The Extraordinary Business Book Club

Alison Jones, publisher and book coach, explores business books from both a writer's and a reader's perspective. Interviews with authors, publishers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, tech wizards, social media strategists, PR and marketing experts and others involved in helping businesses tell their story effectively.
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The Extraordinary Business Book Club





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Sep 14, 2020

'Failure can be quite a deceptive word... misadventures feels like a much more forgiving word that allows you to go off and try stuff.'

Gayle Mann and Lucy-Rose Walker have supported thousands of entrepreneurs in their work with Entrepreneurial Spark and beyond, and if there's one thing they've learned it's that the reality of being an entrepreneur is very different from the version portrayed on social media. 

By encouraging entrepreneurs to share their misadventures and how they coped, they hope to end the conspiracy of silence: you're not alone, and you will get through this. 

They also learned a huge amount about writing a book and hosting a podcast along the way, which they share with hilarious frankness here!

Sep 7, 2020

"Being open to the journey of innovation of your own book is really important..."

Someone told Elvin Turner as he prepared to write his first book to expect two things: first, that he would have a ton of new ideas, and second, that as he forced those ideas onto the page, they would simplify, and simplify, and simplify. 

Turns out they were right, and Elvin revelled in the 'IP generator' that his book Be Less Zombie turned out to be. 

In this fascinating conversation we talk about zombie companies and the importance of embedding innovation, but also about how that process plays out in writing. And we also muse on just how late a manuscript has to be before it's REALLY late...  

Aug 31, 2020

Imposter syndrome gets a bad rap, but it can be rocket fuel, says Rita Clifton.

'It's a drive, you know, go with it and use it.... you worry that you're not going to be good enough, and you stretch yourself. That's when you grow most.'

As well as talking about her own extraordinary career, from a working-class family to Cambridge and then on to top roles at Saatchi & Saatchi, Interbrand and more, plus a portfolio of non-executive directorships for businesses and environmental groups, she talks about how writing has become a passion and how she goes about it. 

A deeply satisfying conversation, full of inspiration and also practical tips for working and writing better. 

Aug 24, 2020

Q: What do you get when you throw together a bunch of people all working on different business writing projects into a 2-week virtual retreat? 

A: Lots, it turns out. 

If you're listening to this podcast you already know how valuable writing is for your business, but that doesn't mean it's easy. In this special episode, eight participants in the most recent Practical Inspiration Virtual Writing Retreat share what they learned over the two weeks. Discover why writing doesn't always look like writing, simple tools to get you unstuck and clarify your thinking, the power of focus and the pull of distraction, and why precommitment works. 

Aug 17, 2020

'Writing is a way of doing something physically while thinking deeply, it's a container for deep thought in your life. If you think about it that way, it's a really wonderful thing to make time for in your life.'

Anne Janzer's mission is to 'help people spread important ideas by writing'. In this conversation we talk about why that matters and what it looks like in practice. What IS the process of writing? Spoiler alert: it starts long before the actual writing. Inspiring, energising and relentlessly practical.

Aug 10, 2020

Yes it's a cliché that writing is a journey, but that's because it's TRUE. In this week's Best Bits episode I look back over the last few conversations in The Extraordinary Business Book Club and highlight the ways in which my guests have been shaped and changed, and moved forwards in their lives, by the experience of writing their books. Do you recognise any of these? 

  • Tom Cheesewright on how working with an editor turned his whole message on its head
  • Rob Law on how an editor spotted the pivotal moment that made sense of his story
  • Katy Granville-Chapman and Emmie Bidston on the importance of psychological safety and the value of supportive criticism
  • Richard Fox on making connections through writing 
  • Gemma Milne on the transcendent joy of research and the dull slog of actual writing
  • Marianne Page on trying out new ways to write and the importance of deadlines
  • Tony Crabbe on what you discover about yourself when you write a book in 16 days
  • Rachel Bridge on what happens when the book spills off the page and into your life
  • Sasha Frieze on the speaking journey - how authors can pitch to event organisers. 


