Posts Tagged ‘Company history’

Book Reviews: Personal Leadership

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Three entertaining new books about business leaders and their companies explore leadership on a personal level, with observations and anecdotes from close associates.

the steve jobs way The Steve Jobs way : iLeadership for a new generation by Jay Elliot.
Former Senior VP of Apple provides a personal portrayal of Steve Jobs, his career, his challenges and triumphs at Apple, and his management style and leadership principles. Also available as an audiobook.
the new tycoons The new tycoons by Jason Kelly.
Reporter for Bloomberg News tells the stories of top private equity firms and their managers, showing how this complex industry influences both Wall Street and Main Street. Also available as a single-user e-book.
the corner office The corner office : indispensable and unexpected lessons from CEOs on how to lead and succeed by Adam Bryant.
New York Times editor interviews 75 CEO’s and offers insights about their personal stories, successes and failures, and how they manage their time, their people and the corporate culture. Also available as an audiobook.

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

Book Reviews: Google These Books!

Monday, August 27th, 2012

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Poundstone, William. Are you smart enough to work at Google?. Little, Brown & Co., 2012.

Edwards, Douglas . I’m feeling lucky : the confessions of Google employee number 59. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

Admission to Fuqua (or anywhere at Duke) certifies you as being smart.  Very smart.  But are you smart enough to outcompete other graduates of top tier business schools to win an ideal position with an A-list employer?  Yes, of course, but first you must survive a difficult interview process.

In a new book, Are you smart enough to work for Google? William Poundstone discusses the interview process at innovative companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple as they try to identify and hire the best candidates. He reveals dozens of brainteasers and bizarre interview questions, with over 100 pages of answers and explanation.  He also covers the interview process and preferences at key employers like Google, and shows how to decode an interviewer’s hidden agenda.  All this makes for interesting reading, but even at the last page, readers still will not know if they are smart enough to work in The Plex.  A trip to Mountain View is required for that.

One person who was smart enough to work for Google was Douglas Edwards, author of a new book, I’m Feeling Lucky. In 1999 just after Google had secured $25 million in venture capital funding, Edwards quit his steady position at the San Jose Mercury News, an old style newspaper organization, to join Google, a start-up with only 60 employees, no revenue and an unlikely business plan. His book is about what it was like to transition from a unionized, tradition-encrusted organization to an environment where all the old rules no longer applied.

Edwards revealed Google as a company founded by two Stanford engineers who valued superior technology, efficiency and frugality. The goal was to establish a company that would build a search engine for websites on the internet and for corporate extranets, one that would eventually become the center of global knowledge transfer. All employees were expected to work long hours under constant pressure. With no organizational chart, job titles were generic and the environment seemed status-blind. Everyone contributed what they could, yet it was clear that the engineers were the keys to success.  The emphasis was on developing a superior product, while marketing was relatively unimportant and branding was suspect.

This is one employee’s view of Google from its second year of operation through 2005, when Edwards lost his job in a reorganization, a year after the company went public. This personal story is a light and easy read.

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

Book Review: Force of Nature

Monday, March 26th, 2012

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Humes, Edward. Force of nature : the unlikely story of Wal-Mart’s green revolution. HarperBusiness, 2011.

The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year at the Whole Foods store on Broad Street in Durham.  In recent years, there are so many customers that they experience gridlock in the store.  An employee is posted outside the doors to prevent anyone from going in until another customer comes out.

Whole Foods is riding the wave of interest in sustainable products and organic food, which has become so popular that even conventional grocers  now offer organic alternatives.  Surprisingly, the largest seller of organic milk is Wal-Mart, a company that is not known for environmental sensitivity but should be, according to a new book by journalist Edward Humes.

Force of Nature is the story of how Wal-Mart, once one of the most unsustainable retailers on the planet decided to go green, not because it was the right thing to do, but because an energy efficient, low waste company enjoys a competitive advantage.   In addition to reducing Wal-Mart’s own energy use and waste, the company monitors packaging, water use and toxic substances in their suppliers, who are forced to be green to do business with the retailer.  Wal-Mart also develops partnerships with environmental groups and supports climate legislation.

The story begins in 2004, when Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, learns that 8% of its customer base had stopped shopping there because of the company’s bad reputation, including problems with local communities and the environment.  White-water expert and sustainability consultant Jib Ellison convinced CEO H. Lee Scott that Wal-Mart could boost their image and their profits by eliminating waste, because waste in packaging, shipping and the supply chain costs money.  Scott hired Ellison to transform the company.

