Tag Archives: Book Review

The Referral Engine by John Jantsch

20170213-The-Referral-Engine-by-John-JantschKnowing that what we do at BCS to get new customers stopped working (the traditional new business ‘hunter’ and account management ‘gatherer’ model), we embraced with the help of our marketing guy David Shaw, what is now widely called ‘inbound marketing’. This book has been sitting on my shelf since September when David suggested I buy a copy. Perhaps if I had of read it before now I would have better understood the WHY of the WHAT we are doing. Just as well I had faith to get us this far.

There was so much great content in this book. In fact, I used up 45 post-it flags to highlight the important bits which is a record for me. One of the overriding sensations for me is how much of what John suggests we are already doing, which is great news. What I also realised is that this is going to be a difficult book to summarise. I think you are going to need to read this one yourself.

One of the first steps covered in the book is to ensure that your business is referral worthy which is further expanded in the need for your points of difference to be ‘talkable’ and the importance of your company story that supports these points.

The motivation of people who refer to your business is an interesting topic that is well covered and was enlightening for me, leading to changes of how I will approach this in the future.

My industry peers have questioned the logic in some of my ‘go-giver’ activities. I think next time anyone questions my madness, I will just send them a copy of this book the next day via Amazon Prime.

So, that’s all I am going to type on this one. If your old method of sitting on the phone making cold-calls until you get lucky no longer brings you that luck and you are ready to try something different, this book is almost certainly for you.

Traction by Gino Wickman

20170210-Traction-by-Gino-WickmanFor regular followers of my book review blog you will realise I get some of my most productive reading (and planning) done when I am on touring holidays in the motor home with Samantha and our terrier, Riley. I am writing this review in the forests of the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. Very peaceful and remote with no mobile signal across all the networks I subscribe to. My mission is only interrupted by bracing hill walks and cooking dinner.

Anyway, Traction is a book that is not in my library, but one loaned to me by our marketing guru, David Shaw. He plopped it on my desk and said, you need to read this. That’s enough of a recommendation for me. I didn’t take a pen to the interesting bits out of respect, but used my post-it flags for which I counted 19 little pink stickers worthy of further comment or action!

I was initially sceptical of this book, originally published in 2007, because it is quite indulgent, paying homage to the amazing business books that went before. If you have read all the books mentioned (and I feel like I have) it starts to feel like a poor cover version of a classic. Not to be defeated, I pushed on. I only need to find one nugget to make it worth my time investment.

Interestingly, this book covers loads of topics. For my limited experience of book writing, I was led to believe that you should only cover one topic and cover it well. This book has tried to do justice to a massive number of concepts and I must say, not done too bad of a job either!

The first take away was Gino’s opinion of the ceilings we need to break through to continue to grow our businesses. He identifies the skills that the leadership team need to possess to ensure as each ceiling approaches, then have the toolkit to change the shape of the business and embrace the opportunities growth brings. These are summarised as an ability to simplify, delegate, predict, systemise and structure.

We made the decision at the end of 2015 to stop signing up new clients who were not a fit for us either culturally or from a business maturity point of view. We probably qualify-out twice as many prospects as we sign-up as new clients. No point in starting your journey with a bad companion. Reassuringly Gino lists that as a critical step to success. That said, there are some great suggestions on how to create a better customer acquisition process than we operate and we will be reviewing that at BCS.

I have read a lot of books in relation to the ensuing you have the right people in your organisation, but Gino is explicit that having the right people in the right seat is equally important and provides some tools to help you work out whether the people you have right now are both on your bus and in the right seat. Beware when we undertook this exercise a few years ago we found a few people that would, ultimately, be happier working somewhere else.

Next to the topic of organisational charts. I am a massive fan. Gino takes this a step further and asks for us to record the four or five major functions of each role.  As the business grows, you need to consider the need to ‘delegate and elevate’ and having better defined the accountability under each role it becomes easier to see which functions can be reassigned.

