Every month at the Women's Enterprise Centre, we take an hour out of a Thursday afternoon and dedicate it to our Business Book Club. The rules are that all staff may participate, only in doing so they are obligated to read, present, discuss and prepare notes on any business-oriented book of their choice at least once during the year. Refreshments are served, responsibility of the presenter. Today it was papadams and crunchy veggies.
I initiated this Book Club for solely selfish reasons. My work-related business reading pile is beginning to resemble a well-known edifice in Pisa, and I felt that this would be the impetus to choose some good specimens to read and present with deadlines and expectations attached. Other staff have similar architecturally shaped challenges and agreed that this would be a great project that would benefit all. A positive sideline could be that if we loved (or hated) the book, we could blog about it and further vent our delight (or disgust).
I'm happy to report that this month's presentation had delight on every page. Keith McFarland's Breakthrough Company How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers
(Three Rivers Press 2008) was not only a good read, it was full of well-researched information about what major attributes characterize growth-oriented companies. Only two years old, this book has already become a major resource of biblical proportions to thousands of small wannabe BIG businesses, teachers, business support programs, business school students, CEOs and business developers.
McFarland has an easy-to-read style that incorporates vignettes and case studies developed through assiduous research, interviews, surveys and literature reviews. The reader doesn't feel, however, as if he or she is reading an academic study. Far from it; although the research is substantive and well presented, the real heart of the book is about qualitative, rather than quantitative findings. It isn't about financial statements and balance sheets, those are the assumed infrastructure of good business management. Instead, the key to breakthrough thinking appears to be about companies with character and leaders with charisma. It's about crowning the company and not the CEO. A good deal of emphasis is placed on believing in people and hiring for attitude while training for aptitude.
The Breakthrough Company is a very wise book, full of insights and revelations. My copy is so heavily underlined, the pages tagged and notes inserted, that I dare not lend it out for fear that some gem may be lost if one of the notes falls out (a lendee's child, dog, significant other might not treat it as the precious object it is –thus requiring stern measures and possible loss of friendship or even sibling connection). So I'm going to authorize some extra copies at the Centre, untouched by human pen, without folded pages or small pink and green flags, for everyone to read, digest and discuss. We will all be better business advisors for it.