The good business book guide
Robert Heller reviews the latest business books
Straight from the CEO: The World's Top Business Leaders Reveal Ideas that Every Manager Can Use
Edited by G.William Dauphinais and Colin Price
Nicholas Brealey £18
The two senior Price Waterhouse consultants behind these studies have managed a remarkable feat. Tapping PW's strategic clients, they and other consultants have generated an extraordinary, worldwide diversity of 33 personal CEO accounts, which have been brilliantly edited into a cohesive whole. Six headings - globalisation, radical change, leadership, culture, innovation and creativity, and customer relationship - summarise a challenging range of concerns. Lessons abound (from ABB and BA to Compaq and Oshkosh B'Gosh) in how to lead companies and, above all, people in times of tumultuous internal and external change. - Worth a special effort.
Relentless Growth: How Silicon Valley Innovation Strategies Can Work in Your Business
by Christopher Meyer
The Free Press £18.99
Two related (and true) ideas are now making big waves. First, Silicon Valley is leading the way to a dramatically new method of managing. Second, innovation spurs profitable growth, whether technology is high or low. Silicon Valley management has been shaped by the innovate-and-win philosophy. But, while Meyer is an experienced Silicon Valley hand with valuable insights, alas he combines a scatter-gun approach with stating the obvious: 'no strategy or innovation portfolio is meaningful if you don't possess the capabilities and capacities to execute it'. Still, the issues (such as radical changes in innovation processes and measuring progress) are so important that it's worth navigating the jaunty prose. - Take on a trip
Wearing the Coat of Change: Handbook for Personal Survival and Prosperity in the Unpredictable World of Work
by Tim Drake
Orion Business Books £20
Today, many managers have to master life outside the corporate 'comfort zone'. That means achieving 'Comfort Zone Growth', which Tim Drake calls CZG. While 'not a great lover of acronyms', he nevertheless writes: 'You can be an ASC without being a SAT. It's difficult to be a SAT without being an ASC, though you could be, without being an IBG'. The key letters are IBG: Independent Business Generator.
For all its tiresomeness, this is a useful guide on how to emulate Drake's freelance comeback as an IBG, after losing his troubled creation, Cobra Sports.
He drew heavily (like the book) on self-help gurus (Covey, Robbins, etc).
He's right, though: plan yourself as a good business should plan, and you stand to gain the same benefits. - Strictly for addicts.
PLAYING IT SAFE(ISH) WITH UNIT TRUSTS
Investment tips for people who don't want to gain the earth
Rank/UK unit trusts 1/2/95-2/2/98 % change
1 Govett Geared UK Index 190.5
2 NatWest UK Smaller Cos 188.3
3 GA North American Growth 178.3
4 Johnson Fry Slater Growth 168.9
5 S&P Financial Securities 147.9
6 Royal & Sun All North America 138.5
7 Hill Samuel US Smaller Cos 136.6
8 Dresdner RCM American Smaller Cos 133.4
9 Henderson American Smaller Cos 131.6
10 Framlington Health 131.3
11 Jupiter European 129.9
12 Gartmore UK Smaller Cos 127.6
13 Framlington Financial 126.6
14 AberdeenProl Technology 125.7
15 Edinburgh North American 125.5
16 Gartmore American Emerging Growth 124.9
17 INVESCO European Growth 122.8
18 Credit Suisse Transatlantic 122.6
19 Threadneedle Euro Select Growth (Class 1) 122.6
20 Sun Alliance North America 121.9
Source: Standard and Poor's Micropal.
Unit trusts are shares for wimps - because they cover a basket of investments, you're not going to lose your money overnight as you can with equity.
Equally, you're unlikely to wake up, check the city pages and start looking for a new boat. So it should come as no surprise that of 1,300-odd unit trusts listed in the UK, the best, Govett's Geared UK Index, would have netted you a tidy - but hardly earth-shattering - 190% growth over the last three years. But they're certainly not risk-free - something those of you who thought names such as ASEAN Growth sounded cute a few years back, probably know all too well.
Rank/ethical unit trusts 1/2/95-2/2/98 % change
1 Framlington Health 131.3
2 Credit Suisse Fellowship 92.1
3 Sovereign Ethical 86.8
4 Friends Provident Stewardship N American 83.5
5 Scot Equitable Ethical 74.5
6 Friends Provident Stewardship 70.1
7 Allchurches Amity 67.2
8 Henderson Ethical 63.7
9 United Charities Ethical 59.1
10 Abbey Ethical 56.7
Source: Standard and Poor's Micropal
If you're going to be safe, you may as well be (ethically) sound, too.
Indeed, these trusts promise never to invest in companies that club seals, pollute rives or exploit indigenous persons. And the payback? Well, not bad: one trust makes it into the overall unit trust top 10 and none of the UK ethical trusts tracked by Standard and Poor's Micropal actually lost money over the last three years. No good investment goes unrewarded.