Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category


Quickie Book Review: The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

August 21, 2007

I don’t think I would want to work for Chet Holmes, author of The Ultimate Sales Machine. That sounds like a slam, but the truth is that I wouldn’t want to work for him because I think he would demand the very best out of me at all times, to the point where I would get annoyed.  I’m just too lazy to be great all the time (if I’m great any of the time), and his “pigheaded discipline and determination” might be too much for me. On the other hand, instilling his ideas to the best of my ability would put me far ahead of where I’m at today, so I’m going to give it a try. (But I’m still not going to work for him.)

As the name suggests, The Ultimate Sales Machine is about sales, and it’s a great book for any sales organization.  But only if you really have the “pigheaded discipline and determination” that Holmes repeatedly speaks of.  Because Holmes’ biggest message is that he’s got all kinds of strategies and tactics to make your sales organization better, but they’re only going to work if you do them and stick with them, which most people won’t. (Which is why most people would probably not want Holmes leading them, as he’d hold their feet to the fire, which unfortunately too many of us do not want.)

This is not strictly a sales book, though, at least not in the “here’s how to make a sale” sense. While the tail end of the book is very tactical, the front end is more about getting in the right mindset to market effectively. Holmes is relentless in his ideas on time management, on repeated workshops to work on getting presentations and pitches down to a science, and to selling customers on education more than products.

Holmes’ method of getting in the door with customers works because he really is suggesting giving something in order to get.  All of us know that when a salesperson calls on us, he/she is trying to sell us something, but even knowing that we can still get roped in if they offer us some bit of information or research that is going to help us be better.  After all, we can always say “no” to the pitch later. From the salesperson’s perspective, though, the first step is getting you into the funnel, and giving away something of value upfront is the best way to do that.

I said I wouldn’t want to work for Holmes, but that’s a shortcoming on my part.  Because I sure would hire him, so he could whip my employees into shape, and use these winning strategies to drive my business (and get rid of slackers like me that didn’t want to do the painful work of improving).  Whether you’re in sales or not, this book really has some inspiring chapters that I’d recommend.

P.S. I just went to Chet Holmes’ Web site and signed up for his newsletter. I absolutely hate his site, which is the run-of-the-mill sales pitch after sales pitch type of site that so many online marketers use. I still signed up because I liked the book so much, but I’m a little disappointed to see that Holmes uses the same rah-rah tactics that so many of these guys use.

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Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.


Quickie Book Review: Buzz by Ed Koch

August 21, 2007

I like to read books about “buzz” because I’m always looking for ways to get a little traffic love for Bessed on a small budget. So I got the book Buzz by Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York.  It’s sort of a strange book, but it had a few insights that were worthwhile, which I will share with you now.

First off, I had forgotten that Ed Koch, a lifelong Democrat, had pulled a switcheroo and vehemently supported George W. Bush for president. As far as I can tell from this book, he hasn’t changed that opinion. Therefore it appears that going against your lifelong stated philosophy is one way to build buzz, as this worked for a while for Koch, and it got him another book deal.

But that’s being nasty.  Here are some good points and bad points about the book itself, in case you’re interested in picking it up.

It’s broken down into four parts, from “How Buzz Begins” to “Recognizing Victory”. Personally I felt like the chapters could’ve been thrown together any which way and made as much sense as they did in the order presented. This isn’t really a “how to go from Point A to Point B” kind of book; it’s just a lot of different ideas thrown together. That’s fine, I don’t need a framework, but these types of books always insist on making it seem like you’re getting a more cohesive picture than you are. All us readers want is a few good ideas, so dispense with the grand plans I say.

My takeaway from the book is that being honest and honestly enthusiastic will help build you buzz. Say what you’re going to do, do it, and be honest and as friendly as you can be along the way.  On the other hand, don’t back down when challenged, or people lose respect for you and they lose some of the hope you’ve given them. This strikes me as being more about personal buzz than buzz for your business, but I think there is some crossover. I also think this applies if you run a company with employees that look to you for leadership, especially if you’re a startup. After all, a lot of startups are riding on a vision, and they need a strong leader to make people keep believing in that vision.

Koch is a good storyteller, and there are some very good anecdotes here, including one about Mother Theresa and some chocolate chip cookies that I particularly enjoyed. (That Mother Theresa always did crack me up!)

One of the more bizarre chapters is the one in which Koch tells you how to create buzz by writing letters to important people. He reprints his exact letters to various New York City honchos as well as Pat Robertson, and even lets us in on a few e-mail exchanges between him and random people.  I have no idea how these letters create buzz, but even if they do, I’m sure they create more buzz if you’re already a well-known person like Ed Koch than if you’re me. Very strange.

