My reading and listening have been light this month as I’ve had not one but two terrible colds. You may think that being sick is the perfect opportunity to curl up with a good book or podcast, and you’re right - but I enjoyed some light, easy reading and listening during my downtime versus anything too serious or thought-provoking. That said, I still had a good month reading, listening, and talking about interesting content and ideas.
What I Read
What is more important in a business - a great idea, or talented, engaged people? I remember my entrepreneurship professor asking the class this question years ago, and we resoundingly said a great idea! He pushed back and proved to us through research and examples that talented, engaged people can take an average idea and transform it into something great, while a mediocre group of people can ruin even the best of ideas. While I’ve always remembered this maxim, he never told us how to hire and retain these amazing people. Thankfully, Michelle McClay, Vice President of Deployment and Analytics for The Resource Group, shares her experience and tools for engaging and retaining people in this article.
As someone interested in branding but without a formal marketing background, I loved this book. It is simple, straightforward, and the authors, Al and Laura Ries, build out the content in a logical sequence for the reader to use in a practical manner. Each of the 22 “laws” are presented in a way that one could use and apply them as they are creating a brand, whether for a small business, startup, or an established company looking to launch or revive a brand. Filled with examples of common consumer products, the authors use data and stories to illustrate and justify each law as well. One caveat: the latest version of the book was published in 2002, so some of the examples, and some of the content regarding the internet, are dated.
What I Listened To
I’ve had an interest in personal finance since I was young. Growing up, one of my earliest memories is going into the bank (ATMs didn’t exist yet!) and depositing birthday or Christmas money into my bank account. I loved watching the balance on my bank book grow with every deposit I made, and was fascinated with the idea that smart investing would double your money every seven to eight years - all for doing nothing! While seven years felt like an eternity when I was seven years old, as an adult, I appreciate how quickly money grows when invested and managed well. I’ve read and listened to a few different personal finance personalities over the years, and this was my first time hearing of Ramit Sethi. The son of Indian immigrants, Ramit recounts how he learned negotiation from his father by shopping for cars, often for days on end and a firm grasp on what he wanted from the deal. As a saver rather than a spender, one of the things I appreciated that Ramit talked about was how everyone has different priorities with their money, and that by saving on the things you do not prioritize, you can let yourself dial up your spending on the things you do prioritize. For example., you may love travel and decide to increase your annual spending on travel by five or ten times, funding this by dramatically cutting expenses in other areas of little value to you. This enables you to either travel more or to travel in a different way - nicer hotels, exotic locations, or unique experiences. This advice helped me rationalize the things that are important to me and the things that aren’t, recognizing that they will be different than how other people think about their money. You can listen to the entire conversation here, or read Ramit’s blog here.
What I Talked About
Business Dinner Etiquette
This may be one of the most enjoyable business dinners I’ve experienced during my career. I had the opportunity to host a business etiquette dinner with our summer interns and their managers - about 35 people total - and share information from what to do with your cell phone during dinner to the proper way to eat bread. The most important part of etiquette, which I stressed at the beginning, was for everyone to be comfortable and to have fun. Remember that concept and then act in a way that makes everyone around you comfortable, from the topics you talk about to the amount of alcohol you drink (if any). We also went through specific table manners and I shared some resources with each person to reference in the future. Given the interest in the topic by the group, I’ll share a post with more information on this topic later this month.
Three Lessons from my Mentors
Along with the etiquette dinner, I was honored to be asked to share an executive spotlight to our new interns as well. I mentioned in my Speaking Boldly post that I have been focusing more on telling stories to reinforce ideas during presentations rather than reciting facts and data, and decided to tell three stories that occurred during internships or my first year of full-time employment. The stories focused on the value of giving to others, how to be resourceful/figure things out, and the importance of humility. I covered these stories, and four more, here a few months ago as well.