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Control the ink in your industry

“WRITING a book has provided the single greatest return on investment of any business decision I have ever made in the history of the company,” exclaims Todd Hopkins, CEO of Indianapolis-based Office Pride and author of Five Wisdoms for Entrepreneurial Survival. Whoever controls the ink in an industry controls the industry. For years I’ve been encouraging CEOs to write a book. It’s the single greatest marketing tool you can create to attract customers, employees, and industry attention, besides making your children and extended family proud. Best of all, you can hire people to help you ghost write, print, and distribute the book. Mason Harris, founder of YouGotMeals.com, a provider of diner loyalty and email marketing services for restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, took the quick and inexpensive approach to write his book, entitled Entrée Marketing: Six Critical Principles for the Overworked Restaurateur. Though Mr Harris had been developing his material through industry and customer presentations and had talked about writing a book for more than a year, it wasn’t until January that he decided to start. Due to a looming major national industry convention, Mr Harris had roughly six weeks to write his 170-page book. He garnered some great tips from Steve Manning, author of a process on how to write a book in 14 days, including the importance of not editing as you write. “It did take me 100 to 120 hours, including five days’ full-time to wrap up the book,” Mr Harris said. He then spent $3,000 and had 500 copies printed using a quick print publisher, which turned his Word document into a book in two weeks. Not only did people buy his $25 book at the tradeshow, he felt the book helped separate him from everyone else “because we’re the guys that wrote the book”. And he’s already been able to contribute sales leads to the book in the first 30 days since it was published, in addition to sending the book along with proposals. “The book simply increases my credibility,” Mr Harris said. Todd Hopkins, CEO of one of the US’s largest franchised commercial cleaning services companies, with more than 70 franchised locations in nine states, had also been thinking about a book for three years. Like Mr Harris, his material came from training seminars and stories he had been telling for eight years, though most of the stories had never been put in writing. One simple way to organise and write a meaningful book, if you have a set of core values and a core purpose, is to take this list and make them the titles of your chapters. Then, take the next year and gather stories where you and your company have ‘lived’ these principles. These company legends are then retold within each of the corresponding core value chapters. Mr Hopkins essentially took this approach to organising his Five Wisdoms book, spending $6,000 and hiring a creative writer who helped to make the book a more enjoyable read. “The writer also provided accountability for me to stick with the project until its completion,” Mr Hopkins said. He then spent $15,000 to print 4,000 copies, of which he’s distributed 3,000 since publishing the book a year ago. Most he’s given away. “I expected it to help communicate and drive a cultural message throughout the organisation,” Mr Hopkins said. “What I had not considered was the positive impact it would have on recruiting area developers (franchise owners for larger metro markets). “I can simply send a prospect a copy of the book, and many times after they read it, they immediately call and say they want to be a part of our company. “Writing a book is one of the best ways for CEOs to help people get inside their head and to understand how they think and what drives their decisions. For those who agree, this breeds confidence in them joining the organisation.” Equally important, Mr Hopkins has calculated that franchise and area developer fees paid by those who would say reading the book influenced their decision has exceeded $250,000. Not a bad payback in one year. Guy Maddalone, the CEO of GTM, the nation-wide leader in household payroll services and human resource management, took a much more methodical approach to writing his book. “The idea for How to Hire and Retain Your Household Help began in February 2003 as I was preparing for a presentation to some household managers,” Mr Maddalone said. “During the presentation, the audience’s preconceptions were so misconceived it left me wondering if the majority of household employers were as confused as these people.” After conducting an employer survey, Mr Maddalone and his team sensed the majority of household managers were also confused and so they began building ‘how to’ content in the shape of a 29-page draft. By September, he hired someone to research, interview, and write a book with him. By March 2004, the book’s third draft was completed and Mr Maddalone had it reviewed by three labour attorneys, a seasoned HR consultant and several household help clients for accuracy and to provide brutally honest feedback, which really helped shape the book’s final outcome. In April, Mr Maddalone finished the fifth draft and, after further changes, including a last-minute name change, first bound copies arrived in September. Over the 18 months, Mr Maddalone figures the overall cost settled around $70,000, not counting roughly 300 hours of his own time. As of first quarter 2006, Mr Madda-lone had distributed 7,000 copies, mainly to CPAs, marketing partners, agencies, and new customers. And the press has been tremendous, cementing Mr Maddalone and his firm as the industry experts. From multiple appearances on various New York television shows to articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, the coverage has not only provided impressive collateral for his marketing packets, but the book has helped GTM raise its average ticket price since customers are buying more products. The book also helped Mr Maddalone launch a new help desk service, again, because GTM is now seen as the experts. There’s plenty of time in 2006 for you to make your mark. Get writing. Copyright © 2006 Verne Harnish •Verne Harnish was named one of the Top 10 Minds in Small Business by Fortune Small Business. In a one-day seminar on Friday March 2 2007, Verne Harnish will provide those attending the WA Business News seminar practical tools fast-growing companies can use to create focus, alignment, better communication and a winning strategy.

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