Mark Stevens has seen the look before.
Hidden beneath a thin veneer of smiles and hopeless optimism, you have the look of a business owner who knows his company is in free fall and doesn't have the slightest idea how to turn it around.
In "Your Company Sucks: It's Time to Declare War on Yourself" (BenBella Books, August 2011), Stevens pulls no punches in describing the factors that put good companies on a course toward oblivion. Instead of waiting until it's too late, Stevens' unrelenting mantra is for the business owner to accept responsibility for her company's malaise and then personally steer it back on course, regardless of the consequences.
Stevens convincingly argues that many businesses are blissfully unaware that decline that has already begun. In his version of the business lifecycle, extended plateaus are a harbinger of impending doom, a sign that the company is shunning innovation in favor of an autopilot approach to the marketplace. The inevitable result is that the company loses sight of its mission to serve its customers – and customers lose sight of the reasons they were drawn to the company in the first place.
The premise of "Your Company Sucks" is far from unique. The backlist of titles lecturing business owners about their companies' shortcomings is long and tired. But despite the gimmicky title (a follow-up to Steven's bestseller, "Your Marketing Sucks"), Stevens delivers a read that, in our opinion, outperforms other books in the niche.
While many of his peers are long on problems and short on executable remedies, Stevens goes out of his way to give readers practical solutions to common problems in declining companies. From complacency to incompetence, he equips business owners with tools to address decline and reclaim their companies, culminating with an action plan for change that can be adapted to any business context.
Even more, Stevens peppers his prose with real-life examples gleaned from his many years in marketing and management consulting. You'll learn how major brands like Apple and Disney clawed their way back from the brink. But you'll also learn how ordinary SMBs and large corporations have addressed the same issues that have your company bogged down in a quagmire of suckage.
Stevens' advice for declining businesses appropriately comes around to a focus on the customer or in his words, "the thrill" customers experience when they interact with your business. Creating a business that customers like isn't enough. To effectively compete in today's marketplace, you need to create a brand that customers love, a company that intentionally looks for new ways to thrill the people you serve on a daily basis.
At around 200 pages, "Your Company Sucks" is a short read that will be valuable for business leaders in any company. Yet given the amount of control they have over their businesses, entrepreneurs and owners of SMBs have the most to gain from Steven's advice, especially if they are willing to take a hard look in the mirror and implement the changes that are necessary to transform their businesses from companies that suck to companies that any entrepreneur would be proud to own.