Author Archives: randy

Is this the One Secret to Failing at a Business? – Obsolescence?

This company is dead. I didn’t kill it. Don’t blame me. It was dead when I got here. It’s too late otherpeoplesmoneyjorgenson34for prayers. For even if the prayers were answered, and a miracle occurred, and the yen did this, and the dollar did that, and the infrastructure did the other thing, we would still be dead. You know why? Fiber optics. New technologies. Obsolescence. We’re dead alright. We’re just not broke. And you know the surest way to go broke? Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure.
You know, at one time there must’ve been dozens of companies makin’ buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best g**da** buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company? You invested in a business and this business is dead. Let’s have the intelligence, let’s have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future.
“Other People’s Money” (1991) — Larry “the Liquidator” Garfield (Danny Devito) Addresses the Stockholders of New England Wire & Cable Co.

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For the tech giants, valuation is about the future. It also helps that each enjoys a near monopoly in at least one industry: music sales, web search, and book sales, for example. Similarly, for the energy giants, valuation is about the future—a future that too many speculators and investors see as dim.
Ellen R. Wald, Forbes (Feb, 5, 2018), Why Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are more Valuable that Exxon and Chevron

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I know…I know…there is no “one secret” to anything.  So, when I say there is “one” secret, I automatically set myself up to be rejected out of hand.

But, I am ready to make a statement that is close to absolute:  the one secret to failing at a business is to be offering an obsolete product or service.  The completely obsolete product will certainly fail to gain customers.  The almost obsolete product, or the on-the-path-to-becoming-obsolete product, will also fail; it just may take a bit of time.

yellow pages_booksI remember sitting is a church board meeting in about 1982, in Long Beach, California.  There was a heated discussion; very heated.  The issue:  where to spend our advertising budget dollars.  The two options were:  a weekly newspaper ad on the Religion Page of the Saturday newspaper, vs. paying for a larger ad in the yellow pages.  I was on the yellow pages side of the argument, by the way.

(Note to younger readers – every house in America used to have, delivered for free to their house, a big thick book called the Yellow Pages, filled with nothing but listings/ads from businesses. I also used to look up telephone numbers for people in the white pages phone book, by the way.
Note to younger readers:  there was a time when most homes in America received, delivered to their houses, a physical newspaper, with the news from the previous day).

There must have been a vast army of people selling yellow pages ads in those days.  Today, you would be throwing your money away to advertise in the yellow pages. — Is there still a yellow pages?  I have not looked at the yellow pages in…years. Many, many years.

And, though I do take a daily newspaper – a physical newspaper delivered to our home daily — I have not looked at the Religion Page on Saturday for years.  Do they still have such a page?  I need to check.

Have you seen the latest short article and video circulating from Business Insider about the fall of Blockbuster? Same story – obsolete.  Obsolete product; obsolete processes.

As I write this at this moment, here is the value of the three most valuable companies:

Apple — $1.385 trillion ($1,385 billion)
Microsoft — $1.290 trillion ($1,287 billion)
Alphabet (Google) – $1.010 trillion ($1,101 billion).
And, for a while a short time ago, Amazon crossed the $1 trillion mark.  (At this moment, it is $925 billion).

It seems like only yesterday that people wondered if any company would ever be valued at over $1 trillion.  Three now are, and four haver crossed the mark.

I remember a few years ago (a little over a decade ago), Exxon was the most valuable company.  Exxon, at this moment, is valued at $289 billion. Apple is $1 trillion, plus nearly another $100 billion, more valuable.  Just breathtaking.

So, what’s the deal?  Yes, a number of technology-based companies have failed; many of them spectacularly.  So, being in the right business is no guarantee of success.  But being in the wrong business – one that is obsolete (think yellow pages; buggy whips; video cassette tapes) – is very bad for business indeed; a guaranteed path for failure.

