Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review: Rubies in the Orchard by Lynda Resnick


If you work in an office, you have probably watched the bigwig's desks to see which management self-help books are in vogue. Whether it's The One Minute Manager or Who Moved My Cheese or First, Break All the Rules, managers like to look like they are up to date on the latest management theories. Rubies in the Orchard is a bit of a departure from these titles - it's about one woman's career and the companies and opportunities that shaped it. In it, there are lessons that we all can use in our daily work lives.

Lynda Resnick's companies are names that you know: Teleflora, the Franklin Mint, POM pomegranate juice, Fiji water. It's interesting to read the details behind these products, the behind-the-scenes story of how POM ended up in my refrigerator. She's a good storyteller, and there are definitely nuggets of wisdom you can put to use.

I have one particular favorite nugget, probably because it runs so counter to the current thinking and that is: think inside the box - that's where your answers are:

"I know that it's become a fashionable cliche in recent years, but it's just about always wrong. The answers are not outside the box - they're inside. They're inherent in whatever task you've undertaken, whatever product you want to market."
There is a place for outside-the-box thinking, often when it comes to methods and procedures. We get stuck in a rut, doing things the way they have always been done. But when it comes to the product, you have to know its tiniest detail and that is where you'll find your answers.

Resnick is also big on truth; honesty and authenticity are important to her and should be important to your business. Two stories illustrate this beautifully.

First, she tells the story of Country Time Lemonade. Remember those commercials? Wilford Brimley sitting on the porch in his rocking chair drinking lemonade - nice and nostalgic. Except it was a fraud. There isn't one single lemon in Country Time lemonade. One negative ad from Minute Maid and Grandpa was out of a job. People don't like to be lied to.

Now, I tend to think of Franklin Mint products as cheesy collector plates and knick-knacks, so I was impressed with the research and dedication that went into producing them. A perfect example is Jackie Kennedy's pearls. (And there's a little factoid about Jackie's pearls that I never knew - you'll find it in the comments.) When Sotheby's announced that they were auctioning off Jackie Kennedy's estate, Resnick was determined to buy them for the Franklin Mint. They were listed in the auction catalog at a conservative $200-$300...but the Mint paid $211,000 for them! Why? So that they could create a replica necklace that was accurate to the smallest detail. If you are going to sell these replicas, owning the real thing gives you gravitas that cannot be matched. The Franklin Mint sold more than 130,000 copies of the pearls at $200 each - that's quite a return on their investment!

I'm a bit of an idealist and I wish more companies today would invest in honesty and authenticity. These are some good lessons and it is good to read that consumers have responded to them. There will always be a market for cheap fake stuff, but who wants to own that market? The big bucks are in quality merchandise and people won't shell out cash for a fraud.

Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business is an interesting read that delivers some excellent business advice. My copy was an Advance Reader Copy; get your copy at Amazon.com.

4 comments:

Lisa said...

Okay - now for the tidbit that I didn't know about Jackie O's pearls - they were FAKE! Resnick says:

"You know the pearls I'm talking about. Jacqueline Kennedy was so often photographed weating those pearls that they seemed a natural extension of her - an integral piece of her legendary grace and charm. She wore them to state dinners. She wore them on trips to India, Greece, and Japan. She wore them when she greeted the high and mighty and when she was looking after the children. Believe me - you know those pearls. But what you may not know is that the pearls were fake. Jacqueline Bouvier purchased them at Bergdorf Goodman in the 1950's for about $35.00."

Was that news to anyone else, or just to me?

bermudaonion said...

Nope, I never knew the pearls were fake - it does sound like the Franklin Mint made a great investment buying them.

Lenore said...

This reminds me that I really need to read this. Well, it will have to wait until August because July is all about reading my most wanted!! And though I am very excited about Rubies in the Orchard because it sounds great, I want to get lost in fiction this month!!

Lisa said...

I also got this one for review, but haven't read it. Your review is the best I've seen so far so it might move up the TBR a few.

That is cool about the pearls, I had no idea.