market and available today. John is the world-famous author of Duct Tape Marketing, perhaps the world’s best thinker on marketing in the real world, in a practical, down-to-earth (hence the duct tape image) way.

If you’re running your own business, trying to grow, it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend $15 or so and a few hours than on this book. We all take referrals for granted; it’s second nature. We assume that if we do a good job then referrals will happen. How many times have you heard and accepted the phrase “word of mouth” as the most powerful tool in marketing?

What John does in this book is take you through a process that makes referrals a key driver of your business. He starts with defining what referrals really are (aside from the common assumptions) and how they work. He links that to the high-end strategies that drive real business growth. From there, he goes into the actual nuts-and-bolts systems that create what he calls referral engines.

I know you’re busy. It won’t take your time and money, it will save your time and money. So read this book.

What Amazon and iPad Teach us About Strategy

I love it: now when I buy a Kindle book from, I can have it on my iPhone, my iPad, my Mac laptop, my Windows laptop, my Mac Desktop, or my Windows desktop.

Kindle on iPadThis makes me feel like I really own the book. If I have a spare 10 minutes, just about wherever I am, I can read the book. It’s great usability. Great convenience.

And I love the business strategy implications. By making Kindle books available on every possible hardware device, Amazon chooses not to reserve them for people who buy the Kindle hardware. Is this a sacrifice? Helping competitors? Does the iPad make the Kindle less desireable? Yes? Does having Kindle books available on the iPad mean will sell more Kindle books? Yes.

On the long term, Amazon wins because it focuses on what it does really well. Kindle books become the standard. It’s called focus. And strategy is focus.

eBooks: Hot, Flat, Crowded, and Not on Let the Games Begin

(Important: late-breaking news. Since this was posted earlier today, Amazon has reversed its position on this. Macmillan is back, but with its own pricing on the Kindle. This is important. Here’s a link.)

eBook wars, you say? On one hand, it’s about time. On the other, wow, this is strategy in action. And interesting spectacle too. That’s why in athletics the championship games are more interesting: two big winners squaring off.

Mashable led over the weekend with Apple vs. Amazon: The Great Ebook War Has Already Begun, a post by Ben Parr, whose work I like a lot. Posted Saturday, it’s about Amazon and Macmillan. It’s hard to tell who’s making the move on whom here, but the announcement was that was removing Macmillan books from its web store:

According to the New York Times, the reason the books were pulled was the iPad. Macmillan told Amazon that it wanted to change its pricing and compensation agreement, upping the price of some books from $9.99 to $15 and splitting sales 70/30, the same model Apple uses for the iPhone app store and its upcoming iBooks store. Amazon’s apparent response was to flex its muscle and pull countless Macmillan books off the virtual shelves.

Last Friday I posted how the competition is win-win for all sides. We get a choice: Kindle books, just text, for one price, or Apple iBook books (pizazz) for a higher price. You get to decide. Ah, the magic of commerce.

But with and Macmillan biting off each other’s noses, it’s not so clear. Ben Parr wrote:

That’s why Amazon decided to use its biggest weapon, itself, against Macmillan to send a message to every publisher: If you don’t play by its rules, then you can’t be in its store. While a publisher can likely survive without the Kindle, the same cannot be said for Publishers simply cannot afford to leave the world’s largest online retailer.

Who wins? In this case, the losers are and Macmillan, and all Macmillan authors, and anybody who wants to buy their books. Amazon? Don’t we all go there because we can find all the books imaginable there? And now we don’t? Although you can still buy Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded on, you can’t do it directly. They list it as available from third-party sellers, even though it’s one of the most important books of the last year. And here’s some irony: Priceless, William Poundstone’s analysis of free and fair value and all, is another victim.

Remember the old days, when things like this were about giving customers what they want?

Social Media Serendipity; or, the Social in Social Media

I like serendipity. Not just because the word sounds like a refreshing drink in the shade on a hot day, but because when serendipity happens, it’s always good. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely. …

So I had a great Friday: a nice drive from Eugene to Portland on a bright clear sunny early summer day, then lunch with Pamela Slim (@pamslim on twitter) and the second half of her Escape From Cubicle Nation workshop, with me included for a short guest spot on business planning. Then dinner with Pam and friends.

So what’s the serendipity here? It’s a reasonable question. It’s not like I didn’t already know Pam through telephone and email, and a lot of twitter; so I knew she does an excellent workshop. No surprise there — it was. And maybe you already take this for granted, but for me, at least, an old guy, the process of finding the real people through the blogs and tweets is a very special thrill. I’ve never been that good at cocktail parties or networking. But, through the magic of this new world, I’m meeting new people, and loving it.

