I am not the most avid reader in the world. The last time a plowed through a few books was the Harry Potter series and before that it was The Da Vinci Code. It takes a whole lot for me to get sucked into a book but every once and a while I find one or two that do the trick. Most recently it was a couple of non-fiction items that were recommended to me via my new day job with Clif Family Winery.
I can also tell you that never in my wildest dreams did I think I would end up writing book reviews… but here we go!
First on the list was Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business: The Story of Clif Bar Inc. When I was handed this book I wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than that the book was the story of Clif Bar, how it came to be, some of the trials and tribulations, how it has evolved over the years and where it is today. What I didn’t expect was that it was going to start with this as the title of the first chapter: “Send them home” (or why walk away from $60 million)”1.
That alone should be enough to get your attention. I won’t spoil to much of what is between both covers but if you are in business in any way, shape, or form this book should be on your to-do list. Hell, if you are just a fan of Clif Bar and what they do this book is worth your time. Besides an intriguing story there are a more than a few life lessons to latch on to. Many of which I would even consider to be common sense but with how fast we are all going 24/7/365 it is hard to maintain our own checks and balances. It also is a great outline for overcoming challenges, even in the face of those who doubt you. At the same time it is humbling because the book tells stories of initiatives that failed and the lessons learned as a result.
The second book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek, was equally entertaining and impressive but more so from a consumer standpoint. It made me realize many of my own “whys;” why I chose to get back into the wine industry, why I took a chance on starting my own wine project, why I make certain wines and not others… in essence: why I do what I do. It was a feel good kind of book for me because I was able to relate to it.
One of the most important messages I received from Sinek’s book was from his description(s) of how many companies do business. To summarize most advertisements or sales pitches, from all kinds of different businesses in different industries, tell you what their product is. It could be a fast computer or a phone that takes pretty pictures. Maybe a cologne or perfume that make you smell like a super model. What they don’t tell you, in general, is why they exist in the first place.
I was immediately able to relate to some of IBM’s new messaging, the whole I’m an IBM-er or something, that is trying to portray not just what their products do but how they are trying to define a way of life. I can’t say it convinced me to buy one of their products but it was a pretty decent example of a company that was trying to figure out its “why” instead of just talking about what they do. A fun game is to try and think of companies that are really good that describing why they do what they do and if it makes a difference in how you approach those products.
If you are looking for a couple of very savvy, business-related books that do a great job of storytelling and putting things into perspective I hope that you will check at least one of these out. These two have definitely made a difference in how I approach my business and life in general.
1 Erickson, Gary and Lorentzen, Lois. Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business: The Story of Clif Bar Inc. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004. Print.