If you’re looking to build your business’s buzz based on your product features or your marketing or social networks, etc., Buzz is not about that at all. But if you’re a CEO who wants to build buzz to your business via your own personal brand—and there’s nothing wrong with that—Buzz could be helpful. After all, Ed Koch came from nothing to be mayor of New York.  That’s a rise to stardom worth emulating.

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Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.


Book Review: The Dip by Seth Godin

May 8, 2007

There are generally three phases that go into writing a book review.  In the first, I read a book. I like to read books, so it’s fun.  As I read I develop a few thoughts on what I might say about the book.  That’s fun, too.

In the second phase, I write the review.  That sucks.  Putting the ideas in a logical order, searching for the write phrases, trying not to write too much or too little.  Torture.

In the third phase, the review is done. I read it and feel satisfied with the work and proud of myself for the accomplishment. Except, of course, when the writing is bad, which makes me wonder if I wasted my energy.

Don’t worry, this is going somewhere.

In the words of Seth Godin’s new book, the actual writing of this review would be The Dip—the time where the fun and excitement of a new endeavor is over and you’re knee deep in hard work, with no guarantee of a satisfying conclusion.

Unless your company happens to be YouTube or you’re plucked off the sidewalk to star in a new movie opposite Jude Law, you will experience The Dip. It’s that time after people stop patting you on the back for starting a new company or getting accepted to medical school or deciding to run a marathon, when you actually have to do what it takes to get there.  If you’re strong enough, you suck it up and take the pain as your price of admission into the world of the high flyers, coming out on the other end smelling like roses, rolling around in piles of cash.

Except it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes you put in all the effort and you get pretty much nowhere. You get enough clients to keep your business going, but not enough to make you even remotely wealthy. Or you hit Organic Chemistry and think maybe being a doctor isn’t for you.  Or you realize you don’t have enough time to train for a marathon. And you quit.  Or you don’t quit because you’re not a quitter.  Or you go back and forth trying to decide if you should quit or not. Hey! This is not what you signed up for!

The Dip is Godin’s attempt to encourage you to fight through on the worthy goals, to quit the goals that you simply can’t accomplish, and to figure out which is which.

If you’re starting something new, here are the key questions Godin suggests you ask yourself:

  • Can I/we be the best in the world?
  • Do I/we have the resources to make it happen?
  • Is the reward worth the effort?

If you believe the answer is “yes” to all three, slog through The Dip, keeping your eyes on the prize. Because most of the others will quit.  (Or, if they couldn’t answer “yes” to the questions, they’ll keep on trucking but get nowhere.)

If you answer “no” to any of the questions, quitting is not just OK but smart.  Quitting when you can’t win frees up you or your company’s resources to go after something that you can win. Godin convincingly makes the case that the axiom “quitters never win and winners never quit” is wrong, as long as quitters keep searching for the things they can win.

One point that Godin makes is sure to fly over some people’s heads.  It’s the question of whether you can be the best in the world.  Godin uses the “world” to mean your world, the world you’re competing in.  If you run a flower shop, you don’t have to be the best flower shop on Earth, but you’d better run the best flower shop in your city.  To the victor go the spoils.  Those in second place get the runoff. Do you want to spend your life living from the runoff?

As always, Godin’s writing is crisp, making The Dip a pleasure to read.  And, at just 76 pages, the book quickly but successfully makes its point, leaving you plenty of time to decide if it’s time to get back to work or back to the drawing board.

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Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.


Book Review – Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company

April 18, 2007

For those of us who’ve known Hewlett-Packard mostly for top-of-the-line computer printers and recent corporate scandals, it’s somewhat mystifying to hear or read the almost religious zeal of an older generation that seems to regard the “old” HP as some sort of business utopia.  It’s just a company—could it really have been that great?

Michael S. Malone says yes, and his new book Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company sets out to show just how groundbreaking the company was. Its founders’ innovation in both new products and new ways of doing business created an environment in which customers wanted only HP products, employees reciprocated the loyalty HP showed to them, and future Silicon Valley generations tried and usually failed to follow in their footsteps.

Right off the bat, what makes Hewlett-Packard so noteworthy is Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard—their skills, their personalities, and the fact that for almost 50 years they partnered at the top of the organization they founded. It’s rare to see a business partnership last so long, and so seamlessly, especially in an era where CEOs prefer to have the spotlight shone squarely on them alone. Hewlett and Packard’s skills and demeanors were perfect complements to each other, and their lack of desire to put themselves on a pedestal is what helped create the family atmosphere that came to be known as “the HP Way.”