Aug 3, 2020

How are events changing in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, and what does that mean for you if you're an author? 

Award-winning events producer Sasha Frieze talks about how digital events are evolving, what the hybrid event of the future might look like, and the opportunities and challenges for speakers and authors in this new world. 

From how (and when) to pitch for a speaking gig to smart tips for selling your book when you can't sit and sign it at the back of the room, this is every author's survival guide to the new normal of speaking and events. 

Jul 27, 2020

In a pandemic, we discover that we can do things we’d never imaged we could.

Companies that have told staff for years that they can’t work at home have discovered that in fact they can, Tony Crabbe discovered that he could write a whole book in 16 days, and Hachette discovered that they could publish a book three weeks after it was delivered.

In this week’s conversation Tony reflects on what he (and his family) discovered about working at that intensity, and shares some of the insights from the book about how to live and work more productively and with less stress in these extraordinary times.

We also talk about what really restores us, and how we can navigate our way out of crisis and into a new, better normal.

Jul 20, 2020

'Systems transform lives.'

After discovering the power of systems and processes in her career with McDonalds, Marianne Page now spends her time teaching small business owners that life-changing systems and processes aren't just for big companies. 

We also talk about the joy of management, the power of the deadline, and the smart way to write a book... 

Jul 13, 2020

'It's part of building a physical legacy. The work that I do now, working with people all the time, you are aware of the changes that people make in their lives, but I've also been rather envious of this friend of mine who's an architect and he was showing the portfolio of all the buildings that he's been designing; you know, to write a book is, is part of a legacy, not only for your children, but for people over the next 10, 15 years. And of course I'll be adding to that legacy with all the stuff that I want to produce in the future.'

Richard Fox has been helping people make relationships work at work for many years now, but the process of writing his book revealed new insights and connections (as it always does...) and also became an exercise in collaboration that reflected the very principles he was writing about.

A fascinating insight into some of the key issues that underpin our relationships (and therefore our ability to Get Stuff Done) as well as the process of turning deep work done face to face into material for a book.

Jul 6, 2020

"Leaders... really can bring a lot of joy into people's lives. They can uplift them, they can inspire them, they can help them connect to their purpose, they can support them, they can provide them compassion. That’s what we really care about, and the more leaders who choose to do that, because it's got massive performance benefits as well as being intrinsically a wonderful thing, the better."

It's no exaggeration to say that leadership is life-changing, either for good or ill. Between them Katy Granville-Chapman and Emmie Bidston have experience of leading and training leaders in pretty much every context - military, sport, business, educational, government and public sector - and they've discovered that in every sphere the principles of successful leadership are surprisingly simple: know, love and inspire your people. 

In this conversation we explore how they went about translating those principles into a book and accompanying course, and the benefits of writing with a supportive co-author. 

Jun 29, 2020

"When faced with personal challenges and business challenges, it's going to take a lot of energy to overcome them. So why not use that energy wisely and focus on the things you can influence and forget about the stuff you can't?"

Rob Law, aka Trunki Daddy, has faced more personal and business challenges than most. In this conversation he talks about living with cystic fibrosis (or '65 roses', as children often put it), his extraordinary journey as an entrepreneur, and the power of writing as a way of sense-making personally and professionally. 

Inspiring, challenging, and, as you'd expect from the Trunki Daddy, huge fun. 

Jun 22, 2020

'Writing the book was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life... There's no quick fix. Everybody finds it hard. What differentiates people who have written books from those that haven't is the ones who wrote the books dealt with the fact that it was really hard.'

Gemma Milne has come at hype from all sides in a career spanning advertising, sales, science journalism and investment, so she's well qualified to dissect it and help us understand what's really going on under the attention-grabbing headlines that bombard us every day. 

But that doesn't mean it's easy. 

