The interviewer at strategy+business magazine, Theodore Kinni, got more than he'd asked for when he called Tom to talk about his four favorite books. The result is a roadmap for your reading strategy en route to business acumen and, ultimately, success: "Tom Peters Wants You to Read."

Video: Preparing to Speak

In a conversation with colleague Shelley Dolley, Tom describes one of his most effective speaking strategies. When he's preparing his speech, he doesn't think about the client or just any audience member. Watch this video in our Off the Cuff series to hear about who Tom's keeping in his mind's eye while he's on stage at one of the more than 3,000 speeches he's given.

You can find the video at YouTube (time: 2 minutes 49 seconds).


Tom's latest appearance was for the annual conference of the Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association (FEDA). As always, he offers his PowerPoint presentation used today for the use of those who attended. There's also a long version if you want more.

FEDA Final


Wee tweetstream last week:

Profit is good stuff. But never forget it's DERIVATIVE. Horse that draws the cart is excellent work/fabulous people/great relationships.

Don't get sucked into "scalable." First you need something fabulous/road-tested to scale.

Don't get sucked in by "unicornism." Odds of becoming a unicorn same as winning the lottery. Just do great work.

Fabulous work. Great relationships. The rest is details.



They fall into two categories:

The first set of four makes it clear that there is more to life than the giant firms the “gurus” focus on (I’m often guilty). There are a ton of excellent/amazing/super-cool mid-sized businesses out there to emulate. Many are in "boring" industries. My name for them is "Small-ish/Mid-sized Niche Dominators." THEY ARE THE BACKBONE OF NATIONAL ECONOMIC EXCELLENCE. (Poster children: Germany's Mittelstand—until recently, Germany was the world's #1 exporter, courtesy their mid-sized dynamos; one report called the mittelstanders "agile creatures darting between the legs of the multinational monsters.") The slogan that captures the nature of these firms best comes from George Whalin in Retail Superstars: "Be the best. It's the only market that's not crowded."

The next three books focus on the so-called "soft stuff"—e.g., putting people (REALLY) first. The Soft Edge in particular is a gem among gems. (Soft Edge is particularly near and dear to my heart. I've long said that In Search of Excellence can be captured in just six words:"Hard is soft. Soft is hard." The so-called "hard" stuff—such as the plans and the numbers—are really the soft, squishy, and often fictional stuff. The so-called "soft" stuff—such as the people and culture and relationships—are the true "hard" Bedrock of Excellence.)

The last, The Second Machine Age, is simply the best book written to date on the implications of the tech tsunami that is rolling in.

Read 'em!

To wit ...

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, by Bo Burlingham

Retail Superstars: Inside the 25 Best Independent Stores in America, by George Whalin

Hidden Champions: Success Strategies of Unknown World Market Leaders, by Hermann Simon (said by some to be Germany's #1 "management guru")

The Future Is Small: Why AIM [Alternative Investment Market] Will Be the World’s Best Market Beyond the Credit Boom, by Gervais Williams

The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success, by Rich Karlgaard, publisher, Forbes

The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits?, by Zeynep Ton, MIT

Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love, by Richard Sheridan, CEO Menlo Innovations

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, MIT


What Have You Learned?

Tom spends a few months in New Zealand at the start of each year. While he's there, he often pops over to the University of Auckland Business School for a visit. It's refreshing to look at business issues from the perspective of the other side of the world. UABS's connectivity expert, Darl Kolb, has had Tom guest lecture in his class, and recently wrote about the experience.

“Best Slides”/PDF Doc

My monster PP collection—THE WORKS/1966–2016 at—ends with an Appendix of "Best Slides," about 200 thereof.

Since that appendix is in a way a summary, I decided to convert it to a PDF document. You will find that document below.

It ended up being 49 pages long, encompassing about 13,000 words of text. I have beefed the slides up a bit to offer some "stand alone" coherence to the doc.

All yours ...

THE WORKS: Best Slides PDF

Slide Junkie?

If you love Tom's slides, and have been looking for a simple way to share them online, we have some great news for you. We've uploaded the first chapter of The Works to SlideShare. You can find it here: The Works: Chapter 1 Execution.

THE WORKS 1966-2015: Overriding Logic

This—circa November 2015—is my best shot. It's "THE WORKS." Some half-century in the making (from 1966, Vietnam, U.S. Navy ensign, combat engineer/Navy Seabees—my first "management" job); but also the product of a massive program of self-directed study in the last 36 months. It includes, in effect, a 250-page book's worth—50,000++ words—of annotation.

