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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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The Extraordinary Business Book Club
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Feb 26, 2024

'The beautiful part of it, which is also the hardest and the most painful part, is the editing... [if] you put a book out into the world which will be around longer than you, you might as well put in the effort to get it right.'

David McQueen has never been one to shy away from tough conversations. In his book, The BRAVE Leader, he challenges all leaders to lean into the difficulty, to be more courageous and ambitious in their decision-making for inclusivity. 

And it turns out that willingness to engage and that refusal to settle served him well when it came to writing his first book. More at home on the stage than the page, David found this a steep learning curve, and he's open and honest about what he discovered along the way. 

But just like those tough conversations, the hard work of writing and editing paid for itself in spades, and the book is now the 'centre of gravity' for his talks and other activities.  

If you need to be braver with your book and/or your leadership, this week's episode is for you... 

Feb 19, 2024

Following last week's quadricentennial episode, a slightly belated but still brilliant best bits episode, showcasing the shiniest gems from the last few Extraordinary Business Book Club conversations. 

The theme is pushing through discomfort, and it brings together extraordinary stories, illuminating insights and gloves-down challenges from: 

  • Errol Doebler on emotional regulation and the discipline of writing; 
  • Sir John Tusa on the traits of people who Get Things Done;
  • Bonnie Wan on writing her way out of the darkest moments; 
  • Andy Brown on taking ideas further; 
  • Sara Dalrymple on getting through the discomfort of selling; 
  • Gillian Camm on getting through the discomfort of editing; 
  • Naren Aryal on breaking through the trust barrier; 
  • Sara Lloyd on how publishers, and writers, face up to challenge. 

Includes ice baths, coffee, deep breaths and showing up. 

Feb 12, 2024
  • How can I start running when I absolutely hate running?
  • What's your one big, albeit lesser known, tip for writing your first book?
  • Have you tried smoked chili peanut butter yet?

When I put out the call for questions for this quadricentennial episode, I could never have imagined the response. From the playful to the profound, these questions have got me thinking and I hope they, and my answers, will get you thinking too. 

So for one week only, to celebrate this 400-episode milestone, you're asking the questions in the Extraordinary Business Book Club and I'm in the hot seat. Very strange, but very fun! 

Feb 5, 2024

"You have to get in front of what you're writing. You have to look at it and you have to type a key. If you don't, it's just not going to happen."

Errol Doebler knows a thing or two about discipline. He's been a Naval Surface Warfare officer, Navy SEAL officer, FBI special agent and SWAT operator before founding his leadership consulting firm Ice Cold Leader, which is also the name of his new book. 

Why ice-cold? Because ice baths form a key part of his own self-regulation regime, and because managing emotional responses is so foundational to effective leadership. Errol had to develop a conscious process for emotional regulation after a traumatic injury robbed him of that area of his brain; that process turns out to be valuable for anyone facing the stress and emotional discomfort that accompany leadership. 

Prepare to be challenged and inspired in roughly equal measure.  

Jan 29, 2024

"We've been innovating forever, before digital formats came along... in a way we have some of the natural abilities we need. We need to remember that and not be too scared when new things come along."

Publishing is an industry that runs on creativity and intellectual property. So how are book publishers responding to the challenges and opportunities of generative AI? Can the book, one of our oldest technologies, survive this latest technological revolution? And if so, what are the implications for authors? 

As the first Global AI Lead for Pan Macmillan, one of the world's largest publishers of trade fiction and non-fiction, Sara Lloyd is grappling with these very questions. In this week's conversation she sheds some light on the conversations taking place in the industry, and the ways that publishers themselves are using AI. She also gives her best tip for authors writing their first book, and it's probably not what you expect... 

Jan 22, 2024

'It's an uncomfortable struggle to land that title of the book, land that sharp, sticky center of the life brief, but it is so worth it.'

As a brand strategist, Bonnie Wan knows how to put together a creative brief that makes meaning out of mess, that goes straight to the essence of what a company is really about. So when she reached a moment of crisis in her own life, she reached instinctively for that skillset.

The result was The Life Brief, not a document but a 'practice of permission' she has adopted in all areas of life now for cutting through the noise and finding what really matters to you, the vision you recognise at a visceral level when you unearth it. 

