A Better Way to Read Business Books: Laura Valvasori

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Most business books are dull.

I read the first 25 pages before a book loses its appeal. The writing is dense, the topic doesn't warrant a book, or I quickly get the point.

Laura Valvasori has developed a new and interesting way for people to get more value from business books. 

She recently launched the Business Book Collective, a virtual community that combines a Mastermind group and a book club. 

Each month, you read a book and share your thoughts and take-aways with like-minded people. 

It's a brilliant concept because you're held accountable to finish the book and you benefit from the collective wisdom of the community.

Laura literally stumbled upon the idea a few months ago. But unlike many ideas that come and go, she embraced it and launched in January.

I'm Mark Evans and welcome to marketing spark, the podcast that delivers insight from marketers and entrepreneurs and the trenches in twenty five minutes or less. I'm fascinated by how entrepreneurs to the ideas for businesses. Sometimes it's an obvious problem, sometimes it's a niche that needs to be scratched. Sometimes disinspiration, like Richard Branson decided to launch Virgin Airlines after in mystic connecting flight to visit a young lady the Virgin Islands. On today's podcast I'm talking to Laura Valba story who, depending on how you look at things, stumbled upon a new and exciting business idea or was struck by inspiration. Welcome to marketing spark, Laura. Thank you, Marcus, so nice to be here. So I don't usually do this. I don't ask my guests to provide some background on what they do because in many cases I just want to get to the conversation and have me delivered the good insight, the good stuff that will educate my audience. But because we're talking about a new business idea, I want to make sure that there's some context to our conversation. Perhaps you can tell me the backstory of you, what you do, how you make money, how your business is going, and then we can transition into this new and exciting idea that you've stumbled upon a few months ago. So my background is in professional services marketing. I spent the first twenty years of my career working for law firms and accounting firms and marketing roles and and actually next week is eight years since I decided to leave the corporate world. I was working for an accounting firm and I was working with private companies and I was doing marketing targeted at private companies and I was meeting a lot of business owners that were when I told them I was doing marketing, they would say, oh well, we kind of do some marketing, and it became very clear that they didn't really have a big picture plan and they often had a very junior person or no person doing marketing in any kind of strategic way. So I left with the intention to help private companies and businesses create big picture marketing plans and then figure out how to move that into action, and I've been doing that for the last eight years and more recently I've been transitioning to doing more coaching and working with smaller business owners as well and finding that really gratifying and that there's a lot of people that have great ideas in business and they have great things to bring to the market but they just don't have the marketing or business background and with a Little Bit of coaching and guidance that they can be really successful. So that's where I've been focusing more recently as well. So, as a self employed entrepreneur, also focused on marking and I know the ups and downs of running a business and the fact that you've been in business for eight years is a major accomplishment. It's hard out there. It's a seven type of endeavor and being able to on your own business and be the master or mistress of your own domain is a major accomplishment. So so congratulations on that. What we've seen of the last year is that digital marketing is red hot. Everybody...

...seems to be busy. Consultants, full time employees, part time employees, freelancers, you must be busy, I mean your business must be intense these days. Yeah, it was at the beginning of the pandemic. I think a lot of business has panicked and there was a few projects that I was about to start, that we're frozen, and that's understandable, but I think that people then started realizing that marketing is more important than ever right now and that they needed help. So, yes, I've been very busy. I have some longer term clients that I work with an ongoing basis and then I work with do consulting, with different consulting and coaching with different businesses, and I have not been looking for things to do during the pandemic, that's for sure. Okay. So, given that contacts, given the fact that your digital marketer, we also be busy. Your Business is good, it's all tickety boom right. What happened? So let's start on this entrepreneurial journey. You're just doing your thing. It's over the holidays your I guess you were cleaning up your office at some point time, and this you got inspired by a new idea. Maybe you can walk us through what was that journey? What was the new idea, and then we can talk about how the idea has spawned from an idea into something that you think has huge potential. Like many people during the pandemic, I've been doing a lot of reflection and thinking about where I want to take my business where I want to spend my time and I was cleaning out my office, as you said, and I came across a number of business books that I had purchased and some of them I'd read and some of them I hadn't even read, and I thought I really have to get to these in the new year. I love reading, an avid reader, but I either hadn't quite got to those books or I'd read them but I hadn't really put any of the ideas into practice. So I had that in my mind and I was out for a walk and I was thinking about the year ahead and what I wanted to create more of in my life and I wanted to create more brainstorming and connecting with great people and bring this love of reading in and all of that was kind of going through my head and I had this idea and I thought, well, what if I created a book club that was focused on reading business books, but in the context of actually applying the learnings, so applying more of a masterminding approach? How could I combine a traditional book club and a mastermind which I'm a part of and had have had great value from, into something something new and different and so that sparked the idea that I sort of kept to myself for a couple of weeks in my head as I was mulling it over and sort of thinking, you know, kind of getting excited about it and using the imagination piece and like what could it looked like and how would it work, and asking myself all those questions before I shared it with a few people and got some really good feedback at the beginning of January. A book club or a...

