Top 9 Business Biographies Books

April 30, 2011

I was reading biographies about Henry Ford and Rockefeller in fifth grade. I always believed that the best way to learn something is to read about the people who are the best in that field. Want to be a great manager? Read about Jack Welch. Want to learn how to make money in stocks? Read about Warren Buffett. I’m not suggesting you can become them from one book. Just that if I pickup a few nuggets of wisdom than its was worth the read. Plus, I prefer a good business biography to some trashy fiction novel any day – even on the beach.

Some business leaders are so intertwined with the businesses they started  that its hard to separate one from the other. So some of these books are as much about the business as they are about the business leader.

1. Buffett, The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein. There is no better teacher of how to invest and build wealth than Warren Buffet. This is a story of a down-to-earth man who became the 2nd richest man in the US by doing what we’ve all been taught about stocks – research, buy and hold. He has defied every stock fad including stock splits, Internet mania, corporate bloat, day trading, market timing, investment banking and high paid consultants.

2. SWOOSH, The Unauthorized Story of Nike and the Men Who Played There by J.B Strasser and Laurie Beckland. These guys started selling shoes out of a trunk of a car and developed the first running shoes using a waffle iron!

3. Morgan, American Financier by Jean Strouse. JP Morgan was a true titan of industry. While he was not the richest man of his time (he would have made Fortune 20 list for sure) but one of the most powerful. His name is still synonymous with banking and finance in US and Britain 100 years later.

4. The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison* Inside Oracle Corporation. *God doesn’t think he’s Larry Ellison by Mike Wilson. A ruthless businessman who took someone else’s idea – relational database – and made a multi-billion dollar industry while either crushing or eating up his competition. This is the company that convinces corporations to fork over millions of dollars for database software when there’s similar products available for free!

5. Losing My Virginity, The Updated Story of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneur by Richard Branson. Very entertaining autobiography by a man who calls himself “Rebel Billionaire”. Mixture of how he grew his business empire with his personal stunts like setting the world record for crossing the Atlantic in a hot-air balloon. A cat would be jealous of this man. Each stunt is a story of how he avoided death.

6. Only the Paranoid Survive. How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company and Career by Andrew Grove.  The animals in the wild who are slow or lazy usually end up someone’s dinner that day. Business is a jungle.

7. NUTS! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success by Kevi Freiberg and Jackie Freiberg. A story about legendary CEO Herb Keller as much as it is about Southwest Airline.

8. Pour Your Hearth Into It. How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schultz. Another book which is part autobiography of the man behind this brand as it is of the business franchise. Starbucks sells image as much as they sell coffee and believe holding one of their coffee cups tells as much about the person as the jeans they wear or the car they drive. And all this time I just thought I craved a good cup of joe.

9. Jack, Straight From the Gut by Jack Welch. If you want to be a great manager then you have to read this book from the man who defined management style for the past 30 years.


How to Make Money Online. Part 1: Buy a Domain

April 12, 2011

I will present in upcoming posts my list of ways to make money online (that don’t involve envelope stuffing or sending anyone a check so they can get their funds out of a Swiss bank account) . I can’t promise you’ll make a killing but you should be able to make a living.

Part 1: Buy low, sell high, or hold for dividends…domains 

Like any newly discovered world, the web in the early years was a land of opportunities for those who had vision and patience (bonus:  little risk of catching malaria).  I’m not even talking about people who made billions writing the first web browser or organizing the web into a little directory site called Yahoo! I’m talking about the thousands who staked a claim to website domain names. These pioneers registered domains names by the thousands including any dictionary word, number, phrase, of course anything sex related then added a .com to the end. These day try finding an available one word domain name. You’ll have to pay thousands of dollars in most cases. Mind.com just sold for $171,000. At one time someone had registered it for about $10. Can’t even find domains with any random 5 characters or less. Even zfgh.com is taken by some lucky owner.

Like land and stocks, domainers like to buy low, sell high or hold on to a site to either develop it into a large business or simply collect income it generates. 

