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Breadwinner review

As 2012 is the national year of reading, I am going to share some of my reading this year through a series of book reviews. Here is the first one…

Breadwinner: a fresh approach to business success

by Tom O’Toole with Lowell Tarling
BAS Publishing, Seaford 2009

Some time ago, an IT trainer told me about a video by Tom O’Toole from the Beechworth  Bakery. The trainer (and others at his training company) were using it in a business course to cover customer service. I then heard of Tom O’Toole in passing a few times.

Driving through Albury last year we happened across a Beechworth Bakery outlet and stopped for lunch. Whilst there, I bought a copy of  Breadwinner by Tom O’Toole.

I admit I didn’t start reading it until January but was very impressed with it once I started. So much so we detoured to Beechworth on our way back from Canberra a few days later.

Personally, I generally don’t find biographies or autobiographies satisfying as a business book (as interesting as they may be to read for pleasure) but this book was a great blend of the two. Tom starts with a chapter on his philosophies from business and finishes with a chapter on his personal philosophies and lessons. In between was his autobiography from childhood to business success.

There are a number of thoughts in the book that I have come across before (if it’s to be, it’s up to me;  it’s the little things that make a difference; goals are just dreams with a date) but they had an impact because they fit in Tom’s story – he shows how they helped him rather than lecturing readers with clichés.

Tom was a poor kid growing up on the banks of the Murray – and his childhood and family certainly gave him stories to entertain with in his book! Imagine kangaroos and frogs living in the house, brothers sharing a bed and living with your front door open and you’re heading towards young Tom’s world.

While Tom discusses his poverty and hardships, it is neither a pity party nor a ‘look how good I am for rising out of this stuff’. It is his story so he tells it, tells it honestly and lets us see how things influenced and taught him.

It’s a good read which will have you laughing and thinking.

From a business perspective, Tom does give ideas and examples of customer service and how to build yourself and your team for success.

In Tom’s words “this book is about making dough, the paper kind. It will hopefully get you out of your comfort zone, it certainly got me out of mine.” And me out of mine.

I recommend grabbing a copy and investing your time in it. Once you’ve read it, come back and let me know how it motivated you or changed your business.

Comparing books and eBooks

We’ve all grown up with traditional paper books, and if you’re like me you’ve loved them, too. Now we can get eBooks on all sorts of topics, fiction and non-fiction.

So what’s the difference between the two in terms of value? eBooks are cheaper than their paper equivalents, but does that reflect their value?

A traditional book – costs of the book in part has to cover the paper and printing process, plus transportation and storage so it is reasonable to pay more for a paper version of a book than an eBook. There is also the pleasure of curling up with a book in hand that an eBook reader just can’t replicate. I know that it is harder and slower for our eyes to read a computer screen so I assume the same apples for eBook readers of various sorts.

Both types of book involve the author’s time, the editing process (including professional editors in many cases) and marketing efforts.

An eBook can be received and the first page read within minutes of finding it, and that convenience suits many. It has the added convenience of being portable – as a friend of mine said, she could carry eight eBook travel guides with her on an overseas trip but the cost and weight of their paper equivalents would prevent carrying them.

So there is a jutification in paying for the books you choose.

However, the true value of any book is in the ideas shared by the author, along with the potential inspiration and impact on your life that comes with any good book. What you learn or imagine from the book is what you are really paying for, and that’s much harder to put a price on than the paper and printing.

PS In terms of a book that can truly change lives, have a look at End Malaria – it aims to inspire and teach while raising $20 per copy to save people form malaria. Unfortunately it appears available only though one retailer – if you find it elsewhere, please let me know!

Working on goals

Do you have some big goals that you’re struggling with?

I just read a great blog post about goals – well, Julien specifically wrote about the goal of reading a book a week but I like some of his points for general goal following.

Side track – a goal of reading a book a week is great, especially if reading is not something that comes naturally to you. I admit my biggest issue with reading a book a week is that I love long books and with 4 kids, one a week is a challenge! With literacy week here this week, though, maybe it’s a challenge you may want to consider…

The best points Julien made about reaching goals…

  1. break it down into reasonable steps so it’s less overwhelming. For instance, based on books of 250 – 300 words, read 40 pages a day to reach 52 books a year. To get 100 blog or facebook subscribers in 6 months, aim for 4 a week. To finish the Tour de France, start riding your bike for an hour a day and build it up to 6 hours a day!
  2. set up a routine  – it’s much easier to follow steps when they are habit and you don’t have to think about it
  3. keep up to date or ahead – letting yourself fall behind (especially early on in a goal) can be disheartening and makes it less likely to be achieved. Don’t accept excuses – do build up some credit to cover issues later.
  4. Cheat a little occasionally to stay on track and interested. Surprised by that one? By cheat a little I don’t mean lie to yourself but just take the easy option occasionally. So if you’re reading is falling behind a book a week, deliberately choose a short book you can finish off fast. If training for the Tour, ride your exercise bike instead of hitting the streets in a storm. Building a blog readership – post a really short post or a summary of old posts instead of sweating a long post. Cheating like this is much better than stopping your actions altogether.
  5. You don’t have to be linear all the time. It depends on your goal, but sometimes allow yourself to go a – b – c- f – e – d- t- g- h- k instead of following a straight line. This will keep you moving if one step hits a delay and can provide some variety if you’re loosing momentum and interest.
    What does this mean in a practical sense? Going back to our earlier examples, if you can’t get into book 4, put it aside while you read books 5 and 6; instead of riding an hour uphill every day put in the occasional day of two hours on the flat; skip a post on your blog and submit a guest post somewhere else.

So what do you think – will these tips help you reach your next big goal? Share your goal here and the impact of these tips, too, if you like.

The cover or the writing?

The mythical they always say to never judge a book by its cover and I think I found an example of it today.

I found a book in a bargain bin – I hadn’t planned buying a book today but I just can’t reists looking at a bargain bin of books… It caught my eye because it’s written by Pearl Buck and I remember her book,
The Good Earth
, as excellent when I read it some years ago.

I picked it up, read the blurb and though ‘why not?’ and bought it.

As I put it on the counter to buy it, however, I noticed the front cover for the first time. I had to double check what book it was as the cover looked like a cheesy, trashy romance novel cover – and I choose not to read such books as there are so many books I would enjoy in my limited reading time.

If I had seen the cover first, I would not have even read the blurb to be honest, or noticed the author. So it goes to show that the cover is important for getting noticed and influencing decisions.

Once I’ve read it, I’ll let you know if the cover or the author was a better guide to its value!