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Filet or liver and onions?

Book Review: Former Kodak marketing chief develops concepts for growth

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  • By  Andrea R. Paternoster
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The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing? By Jeffrey W. Hayzlett with Jim Eber.  Business Plus, 2011, 256 pp. The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing? By Jeffrey W. Hayzlett with Jim Eber. Business Plus, 2011, 256 pp.

Let me provide some background here, if you will, because it will explain, at least in part, my reaction to The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing?, by Jeffrey W. Hayzlett with Jim Eber.  I’ve spent 25 years in banking—hitting on virtually every area including “tellering,” lending, audit, trust and investments, marketing, and business development, punctuated by seven years of journalism on community weekly papers. The latter tends to override all readings, as style and grammar are absorbed, weighed against content, and sometimes, spit out.

This book sets out to answer the question “Is your business really breathing?” It starts nicely enough, with an amusing introduction story that I am, even now, still attempting to memorize to use at parties. 

A business book that isn’t dry

“This is great,” I thought, glad to find a business book that was not so packed with dry content that it was like the reading equivalent of eating puffed rice without milk. In ways, my feelings were borne out, as Hayzlett has included many little stories to illustrate points and some pithy observations that would be most helpful to a newcomer in any retail business. I was pleased to see a couple of my favorites among them—the importance of passing information on to employees; the importance of valuing your own business; knowing what it is you need to achieve and how to do that—the true basics of good business.

In a section called the “Liver & Onions Principle,” Hayzlett lists questions that one must ask, answer, and solve before even thinking about business, and again, they are right on point.

Do you have the right team? Do they have the right tools? How will you know that you’ve succeeded?

If everything goes right, the thought is that you’ll get your filet mignon or whatever it is that is your aspiration.

If it doesn’t go right, then you’re looking at liver and onions for the duration.

Happily, Hayzlett includes probably one of the most important tenets of business in a section of the book that talks about adding and getting value. He cautions against giving away your product (or even discounting to compete on price), pointing out that doing so immediately devalues you and your product in the eyes of the customer or client.

Good content, disorganized, frenetic style

Now, Hayzlett is a professional speaker and consultant. His website identifies him this way: “Change Agent, Thought Leader, and sometimes Cowboy. He is a Social Media and Marketing Expert and Kodak’s former Chief Marketing Officer.”

The examples I’ve cited in this review are used to show that there is effective information in the book that can easily be of great use to the reader. The problem is prying it out of the clutter of the book’s set-up and style, rather like a chimp with a stick, digging ants out of a piece of wood at dinnertime.

The book almost seems like a stream of consciousness, with the message held under the water by numbers, letters, quotes, inserts, bullets, boxes, and subheads, with headlines that at times don’t even match the point.

At times, it is rather an outline gone mad.

Is it a fatal flaw? No.

Was it an easy read? Not really.

In the end, though, I think I figured it out–all of the above breaks in text were the equivalent of hand gestures, hops, and the kinetics of public speaking.

Treat the book as if you’re in on a day-long session with Hayzlett on stage, watching him pace, stomp, and arm-wave, and then you’ve got the program.

A valuable read? Absolutely. The facts, the hints, and the informational stories contain invaluable content that every business person must know.

Just count on a lot of wading to get to it.
 
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