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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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Now displaying: Category: business
Jun 28, 2021

Earlier this year, I passed the 1,000-day mark in my #goldenyear running streak. In this week's episode, I reflect on what I've learned from building that habit, and what it's taught me about writing, resilience and when NOT to wear shorts. 

A short episode this week, but I hope you'll enjoy it. 

Jun 21, 2021

Much handwringing goes on over the impact of technology on young people. Many domestic disputes centre on the amount of screentime that should or shouldn't be allowed.

Robert Wigley saw the issue from two perspectives: as a father of adolescent boys, but also as a mentor and investor working with Gen Z entrepreneurs. The results of his research with both are fascinating, and reveal a more nuanced and optimistic story than we usually hear. 

As a first-time author, he also discovered much about the process of writing and publishing which will be equally fascinating to other first-time authors! 

Jun 14, 2021

'You don't have to have everything figured out when you sit down at your computer.... just start writing.'

Jackie Fast sees writing a book just like entrepreneurship - don't let fear stop you, break some rules, figure it out as you go along. And in Rule Breaker: Rebellious leadership for the future of work, she proves that that's the secret of success in the 21st century - the old playbook that so many of us have internalised just doesn't apply any more.

This is a fascinating reflection on her own remarkable journey from broke founder to MD of one of the world's most successful sponsorship companies, and how the process of writing a book mirrored that exercise in courage, exploration and action-taking.

Jun 7, 2021

"I don't care how big of a following you have, who your publisher is, what kind of marketing plan you put together, how big of an influencer you are: if you don't sit down and write, then there will be no book."

This is the game people, and this is how you do the work. Dre Baldwin didn't find basketball magically effortless, but he turned himself from high-school reserve to pro by doing the work, and now he teaches other people how to bring that pro mindset to the work that matters, whatever it is. 

In this conversation we talk about basketball, writing, using the full range of social media channels (well, almost) and how books fit within a content publishing empire. 

If you're looking for magic bullets and excuses this is probably not for you. If you want to be inspired and challenged - hit play. 

May 31, 2021

'Taking an all-seeing, all-knowing, conquering, dictatorial approach to managing people is going to land you in a world of pain.'

Philip Levinson always dreamed of becoming a CEO, and thought he was ready. But when he got there he realised the truth: nothing can prepare you for this. 

In Three Peaks Leadership he shares the lessons he learned, including the fact that leading at the highest level means not just surmounting the initial challenge of securing the role (the first peak), but embedding the changes for the long term (the second peak) and charting a course for the future, including your own exit from the role (the third peak). 

He's disarmingly honest about the lessons he's learned in humility along the way, both in leadership and in writing this book.... 

May 24, 2021

'What elements of your imperfection are you going to bring to the table?'

That's the powerful question that strategist and storyteller Minter Dial poses about writing, but it could equally well be applied to leadership. Having all the answers is no longer what we need from our leaders: in a disrupted, uncertain world we need leaders who are willing to admit that they don't know everything and to show up as their whole selves. 

This is a thoughtful, wide-ranging conversation and it is pure audio gold.

May 17, 2021

It's one of the great paradoxes of business books that they're written by experts, but the process of writing them is itself what builds expertise.

In this Best Bits episode nine recent guests reflect on how writing their book changed them - often in unexpected ways. 

  • Judy Piatkus on the impulse behind publishing self-development books
  • Greg McKeown on writing Effortless for himself as much as anyone
  • Grace Marshall on the struggle of writing Struggle
  • John Williams on how work can be play
  • Frederique Murphy on writing in flow
  • Sarah Frier on finding out what you’re trying to say
  • Keel Hunt on asking great questions
  • Diana Marsland and Julie Nerney on learning and pivoting
  • Clive Lewis on writing with passion.
May 10, 2021

'This experience has taught me, like a lot of the work I do in life, that where you start isn't necessarily where you'll end up... the book we've written is much more practical and purposeful for our readers as a result of us really listening to [their feedback] and not being afraid to change our minds.'

Diana Marsland and Julie Nerney began their work on Own Your Day just before the pandemic hit, and with a hypothesis that they were pretty confident about. Over the course of the next year, everything changed: their rigorous research disproved their original hypothesis and revealed a different path, and their close collaboration had to shift online as lockdown hit. For some authors that could have been the end, but Diana and Julie found a way of working together that transformed those setbacks into a new creative energy.

In this conversation we talk about how management is changing and the issues faced by those with the Herculean task of translating strategy from the top into results on the ground, and also about those processes of research, pivoting and collaboration. The result is a masterclass for anyone wanting to write a book grounded in the real world, and particularly for anyone thinking about writing with a partner. 

May 3, 2021

'One of the first principles to make progress in writing is to have the courage to be rubbish because all writing, literally absolutely all of it, starts rubbish.'

If his first book, Essentialism, was about prioritization, Greg McKeown's second book, Effortless, is about simplification. And this is no theoretical treatise: the truths behind the book were born out of a deeply traumatic personal experience, and Greg and his family's conscious decision to choose the 'lighter path'.

