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on 1 October 2002
The relationship between top managers and strategic business planning has changed profoundly over the past few years. All of this after a decade in which top managers were content with dramatic downsizing to produce mammoth gains. Without missing a beat, the book publishers have outdone themselves by pushing out an ever-increasing torrent of strategic titles. Most of these tiresome titles serve little purpose other than to keep you scratching your head and wondering what company this author has been working for. It is noted by the majority of us the obvious, what most top managers need is expert knowledge that is previously unbeknownst to them.
The Art of Profitability, by Adrian Slywotsky is just that, expert knowledge being passed on from mentor to protégé. Writing with wit and provocative insight, Mr. Slywotsky tells the story of forward-thinking strategy teacher David Zhao and his student Steve Gardner. The author cautions readers to "please read only one chapter per week... Think about it. Let it stew." The premise of the book is once you fully understand the customer you will be heading down the pathway to profitability.
Slywotsky begins the book with Steve nervously waiting for his first meeting with his future mentor David Zhao. After a handshake and a few laughs, Steve convinces David to mentor him about profitability. The two spent the next few months discussing The Art of Profitability. The book's strength lies in each of the twenty-three business models strategically presented throughout the text. If I asked you what Mattel, American Express and Nokia Cell Phones had in common would you say they all represent one of the most powerful business models called pyramid profit? Probably not! However, if I asked you the same question after reading this book, you would have the knowledge necessary to answer this question and add a few more to the list. How about Nike, Coke, and Marlboro? They all employ another model called brand profit. With scores of examples presented by the mentor himself, the reader is sure to find each chapter both challenging and dynamic. After reading this book you will have a better understanding of how your company as well as your competitor's create profit. Mr. Slywotsky states, "more than models and equations, profitability is a way of thinking. Physics tell us about physical energy. Profitability tells us about financial energy. No profit means no energy, no ability to play in the future, no ability to build the future."
One of the great assets to this book is the style in which the information is delivered. Each business model reads more like a business parable as opposed to technical jargon that is sometimes hard to understand. According to Slywotsky, " the primary reason behind my style of writing in this book is due to client request." The author continues by saying his clients have determined their employees identify with the information better in story form as opposed to manual type training. Next, Mr. Slywotsky went on to say, "as the external environment changes, managers are going to have to keep up with these changes. With this type of writing, managers can create their own questions and think their own thoughts therefore, creating a unique answer to any given situation."
I agree with the author's suggestion to only read one chapter per week. Each chapter in the text is easy reading however, if you try and read too many chapters during one session, things can and will get confused. Due to certain time constraints, I was unable to only read one chapter per week during my first reading of the book. Consequently, I found myself going back through chapters and taking notes at various intervals just to keep from getting confused. This is not one of those books that you can read tonight and apply tomorrow. It takes understanding and patience as well as discipline from the reader. For that reason, if you are reading this book looking for a quick fix to a long-term problem, I would not suggest purchasing this book.
On the other hand, if you are reading this book to fully understand profits and management techniques you are definitely on the right track. The key to this book is to read the weekly chapter, understand the model, do the exercises, apply the situations in the book to situations at your own business and reap the multitude of benefits.
Any practitioner or academia that aspire to a deeper understanding of management should read this book. Many of the models presented in this book are sure to assist your business in the growth toward profitability. Explore your thoughts, enter the classroom and study which of these models will best assist in your company's profit- making strategies.
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VINE VOICEon 17 October 2003
I liked the structure of this book, and the approach of using parables - it makes it easy to read & absorb the principles. However, given my level of business experience, I wasn't a rookie setting out to learn everything from scratch.
Contrary to the previous reviewer, I considered the instruction "read only one chapter per week" to be supercilious.
A typical chapter is only 10 pages or so (some are as short as 5, the longest is 14), but as there's 23 chapters I didn't want to spend 6 months reading this book. By reading 2 or 3 chapters per day, I could still absorb the message, and yet complete the book within 2 weeks.
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"The Art of Profitability" by Adrian Slywotzky is a fascinating book which reveals twenty three different business models which an entrepreneur can use to build a profitable business.

What Is A Business Model? It is the way your business creates value for customers and captures its fair share as profit. The best business models build their own momentum so success automatically leads to more success.

This is a management book set in a story book form (like The Goal by Eli Goldratt) with Steve, a young executive having regular lessons from profit master David Zhao. This makes the booky easy to read but I don't agree with the guidance to only read one chapter per week.

I favour reading the book through fairly quickly, then revisiting each business model in more detail and working with the ideas. Finally picking your preferred models and seeing how they could be applied to your business.

If you are an entrepreneur, a want-to-be entrepreneur, business designer or business coach /consultant concerned with helping your clients to make more money, then I recommend you read this book.

In some ways the book is an easy read but it will reward thoughtful reflection.

I do have a few minor reservations:
1 - The book doesn't move into an action phase. It gives you ideas about "what business model" to aim for but doesn't tell you how to build it. A few practical tips would have been nice but just knowing where you are going is a big plus.
2 - Some people will just read the book, follow the story line and miss the main lessons. I would have liked to see one page summaries about each model to reinforce the important factors.
3 - Many models won't apply to one particular business so there is a danger that a reader will get locked into a "won't work for my business" mindset and then misses a cracking idea that could transform their fortunes.

I recommend it to you. This is a book which influenced my thinking about business opportunities. Your business model is very much the big picture of your business. The grandest of grand strategies. Select the right business model for the right opportunity and implement it effectively and you will prosper. Work with an under-developed business model and you are making your working life much harder than it needs to be.

You may also be interested in Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. It looks at how you can move your business model forward from selection, through design to more detailed planning.

This review originally appeared on my Differentiate Your Business blog in September 2011.
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on 29 December 2014
A series of different profit / business models laid out with examples of the businesses that utilise them. Forces you to examine which models you are using in your own business and which ones you should work harder at.
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on 7 December 2009
The book basically looks at profit models used in various companies and give examples of today and yesterday with small and big business names.

I love how its done in story form without subtracting from the essence of the business value and benefit within the stories themselves. It was an easy, but most enlightening read.
I feel this book is going to change my business life. My business partner also read this book and loved it.
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on 26 January 2011
I cannot stress how good this book is. It's written in style of a fiction book, so easy for everyone to read it. It's never boring.
In my honest opinion every manager, especially business owners and startups should read it. It applies to all types of business, full stop. Before you actually buy any other business book, start with this one.
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on 25 October 2014
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