Next Gino moved onto the need for data accountability. Our sales team have operated a scorecard for a few months, but this book has encouraged me to also create a scorecard for our leadership team across all the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) we work to, and more importantly, given me the tools to identify what can be measured and what matters enough to be managed. These are typically not the retrospective profit and loss performance figures. Within this section he also suggested that everyone in the company should have ‘a number’. As in, every role should have a picture of what ‘good’ looks like for them and an idea of what they have committed to deliver. I see where he is coming from and this will be a step for the BCS leadership team to take once our company wide scorecard has been implemented.

Next concept is about documenting process to create your business manual. Now of course, Michael Gerber has covered this off in detail too in his various books, but we have not made any real progress on this at BCS yet but need to. There is a natural resistance from staff to document what they do, perhaps seen as a threat to their role if anyone can pick up the manual and do their job. This book helps with some tools to get the team to understand why it’s in their interest to get on and do it and who needs to ‘own’ the task of getting these processes documented.

The final big chunk was about why meetings generate activity and therefore more frequent meetings create a greater level of activity. Our leadership team currently meets monthly. Gino suggests that it is typical for staff to push back on the idea of weekly meetings on the basis that if they spend all their time in meetings when will they make any progress, but the pulse of a regular weekly meeting at the same time, with the same structured agenda and the same duration brings great results. I am willing to give this a try at BCS.

On balance and given my initial scepticism, this book was just at the right time for me, given that dealing with documenting process and creating leadership KPIs are things I have planned to complete before the end of 2017 Q1.

So, added for me directly from this book:

  • Improve our customer acquisition journey, document expectations and communicate widely.
  • Review and better detail our organisation chart to include core functions.
  • Create a company wide leadership scorecard pulling out the numbers that matter.
  • Get the leadership team to define which processes are to be documented and assign ownership.
  • Change the leadership meeting frequency to create a weekly ‘meeting pulse’.

So not one nugget, but five. Thanks to David Shaw for pretty much insisting I read this one.

Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni

20170103-Getting-Naked-by-Patrick-Lencioni-CoverThis book was recommended to me by a friend and fellow member of HTG, Raja Pagadala, from The Final Step (TFS) in London. Sitting in a bar at the end of a busy peer-day of understanding each other’s businesses, the topic shifted to ‘Read any inspiring books lately?’. I offered up the Snowball Effect and Raja suggested I get naked. I know him fairly well, so why not?

To take you back to my day at The Final Step, Raja explained his business model and how his company doesn’t sell “IT support” and doesn’t commoditise its offering. The basic premise is that TFS, ultimately, sells “trust”. He explained that he is interested in life-long clients who appreciate a highly tailored approach which puts the client’s interests at the centre of the equation. This requires transparency (or getting naked). Fundamentally, in a true partnership, the client’s and supplier’s interests are very much aligned. Culturally, TFS and BCS are more similar than any other company we have met with, which was reassuring. I just couldn’t get my head around how the commercials of his business work and from discussions with other people in our peer group before my meeting with Raja in December, I was not alone. TFS’s pricing model is not formulaic – tailored services can never be – and understanding the lifetime value that the client has received is what drives it.

Now to the book. It is written by way of a parable. I quite like a story to help the absorption of the knowledge being presented and the book kept me engaged for the few hours it took to read it.

The essence of the story is the conflict caused by the differences between a small consulting company (Lighthouse Consulting) and their larger competitor (Kendrick & Black). When the opportunity comes for K&B to buy and absorb Lighthouse Consulting into their operation, Jack, the hero of the story comes to the painful realisation that they could not merge the small company into the larger one, without taking the lessons provided by the smaller company and making fundamental changes to the way the larger company operates. K&B, the larger company, were not ready to make those changes so facilitated the resale of the smaller company onto another similar sized consultancy company, losing Jack from their team in the process.

The book concludes with a summary of the ‘getting naked’ model. I must say, I preferred the story to the summary, but it is a useful reminder of the content.

What I gained from this book splits into four sections.

Reassurance – The way BCS handles new business ‘sales’ is already almost identical, putting the focus on the client from the start. Since the middle of 2016, we actively stopped chasing new business entirely and now just focus on allowing suitable new prospects to find and come to us. The section about fear of losing business is a lesson we have already learned and I know we turn away more unsuitable clients than we sign up. We report openly to our clients about our performance, ask seemingly stupid questions (in the hope some are useful) and make seemingly stupid suggestions (with the understanding some of these may be the catalyst required for discussion and beneficial change). We are already naked!