Profound wisdom about life and robust advice for writing that might just change your life (and your business book). 

Apr 26, 2021

In our fascination with tech start-ups and big corporates, we might be tempted to overlook the family business. Keel Hunt describes Ingram as 'the quiet company' - 50 years young, still family owned, and still quietly partnering with all the other players in the book supply chain to innovate and do business better. 

If you love books, chances are you'll have benefited from an Ingram service perhaps without even knowing it. And as books have faced the challenge of the digital revolution, it's perhaps down to Ingram rather than other flashier, more famous companies in the book supply space that the book industry continues to thrive, and in particular to their habit of asking: 'Why are we doing it this way?'

Keel Hunt also reveals some hard-won journalistic secrets of interviewing and research, and how you find 'the story that hasn't been written yet'. 

Apr 19, 2021

'I think we're going to have another watershed moment... there's going to be business pre-pandemic and business post-pandemic. And I wonder how many business books are going to feel out of date.'

As a woman founder in publishing, Judy Piatkus is one of my heroes. Working from home long before it was fashionable, navigating caring for a child with special needs alongside the casual sexism of the 1980s, she quietly built up a pioneering company specialising in self-development. And along the way she transformed her own consciousness through the books she brought into the world. 

Her story reflects many common themes of entrepreneurship, women at work, the digital revolution and the the power of books and of bringing people together. 

Apr 12, 2021

'Productivity isn't just about efficiency.'

As a Productivity Ninja, Grace Marshall was used to helping people who were struggling - with overloaded inboxes, poor time management, any number of everyday productivity pits. But she noticed that in many cases there was a different kind of struggle going on, one that wasn't talked about so much, one that couldn't be solved with a shiny new system, one that could even hide beneath a frenzy of productivity. 

Gradually she realised that this kind of struggle isn't a sign that something's getting in the way of the work, it IS the work. And so she started a new conversation about struggle - professionally and personally. 

(It was a struggle. Naturally.)

Apr 5, 2021

'The hardest part is getting started, getting that first paragraph on the page. And once I've been able to do that, generally for me, my writing then flows from that.'

Clive Lewis has written 17 books, so he's learned a bit about organizing and communicating his ideas. He writes about the things that mean most to him - this time it's the toxicity of the workplace (which is itself of course a microcosm of society) and how to create more positive, healthy environments. [Spoiler alert: it often just comes down to speaking and listening.]

In this week's Extraordinary Business Book Club conversation we talk about the 'new normal' and the old issues at work, about empathy, diversity and inclusion, setting goals, getting started (and the difficulty of finishing), and the intoxicating power of words. 

Mar 29, 2021

'The reason why I was able to write it in 12 weeks is that I mapped out my entire book, sticky note by sticky note... And then I was relentless. I just went one word per sticky note and built the whole thing.'

For someone who comes alive on the stage and accesses their flow speaking in front of an audience, the last year has been tough. But Frederique Murphy discovered that she could re-access that state of flow through writing her book, by delivering it as if to an audience, and the results were astonishing. 

Astonishing results are something of a speciality of Frederique's, and in this remarkable episode she shares something of the science behind her approach to helping leaders break free of their limitations and achieve their full potential. (Spoiler alert: this also involves writing...)

There's also powerfully honest insights into the process of publishing, and the vulnerability that involves. 

Mar 22, 2021

Instagram has had a massive impacting in shaping our culture over the last decade - it's redefined our measures of success and celebrity. It's easy now to see it as somehow inevitable, but in No Filter, winner of the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year 2020, Sarah Frier uncovers the backstory of the app - the philosophy of its founders and the complex relationship with new owner Facebook. 

Along the way she also takes us behind the scenes of her own writing practice - the journalistic imperative to find the new angle, the colour-coded index cards, the plot-shaping, the late nights, the long showers, and the rosé.

A masterclass in business book writing and a fascinating glimpse into one of the defining forces of our culture. 

Mar 15, 2021

'Everything is sales... the title should sell people on reading the subtitle, the subtitle should sell people on flipping it over to look at the blurb and the blurb should sell you on opening the book up and flicking through it. And if all those things occur in the right way, then the chances are you'll buy the book.'

John Williams is an ideas guy, and he helps other people make their ideas happen too. He's also a very experienced marketer and business book writer, and in this conversation he shares exactly how he knocked out a full first draft of his new book F*ck Work, Let's Play in just nine days... 

Packed with practical inspiration for entrepreneurs and writers, this is a fascinating under-the-hood glimpse into the mindset and methods of someone who's succeeded at both.

Mar 15, 2021

'Everything is sales... the title should sell people on reading the subtitle, the subtitle should sell people on flipping it over to look at the blurb and the blurb should sell you on opening the book up and flicking through it. And if all those things occur in the right way, then the chances are you'll buy the book.'

John Williams is an ideas guy, and he helps other people make their ideas happen too. He's also a very experienced marketer and business book writer, and in this conversation he shares exactly how he knocked out a full first draft of his new book F*ck Work, Let's Play in just nine days... 

