Fri, 18 Mar 2005

The No-MBA Book Club

Seth Godin says that, in many cases, an MBA is a waste of time and money.

The fact is, though, that unless you want to be a consultant or an i-banker (where a top MBA is nothing but a screen for admission) it's hard for me to understand why this is a better use of time and money than actual experience combined with a dedicated reading of 30 or 40 books.

Not having been to business school, unlike Seth, it's hard for me to judge. I'm a big fan of book learning, but not school. I read two or three books per month. Recently, I've been reading more investment related books than business books. [Currently, I'm reading When Genius Failed and Conquer the Crash.]

Seth didn't list the 30 or 40 books to read, so Josh Kaufman picked up the thread. I'm surprised at how many books are on there that I haven't read. He has Guy Kawasaki's Art of the Start in there. The only Kawasaki book I've read is Rules For Revolutionaries which was hard to take seriously considering he added footnotes containing URLs for every company mentioned in the book. The one valuable lesson that I took away from the book was "Judge your results and other people's intentions" rather than vice versa.

There are a couple of books conspicuously absent from Josh's list.

I'd probably also include Differentiate or Die and The Discipline of Market Leaders. I haven't found an "A Ha!" marketing book yet, but these two books both have good ideas. The premise of the former is that there must be something that differentiates your company from competitors. The author gives a few examples of ways to differentiate. The first is having your company's product or service associated with a specific attribute the way Volvo is (was?) associated with safety. The goal is to have your customers think of your company when they think of the attribute. Other attributes might be reliability, speed, spiciness, or indestructibility. Other ways to differentiate suggested is specialization and having a "secret ingredient". Interestingly, customers don't need to understand what the secret ingredient is or does. The author used the example of Sony's Trinitron. Customers want it, but what the hell is it?

The Discipline of Market Leaders breaks successful companies into three groups.

  1. Operationally Efficient - companies that develop very organized systems to run with the utmost efficiency, e.g. Walmart and McDonald's
  2. Product Innovators - companies that that constantly invent new things, e.g. Sony and 3M
  3. Customer Intimate - companies that go out of their way to do whatever it takes to make their customers happy, e.g. Ritz Carlton and Nordstrom's

Our goal at Postica is to be operationally efficient.

Update: There should really be an accounting book included. Accounting the Easy Way is fantastic. I wish I would have read it years ago. Before reading any books on investing (fundamental analysis), you should learn at least as much accounting as is covered in this book. I convinced a women at Border's who was wanting to learn bookkeeping to buy this book.

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