Another guy who says there’s lots of bad business books

Bob Pritchet, founder of Logos Research Systems, wrote me tonight and said he agrees with me that there are lots of bad business books. Proceeded to tell me about his new book: Fire Someone Today.

I was being inspired by his blog and found this entry that talked about a store that closed early, pissing off customers. Oh, that brought be back to the 1980s. My boss would usually open the store back up if there was a customer in the parking lot (we delivered refrigerators together after the store closed in evenings). He told me “someday you might wish you had that customer back.”

Do you fight for every customer? It’s hard to do.

I’m looking forward to reading Bob’s book. Oh, and Bob’s company? Has $9 million in sales, hundreds of employees, and hundreds of thousands of customers. Well done!

19 thoughts on “Another guy who says there’s lots of bad business books

  1. I don’t know Bob… but I do use (or try to) use his software. Bob should take a good hard look at his own business before commenting how badly other books might be. I make a living developing large scale applications and frankly if my products had the problems that Libronix had I would most likely have law suites on my hands.

    They have the worst testing practises I’ve ever seen on a product. Bob might consider browsing Borders to find a few “good” books on how to test his product.

    Pride comes before the fall…

  2. I don’t know Bob… but I do use (or try to) use his software. Bob should take a good hard look at his own business before commenting how badly other books might be. I make a living developing large scale applications and frankly if my products had the problems that Libronix had I would most likely have law suites on my hands.

    They have the worst testing practises I’ve ever seen on a product. Bob might consider browsing Borders to find a few “good” books on how to test his product.

    Pride comes before the fall…

  3. Thanks Christopher. But the truth is, I was taught that lesson by an organization that cannot survive without happy, motivated, supported employees:

    The U.S. Air Force. It’s part of their basic leadership training that all enlisted get.

    Two things that I’ve always applied in the workplace from them as well:

    Criticize in private, complement in public

    If you have to ream someone out, then you do it in an office. No one else needs to hear about their screwup, and no one else needs to hear you yell at them about it. If you ream an employee (note: ream has a WIDE range of meanings here. You’d be amazed at how even ‘kind’ criticism can be taken harshly by its recipient) in public, you deprive them of their dignity. There is nothing you can ever do to make that better. Even a public apology won’t mitigate the fact that you’re willing to take away someone’s dignity in front of their coworkers.

    You manage things, you lead people

    You either get this or you don’t. Unfortunately, most companies don’t. They treat people in the same category as desks and computers, then wonder why people are always willing to leave them.

    Yes, customers are absolutely critical to a business, but if you can’t attract and keep good people, the amount of customer ass-kissing you do won’t matter. I’ve a friend running an ISP, and he’s managed to survive for over ten years now. In that business, that’s impressive. But one of the things he’s always done is take care of his people first. If that meant that his front line tech support people got bonuses and raises and he didn’t, then that’s what he did. I’m not only a friend of his, but I’m a customer too, and quite frankly, as long as he’s running things, I’ll be one. There’s not enough executives with that kind of view, and it needs to be encouraged wherever possible. He’s also perfectly willing to turn away customers when it’s obvious that the customer has wants and needs that would hurt his business. Just because someone’s a customer doesn’t mean they should be your customer. Sometimes, you need to tell them that they should indeed go elsewhere.

    The CEO getting bonuses in the same paragraph as job cuts tells me that the company is clueless and will need new leadership soon. It also makes me not want to give them money. For any reason.

    I don’t buy into the excuse that the CEO can’t be responsible for everything a company does wrong. That’s sophistry. When you’re in charge, it’s always your fault. When good things happen, you never take credit. You give credit to the people who did the work. It’s why Steve Jobs thanking the people who make up Apple, and asking them to stand for applause during Macworld and other keynotes is important to me. It shows he understands leadership at a fundamental level. That part never gets reported, but to anyone with a clue, it’s the most important announcement of any keynote. When Steve took the hit for the Cube, that was important too.

    Too bad more CEOs don’t get that.

  4. Thanks Christopher. But the truth is, I was taught that lesson by an organization that cannot survive without happy, motivated, supported employees:

    The U.S. Air Force. It’s part of their basic leadership training that all enlisted get.

    Two things that I’ve always applied in the workplace from them as well:

    Criticize in private, complement in public

    If you have to ream someone out, then you do it in an office. No one else needs to hear about their screwup, and no one else needs to hear you yell at them about it. If you ream an employee (note: ream has a WIDE range of meanings here. You’d be amazed at how even ‘kind’ criticism can be taken harshly by its recipient) in public, you deprive them of their dignity. There is nothing you can ever do to make that better. Even a public apology won’t mitigate the fact that you’re willing to take away someone’s dignity in front of their coworkers.

    You manage things, you lead people

    You either get this or you don’t. Unfortunately, most companies don’t. They treat people in the same category as desks and computers, then wonder why people are always willing to leave them.