Along the way she discovered the power of exploratory writing, the power of developing her ideas through speaking and workshops, and the art of leading the reader step by step through an experiential book. 

You're going to love this. 

Jan 15, 2024

"The vast majority of business owners would happily spend 99% of their time creating and recreating and tweaking and iterating on the product side of things, because we know how to do that, we feel of service when we do that. But in order to help people, or to do the work that you love, you have to also talk about it."

For many small business owners, 'selling' feels deeply uncomfortable. So too often they don't do it, and the result is the business struggles along or even fails because not enough people know how great their product is. Sound familiar? 

Sara Dalrymple sees you. Not only that, she has empowering and energising news for you: your sales skills are already better than you think, and you don't have to spend hours of you day selling. In this week's episode, she tells me why our assumptions about selling are outdated, and what effective, zero-ick, 21st-century small-business selling looks like. 

(And also how she came to write a book by accident.)

Jan 8, 2024

'It's the stories we respond to in life. It's people's stories we respond to, and then... you can tease out the lessons. You don't go for the theory head on.'

There are many, many books about creativity: what it is, how to do it, what steps to follow. When journalist and arts administrator Sir John Tusa turned his attention to the topic, he took a rather different approach.

His book is dedicated to 'bright sparks who refuse to become damp squibs', and it tells the stories of people who match that description. Around the world, against great odds, overcoming ridicule and opposition and invariably making many people furious along the way, these individuals achieved extraordinary creative success. From these varied experiences, we see the commonalities emerge and we can't help but be inspired to do things differently. That is the power of storytelling, and this is a masterclass in how to go about it. 

Jan 1, 2024

"If you're thinking about writing a book... that's a gorgeous, sexy goal, but it's very unlikely to happen as long as it stays an outcome, a goal, in that form. But if you start to ask yourself, Okay, what's the process that's going to lead to that outcome? Then it starts to get real.'

When you tell people you're a publisher, you discover pretty quickly that a significant proportion of the population wants to write a book some day. And no wonder. Writing a book is one of the most significant, rewarding uses of your time on the planet, it will challenge and stretch you, deepen your thinking and allow you to connect to the top thinkers in your field, and that's all before the book itself is out there, building your reputation and reach. 

So if you're determined to achieve that goal this year, how will you go about making it happen? Here are some ideas on first steps that will help you turn that dream - or indeed any other - into reality. Happy new year; let's make it count. 

Dec 11, 2023

'Sometimes it's just writing to get it out... you can almost interrogate it more. You can hold it in your hand and you can explore it and you can look at it and then maybe it becomes something or maybe it doesn't.'

Having a good idea is a great place to start when you're writing a business book. But it's only a start. Then comes the real work: testing that idea out, articulating it clearly, and - perhaps hardest of all - drawing out the 'so what?' 

Andy Brown has been through all these stages with The Emotional Overdraft - from recognising that business growth often has a human cost that's hidden from the balance sheet but is no less real for that to developing effective metrics to help leaders manage that cost for themselves and their people. 

If you're a 'doer' whose go-to answer is 'just work harder' or a writer struggling to develop your idea or - even better - both, this is for you.  

Dec 4, 2023
Kathryn Bishop, CBE and Gillian Camm are seasoned members of both private and public sector boards. And they've learned that effective governance comes down not to rigid structure and process but to one of the most ancient human skills of all: conversation. Conversations on the right topics, with the right people, in the right way. 
So it made sense of course to structure the book around the various types of conversation essential for strong boards; but what they hadn't expected was that their collaborative writing process would itself embody the honest, energised, respectful conversational style they were advocating in the book. 
Essential listening if you're a board member, a writer, or simply a human being who needs to talk to other human beings to Get Things Done. 
 
 
Nov 27, 2023

'That book that's for everyone is for no one, right?'

Naren Aryal is laser-focused on the business of publishing for business. In this week's episode he talks to me about how Amplify Publishing Group developed from a single title to one of the world's leading business imprints, the unique goals and expertise of business authors, and why it's so important that you're clear on the target market for your book. (Spoiler alert: it's not 'everyone'.)

 

Nov 20, 2023

"Business books are unique because they are in that sweet spot between business activity and creative endeavour, that’s why I love them so much, that’s why I do this podcast, that’s why you’re here. It’s a beautiful thing."

Too often, people see writing a business book as something comletely different from business itself.

