Book Review: ‘Good For Business’ Asks The Right Questions, But Doesn’t Give the Answer

Good For BusinessI’m attending Steve Forbes’s CMO event in Florida with Charlene Li, and part of the recommended reading for all attendees is the book Good for Business, which came nicely packaged to my desk. Not one to defy Steve Forbes, and certainly wanting to be a good student, I’ve consumed the book on my flight, and share my notes openly, here’s what I found:

The Thesis: The Corporation of the Future Should Inspire Trust
Selling products to make a profit is no longer sufficient. Companies must also appease the human nature of their customers as they are now demanding sustainability, open conversation, helping the community, transparency, and an ethos and mission they can relate to. The book asks four fundamental questions, they are: 1) Do customers care about what the brand stands for beyond just the immediate use of the product? 2) Do customers talk to each other about these higher goals 3) What should companies do to assure their brand is more than a collection of boxes or software code? 4) Does it impact the bottom line? If so, how much?

Unlike Other “Do-Good” Books, There’s Useful Data
Good for Business is a touchy-feely book which ultimately concludes that companies need have loftier goals than just profit such as donating to charities, volunteer work, and brands that make you feel warm and fuzzy. At first, I groaned when reading the start of the book, having been victim of “do good” speeches when I was in corporate –it always felt like an empty shell.   Yet the book started to win me over when the four authors presented meaningful stats and graphs about the growing fickle customer, their desire for brands to be more than just profit machines. Using data they made an argument that companies showing their human appeal a worth while investment.

Chock Full Of Case Studies –With Measurable Business Impact
I’m not sold that the earthy huggy ‘humanized brand’ is right for every company, some cultures simply won’t be able to adapt and some customers just want their immediate needs solved. The book also gives dozens of case studies of companies that have an ethos of more than just profit such as: Jones Soda empowers customers by letting consumers pick labels, Ernst and Young connects with their millennial employees talk back by launching an internal community called “Feedback Zone”. The Container Store is one of the top places to work as they allow employees to have flexible hours, How UK’s Innoccent drinks values it’s employees more than sales and profits and dozens of other examples.

Jeremiah’s Review: Good For Business

The Good: A Convincing Argument
The book Good for Business sets the stage that the world has changed and companies need to change too. It also gives some juicy data points and dozens of anecdotes of companies that have made the leap. It’s well-written, and can be consumed in a few hours.

The Bad: Leaves More Questions Than Answers
The book falls short in a two ways. While stories are entertaining for a long flight I find myself asking more questions that were unanswered, like: 1) What were the challenges these companies went through during this metamorphosis? What was the common barrier  2) Although there’s a loose framework towards the end of the book, how do I get started? How do I do this?  Although a nitpick, while the cover art is catchy, yet the smiley faced button is reminiscent of Walmart (was that intentional?) or the comic book movie The Watchman, which has no relation to this topic.

The Verdict:  Addresses Right Questions, But Doesn’t Tell You How
Good for Business asks the right questions, get you thinking, but seems it’s missing a few chapters. The thesis convinces you that changes need to be made, but feels empty, as it never tells you how to do it. I recommend you put Good For Business on your reading list, but read the more important books that give a pragmatic approach. To summarize, I give this book a grade of a “B” or “Four out of Five Stars”. If anything, this book is calling for a sequel to answer these questions.

That’s just my take, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book, or your comments on similar titles.

  • Elie

    Hi jeremiah,

    I have yet to read the book, but is there a particular book you would give 5 stars to? Or has it yet to be written?

  • Elie. I read a proof of Groundswell before I joined Forrester and knew it was going to be a strong book. Also there are staples such as Good to Great, Innovators Dilemma, and 21 Immutable Laws of Leadership which are also very strong.

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  • Christopher Coulter

    They must be in the passing-this-out-like-parade-candy mode, as ironically was indirectly handed and directed to read this book, by a social media type friend who went to some Chicagoish marketing junket.

    Got about 70% thru before gave up (lucky I got that far), it’s just a new transparency “be more human” biz fad, over-microwaved yet under-heated. It’s the Cluetrain Cult dressed up in that droning B-School language, replete with anecdotes, but no real case studies or actual data…oh there’s data, made-up charts de jour, cherry-picking whatever they can, placing wherever they see fit. It’s a pep rally, not much more, and quite a bit less. The key verbs tell the whole story, “Humanized Consciousness Collaborative”, all so much touchy-feely ‘everyone be hippie’ gone corporate; better placed in the “Religion/New Age” sections, over Business. Dire times ahead if even the rock-solid Forbes group is recommending this “purpose over profit” slop.

    The only decent B-School book, in the past 20 years that wasn’t just another fleeting fad, be ‘Management of the Absurd’, by Richard Farson. 10 stars.

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  • Josh

    Every competitive organization can afford to spend its resources better than on New Age consultants, and “advice” such as this. There is a high price to be paid in innovation, productivity and ultimately profits.

    Definitely one to file under ‘Religion’.

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  • Austin

    This is my Dad's book, and obviously as his son I was highly inclined to read it. As I am only a high school student, some of the concepts were a bit over my head. Conversely though, I felt that Good For Business really laid it all out there in a clean cut, down to the point format. I have read several other business books, and none of the caught my attention like GFB. Obviously I would have a very biased opinion but the arguments presented as well as the interviews throughout the book were largely informative and interesting to read. While he is taking a break, I am looking forward to seeing what else he has to come out with. I think that there is a lot more insight to come and I am anxiously awaiting it. This was a great read, and I felt a stronger sense of enlightenment as to the inner workings of a successful organization in corporate America

  • Austin

    This is my Dad's book, and obviously as his son I was highly inclined to read it. As I am only a high school student, some of the concepts were a bit over my head. Conversely though, I felt that Good For Business really laid it all out there in a clean cut, down to the point format. I have read several other business books, and none of the caught my attention like GFB. Obviously I would have a very biased opinion but the arguments presented as well as the interviews throughout the book were largely informative and interesting to read. While he is taking a break, I am looking forward to seeing what else he has to come out with. I think that there is a lot more insight to come and I am anxiously awaiting it. This was a great read, and I felt a stronger sense of enlightenment as to the inner workings of a successful organization in corporate America

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  • Every competitive organization can afford to spend its resources better than on New Age consultants, and “advice” such as this. There is a high price to be paid in innovation, productivity and ultimately profits.