A little reading goes along way and as any good CEO knows, you can never really stop learning. In Business First’s Reading Nook, we review some inspiring writings about all things business. Reviews by Daniel G Taylor.
The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google. By Nicholas Carr. W W Norton & Company, 2013. $22.95.
The way we use computers has changed forever.
Once, everything you needed for your computer was contained in the plastic or metal casing. You bought software in a box. Now your devices are access points, a way onto the internet. Software gets downloaded or used through your browser.
Nicholas Carr sees a parallel between the way computing has changed and is changing and the way electricity moved from Edison’s controlled, private network to a utility.
The old and outdated business model was that you competed and strove for a monopoly. You wanted to quash your competitors. Now, business rivals must engage in co-opetition: Apple must let Google apps on iDevices to satisfy consumers; the full power of Microsoft Office is only just being restored now that it’s available on every mobile platform and in the cloud.
Often in investing and business, we’re hungry to know what’s going to happen next. We forget that history is an excellent teacher. Warren Buffett, for example, used history to dodge the dot com bubble. As Carr makes his case, he links where computing is and where it’s going to the evolution of the electricity industry.
Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business. By Bruce Poon Tip. Hachette Australia, 2013. $24.99.
If you were going to launch a business in a crowded industry, how would you do it?
When Bruce Poon Tip started G Adventures (formerly Gap Adventures), the travel industry was divided into three groups. Backpackers, resorts and packaged tours. Resorts were becoming increasingly self-contained and as a result, little or no tourist dollars were spent in the local economy. With tours, you’d get on a bus, drive around looking at locations, while your Western guide told you stories of the culture.
The market was ripe for a company to create travel experiences where travellers benefited from local guides and tourist dollars went into the local economy. G Adventures was born.
This is not a book of business theory. On one level it’s the gripping story of a business. On another level, it’s a handbook of innovation. On another, a real-life no BS inthe-trenches view of being an entrepreneur.
The G Adventures culture is transparent. As I read, I (@danielgtaylor) Tweeted key ideas that inspired me. Poon Tip (@brucepoontip) Tweeted back. Plus, the QR codes link to videos that make you feel like you know the G Adventures team.
The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run – or Ruin – an Economy.
By Tim Harford. Little, Brown, 2013. $32.99. In his latest Undercover Economist book, Tim Harford puts you – the reader – in charge of an economy and shows you how to make it work.
Harford is a microeconomist, meaning he looks at the impact of individuals and firms on an economy. This time round he tackles macroeconomics, which looks at the broader issues in an economy and their possible causes.
He introduces problems one after the other that affect an economy, and just as you think you’ve got his point and the required solution; he introduces a twist that reveals more complexity than you first thought.
The book is written as a conversation between Harford and you. You ask a question and he answers it, which prompts further questions from you, until you’ve mastered the topic.
For investors, this book will help you understand the problems within economies and how those problems affect your investments. When you know what the problems are, you’ll be able to understand what responses are needed from governments to run the economy well.
This book will appeal to smart investors who want a guide to macroeconomics in everyday language.
The Secrets of My Success and the story of Boost Juice – Juicy Bits and All.
By Janine Allis. Wrightbooks, 2013. $24.95. Janine Allis and her company Boost Juice have a unique place in the Australian business landscape – a successful woman with a brand everyone loves.
The Secrets of My Success is part business biography, part business success manual.
“My Boost Journey” reveals the resourcefulness Allis showed in her youth that would later become a key to her success with Boost Juice.
“Thirty Recipes for Success” reveals the traits that make up the culture of Boost Juice stores.
“Expanding Skills and Overcoming Obstacles” shares what Allis has learnt from running a business about teambuilding, marketing, franchising, passion, and dealing with challenges.
The value for an entrepreneur in this book is that you’ll see that Janine Allis is an everyday person, like all entrepreneurs. Because she’s like you, and shares how she got to where she’s going through sticking with her goals until she achieved them, she will inspire you.
The $24.95 price is already cheap for what you’ll learn, but the voucher for any sized Boost juice or smoothie means you can subtract at least another $5 off the price.
Her story matters because she’s successful and she started without business skills. Any businessperson can get tips from her.
Seven Elements that have changed the World.
By John Browne. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2013. $29.99. John Browne has come up with a subjective list for the seven elements that have changed the world. But given he’s former CEO of BP, it’s worth understanding his choices.
His chosen elements are: iron, mainly because of its influential role in military history; carbon, because of its use as a fuel source; gold, as the most coveted element of all time; silver, because of its use in photography; uranium, because of its role in ending a war and as a power source; titanium, for its wartime applications but more so for its ubiquitous presence as a whitening agent in a society where white equals purity; and silicon, because of its use as glass and in technology.
As Browne devotes a chapter to each element, he blends science, politics and history in a well-written story that combines his personal experience with solid research. You don’t need to agree with his choices to appreciate his reasoning and enjoy the book.
From an investment point of view, this book helps you see how markets using natural resources are created – and how quickly those markets can vanish. If you invest in natural resources, or your business is dependent on them, this book will give you indispensable background knowledge.