It's not.

In this best bits episode, I draw together the choicest insights of recent Extraordinary Business Book Club guests to demonstrate that writing a business book is in fact a business activity, not simply because it contributes to your business success, but because it draws on your core business strengths. And the skills you develop as you write your book will develop those skills, too. 

You'll hear from: 

  • John Simmons on individuality in business and writing
  • Ginny Carter on the persuasive power of stories
  • Adrian Hornsby on the 17-mattress problem (or how you stop your stories from dying under their own weight) 
  • Ed Haddon on how telling your own stories can build human connection 
  • Josh Bernhoff on why stories beat bald facts every time
  • Catherine Stothart on bringing in workshop experience to increase your writing's impact
  • Katie Lewis & Matthew Stafford on why having a co-author is like having a co-founder
  • Karen Williams on assembling an expert 'project team' for your book
  • Luan Wise on making your marketing smarts the foundation for your book. 

It's so full of inspiration you're going to wish you had an extra of ears... 

Nov 13, 2023

"I started where I think a good marketer should start, by asking some people to read the book and give me their feedback."

Luan Wise, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing with over 20 years of experience in B2B and B2C sectors, is an expert on all things social media. She's also become something of an expert on writing and publishing business books over the last few years, and in this week's conversation we talk about social media tactics, the difficulty of writing about a topic that won't stand still, the value of collaborating with academia for research, the difficulty of fitting the writing around the day job, and advanced procrastination strategies.

With insights into both traditional and self-publishing, this is a classic Extraordinary Business Book Club cocktail of practical inspiration.

Nov 6, 2023

'If I'm not doing my own writing, I'm not properly thinking.'

You'll be familiar with the idea of visual identity in branding: but what about verbal identity? John Simmons, director at Interbrand, recognised that the language you use as a business is just as important - if not more so - as the logo, colours and fonts. 

He also realised that most businesses were doing this badly.  

In this week's though-provoking conversation, he talks me to me about human-to-human business writing, the value of learning to write well, and the joy of it. In his Dark Angels workshops he delights in introducing business people to their own creativity and building their writing confidence. Because when we write well, we think well, and when we think well, we are powerful. 

Oct 30, 2023

"Unless you have a way to differentiate, then you don't really have any sort of justification for putting out yet another book."

There's not much Josh Bernoff doesn't know about writing business books. And he knows that differentiation is everything. Whether it's your unique perspective or a groundbreaking solution, finding your distinctive edge makes all the difference. 

He also encourages authors to think of their book as a pivotal part of a larger ecosystem - and to create a sense of immediacy right up front to capture engagement.

This conversation is a treasure trove of actionable advice and profound insights, a must-listen for anyone aspiring to write a business book that makes a difference.

Oct 23, 2023

Ginny Carter, experienced ghostwriter and award-winning author in her own right, discovered when judging the self-help category for the Business Book Awards that authors were consistently making the same mistakes. The answer was obvious: write a great self-help book explaining how to write a great self-help book!

In this super-practical episode, Ginny pinpoints three critical missteps often made by self-help authors, demystifies storytelling, and introduces her ingenious 'chunking' technique as a way of structuring your content in a way that's more effective for the reader.

Whether you're an aspiring self-help author or a seasoned pro, this episode not only celebrates the profound impact of self-help literature but also delivers invaluable insights to take your own writing from good to great.

Oct 16, 2023

'The problem that you have here, it's not a writing problem. It's a thinking problem.'

When Adrian Hornsby faced the challenge of how to convey complex business information in a way that resonated with readers, he drew on his background in writing fiction for theatre to bring dense business concepts to life. But he quickly learned that using a story to convey information was the exact reverse of what he needed to do. The result is the award-winning Disruption in Action, winner of the 2023 Life and Work Business Book of the Year award. 

As well as a masterclass on storytelling, we talk about learning from feedback and the decision of Adrian and his co-authors to self-publish and the advantages it brings, as well as the challenges. 

Oct 9, 2023

'Motivation is what drives your choice of what to do, and also how hard you try and how long you keep trying for.'

With a wealth of experience in coaching and training leaders from top multinational companies like Airbus, Google, and Audi, Catherine Stothart has developed a deep understanding of what motivates individuals and teams. Understanding these needs can help managers create the right conditions for motivation and engagement within their teams.