In this frank and funny conversation she shares her frustration with the writing process and the revelation, on a flight to Austin, Texas, that transformed everything. 

Jun 15, 2020

Tom Cheesewright spends his life gazing into the future to help businesses identify and respond to trends and technology, but his advice for writers is rooted in the here and now. A fascinating conversation taking in principles for business survival in a fast-changing world along with super-practical tips for writing - and editing - effectively. 

Plus a great tip for writers that is much more fun than most! 

Jun 8, 2020

'Ask yourself continually: is this boring me?... Because if you're bored writing it, there is no chance that anybody is going to want to read it.'

Former Enterprise Editor of the Sunday Times, Rachel Bridge cheerfully admits that she has the classic journalistic characteristics: a short attention span and incurable curiosity. Both, it turns out, are useful when it comes to writing readable business books. 

Fast, funny and fearless, this is a masterclass in cutting through the 'showy-off wibble' (technical journalistic term) and delivering the goods. 


Jun 1, 2020

One of the great privileges of hosting this podcast is the way that so many extraordinary business book authors are willing to share the vulnerable stuff - especially the fear and uncertainty around writing - with me, I hope you find it helpful too. 

In this week's episode, I look back over the last few weeks and draw together examples of authors demonstrating 'whole self' writing: bringing their flaws, anxieties, strengths, superpowers, and unique ways of Getting Stuff Done to the work of writing a book. When you bring your whole self to the job, you write the book that only you can write, and the one that will most profoundly change your life. 

In this week's Best Bits episode: 

  • Chris Wilson on transforming the harshest of backgrounds and the bleakest of situations through the power of reading and writing;
  • Bryony Thomas on the unflinching reality of just how hard this writing lark is;
  • Patrick Dunne on turning dyslexia into a non-linear superpower;
  • Elsbeth Johnson on the crisis of confidence for an author without a social media platform; 
  • Julia Hobsbawm on how even professional writers can worry about tackling a book; 
  • Lucinda Carney on the struggle to find your distinctive voice; 
  • Greg Orme on being comfortable with the messiness of writing; 
  • David Mansfield on living by curiosity and collecting stories;
  • Anne Taylor on writing the book you most need yourself. 

It's an exploration of the whole journey of writing, from idea through mess and uncertainty into clarity, and it's a whole-self process. 

May 25, 2020

'I decided not to do research, then write, then polish, but to have a big jigsaw approach, and do each day what I felt like doing. So if I felt like doing a bit of research, I would, if I felt actually I've got some stuff in my mind. I want to get down then I'd write and if I just fancied sort of finishing, polishing, I'd do a bit of that.'

Patrick Dunne fell into writing books by accident. The main reason he agreed to write one in the first place back in 1997 was because he knew his Mum would be so proud. Little did he guess just how proud she'd be over 20 years when he won the Business Book Award in HR & Management with his latest book, Boards

His refreshingly original approach to writing and publishing together with a complete absence of ego make this a real joy of a conversation, full of practical ideas for people who like to do things a little differently.  

May 18, 2020

If you're overthinking things and tying yourself in knots, make a cup of tea and have a listen to this. Lucinda Carney is a woman who Gets Stuff Done, and in this conversation she reveals how she does it.

It's a great example of how creating content - in this case a book and a podcast - can support whatever business you're in: Lucinda is CEO of a tech company, and both How to be a Change Superhero and the HR Uprising podcast provide the context that helps their customers make the system implementation successful. 

A brilliant case study and a shot of pure writing adrenaline, all in one conversation. 

May 11, 2020

Just occasionally, you have a conversation that rocks you to your core. One of those conversations that shows you how little you really know of life, how blind you are to your own privilege, and how feeble your excuses are.

This is one of those conversations. 

Chris Wilson was facing life in prison for homicide, with no hope of remission. After an upbringing marked by deprivation, violence, abuse and discrimination, his only resources were strength of character, force of will, and a love of reading. 

