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Verne Harnish: Sequels that work

AS I sit down to write this column, the fourth Indiana Jones sequel has just raked in more than $311 million worldwide in its debut weekend at the box-office – hitting number one in 62 countries and giving Steven Spielberg his biggest global opening ever. Here’s to the power of sequels. Similarly, there are some important business book sequels that are worth reading this winter for my friends down under. Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive In the fields of influence and persuasion, Dr Robert Cialdini is the most cited living social psychologist in the world. His classic book Influence has sold more than a million copies and is backed by 30 years of research into how to get someone to say ‘yes’. And he’s the finest speaker I’ve ever heard on a specific topic – his command of the subject, his lucid examples, and his delivery are perfection. In fact, I was so impressed I sent three of my executive team members to participate in his two-day workshop earlier this year. So I was obviously excited to hear that he was co-authoring a new book – really his first new book for 20 years. And I love the structure of the new book – 50 short and concise chapters that take one idea, provide the science behind why it works, and give you an idea how to apply to your business. I’ve been pushing the importance of marketing and this book will give you plenty of ideas to discuss at your weekly marketing meetings. Who’s Your City: How the Creative Economy is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life Richard Florida took on Thomas Friedman and challenged his notion that the world is flat – suggesting instead that it is “spiky” by pointing out that the real economic activity happens within cities, not countries (imagine a global map where economic activity is presented by the length of a spike and you get the idea – the world is not flat economically), and that it does matter where you live even though technology has seemingly made it easier to do business anywhere. To support this point he notes that the combined economies of New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago are greater than all of China. More importantly, more and more of the world’s population are clustering in cities versus remaining rural, thus increasing the spikiness of the global economy. Following on his three bestsellers on the creative class, he’s written a more micro-look at the data he studies every day and applies it to one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make – where to live. Years ago I was told there are only three questions you need to answer: what kind of people do you enjoy being around; what kind of weather you enjoy; and what are your favourite hobbies – then pick a place on the planet where you can enjoy all three and you’ll live a much more fulfilling life. Florida’s book takes this notion to the next level, providing great insights into where you should expand your business or open up an overseas location. What’s the Secret: To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience It seems customer service is back as a hot topic among companies, especially since most products or services are easily commoditised in our global marketplace. In many cases, it’s a company’s level of customer service that is the main (and only) differentiation – and the only thing that makes price irrelevant. What’s the Secret is the sequel to John DiJulius’s first book Secret Service: Hidden Systems that Deliver Unforgettable Customer Service. Its DiJulius’s practical and simple approach to providing customers with a custom experience (Jim Gilmore, co-author of The Experience Economy, was the first to point out that when you customise a service for the customer it becomes an “experience”) that separates his techniques from the dozen other customer service writers. The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Live an Extraordinary Life In a way, this is the business sequel to the hugely popular book, audio, and video called The Secret. John Assaraf, co-author of The Answer, is one of the featured entrepreneurs in The Secret sharing the amazing story of buying his family’s dream home perched above San Diego and then discovering in storage some five-year-old “visualization boards” that included a brochure for the home they had just purchased. Assaraf wanted to understand the neurological reasons behind why this was possible. More importantly, he wanted to provide a way for entrepreneurs to prepare themselves mentally to break through the countless barriers that present themselves as they build their companies. And Assaraf should know, having created several successful real estate, technology, and service businesses which he’s built, sold, and IPO’d to secure his own financial future. His highly enjoyable and positive book has helped me add a few zeros to my thinking and reawakened some of the classic visualisation techniques which have proven powerful over the eons. Two Giants of Business Let me mention two more must-read modern business biographies – Sam Wyly’s 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: How an Inspired American Entrepreneur Built a Billion-Dollar Fortune; and T Boone Pickens’ upcoming book, The First Billion Is the Hardest: Reflections on a Life of Comebacks and America’s Energy Future. I just finished reading the first and was so impressed I booked Wyly to speak at our autumn growth summit. As Fortune magazine so appropriately noted years ago, Wyly is “one of the most, if not the most important, entrepreneurs of the century”. I couldn’t agree more. And though T Boone’s book doesn’t come out until later this year, I heard him speak at a conference a few weeks ago. How he turned a $4.6 million investment into more than $5 billion in a few short years; his plan for eliminating the US’s $600 billion dependency on external energy sources; and his recent purchase of $2 billion worth of wind turbines from GE to build the largest wind farm to date, prove that this 80-year-old entrepreneur still has what it takes to be relevant in the 21st century.

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