...mastermind at a time when we can't get together, those things thrive in person, where you can read each other's body language, you can feel people's personalities in the room. You can interact really easily. Was the timing right or did you think that it was a great idea but the timing was off? I actually thought the timing was ideal because I feel more now than ever, people need connection. I know that there's a lot of talk about, you know, people being fatigued with zoom and that type of thing, but the reality is as a small business owner, if you're trying to figure this all out on your own, it can feel very isolating and lonely and to stay motivated. It's difficult to stay motivated sometimes, especially in this environment. So I actually felt like the time was exactly right to do it if I could figure out how to do it in a way that would be engaging and help people get to know each other and a format that would bring in some accountability but also use that masterminding approach to get people into action. I love the idea that you mentioned accountability. So I have a confession to make. I read a lot of business books, or, more accurate lie, I start a lot of business books and I get about twenty, twenty five pages in and I get bored and a couple things happen. One is I get the point, they've made their argument about I believe this should happen, and the story lose it's it's, I guess, novelty. And the other thing is you get into a business book and you sort of in for the long haul and you're not motivated and you don't have anybody sort of padd any on the back or somebody to discuss it with, and and then you kind of lose your your kind of interest fades, even though it's a good book. And I think what Your Business, which is called the business book collective, does is finds a new way for people to really embrace and get value out of books. Is that kind of the Philosophical Foundation? Absolutely, and when I started it I thought that the accountability piece, as far as accountability to do the reading, to finish the book, wasn't was one of the real value propositions. But what I've quickly realized is it's the community that's formed, that is supporting each other. You know, there was there was one member that was, we were reading the book, building a story brand and there was a concept in the book that she didn't quite grasp as to how it would apply to her business, and so she shared that in the facebook groups. We have a facebook group that's really active and she shared that and and ask for feedback and she got a number of answers and she said to me after she said you know, when I came across that con up, if I'd been reading this book on my own, I probably would have just got frustrated and put the book down and Thought, Oh, it's not for me. But because I now worked through that with the help of the other people, I've continued reading and I've actually applied this in my business and it's amazing. So it's the accountability, but it's the it's the community and the way that you're supporting each other, because it's all people from different backgrounds, different levels...

...of experience, different industries. So people have experience to share because of what they've done in their own business. That is helping other people move past hurdles and actually implement things that they're thinking of. So let's take a step back and explain how the business book collective works. How do you pick the books? How do people join? How do you get together? Get into the mechanics of how this great idea actually turned into reality. Sure, so I launched it in January with the intention to start for February, and we I pick the first two books. So we read clockwork and building a story brand, which are two foundational books that I think are great for small business owners. So I chose the first two books and then beyond that, we are crowdsourcing the reading list, so all of the members contribute ideas and then we voked three months at a time. So that's how we pick a reading list. So the book we're reading now for April is atomic habits. And then the way that it works is so we have the reading happens over one month and I divide the reading out over the first three weeks of the month. So every Sunday you get an email that is a reading prompt that gives you guidance on what to cover for that week and what to be reading and gives you some ideas of some activities that you can apply or some extra resources. So that goes out on Sunday. So you're set to read during the week and then on Friday afternoons you get a collective wisdom email that asks you to submit the answers to four questions. What are your key takeaways? What can you apply in Your Business? What questions would you have for the collective and are there any resources you could share with the group? So those come back to me and I use those to guide conversations in the facebook group. That is very active and people engage and so I spark some conversations and then people also engage in the group throughout the month and then on the last, well it's been the last Thursday of the month, but I'm just introducing a second group. On Wednesdays we do a ninety minute call together and the ninety minute call the first thirty minutes is a general discussion where we talk about some of the key takeaways from the book and then we split out into breakout rooms twice, and the breakout rooms we use a specific masterminding formula for those sessions that are happening where one member presents their challenge, their idea, and then the other three members give their feedback. So it's a twenty minute session and it's very structured on purpose so that we can get the maximum brainstorming to happen. And then we come back together as a group and we do a share back, do the second group share back and then we wrap up. So it's a pretty intense ninety minutes and the group is so engaged and everyone is just contributing a lot and they're getting so much out of those little mastermind groups because they're getting practical ways that they can help themselves help implement some of the ideas...

