Rocket: A book review by Bob Morris

RocketRocket: Eight Lessons to Secure Infinite Growth
Michael J. Silverstein, Dylan Bolden, Rune Jacobsen, and Rohan Sajdeh
McGraw-Hill (October 2015)

Here are 16 mini-case studies that demonstrate the physics of accelerated commercial growth

I think this book’s subtitle is a tad overcooked (promising “infinite growth”) but the eight lessons are eminently sound, based on the Boston Consulting Group’s decades of real-world experience with hundreds of organizations. The abundance of information, insights, and counsel provided is “dedicated to the proposition that mere mortals can create immortality. You can build a brand that lasts forever. You can grow faster than your rivals. To do this, however, you need to understand the theory that a very few people — the very few focused consumers — create most of the value in any business.” They are the “fuel” on which the “propulsion” of any organization depends.

Years ago, Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell co-authored a book in which they explain how to create what they characterize as “customer evangelists. This is what Michael Silverstein, Dylan Bolden, Rune Jacobsen, and Rohan Sajdeh have in mind when observing that if you have loyal customers, “and you turn them into your apostles, they will spread the word about you, and they will, propel you to growth.” That, in essence, is the physics of commercial growth. The equation is “2/20/80: 2 percent of your customers directly contribute 20 percent of your sales and drive 80 percent of the total volume by their recommendations.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of the book’s coverage:

o The Interview: How Howard Schultz Applies the Eight Branding Rules at Starbucks (Pages xiv-xvii)
o Eight Branding Rules (xxi-xxv)
o Schismogenesis: Why Brands Fail (xxix-xxxii)
Note: From Gregory Bateson: “progressive differentiation through culture contact.”
o Headline: Let Your Curiosity Rule — And Then Reinvent (5-8)
o Lessons from Victoria’s Secret (17-19)
o Headline: Fanatical Fans Create the Bedrock for a Successful Brand (23-24)
o Headline: The Lessons of Whole Foods Market (35-38)
o Search for What Really Drives Consumer Choice (50-51)
o Headline: The Loyalty Factor: Reward Converts with Experiences Worth Sharing (74-76)
Note: People are far more inclined to share memorable experiences (especially bad ones) than anything else.
o Headliner: Branding Doesn’t Mean a Logo on Every Item (Unless It’s a Swoosh], but Rather a Distinctive Look (86-88)
o The Disney Company (93-95)
o Zappos (105-107, 110-114, and 117-119)
o Headline: Happy Employees Create Happy Customers, and Fun at Work Makes the Difference in Attitude and Morale (108-110)
o Headline: Use a Common Phrase as the Point of Engagement and the Decision Point on What the Right Answer Is — The Golden Rule
o Note: At the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, it is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”
o Headline: Screen, Train, and Enable Your Team (123-126)
o Headline: The Digital World Is Real, Not Virtual (135-136)
o Headline: The Lessons of Amazon (140-142)
o Headline: Help Your Customers Dream, and Then Fulfill Their Dreams (148-149)

I share Silverstein, Bolden, Jacobsen, and Sajdeh’s high regard for The Container Store and its foundation principles:

1. One great person equals three good people.
2. Communication is leadership.
3. Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim – making money becomes an easy proposition.
4.The best selection, service, and price.
5. Intuition does not come to the unprepared mind – you need to train before it happens.
6. “Man in the Desert” selling.

Note: According to The Container Store’s co-founder and CEO, Kip Tindell, his people must be “solution-based” rather than “items-based.” Solve each customer’s entire problem rather than an immediate need: A man in the desert needs more than a glass of water. He also needs “a hat, an umbrella, some lotion, some slippers, a chair, an ice machine – and maybe even a margarita!” “

Please see “Headline: Build a Culture Your Customers and Employees Can Identify With, and Write Down and Write Down and Memorize a Set of Foundation Principles,” Pages 38-40. Also, check out Tindell’s book, Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives.

7. Generate an air of excitement with a “memorable shopping experience” as well as “a solution that is beautiful and functional.”

With only minor (if any) modification, these seven “foundation principles” can serve as a “launching pad” for marketing and sales initiatives that can be invaluable for almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.

I also commend the co-authors on their brilliant use of several reader-0friendcly devices that include “The Chapter in a Box” and “Chapter Overview” as well as boxed mini-commentaries, mini-interviews of CEOs, and mini-case studies; corporate profiles; and “Some Key Action Points” at the conclusion of each chapter. These and other devices will help to facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

Michael Silverstein, Dylan Bolden, Rune Jacobsen, and Rohan Sajdeh provide an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can be of incalculable value to leaders in any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. However, that said, having a sufficient number of “apostles” among the workforce is at least as important as having apostles among one’s customers. All organizations that achieve and then sustain profitable growth have both. Years ago, Southwest Airlines’ then chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher, was asked to explain the “secret sauce” of his company’s success. He replied, “We take great care of our people. They take great care of our customers. And our customers then take great care of our shareholders.”

With all due respect to the importance of the great leaders discussed in this book such as Jeff Bezos, Brunello Cucinelli, Tony Hsieh, John Mackey, Howard Schultz, Tindell, and Les Wexner, it is also important to keep in mind this brief passage in Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

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