So on Friday, I met Pam and several of her good friends, fellow bloggers and tweeters. We had a dinner hosted by @chrisguillebeau of The Art of Nonconformity and his wife Jolie; and I also got to know Matthew Scott of The Strategic Incubator (@MatthewRayScott on Twitter) better. Matthew is a wealth of really interesting stories, wisdom of both the real and folk variety, and business experience.

So I’m reminded that there really is a social in social media. Or at least there can be. It might start with blog posts, and tweets, but over time, as you follow people’s work and share (podcasts, phone calls, other posts), you get to know real people. And, when you meet them, they are real people.

My New Favorite Book: Escape From Cubicle Nation

You want this book: Escape from Cubicle Nation, by Pamela Slim. She’s been writing a great blog for several years, and now she’s put much of the soul of that blog into her new book, with the same name. You want it if you’re working for a company and thinking about going on your own. And you want it if you’re already on your own and thinking about working for a company. Or anywhere in between.

Pam starts with understanding how you got where you are, if you’re still in that company, and why it’s hard to jump. Her first section is “Opening Up to the Opportunities.” And she offers some seriously useful wisdom about that situation. These are just some selected quotes:

Employees who treat companies like old, loyal friends will die of heartbreak.

The larger organizations get, the greater their capacity for doing work that is not directly related to anything in the real world.

Next, “The Reality of Entrepreneurship.” Gulp. Covering how to actually do it, setting up your new business, which is also your new life. Specifically, practically, chapters on how to be self employed, marketing, business planning, your brand, and — here’s a great chapter title — “Test Often and Fail Fast: the Art of Prototypes and Samples.”

Which is great stuff, frankly, extremely valuable. And, to her credit, she leads you through all this without getting lost in it, or losing perspective on what really counts.

More quotes:

Life first, business second: If you don’t consider your life as a key part of your business model, you may find yourself outwardly successful and inwardly miserable.

I am convinced that the truly successful people, those who enjoy every part of their life and have financial stability, are very picky about where they spend their time and energy. So prune relentlessly.

Don’t trip if you don’t pick the perfect idea the first time. Really. Don’t.

Then a third section, “Make the Money Work,” faces the scary financial jump. “Look Your Finances in the Eye.” She talks about getting a clear picture of the current situation, tracking, clearing debt, reducing expenses, and — again the mix of practical tips with a broader view, suggestions like “let your fears guide you:”

Fears are not all bad! They can be a great way to ensure that your plan covers what it needs to. If you have a nagging fear about something that is not covered in your current plan, it is a good indication that you need to address it.

A fourth and final section called “Making the Leap” deals with the whole person, fears, family, what it takes to actually jump. Having been there myself, I can tell that Pam knows what she’s talking about. She offers sound real advice. For example, in this section:

Pay attention to your body. Tense muscles, stomach problems, anxiety, and trouble sleeping are all signs that you are trying too hard to control your creative impulses. Get back in touch with your body by exercising, meditating, and practicing deep breathing. This will reconnect you with your true voice that will tell you what you need to do to take care of yourself.

I don’t know if it is the same outside of the United States, but we schedule our kids like little executives. Parents frantically shuffle them between soccer, karate, and trombone lessons, play dates and extracurricular test preparation. The poor little tykes must carry electronic organizers and cell phones just to keep track of all the details of their overscheduled lives.

In short, this is a really good book about changing your life for the better. By going on your own. And making it.

10 Ways to Avoid Falling Skies Next Time

I’ve posted before on this blog about The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s powerful book, written before the big downturn, which some say (he wouldn’t) predicted it. 

With a beautifully written mix of history, stories, studies, and logic, Taleb shows how the big events are completely unpredictable. And that we kid ourselves, afterwards, trying to rationalize that they would have been, if we’d only figured out the signs. We want things to be logical, and, therefore, we could have predicted them. But we couldn’t have. That’s his point.

We define swans as white. Then we see a black swan. It cracks our world view.

In the book, Taleb talks about turkey logic. For 999 days of its life the turkey sees overwhelming evidence that the farmer is its best friend. Farmer feeds it, cares for it. And then, on the thousandth day, the axe. We’re like that.

