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The Business Books That Make Me Smarter

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about the email newsletters that make me smarter. Today, I want to share some of the business books I have read and loved, and learned from.

Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.

An oldie but goodie, this book was published in 1Roger Fisher981 and is almost as old as I am. It is still the best book on negotiations that I have read, I go back to the five propositions on a weekly basis:

  1. “Separate the people from the problem.” (watch out for emotion, make sure the negotiation builds the relationship, instead of destroying it)
  2. “Focus on interests, not positions.” (what are they really asking for?)
  3. “Invent options for mutual gain.” (grow the pie)
  4. “Insist on using objective criteria.” (commit to a real conversation)
  5. “Know your BATNA.” (best alternative to a negotiated agreement)

Love Is The Killer App by Tim Sanders. 

Other than the amazing title (the world needs more love), I return to this book almost daily for the way Sanders suggest we treat others in the workplace. Every day, I try to be a “lovecat.”

How? By sharing my knowledge, my network, and my compassion and love. Because, “Those of us who use love as a point of differentiation in business will separate ourselves from our competitors just as world-class distance runners separate themselves from the rest of the pack trailing behind them.”

Good To Great and Built To Last by Jim Collins.

From Good To Great, I go back to the idea of the bus: get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to drive it. Not necessarily the other way around. “First who, then what.”

From Built to Last, I go back to the acronym BHAG, Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I ask myself, is my BHAG big enough? It is clear and compelling enough?

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

Duhigg explains habits as cue, routine, reward. He also explains that you can’t stop or extinguish a bad habit, but you can work on the cue and the reward, and thus change the routine, change the habit.

The concept of keystone habits (the habit that makes every other good habit easier) is also eye-opening.  

On that same topic, on my reading list next is Atomic Habits by James Clear.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

I love lists. But am I using my various lists in the most impactful, efficient manner? This book is about how to create the right checklists, and how to use them to save lives (in hospitals or in the airline industry for example) and make businesses work better. I read it twice, and still feel like I would learn more by reading it a third time.

The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma.

There are so many lessons from this book, I wrote a separate blog post on it after finishing it. It is a reminder to think about our thinking. Indeed, as Sharma puts it, the “one thing that makes us fully human is our ability to think about our thinking.”

Think about your thinking. And read books that help guide, improve, challenge, grow your thinking.

What are your favorite business books?

Seasons… of the Land, and of Business

I have had the privilege of hearing Seth Mattison speak at various industry conferences and have always come away from his presentations feeling inspired, energized, and motivated. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity of hearing him speak once again, in a more intimate setting over breakfast, and what I came away with was inspiration, energy, motivation – and calm and faith (in the process).

Having grown up in a farming family, Mattison spoke of the seasons of the land and drew parallels between the rhythm of farming and that of business. “When you are close to the land,” he reminded us, “you are close to the seasons of the world.” And “seasons,” he continued, “are relevant not only to farming, but also to business and to life.” As I remember working at my great-uncle’s farm harvesting corn when I was a young teenager, the connection between the cycles of the land and the cycles of business resonated particularly strongly with me.

“Winter is a season to rest, reflect, look back, and recharge.” Indeed, this is very much the symbolic of the months of December and January – months governed by analysis and planning.

“Spring is a season to plant and put seeds in the ground. Diligently, faithfully, every year.”

Summer is a season for monitoring growth and making adjustments to changing (weather or industry) conditions.

Fall is a season for harvesting, the season during which the year’s planning, planting, and labor yields fruit.

I have a love-hate relationship with January. I love the “newness” of it – a blank slate, the ability to start fresh. And I hate the “virgin-ness” of it – all (or most) of the business metrics I measure start back at 0. I don’t like 0s.

Mattison helped me understand that January can never be September, as that would just not be natural.

He helped me understand that I should love January (and winter) for what it offers, and work with the rhythm of nature, not against it.

He helped me understand that in business as in farming, there are many things we cannot control (the weather and the markets for example).

And finally, he helped me understand that while we must “surrender the outcome, we simultaneously must diligently work on the controllable.”

The Email Newsletters That Make Me Smarter

I spend time daily unsubscribing from email newsletters. I also spend time daily (or weekly) relishing email newsletters. Here are the ones that keep me thinking, questioning, learning.

