Book Review: Mavericks in Business

“Mavericks in Business: why the most original minds in business win”

“Mavericks in Business” by William Taylor and Polly La Barre is a fascinating book, which reminds me of Auction Alliance and the people it has attracted over the years. I have often been called a “Maverick”, so when I saw this green covered book with its exciting title I grabbed it and was quickly hooked.

Very rarely does one come across the kind of book which makes us take notice of the Mavericks in business, who work against all common rules and norms, yet deliver repeated success to their organisations. The authors offer real life examples that provide and embody the points that are discussed in the book. I took some brilliant lessons from the 32 maverick companies profiled.

The book mainly consists of four parts. Every part offers a “Maverick Messages”. The first part is about “Rethinking Competition”, where the major point is made that a strategy, a cause or a distinctive idea is the real competitive key to a great business. It is all about providing something valuable and unique. It stresses that Mavericks are not really bothered about traditional branding and creating a ‘Me Too’ business; for them it’s all about building something revolutionary! Mavericks concentrate on a sense of values, a shared culture and a vocabulary that is distinctive. The book asks the question: Do you have a distinctive and disruptive sense of purpose that sets you apart from your rivals? It also asks the most critical question in business (as in life): If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would really miss you and why? This question really got me thinking and I pondered on it for ages.

The second part is ‘Reinventing Innovation’. This part asks the classic question, “Why Nobody Is As smart as everybody?” In other words, a great idea can come from anywhere and really offers no competitive advantage. Mavericks know this and build organisations that are like magnets to attract brilliant brain power. Maverick companies develop a culture that is eager to learn every day. This section says that companies must keep the focus narrow and tightly defined and keep work fun. Leaders in turn must not keep all the benefits to themselves and must keep challenging themselves to be more open to new ideas and ways of leading.

The book then focuses on customer relationships. Mavericks are not just interested in providing good products and good deals; they are interested in making the experience ‘memorable’ for their customers, Mavericks are more interested in soft factors of business, like design that appeal to the heart. Mavericks also believe in selling where customers are and competitors are not. They know that ‘A company with the smartest customers wins.’ The book talks in detail about how “brand is culture and culture is brand”. It also reminds us that there’s always a demand for something distinctive and advertising to customers is not the same as connecting with customers. At Auction Alliance we call this “getting belly to belly with clients”.
The fourth and final part is ‘Redesigning Work’. In this section the authors focus on the importance of ‘Doing business as if people mattered’. Mavericks know that ‘Who you are’ beats ‘what you know’ and Mavericks recruit people who are curious, energetic, unbridled, unrestricted and appreciate life; they want to grow rather than settle for the status quo. Mavericks know that they have to find great people as great people aren’t going to find the companies to work for. Mavericks create a culture of team work, where every person behaves as a businessperson rather than just an employee. Finding entrepreneurs is an integrated process in their recruiting culture. The authors ask the key questions:

1. Why should great people join your organization?
2. Do you know a great person when you see one?
3. Can you find great people who aren’t looking for you?
4. Are you great at teaching great people how your organization works and wins?
5. Does your organization work as distinctively as it competes?

Whether one is a young professional, a CEO or an entrepreneur, Mavericks at Work will make anyone think bigger, set goals higher and realise that in a world of uniformity, it’s only the different company that sticks out. One of my favourite quotes in the book comes from an employee of a Maverick company who says, “We are a bunch of misfits who somehow just fit.” To me that embodies a Maverick in Business.