Category Archives: Book Review

Guest Post from Alison Eyring – One Secret for Growth: It Takes More Than Vision


Today’s post is courtesy of Alison Eyring, author of the new book “Pacing For Growth”. Alison, Founder and CEO of Organisation Solutions, is a global thought leader with a focus on organizational growth. We welcome and thank Alison for her contribution today.


One Secret for Growth: It Takes More Than Vision

Loads of case studies have been written about companies that had great ideas and amazing visions but failed in the execution. Kodak’s vision was a world in which cameras could be carried in a shirt pocket. Motorola envisioned a day when the world would be connected without wires. Nortel’s vision was that everyone and every device could access voice, data, and images. They all had a great vision, happy customers, great brand names, and strong balance sheets. These visions weren’t wrong; they just didn’t matter because they weren’t executed before time ran out. The companies couldn’t build growth capacity fast enough to endure.

In the research my company conducted to understand the difference between leaders in high-growth businesses compared to slow- or no-growth businesses, we saw some remarkable differences in how the Growth Leaders focused their time and attention compared to the other leaders in the study.

Whereas every company in the study had a clear statement of vision and most leaders had either translated this for their business or had articulated their own growth vision or goals, the Growth Leaders invested far more of their time and energy creating focus and aligning resources to deliver growth. They helped others say no to non-priority projects or work, and they made tough choices about when and where to allocate resources. The other leaders seldom spoke about focus. Unlike the Growth Leaders, they invested their energy communicating the company’s vision and motivating employees to align themselves with it. Moreover, they always seemed to want to do more when, in my opinion, they might have achieved more by doing less.

Like my early vision to run a marathon, companies have vague visions of growth. Often these are found in investor reports and printed on posters hanging around office reception areas. “Double the business in 5 years,” “grow faster than the industry average,” and “profitably grow our business” are what they often sound like. Over the past 25 years, nearly every leader I’ve worked with has had goals about growth. Investors expect them. Bonuses are tied to them. Employees are motivated to deliver on them, especially when they, too, get to share in the benefits.

While some visions are motivating and many are translated into specific goals, too many become empty exhortations. Broad statements of hope—whether they are called a vision, growth goals, or aspirations—often mean little to employees and fail to drive growth.

We know from decades of academic research that too many growth efforts fail. Less than half of all acquisitions actually improve shareholder value. As many as 95 percent of new products introduced each year fail, according to Cincinnati research agency AcuPOLL. Nine out of 10 start-ups fail. Too often, we create a great vision for growth and then allow ourselves and others to get distracted. We fail to build the capabilities needed to achieve the vision because we don’t know where to focus or don’t have the discipline to follow through on the focus.

Excerpted from Ch. 5 of Pacing for Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-term Success, by Alison Eyring (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2017)


Alison Eyring is a global thought leader on building organizational capacity for growth. Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Organisation Solutions, Alison has 25 years of experience in large-scale organization design and change and executive development. She works closely with global leaders and their organizations, including Royal/Dutch Shell, BHP Billiton, Chubb Group of Companies, NEC, and Thomson Reuters. She also serves as an adjunct Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore. Her book, Pacing for Growth, is launching this week. 



Guest Post by Chip Bell – I Really Miss Ol’ Lee Roy Clark


Today’s post is hosted by Chip R. Bell, noted leader, author, and customer experience advocate. Chip’s new book “Kaleidoscope – Innovative Service That Sparkles” launches this week, and is a solid companion to his previous release “Sprinkles” Chip’s ability to bring sensationally effective customer service ideas and simplify them in a way that empowers anyone to innovate their service is a true gift. “Kaleidoscope” does just that, as does his story below.



Lee Roy Clark was the grocer in my South Georgia hometown.  He was my introduction to what it meant to be a “merchant”—courteous and eager to help all who came into his all-purpose store.

The business world is today rediscovering the value of service that permeated Lee Roy Clark’s very bones.  This “rediscovery” is made to sound like a breakthrough–something absent from the past, newly found and terribly important.  The Lee Roy Clarks of yesteryear get no credit for using methods now attributed to Zappos, Amazon, USAA, Nordstrom and Ritz-Carlton Hotels.

What happened between the 1950s version of small-town service and its present-day renaissance?

Before you chide that superior service involves much more than neighborly manners, let me add that Lee Roy Clark knew a lot about a service vision, customer-friendly processes and service recovery.  He did what he did out of a solid grounding in the premise that serving implied an obvious devotion to his customers.  Service to Lee Roy was about reciprocal power–his power to provide goods and services coupled with the customer’s power to keep him in business.  Lee Roy acted out of a simple belief: “My customers are my neighbors.”