    Yes, customers are absolutely critical to a business, but if you can’t attract and keep good people, the amount of customer ass-kissing you do won’t matter. I’ve a friend running an ISP, and he’s managed to survive for over ten years now. In that business, that’s impressive. But one of the things he’s always done is take care of his people first. If that meant that his front line tech support people got bonuses and raises and he didn’t, then that’s what he did. I’m not only a friend of his, but I’m a customer too, and quite frankly, as long as he’s running things, I’ll be one. There’s not enough executives with that kind of view, and it needs to be encouraged wherever possible. He’s also perfectly willing to turn away customers when it’s obvious that the customer has wants and needs that would hurt his business. Just because someone’s a customer doesn’t mean they should be your customer. Sometimes, you need to tell them that they should indeed go elsewhere.

    The CEO getting bonuses in the same paragraph as job cuts tells me that the company is clueless and will need new leadership soon. It also makes me not want to give them money. For any reason.

    I don’t buy into the excuse that the CEO can’t be responsible for everything a company does wrong. That’s sophistry. When you’re in charge, it’s always your fault. When good things happen, you never take credit. You give credit to the people who did the work. It’s why Steve Jobs thanking the people who make up Apple, and asking them to stand for applause during Macworld and other keynotes is important to me. It shows he understands leadership at a fundamental level. That part never gets reported, but to anyone with a clue, it’s the most important announcement of any keynote. When Steve took the hit for the Cube, that was important too.

    Too bad more CEOs don’t get that.

  5. http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20051227113652154

    Oh. You meant fighting *for* your customers, as opposed to fighting *with* your customers.

    So. Explain to me which part of “Microsoft is evil” is incorrect ?

    For instance, how much have MS had to pay out in settlements worldwide in the last five years ? Has it breached the Billion dollars ? The two billion dollars ? Three ?

    Put it this way. Is it more than a tobacco company has paid out over the same time period ?

    Oh – and happy new year ! 2006 should be amazing.

    —* Bill

  6. http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20051227113652154

    Oh. You meant fighting *for* your customers, as opposed to fighting *with* your customers.

    So. Explain to me which part of “Microsoft is evil” is incorrect ?

    For instance, how much have MS had to pay out in settlements worldwide in the last five years ? Has it breached the Billion dollars ? The two billion dollars ? Three ?

    Put it this way. Is it more than a tobacco company has paid out over the same time period ?

    Oh – and happy new year ! 2006 should be amazing.

    —* Bill

  7. I love the whole “do whatever it takes to delight the customer” trend, because there’s another trend that usually accompanies it…”how come we have such high employee turnover?”

    What most of the idiots who promote the whole “customer is always right” folderal advocate is doing it on the backs of your employees. Because you can always hire more people. Well you can. But high turnover tells customers things. It tells me that the only thing you offer them is a salary, and possibly benefits.

    When I see a manager letting a customer crap on an employee, even when the customer is wrong, I cancel any purchases i’m making, and leave. I don’t come back. I don’t tell the store why. If that’s their management theory, then they’re not going to change it anytime soon.

    Because you know those people who are standing there waiting for you to “linger a little while longer”? They’re people. They have lives. They want to get to them. But they can’t, because some self – absorbed prat with entitlement issues is too busy “being delighted” to realize they’re walking over other people in that delight.

    One of my favorite shops kicks you right out at closing. They’re polite, even funny, but quite firm. At closing time, you go home. Come back tomorrow. You can finish any purchases you have in hand, but no more browsing. No more coming in “just for a sec”. I asked the owner about it, and he said, “Yes, I know, I lose customers this way. But the only reason they’re here is to make an economic deal. As long as I have a good location, good product, good prices, and generally treat them well, I’ll have more. But they don’t care about me once that deal’s done. My employees, I need them. I can’t do it all. They’re just as important to my business as you, or any other customer is. If I constantly have to hire new ones, I can’t have any kind of good customer service because I’m always training new people. A good employee is worth an unknown customer or two, because they’ll create three regulars for every random person who can’t comprehend that we’re people too, and not their indentured servants that I lose. Those people, they can go to Wal-Mart, I don’t want them as customers.”

    I immediately became a loyal customer. Because if he has that kind of integrity for the people he works for, if he backs his employees and cares about them as people instead of resources, then I want him to stay in business forever, and teach that lesson to as many people as possible. If nothing else, to counteract the current fad that people are nothing more than a renewable resource.

    The customer deserves delight to the precise extent they earn it.

  8. I love the whole “do whatever it takes to delight the customer” trend, because there’s another trend that usually accompanies it…”how come we have such high employee turnover?”

    What most of the idiots who promote the whole “customer is always right” folderal advocate is doing it on the backs of your employees. Because you can always hire more people. Well you can. But high turnover tells customers things. It tells me that the only thing you offer them is a salary, and possibly benefits.