And, though oil is still plenty valuable, it is no longer the most valuable.  Today’s cutting edge, done well, becomes more valuable than yesterday’s dominant product or service.

So, whatever else you consider about business success, remember to consider this:  is my product of service in danger or becoming obsolete?  If so, you’ve got some serious thinking, and shifting to do.

Read A Book; Speak Clearly and Effectively. Can you do both of these well? – It’s time to get better at getting better.

Read A Book; Speak Clearly and Effectively – Can you do both of these well?

It Couldn’t Hurt, could it?  No one ever lost ground because they were good at reading books. OR because they were good in front of an audience.

We know this; but we don’t work on it. And that’s a mistake.

How long has it been since you’ve made a list of skills that you wish you were better at?

There is an increasingly amount of self-evaluation to tackle these days.  To know what you can do well; and then to know what you could add to that list of skills, and traits…  This is the ongoing challenge in this fast-paced world we work in.

The list of “hard skills” is long; how to use a spread sheet, how to write computer code, how to design slides, how to…

And, of course, there are other skills such as time management skills, and traits such as being an ethical person.  (How do you trust any company led by an unethical leader, or leadership team?).

Here are a couple of skills that are obvious, but…too frequently ignored.

One such skill is the ability to read, and then actually learn from, a book.

Another such skill is the ability to get up in front of a group and hold their attention well enough to get your points across.

Reading well.
Speaking well.

And, these two actually go together.  It is pretty tough to be a good speaker without having something good and useful to say.

So work at both.

Don’t just read the next book you read.  Study it.  Underline it.  Outline it.  Find the key transferable principles and lessons.  Put it into practice.

And don’t just go through the motions when you speak in front of others.  Stand up straight.  Belt out your words loudly and clearly.  Construct your thoughts in a clear, compelling, fully understandable flow of points and lessons.

These are just two such areas to tackle.  I suspect you have others. I know I do…

It’s time to get better at getting better.

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My synopses are useful for learning the key lessons and takeaways from the best business books. And, if you look at my synopses handouts carefully, you might find a model for how to more effectively read a book. Check out our newest additions by clicking here.

Leadership Field Manual by Jocko Willink; The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber – Coming for the February 7, 2020 First Friday Book Synopsis

The First Friday Book Synopsis
February 7, 2020

Here are just a few ways we have tried to describe our event through the years:

#1 — A great Park City Club breakfast — and, it really is a great breakfast!
#2 — Conversations with terrific people – people of substance.
#3 – Full, substantive synopses of two compelling business books. (and, books related to business issues).

“I love good books; and I read books
And share their core concepts
Primarily with people near Dallas
To help people become more literate
And know what to work on
To do a better job
To build a better company
And, ultimately, to build a better life.”

Randy Mayeux

Learn from the best books
Connect with the best people
While you enjoy the best breakfast buffet in Dallas

Like CliffsNotes on steroids
Like Power Reading a business book

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Last Friday, we had another full room for our January First Friday Book Synopsis (yes, on the second Friday of January, because of the holiday).  I presented my synopses of Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday, and Trailblazer by Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce).

{My synopses will be uploaded soon for purchase from this web site.  All of my synopses come with my full, multi-page, comprehensive synopsis handouts, plus the audio recordings of my presentations, recorded at our events}.

For our February 7 First Friday Book Synopsis session, I have chosen a brand new book on leadership by a very popular leadership author, and a “modern business classic.” The new book is by former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, his first book written without his usual co-author Leif Babin.  The other selection was first published in 1986, well before we began our First Friday Book Synopsis events in 1998.  I know that both books will be worth your time.

My synopses are thorough.  Each handout is 9-11 pages long, with sections covering:

  • the point of the book
  • why the book is worth your time
  • the best of Randy’s highlighted passages from the book
  • the best stories from the book
  • many key lessons and principles from the book
  • and, I always conclude my synopses with my lessons and takeaways

If you are in the DFW area, I hope you will mark your calendar now for our February 7, 2020 First Friday Book Synopsis.  You will be able to register soon from the home page of this web site.  Here’s the flier with all the details..