Understanding Raja – I am pleased our conversation moved to suggested reading, as I understand better now where Raja is coming from. His business goal is for less customers, but keeping only those that understand and value the quality service his team delivers in abundance. Seems like a pretty great goal to me.

Next Steps – Knowing we are already on the right track at BCS, I will be encouraging our leadership team to redouble their efforts to add value to everyone we work with.

Exiting BCS – Arlin Sorenson, the CEO of HTG talks about ‘unnegotiable negotiables’ when planning a business exit. As I read this book it got me to thinking about this topic, as in due course whoever takes over BCS would need to be a good fit as we are already more like Lighthouse Consulting than Kendrick and Black. If they don’t understand why they need to be getting naked with us in front of our clients, they wouldn’t make a good job of running our business, supporting our team or providing value to our clients. Points very well noted.

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber

20170101-The-E-Myth-Revisited-CoverThis is a strangely very familiar book. Since I made the active decision to improve myself as a businessman, this book has probably been referenced and recommended more than any other. Having never read it, just before Christmas I decided that over the break I would take this from my bookshelf and give it the attention it deserves. Imagine my surprise when I realised that I don’t even possess a copy of this book. Our marketing guru, David Shaw, stepped in and donated his copy to the BCS business book library.

The E-Myth describes the mythical existence of the entrepreneur. Michael talks about the three roles that exist within any business owner of the ‘technician’, ‘manager’ and ‘entrepreneur’, with a clear understanding that for any business to succeed all three functions must be adequately resourced, even after the business has started trading.

Most businesses are started with passion and some from necessity. At the point of inception, the business is alive with the blood of the entrepreneur. Mostly technician led start-ups are created to cut ‘the boss’ out of the loop, with limited understanding of the perspective of that role.

At some point the founder and business owner ends up spending all their working time back in the comfortable and safe ‘technician’ role. When the business gets busy, the next recruits are most likely to be more technicians to help and share the work of the technician role. This is where things get tricky for many businesses as the busier the owner is training technicians to ‘do’, the less chance of ever revisiting the important function of being an entrepreneur and thinking about tomorrow’s opportunities. There is rarely budget to hire a ‘manager’ to stop this mess. Michael offers a few suggestions to get out of this situation, but as you may quickly realise, it’s better to not even get to this juncture.

Michael goes on to talk about the franchise prototype and how a business is best run if you could at a moment’s notice replicate the whole thing, like you would need to if you sold it as a franchise. Essentially documenting processes into an ‘operations manual’ to create standardisation of quality service delivery, at a controlled unit cost. Ten years ago, BCS was managed without very much structure from a delivery point of view, but it’s interesting to see how much work our leadership team has now put into exactly this type of standardisation of delivery. This book has proven there is more work to do at BCS and I will be recommending the team give this book their attention too.

There is a large section in the book around organisational charts. I am a massive fan of scalable business charts and for many years I was a name all over our company chart, gently replacing myself over time and as our maturity allowed. Michael makes the critical point that the chart needs to separate out the owners of the business from the reporting and accountability roles.

I can’t believe it took me so long to pick this book up, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. Most of what I took from this book was the realisation that the ideas discussed have been taken and reused in other books over the last twenty years (that I have read already) and that I have put most of these suggestions into good use within my business, kindly thanking other authors for what may have been Michael’s ideas. Oops!

Welcome to my personal website.


I will be populating this blog with my reviews of some of the bestselling and also the least publicly known business books written over the years. Where the blog will add value is that I will also be sharing what I have drawn from each and how I have been able to use what I have learned within my business. Add yourself to my list by downloading the copy of Obvious Adams via the link and I will keep you informed when I add new reviews.

 One of my personal core values is that of learning and teaching. Coupled with the book reviews I will also be sharing some of my exploits in relation to the various business communities and peer groups I am involved in. Some of my entries may resonate, some may amuse you. I know time spent reading my blog will be lost forever, so I will do my best to ensure it has value and is worth coming back!

Regards, Gareth