Book Review: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

October 27th, 2014

hard-thingsHorowitz, Ben. The hard thing about hard things : building a business when there are no easy answers. Harper Business, 2014.

In 2007 when Blair Sheppard was Dean, he asked me to make him a list each quarter — a list of 5 books that he could recommend to CEO’s.  This task turned out to be a hard thing to execute, more difficult than it seemed at first hearing.  To find the 5 best books, you must read a great many.

One book that would definitely be on the list is The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, the cofounder of an ongoing Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz and cofounder/former CEO of the software company, Opsware.  Horowitz draws on his experience as software engineer, entrepreneur, CEO  and venture capitalist to offer advice to technology entrepreneurs on hiring and managing talent, programming company culture, taking a company public and more.

In this engaging book, Horowitz tells his personal story against the backdrop of technology history after 1990, distilling the business and life lessons that he learned along the way.  Early in his career, Horowitz is at Netscape in charge of their web server product line.  During his tenure there, Microsoft releases Internet Explorer, challenging Netscape in a war for survival.  After Netscape is sold to America Online in 1998, Horowitz starts another company, Loudcloud.  Following the 2000 dot-com implosion, the company is sold to EDS but Horowitz keeps the software, Opsware, which is eventually sold to Hewlett Packard in 2007 for $1.6 billion.

Not everything goes as planned.  As Horowitz takes his companies from founding to going public to sale, he experiences both great success and near bankruptcy.  He uses his struggles to advise readers on how to lay people off and how to tell the truth when things fall apart.  He also offers advice on leading during uncertain times and on scaling a company.  In the end, Horowitz begins a venture capital firm to help technology company founders run their own companies.  And he writes a very readable book for entrepreneurs.  Recommended.

Also available in Kindle e-reader and online audiobook format.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

New Movies for October: Part 2

October 24th, 2014

Here are the last of our new DVD titles for this month:

Godzilla DVD Cover
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 1
Fed Up
God’s Pocket
Long Way Down
The German Doctor
Ilo Ilo
Jodorowsky’s Dune
Lucky Them
Transformers: Age of Extinction

You may browse the entire DVD collection via the library catalog.

Fall Break With Malcolm Gladwell

October 13th, 2014

Fall Break is here!Congratulations, students!  You have survived the intensity of Fall Term 1.  Just polish off those final exams this week and you can bust out of town for Fall Break.  Whether you head for the snowy slopes of Squaw Valley or the showy shops in New York, you can travel with America’s best storyteller, Malcolm Gladwell.

In your car or on an airplane, listening to Gladwell makes the transit time melt away.  And you can hear Gladwell via a Ford Library audiobook by downloading one of his best sellers onto your own device — iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet. All his best books are available.

David and Goliath. Gladwell’s most recent book is about the powerful and considers the curious advantage of being the underdog.  Downloadable audio. Also in print, Audio CD and Business Bestseller Kindle.

Outliers. Gladwell examines successful people, who inhabit their world of advantages and inheritances, some that are earned through hard work and others that are simply good fortune. Downloadable audio. Also in print, Audio CD and Business Classics Kindle.

Blink. Humans use both conscious and unconscious modes of thinking and sometimes instant decisions can be as good as those made deliberately.  Downloadable audio. Also in print, Audio CD and Business Classics Kindle.

The Tipping Point.  Written years before social media, Gladwell’s first commercially successful book explores how ideas and trends suddenly go viral.  Downloadable audio.  Also in print, Audio CD and Business Classics Kindle.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

New Movies for October: Part 1

October 9th, 2014

Here are the first of our new DVD titles this month:faultinourstars2

Captain America, the Winter Soldier
The Fault in Our Stars
Palo Alto
The Signal


You may browse the entire DVD collection via the library catalog.

Book Review: Sons of Witchita

September 29th, 2014

sons of witchitaSchulman, Daniel. Sons of Wichita : how the Koch brothers became America’s most powerful and private dynasty. Grand Central Publishing, 2014.

The October 2014 issue of Harper’s magazine features an article, PBS Self-Destructs, that begins with a protest at WGBH in Boston, to force the station to dislodge David Koch from the station’s board of trustees. Protesters claim that the oil tycoon’s new strategy for PBS is to destroy it from within, and they condemn the business practices of Koch Industries in general.

