Looking for an absolutely first-rate business book? Try The Real Heroes of Business: How to Find, Train, Manage, and Retain World-Class Service Workers, by Bill Fromm and Len Schlesinger (Currency/Doubleday, 1993, $22.50). It's a joy to read, filled with one terrific anecdote after another about line employees -- a hotel doorman, an auto mechanic, a telephone-service technician, a security guard -- who do the small but extraordinary things that turn even the most cynical consumer into a satisfied and loyal customer. The stories are -- dare I say it? -- downright inspiring. But that's not all. Each profile is accompanied by "digressions," in which the authors step back and put the stories into some broader business context. The digressions are treasure troves of useful advice about screening job applicants, greeting customers, apportioning your management time, finding out what will really improve your employees' job satisfaction, and so on. My favorite type of digression: those in which the authors attempt to calculate how much the individual profiled is worth to his or her company. This is not, by the way, the sort of book you should consume in one or two sittings. Read together, the stories may start to seem redundant. Better to save several of them for those days when you need a reminder of the difference a single devoted person can make in any business.

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