100th Edition – January 3, 2021
Discovered, embraced, disbanded, reunited, ignored, reinvented, hailed, scorned, disguised, recognized …NYT Writer, Jon Pereles on the Bee Gees
1. Revisiting a Couple of Top Lists
This past week, I was taking stock of the content we’ve written at CFO Bookshelf. Needless to say, the focus has been on the new podcast and our weekly newsletter where we continue to see high open rates and new subscribers each week.
Out of curiosity, I wanted to know which post had the most views in 2020 along with the most downloaded episodes of the podcast.
The top post not only continues to get views but if you Google the phrase, ‘Magazines Similar to Havard Business Review’, that post is in the top spot. Oddly, I had forgotten what I had written. One of my suggestions is not to forget TED Talks or Talks at Google based on your favorite topics.
The most downloaded episode for most of the year was the interview we did with Dave Kellogg, the former CEO of Host Analytics. I could listen to that guy all day.
But last week, Ben Lamorte, an OKRs guru, took over the top spot for most downloads in 2020. We were honored when his marketing team asked if they could embed the podcast player for that show on their OKRs website. What do you think we said?
2. Speaking of OKRs
If I mention OKRs in passing, and the other person has not heard of them, there’s only one book I recommend. I still believe that Christina Wodtke’s Radical Focus is the best (little) book on explaining OKRs quickly and simply. Even a small shop of 3-4 employees can learn something from this gem as well as a CEO in a large and growing organization.
I’m anxious to interview both Ben and Christina later this month for a February podcast episode, and the topic will be Christina’s second book on OKRs, The Team That Managed Itself. If Patrick Lencioni were to read this book, he’d be nodding in approval.
3. Five Types of Books to Read in 2021
I’m cautious about recommending certain books because our tastes vary. Instead, I like throwing out ideas which you can add to your reading pile or quickly dismiss.
As we begin the new year, let me offer five types of business books. You’ve heard this before–don’t worry about quantity. Focus on books that will stick with you for years to come.
Business History – I have a bias toward business history. A high five to Peter Lynch for suggesting The Myth of the Robber Barons by Burt Folsom. As a 20-year business consultant, business history keeps me grounded in sound business principles. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun, just new spins on old ideas.
CEO Biographies – Another great way to learn from others is through biographies of great CEOs. I know there is a tendency to lean toward CEOs who are in the news or who are highly quotable. I like reading from leaders who are largely forgotten. Two suggestions are either about Kirk Kerkorian or Hunter Harrison. I would have enjoyed working for either one of them. The titles are The Gambler (Kerkorian) and Railroader (Harrison).
Narrative Nonfiction – My favorite title in this genre is American Kingpin by a mile. Bad Blood is also a great read. Picking a title is like picking great fiction–there are just too many titles. So I’m falling back on an oldie but goodie–Ghost in the Wires. If you prefer listening, the narrator is excellent.
Just Numbers – Sorry, I’m not a big-time reader of books on analytics, budgeting, or even corporate finance. I find the reading dull and tedious (Seriously, did you really enjoy Beyond Budgeting? If you did, would you admit it?). So how about a compromise? Innumeracy is one of the classics on mathematics and statistics. I recommend either that title or a similar book by Derick Niederman entitled, What the Numbers Say. Both are entertaining and you’ll forget you’re reading a book by a mathematician.
Something Fun – Okay, how about some light reading? My wife and I started watching The Office in December. I’m hooked. Since Jenna Fischer (she plays Pam) is a fellow Missourian and we both graduated from Truman University, I decided to read her book, The Actor’s Life. Seriously, she should be a motivational speaker for sales reps. Jenna knows a thing or two about not giving up and grit.
The main point is not a certain title. Rather, it’s a bucket of book subjects to choose from.
4. Regarding Book Lists
Several CFOs gave their favorite books in 2020 in a recent WSJ article. Since the article is behind a paywall, let me list a few of the titles below:
- The CFO of Hormel Foods picked Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
- The CFO of Ulta Beauty selected Cheaters Always Win: The Story of America
- The CFO of Lululemon mentioned Intimations: Six Essays
- The future CFO of Nasdaq called Deep Survival riveting
- The CFO of DraftKings picked the only title in fiction, The Gray Man
What I like about these books–there are no business titles listed above. Impressive.
5. Three Brothers Who Kept Pivoting
I had no intention of watching the new HBO documentary of the Bee Gees. Once I got about 10 minutes into How You Can Mend a Broken Heart, I was hooked.
As I was watching, I was reminded of the perils of a growing startup–great ideas, the initial rollout, growth, in-fighting by team members, downturns, more downturns, getting back on track, and facing adversity (oh, I’ve already mentioned downturns twice).
Even a group that’s written 1,000 songs needs a helping hand periodically. They were indebted to Eric Clapton for suggesting they get out of their rut by recording new songs in Miami. What came next was the sale of millions of albums and changed the face of disco music forever.
After the so-called death of disco, they were fighting for survival again. This time, fellow artists asked that they write for them. This pivot led to a major strategic coup for the trio when all seemed to be lost.
My favorite theme was that these brothers who somehow stayed together kept adapting to the times. Their rise is so emblematic of what small businesses deal with constantly.
That will be our theme for many of us in 2021. I hope 2021 will be your best year ever.
Thank You For Reading. Thank you for making this a successful newsletter and I hope you make 2021 your best year ever.
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Always be learning and growing.