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 marketingspark, the podcast that delivers insight from marketers and entrepreneurs and the trenches intwenty five minutes or less. I'm fascinated by how entrepreneurs to the ideas forbusinesses. Sometimes it's an obvious problem, sometimes it's a niche that needs tobe scratched. Sometimes disinspiration, like Richard Branson decided to launch Virgin Airlines afterin mystic connecting flight to visit a young lady the Virgin Islands. On today'spodcast 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 niceto be here. So I don't usually do this. I don't ask myguests to provide some background on what they do because in many cases I justwant to get to the conversation and have me delivered the good insight, thegood stuff that will educate my audience. But because we're talking about a newbusiness 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 cantransition 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 twentyyears of my career working for law firms and accounting firms and marketing roles andand 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 companiesand I was doing marketing targeted at private companies and I was meeting a lotof business owners that were when I told them I was doing marketing, theywould say, oh well, we kind of do some marketing, and itbecame very clear that they didn't really have a big picture plan and they oftenhad a very junior person or no person doing marketing in any kind of strategicway. So I left with the intention to help private companies and businesses createbig 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 beentransitioning to doing more coaching and working with smaller business owners as well and findingthat really gratifying and that there's a lot of people that have great ideas inbusiness and they have great things to bring to the market but they just don'thave the marketing or business background and with a Little Bit of coaching and guidancethat they can be really successful. So that's where I've been focusing more recentlyas well. So, as a self employed entrepreneur, also focused on markingand I know the ups and downs of running a business and the fact thatyou've been in business for eight years is a major accomplishment. It's hard outthere. It's a seven type of endeavor and being able to on your ownbusiness 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 isthat 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 atthe beginning of the pandemic. I think a lot of business has panicked andthere 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 marketingis 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 Iwork with an ongoing basis and then I work with do consulting, with differentconsulting and coaching with different businesses, and I have not been looking for thingsto do during the pandemic, that's for sure. Okay. So, giventhat 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'sover the holidays your I guess you were cleaning up your office at some pointtime, and this you got inspired by a new idea. Maybe you canwalk us through what was that journey? What was the new idea, andthen we can talk about how the idea has spawned from an idea into somethingthat you think has huge potential. Like many people during the pandemic, I'vebeen doing a lot of reflection and thinking about where I want to take mybusiness 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 thatI had purchased and some of them I'd read and some of them I hadn'teven read, and I thought I really have to get to these in thenew year. I love reading, an avid reader, but I either hadn'tquite got to those books or I'd read them but I hadn't really put anyof the ideas into practice. So I had that in my mind and Iwas out for a walk and I was thinking about the year ahead and whatI wanted to create more of in my life and I wanted to create morebrainstorming and connecting with great people and bring this love of reading in and allof that was kind of going through my head and I had this idea andI thought, well, what if I created a book club that was focusedon 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 bookclub and a mastermind which I'm a part of and had have had great valuefrom, into something something new and different and so that sparked the idea thatI sort of kept to myself for a couple of weeks in my head asI was mulling it over and sort of thinking, you know, kind ofgetting excited about it and using the imagination piece and like what could it lookedlike and how would it work, and asking myself all those questions before Ishared it with a few people and got some really good feedback at the beginningof January. A book club or a...

...mastermind at a time when we can'tget together, those things thrive in person, where you can read each other's bodylanguage, you can feel people's personalities in the room. You can interactreally easily. Was the timing right or did you think that it was agreat idea but the timing was off? I actually thought the timing was idealbecause I feel more now than ever, people need connection. I know thatthere's a lot of talk about, you know, people being fatigued with zoomand 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 canfeel very isolating and lonely and to stay motivated. It's difficult to stay motivatedsometimes, especially in this environment. So I actually felt like the time wasexactly right to do it if I could figure out how to do it ina way that would be engaging and help people get to know each other anda format that would bring in some accountability but also use that masterminding approach toget people into action. I love the idea that you mentioned accountability. SoI have a confession to make. I read a lot of business books,or, more accurate lie, I start a lot of business books and Iget about twenty, twenty five pages in and I get bored and a couplethings happen. One is I get the point, they've made their argument aboutI 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 andyou sort of in for the long haul and you're not motivated and you don'thave 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, whichis called the business book collective, does is finds a new way for peopleto really embrace and get value out of books. Is that kind of thePhilosophical Foundation? Absolutely, and when I started it I thought that the accountabilitypiece, 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 realizedis 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 shedidn't quite grasp as to how it would apply to her business, and soshe shared that in the facebook groups. We have a facebook group that's reallyactive and she shared that and and ask for feedback and she got a numberof answers and she said to me after she said you know, when Icame 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 thatwith the help of the other people, I've continued reading and I've actually appliedthis in my business and it's amazing. So it's the accountability, but it'sthe it's the community and the way that you're supporting each other, because it'sall people from different backgrounds, different levels...