Click on image for full, printable view

Click on image for full, printable view

Here is the January, 2020 New York Times list of Best-Selling Business Books – The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger at #1; Atomic Habits at #2

The New York Times has published its first list of best-selling business books of 2020.  The Atomic HabitsJanuary, 2020 list, as always, has the top ten best-selling business books of the month.

Of the ten books on this month’s list, I have presented synopses of seven of them at our monthly event in Dallas, the First Friday Book Synopsis.  And, my former colleague Karl Krayer presented a synopsis of one other.  That is eight out of the ten best-sellers that we have selected, and presented, at our event.  We don’t miss many…

I presented synopses of:  Atomic Habits, Dare to Lead, Principles, The Infinite Game, Outliers, Extreme Ownership, and RangeRange was my selection for the best business book of 2020.  Obviously, I think it was a very good book in a year of many good books published.  You might want to read my blog post: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is my Business Book of the Year for 2019 – (Loonshots by Safi Bahcall is runner-up).

And Karl Krayer presented a synopsis of Thinking, Fast and Slow quite a few years ago.

RangeBy the way, there are some long-time best-sellers on this month’s list. (There frequently are).  For example, I presented my synopsis of the 2008 book Outliers at the January, 2009 session of the First Friday Book Synopsis.  Karl presented Thinking, Fast and Slow, published in 2011, at the April, 2012 session of our event.  And I presented Extreme Ownership at the December, 2015 session of our event, the year it was published.

One other observation:  there is a shortage of women authors in this month’s list.  Alas, that is the case many months.  On this month’s list, only one book was written by a woman: Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Here is the New York Times list of the ten best-selling business books for January 2020.  Click over to their web site for more info about these books, and links to reviews of some of the books.

#1 – The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
#2 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#3 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#4 – Principles by Ray Dalio
#5 – The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
#6 – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
#7 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
#8 – The Man Who Solved the Market by Gregory Zuckerman
#9 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#10 – Range by David Epstein


We record our synopses at our monthly events.  You can purchase our synopses, with the audio recording, and the pdf of our multi-page, comprehensive handouts, from the buy synopses tab at the top of this page.  Click here for our newest additions.

Stop; Look; Listen –- Stop; Listen; Look — Stillness/Mindfulness is the Key

u-g-Q1BO64Y0What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.

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I have finished my careful reading of the two books I will present at the January 10th First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas (the 2nd Friday of January, because of the holidays).  The two books are Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday and Trailblazer by Marc Benioff.  One is written by a man known for his contemplative nature.  The other is written by a hard-charging, wildly successful billionaire.

TrailblazerBut they each carry one message in common.  In order to succeed, you’ve got to stop, listen, and look.  You’ve got to slow.things.down; often.  You’ve got to be mindful.  And each of these books includes some very helpful “this is how to practice mindfulness” suggestions that you can follow.

You’ve got to be mindful…  No; that’s not quite enough.

You’ve got to PRACTICE MINDFULNESS.  You’ve got to be mindfully mindful.  You’ve got to build in time, by yourself, and even in your group time, for practicing mindfulness.

I had a college professor who said that if you read an idea in one book, pay a little bit of attention.  But if you begin to see the same idea pop up in multiple books, pay a lot of attention.

Admittedly, sometimes people just jump on a bandwagon rather thoughtlessly.  It “sells,” so many people start repeating it.

But, maybe, sometimes the idea spreads because it really is important, and it works.

Marc Benioff practices it in his life, and in his work at Salesforce.
Ryan Holiday teaches it to businesses.