The protest is given a short mention in the final pages of a remarkable new book, Sons of Wichita, by journalist Daniel Schulman.  This story about the Koch family’s power, wealth and abundant conflicts begins in Kansas where Fred Koch begins life in modest circumstances, starts a refinery business and celebrates his 30th birthday a wealthy man.  A zealous anticommunist, he helps found the John Birch Society.  He teaches his four sons to be tough and competitive, to work hard and to distrust government. Two of Fred’s sons, Charles and David, join the family business and under their leadership, Koch Industries grows into the second largest private corporation in the US.

Schulman paints a picture of Koch Industries as an unethical company with a profit obsessed corporate culture.  In a two year period in the late 90’s Koch Industries are taken to court four times– for duping family members on the sale of their company holdings; for pipeline violations that caused two teenagers to be burned to death; for fraud when taking oil from native American lands; and for covering up the environmental consequences of leaky pipelines and storage tanks.  Yet the book is more about the dysfunctional Koch family than about the company.  In two of the four lawsuits, the Koch brothers support the plaintiffs as well as the defense as the brothers battle bitterly over the empire their father left to them.

Co-founders of the libertarian CATO Institute and drivers of the Tea Party movement, the Koch brothers are sometimes accused of orchestrating a secretive campaign of self-interested political reforms.  But to Schulman, it is more creed than greed.  Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch believes that all functions of society should be privately funded and he donates heavily to causes that advance the doctrine of libertarianism.  To shape public opinion, Koch hopes to reach the intellectual class through educational institutions, research funding, and yes, even public television.

Readers of this book will find themselves both engaged and enraged about the Koch family.  The battles and feuds among the four brothers last 20 years, vicious attacks in courtrooms and boardrooms, over issues at the company as well as their inheritance. Shulman’s illuminating portraits of Koch family members bring a human dimension to the conflicts.  Recommended reading for anyone who enjoys business, politics or Game of Thrones.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

New Movies for September: Part 2

September 24th, 2014

Here are the last of the new DVDs this month:

Amazing Spider-Man 2Spiderman 2 DVD cover
The Double
Draft Day
The Love Punch
Muppets Most Wanted
Ping Pong Summer
The Railway Man

You may browse the entire DVD collection via the library catalog.

New Movies for September: Part 1

September 17th, 2014

Here are the first of our new DVD titles for September:Moms Night Out DVD Cover

Night Moves
Hateship Loveship
Trust Me
Fading Gigolo
Moms’ Night Out
Only Lovers Left Alive
The Quiet Ones
They Came Together


You may browse the entire DVD collection via the library catalog.

Book Reviews: Communicating with Confidence

September 15th, 2014

book coversGallo, Carmine. Talk like TED : the 9 public speaking secrets of the world’s top minds. St. Martin’s Press, 2014.

McGowan, Bill. Pitch perfect : how to say it right the first time, every time. Harper Business, 2014.

In July, two Ford Library staff members attended the Advanced Communications Workshop taught by Dorie Clark, Fuqua adjunct professor, former presidential campaign spokesperson and author of the book, Reinventing You, about developing a personal brand.

Prof. Clark also teaches a popular course in Fuqua’s Executive Education program, Great Leadership Requires Great Communication.  To influence, inspire and persuade others, corporate executives and government leaders need to communicate clearly and confidently with diverse constituencies both inside and outside their organizations. Two new books in the Ford Library also explain how to communicate ideas so they are heard and understood.

Talk Like TED is for speakers who want to deliver presentations with more confidence and authority.  Author Carmine Gallo analyzes more than 500 TED presentations and distills nine common elements from the most popular ones.  Like Dale Carnegie 100 years ago, Gallo recommends that speakers keep their presentations short and tell stories to connect emotionally with the listener.  But he also adds more modern techniques such as the use of humor and novelty.  He advises speakers to have passion and also to be authentic.  Gallo is also the author of the bestselling book, Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

Communications coach Bill McGowan helps clients, executives and celebrities, decide what to say and how to say it.  In his new book, Pitch Perfect, he condenses what he has taught in 4000 coaching sessions into a simple set of 7 principles for handling a variety of personal and professional communication scenarios.  To get attention, McGowan recommends starting with the best material, and to hold attention, he recommends preparing a brief but rich message.  He underscores the importance of conveying certainty with words, posture, eye contact and tone of voice.  He shows how to use visual images to illustrate a story.  His principles work for media interviews, internal meetings, interviews and most other business communication situations.