1. Buy
You can search for and register available domains on GoDaddy.com, NetworkSolutions.com, smallbusiness.yahoo.com or dozens of other registrars. ICANN.org is the official internet name assignee and can provide you a full list of accredits domain-name registrars.

In the past, domainers looked for sites that were misspellings of popular sites. So someone typing walmart.com into their web browser’s address field may accidentally leave out the ‘L’. Someone who owned wamart.com may have received a lot of traffic simply by being in the right – or wrong depending on how you look at it – place. Traffic = income.

Interesting fact: Columbia became very popular with domainers because its country code is .co. Many people leave out the “m” in .com.

These days such opportunities are gone. Companies have either bought up any variations of their site name or sued to get them on the basis that it was violation of their copyright.

2. Sell
Once you are a proud owner, you can try to flip a domain by selling it on Godaddy.com or Sedo.com. Unless you knew something the previous owner missed, you will need to  improve the value of the domain before you can resell it for a profit. Usually that means, find ways to attract visitors.

3. Develop
Like a home, many domain buyers are looking to use a domain for themselves for either their business, hobby, etc. To flip a domain for a profit, you’ll need to make domain look more attractive for minimum cost. You can do that by putting lots of good information on your new site which visitors will find through search engines. Just like any media, domains are valued by amount and quality of traffic.

4. Hold
The best reason to hold a domain is to generate revenue from it. The best way to generate revenue is to run advertising. The easiest way is to set up a Google AdSense account and start running Google three-line text or banner ads. Each time a visitor clicks on an ad on your site, you generate anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars depending on the topic. Google’s software matches up the information on your site to show the most relevent ads so your visitors are most likely to click on it.

On average, less than 0.1% of visitors click on these ads. So you’ll need a lot of traffic to generate any substantial income from one site. For that reason, many successful domains own thousands and some even millions of domains. One domain may generate $50 per year but annual renewal is less then $7/year so your profit is over $40/year. Own 3,000 such domains and you’ve got a 6-figure income that mostly runs itself. You can keep adding domains to grow your empire or sell it all for a multiple of the annual income.


My Top 10 Marketing Books

April 8, 2011

When you love what you do, you end up spending a lot of your “free time” reading everything you can about it. Doctors read medical journals. I read business books - especially marketing books. I’ve read most of the books on this subject. Here are my 10 favorite:

1. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. A revealing look into our psyche and how we make buying decisions which are usually highly irrational. Recounts countless fascinating studies. Highly entertaining. This is a must read. Period.

2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Rebert B. Cialdini.  Another excellent marketing psychology book that should be read by anyone in sales or marketing…actually anyone in business who wants to better understand the mind of their customers.

3. Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Well known classic. Not much left to be said.

4. Being Direct by Lester Wunderman. From the pioneer who basically created direct marketing plus popularized the American Express card, created Columbia Record Club, and the toll-free 800 number for placing order.

5. Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill.  Why did I walk into the store to buy some milk and leave with $100 of groceries or buy 3 suits when all I need was a shirt? Will really open your eyes on how malls, department stores and grocery chains market to us. Nothing is by chance and everything is designed so we stay longer and spend more.

6. Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. Classic marketing book on how to get attention with no budget.

7. Positioning: How to be seen and heard in the overcrowded marketplace by Al Ries and Jack Trout

8. Why Did They Name It…? by Hannah Campbell. History of how the most well-known products got their name including Jell-O, Coca-Cola, Wheaties, Vick’s Vaporub, and Cutex. Didn’t you ever wonder why Heinz has 57 varieties of ketchup and what happened to the other 56?

9. Marketing Outrageously by Jon Spoelstra.  Many great examples of how to get attention for your business.

10. Secrets of Casino Marketing by John Romero.  Casinos are kings of marketing and no one did it better or at least was willing to talk about it like Mr. Romero.


Opening remarks

April 8, 2011

After working for close to two decades in technology and the business of technology, I hope to share in upcoming posts some bits of wisdom about technology, business, sales, marketing and how to mix it all up online. I might also on occasion make mention of good strong coffee and really good (preferably Irish) beer. I couldn’t do much without the first and certainly wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much without the later.


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