The Book: Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business by Nancy Lublin, Portfolio, $25.95, June 2010.
On the surface, Nancy Lublin's book seems to be about non-profits, but as you get a few pages in, it becomes apparent that Lublin uses her experience as a non-profit CEO to inspire for-profits to think about business differently. Non-profits have no budgets and small staffs made up primarily of volunteers, yet they often attain high productivity and impact. Corporations have budgets and large, well-paid staffs, yet often find themselves in gridlock. What can the two learn from each other?
Lublin encourages both to tap the power of zero in business. Doing more with less is becoming a business mantra these days, and Zilch is a guidebook on some of the best practices. From developing quality in products and people, to building a better brand, to finding purpose, to collaborating externally, Lublin explains the myriad ways companies can accomplish big things without spending.
A simple example that struck me was the brief section on saying, "Thank You," to employees. It's simple, and it's free, Lublin says. And yet, such a small gesture can go a long way toward inspiring employees to be part of the team, put more creativity and skill into projects, and stay committed. Similarly, on the customer side, Lublin encourages companies to "See people first, buyers second." Making people (internal and external) feel that they are a part of something bigger can make them commit, both financially and as followers. Working on creative ways to build that perception can be done through a series of words, actions, and work—and not necessarily by spending.
Through grassroots marketing efforts and applied philosophy, doing more with less is not just a theory. It is something people like Lublin live successfully by. The important lesson of this book is that all business should have an impact while reducing spending—and Zilch shows us how.
Reviewer Jack Covert is the founder of 800-CEO-READ, a leading bookseller to corporations and large organizations, based in Milwaukee.