News & Opinion

Thinker(s) in Residence: Business & Books with Brains On Fire

Sally Haldorson

October 18, 2013


"Why can’t we lose the term NOT FOR PROFIT? Shouldn’t the people doing the most good in the world be wildly profitable? " Q: What is the one unanswered question about business you are most interested in answering?


"Why can't we lose the term NOT FOR PROFIT? Shouldn't the people doing the most good in the world be wildly profitable?"

Q: What is the one unanswered question about business you are most interested in answering?
ROBBIN Why can't we lose the term NOT FOR PROFIT? Shouldn't the people doing the most good in the world be wildly profitable? That idea has always intrigued me and I'm glad to see it getting some traction with companies like Tom Shoes and Warby Parker, companies who are selling goods, making a profit and also making positive change in the world. JOHN How big is too big? Every business want to grow but at some point a business can become too big. When does a business become so big it loses its specialness? That's the question I want answered. It's something I've experienced first hand at Starbucks. When I started there in 1994, Starbucks had less than 500 stores. When I left in early 2003, they had over 7,000 stores. Today, Starbucks operates over 20,000 shops around the world and has become a major player in the consumer packaged goods world. Has Starbucks become too big? If so, when?
Q: What business book has influenced you the most?
JOHN In 1995 I read THE DISCIPLINE OF MARKET LEADERS from Micheal Treacy and Fred Wiersema. It changed my life forever. I became a business book junkie after reading that book. Traecy and Wiersema did what any brilliant business book should do: breakdown a complicated topic into easy-to-understand and easy-to-act upon pieces. The book explained business strategy to me by revealing the three distinct disciplines a company could follow to achieve a successful market leadership position. Love that book. ROBBIN Switch by Chip and Dan Heath for one simple idea it brilliantly brings to life. When I read the Chapter Two about looking for the "Bright Spots", it totally changed the way I go about my work and running a business! I would even say the notion of finding the "Bright Spots" is something I use in my personal life. It just feels so right to me to go look for what's working and emulate that vs. studying the problem, the "true but useless" stuff. GENO It would be two books, cause I read them book at the same time. Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin and The Anatomy of Buzz by Emanuel Rosen. I wouldn't be a WOMM practitioner today if I hadn't discovered those books.
Q: What is the business book you wish you had written and why?
JOHN ZAG by Marty Neumeier. It's brilliant. It's brief. It's the best book on how to design a brand to standout. ROBBIN Switch by Chip and Dan Heath GENO Purple Cow by Seth Godin. It was IMO a game changer for marketing and for book marketing. It really stuck out back then and it still does today.
Q. What business book are you reading right now?
JOHN Just the other day a friend who is outrageously passionate about business books recommended Marc Ecko's UNLABEL: Selling You Without Selling Out. I'm a few pages in and love it. The book doesn't read like a business book and that's because the author is a graffiti artist turned big-time fashion designer. ROBBIN How to Deliver a TED Talk by Jeremy Donovan because I've been asked to deliver a TEDx talk in the Spring. I love how easy this book is to read. It's a must read for anyone who needs to communicate. Most of us over communicate and can benefit from learning how make an idea more sticky and spreadable by keeping it single minded and laser focused. GENO Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. The Heath brothers books are always my go-to when I'm working on a project and trying to focus my thoughts. Their thoughts and words always inspire me.

ROBBIN PHILLIPS, GREG CORDELL, GENO CHURCH, and JOHN MOORE work together at the word of mouth marketing and identity company Brains on Fire. Along with others in the Brains on Fire tribe, they partner with some of the most fearless businesses and organizations on the planet to ignite movements through the contagious power of passionate people. Robbin is the courageous President of Brains on Fire and truly believes love is a circular transaction. Greg is the Chief Inspiration Officer, which means his job is to find inspiration where no one else is looking. Geno is the Word of Mouth Pathfinder, helping to find and nurture the passion conversation inside every business. John is the Chief of Wahoo, helping clients grow and fostering learners and leaders within the Brains on Fire tribe.
More: Read our recommendation of The Passion Conversation by Brains on Fire. More: Read our Q&A with Robbin, Geno, and John of Brains on Fire.

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