...in the book. Once you came up with the idea and you develop the framework for this program how do you get started? Like how did you get the word out? How did you convince somebody that I've got this new idea. You're going to have to read a book every single month, you're going to have to get to, you're going to have homework to do and you're going to have to talk about it for ninety minutes. That's a big ask for a lot of people who have a hard time reading business books. Period. Where did you start? Did you go on facebook? Did you talk to your friends? Did you hit Lop Linkedin? Where does the initial traction happen? So a long if, a lot of different things. So I started by sitting down on my desk on I think it was the fourth of January, and I'm like, what is this thing like? How does this thing in my imagination become something? So I started by creating a sales page that outlined what I thought the value would be and how it works, just to kind of get it into a form that I could communicate it to someone. And then I started going to myself social networks. So I announced it, I think, on the seventh of January with an intention to start on the first of February. So it was a pretty big goal. And then I just started getting really active through my social media channels. I started reaching out one to one through people I thought would be a good fit, through my linkedin network. I I was just all over voice talking to anyone who would listen to the idea and, to my delight, I had a number of people that were really excited right out of the gates. They saw the value and the potential and they signed on. So that was the beginning of how it how it worked. So that's that's been how it's kind of grown and then members have brought other members in and it's just kind of starting to grow organically to the point where I'm adding a second group. How big is your first group and then how big do you want the second group to be? So I have twenty two members in the first group and I've decided to cap it at twenty four members because I've realized that there's a sense of intimacy that's developing within that group as far as the the level of trust and comfort of sharing on the calls, and I want to keep it to a size that we can continue to nurture that. So I'm going to cap the group that meets on Thursday evening the last Thursday of the month and I'm going to add a second group with another twenty four spots and I'm going to have both of those groups in the facebook group so they'll get the community. The benefit of the larger community through the facebook interactions with the calls will be in those two smaller groups. Right. So it's interesting to me is that you are just three months into this new, exciting business idea and you're already running into the question of scale and how you throw this thing that that's when we started talking about doing the podcast. That was one thing that really got me interested, because it's one thing to have an idea, and we all have business...

...ideas. It's another thing to launch it and hopefully get an audience. Then you actually get people who like the idea and you get a little business traction. But you're actually hitting the accelerator and you're going, you know, I want to take this is such a good idea, I'm going to take it to the next levels. Why don't you give us some details into what are you thinking? Or maybe it's too early, I don't know, but it sounds like you. You Yeah, I realize you're onto something here. Yeah, I have. I realized that I'm onto something and I realized that it is such a valuable resource for people to be a member of, but that I will only be able to grow it on my own to a certain scale. So I'm actually thinking about as the next level is certifying facilitators, because I realize that what I've created there's been a lot of work, to be fair, that's gone into creating the whole back end of the system to make what I explained work. There's a lot of set up and pieces of the puzzle that make it runs smoothly and PROVD and engage people. So what I'm realizing is that I've created a business model that and an operating system that would be something that another coach or consultant could actually add on to their business. So it could be something that they could start their own chapter of the business book collective using my guidance and operating model and license that through me. So I'm just in early days of starting to think about that, but I do see that that would be one way that I might grow it in a way that can help more people. I just I really I know that there's so many small business owners that need help and support and if I can do that through the help of other facilitators as well, then that's something that I'm interested in pursuing. I'm interested in the entrepreneur mindset because it's easy to start a little business on the side and it's fun and you make some money, and that's one thing. But there are entrepreneurs that, once they land upon a good idea, they go all in on it. Not to say you're going to go all in on this idea, but it's the store owner who opens one store and it's super popular. Before you know what, you got a second store and a third store in on one hand you say that person is being super aggressive and very ambitious and the other hand you have to acknowledge the fact that they see an opportunity, they want a capital lies it on it as much as they can, so they just go for it. I'm wondering, from your perspective, your interest in taking this thing to the next level so quickly. Is that a mindset thing? Does it scare you at all to move so quickly, or is it just seem like a natural move? It actually is a kind of a new way of approaching things for me, to be honest. So my previous, I'd say my previous way of doing things would have been even in the launching of it initially, would have had I would have had to have mapped out every single detail and known the answer to every single thing. But I've been doing a lot of mindset work over the past year and my approach is changed so that I feel like I had...