Fortunately, those were enough. 

Chris wrote out a Master Plan - a remarkably ambitious list of achievements he would aim for - and gradually ticked them all off. incredibly, he convinced a judge that he was not only no longer a danger to society, but an asset. And he's gone on to live a remarkably successful life as an artist, businessman and mentor. 

This is a conversation I will never forget, and I suspect you won't either. 

May 4, 2020

'In leadership communication, and indeed in the process of writing a business book, the more and better the quality and time spent on the thinking, the less time and the more effective the actual production of the communication or the book.'

Dr Elsbeth Johnson certainly put the time into creating her Step Up, Step Back model - the years of academic research and practical testing in organisations meant that she was able to write the book itself in just a few months. (The book proposal, on the other hand....) 

In this conversation we discuss the two phases of leading change, the shift from academic writing to writing that works in the workplace, and the tyranny of the platform and why you don't necessarily need one ('other people who were coming out with books... seemed to have about one and a half million followers on Twitter, I've got about three'). 

Apr 27, 2020

'The more I shared my personal experience... the more vulnerability I showed, the more impact it had when I got feedback from other readers.'

It's amazing how often the process of writing a book reflects the principles within it. That was certainly the case for Anne Taylor, who set out to write a book on soft skills for pragmatic, analytical thinkers focusing on practical, analytical tools and discovered that modelling the very soft skills she was writing about - sharing personal stories and focusing on relationships and lived experience - transformed the reader's experience. 

She also discovered that although she'd feared asking for favours, when she dared to reach out to invite people to be involved in the book they were not only generous in their support but honoured to be asked - a great lesson for anyone feeling isolated as they write. 

A generous and insightful conversation about how we communicate and the impact - personal and professional - of a book. 

Apr 20, 2020

The opportunities for celebration aren't what they used to be right now ('I treat myself and visit the kitchen every now and then..'), but Greg Orme is still enjoying his 'award-winning author' status after The Human Edge was named Business Book of the Year last month. 

In this conversation he shares not only his thoughts on our human edge over AI (with a special shout-out for my personal favourite, curiosity) but also his writing process, which is reassuringly and helpfully messy. 

Plus there's a lovely insight into the moment when I announced him as the winner - I only wish we'd had a two-way video feed... 

Apr 13, 2020

'Anyone who says writing a book is something you can do in 12 weeks or something is just telling people to write a bad book. '

It took Bryony Thomas four years to write the first edition of Watertight Marketing (although she did also give birth in that time...), but the time and energy she put into nailing the sequencing and expression of her ideas paid off. 

Not only was the first edition a massive success, it became the foundation of a much bigger business. In this conversation we discuss the value of intellectual property as an asset, and also how you approach the task of revising such an iconic book.

When the second edition was nearly complete, Bryony received a devastating diagnosis of pancreatic cancer: she talks frankly about the impact of that in this powerful, profoundly inspiring conversation. 

Apr 6, 2020

David Mansfield has a library of business books at home. Many of them are very good, many include great concepts and strategies. But he kept finding himself asking: 'How do you apply that to Monday morning?'

And so The Monday Revolution was born - a rallying call to rethink your working week and return to 'factory settings'. What really matters? And what's getting in the way of that? 

In this week's conversation he shares his writing journey, with great tips particularly on how to turn the stories that present themselves to us every day into material for a book. 

Mar 30, 2020

'It was actually like falling in love, if I'm honest.'

If you've fallen out of love with writing your book and even with your own ideas, this is just the tonic you need. Julia Hobsbawm lucidly talks through the evolution of The Simplicity Principle, with a behind-the-scenes look at the evolution of the thinking that underpins its six-part structure, and her passion for her topic will reignite your own.  

Published in a pandemic that was unimaginable when it was written, this book passes the ultimate test: its principles retain their power and relevance despite the seismic shift that's taken place in the world. 

Essential listening. 

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