“Be Like Amazon – Even A Lemonade Stand Can Do It” by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg

Cover shot of "Be Like Amazon - Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It" by Jeffrey and Bryan EisenburgIt’s not often that I get to interact with an author as they are planning a book. In the case of Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenburg, I got a small preview of the topic via a Facebook post by Jeffrey. I don’t remember the original post, but it was something along the lines of a question asking his friends there if they thought a book that boiled down the principles of how Amazon does business and how it applies to any other business would appeal to them. I responded, playing “Devil’s Advocate” wondering if that hadn’t already been done. Jeffrey’s response was that it was not.

I didn’t totally understand his response at the time, but after reading the book, I have to agree. It’s far more than just another “Amazon” book. It shares very simple, yet profound truths that are also shared in other works in a very entertaining and thoughtful way.

Some of the lessons shared could have come from Good to Great, others from Thou Shall Prosper, still others from various authors and speakers I’ve shared about in this space. What makes this book different is the way the lessons are presented and how quickly.

The book’s story line is about a young man starting out on a road trip with a wiser, older man. The young man laments that his business is not doing as well as he would like, which leads the older man to start sharing lessons about great businesses and the people who led them to greatness. It also shares how some of those businesses ceased being great when their leaders passed on and their successors did not adhere to the ideals that shaped the greatness that had been built.

The fundamental lesson in the work is the concept of the “4 Stone Pillars of Amazon:”

  • Customer Centricity
  • Continuous Optimization
  • Culture of Innovation
  • Corporate Agility

As the older man shares lessons, he refers back to these 4 Stone Pillars as a guide the younger man should use as his “North Star,” having everyone in his organization make all decisions based on one or more of the pillars. It’s really a great idea.

The best thing about this work is that it can be read in an afternoon. Yet, even in its short format, the lessons are clear and extremely valuable.

I highly recommend Be Like Amazon to anyone who seeks to make a business better, or to do better as a team member. It’s well worth the time.

Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin – Book Review

Thou Shall Prosper – The Ten Commandments For Making Money has been on my list to read for quite some time now. I first heard it mentioned on The Dave Ramsey Show. Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the author, has also been interviewed on the EntreLeadership podcast. I recently got caught up to this part of my reading list and very much enjoyed taking in some “old fashioned,” but very relevant wisdom …

Cover shot of 'Thou Shall Prosper' By Rabbi Daniel LapinThou Shall Prosper – The Ten Commandments For Making Money has been on my list to read for quite some time now. I first heard it mentioned on The Dave Ramsey Show and the author, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, has also been interviewed on the EntreLeadership podcast. I recently got caught up on this part of my reading list and very much enjoyed taking in some “old fashioned,” but very relevant wisdom. As my friend Alan K’necht pointed quoted in his book, The Last Original Idea, “… there is nothing new under the sun.”

While the ideas Rabbi Lapin shares in this work are based on very old wisdom, they still translate very well into modern times. Throughout it all, misconceptions and bad ideas about business are busted and replaced with good ideas.

As the title suggests, the book is broken down into 10 “commandments,” and each one builds on the others to make it rather compelling:

  1. Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business
  2. Extend the Network of Your Connections to Many People
  3. Get To Know Yourself
  4. Do Not Pursue Perfection
  5. Lead Consistently and Constantly
  6. Constantly Change the Changeable While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchangeable
  7. Learn To Foretell the Future
  8. Know Your Money
  9. Act Rich: Give Away 10 Percent of Your After Tax Income
  10. Never Retire

There are some great quotes from the book, here are a few that I highlighted:

… dishonesty and loathsome behavior only pay off in the very short term. Reputation is key. Sooner or later, the cheating, dishonest, and unpleasant business professional runs out of people with whom to conduct business.

This is quite true – especially in today’s culture online. It doesn’t take long for someone’s bad reputation to spread and for people to decide not to do business with them.

If there is one Jewish attribute more directly responsible for Jewish success in business than any other, it is this one: Jewish tradition views a person’s quest for profit an wealth to be inherently moral.

Now, before images of the Ferengi from Star Trek with their “Rules of Acquisition” enter your head, keep in mind that Rabbi Lapin is not referring to avarice and greed. Rather he is referring to the fact that it is good and honorable to be able to support yourself, your family and to help those in need. Any quest for profit must be done in light of doing business honestly and being charitable. Here two additional quotes that help pull it together:

Biblical figures are almost all larger-than-life, three-dimensional personalities. Although the Oral Torah describes many of them as fabulously wealthy, this does not usually emerge directly from the text. This is because wealth is considered to be the consequence of a life well live, in the company and companionship of others doing the same, rather than a purpose of life in itself … Wealth was consequence and not a prime purpose.