And Bonnie St. Jon, in Micro-Resilience, and Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, in The Power of Full Engagement, talk about how they train athletes in practices that slows one down and helps one focus.  Which is one of the great values of mindfulness.DailyStoicCover

In my earlier life, I would practice what they call in Christian circles a “daily quite time.”  A time of focus for the day.  I have worked through the excellent, one-page a day – absolutely worth reading – The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday in the same way.

And, in one of the books I presented, there was a really simple exercise that I have adopted with some frequency. (Sorry; don’t remember which book).  Before you go into a meeting, sit alone, set your timer for just over a minute, and with your eyes closed, breathe in; breath out; paying attention to your breathing.

We are so frazzled, so overloaded with thoughts and information and content and worries and problems and dilemmas and challenges and…

Stop. Look. Listen.
Stop. Listen. Look.
Be mindful.

You might want to make this one of the areas you focus on in 2020.  It might be a life saver, and a business success builder.  And the people around you just might appreciate you a little more in the process.

Become (more) mindfully mindful in 2020.

Some year-end/new-year thoughts about the value of the First Friday Book Synopsis

For some reason, at the close of this year, I have reflected quite a bit on the value of our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis gathering.  We are closing in on finishing 22 full years – over 500 book synopses presented; two a month, every month.  (OK – we did miss one month, years ago, because of an ice storm).

I recently wrote these lines about our gatherings:

Learn from the best books
Connect with the best people
While you enjoy the best breakfast buffet in Dallas

And this:

We use old technology; a book, paper synopsis handouts, a pen, and a human speaker.

We live in a world overflowing with information  They call this “information overload.”  But increasingly, I think our information input is received in a way that does not maximize remembering, or learning.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I still think the best way to learn is to give our learning our undivided focus; to take a few notes, and review our notes. And then ponder what we have taken in.  In other words, we need to take time to take it in; then time to review and time to ponder.

And there are certainly plenty of ways to take it in.  Tweets; posts; audio input. The practice of listening to audio books is on the rise.

But in terms of “learning,” I suspect that reading with a pen or highlighter is better than listening without taking notes of any kind.  (Yes; I acknowledge I am a little old fashioned in this regard).

We try to provide such a live learning/studying experience at our monthly gatherings. And, I’ve got a hunch that our formula is unique.

We do not rely just on audio.
We do not use PowerPoint.

Here is a page of my Kindle app highlights from the Benioff book Trailblazer

Here is a page of my Kindle app highlights from the Benioff book Trailblazer, which I am presenting at the January First Friday Book Synopsis

I read a book very carefully — every word.  I highlight (literally) hundreds of passages in each book I read.  I share the best of my highlighted passages in our handouts. And then I find the key themes, lessons, principles, and stories, and I finish my handout with my lessons and takeaways. – And, I always begin with why a book is worth our time.

When you attend our events, you get the physical handout.  Usually 9-11 pages for each book.  People take notes as I speak.  And then, for those who want to go deeper, they tell me that they read all of the highlights included in the handout more carefully on their own.

I might describe my handouts this way: the last part is kind of a thorough executive summary of the book, while the entire handout is the deeper dive.

What I think I am saying is this:  though, of course, it is always best to read a book on your own, our event is a true “study” event.  (One regular participant likes to use the classical term “study hall”).  12 meetings a year. Close to 45 minutes of serious study at each event.  And, you really do learn from the synopses of these very good, very carefully selected business books.

Here is the last page of my synopsis handout for a very good book: Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella

Here is the last page of my synopsis handout for a very good book: Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella. Click on image for full view.

Those are my thoughts as to why our event is useful and valuable; still, after nearly 22 years. In other words, people really do find the First Friday Book Synopsis to be worth their time.

Here’s to a 2020 for learning, and studying – at the First Friday Book Synopis, and then the other areas of our lives.

 


 

 

 

 

By the way, you can purchase my synopses from this web site.  Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation recorded at our live monthly event.  Click on the buy synopses tab at top of this site (use the search box for titles that you are interested in).  Or, click here for our newest additions.