So I was interested when I saw Taleb’s byline on this story in the Financial Times: Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world. The title itself is ironic. There is no such thing as a black swan-proof world. Still, here’s his list (although just the list, with explanations cut to shreds; you should read the source): 

  1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small.
  2. No socialization of losses nor privatization of gains.
  3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus.
  4. Do not let someone making an “incentive” bonus manage a nuclear plant – or your financial risks .
  5. Counter-balance complexity with simplicity. Complexity from globalisation and highly networked economic life needs to be countered by simplicity in financial products. Capitalism cannot avoid fads and bubbles: equity bubbles (as in 2000) have proved to be mild; debt bubbles are vicious.
  6. Do not give children sticks of dynamite, even if they come with a warning.
  7. Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Governments should never need to “restore confidence”.
  8. Do not give an addict more drugs if he has withdrawal pains.
  9. Citizens should not depend on financial assets or fallible “expert” advice for their retirement.
  10. Make an omelette with the broken eggs. Let us move voluntarily into Capitalism 2.0 by helping what needs to be broken break on its own, converting debt into equity, marginalising the economics and business school establishments, shutting down the “Nobel” in economics, banning leveraged buy-outs, putting bankers where they belong, clawing back the bonuses of those who got us here, and teaching people to navigate a world with fewer certainties.

Again, that’s at: Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world.

Dan Schawbel, Me 2.0, and Personal Branding

What does personal branding mean to you?

To me it used to be about well-known experts whose names became brands in an almost-traditional business sense: Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Tom Peters; they were experts whose names sold books and speaking engagements. Lately my view of personal branding has expanded as I start following John Jantsch, Anita Campbell, and Pam Slim, for example; bloggers, tweeters, authors, and experts.

I like to think that my favorite experts, my favorite personal brands, are authentic. Guy Kawasaki really is an investor, really was an Apple evangelist, and believes every word he says. Seth Godin has built his remarkable name around remarkable marketing. John Jantsch lives for Duct Tape Marketing, and Anita Campbell for Small Business Trends. These are real people.

And, whether you like it or not, you too are a personal brand. Much as I dislike the phrase personal branding it’s not just for big names any more. It’s for just about everybody who has enough online access to be reading this post.

Whether you like it or not. Which brings me to Me 2.0, Dan Schawbel’s new book — due out today — on personal branding. 

Reading Dan Schawbel on personal branding is something like a mirror image of a mirror. He has a great personal brand. He’s always on Twitter, often on major business blogs (not to mention his own) and is frequently quoted in business magazines. And he’s only 24 years old.

Like his book, and his quick career success, Dan is completely immersed in the realities that have grown up in just the last few years: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on.

It may be that being young wasn’t even an obstacle, in his case, because that whole world began on college campuses (mostly) and then spread to the old folks like me. So of course he’s only 24. How could he not be?

And he’s got some very good advice to share. Beginning with his main point, the “like it or not” truth about it. Personal branding is no longer an elite concept reserved for a few big-name authors, columnists, or experts. The new world of the 21st century, with social media and Web 2.0 and Google and friends, makes it a fact of life for just about everybody.  He tends to focus a lot on the Gen Y college student looking for a job and starting a career,  but he would, wouldn’t he. There’s a lot of specific, detailed, real-world advice here about how to get your first job and manage your career, in the context of social media, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and friends.  And a lot of what he says applies just as well to an old guy enjoying his journey into social media. I had to chuckle: what is “Me 2.0” to Dan is something like “Me 11.0” to me. I’ve been around longer.

I still hate the phrase. Personal branding sounds to me like white suits and pink ties and gold chains. I wish we’d called it personal footprint, or something like that. Maybe just engrave the phrase “this goes on your permanent record” on every keyboard.

When I started in journalism close to 40 years ago, one of the better teachers suggested that we also keep an ego file, always, of things we’d written. Today it’s almost reverse — Google and friends keep the file of things you’ve written, whether you like it or not. And Dan points out that you should think about it ahead of time, and make sure you like it.

He tells some good stories: Facebook stupidity, for example — the guy who was convicted for a crime from evidence he posted on Facebook, and the almost-urban-myth of the woman who skipped work because she was “sick” but posted her free-day fling on Facebook.

Much more important than that, however, is a well structured review of how the new world almost requires an awareness of personal branding. Unless you’re outside that new world you can’t escape it, and you can, with some good thinking and organization, manage it. Visibility is there.

Some key points that apply to me and my baby-boomer friends as we enter into social media:

  • Authenticity: You can’t fake it for very long. You have to actually be yourself, or the effort to be that other person is overwhelming.
  • You have to live with who you’ve made yourself to be in things that show up in Google and friends.
  • Better to think about it and organize it — like a standard profile, picture, and personal statement — than to let it be random.

It’s amazing to me that Dan is only 24 years old. But maybe that’s the point. He’s onto something.

Kindle and iPhone: New Killer App

We used to talk a lot about the "killer app" back in the early days of personal computing, late 1970s and early 1980s, when a killer application was something that would create a new market, or bring a technology into the mainstream. VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet, was a killer app. So was PageMaker, which, combined with the early Apple LaserWriter, started desktop publishing. Aldus Persuasion, precursor to PowerPoint and Keynote, was a killer app.