...this inspired idea, this inspired idea that came to me for a reason, and that I have nothing to lose in trying to bring it to market and see if it has legs. Number One, and knowing that I will figure out the pieces as I need to figure out the pieces, that I don't have to have. You there's a level of vision you have to have as an Armentrepreneur, but there's also a level of faith and trust that you have to have that the idea will grow and evolve as it's meant to. So I've really approached it differently than I would have in the past. So I probably wouldn't have moved into this idea of scaling so quickly in the past, but it's it's a really a shift that I've had in the last year. I'm doing a lot of Marnds at work. Do you think that having to spend a lot of time at home being introspective and having time to think about things has been a key part of that process? Yeah, I think it has. I think that, you know, just before the pandemic happened, I was at a point where I was really stressed in my business. Had A lot of projects going on and I often joke with my kids that I may have accidentally manifested the pandemic because I was saying like I just need the world to stop for a minute so I can can get my head on straight about where I'm trying to take my business and what I'm focusing on, and some of that self reflected time. So yes, I got more than I probably asked for, but yeah, it has been really introspective time for me and I'm I'm really grateful for that. Couple cool questions about business books. From the business books that you read over the years and as you now get into the business of having selected books and having over walking people through books, what makes for a good business book, because a lot of them are a lot of them strike me as being something that could be probably about fifty pages or twenty five pages. From your experience, what is a good business book like? What makes a book read so well that you actually read the whole thing? I think there's a there's maybe two kind of classes of business books, if you will. One, I think, is the ones that really try to make you shift your thinking in some way. So if they if they catch you so opposite to what the way that you're operating right now, I think that that catches your attention. And for me the other is ones that are really act really actionable and practical in the way that you can see how you can apply these concepts your business. If you know, if the book is so general and so theoretical, then it's difficult to for me to get engaged in the book and feel like it's it's worth my time. But books like the ones that we've read, the two books I always recommend our clockwork had a design, a business it runs itself and building a story brand. Those are two great one operational and one marketing, that are very, very practical in nature, and there they have tools and things that you can apply to your business and make a difference very quickly. Final question in terms...

...of other than those two books, is there are another book that you would say that this is a must read? Like for me, I guess the most recent book was shoe Doog by film night, the story of Nike. That was a that was a business book that I love. But what about yourself? Anything come to mind. I'm just looking up and laughing because marketing spark is on my shelf up there. That's my book, by the way. Way Your Book. I don't just try to think. I'm just getting into reading business made simple by Donald Miller. That is a good one. I've caught me off guard. I've can't think of one right now, but I know the building story brand is a book that I recommend over and over to people because of the practical nature. So if you're looking for one book, that's my Pi. Final final question is where can people learn more about you? In the business book collective? Sure so. My business website is good to grow marketingcom. Or you can also learn about the business book collective at Business Book Collectivecom. Awesome. Well, thank you for the time and thank you for the insight and congratulations on the new idea and continued success side. If there's any way that people can get more value at of business books, I'm all for it. Well, thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes, spotify or favorite podcast APP for show. Notes of today's conversation and information about Laura. visit marketing spark DOTCO slash blog. If you'd like to learn more about how I help me TOB SASS companies as a fractional CMO, gigic advisor and coach, send an email to mark at Mark Evan's Dot Sea. I'll talk to you next.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (93)