THE GOOD BUSINESS BOOK GUIDE
Robert Heller reviews the latest business books
The Manipulators: A Conspiracy to Make Us Buy; By Jeffrey Robinson; Simon & Schuster £17.99
This book is highly entertaining, thanks to its lively subject. But adverts, whether brilliant or not, are used - horror of horrors - to sell by persuasion, which Jeffrey Robinson, as his sub-title shows, regards as devious. He demolishes earlier exploitation of psychology (such as 'subliminal advertising', founded on hoax), only to create new monsters, mainly researchers, who use mind knowledge, coupled with IT, to direct advertising to the hot button. Nonsense spews out. Influencing with colours 'is manipulation in ways that (earlier hidden persuaders) never dreamed of'. When supermarkets group like products together, or use 'bright and clear, but soft' overhead lighting, that manipulates, too. Despite such irritating rubbish (and worrying inaccuracies), this is inadvertently a vigorous guide to making promotion more effective (sorry, manipulative).
The John Adair Handbook of Management and Leadership; Edited by Neil Thomas; Thorogood £19.95
In the '60s, when American management lore was even more dominant than it is today, John Adair stood out as a British exception. He (rather unfashionably) championed leadership and military models. In the modern world, leadership has made a strong comeback and Adair remains an acute, pragmatic guide to its arts and crafts. He is equally sound and stimulating on self-management (including managing time) and most aspects of managing others. The military note has all but disappeared, save in the brisk, bullet-point style. This doesn't make for readability but most of these succinct pages can be used to the practical manager's real benefit.
The Profit Zone: How Strategic Business Design Will Lead You to Tomorrow's Profits; By Adrian J Slywotzky and David J Morrison; John Wiley & Sons £16.99
The 'profit-zone' in this title is old wine in new bottling. Managers (such as Coca-Cola's Roberto Goizueta) who drop unprofitable activities to concentrate on profitable ones are 'profit-centric'. Being 'customer-centric' ('customer-focused' to everybody else) is also crucial. But wait: in many industries, 'the greater (the relative market share) ... the greater the profitability'. This book is really a hymn to 'shareholder value', with the ratio of market value to sales as favoured metric. Enter tautology: the company with the highest ratio has the best 'business design' (such as Microsoft). Still, the consultant authors, providing well-documented cases, ram home a vital point: to stay in and expand the profit-zone, strategic designs need to be frequently revised, reinforced - and even replaced.
LOG ON AND SEE ME SOMETIME
Who scores top marks for getting themselves noticed on the net
RANK COMPANY ADDRESS SCORE
1 UAL www.ual.com 68.7%
2 Lufthansa www.lufthansa.de 68.5%
3 Time Warner www.pathfinder.com 67.6%
3 Viacom www.viacom.com 67.6%
5 British Telecom www.bt.co.uk 67.0%
6 American Airlines www.aa.com 62.2%
7 Hewlett-Packard www.hp.com 61.5%
8 General Motors www.gm.com 61.0%
9 Bellsouth www.bellsouthcorp.com 60.1%
10 Kroger www.kroger.com 59.5%
SOURCE: The global internet 100 survey 1998, Information
A few years ago it may have been different, but now even the Luddites among us agree that you can't really ignore the internet any more. Companies need to provide a bit more than a couple of badly thought out, dated pages of information for their cyber customers. But who to emulate? Information Strategy, in association with Insead and Novell, surveyed 120 leading companies in their sectors, drawn from the Fortune Global 500, marking them on factors such as customer relations, technology and product. The Americans dominate the top 10 - well, they did think of it first - but both the UK and Germany get a look in. Scores are expressed as an overall percentage.
ROOMS WITH A VIEW TO BE BUSY
Occupancy and rates for hotels in major business destinations
Occupancy (%) Cost % rise
(in DM) in cost
London 83.3 362.55 32.6
Amsterdam 78.9 205.54 6.9
Edinburgh 78.5 227.78 38.2
Stockholm 76.0 217.82 9.3
Paris 75.1 358.51 4.5
Barcelona 73.1 162.32 9.5
Brussels 68.3 166.22 1.7
Prague 67.8 180.13 3.8
Frankfurt 66.8 196.77 5.1
Moscow 65.3 332.63 10.3
Milan 65.1 267.80 4.6
Lisbon 61.0 137.08 -0.1
Geneva 59.3 362.38 1.3
SOURCE: EuroCity Survey, Pannell Kerr Forster/Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.
It's official. London's hotels are the busiest in Europe, boasting a very healthy 83.3% occupancy last year. That might explain why they are so expensive, but perhaps not why average achieved room rates (AARR) jumped a mighty 32.6% between 1996 and 1997. With rates calculated in Deutschmarks, however, blame may be laid fairly and squarely at the door of Britain's strong pound. But what's the excuse of Paris, Geneva and Moscow?