Yesterday and iTunes announced the killer app for ebooks. The combination of Kindle and iPhone is going to finally create the market that ebooks have deserved for years. It's an unbeatable offering. 

I've read good things about the Sony eBook reader, and, at least until now, the Kindle was not quite good enough and about two times too expensive to create a real power market. But with the iPhone app, in combination, I predict it's going to.

I've been a happy Kindle owner since I got one, just a few weeks after it started shipping. I've said so in posts on this blog here, and then again here. Then yesterday Amazon announced the Kindle for iPhone, which is exactly what I'd been hoping for. 

The experience was absolutely seamless. I went to the iTunes application store and downloaded the Kindle for iPhone application, then plugged in my iPhone and synchronized. Then I picked up the iPhone, started the application, typed in the obvious email address and password of my Kindle account, and within literally less than a minute I had 21 books available for downloading — the same 21 books that are waiting for me on my Kindle.

I downloaded five of those books. None of them took more than a few seconds. And they were all already mine, purchased earlier for my Kindle, waiting to be read. Some of them are partially read.  I switch moods, go from something on business to a novel, sometimes short stories; I rarely get so involved in a book that I read it straight from cover to cover. That's more of a vacation behavior, and generally with fiction. 

My Kindle (first generation, by the way … I've seen the version 2, and it looks nicer than mine, but not worth getting a new one when the one I have works fine) is great for vacations, reading at night, and traveling, in airports, airplanes, and hotels. But the iPhone is always with me, there for company if I get caught waiting for something. I really hate waiting. And it's also nice at night, and it's going to be nice in dark planes, because it has it's own light. The Kindle doesn't. The Kindle needs a bed light or one of those tiny book lights.

And what's best about the Kindle — the great access to a library, electronically, without having to break out time for buying or shipping, such as while you're at the airport — is also there for the iPhone application.

And, perhaps the best of all, I'm not fussing with two libraries, buying one book for the iPhone and another for the Kindle. Now I can buy everything for the Kindle, and have it in both places.

The synchronization looks just fine to me. I haven't had time to test this one, but they say that it will keep track of the last page read on either device, synchronizing between them.

How cool is that?

Thanks Anita Plan-As-You-Go Book Giveaway

Anita Campbell is giving away copies of my Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan book over at her Small Business Trends blog. She posted this offer last Friday for her birthday (nice touch) and offered five books to be given at random from among the list of people who commented.

The give-away program lasts until this coming Friday, November 21, so you have time to go there and add your own comment to the group. I checked yesterday afternoon and there were 36 comments before one that I added.

Aside from the possible free book, another good reason to go there is to jsts browse through the comments. Why do people plan their businesses? There are some good reminders.

OK, I'm biased, but this is also a good reminder that Anita's is one of the best blogs you'll find anywhere on small business topics in the real world. It's not for nothing that she has more than 100,000 subscribers. I read Small Business Trends every day, I subscribe to it, and I like it because it's focused on practical realities of actually running a business, day in and day out, recession and boom times alike. I'm proud to post there as often as I can.

And I'm grateful that she's saying nice things about my book. Thanks Anita.

The Future: Hot, Flat, Crowded

On Monday I posted some predictions from the World Future Society, what I consider to be an interesting list of believable possibilities for the next 25 years.

Today I want to add another view. I’ve heard several interviews with Thomas Friedman lately, and over the last week bought and read his latest book Hot, Flat, and Crowded.  This looks and feels to me like another very valuable view of the future, also very reasonable, well documented, and well written. In the end, although it delivers bad news, it’s important bad news, and credible.

Hot, because climate change is real and it threatens humanity. Flat, because we’re in a world economy now, with very few borders, and a very level playing field. And crowded because, well, do the math. Our numbers double every generation.

What this book and the thinking behind it should mean, if there is any common sense left in the world, is a big investment boom for clean technology and alternate energy technology.

In regards to new business, and especially emerging business, and growing small business, Friedman is calling for an all-encompassing new wave of political, social, and economic resolve, which he hopes will be led by the political, to change the way the human race consumes energy.

Drilling for oil, in Friedman’s picture, may or may not be useful as a drop-in-the-bucket stopgap measure, but in the broader view it gets in the way. It obscures the real picture.

What we need, badly — and that’s not just we the United States, although we’re the worst of it — is to focus our efforts on new sources of energy, using new technologies, to end the economic dependence on something we don’t have much of and we need a whole lot of: oil.

If Friedman had his way, the U.S. would jump on new alternate sources of energy in a way that would greatly surpass our efforts to get a man on the moon after the 1961 John F. Kennedy call to action, and also the technology revolution of the personal computer a generation ago and the Internet in our current world.