Wednesday, May 20, 2009

a review of Rubies in The Orchard

Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business by Lynda Resnick (Broadway Business, ISBN 9780385525787)

While it is unlikely that you will be familiar with the name of the author, no doubt you will recognize the name of the companies that she and her husband own. The Franklin Mint, Teleflora, Fiji Water, all companies that they turned around and made much more successful than they had been. Then there is Pom Wonderful, the company they started from scratch, making that rather odd looking fruit, the pomegranate, and it's juice, in it's distinctive bottle, familiar in the produce section of American stores. Without doubt, they have an ability to market a company, turn it into the success it should be and the cover of Ms. Resnick books promises to share some of that knowledge with us, to tell us “How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business”, to discover the Rubies in the Orchard.
When she sticks to that idea, the books is rather interesting and enjoyable, but when she losses sight of that goal and goes off on some tangents, as she does, no doubt to the annoyance of a few readers, the purpose of the book become unclear.

Although the cover describes this as a marketing book, it is really more of a business biography. This is not a rag to riches story, but more of a riches to bigger riches story. Ms. Resnick's second husband had sold a very successful janitorial business, that it seems left them quite well off. But Resnick, who had started a successful marketing business when just a teenager, was ...well, bored. Her husband, along the way, had bought a very large parcel of land in their home state of California, planted in almonds and those odd pomegranates. Using her unquestionable talents for finding those rubies, each product's intrinsic and unique value, they turned an ancient fruit into a popular product, touting it health benefits and packaging it is a unique and memorable way.

I am not sure you will find any unique marketing advice in this part of the book, but the first part of the book is interesting and often amusing nevertheless. Much of the advice given seems like good common sense. Determine the intrinsic valve of the product or service, have faith in the product, offer something of quality, be honest, keep it simple, think long term, opting for the right thing is usually good for business...nothing new or earth shattering here, but presented in a direct and well written (by ghost writer Francis Wilkinson) way, it is very readable.

At least when Ms. Resnick gets out of her own way. To put it nicely, she has a healthy dose of self esteem, a very healthy measure. She is very successful, she has a lot of famous friends, whose names she drops, she is a very important person. She is the smartest, the hardest working, the most insightful person in the room, as she tells us, again and again, and everyone else she mentions suffers in comparison. But I was willing to let her have that, mostly because she tells some good stories, that is until the last 1/3 or so of the book. Then she started to loose me and I was about ready to give up on the book and go look up some nice pomegranate cocktail recipes. Hey, you might as well have your booze with something that is good for you!

The reason she lost me is that, toward the end of the book, she gives up any pretense of a book on marketing and launches into a polemic on a few subjects near and dear to her heart. First is the anti-PETA rant. Hey, I am no PETA fan, but is she really surprised that they attack her for the animal testing Pom Wonderful does to study the health benefits of their juice? Yes, she feel she is justified..and not surprising they do not. Boycott..How dare they!
Then there is her very strong talk for the need to be environmentally conscious. Ok...I have some questions about the scientific basis of Global Warning Climate Change, but her attempt to sell this and justify shipping bottled water from Fiji is just silly and dishonest. I am happy she is doing various environmental projects in Fiji, then claiming she is therefore carbon neutral in her production, but IMHO, bottled water has to be the biggest consumer scam of the century. Folks, the vast majority of Americans have access to safe, free, tasteless the tap! The plastic bottles, the production, the shipping, all the fuel used to sell us WATER can not be defended, but Ms. Resnick certainly tries...and fails. And touting value in products, while selling 'collectible' plates and fake Jackie Kennedy pearls through the Franklin Mint and the need for honestly of our leaders while talking about her dear friend and “creative genius” Michael Milken...the same Mr. Milken who went to jail for fraud and racketeering..I am sorry, but she had totally lost my ear by then and I wish she had just stuck to entertaining stories about her business life.

That being said, I loved the cover. That picture, of Ms. Resnick herself behind one of her favorite, odd, red fruits is based on the painting Son of Man by Rene Magritte. The painter of the original, the surrealist Magritte, said about it ”Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us.”
Maybe Ms. Resnick is trying to tell us something...or not.

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  1. I remember Jennifer reviewing this book and not feeling completely sure if this would be something I'd want to read. See, this is what I like about tell it like it is. I am quite sure, based on what you said, that I wouldn't have finished this book. I can't stand preaching and I can't stand narcisists. Thanks for the head's up!

  2. did I mention they accidentally sent me a small case of the juice? I felt obligated...but I always feel obligated to tell it as I see it.

  3. I'm glad that you tell it like you see it. I think I'll skip this book.


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