On Your Owner
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Jack Stack and co-author Bo Burlingham helped validate sharing information with employees in The Great Game of Business (Currency Doubleday, 1992). In A Stake In The Outcome (Currency Doubleday, $24.95), Stack and his co-author aim to do the same for employee ownership.
Post-Enron, executives who encourage workers to invest in company shares are likely to be viewed with suspicion. Stack's premise, however, is that letting employees buy stock in a company can do a great deal to help both parties. And the benefits go far beyond reducing turnover and easing recruitment hiring. Done right, employee stock ownership can help each and every employee act like a true owner. But it's not simple. Each chapter offers an "Ownership Rule." Some are obvious or shopworn, but others are more far-reaching and groundbreaking. Ownership Rule #9 states, "Getting out is harder than getting in." It addresses the fact that if you let employees buy stock, you have to provide the money and method for them to sell it back.
Stack limits the lecturing, however. Most of the text recounts the early, rugged days of Springfield Remanufacturing Co., the engine-rebuilding plant then-manager Stack and his co-workers bought from International Harvester in the 1980s. It reads like a memoir. Stack could be relating the tale over a tall, cold one at a neighborhood bar. His insights are anything but everyday, however, and the tools he describes for achieving a culture of universal ownership are memorable and practical.
Give Me an "F"
Philip J. Kaplan's Web site tracking the follies of dotcom ventures was started as a joke in 2000 but soon was a top pick on several organizations' "best of" lists. In F'd Companies: Spectacular Dot-Com Flameouts (Simon & Schuster, $18), Kaplan takes potshots at 175 almost unbelievably lame-but-true online companies. What does it prove? Sometimes, even silly ideas like Kaplan's F*#kedcompany.com (throw the "u" and the "c" in there to find it) pay off. But usually, not.
Austin, Texas, writer Mark Henricks has covered business and technology for leading publications since 1981.