Some people mistakenly assume that a transaction can only take place if one side withholds information from the other. They assume that a transaction constitutes one party outsmarting another. This is a failure to understand that when two parties sculpt a true transaction, it is one one party taking something from the other, but two parties cooperating to create entirely new wealth. The transaction is more likely to take place if both parties understand that nothing needs to be hidden. Furthermore, the transaction is more likely to be successful if each party trusts the other and feels confident that no material facts are being withheld.

“Learn To Foretell The Future” was an interesting chapter. In that section, Rabbi Lapin discusses the Sabbath and why it’s a good idea to take time out to rest and clear your head sometime during the week. In our frenetic culture, everyone is overtaxed and stretched to the limit. The ability to dial down, unplug and relax is important to help you see things that may affect your business in the future.

The “Never Retire” section reminded me of an acquaintance of mine. “Frenchie” was very active in the amateur radio club I was part of when I lived in El Paso, Texas. He was a very busy man who put in 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in his wire manufacturing business. I remember once talking to him during a workday at the club when he let on that he was nearly 80 years old. I was quite surprised as I knew he was a bit older than the 25-year-old me, but I had no idea that he was “elderly” – he certainly didn’t look or act his age. He told me that he started his business with his twin brother, who worked until he was 65 and then quit. Sadly, the brother passed away within a few months of his retirement. Frenchie told me that he was never going to retire. he felt that if he was useful and had a reason to get out of bed each day, then he would just keep on going.

Rabbi Lapin makes a similar point. Even if you “retire” from your day job and do charity work, you should never just quit. It’s good to have a reason purpose in life.

Thou Shall Prosper – The Ten Commandments For Making Money (Amazon Affiliate link – as is the cover shot link above) is an excellent book filled with some great business wisdom. I highly recommend giving it a read.

 

To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink – Book Review

According to statistics Daniel Pink shares at the beginning of To Sell Is Human, 1 out of 9 workers in the United States are classified as being in “sales.” This is a large percentage of the workforce, especially compared to other job classifications. In reality, though, that number is much higher. The reason for that is everyone is involved in sales, whether you are formally employed as a salesperson or not. Think about it: If every person who works for an organization represents the brand, then they are all selling whether they realize it or not …

Cover Shot of "To Sell Is Human" by Daniel H. PinkAccording to statistics Daniel Pink shares at the beginning of To Sell Is Human, 1 out of 9 workers in the United States are classified as being in “sales.” This is a large percentage of the workforce, especially compared to other job classifications. In reality, though, that number is much higher. The reason for that is everyone is involved in sales, whether you are formally employed as a salesperson or not. Think about it: If every person who works for an organization represents the brand, then they are all selling whether they realize it or not.

It’s interesting how many different ways we are all selling at some point or another:

  • If you’re an entrepreneur, especially running a small startup, you’re constantly selling your business to investors, potential customers and potential partners or employees
  • If you’re working in a large business, you are selling an idea or a plan for a project
  • If you’re an employee, you’re selling your boss on the idea to give you a promotion or a raise
  • If you’re looking for a job, you’re selling your potential boss on why you are a good fit for the organization.

This list can go on forever, but you get the idea.

In To Sell Is Human, the author takes us from this premise, and then shows us the different ways we all can be better at selling. No matter what it is from actual products to ideas, if you have to sell it you can always do it better. Pink goes through many different specific ways to help us sell better, including getting some improv theater techniques.

It was all very interesting and I learned quite a bit. I never considered myself much of a salesperson, which is why I never tried to get a true sales job. But it’s really not all that hard either – especially when you realize you’ve been doing it all along.

The bottom line, though, is that the most successful sales technique is to be a “servant” seller. The idea behind this is to help the person to whom you are trying to sell something solve a problem. The best sellers take the time to understand what the customer needs, what their pain points are and then introduce them to the product or service that will help them best. Sometimes the customer doesn’t realize that several problems are related. When you help piece the puzzle together and help make their jobs or lives better, you have not only won the sale, but you’ve won the relationship. Each relationship you build can multiply into others as you get a reputation for being a problem solver rather than “just a salesperson.”

This was a very good book. It’s well-written, interesting and even humorous at times. The stories are very illustrative of what Mr. Pink is trying to get across. For example: Did you know there are still Fuller Brush people out there selling? I didn’t. I still have a lint brush that my mom acquired from the last Fuller Brush person I can remember from the early 80s. As of the writing of this book, one man was still active in San Francisco. Some of the things he’s learned over the years are invaluable.

