To the Editor Book Review: Editorial

Saturday, 01 November 2003


    For 20 years, as founder and chief executive of national marketing company Marketshare, John Lyons played an instrumental role in the success of thousands of businesses.

    Many directors would agree for the need to increase the number of women on boards.

    How to achieve it is another question. Indeed, how to identify, train and mentor appropriate people to join boards is really the main question, whether they be male or female.

    While courses such as those run by the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Waite Group's Board Step and Ultimate Step process, have been invaluable in assisting directors and budding directors to increase their skills set, these need to be complemented with mentoring and experience.

    I, for one, would like to see more of our respected and effective directors identifying and mentoring their own successors.

    Some boards have provision for "trainee" directors.

    These directors are bound by confidentiality, but have no voting rights. They are there to learn, participate in discussion, and develop expertise.

    Although this occurs informally in some cases, a proper program under the auspice of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, may provide a longer term solution.

    Chris Arnold


    Book Review: Hard work and persistence pay off

    For 20 years, as founder and chief executive of national marketing company Marketshare, John Lyons played an instrumental role in the success of thousands of businesses.

    He recently sold Marketshare to concentrate on his new career as a professional company director. But once a marketing man, always a marketing man. Lyons continues to indulge his "hobby" of writing regular marketing columns for leading newspapers and journals. Over the years, Lyons has penned more than 400 columns, but he has never written a book about marketing. Until now.

    Marketing Without Money: How 20 Top Australian Entrepreneurs Crack Markets With Their Minds, has been co-authored with the father of lateral thinking, Edward de Bono. The book combines Lyons' practical marketing nous with de Bono's unique perspective on the power of creative and innovative thinking in business.

    The title refers to the powerful contribution of "conceptual creativity" to growing a business.

    Lyons has assembled the experiences of 20 successful Australian business people to illustrate how "entrepreneurial solutions" can break through seemingly insurmountable barriers to business success.

    The entrepreneurs' stories, their dreams, their near-disasters, their triumphs, are the heart and soul of this book.

    In addition to demonstrating how these entrepreneurs have been successful in the pursuit of "creating outstanding value and being famous for it", the book reminds us that success comes to those who truly want it.

    Max Beck, founder and chairman of property developer Becton Corporation, recalls having to muster all his resolve when his first company, Max Beck Constructions, folded in 1973. He lost everything except his house, "So I went home and said to my wife: 'We'd better get the tools out, because we've got to start again'."

    Les Schirato, head of continental food importer Cantarella Bros, likewise demonstrates that refusing to take no for an answer is a hallmark of the successful entrepreneur.

    He remembers when he first approached Australian supermarkets to stock his Italian coffee brands: "They just laughed at me and said 'Australians will never drink strong coffee; you're wasting your time.' In fact I got kicked out of every supermarket in Australia."

    It only takes a walk down your local supermarket's coffee aisle to see who won that battle.

    Lyons has a knack for the quotable quote and features these quotes liberally, which helps to capture the true essence of his subjects. Each of these individuals clearly possesses an indomitable spirit and unconquerable self-esteem.

    But successful entrepreneurs are business people first, so it shouldn't come as a surprise, but it might, that a common characteristic of these 20 super-confident individuals was an early recognition that they couldn't, and can't, do it alone.

    Surrounding yourself with good people is a ground rule for success.

    Gerry Harvey, founder and chairman of retailer Harvey Norman, says: "I'll go out of my way with very talented people, whereas a lot of people will clash with them and won't give latitude."

    Entrepreneurs, at least, these entrepreneurs, who recognise the contribution that good people make to the success of a business, also believe in providing reward and incentive structures.

    Graham Turner, founder and managing director of Flight Centre, says: "The key is to be certain to have each person being rewarded on the outcomes you want right from the start, and to make sure those outcomes are clearly measured, and that you've got the right people in the right places to produce those outcomes."

    This is not a how-to book that promises to turn readers into another Harvey or Turner. The value of this book is in the collection of experiences, and the opportunity to extract "replicable" ideas, strategies and solutions from those experiences.

    Dick Smith, arguably Australia's most admired entrepreneur, advises aspiring entrepreneurs that the key to success is not in trying to become a clone of a successful entrepreneur, but to cherry-pick winning ideas. Smith writes: "Success in my life has come from copying the success of others. … I continually copied the best concepts and ideas [of competitors] and brought them together under one roof."

    Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone and reading this book won't turn you into one. But if you do have that fire in the belly, chances are you will respond to the book's many valuable lessons. If you work with entrepreneurs – or expect to, for example, as an adviser or director – Marketing Without Money will provide valuable insight into what makes entrepreneurs tick.

    Marketing Without Money: How 20 Top Australian Entrepreneurs Crack Markets With Their Minds, by John Lyons and Edward de Bono, Pennon Publishing, RRP $49.95.

    Leo D'Angelo Fisher is a Melbourne journalist and business writer


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