Commentary & Analysis
Running the Gauntlet: A Book Review
Jeff Hayzlett’s second book, Running the Gauntlet, is out, launched January 3rd. Read what Senior Editor Cary Sherburne has to say about the book and the SnapTags it incorporates.
By Cary Sherburne
Published: January 19, 2012
Former Kodak CMO and self-styled Global Business Celebrity Jeff Hayzlett has launched his second book. Following on the heels of The Mirror Test, his new book, Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change and Grow Profits, was launched in New York on January 3rd (after a pre-launch event in December in Hayzlett’s home state of South Dakota).
For those of you who know Jeff, his writer, Jim Eber has done a fabulous job of having Jeff’s voice and personality come through in both books. As someone who has ghost-written several books, I know that can be hard to do, and Eber should be congratulated.
Running the Gauntlet, while a general business book, is especially relevant to owners of printing businesses. It’s all about change management and being a change agent. If there is one thing printing business owners are facing, it is certainly change. Jeff’s refreshing style and common sense advice makes this a fun read but with lots of sage advice for business owners.
In this book, Jeff leverages his South Dakota ranch lifestyle (not that it seems that he is home much) and uses a lot of cowboy/horse analogies. Being a horsewoman myself, I especially appreciated these. But whether you are into horses or not, these stories do convey a lot of – sorry about the pun – horse sense.
As with The Mirror Test, Jeff is not shy about sharing stories, even those that don’t reflect that well on him. He also has used a couple of new techniques in the book which add tremendous value to it. The first is “friendsourcing.” Jeff differentiates this from “crowdsourcing,” saying, “Friendsourcing is about trust—reaching out to your most valued advisors (the people you really know) and finding out what they think.” He has included friendsourcing comments at the end of each chapter, many from high-profile marketing executives with recognizable names and/or companies. Great insight!
Secondly, each chapter contains a SnapTag, adding mobile activation to the book. SnapTags are similar to QR Codes, in that you can snap them with your mobile phone (with the Sypderlynk SnapTag Reader app) to access video content related to that chapter. SnapTags are different than QR Codes in a number of ways, though. First, they can be customized. As you can see from the image here, Jeff uses the person climbing a rope that is featured on the book cover as the image for the SnapTag. More attractive than a QR code, that’s for sure. QR Codes can be branded as well, but the SnapTag has a cleaner look that highlights the brand.
If you don’t have a smartphone (and you should!), you can still access the content by taking a photo of it (with your feature phone, smartphone, or tablet camera), and sending to a short code via MMS on your phone or to a designated email address. It is still a 2D barcode, but it highlights a brand’s logo inside a notched circle. Here’s an interesting comparison of SnapTags and QR Codes. QR Codes are open source (read: free), SnapTags are proprietary. QR Codes can be generated instantly, and SnapTags take two days. So already you can see that each plays a different role. For purposes of the book, SnapTags are a good fit. Here is more information about SnapTags, in case you are interested.
A key theme throughout the book is this: “No one is going to die from the changes you make in business.” Jeff reinforces this over and over, encouraging readers to step out of their comfort zone and take a few risks to lead the business through necessary change. Not everything is going to work, or drive the expected change, but driving change sets the tone for your business and employees. Hayzlett says, “Change is not about being irresponsible, reckless, or careless. And while lives are not at stake, livelihoods are. If you are not successful, jobs will be lost. Mortgages and retirement and college funds will be affected. This is not a game. Driving change is about driving success, and it is serious.”
He encourages you to get past your fear and be willing to be a beginner. Too many businesses, especially in the printing industry, are blaming the economy and waiting for things to return to “business as usual.” As Hayzlett points out in his book, this is not going to happen. He uses a horse story here—while you might think he has been a cowboy all of his life, he hasn’t. He learned how to saddle his first horse from a 14-year-old girl when he was in his forties. I guess that’s not much different than a seasoned executive or business owner who is willing to learn about social media from a twenty-something geeky employee, but how many actually take the time to do that?
He also points out that you have to start by changing the mood and culture within your business, and then move on to changing people and processes. Change must be driven from the top, and driven throughout the organization. He is not shy about saying that folks who are too resistant to change should probably not be part of your business in the future—hard but necessary decisions that need to be made.
Once you have tagged yourself as a change agent, and changed the mood and culture of your company, you are on your way. But Hayzlett doesn’t stop there, moving on to Part Two of the book, which is about growth and sustaining momentum. He also includes helpful appendices that supplement the book’s content.
While I am not sure you will find anything earthshatteringly new in Running the Gauntlet, I found it to be an enjoyable read that presents the challenges most businesses are facing today—and suggested solutions to those challenges—in an engaging fashion, organized in a manner that most executives and managers will find helpful, understandable and actionable. Take the leap. Buy the book. And start—or augment—the changes that will take your business profitably into the future.
PS: It is available for Kindle if you prefer to read it that way!