I recommend this book to anyone involved in business – and this goes doubly for those who are like me and don’t think they are very good at sales.

To Sell Is Human – The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink (Amazon Affiliate link).

DISCLAIMER: I won this book from a drawing I entered when Mr. Pink was interviewed on the EntreLeadership Podcast. This is, however, my true opinion of the work.

Unselling by Stratten and Kramer – Book Review

The thing I enjoy about listening to Scott and reading his work is that he is funny, irreverent and he makes me think. There really aren’t too many people I can say that about. His latest venture, Unselling, is a collection of anecdotes and stories all aimed to help the reader understand that “selling” is not really “selling” anymore.

I’ve been a fan of Scott Stratten since I first heard him speak on social media at Pubcon South 2010. I’ve read and enjoyed all his books:

The authors of "Unselling" Alison Kramer and Scott StrattenI’m also a fan of the weekly “Unpodcast” show and the semi-regular “Vegas 30” podcast he does, both of which are done in collaboration with his co-host Alison Kramer.

The thing I enjoy about listening to Scott and reading his work is that he is funny, irreverent and he makes me think. There really aren’t too many people I can say that about.

His latest venture with Alison, Unselling – The New Customer Experience, is a collection of anecdotes and stories all aimed to help the reader understand that “selling” is not really “selling.” “Selling” in this era of the modern internet can really be broken down into several things:

  • Have the most awesome product or service you can create
  • Build relationships through authentic interaction with customers and non-customers alike
  • Follow the “Golden Rule”
  • When things go wrong, do your best to make things right.

Unselling“Oh, wait” you might be thinking to yourself, “those things aren’t really new.”

And, you would be right.

The problem is that so many companies/brands/businesses do these things so poorly, and so few do them well, that the ones that do them well rise above the crowd and really stand out. With the myriad of instant communications tools available to consumers, they have as much or more information about businesses than the business themselves. That instant communications also helps great brands get noticed. Those not-so-great brands get noticed too, but in the wrong way.

In Unselling, Scott shares examples from customer interactions with Ritz Carlton, Disney, and others that make you wonder why more aren’t doing these things. Seriously, the Disney story made me a bit “misty.”

One way to help you, personally, make changes to how you do business is to remember that “You are the brand.” This is something I’ve written about in this space – several times. When we remember that each person who works with us and/or for us (and that includes “us”) ARE the brand to our customers, it helps us to act better towards them, do what is right, hire better and even treat our coworkers differently.

The warden in the movie “Cool Hand Luke” often said that “you have to get your mind right.” In the end, if you want to make your business better, you need to do just that.

I highly recommend Unselling to anyone in business who is looking to change and do things better. If you’re just interested in the status quo, you might enjoy the stories, but you might not get anything else out of it.

Or will you?

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you don’t want me to get a cut of the sale, go directly to Unsellingthebook.com and buy it there.
Images from Unsellingthebook.com

 

Repped by Andy Beal – Book Review

I consider Andy Beal to be the “Godfather” of online reputation management (ORM). His talk at Search Engine Strategies in 2006 was what really got me interested in the subject. The book he co-authored with Dr. Judy Strass, Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online is one I consider to be the textbook for those who want to get started in the practice of ORM. When I saw Andy had a new book out, I definitely wanted to check it out …

I consider Andy Beal to be the “Godfather” of online reputation management (ORM). His talk at Search Engine Strategies in 2006 was what really got me interested in the subject. The book he co-authored with Dr. Judy Strass, Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online is one I consider to be the textbook for those who want to get started in the practice of ORM. When I saw Andy had a new book out, I definitely wanted to check it out.

Cover shot of "Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation" by Andy BealRepped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation (Amazon Affiliate link) takes many of the concepts taught in Andy’s earlier work, combines it with a lot of newer information and puts it all together into a step-by-step set of instructions that will help anyone wanting to improve their own or their business’ online reputation. It takes readers through an A-Z process of

  • Understanding what an online reputation is
  • How online reputation can affect individuals and businesses
  • How to evaluate online reputation
  • Steps to take to improve online reputation (if it’s bad) or to solidify it (if it’s good)
  • How to weather an online reputation crisis.

This is a great guide for individuals or those who run small or medium-sized businesses. For those who are already ORM practitioners, Repped has a lot of great tips and ideas that will help you do your job better.

Here are some random quotes from the book and thoughts I jotted down as I read them:

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A deliberate effort to increase the number of positive Internet discussions about you, while limiting the damage of any negative ones. [Definition of ORM]

This is a great definition of ORM – short and to the point

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Your reputation will only ever be as good as your character. …  It’s the same with your reputation, but that’s something you can use to your advantage! …  keep in mind that by simply being a better person, a better company, a better non-profit, you’ll automatically start to improve your reputation.