    When I see a manager letting a customer crap on an employee, even when the customer is wrong, I cancel any purchases i’m making, and leave. I don’t come back. I don’t tell the store why. If that’s their management theory, then they’re not going to change it anytime soon.

    Because you know those people who are standing there waiting for you to “linger a little while longer”? They’re people. They have lives. They want to get to them. But they can’t, because some self – absorbed prat with entitlement issues is too busy “being delighted” to realize they’re walking over other people in that delight.

    One of my favorite shops kicks you right out at closing. They’re polite, even funny, but quite firm. At closing time, you go home. Come back tomorrow. You can finish any purchases you have in hand, but no more browsing. No more coming in “just for a sec”. I asked the owner about it, and he said, “Yes, I know, I lose customers this way. But the only reason they’re here is to make an economic deal. As long as I have a good location, good product, good prices, and generally treat them well, I’ll have more. But they don’t care about me once that deal’s done. My employees, I need them. I can’t do it all. They’re just as important to my business as you, or any other customer is. If I constantly have to hire new ones, I can’t have any kind of good customer service because I’m always training new people. A good employee is worth an unknown customer or two, because they’ll create three regulars for every random person who can’t comprehend that we’re people too, and not their indentured servants that I lose. Those people, they can go to Wal-Mart, I don’t want them as customers.”

    I immediately became a loyal customer. Because if he has that kind of integrity for the people he works for, if he backs his employees and cares about them as people instead of resources, then I want him to stay in business forever, and teach that lesson to as many people as possible. If nothing else, to counteract the current fad that people are nothing more than a renewable resource.

    The customer deserves delight to the precise extent they earn it.

  9. When CEOs run out of markets, when they take the niche to it’s highest point, when they retreat from breaking out, when they get in a comfort zone, only then do they sit down and pen a book. Or when they retire, and want to ‘kiss and tell’ their versions and paint themselves as all that.

    Bob’s ‘amazing’ insights might be better taken had his Empire reached beyond the core. I mean at 34, when he has a limited market, and is taking no risks, suddenly he offers us his collective wisdom. So the transformation from bored biz Exec/CEO to Management Consultant begins. (Seen it before, will see it again).

  10. When CEOs run out of markets, when they take the niche to it’s highest point, when they retreat from breaking out, when they get in a comfort zone, only then do they sit down and pen a book. Or when they retire, and want to ‘kiss and tell’ their versions and paint themselves as all that.

    Bob’s ‘amazing’ insights might be better taken had his Empire reached beyond the core. I mean at 34, when he has a limited market, and is taking no risks, suddenly he offers us his collective wisdom. So the transformation from bored biz Exec/CEO to Management Consultant begins. (Seen it before, will see it again).

  11. Oh btw, actually Bob has 3 blogs….one Logos group blog, one Book, and one personal. The Logos one is the most interesting and I have been reading ‘big slow eel’ for eons now. The book blog is just a biz-styled rant blog, imho. The personal blog is not updated enough to matter and is/was rant-filled anyways. But the Logos blog has good posts and real info, that is if into his theological market niche (which you aren’t).

    PS – Maybe, a real good company, with great hiring practices, would able to see and cultivate the best (taking time out, gasp, for interviews), and wouldn’t be in the position of using “firing” as a competitive strategy, you think? :) Temper-tantrum and industrial-revolutional-era authoritative megalord threats of ‘firing’ and ‘public shaming’ as a operational method, boy oh boy, will Bill Gates, like that book. Haven’t read the book, but the excerpts already giving me an not-so-good indicator. But will reserve judgement.

    Bob’s still a great guy, but wish he had channeled his energy into making Libronix stick, over becoming a biz-book-fad flavor of the season. The rest of the excerpts read like common sense, and his amazing revelations, like a deer caught in headlights, ‘Oh gee, people, I just noticed this’. Reads like, ‘Local boy makes good, selling Bible software, discovers universal ‘running-a-company’ truths hereby hidden from him, wants to share his joy and insights with the world.’ A book filled with happy happy simple inspirational Ben Franklin-like thought-sayings with some school-of-hard-knocks thrown-in to balance out the recipe; Chicken Soup for the CEO’s Soul, just enough Sweet and just the right amount of Salt.

    Undoubtedly, he’d think I am “a negative, pessimistic, whining, cry-baby Chicken Little”. But he’d be wrong. I am super positive on Logos and Libronix, it’s just his retreat back to the comfort zone of niche (death of Libronix), that has me harping. Can’t one be “negative” for a positive outlook result? :) If you make a wrong turn, and no one tells you, how exactly is that helping? It’s not about being a blind optimist no matter which way turn or a drag-down pessimist, grumpy no matter what happens, it’s about seeing a goal and running towards that.