Force of Nature is the inside story of how a gigantic corporation goes green.  This engaging and hopeful book is recommended to anyone interested in the environment.

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

Book Review: Start Something That Matters

Monday, September 19th, 2011

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Mycoskie, Blake. Start something that matters. Spiegel & Grau, 2011.

In this interesting and readable account , a young man decides to live a life of meaning by pursuing his passion, and by devoting himself to a social cause while simultaneously earning a living.  In the book Start Something that Matters, author Blake Mycoskie tells the story of TOM’S One for One, a start-up shoe company that gives one pair of shoes to a poor child for every pair sold to first world customers.

The story begins when Mycoskie, a 29 year old entrepreneur on vacation in Argentina, notices that few impoverished rural children there wear shoes.  With no experience in the retail business or in the footwear industry, Mycoskie learns to design, manufacture and sell Argentine alpargatas (espadrilles) for the US market.  The shoes become fashionable with young people, and at the end of the first five years, a million pairs of shoes have been given to destitute children in South America.

Mycoskie shares his story to encourage others to start something that matters and to lead a life of meaning.  He shares practical tips for getting started and discusses principles for sustaining the company.  He also tells the stories of other entrepreneurs who have led lives that mattered.  This inspirational book is about one man who created a movement and made a difference to a million impoverished children.

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

Book Review: Rework

Monday, August 29th, 2011

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Fried, Jason and David Hansson. Rework. Crown Business, 2010.

Two founders of the successful software company 37signals, Jason Fried and David Hansson, draw on their experience to teach entrepreneurs how to run a company without meetings, budgets, advertising or a board of directors.  They prove that a company can be successful by remaining small, lean and fast; by selling to smaller firms instead of the Fortune 500;  and by staying competitive by making the product unique.

Fried and Hansson encourage readers to focus on core principles, such a reliability, affordability and practicality. They discourage long-term contracts, permanent decisions and thick processes, which hamper the ability to change.   Using their early experiences at 37signals as examples, they recommend doing product launches “on the cheap” and they question whether small companies need an accountant when they can use Quicken, or whether they need an IT department when they can outsource.

This book is organized into 87 chapters, each two pages in length.  This straightforward book is an easy read for anyone interested in starting a business.   Available in both print and audio CD at the Ford Library.

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

Book Review: Onward – How Starbucks Fought …

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

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Schultz, Howard. Onward : how Starbucks fought for its life without losing its soul. Rodale, 2011.

More than just a cup of high end espresso, Starbucks is about the great coffee experience — combining the aroma, the flavor, and the human connection to invite every customer to become part of the Starbucks community.

In Onward, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz tells the story of how from 2007-2010, he takes the company back to the guiding principles that he established as a young man from a blue collar neighborhood, balancing profit with social conscience, treating everyone from coffee farmers, to baristas, to customers with fairness, respect and dignity.

When the book begins, entrepreneur and chairman Schultz is dissatisfied with the high growth strategy of CEO Jim Donald, sensing that the quality of the store experience has fallen. Schultz uses backroom politics to force out Donald, and takes over the job as CEO. Writing with passion and sincerity, Schultz describes his company’s problems as sales and profits sag. He engineers a turnaround by retraining staff, closing stores, cutting costs and providing more information to store managers.

More a memoir than a company history, this book is emotional and biased. Yet the personal and authentic style makes an engrossing read for those interested in becoming an entrepreneur or CEO.

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

Book Review: The Zeroes

Monday, August 15th, 2011

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Lane, Randall. The zeroes : my misadventures in the decade Wall Street went insane. Portfolio, 2010.

Founder and editor-in-chief of Trader Monthly and Dealmaker magazines, Randall Lane, tells his company’s boom and bust story, with Wall Street’s mania and reckoning running in the background.  This engrossing story of greed and excess, of power and ego, flies high on wealth and materialism, but comes down in a crash with the 2008 Wall Street meltdown at the end.

The story begins in 2004 when Lane and partner Magnus Greaves launch Trader Monthly, a glossy magazine for, and about Wall Street traders.  A typical trader is a man under 30 earning $400,000 a year and spending all of it.  These men care deeply about who has the fastest car, the biggest watch and the most expensive vodka.  Trader Monthly treats these men as celebrities, displaying their vast wealth and boosting their egos.  Luxury goods advertisers like Gulfstream, Maybach and Bulgari are delighted with the marketing opportunities.