If you spend the time to take an honest look at the way you conduct business, it should become apparent where you are weak. If you find yourself struggling, then ask others for their thoughts. Your employees, coworkers, customers, or business partners can all provide an impartial opinion on where they feel you are most weak.

This is very important. Trying to manage your reputation when you have terrible products and/or services is pointless. Use what you learn online as you work through the ORM process to improve yourself or your business offline.

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“It’s the Real Thing.”
“Because You’re Worth It.”
“We Try Harder.”

You probably recognize at least one of the above marketing slogans. Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, and Avis   have all spent a lot of time and money to ensure that their messages are stored away tightly in the recesses of your brain. Knowing where, when, and how each message is shared on the web is a priority for each of these corporate giants. Likewise, if you have a marketing message, tagline, or other slogan that is tied to your brand, you should include it in your online reputation management efforts.

Good point. Sometimes detractors can use your tag lines and catch phrases for the purpose of maligning your brand online.

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Hire employees that really want the job. Hire those that are passionate about your industry. Hire those that love what you do and will take a social media bullet to defend your online reputation. Then, empower them.

It’s amazing how one member of your team who cares (or doesn’t care, as the case may be) can have a tremendous influence on your online reputation. Everyone is a brand ambassador! This is key. It’s hard work to hire well, but it can pay off dividends in many areas … not just in ORM.

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Your online reputation is always changing, sometimes growing, sometimes shrinking. Merely posting a couple of items and calling it a job well done is naive at best, and risky at worst. By continuing to share valuable and insightful blog posts, tweets, and updates, you grow your audience. You nurture your centers of influence.

Yes, this is an investment! Building out interesting and valuable content is one of the costs of doing business in the modern world. If you don’t pay the “content” cost, you’ll pay in other ways. This goes beyond ORM and is a long-term commitment. It’s not just “one and done.”

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Goodwill is earned when you unselfishly look to help those in your centers of influence. It’s earned when you tweet the post of an existing customer. You bank goodwill when you help one of your peers out by giving their latest video a thumbs-up. Goodwill also increases when you spend time sharing great content that doesn’t benefit you in any way but adds to the value of your stakeholders.

Think conversations, not broadcasts. Andy is certainly not the first person to talk about this, and he likely won’t be the last. With all the online experts with huge audiences from Brogan, to Stratten to Beal saying this, it’s amazing how many people have never caught on to this “secret.”

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There are two words that are vital to include in your vocabulary if you wish to build a better online reputation. The first is “sorry” and the second is “thanks.”

Most stakeholders who attack your reputation want just one thing: an apology.

Saying “I’m sorry” has repaired many damaged reputations.

These two phrases: “Sorry” and “Thank You” are key in ORM. Learn to say them!

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I once sought out a Trackur fan at a conference and specifically stopped him to thank him for all the retweets and social sharing he does of our online content.

I’m likely not the person Andy is referring to, but I can personally vouch that he is a very gracious person and is very quick to say “thank you.” This does positively affect his reputation both online and offline. Andy’s not just telling you what to do, he lives this stuff.

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The time to influence a customer review is before that customer ever gets to the computer. If you’re not interacting with your customer before they’ve completed their transaction with you, then you’re playing Russian roulette with your ratings.

I like to say, “Nothing happens in a vacuum.” What happens offline affects what happens online and vice-versa. It’s a continuous cycle.

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… it’s important to be proactive in building your Google reputation. In the absence of any positive content you’ve created, Google will fill the void in its search results with anything that it finds relevant – even if it is something negative. The best defense is offense and taking the time to mold your reputation now will better prepare you for when your reputation comes under attack. And it will come under attack.

This is VERY important. It’s much easier to weather an online reputation crisis when you’re on a strong foundation.

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When facing a reputation crisis   most people will ask, “What is it going to cost me to resolve this attack?” That’s actually the wrong question to ask. Better is to ask, “What will it cost me if I don’t resolve this attack?”

Repairing – Don’t underestimate how much time and money you will have to spend to clean up your online reputation. Many online reputation firms charge in excess of $10,000.

Yes! Bravo to Andy for bringing this up. It’s a hard question to ask, but very, very important. This question reflects attitude – and if you’re just looking to get rid of the “problem” you’re not going to fix the underlying issue … and not fixing the underlying issue will cause you a lot more problems down the road. Being proactive is important as well. “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.”

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Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation (Amazon Affiliate link) by Andy Beal – a great guide to ORM for individuals, those who run SMBs or those who wish to improve their online reputation practice skills.