WWD

This is the classis source of news for anyone in beauty or fashion. I enjoy the fashion aspect, but my favorite articles are not surprisingly the beauty pieces by Jenny Fine, Ellen Thomas, and Allison Collins. Also, the print issue of Beauty Inc. is a treasure. And yes, I pay for this content.

Business of Fashion

Imran Amed is a genius. He is on my list of five people I would like to have dinner with. I love everything about the Business of Fashion – the daily emails, the podcasts, the print issues (more treasures), and BOF Professional. And yes, I also pay for that content. The articles by Sarah Brown are just by themselves worth the price.

Retail Dive

I love this daily email because it keeps me updated with overall retail trends – not just beauty. It helps me learn from outside my industry – and influences the stores I visit during my travels to get a feel for the current reality of retail.

Beyond the articles, I love the ‘What We’re Reading” section of every email.

Racked

I love the blend of business and beauty, and Racked does it best. This article on Amazon beauty is an example of why I stay subscribed to their newsletters.

BeautyMatter

Kelly Kovack is my friend, so I am biased. But she does have one of the most beautiful brains in the beauty industry. So, when she started BeautyMatter a couple of years ago, I subscribed from Day 1 and have not missed a day. I love her quarterly beauty M&A recaps, her white papers, and the daily beauty news. Smart, short, on point.

Harvard Management Tip of the Day

I look forward to this email every single day. This is the daily email I forward the most. To my sisters, to my team, to my friends. The tips range from management advice (for example how to delegate), the importance of vacation time, and my all-time favorite, the need to put a “meeting-free day” on your calendar every week. That is top on my goal list!

Marc Ross

Brigadoon is Marc Ross’ brain-child. The best annual conference I have ever attended. He keeps me thinking beyond my “comfort and industry bubble” in between these conferences with his daily emails (Marc Ross Daily), but what I get the most out of are the Brigadoon Weekly emails. The Ross Rant is particularly delicious. Also, his reading lists are inspiring.

Shane Parrish

Weekly brain food. Literally, that is what he calls his Friday emails. I came across him because of a podcast I listened to from The Knowledge Project – an interview with Naval Ravikant. This is possibly my favorite podcast of all times, I have actually already listened to it twice. Shane’s weekly emails include articles, a note on the book he is currently reading, and a quote he is thinking about.

Scott Galloway

I must admit, I only like about one third of his No Mercy / No Malice emails, but I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe because when I like them, I love them. If you don’t know him, he is a Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, and founder of the digital intelligence firm L2 (I also get their emails, but those feel more like homework). Try it.

Thomas Oppong, curator of Postanly

I can’t recall how I found Thomas – but I look forward to his Friday emails every week. I don’t always find the inspiration I crave, but when I do, it is quite amazing. This is one of my favorite articles shared.

I stopped watching the news a long time ago. My husband fills me in on the things I must know, I listen to NPR while driving, and I get The Skimm every day. A girlfriend of mine told me it makes her feel dumb when she reads it – like they are not taking their readers seriously. I have been thinking about this a lot, but I have not unsubscribed yet (also I love their Instagram account).

What I just subscribed to: The Cut. I just couldn’t resist, after the whole “Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t know about The Cut” saga. Also, I love Jane Larkworthy’s articles.

What I am thinking of subscribing to: Glossy. There is now a paid version, which I have committed to signing up for by the end of this month. I love their podcasts, and Jill Manoff, Editor-in-Chief of Glossy who is both smart and sassy.

What I am still trying to figure out: Beauty Independent. I get these emails daily. I enjoy them. I am still trying to understand the background, what the connection to IBE means, the agenda.

What I recently unsubscribed myself from: Tim Ferriss (I just can’t), Total Retail (Retail Dive is so much better).

What are your must-read email newsletters? What am I missing?

Getting stuck in an elevator…

The highlight of my 2018 Mardi Gras weekend was not the parades, not the costumes, not the beads. Rather, it was getting stuck in the elevator at Palace Café after the annual “Friday before Mardi Gras” luncheon I am fortunate enough to be invited to.

We (our host, my BFF Angie, and a dozen others) had an amazing time in the Wine Room, eating, drinking, laughing, chatting. We were only on the third floor, but somehow taking the elevator seemed to be the right way to leave. So, a number of us did just that – with our lovely waiter. (The rest of us, the smart ones, walked down the two flights of stairs). The elevator begins to descend, and then suddenly stops.