We also discuss the importance of aligning communication styles with individual preferences, as it plays a crucial role in building rapport, trust, and uncovering what truly motivates team members, and how so much of writing is actually about talking. 

Oct 2, 2023

"Oh, this is why people write books. This is actually quite addictive, this feeling that you've produced something and it is having an impact."

Katie Lewis and Matthew Stafford are the co-founders of 9others, a unique community that brings together founders and entrepreneurs to find answers to the questions that are keeping them up at night. These conversations have brought some unexpected benefits too, such as the connections and friendships that have emerged from these shared dinners.

In this week's conversation, Katie and Matthew reflect on how their collaborative approach to entrepreneurship and the synergy that has fuelled their business journey as cofounders played out when they became coauthors of their book - Find Your 9others.

Sep 25, 2023

'I thought it was going to be a 20% update and I think the content has changed by about 80%.'

This might sound familiar to anyone who's sat down to update their book. But this conversation isn't just for you if you're considering a second edition: Karen Williams is talking about her bestselling Book Marketing Made Simple, and this conversation is packed with insights and ideas for marketing your business book from day 1. 

From tactical tools to timeless principles, discover best practice in modern marketing - including thoughts on AI - and the enduring joy of writing buddies and post-its.  

Sep 18, 2023

'We need, at the moment, mavericks. We need people of independent thought, courageous, wanting to do things differently, but we need to do that in service of others.'

Mavericks write their own rules. Modern mavericks write their own rules of success. 

Ed Haddon, author of The Modern Maverick, helps people think more deeply and more courageously about what success means to them. What really matters - in their private lives and in the world around them, as well as in their professional lives? As an elite athlete, corporate rebel, and the founder of the first B Corp-certified coaching practice in the UK, he's walking the talk, and might just inspire you to change your own life... 

Sep 11, 2023

In a sense writing a business book – any book, really – is quintessentially about finding and using your voice. You're talking across time and space to a reader for a conversation that lasts for hours; admittedly a bit of a one-sided conversation, but it's not possible to talk to someone for tens of thousands of words without them having a sense of your voice in their head.

So how can you use that voice most effectively? Here's some advice from some of the best writers in the business books business to give you some ideas... 

  • Anne Janzer on what your writer's voice is and why it matters
  • Dr Lucy Ryan on writing for your reader
  • Catherine Garrod on the holistic nature of the writer's voice
  • Nicholas Janni on precision and the craft of rewriting
  • Rachel Lawes on caring, not selling
  • Robin Powell on aligning your interests with your readers'
  • Neil Mullarkey on using humour right (and avoiding the wrong kinds...)
  • Richard Hoare on finding a coherent voice with a co-writer
  • Dennis Sherwood on not getting too hung up about it all too soon. 

Listen in, and discover how to take your voice from meh to aMAZing! 

Sep 4, 2023

When Lucy Ryan's research revealed that midlife women were walking out of corporates in droves at the same age that the men around them were stepping into senior leadership positions, she knew it would make a great PhD topic. There was a massive data gap, and a clear benefit to organizations in understanding why one of their most valuable talent pools was quietly disappearing. Yet as she searched for a supervisor, time and time again she was told the research was 'unpublishable'.

Luckily Lucy is made of sterner stuff, and her research has given us not only a new understanding of why midlife women are revolting against the constraints and biases of corporate life [hint: it's not because they 'lack ambition'], but what changes leaders can make to retain their invaluable talent and experience.

In this conversation we talk through her findings, and also the tricky process of translating a PhD dissertation into a practical, inspiring book for every leader. Be prepared to be enraged, but also hugely entertained.

Aug 28, 2023

'There's all this academic, peer-reviewed, time-tested academic evidence as to how we should invest, and yet we have a whole industry that is trying to get us to do more or less the very opposite.'

Today more than ever, if you want a comfortable retirement, it's up to you to put the thinking and the work in. And the sooner the better. Financial journalist Robin Powell has made it his mission to counter the misinformation and cut through the jargon, and the result is How to Fund the Life you Want (co-authored with Jonathan Hollow). 

He talks to me about his own journey to financial literacy, via journalism, and how he went about turning his findings into a practical and readable book that could really make a difference to someone's life. We even touch on what happens when co-authors disagree! 

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