Malone writes Bill & Dave as a straightforward corporate history, but at the same time he wants you to read the book as a primer on how to run a business that not only turns a profit, but also takes care of its people and cares about the communities in which it does business.  To that end, throughout the book he notes particularly important lessons with an asterisk, then brings all of these lessons together at the end to create a roughly 10-page document that lays out a blueprint for entrepreneurial success. At first I thought the asterisk thing would annoy me, but once I’d finished the book I liked this short summary of how Hewlett and Packard made it all work.

The book begins by tracing Hewlett and Packard’s paths to their eventual meeting at Stanford, where Dave Packard was the tall, gregarious, can’t-miss golden boy sports star and Bill Hewlett was a short, dyslexic, somewhat reserved sort still getting over his father’s untimely death. Their shared interest in electronics would lead the two to eventually start Hewlett-Packard in the celebrated garage of Dave and Lucille Packard’s home on Addison Avenue in Palo Alto.

As with any corporate history, Bill & Dave is most interesting when tracing the early years, when Hewlett and Packard baked HP instrument panels in Packard’s oven and randomly priced their first product  in such a way that it was  impossible to make a profit.  They were quick studies, though, and it wasn’t long before the company was on its way.

Bill and Dave worked hard throughout HP’s ascendancy to create a family atmosphere, and this is perhaps their greatest legacy and why they are still so adored.  In the beginning, it was the founders handing out bonus checks to employees based on Hewlett-Packard performance and having Friday “beer busts” to let off steam.  Later on it was flex time and the Hewlett-Packard policy of avoiding mass layoffs by sacrificing revenue in favor of employees keeping their jobs—whether that meant sacrificing revenue by not hiring for short-term busy times or reassigning rather than firing employees whose skills no longer matched the positions they were filling.

An interesting aspect of HP’s history is that on two separate occasions one of the founders left the company to the control of the other.  In World War II, Bill Hewlett left to serve while Packard stayed behind to run the growing HP alone. (Hewlett-Packard equipment was being used by the U.S. military and thus the military wanted at least one founder back at HP to run the company.) During the Nixon administration, Dave Packard became Deputy Secreatary of Defense and helped revamp the United States’ procurement policy, leaving Hewlett to run the show in his three-year absence. In both cases, Hewlett-Packard hummed along, showing that while the founders preferred to be together, each could handle the job alone. Had they become so similar as to be interchangeable or had “the HP Way” become so ingrained that it no longer mattered?

Inevitably the book loses some steam as HP grows to be a massive international corporation and Bill & Dave grow old and eventually retire, but it’s amazing to read how they make the transition from that garage partnership to an incorporated small business to corporate behemoth so smoothly, always with an eye on profits, sentimental toward their employees but never sentimental toward products that no longer make the cut.

While author Malone can be a little too fawning in romanticizing Hewlett & Packard—they can’t possible have been as perfect as they are in these pages—overall Bill & Dave is a book worthy of the men whose remarkable lives it chronicles.

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Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.


Book Review: Make Your Contacts Count by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon

April 4, 2007

I’ve never been overly comfortable networking.  I like people, but I often feel like “networking” is a synonym for “faking.”  Everybody has an agenda,  making small talk when all they really want to know is “can you help me?” And, if you’re not the person who does this, you’ve at least met the person who shakes your hand while simultaneously looking around the room to see if someone more interesting/important is around.

People like me are exactly who the book Make Your Contacts Count is intended for. It makes networking sound like fun, not something you need to apologize for.  And it is a great guide for networking without the fakeness.

The essential message of Make Your Contacts Count is that you hurt yourself when you spend all of your time thinking about how to get your personal sales pitch across instead of thinking about the other person’s needs.  Spend more time listening and then see how you can help the person you’re speaking to, either with your own skills or via other people in your network. That will make you a valuable resource, so even if you don’t get a direct benefit today, every time you help someone, you increase the chances someone will help you.  Why? Because people don’t like to feel indebted to others.  If you help them, they want to pay you back.  So the more help you give, the more people you have out there wanting to give back to you.  While authors Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon don’t use this word, I’d call it networking karma. What goes around comes around.

However, that doesn’t mean the authors think you should network without an agenda. Far from it.  In fact, they’re adamant that networking is a waste of time if you aren’t spending time before an event thinking about what you want to accomplish.  Standing around in a crowd with a drink in your hand and hoping for serendipity is what breeds hatred of networking events.  Instead, while you’re learning about the needs of others, there’s nothing wrong with making your needs clear as well.  After all, the whole point of networking is to create a “network”—a group of people that you try to help and who in turn help you.

