Thursday, January 7, 2010

I enjoyed these books; you might, too!

1. "Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing" was written by George Cloutier with Samantha Marshall. Cloutier has been called "The Turnaround Ace" by Business Week. He and Marshall subtitle their book, "No-Nonsense Rules From The Ultimate Contrarian And Small Business Guru."

Coutier is CEO of American Management Services and Co-Chairman of Partner America and has spent his working life helping small businesses after graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Business School. His book depicts him as a plain spoken, in-your-face pragmatist and true contrarian. For instance, he titles "Profit Rule 12: Don't Treat Sales Like Your Mother-in-Law".

Too many CEOs and business owners are afraid to sell, according to Cloutier. "If sales are down, there's always something or someone else to blame....if you're losing sales and heading for financial trouble, it's your fault (and) by far the biggest crime against sales is the owner's unwillingness to mix it up with customers." In other words, Cloutier says, get cozy with your customers...and your mother-in-law!

"Profit Rule 10" is "You are not in business to pay your vendors." And, to that Cloutier says, "Never pay your bills on time." He calls cash management "hand-to-hand combat"! If you like that, you'll love this concept, "Instead of stressing over writing checks to your vendors, you should view them as your best source of financing." In this regard he suggest you be "...evasive and non-committal about your next payment...." Hey, the check's in the mail, Bubba!

If you think teamwork is the way to success, you'll want to skip this book. Cloutier says in Profit Rule 14, "Teamwork Is Vastly Overrated." I'm not making this up! He says, "There is no $ in Team" and "Employees crave strong leadership and structure."
He adds, "Don't encourage diverse opinions. It's a business, not a democracy." Lastly, he challenges business losers by telling them, "It's Not the Economy, Stupid, It's you!" He tells them, "Sure, small business owners can blame the economy for their problems. Most people do." So, suck it up, partner, create a real plan and watch your relatives, if they work for you, because they're probably robbing you blind.

2. If you want a book that's a little more on the positive side, and concerns a bigger business, read "Six Rules For Brand Revitalization" by Larry Light and Joan Kiddon. Light was Global Chief Marketing Officer for McDonald's during the 2002-2005 turnaround at the fast food giant. Kiddon consulted with him from Arcature LLC. This was after McD's CEO Jack Greenburg said, "Marketing is broken at McDonald's" and the stock price at the company had fallen from $45.31 in March 1999 to $17.66 in September 2002.

Light and Kiddon describe the McDonald's fall as being slow, painful and public, explaining that it failed to attend to the three basics of renovation, marketing, and innovation. In effect, the company was intent on opening new restaurants but not improving anything about them. In so doing, say the authors, the chain turned its back on the principles of founder, Ray Kroc, and his desire to make all customers feel special.

The authors describe these issues at Mickey D: outdated store designs, inconsistent advertising, overemphasis on deal promotions, declining product quality, poor service, reduced employee pride and a bunch of other woes, anyone of which might by itself wreck a company. So, recognizing a "Crisis of Complacency," they established the Three Cs of Turnaround: Clarity of Direction, Consistent Implementation, and Commitment from Top Down and created a "Plan to Win" with four goals: More Customers, More Often, More Brand Loyalty and More Profitability.

In their efforts they established six rules: Refocus the Organization, Restore Brand Relevance, Re-Invent the Brand Experience, Reinforce a Results Culture, Rebuild Brand Trust and Realize Global Alignment. And, it worked. In 2004 and 2005 McDonald's began to win awards and profits. Even today, we see the lasting effects of their work begun eight years ago. It's a story of hard work and victory!

The two books have similarities and differences, not the least of which involves payments to vendors and teamwork. But, I'll let you sort that out. I recommend that you read both books because they are well written, easy to read, and useful!

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