Press release of the month. A behind-the-scenes account of journalism's splashiest start-up in recent years -- Gannett Co.'s USA Today -- might make tempting reading for any entrepreneur. Just don't be tempted too far by Peter Prichard's The Making of McPaper: The Inside Story of USA Today (Andrews, McMeel & Parker, 1987). Prichard's a fine writer, and the saga he tells is engaging -- as far as it goes. But he's also a managing editor at USA Today, and his book is copyrighted by none other than a subsidiary of Gannett itself. We're all for inside stories. We just prefer them by authors whose livelihoods don't depend on their subjects.
This fall's lineup: brace yourself. In Search of Excellence hit the business world like a whirlwind a few years ago, provoking more reading and discussion than most companies had ever seen. This fall coauthors Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. are each coming out with new books.
Waterman's The Renewal Factor: How the Best Get and Keep the Competitive Edge (Bantam Books) promises advice and anecdotes on revitalizing stale organizations. But Peters's Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution (Alfred A. Knopf Inc.) "is basically a repudiation of the 'excellence phenomenon," according to the publisher. The business world is changing so fast, Peters argues, that not even "excellent" firms can stay that way; only companies that thrive on constant change will survive.
Elsewhere on the business shelf this fall, Apple Computer Inc.'s John Sculley is doubtless hoping to become the next Lee Iacocca. His book Odyssey: From Pepsi to Apple . . . (Harper & Row Publishers Inc.) offers a hefty helping of management philosophy spiced up by the author's account of the battle in which he ousted Apple co-founder Steven Jobs. The real Iacocca, meanwhile, is slated for debunking in Peter Wyden's The Unknown Iacocca (William Morrow & Co.) -- the "complete unvarnished truth," says the publisher, on America's best-known manager. Donald Katz promises to unravel Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s troubles in The Big Store: Inside the Crisis and Revolution at Sears (Viking Penguin Inc.), while the Harvard Business School's D. Quinn Mills analyzes what the baby boomers' peculiarities mean for managers and the marketplace in Not Like Our Parents: How the Baby-Boom Generation Is Changing America (William Morrow & Co.).
Are these books any good? Stay tuned.
Traveling light. When I boarded a flight last week, a quick visual poll suggested that 95% of the customers were business travelers. But when I checked several bookstores the next day, I discovered that 95% of the travel books were aimed at tourists. Most publishers don't seem to care that business travelers spend about $60 billion a year and could use some special help in spending it wisely.
What do business travelers need that tourist guides don't deliver? A restaurant with just the right ambience to impress a client. A short list of centrally located hotels. Messenger services, computer rentals, secretarial services, caterers, teleconferencing facilities, fitness centers, and places that do emergency eyeglass repair. You get the idea.
The three business-travel guides that I did find are a mixed lot. The best is Birnbaum's USA 1987 for Business Travelers (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1986, $8.95). For each of 44 cities, it offers both a short sightseeing guide and some valuable information on local transportation and services. The hotel and restaurant descriptions are a little terse, but they do give you some indication whether the ambience and service are what you're looking for.
Not so the other two. The Complete Business Traveler's Guide (Times Mirror Press, 1987, $29.50) provides detailed listings of car rentals, limons, and short-term apartment rentals -- but it falls down completely on hotels and restaurants, offering star rankings in place of any useful information. A hefty desk book rather than a handy guide, this volume is probably better suited to convention planners than travelers. Most of us don't really need to know about local resorts, meeting sites, and hotel conference facilities.
The Rand McNally Business Traveler's City Guide 1987 (Rand McNally p Co., 1986, $9.95) is embarrassingly bad. It lists only hotels and restaurants, and it reads as if it were compiled by telephone in one afternoon. This is Rand McNally, but even the maps are terrible.