Alpha Dogs: How Your Small Business Can Become a Leader of the Pack
by Donna Fenn.
About a year ago, someone recommended this book to me and I put it on my list. It was sitting there until I recently had the pleasure of meeting Donna Fenn (@donnafenn) on Twitter. Full of curiosity, I got a copy of the book and started reading.
Donna Fenn is a contributing editor and twenty year veteran for Inc. magazine. While reading Alpha Dogs
, I found it full of interesting ideas and stories. I actually ended up keeping a notebook next to me to write down my own questions and ideas for my business.
Donna Fenn writes in an engaging style and features eight business owners who take entrepreneurship seriously. Her premise is that “companies make the leap from ordinary to extraordinary when their leaders step back from what they do and focus on how they’re doing it.” She chose business owners who have been in business for at least 10 years, low-tech industries, great places to work, bootstrapped or traditionally financed companies under $100 million in revenue and solid revenue growth.
Each chapter highlights how these phenomenal entrepreneurs crafted their success. Each chapter ends with a synopsis of lessons learned and advice. One topic of advice that is found in nearly every chapter is customer service. There is an emphasis on acknowledging problems and responding to complaints with excellent service. Fenn describes it as “Turn terrorists into apostles.”
Fenn includes mistakes, bad decisions, and personal situations that the Alpha Dogs experienced to highlight how the business owners learned and grew to lead great organizations. These stories serve to illustrate the process of how the leaders came to identify how they run their organizations.
While it is good to hear examples from different industries, the stories focused mainly on retail and manufacturing for examples of Alpha Dogs. There is one example of a service based organization which highlighted how creating a network consortium can be an effective way to transcend the independent practitioner operating in solitude. It would be interesting to see more examples of Alpha Dogs who run service-based organizations.
Alpha Dogs is an easy read that serves as a great springboard to develop your business and yourself into leading the pack. The emphasis on common sense combined with a tolerance for experimenting is consistent throughout the book and it really illustrates how a small business owner can become a leader of their own pack.