Make Your Contacts Count is a great book on networking because it tackles the big issues of how to create a network and how to deepen relationships with people in that network, but then also the smaller issues—How do I get a conversation started? How do I end a conversation politely? How do I do a better job of remembering people’s names?

For me and my networking shortcomings, the chapter titled “What Do You Do?” was especially helpful.  As you might guess, it helps you to answer the question “what do you do?” in the best way possible. For example, saying “I’m a lawyer” is not as good as “I’m a patent attorney.  I just helped CrineCo Industries stop a competitor from manufacturing a knockoff of their scuba diving equipment.” The first answer gets you a head nod and uncomfortable silence.  The second gets a conversation going while making it clear where your skills lie. But most of us will only offer the second, better answer if we’ve planned for the question before it comes up.

I haven’t read a lot of books on networking, so I can’t compare Make Your Contacts Count to other books on the subject.  But I found it to be so comprehensive and so full of good ideas that I can’t imagine seeking out other books on the subject. From a networking neophyte, you should consider that a ringing endorsement.

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Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.


Andy Warhol Portraits

April 4, 2007

If you’re an Andy Warhol fan, I recently got a cool coffee table book called Andy Warhol Portraits. As you might guess it’s a collection of Andy Warhol’s portraits of famous and not-so-famous people.

If you’re interested, I gave it a more in-depth review here.


Book Review–The Playboy Interviews: Movers and Shakers

March 8, 2007

Playboy has been packaging some of their most famous interviews together in a series of recent books, each around a central theme. The Playboy Interviews: Movers and Shakers centers around some of the most successful entrepreneurs and/or business leaders of the last 40 years, and it didn’t disappoint. While there’s nothing new here, the collected interviews of major business leaders, stretching back as far as 1974 to as recent as 2004, is a treat both for its insight into what makes these people tick and the ability it gives us to see if the future played out the way the intervieweees thought it might.

Interviewed in Movers and Shakers are Barry Diller, Calvin Klein, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Hugh Hefner (twice), Leona Helmsley, Donald Trump (twice), Vince McMahon, Ted Turner (twice), Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Malcolm Forbes.

Most of the interviewees are larger-than-life characters, and these in-depth interviews bring that out.  Perhaps the most entertaining of the subjects is Ted Turner, interviewed originally in 1978, fresh off of having won the America’s Cup yacht race and taking over ownership of the then last-place Atlanta Braves, where he would sit behind home plate with a microphone tied directly into the stadium’s public address system, offering his comments to the few thousand fans that attended Braves games at that time.  Interviewer Peter Ross Range describes the constantly moving, “Mouth of the South” as someone who never stops talking, contining to yell commentary even when on the other side of a closed restroom door.

Interviewed five years later, again by Ross Range, Turner’s fame has grown and he comes across full of stress over competing with the broadcast networks with the recent launch of his Cable News Network (CNN).  Ross Range’s somewhat aggressive questioning of Turner at this time leads to Turner eventually ripping the tape recorder from his hands, destroying the tape and throwing the recorder at the cockpit door of the commercial passenger plane they are flying on at the time.

The Steve Jobs interview takes place in 1985, and it is interesting to hear Jobs talk so accurately of a coming “information highway” and yet so inaccurately of the future of the computer industry—Jobs has Apple and IBM pegged as the only forseeable players in the business; the rise of Microsoft is not yet even a blip on Jobs’ radar screen.

The book’s centerpiece is a 1974 interview with Hugh Hefner, followed by a second interview over 25 years later, in 2000.  In the first Hefner is a relatively young man, still riding high as a trailblazer with Playboy, and loving every minute of it.  In the second, Hefner is a 74-year-old man fresh off a separation with his wife and reclaiming his title as life of the party, extolling the virtues of Viagra and multiple girlfriends less than half his age.  As you might expect, he was still loving every minute of it. Whether you admire or abhor Hefner, it’s difficult to argue that he’s lived the life of many a man’s fantasy.

Movers and Shakers closes out with a 1979 interview with Malcolm Forbes. At first it seems out of place, coming directly on the heels of interviews with software kings Bill Gates and Larry Ellison.  But in fact it’s a great way to end a book such as this, with an unrepentant capitalist celebrating the wonderful life he’s had the opportunity to lead and continuing to chase ever more interesting pursuits (including motorcycles and hot air ballooning). Forbes exemplifies what comes through in most all of these interview subjects—a zest for life and a desire to keep playing the game at the highest level.

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Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.