While his company generates few profits, Lane becomes a financial industry insider, rubbing elbows with the rich and powerful.   He sponsors outrageous events to create buzz for his company.  As the economy sours, he uses personal funds to bolster his company.  By 2008 he is unable to sell his company and his personal savings are depleted.  As the book ends, he has little to show for the decade, except this most entertaining story.

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

Book Reviews: 3 Business Biographies

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

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Three engaging new books capture the success and significance of larger-than-life businessmen, Sir Thomas Lipman, Albert Lasker and Felix Rohatyn.

D’Antonio, Michael. A full cup : Sir Thomas Lipton’s extraordinary life and his quest for the America’s Cup. Riverhead Books, 2010.

A self-made man and millionaire tea baron became the first celebrity CEO through endless self-promotion.  In the last half of his life, he allowed his business to erode while he sought fame in yachting.

Cruikshank, Jeffrey L. The man who sold America : the amazing (but true!) story of Albert D. Lasker and the creation of the advertising century. Harvard Business Review Press, 2010.

A portrait of the man who took the concept “Advertising is salesmanship in print,” and created the most powerful advertising agency in the world, turning brands like Sunkist, Kleenex and Lucky Strike into household names.

Rohatyn, Felix G. Dealings : a political and financial life. Simon & Schuster, 2010.

A personal account of a Jewish boy who escaped Nazi-occupied France in 1940 and grew up to become CEO of Lazard Freres, which transformed the entertainment industry through M&A.  Later in life he saved NYC from bankruptcy and then returned to France as US ambassador.

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

Books on the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

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Today (April 20) is the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst oil disaster in American waters in history. The catastrophe began with a series of explosions on the drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 crew members and caused an massive eruption on the wellhead on the ocean floor. The oil gushed for 10 weeks, releasing 20 times more oil than the Exxon Valdez, killing wildlife and ruining the livelihoods of thousands of people who make their living in and around the Gulf.

The two books below provide clear accounts of the disaster, detailing what actually happened and why. BP is one of the largest and most profitable oil companies in the world and promotes its green efforts. Yet corporate policies for cost cutting and for rushing to pump oil led to shortchanged safety features that protect both drilling employees and the environment. Routine maintenance was shoddy and safety improvements were postponed. Federal regulators also share in the blame for not noticing.

BP has paid billions of dollars to victims, yet management has admitted nothing that would lead to a reform of corporate culture. This disaster is ripe for repeat.

Steffy, Loren C. Drowning in oil : BP and the reckless pursuit of profit. McGraw-Hill, 2011.

Business journalist from the Houston Chronicle provides a clear, thorough and readable account of the disaster, analyzing its roots and implications.

Freudenburg, William R. Blowout in the Gulf : the BP oil spill disaster and the future of energy in America. MIT Press, 2011.

Two environmental scholars provide insights into BP, industrial risk-taking, and the histories of oil exploration and US energy policy.

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

Book Review: Crash of the Titans

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

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Farrell, Greg . Crash of the titans : greed, hubris, the fall of Merrill Lynch, and the near-collapse of Bank of America. Crown Business, 2010.

Engrossing and infuriating in equal measure, Crash of the Titans is a story of two troubled companies during the economic crisis, 2007 -2009. On the surface, this book covers the collapse of Merrill Lynch and its sale to Bank of America. But the real story is about the deeply flawed people who ran those companies, who failed to understand the risks they were undertaking and who failed to act in time to save their firms.

Author Greg Farrell, correspondent for the Financial Times, has written a riveting tale of arrogance, posturing and gamesmanship. On Wall Street, preoccupation with bonuses blinded corporate leaders to the financial risks in fixed income departments at Merrill Lynch and other firms. Colossal losses in these departments threatened to bankrupt their companies. After Merrill’s collapse, executives awarded themselves $3 billion in bonuses at the same time as they were laying off thousands of rank and file employees. Failed leadership and epic mismanagement at Merrill Lynch doomed a company that once epitomized the American spirit.

After a hasty decision to acquire Merrill Lynch, Bank of America executives in Charlotte were blindsided by additional losses. At the same time, the bank generated its own losses that the CEO could not explain. Stockholders were outraged about the bonuses paid to Merrill executives. And merging the cultures of the two companies proved difficult. In two years, a strong and profitable bank was forced to rely on federal bailout funds for survival.

Also available as an audiobook.

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