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Speed Review: Thinking Inside the Box

Speed Review: Thinking Inside the Box

Speed Review: Thinking Inside the Box

The 12 Timeless Rules for Managing a Successful Business

by Kirk Cheyfitz

According to Kirk Cheyfitz, an award-winning reporter and successful businessman, all this “thinking outside the box” nonsense has gotten a lot of people in a lot of trouble. Instead of advising managers and leaders to break the rules and defy tradition, Cheyfitz urges them to reassess and embrace a set of time-tested principles for business success he calls “The Box.” These 12 rules for building and growing a strong business are fundamentals that he explains should be practiced daily to avoid the kinds of disasters that have stunned the business world the last decade, including the dot-com crash and the Enron collapse.

Review

Twelve Timeless Management Rules
According to Kirk Cheyfitz, an award-winning reporter and successful businessman, all this "thinking outside the box" nonsense has gotten a lot of people in a lot of trouble. Instead of advising managers and leaders to break the rules and defy tradition, Cheyfitz urges them to reassess and embrace a set of time-tested principles for business success he calls "The Box." These 12 rules for building and growing a strong business are fundamentals that he explains should be practiced daily to avoid the kinds of disasters that have stunned the business world over the last decade, including the dot-com crash and the Enron collapse.

Cheyfitz's advice is geared for the post-new-economy. Instead of expensive gambles on unproven fads and hype about the importance of technology, he offers important reminders about the firm foundation on which good business practices must stand. These tried-and-true basics are outlined throughout Thinking Inside The Box for easy reference and maximum effectiveness. By defining The Box, he creates a starting point from which organizations can make decisions using established rules that are unchanging and timeless. He explains that running a successful business depends on taking a close look at history as well as present reality while working hard and practicing prudence. This consistency, he writes, is what will take organizations from one quarter to the next, and will keep them from doing "too much that is stupid."

No New Economies
Deconstructing the New Economy, the first chapter of Thinking Inside The Box presents the notion that "it is not possible for there to be anything really new in the economy." By placing an anthropological spin on the concept of economy and tracing it back to its Neanderthal roots, Cheyfitz demonstrates that looking back in time can save a lot of time and pain, and help companies understand where they want to go. Revealing examples, such as the story of the demise of Europe's AOL competitor, Freeserve, show how revolutionary new business models can actually be old-fashioned price cuts in disguise, and looking at the context of business can save current leaders from repeating the mistakes of the past. He sums up his historical examples with four elements that comprise the first plank of his blueprints for building The Box:

  1. From time to time everyone will believe that the economy is changing in some fundamental way, but this has never been true.
  2. Don't waste time trying to create a "new business model." There aren't any.
  3. The fundamental rules of commerce never change. So don't worry about how to change them.
  4. Use your time to focus on how your customers' lives are changing and how you can serve their emerging needs with new products and services (delivered using the same old business models).

Sound Principles Prevail
The next 11 chapters of Thinking Inside The Box describe dozens of business examples that illustrate the importance of business fundamentals, even when young upstarts believe they have found new business plans that defy them. As Cheyfitz demonstrates from the vantage point of hindsight, history shows that sound principles always prevail over fads and hype. For example, when he writes, "The first business of business is making money," he explains how those who forgot this basic concept quickly lost their footing in the muck of the "new" economy, only to learn the hard way that nothing beats profits and planning to keep a company afloat.

Other lessons from Thinking Inside The Box include:

  • It is far better (and more certain) to cut expenses than to pray for sales.
  • Give customers what they want, not what you want to give them.
  • You should be selling all the time.
  • When it comes to people, you can hire smart and get out of the way, or you can run yourself ragged micromanaging.

Why We Like This Book
Using examples from business and military history, Thinking Inside the Box offers numerous clearly stated reasons why history should never be forgotten when running a business. In a sane and balanced explanation of how business should be viewed and conducted, Cheyfitz has created a survival guidebook for leaders, managers and entrepreneurs that provides an antidote for all of the fads that have emerged and floundered over the past decade. His fresh insights and examples reveal crucial lessons that can be learned from them, as well as timely reminders of business lessons that must not be forgotten in the quest for success.