  12. Oh btw, actually Bob has 3 blogs….one Logos group blog, one Book, and one personal. The Logos one is the most interesting and I have been reading ‘big slow eel’ for eons now. The book blog is just a biz-styled rant blog, imho. The personal blog is not updated enough to matter and is/was rant-filled anyways. But the Logos blog has good posts and real info, that is if into his theological market niche (which you aren’t).

    PS – Maybe, a real good company, with great hiring practices, would able to see and cultivate the best (taking time out, gasp, for interviews), and wouldn’t be in the position of using “firing” as a competitive strategy, you think? :) Temper-tantrum and industrial-revolutional-era authoritative megalord threats of ‘firing’ and ‘public shaming’ as a operational method, boy oh boy, will Bill Gates, like that book. Haven’t read the book, but the excerpts already giving me an not-so-good indicator. But will reserve judgement.

    Bob’s still a great guy, but wish he had channeled his energy into making Libronix stick, over becoming a biz-book-fad flavor of the season. The rest of the excerpts read like common sense, and his amazing revelations, like a deer caught in headlights, ‘Oh gee, people, I just noticed this’. Reads like, ‘Local boy makes good, selling Bible software, discovers universal ‘running-a-company’ truths hereby hidden from him, wants to share his joy and insights with the world.’ A book filled with happy happy simple inspirational Ben Franklin-like thought-sayings with some school-of-hard-knocks thrown-in to balance out the recipe; Chicken Soup for the CEO’s Soul, just enough Sweet and just the right amount of Salt.

    Undoubtedly, he’d think I am “a negative, pessimistic, whining, cry-baby Chicken Little”. But he’d be wrong. I am super positive on Logos and Libronix, it’s just his retreat back to the comfort zone of niche (death of Libronix), that has me harping. Can’t one be “negative” for a positive outlook result? :) If you make a wrong turn, and no one tells you, how exactly is that helping? It’s not about being a blind optimist no matter which way turn or a drag-down pessimist, grumpy no matter what happens, it’s about seeing a goal and running towards that.

  13. Greetings,
    Funny you’d mention that, I just had a Great Service moment like that recently. On December 30th, the guy who runs Puget Custom Computers in Kent stayed open those extra few minutes it took me to find their offices in the dark and rain, helped me carry the computer out to my car while it poured cats’n’dogs, and in general over the course of my order gave the kind of service that delights me.

    I’ll argue it’s only hard to fight for every customer if your business is not set up so that the default path delights them. If the ‘green path’, the easiest set of steps for them to follow (which may not be the set of steps you expect them to follow!) results in a positive experience, then the ‘fight for every customer’ happens only on the edges, where something’s already gone wrong.

    – Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

    p.s. Happy New Year!

  14. Greetings,
    Funny you’d mention that, I just had a Great Service moment like that recently. On December 30th, the guy who runs Puget Custom Computers in Kent stayed open those extra few minutes it took me to find their offices in the dark and rain, helped me carry the computer out to my car while it poured cats’n’dogs, and in general over the course of my order gave the kind of service that delights me.

    I’ll argue it’s only hard to fight for every customer if your business is not set up so that the default path delights them. If the ‘green path’, the easiest set of steps for them to follow (which may not be the set of steps you expect them to follow!) results in a positive experience, then the ‘fight for every customer’ happens only on the edges, where something’s already gone wrong.

    – Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

    p.s. Happy New Year!

  15. Yeah, Bob’s a great guy. Looking forward to reading his book, that is if it rises above the usual treadmill biz-fad-of-the-month type of book. But I sent the book website bit to yah in early Nov. Yah, slacker. :) I actually really really wanted to work for Logos back in my eBook era, but nothing ever happened.

    But hundreds of employees? Umm wrong. Try one-hundred itself. And that’s with the “combo” of Libronix. But Libronix is dead. Shame too, as the DLS system is just so totally killer too, wish it had taken off beyond just things theological. Libronix DLS had real potential, wonder why they couldn’t market it or get it to stick. Sigh. Writing a grand-sweeping biz book, whence he’s on a retreat back to niche. Ouch. So much for the Libronix Empire…

  16. Yeah, Bob’s a great guy. Looking forward to reading his book, that is if it rises above the usual treadmill biz-fad-of-the-month type of book. But I sent the book website bit to yah in early Nov. Yah, slacker. :) I actually really really wanted to work for Logos back in my eBook era, but nothing ever happened.

    But hundreds of employees? Umm wrong. Try one-hundred itself. And that’s with the “combo” of Libronix. But Libronix is dead. Shame too, as the DLS system is just so totally killer too, wish it had taken off beyond just things theological. Libronix DLS had real potential, wonder why they couldn’t market it or get it to stick. Sigh. Writing a grand-sweeping biz book, whence he’s on a retreat back to niche. Ouch. So much for the Libronix Empire…

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