...of experience, different industries. Sopeople 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 thinkingof. So let's take a step back and explain how the business book collectiveworks. How do you pick the books? How do people join? How doyou get together? Get into the mechanics of how this great idea actuallyturned into reality. Sure, so I launched it in January with the intentionto start for February, and we I pick the first two books. Sowe read clockwork and building a story brand, which are two foundational books that Ithink are great for small business owners. So I chose the first two booksand then beyond that, we are crowdsourcing the reading list, so allof 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 forApril is atomic habits. And then the way that it works is sowe have the reading happens over one month and I divide the reading out overthe first three weeks of the month. So every Sunday you get an emailthat is a reading prompt that gives you guidance on what to cover for thatweek and what to be reading and gives you some ideas of some activities thatyou 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 geta 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? Whatquestions would you have for the collective and are there any resources you could sharewith the group? So those come back to me and I use those toguide conversations in the facebook group. That is very active and people engage andso I spark some conversations and then people also engage in the group throughout themonth and then on the last, well it's been the last Thursday of themonth, but I'm just introducing a second group. On Wednesdays we do aninety minute call together and the ninety minute call the first thirty minutes is ageneral discussion where we talk about some of the key takeaways from the book andthen we split out into breakout rooms twice, and the breakout rooms we use aspecific masterminding formula for those sessions that are happening where one member presents theirchallenge, 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 wecan get the maximum brainstorming to happen. And then we come back together asa group and we do a share back, do the second group share back andthen we wrap up. So it's a pretty intense ninety minutes and thegroup is so engaged and everyone is just contributing a lot and they're getting somuch out of those little mastermind groups because they're getting practical ways that they canhelp themselves help implement some of the ideas...

...in the book. Once you cameup with the idea and you develop the framework for this program how do youget started? Like how did you get the word out? How did youconvince somebody that I've got this new idea. You're going to have to read abook every single month, you're going to have to get to, you'regoing to have homework to do and you're going to have to talk about itfor ninety minutes. That's a big ask for a lot of people who havea hard time reading business books. Period. Where did you start? Did yougo on facebook? Did you talk to your friends? Did you hitLop Linkedin? Where does the initial traction happen? So a long if,a lot of different things. So I started by sitting down on my deskon I think it was the fourth of January, and I'm like, whatis 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 valuewould be and how it works, just to kind of get it into aform that I could communicate it to someone. And then I started going to myselfsocial networks. So I announced it, I think, on the seventh ofJanuary with an intention to start on the first of February. So itwas a pretty big goal. And then I just started getting really active throughmy social media channels. I started reaching out one to one through people Ithought would be a good fit, through my linkedin network. I I wasjust 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 rightout of the gates. They saw the value and the potential and they signedon. So that was the beginning of how it how it worked. Sothat's that's been how it's kind of grown and then members have brought other membersin and it's just kind of starting to grow organically to the point where I'madding a second group. How big is your first group and then how bigdo you want the second group to be? So I have twenty two members inthe first group and I've decided to cap it at twenty four members becauseI've realized that there's a sense of intimacy that's developing within that group as faras the the level of trust and comfort of sharing on the calls, andI 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 lastThursday of the month and I'm going to add a second group with another twentyfour spots and I'm going to have both of those groups in the facebook groupso they'll get the community. The benefit of the larger community through the facebookinteractions with the calls will be in those two smaller groups. Right. Soit'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 youthrow this thing that that's when we started talking about doing the podcast. Thatwas one thing that really got me interested, because it's one thing to have anidea, and we all have business...