Both of these books are informative and engaging, and they are recommended for professionals who communicate their ideas at work.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Factory Man

September 3rd, 2014



I grew up in Thomasville, NC, and if your first thought was furniture, you are correct. In fact, Thomasville was a two industry town. In a state known for three products – tobacco, textiles, and furniture – we had numerous knitting mills and we had Thomasville Furniture.

In the 1960s, jobs were plentiful in Thomasville. We had everything a small town could want or need. Belks department store stocked our school clothes, the Tasty Bakery baked our birthday cakes, and The Big 3 auto dealerships sold us our cars. Thomasville Furniture was to thank for much of this largesse. Then it slipped away.

Textiles left in the 80s, but furniture remained. Then NAFTA struck, and slowly those companies, who had been so loyal to their employees, moved to places not named after the town where they began. Finally, the entry of China into the WTO was the final blow to my hometown.

As I write this, Thomasville Furniture is out of business, and the grand showroom, headquarters, and giant Plant C are on the auction block, unlikely to be sold to another big employer.

Beth Macy, author of Factory Man, details Bassett VA, a company town less than 75 miles from Thomasville. Both the company and the town are named for the J.D. Bassett family. Mr. J.D. got his start in lumber before luring away the furniture industry from Michigan. Using the local resources, abundant forests and subsistence farmers, he not only made a less expensive product but also produced it faster than any of his competitors. Along the way, he raised the standard of living from poverty to middle class for his workers, while reminding his family it was these people who helped make their fortune.

Macy details Mr. J.D. and his heirs in this story of what community meant to its founder and how that was slowly dismantled by competition and greed, so, like Thomasville NC, furniture is no longer crafted in Bassett. From the ruins, though, we meet JDIII, or John Bassett III. Like his grandfather, JDIII believed in buying the best machinery, hiring the best people, and working them hard. He was eventually pushed out of Bassett Industries and started his own furniture company, Vaughan-Bassett, in nearby Galax, where he learned that no matter how efficient his production lines were, he couldn’t beat the prices offered by offshore competition dumping bedroom suites and dining room sets onto the US market.

Against his own Bassett relatives, friends, and industry insiders, JDIII charged the US International Trade Commission with shirking its responsibilities. Ms. Macy works her way through the D.C. law firms and courts to show the reader the machinations of trade law enforcement. We see retailers wanting nothing more than the lowest price. We see American furniture executives wanting nothing more than their companies’ survival, regardless where the furniture is made. And incredibly, we see a glimmer of hope for US manufactured products.

Book Review: The Examined Life

August 27th, 2014

the-examined-lifeGrosz, Stephen. The examined life : how we lose and find ourselves. W.W. Norton, 2013.

Someone commented today that the unexamined life was not worth living.  I strongly disagree as some of the happiest people I know are the least introspective.  Yet profound satisfaction and understanding of our actions and feelings comes from examining one’s life.

And so while on vacation in June, I borrowed a Ford Library Kindle and read the book, The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves.  Written by London psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz, this remarkable book tells the stories of his patients, who come to him troubled by complex emotions or their own puzzling behavior.

As a practicing therapist, Grosz is trained in deep listening and attentiveness, and he uses conversations with his patients to reveal unconscious desires or masked anger.  He helps his patients understand themselves so they can live a happier and more fulfilled life.  As Grosz shares the stories of his patients’ lives and work, he teaches about love and loss, intimacy and separation, change and acceptance.

The Examined Life is a captivating look at the hidden feelings that drive our behavior, and is recommended to anyone wanting to deepen their own sense of self or to improve their relationships with others.  This brief book is an excellent choice for Labor Day holiday reading and is available on the Ford Library’s Best Sellers Kindles and in print in the book stacks. Also available as an online audiobook.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.