The familiar cliché "stick to your knitting" is one of the oldest business bromides around, but it's never been explored as Bain & Co. consultants Chris Zook and James Allen do in Profit From the Core (Harvard Business School Press, $27.50), a concise, compelling report on why and how to figure out exactly what your company does best-and then do it. The two boil down the findings of a 10-year, 2,000-company study into three key traits that differentiate companies that grow from those that stagnate. First, they say, growth companies reach full potential in their core businesses before trying anything new. Second, when they expand, growth companies look toward adjacent businesses rather than hot industries that are far afield. Third, growth companies can, and do, radically redefine their core operations when dealing with quickly changing markets.
These simple and yet powerful ideas emerge smoothly and convincingly from the mass of data and techniques Zook and Allen have compiled, but there are paradoxes. For instance, companies consistently found the greatest untapped potential in divisions that were already performing well. Sound surprising? Well, there are many such profound revelations to be discovered here.
Quick-But Don't Hurry!
Simon and Schuster
Andrew Hill didn't like John Wooden when Hill played for the legendary UCLA basketball coach 30 years ago. But after Hill graduated and became a successful TV executive, he realized several of the traits that helped him in Hollywood were the ones Wooden had inculcated while coaching the Bruins to its matchless string of championships.
Here, with his ex-coach's help, Hill translates for business users 21 vintage Wooden insights into leadership and success, including "The team with the best players almost always wins" and "Seek consistency-avoid peaks and valleys."
Using such axioms, Hill provides intriguing anecdotes from his days of playing with the likes of Bill Walton as well as usable explanations of how each saying relates to business. For instance, the title dictum advises you not only to avoid rushed decisions, but also to act once you have enough facts. One part bittersweet memoir and one part practical business text, Be Quick-But Don't Hurry! is an unusually well-told tale of friendship, competition and wisdom that any entrepreneur can profit from and enjoy.
The Free Press
Not everybody loves the latest new thing. Up-to-the-minute technology can be absolutely repellent to some intended customers-including yours. That may not be good news, but this book is. In it, two experts on measuring customer service and marketing introduce a new technique for calculating market receptiveness to state-of-the-art products and services. The basic idea is to see whether anybody wants it before you invent it.
Four principles explain how. First, you must understand that people adopt new technology differently than other products. So, their second principle states, innovators need new marketing strategies. Third, customer satisfaction is harder for technology companies. Fourth, innovators that achieve critical mass in tech markets often dominate them overwhelmingly à la Microsoft. Recognizing these important realities provides marketers with a good viewpoint in their push to be first (and best) to market.
Organizational experts Ronni Eisenberg and Kate Kelly have helped millions straighten their homes, offices and agendas with their Organize Yourself! series of books. This one tackles the daunting world of travel, showing dozens of ways to stay organized and keep in touch, whether you're away from the office for a day, a week or a month.
One of the most useful tips is the advice to create files of maps, meeting places, restaurants and other resources for cities you visit regularly. This will allow you to quickly snag the appropriate folder as you head toward the airport, arriving with an arsenal of options for entertaining clients or simply nourishing yourself. The other recommendations range from the obvious (get a briefcase with a detachable shoulder strap) to the unexpected (stash a dryer sheet in your suitcase to fight static cling.) Well-organized and light enough to pack for international travel, this book is sized for any traveler's suitcase.