BUSINESS The Ultimate Resource - Various Contributors
This is another book with a big title to live up to and does so stunningly well. Apologies for this review being longer than normal but I wanted to give a feel for this impressive book.

I first came across it whilst browsing in a bookshop in Covent Garden between meetings. My first impressions were good and I would have bought it there and then if I thought I could manage to carry it and my laptop across London to Euston Station! This is a big book with over 2200 A4 sized pages. Of course size is no measure of quality but hints at just how comprehensive the book is and explains why, unlike the other reviews, I don’t claim to have read every word and can only hope to give you a taster of its value.

The overall structure of the book is divided into 7 sections dealing with Best Practice, Management Checklists & Action Lists, Management Library, Business Thinkers & Management Giants, Business Dictionary, World Business Almanac and Business Information Sources. Each of these sections is literally bulging with information in article form provided by an array of contributors. If I say that the list of best practice contributors, each with a mini biography spans 15 pages with over 170 names including Edward de Bono, Sir John Harvey-Jones and Robert Kaplan you may get some feel for the quality of input.

Section 1 Best Practice features over 160 articles each providing an overview of business issues grouped under 11 headings such as People/Culture, Leadership and Renewal/Growth each aiming to provide background information and practical advice. I like the fact that the articles are written to be read and used, not always the case with management books. For example they all have a common structure with a brief executive summary, relevant mini-cases, making-it-happen tips and links to further resources.

Section 2 features what are called management checklists but are far more comprehensive than the name suggests. Each of the more than 100 checklists provides structured advice for a host of different management situations. These are again grouped under a series of headings, People Management, Personal Effectiveness, Business Planning etc. A common structure provides an overview, defines the approach with advantages/disadvantages, Do’s and Don’ts and sources of further help. I particularly like the ‘Thought Starters’ which serve as a series of prompts to test whether the approach is right for you. Topics covered range from Coaching for Better Performance through to Open Systems Thinking.
In addition over 100 Action Lists provide specific ‘how to’ guidance on issues under headings of e-commerce, Marketing, Personal Development and Accounting and Finance.

Section 3 Management Library provides a one page summary for each of around 70 of the most influential business books. Each review explains why you might want to read the book, the contribution it makes, the context and follow up sources.

Section 4 Business Thinkers and Management Giants. Here are profiles of 100 management writers, experts and practitioners and their ideas and achievements. This is an impressive array of profiles which will provide a good grounding on all the names you’ve heard of and many you have yet to learn of. Again a strength is the common format which provides an outline of the Life and Career, Key Thinking, and a review to place their work in perspective.

Section 5 provides a comprehensive dictionary of business terms, abbreviations, business slang etc.

Section 6 World Business Almanac provides a host of tabulated global economic and social information with some fascinating and diverse data. From population and trade figures to data for example on Patent Applications filed by Residents (Japan 360,338, UK 28,889), Wind Power Capacity, Access to Media, etc. This is complimented with a national profile for each country which provides economic, geographic, political and business information and of course links to books and web based further information.

Even 2200 pages can only provide an overview of the broad range of subjects the book addresses so Section 7 Business Information Sources provides over 200 pages of pointers to further information on every imaginable business topic from Accounting to Working Abroad. Each topic has copious information on Books, Magazines, Internet Links and organisations to contact. It provides a truly staggering range of opportunities to pursue a topic of interest.

In conclusion this is a truly mammoth book which can’t fail to be of value to anyone in business who wishes to advance their understanding and knowledge. Sometimes in putting together an encyclopaedia of this kind editors can feel that their task is completed when the information has been gathered. They leave the reader feeling that the information they need is in here somewhere, but where? In contrast this book has been very carefully assembled to not only contain a wealth of information but much more importantly make it accessible and useable. The book has many examples of this care and attention.

I’ve tried to give a feel for the impressive list of what the book provides but can’t capture it all. For example in putting this review together I discovered that you can register on-line to receive updates and now have received a host of additional information to supplement the book and receive a monthly Newsletter with additional articles, updates and new web links to keep the information truly topical all included in the price of the book. .

It is a stunningly impressive piece of work which I defy anyone in business not to find an extremely valuable reference and source of information. ideas and inspiration.

Steve Unwin January 24 2004