As I pack up my office for the Walker School of Business’ move this month to Webster’s new academic building, I’m reminded of all the business books I’ve read this year. A handful stand out with lessons we all can learn from long into the New Year. My gift to you this holiday season is knowledge from my best reads of 2011. My full reviews are available at webster.edu/wsbt, along with interviews with select authors.
■ 2011 started off with Webster University welcoming to campus financial-reporterturned- author Julie MacIntosh, whose book, Dethroning the King, took an outstanding look into the hostile takeover of one of the greatest brand names in this nation’s illustrious history. Anheuser-Busch flourished for more than 150 years, but in 2008, the loss of A-B’s vitality took its toll. When the end finally came, this corporate icon fought a gallant battle of survival, but its search for Blue Ocean came too late. MacIntosh captured it all in this inside-the-board room book which gives us insight into how not to let a business go.
■ Kevin Maney’s Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On and Others Don’t is the perfect look into the psyche of consumers. What are you willing to trade for convenience? A marinated steak sure beats a McRib in my opinion, but that drive-thru and the exchange of $2 over a couple of $20s is very handy. The truth is, according to Maney, is that most of us are willing to trade the quality of almost any experience for the ease of getting it. He calls it ‘the fidelity swap.’ And this swap is what could be the key to countless business successes and failures. The author makes it clear that the ultimate decision on how good you really are is the perception of the customer.
■ The Corner Office by Adam Bryant gives lessons on how to lead and how to succeed. According to the author, most leaders share some specific qualities or Xfactors any of us have or could possess. And, obtaining them will make anyone a greater manager or employee. For example, the foremost quality of a CEO’s ability is to be the best student in the room, and all admitted to a passion for wondering how things work and what others know. Their ability to ask the right question was more important to them than being the smartest person in the room.
■ UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging is Scott Stratten’s eye-opening book on the new age of engagement. Stratten, who now helps the likes of PepsiCo, Adobe and Red Cross find their social media voice, has built his success on an insightful premise: If you believe business is built on relationships, make building them your business. Unmarketing is the ability to engage with your market, and social media is perfect at allowing businesses to have direct conversations and interactions with customers. We all need to make a New Year’s resolution to stop ‘pushand- pray marketing’ and start engaging our audience and consumers with a more productive ‘pull-and-stay’ approach.
■ Local legend Harlan Steinbaum’s book, Tough Calls from the Corner Office, is a collection of life- and career-defining moments by some of the greatest business men and women of our time. Who wouldn’t want leadership advice from WellPoint’s Angela Braly, ESPN’s Bill Rasmussen, Time Inc.’s Reginald Brack and Verizon’s Frederic Salerno, just to name a few? There also are accounts from Build-A-Bear’s Maxine Clark, World Wide Technology’s David Steward, A.G. Edwards’ Benjamin Edwards, McDonnell Douglas’ Sanford McDonnell and Monsanto’s Richard Mahoney.
Benjamin Ola. Akande is Dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology and chief of corporate partnerships at Webster University. Follow him on Twitter: @Benjamin_Akande