At first, we all giggle. Then we try to pry the doors open (amid much debate as to if this was a good idea or not). Then a few of us just sit down and more or less calmly drink our drinks (feeling very grateful for open container laws). Finally, about 26 minutes later (which seemed like a few hours), we are rescued by firemen who look every bit like what I always thought firemen looked like.

We collectively decide to name our group The Krewe of Otis.

In all seriousness, these 26 minutes helped me remember a few key truths.

  1. In praise of patience. I am not patient. But getting frustrated and angry about a situation completely out of my control would not have made the firemen come to the rescue any faster.
  2. Kindness always. We each took turns calming each other down, calmly and gently, when one was about to lose it (I am not the only one quite uncomfortable in small spaces apparently).
  3. Trust the process. Someone will realize the elevator is stuck. Someone will try to help. If that fails, someone will call the proper authorities. They will then come fix this. Everything will be just fine.
  4. Laughter is the best medicine. At some point after realization and worry, we just started laughing again. After all, nothing diffuses tension and stress like a good giggle.
  5. Good friends make everything better. How glad am I that I got stuck there with good friends…

Happy Ash Wednesday!

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At the start of our Lunch

Writing… and a blog relaunch

Today, I kind of re-launched my blog. I say kind of, because in a way I never really launched my blog in the first place. I just started writing, sometime back in 2008 (I think!). And kind of, because it is really “just” a renaming and a redesign. The point is, once upon a time I made a commitment to writing, and today, I reaffirmed that commitment.

I have written for trade publications, including Skin Inc, GCI Magazine, and starting this summer, Beauty Store Business, since I have been involved in the beauty industry. I also write for the Georgetown Dish, for whose readers I aim to create content more specific to the place I consider my hometown and neighborhood. And now, I also write for the Huffington Post Style section, with a personal commitment to one article per week, original content of course (luckily, I am surrounded by people in the style industry that I can interview, ranging from master stylist Tatum Neill to model Cecilia Singley). And then, there is my blog, ADAmantaboutbeauty, for which I try to write twice weekly.

All that to say, that’s a lot of writing. Of course, not as much writing as my mother does, as she has published 22 books. And I know at least one, if not two, of my fabulous sisters are themselves working on books. Maybe this is a genetic thing…

Writing, for me, is hard; it is very personal. Writing, for me, requires some specific conditions, which I have been thinking about today.

  1. I like to be alone when I write, but surrounded by people. I think I get that from my Mom, who lives at least half her life in cafés in Geneva or Paris. Here in the US, cafés are hard to come by (I love Starbucks, but that doesn’t count); my closest equivalent are hotel lounges and bars. Right now, actually, I am sitting in the lounge at the Fairmont Battery Wharf in Boston. I come to Boston at least twice a year (love coming back to college town), and this is the place I like most. On the water. Free wi-fi if you ask the front desk nicely. Lots of outlets. Good chardonnay by the glass.
  2. Which brings me to point condition #2. I like to have a glass of something when I write. Depending on the season or time of day, Veuve Cliquot, Acacia chardonnay (which I am enjoying right now), or a delicious, big, bold cabernet. That glass helps me be more genuine, be myself, take the walls down. (Indeed, so many people have told me they feel me so much more passionate in my writing than in my oral presentation… probably because I am deep down shy, and don’t usually do anything to overcome that shyness before an in-person meeting).
  3. I cannot be at my desk when I write. You might connect this to my first point, and it partly is about being surrounded by strangers – but it is more than that. At my desk, I answer emails; I have conference calls; I pay bills; I do work. At my desk, I am not creative. As much as I adore my desk and the Alchimie Forever showroom, I need to be outside of my “work” environment to be creative. And writing is creative…
  4. I need time. I know this may sound totally obvious. Yet I am able to write when I really have time. Head time. Thinking time. Day dreaming time. Case in point – my latest Huffington Post article about my godmother, which has been in my heart for years, took a 6 hour drive to Abingdon, VA, to actually formulate itself in my head as a piece of writing.
  5. More specifically, I need time, time that is uninterrupted by email, texts, and other forms of instant messaging. Hence I love long drives. Hence I love time on airplanes (literal day dreaming, as my Mom would say). Hence I have bitter-sweet feelings about Wi-Fi On Board.

Most importantly, a writer needs readers. It gives me intense pleasure to see Facebook Likes and shares on anything I write, to read your comments, to hear from you. To know that you take this time out of your busy day to pay attention to what I have to say. A heartfelt thank you to all of you.