Lee Roy knew what his customers needed and expected.  One day my father, a full-time banker AND full-time farmer, stopped in to buy a loaf of bread. “Mr. Bell,” said Lee Roy in his always polite voice, “I ordered you some of those fly strips for your pig house.  Last time you were in here, you complained that the flies were about to take away your new farrowing house.”  I wonder how many service organizations would stock an item based solely on data gathered through “fair weather” conversation.  Lee Roy cared a lot more about service than inventory.  And, when my father opted to NOT buy the yellow fly strips, Lee Roy acted neither hurt nor disappointed.

Lee Roy was also effective at recovering from a customer service breakdown.  There was no need for a written “service guarantee”—Lee Roy WAS the guarantee. Instead of some version of “$3.00 off if…is late,”  “You don’t owe me a thing” was his response.  We need more Lee Roy’s instead of merchants who too frequently argue over a 99 cent carton of milk with a customer who, if loyal to that same store, could spend $40,000 over the average ten years they live in a given location.

My grandmother bought an ice cream churn from Lee Roy–the kind grandsons endlessly hand crank to turn thick cream into a summer eve’s delight. It was a July day when she unpacked it only to discover the crank was missing.  “Lee Roy,” she complained, “you sold me a bum steer!” Lee Roy drove three miles out in the country with another churn.  With him, he brought a fresh-baked apple pie and two gallons of “store bought” ice cream.  Now, here is the best part:  He sat out in the shade for a half hour with my grandmother quizzing her on her secrets for getting azaleas to grow big and healthy!

I suppose I’m on thin ice implying that it’s possible to simplify a very challenging issue.  A few of the complex barriers to replicating Lee Roy’s brand of customer service include corporate bigness, bureaucracy, legal restrictions, diverse customer requirements, increased competition domestically and globally, and a scarcity of committed and competent employees.

Yet, I sometimes wonder if the question of customer loyalty really is simpler than we realize.  Perhaps we just need to rekindle the passion to give customers the kind of devotion that guided Lee Roy Clark.  It’s possible I am just a romantic, opting for nostalgia instead of accepting the cold reality of the present.   But, then again, maybe not!


Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best selling books.  His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.  He can be reached at



Guest Post by Jack Quarles: Decision-Making: A Hidden Source of Fatigue and Inefficiency


Today’s post is offered by Jack Quarles, author whose new book “Expensive Sentences” launches this week. 

In “Expensive Sentences”, Jack’s lays out how terms like “It’s too late to turn back now”, “We trust them”, and “it’s crazy busy around here”  are cliched wisdom that offers nothing more than wasted time, excuses, and lost opportunity. Jack breaks apart these phrases and challenges our thinking to reject how we fall back on those mindsets that cost us tremendously.


In honor of his book launch (which I highly recommend you get a copy), Jack has offered the following post about how we process decisions each day. 


Let me take you back for a minute. Can you remember the first week of your current job, or the first month you lived in a new city?

If you’re able to recollect your state of mind in those days, it probably included a good measure of exhaustion. You were tired.

Part of the reason change is so exhausting is that a new environment deprives us of routine and habit. At a new job, for example, we can’t go get a cup of coffee on autopilot, because we may not even know where the coffee is. We can’t drift through a normal day because there is no normal yet… we have to learn about our environment and make decisions on how to spend our time.

Decisions Require Energy

Decisions take energy. The more decisions we have to make, the more tired we are likely to become. It’s also true that our energy to make decisions is finite; there are only so many high-quality decisions we can make in any one day. With this in mind, we might consider how many decisions we have on our plate, and when we have them.

Rob Hatch says “decisions are distractions.” That’s not to say that decisions are unimportant and can simply be ignored. Yet we can and should manage when and how we make our decisions.

One application of managing decisions is used in many different approaches of time management: task planning. Your morning will be almost certainly be more productive if you decided what your priorities and plan was the night before.

If you arrive at your desk with an open slate, it’s easy to spend 45 minutes spinning in startup mode and sorting through different tasks to figure out the right order. On the other hand, when you are looking at a list that tells you your top priorities and the order of their importance, no motion is wasted on wondering where to begin.

What is your Plan?

Can you make your plan for tomorrow morning? Or, if you’re already into the day, try taking ten minutes to plan the next three hours. Then follow through on your plan, and look back at the end of the day.

Did your focused “deciding session” make you more productive?


 Jack Quarles is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of Amazon #1 bestsellers How Smart Companies Save Money and Same Side Selling, as well as the upcoming Expensive Sentences. He has saved companies tens of millions of dollars over two decades in the field of expense management. Jack has co-founded several companies, serves on two non-profit boards, and received degrees from Yale and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. Connect with Jack on LinkedIn or Twitter (@JackQuarlesJQ).  

(image courtesy of Weaving Influence)

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