Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Success Effect



Business and investing is all about people. Great ideas are not just about numbers, and are not just about metrics. Developing an insight into how a business is run is easily translated into what creates a business' competitive advantage. Those sorts of insights are best garnered by interviewing and observation of managements, their competitors, and their customers.

Prior to the onset of Sarbanes-Oxley and Regulation FD, most analysts spent considerable time in interviewing of CEOs and CFOs of companies under their coverage. Unfortunately, in today's world where selective disclosure fears abound, far less time is spent in training analysts how to interview, and what sort of questions can be asked.

The "Success Effect" is written by the business reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer,John Eckberg. Eckberg kept his tapes from various interviews he has conducted as a reporter. These interviews offer unusual and unique insight into the minds of this collage of  successful, entrepreneurial and motivated people.

The book is an easy read based on Eckberg's easy, conversational style. His interview candidates have ranged from true business scions such as Donald Trump, Larry Bossidy and Lou Gerstner to much lesser known business people such as Dennis Spiegel whose career evolved from the age of 13 when he began taking tickets at the gate of an amusement park to founding the largest amusement park design and operations firm.

The interviews never drag...I think the longest interview of the 47 presented spans ten pages. This staccato style makes this an ideal night table book, where each chapter represents a rapid observation of what that person holds true, what has influenced his/her life, as well as lessons in leading a successful life.

Eckberg also compiles some additional personal information for each interviewee... each chapter contains a little vignette of "Books on The Nightstand," and "CD's In The Changer."

One of the more interesting interviews is of Doug Newburg, the Director of Performance Education at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He believes that top performers share a trait of "resonance"- a sustained energy flow, an ever-present buzz that is linked to performance and engagement. As he observes, "Real competition is the competition between your vision and your skills-not between you and other people." Essentially, the more engaged you are, the more you enjoy what you are doing, and the better you perform. People who make it, hate to lose. The people who don't make it are afraid of losing.

At the end of each interview, Eckberg summarizes the findings with a two or three line "carryout," a summary of lessons learned. Here is an example from the Oscar Robertson interview:

"For group success, help the worst guy on a team achieve. Talented staff take care of themselves. Let customers know you and your company. Familiarity brings revenues because business in a cyber-age is still about relationships. Opportunities are all around you all the time."

There are many role models here from all walks of life. There are valuable lessons in what it takes to lead, to prosper, to establish a brand or niche, and to succeed.

This is an enjoyable read, a great stocking stuffer for yourself, your partner, your friends. I highly recommend!


At 8:54 PM, Blogger Miguel said...


Great find. I just finished reading the book and was wondering if anyone else had read it. I have linked to your book in my nightly value investing links at

If you have sometime take a look at my website and let me know what you think. Thanks

Best Regards,
Miguel Barbosa

At 10:34 AM, Blogger Retail Business Speaker said...

I am enjoying The Success Effect because you can open to any page, read a little and learn a lot. My main take away is that the road to success is often “the road less traveled”. The Success Effect has story after story of business case studies where the success was fueled by non-conventional strategies. It was a matter of seeing things in a completely different way, or just seeing needs, which could be converted to opportunities. Speaking of seeing, my favorite story so far is the Lens Crafters story.

Bob Kramer
Author of Revolutionary Retailing


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