Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Three Superb Books I Highly Recommend

I have been on vacation, fly fishing in Colorado for the last two weeks, and on a few days when the weather was particularly poor (like snowing on June 9th!!!!) I had a chance to catch up on some reading. I wanted to pass along three of the books I read that I found very, very valuable.

The first is: “Rules of Thumb: 52 truths for winning at business without losing yourself” by Alan Webber, the co-founder of Fast Company magazine. I have always been a huge fan of Fast Company and now I understand why — because Alan Webber is a passionate, inspirational and visionary thinker. Through his work at the Harvard Business Review and later at Fast Company he has been able to meet and talk with many of the world’s most admired an interesting people. In this book Webber shares the “best of the best” in ideas, advice and wisdom that he is gathered while traveling the globe to interview these amazing folks. It would be impossible to read Rules of Thumb without taking away several priceless ideas. Much of it you will nod your head at and say, “Yes, that is right on target” while other entries in the book will be completely new ideas to you. It is an easy, fun and enjoyable read that delivers incredibly valuable ideas and insights. To me this is a perfect airplane book — one that you can read in a few hours while headed to an assignment in another city — or is a wonderful book to open up and read one of the rules of thumb every day or every week and stretch the enjoyment and lessons over months or an entire year. From new college graduate to CEO, there is some great information in this book that makes it well worth reading.

Here is a link to Rules of Thumb on click here

The next book I read and really enjoyed was Keith Ferrazzi’s newest book: Who’s Got Your Back: the breakthrough program to build deep, relationships that create success — and won’t let you fail.” Keith’s first book, “Never Eat Alone” was absolutely fantastic, with great stories and super information… this book is even better! I have long said that the most important thing I’ve learned in my life so far is: “You become what you focus on and similar to the people you spend time with.” Keith takes this idea to the next level, helping you understand clearly how building a huge network of bright, sharp, smart and talented people… that have your back… is an essential key to business and life success. To give you an example of how much quality information is in this book, I used up an entire highlighter before I got to chapter 3. That’s a lot of really good stuff.

Today more than ever I see success in business and life as the interplay of three fundamental qualities: competence + connections + character. In the first stage you must be truly talented and highly competent in an area that adds significant value in the marketplace (and Webber’s book, Rules of Thumb, will help you with some of that sort of information). In the second stage you must build dozens and dozens of meaningful and real connections with other talented, focused and values-based individuals. Which leads to the last stage of being an honest, value-based person of true character and integrity. Keith’s new book, Who’s Got Your Back, is a veritable handbook for going out and honestly building the sort of relationships that will take your life and your career into a completely new level of success and happiness. This is a “Must Read.”

Here is a link to Who’s Got Your Back on click here

The last book I read was, “One From Many: VISA and the rise of the chaordic organization” by Dee Hock and Peter Senge. As much a philosophy book as it is a business book, I found this to be one of the most enthralling and thought-provoking business books I have read in my life. Part of the book chronicles the incredible history of the creation of the VISA card organization. I knew very little about how VISA came into being and really enjoyed reading the unique triumphs and tribulations that Dee Hock endured in building this global organization. The stories are a pure joy to read and provide a wonderful lesson on leadership and organizational structure. Which brings me to the other part of the book, the more philosophical bent, that describes Dee Hock’s vision of the “Chaordic” organization — a word he coined to describe an organization that is able to achieve self-organization from chaos. In other words, building a global organization without any titles, org chart, silos, or turf guarding — where you bring together bright, talented and honest people — give them an extremely clear and vivid vision of the desired future… then get out of their way and let them self-organize into the teams/organization that needs to exist in order to reach the outcome. I know that sounds a little confusing — and even on the verge of ridiculous — until you read the story of how Dee Hock actually accomplished this at VISA. I loved reading this book so much I had a really hard time putting it down. It made me think deeply about how organizations are developed and how much opportunity for creativity and innovation exists when you simply hire talented people and trust that they will do what is in the best interests of the overall organization. This is a really fantastic book.

Here is a link to One From Many on click here

I have read several dozen books in the last few months, but I wanted to take a moment to specifically recommend these three to you. If any of these books sound interesting to you, I urge you to order them right away and get to reading!

I look forward to your feedback and comments on these three books — as well as any books you’d like to recommend for me or the other folks on this blog to read.

Hope this helped — take good care — John Spence



  1. Thanks for the book recommendations, this is a very cool way to extend your leadership training… finding these treasures is sometimes more difficult than finding the quietness to read
    I am confident that I speak for others who know you in saying thanks again for books that will become great flagstones on our path of learning.

  2. PSUser says:

    John, thanks for sharing these books. This really helped us and we appreciate this a lot. Cheers.