When I described our most recent restructuring plan to a friend – a seasoned and successful financial professional - he was certain we must have hired McKinsey & Co. to help us think things through. Wrong. It was Erika Andersen. Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group
In response to my post below, I got a great comment from my new friend and fellow blogger/consultant Wally Bock, who pointed out that the business guru list was based largely on people’s popularity from having written business books – and that very few business books are written by women.
Hmmm, I thought: so I went to the Penguin Portfolio website and found that, of the 50 or so books Portfolio published from the end of 2006 to the end of 2007, only 3 were by women: Carly Fiorina, me, and a woman named Catherine McBreen (who was listed as co-author with a guy).
So then I did a little more research and found – nothing. I’m a good Googler, and I was completely unable to find anything referencing the percentage of business books written by women. So I went to 800CEOREAD to look at their top sellers for the past month: of the top 25, one was written by a woman (and it was a book for women – called Inside Every Woman: Using the 10 Strengths You Didn’t Know You Had to Get the Career and Life You Want Now).
Again I say – what’s up with that? I have some theories: First, I think men are much more likely than women, as a group, to think they have something important to say to the world and to be willing to put themselves forward to say it in a very public forum. Second, I suspect publishers are more likely to listen to a man with a good idea for a business book than to a woman. Third, most business books are written by people in their 40s, 50s and 60s (accumulated wisdom, etc.), and I think it’s the folks now in their 20s and 30s who are going to level the playing field in this regard.
But what do you think?
Here’s a great post from the Wall Street Journal’s “Independent Street” blog, noting that the WSJ’s recent list of top business thinkers and a recent story in USA Today talking about rich entrepreneurs have one thing in common: neither one contains a single woman. The comments are even better than the post itself.
I don’t know the solution to this problem, but I suspect that having these kinds of conversations is part of it.
And, at the risk of sounding way too hopeful, I think time is part of it, also: I hang out quite a bit with my son (20), my daughter and her husband (24 and 25), and their friends (18-30, mostly)…and I just can’t imagine that, when they’re my age, there will still be this disparity between men and women in business. They seem much clearer (to me) about actual gender differences and fake gender differences: much less likely to assume – for instance – that men are intrinsically better at business than women.
I don’t want to wait 30 years, though — so let’s keep talking…
Michael Porter has sold roughly eight ka-jillion more books than I have, so this may seem a bit audacious of me, But here goes, anyway.
I’ve gotten into the habit, over the past couple of months, of googling the phrase “being strategic” – mostly to make sure that someone hasn’t purloined my title and beaten me to the punch, but also just out of curiosity. One entry that consistently shows up near the top of the Google-pile is an article (or rather, some excerpts from a talk) by Michael Porter at a Balanced Scorecard confab in 2002, titled “The Importance of Being Strategic.” As you might suspect, I felt quite curious to see what Mr Porter had to say. So, I bought it from the HBR website, downloaded and read it.
It was interesting. And I have no doubt it was useful to the folks to whom he was speaking, who – in their post-dot-com-bust angst – seem to have been wondering if they should throw their strategy out with their internet investment bathwater.
At the same time, it reinforced my conviction that most people severely and unnecessarily limit their idea of what it means to be strategic — Mr. Porter, again with all due respect, included. All of his comments focused on and were applicable only to relatively large, for-profit companies. For instance, he outlines “four principles of good strategy” as follows: set as your primary goal superior, long-term return on capital; set separate strategies for each of the business areas in which you complete; recognize that profit is driven by the industry of which your company is a part and the position your company occupies in that industry; and view your firm as a collection of activities.
I may or may not agree that these are the four principles of good strategy (I don’t actually, but that’s a whole other blog post) but regardless: he’s clearly focused on “good strategy” only relative to large, for-profit, fairly complex organizations.
My point of view is that “being strategic” is much broader, simpler, and more useful than this. In fact, I define being strategic as: “consistently focusing on those core directional efforts that will best move you toward your desired outcomes.”
This deceptively simple sentence implies a series of powerful mental disciplines. And learning to do them well provides a framework for thinking and effort that can serve you in any arena, and support you in creating the life, work, business or relationships you desire. In my experience, being strategic isn’t a rarified, arcane capability only to be understood and made use of by highly-paid consultants and C-level executives of publicly held corporations: it’s a valuable life-skill for anyone.
An analogy: when the Volkswagen was first created, it was envisioned as “the people’s car”; a simple vehicle that was reliable and easy to operate; one that would serve the normal person’s transportation needs at a reasonable price. Not everybody needs a Mercedes.
I guess I’m a proponent of “Volks-strategy”: Strategy for everyone!
I’m thrilled to share that St Martins Press has just bought my next book, Being Strategic: How to Plan for Success, Out-think Your Competitors, and Stay Ahead of Change! They’ll be publishing it in May of ’09. I’m already a big fan of my editor, Phil Revzin, not least because he suggested that we use the principles from the book to work together to create the marketing plan for the book.
I’m also very excited that Barbara Cave Henricks and Dennis Welch, from Cave Henricks Communications, have agreed to serve as publicists. They’re lovely, smart, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic, and I feel honored to be working with them.
Here’s a look at what the book’s about (from the proposal):
BEING STRATEGIC helps the reader understand why approaching one’s business – and life – strategically is worth the time and effort required, what’s involved, and how to do it.
Unlike most other strategy books on the market, which focus only on organization-level strategic planning – BEING STRATEGIC offers a model and skills for strategic thought and action that are broadly applicable and thoroughly practical: explaining the core skills and practices needed at each point, and providing simple models, real-life examples and self-directed activities for learning and applying them.
If any of you, dear readers, have ideas about how to market the book, or anything at all you’d like to share with me about it — please, feel free! (And yes, I do own “beingstrategic.com” – astonishingly, it was available.)