...ideas. It's another thing to launchit and hopefully get an audience. Then you actually get people who like theidea and you get a little business traction. But you're actually hitting the accelerator andyou're going, you know, I want to take this is such agood idea, I'm going to take it to the next levels. Why don'tyou give us some details into what are you thinking? Or maybe it's tooearly, 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'monto something and I realized that it is such a valuable resource for peopleto be a member of, but that I will only be able to growit on my own to a certain scale. So I'm actually thinking about as thenext level is certifying facilitators, because I realize that what I've created there'sbeen a lot of work, to be fair, that's gone into creating thewhole back end of the system to make what I explained work. There's alot of set up and pieces of the puzzle that make it runs smoothly andPROVD and engage people. So what I'm realizing is that I've created a businessmodel that and an operating system that would be something that another coach or consultantcould actually add on to their business. So it could be something that theycould start their own chapter of the business book collective using my guidance and operatingmodel and license that through me. So I'm just in early days of startingto think about that, but I do see that that would be one waythat I might grow it in a way that can help more people. Ijust I really I know that there's so many small business owners that need helpand support and if I can do that through the help of other facilitators aswell, then that's something that I'm interested in pursuing. I'm interested in theentrepreneur mindset because it's easy to start a little business on the side and it'sfun and you make some money, and that's one thing. But there areentrepreneurs that, once they land upon a good idea, they go all inon 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 inon one hand you say that person is being super aggressive and very ambitious andthe 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, sothey just go for it. I'm wondering, from your perspective, your interest intaking this thing to the next level so quickly. Is that a mindsetthing? Does it scare you at all to move so quickly, or isit just seem like a natural move? It actually is a kind of anew 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 thelaunching of it initially, would have had I would have had to have mappedout every single detail and known the answer to every single thing. But I'vebeen doing a lot of mindset work over the past year and my approach ischanged so that I feel like I had...

...this inspired idea, this inspired ideathat came to me for a reason, and that I have nothing to losein trying to bring it to market and see if it has legs. NumberOne, and knowing that I will figure out the pieces as I need tofigure out the pieces, that I don't have to have. You there's alevel of vision you have to have as an Armentrepreneur, but there's also alevel of faith and trust that you have to have that the idea will growand evolve as it's meant to. So I've really approached it differently than Iwould have in the past. So I probably wouldn't have moved into this ideaof scaling so quickly in the past, but it's it's a really a shiftthat I've had in the last year. I'm doing a lot of Marnds atwork. Do you think that having to spend a lot of time at homebeing introspective and having time to think about things has been a key part ofthat process? Yeah, I think it has. I think that, youknow, just before the pandemic happened, I was at a point where Iwas really stressed in my business. Had A lot of projects going on andI often joke with my kids that I may have accidentally manifested the pandemic becauseI was saying like I just need the world to stop for a minute soI can can get my head on straight about where I'm trying to take mybusiness 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 readover the years and as you now get into the business of having selected booksand 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 beingsomething that could be probably about fifty pages or twenty five pages. From yourexperience, what is a good business book like? What makes a book readso well that you actually read the whole thing? I think there's a there'smaybe two kind of classes of business books, if you will. One, Ithink, is the ones that really try to make you shift your thinkingin some way. So if they if they catch you so opposite to whatthe 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 andpractical in the way that you can see how you can apply these concepts yourbusiness. 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 feellike 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 businessit runs itself and building a story brand. Those are two great one operational andone marketing, that are very, very practical in nature, and therethey have tools and things that you can apply to your business and make adifference 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 byfilm night, the story of Nike. That was a that was a businessbook 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 justtry to think. I'm just getting into reading business made simple by DonaldMiller. That is a good one. I've caught me off guard. I'vecan't think of one right now, but I know the building story brand isa 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 questionis where can people learn more about you? In the business book collective? Sure so. My business website is good to grow marketingcom. Or youcan 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 congratulationson the new idea and continued success side. If there's any way that people canget more value at of business books, I'm all for it. Well,thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed theconversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes, spotify or favorite podcast APPfor show. Notes of today's conversation and information about Laura. visit marketing sparkDOTCO slash blog. If you'd like to learn more about how I help meTOB SASS companies as a fractional CMO, gigic advisor and coach, send anemail to mark at Mark Evan's Dot Sea. I'll talk to you next.

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