Packed with practical inspiration for entrepreneurs and writers, this is a fascinating under-the-hood glimpse into the mindset and methods of someone who's succeeded at both.

Mar 8, 2021

Writing a business book is a particularly visible form of leadership - how do you find the courage for that? In this week's look back through my most recent Extraordinary Business Book Club conversations, I uncover the principles, tactics and Jedi mind tricks that enabled these authors to find the courage to make their voices heard. 

There'll be something here that you can use too, to make yourself a little bit braver and a little bit more likely to succeed. 

Learn from: 

  • Drew Ellis on taking risks in a manageable way
  • Stephen Van Bellegham on sharing your story early
  • Susanne Althoff on confidence for women
  • The $7 Millionaire on sneaking past your inner critic
  • Yetunde Hofmann on love-based research 
  • Rob Kerr on the power of involving other people
  • James Ashton on podcasting as a test bed
  • Sara McCorquodale on not taking rejection personally
  • Kathryn Bishop on focusing on the reader, not yourself.

If there's a recipe for courage, this is it. 

Mar 1, 2021

'If you can just get over the fear of failure and treat failure as a learning process, then... you're going to go on to do some great stuff.'

From designing the iconic 'Choose Life' t-shirts of the 1980s to launching one of the first lockdown festivals of 2020, Drew Ellis has been living by this mantra for years now. 

One result of his experimentation is Like Minds, a global thought leadership and events company, and in this conversation we explore how it happened, why events and books are such a perfect partnership, and the future of audio and particularly Drew's plans for Clubhouse.

And if you're playing small, there's a challenge here for you: be seen. There are so many options that there are no excuses any more.   

Feb 22, 2021

'In a way you have to be really cocky and bold to say I'm going to write a business book and it's going to be worthwhile and lots of people will want to read it. You have to be overflowing with confidence. And I saw in my interviews with women entrepreneurs that confidence is hard to sustain. Not only do women often knock down their own confidence, they have negative self-talk themselves, but in addition to that, they hear messages all around themselves, telling them this is not suitable for you.'

Susanne Althoff and I explore the parallels between writing while female and launching while female in this fascinating conversation, and I also learn some journalist's tips for getting started, practical ideas for organising your material, and the useful mind-bending trick of tricking yourself into not thinking you're doing what you're doing... 

Feb 15, 2021

For most of the guests on this show, writing a business book is part of building a personal and professional brand. This week I talk to someone who has no interest in having his name on the book he's written: he just wants to get the concept out there. 

When his teenage daughter asked him 'Dad, what's the smallest amount of money you would have to put aside each day to become a millionaire?' he sat down and did the maths with her. And then he did it again, and one more time, because he couldn't believe the answer. 

Discover how the $7 Millionaire concept has grown from there, the difference it's making to lives, how a talking frog helps overcome people's fear of finance, and how the author tricked his inner critic into allowing him to get the book written.

Feb 8, 2021

'By the way, do you have a strategy for you? Because if you don't, you should.'

That throwaway line in a top-level strategic meeting was a game-changer for Kathryn Bishop. As a high-flying professional and academic, she had an astonishing array of strategic models at her disposal for evaluating options and making decisions. Why not draw on those tools when it came to planning her own life? 

Navigating shifting and competing priorities is especially difficult for women, so she decided write the book she couldn't find when she needed it herself: a guide to help women apply powerful strategic thinking to make optimum decisions at key transition points in their own lives. 

But how do you marry cerebral boardroom models with the emotional realities of life as we live it? As someone who used bullet points in her love letters, Kathryn knew she had some work to do to achieve a conversational tone, and she found a rich and fascinating way to achieve it. 

Feb 1, 2021

Steven Van Belleghem sees opportunities to experiment everywhere. When he works with brands like Google, Microsoft, and Disney to help them combine technology and behavioural trends to create outstanding customer experience, but also when he writes. He wrote the first business book to include augmented reality, he writes fiction to explore the possibilities of the future, and his latest book features a specially composed soundtrack. 

He's also developed a unique approach to structuring and writing his books, which he generously shares in this conversation, and encourages us all to find the courage and curiosity to experiment for ourselves...  

Jan 25, 2021

No business can ignore social media influencers these days, they're part of the fabric of our lives both personally and professionally. But what are the opportunities and the pitfalls for the influencers themselves and for the brands that work with them?

Sara McCorquodale set out to answer that question, and along the way discovered the very human stories behind the public faces. She also discovered that the resilience she'd developed as a journalist stood her in good stead through the research, and shares some tips on how to approach that for first-time writers.

Fascinating from both a business and a writing perspective. (How very Extraordinary Business Book Club.)

Jan 18, 2021

Having interviewed hundreds of CEOs as a journalist, James Ashton started to notice some patterns. He got curious. In this fast-changing world, where leadership is more challenging than ever, what kinds of leaders have emerged and how do they respond to those challenges?
A fascinating conversation about leadership itself, but also a practical glimpse into how a professional journalist organises and structures ideas to create a powerful book. 

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