The times are nutty—and getting nuttier at an exponential pace. I have taken the current context as fully into account as I am capable of doing. But I have given equal attention to more or less eternal verities that will continue to drive organizational performance and a quest for EXCELLENCE for the next several years—and perhaps beyond.

Steal. (That's the whole bloody point.)
P-L-E-A-S-E try something, better yet several somethings.* ** *** **** *****

*Make no mistake, this is a 14-chapter ... BOOK. I think and write in PowerPoint; but the flow is emphatically "booklike"—and the annotations are extensive, to say the least; if something needs explaining, well, it's explained. I dearly hope you will join me in this cumulative—half-century—journey.

**My "Life Mantra #1": WTTMSW/Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins.

***I am quite taken by N.N. Taleb's term "antifragile" (it's the title of his most recent book). The point is not "resilience" in the face of change; that's reactive. Instead the idea is proactive—literally "getting off" on the madness per se; perhaps I somewhat anticipated this with my 1987 book, Thriving on Chaos.

****Re "new stuff," this presentation has benefited immensely from Social Media—e.g., I have learned a great deal from my 125K+ twitter followers; that is, some fraction of this material is "crowdsourced."

*****I am not interested in providing "good presentations." I am interested in spurring practical action—i.e., pick a few things and try them. Otherwise, why waste your time—or mine?

Contents/"The Works"/1966-2015/EXCELLENCE!

Chapter ONE: Execution/The "All-Important Last 95%"
Chapter TWO: EXCELLENCE (Or Why Bother at All?)
Chapter THREE: 34 BFOs/Blinding Flashes of the Obvious
Chapter FOUR: People (REALLY!) First
Chapter FIVE: Tech Tsunami/Software Is Eating the World++
Chapter SIX: People First/A Moral Imperative Circa 2015
Chapter SEVEN: Giants Stink/Age of SMEs/Be The Best, It's the Only Market That's Not Crowded
Chapter EIGHT: Innovate Or Die/W.T.T.M.S.W./Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins++
Chapter NINE: Nine Value-Added Strategies
Chapter TEN: The "PSF"/Professional Service Firm "Model" as Exemplar/"Cure All"
Chapter ELEVEN: You/Me/The "Age of 'BRAND YOU'/'Me Inc.'"
Chapter TWELVE: Women Are Market #1 For Everything/Women Are the Most Effective Leaders
Chapter THIRTEEN: Leadership/46 Scattershot Tactics
Chapter FOURTEEN: Avoid Moderation!/Pursue "Insanely Great"/Just Say "NO!" to Normal


"Business has to give people enriching, rewarding lives ... or it's simply not worth doing."—Richard Branson

"Your customers will never be any happier than your employees."—John DiJulius

"We have a strategic plan. It's called 'doing things.'"—Herb Kelleher

"You miss 100% of the shots you never take."—Wayne Gretzky

"Ready. Fire. Aim."—Ross Perot

"Execution is strategy."—Fred Malek

"Avoid moderation."—Kevin Roberts

"I'm not comfortable unless I'm uncomfortable."—Jay Chiat

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it."—John DiJulius on social media

"Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart."—Henry Clay

"You know a design is cool when you want to lick it."—Steve Jobs

"This will be the women's century."—Dilma Rousseff

"Be the best. It's the only market that's not crowded."—George Whalin

Brand You: 2015

Ann Friedman wrote an article for New Republic this month titled "Me, Inc.: The paradoxical, pressure-filled quest to build a 'personal brand.'" She ruminates on the purpose of personal branding and the complexities of creating one in social-media-saturated 2015. Friedman quotes liberally from the Fast Company article, "The Brand Called You" that Tom wrote in 1997, but she seems flummoxed by the entire concept. She laments how contrived it feels to speak about herself in a polished, professional manner. It seems she's taken the phrase "personal brand" too literally. Tom used it to contrast a person with a corporation when branding. With increased use of multiple social media channels, it's easy to see how creative professionals can blur and blend the lines between their personal and professional lives. Personal branding becomes even more important given that amount of exposure.

While it may be a challenge to determine how best to segment the personal and professional online, Tom's message is still extraordinarily relevant whether you're plugged in or not. Friedman calls the concept of a janitor's personal brand ridiculous. What she's missing is the core of Tom's message: Craft, Distinction, Networking Skills. Friedman's right that a janitor does not need a "flashy website." But a janitor's attention to craft and distinction will always be the key to her/his personal brand, and ensure employment long-term, whether with one employer or a string of them. Tom has proved his prescience once again: 1997 or 2015, be distinct or extinct.


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