Score: 96/100 (9.6 out of 10)
WOW! We did not expect to love this business book so much!
Taking Stock by Harvard-educated Peter J. De Silva really impressed us with its personable, practical, and applicable presentation. It's no surprise! Silva has proven himself to be a lifelong masterful communicator and leader—a former CEO, chairman, and board member for multiple successful companies. He has at least 35 years of business leadership experience!
So, Silva really brings a lot pain and pedigree to the table. He is a person of experience who we can truly get behind and want to learn from.
Also, to emphasize how much we learned, this is probably the most notes we've taken of a book!
So, where do we start?
Well, the author essentially demonstrates to us that our success as business leaders can be viewed like a mosaic—a lot of previously-separate, fractured fragments that come together to form a greater whole. What we took away from this is that, in business and in leadership, there are a lot of moving parts. There are times when some parts are going to need more help than others—exposing, exploring, and strengthening weaknesses. This gives us an opportunity to learn, grow, and get better constantly—what the author calls “Kaizen.” Ironically, Kaizen is a Japanese concept that we're also familiar with. In Silva's career, it was championed by his former boss, Ned Johnson, at Fidelity.
There are times when some parts of a mosaic are going to be shining and thriving. This is an opportunity to capitalize on this success and to see how it can be improved and expanded. Always be on the lookout for what works (and what doesn't) as well as why something works while other things don't.
A lot of this book places a heavy emphasis on one key concept: PRINCIPLES or values, especially in contrast to rules. The best analogy that Silva gives us is that the US Declaration of Independence is a collection of principles while the Code of Hamarabi is a collection of rules—one is emulated the world over while the other is mostly a relic of time.
Silva advocates for ten key principles:
What really stood out to us about all of these principles is how much it dealt with dealing with people and treating them well and ethically. The way you treat people is likely going to influence how they treat/view you and your business. If you treat your associates/workers well (like in Principle #6), they will take care of your customers, and your customers will take care of you and your wallet.
People come first. Everything else follows.
Something else we gathered from this book is that we should always be seeking to improve and challenge ourselves. Silva tells us that:
“Good leaders do not let important matters lie fallow just because they are hard or complex. They face the realities of each situation head-on and do the right thing.”
Doing the right thing is also a significant part of this book. A business or leader's ethics and values should never be left to doubt or question. You should seek to be above board and transparent whenever possible. The author tells us that it can take years to build trust and only seconds to lose it.
Working well with others is also important. A high tide raises all boats. According to Silva, “Enlightened leaders know that you do not raise yourself up by putting others down. You pull yourself down with everyone else, making it impossible to accomplish great things.”
We can learn a lot from others, including our competitors and rivals. Collaboration and cooperation can be truly powerful things—especially when they are mutually beneficial.
In another great quote, the author explains that another word for kindness is “considerateness.” This, from our perspective, is thinking about and considering the needs, feelings, wants, and desires of others, not just your own.
Speaking of competitors and rivals, another key thing we took away from this book is that you should seek to distinguish yourself and your business from others, not to be like them. What does that mean? Well, for example, Apple distinguished itself from Microsoft, providing computers that were less vulnerable to viruses. Coke and Pepsi taste distinctly different from each other, and many prefer one over the other. To use a football analogy: there are run-heavy teams, pass-heavy teams, and balanced teams. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. However, the key to each of their success is doing what they do well—recruiting around their identity, practicing, and executing well.
This business book was incredible, and we were honored and privileged to be able to read it.
Check it out on Amazon!