105th Edition – February 7, 2021
In business, the competition will bite you if you keep running; if you stand still, they will swallow you.William Knudsen
1. The Book I’ve Been Recommending to CEOs
I’m safely stepping out on a limb by assuming more than 50 to 60 percent of all newsletter readers have read Shoe Dog. I’ve yet to run into a person who said, “I didn’t like it and found it boring.” Those same readers are generally interested in similar books. I have one.
Like Phil Knight, this CEO faced every conflict, obstacle, and setback both personally and professionally as he grew his business. Yet, he kept marching onward.
Dealing with a difficult father, frustrating siblings, VCs who wanted to go in a separate direction, banks pulling the plug on financing when all institutions were going into operation safety mode, dropping a major production line nearly overnight, and so much more. Want more drama? Ed Stack of Dick’s Sporting Goods reminds me that this guy can lead and scale a business, even during times of controversy. His book is It’s How We Play the Game. The audio version is excellent.
2. Retail Reading
We’ve watched great brands go by the wayside this past year and over the past decade. Does that mean books on the retail industry are irrelevant? Try asking professionals working at The Home Depot, Walmart, regional grocers, QSRs, and many other strong brands.
Accordingly, the Ed Stack book got me to thinking about the best retail books ever written. Impossible task? Probably. But I still managed to mention 13 well-written books on the retail industry this past week. I’d have to say that Built From Scratch by one of the co-founders of The Home Depot is my favorite.
3. Learning from Failure
During a 15-year run starting in 1982, this company outperformed the general stock market by 18.5 times, a feat not achieved by any Fortune 500 company since 1965. Twelve years later, Circuit City would be gone.
Alan Wurtzel’s Good to Great to Gone is one of the 13 books mentioned in the retail list above. Wurtzel was the son of the company founder and once its CEO. So he has a front seat row to business failure.
4. Habits of Mind
Wurtzel says behind every business strategy lies the Habits of Mind which he says are not situation-specific, but ways of thinking about one’s organization in relation to the world in which it exists. He says it’s these very habits that lead to success or failure. What are they?
- remain paranoid, worry about what the competition knows that you do not
- stay curious, keep striving to learn from others
- determine if assumptions are based on evidence or idealogy
- be willing to embrace the “Genius of the AND” instead of the “Tyranny of the OR”
- maintain a current roadmap
- mind the culture – beware of employees more concerned about their own success than the success of the business
- encourage debate and learn from dissent
- focus on the future
5. Best Books Published the Year You Were Born
Leave it to a guy who writes about books to check on the titles published in the year he was born. I did that this week out of curiosity as I have an early February birthday.
My year of birth saw such popular titles as Catch-22, Phantom Tollbooth, West Side Story, The Time Machine, A Grief Observed, and Where the Red Fern Grows. But no landmark business books were published.
Want to give it a try? For instance, I’ve chosen the year 1989 on Goodreads (click that link). In the right sidebar, use the dropdown list to find your year.
Podcast – If you’ve been listening to the show, we have more great guests lined up. They include Adam Meade who has written a new book on Warren Buffett, Stacey Barr who in my opinion is the top performance measurement specialist globally, Christina Wodtke who I believe has written the best book on OKRs, and Daniele Martins who is based in Brazil and is the Global Head of FP&A at Thoughtworks.
Thank You For Reading. Thank you for making this a successful newsletter.
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Always be learning and growing.