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VOL. 125 | NO. 171 | Thursday, September 2, 2010

Biz Book Club Aims to Inform

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Daily News

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It’s been a while since “leisure time for reading” made the top of Beth Okeon’s to-do list, but a new group aimed at breaking business books down into bite-size pieces is helping her maximize what reading time she has.

“Oftentimes people ask me if I’ve read this or that book and I think when am I going to have time to read the book,” said Okeon, owner of ABO Marketing and Communications. “It’s hard to stay up-to-date on industry trends. I can maybe get through two or three good books about business and marketing in a year.”

In August, Okeon attended the first monthly meeting of the In-Synk Business Book Club, the latest of business planning and strategy coach Michael Synk’s offerings aimed at helping business owners educate themselves and learn from each other.

The group meets Friday at 8 a.m. at the Bronte Bistro at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, 387 Perkins Road Extended.

Synk said he’s helping business owners avoid cutting corners when it comes to business education.

“We start at 8:01, we introduce everybody, and then I play a podcast from a company called the ‘Fifteen Minute Book Review,’” said Synk.

“What’s different about it is that it’s a live recording, whereas (with others) you get these executive book summaries and have a guy speaking and it’s good information, but tends to be rather dry. This is an energetic presentation. It’s meant to catch people’s attention.”

Last month’s book “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath drew a crowd of 10. Synk provided a list of prominent quotes from the book with page references but found many attendees taking notes anyway.

A 15- to 30-minute discussion follows the podcast and the meeting ends at 8:45 a.m.

“One of the best things was that it started on time and it ended on time,” said Okeon. “Everybody there is busy and has a lot of things to do. Michael kept all his promises about time.”

Synk’s mainstays for the past eight years have been the In-Synk Inner Circle, a peer group of business owners from different fields who air issues and pose business questions in a forum-type setting, and the In-Synk Huddle, developed in 2009 to teach principles of business guru Verne Harnish’s Gazelles Growth Model.

Synk also offers individual executive business consulting.

“It’s becoming more and more expensive to go to the conference in Utah, but business owners still want to learn this,” said Synk. “We’re picking our books that are either truly business-oriented or leadership-oriented.”

September’s book is “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim, which describes the process of finding “blue ocean,” or a clear niche for products that are not already infested with sharks.

In October the group will listen to a review of Atul Gawande’s “The Checklist Manifesto” about the importance of working from a checklist. In November it’s Liz Wiseman’s “Multipliers” about effective leaders who manage to multiply the output of their personnel and resources.

“The nugget of information I remember from ‘Switch’ was that knowledge about an issue doesn’t mean that someone is going to act on an issue,” said Okeon. “It stuck with me because a lot of times I’m trying to motivate clients to do something and it was helpful for me to realize that knowing about a certain thing they need to has nothing to do with them taking action.

“I have to motivate them in different ways besides just providing the information.”

The books are available for purchase at the meetings, and a handful was sold in the August meeting, but Synk is not affiliated with the authors or publishers and receives no commission on sales.

He instead hopes to profit through sponsorship of the meetings and by identifying business owners in need of other services.

Attendees register online at www.in-synk.com and pay $15 per meeting, which includes coffee. Eventually people will be able to sign up for multiple meetings at once.

“From a professional standpoint, I want to go and hear 15 minutes about a book and see if it’s worth reading,” said Kevin Hommel, senior vice president of commercial lending for Triumph Bank. “Michael calls it the tower of guilt – everybody’s got six books on their nightstand that they haven’t touched.”

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