This column doesn't usually come with a warning label, but this month be prepared for rough language, intergenerational squabbling, insulting work habits and advice on how to finance your sex life. If you are bold, daring and ready for the randy, slightly naughty (but also completely serious) business books we've uncovered this month, then read on.
Watch your languageLet's get the bad language out of the way first. F'd Companies: Spectacular Dot-Com Flameouts (Simon ∧ Schuster, $18, 224 pages, ISBN 0743228626) by Philip J. Kaplan is a compilation of some of the most idiotic web businesses ever invented. Written by the founder of one of the web's most popular sites (we can't print the name of the site here, but you should be able to figure it out!), this book transports the web meltdown into hindsight with 20/20 hilarity. It highlights some of the web's most hare-brained schemes and the silly investors who sank billions to finance them. One of my favorites is Flooz.com. "Flooz was an alternative currency," Kaplan says. "The idea was that people would buy Flooz and then use Flooz to buy stuff rather than using credit cards or cash . . . why trust the U.S. Treasury to back your money when there's Flooz?" Flooz filed for bankruptcy protection on August 31, 2001. Another great one: Wwwrrr.com. Kaplan says, "Okay, the first issue we have to discuss here is the issue of their name. Wwwrrr.com. Pronounced "whir." Stands for reading, riting and 'rithmetic. That's just wrong. On so many levels." Tell it to the investors who put up $15 million for this venture that failed early last year. Hundreds of other equally funny examples explain with biting accuracy why so many dot-com wannabes fuddled their way into ignominy.
The generation gapWhen Generations Collide (HarperBusiness, $25.95, 240 pages, ISBN 0066621062) by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman is a completely serious but creatively written treatise on understanding and coming to terms with age-related conflicts in the workplace. Lancaster and Stillman, a Boomer and a GenXer respectively, recognized that much of workplace conflict wasn't about your Meyers-Briggs type or the "color" of your personality, but actually resulted from intergenerational differences. Our age defines how and what we think about, both for the workplace and ourselves. GenXers seem to think the workplace should be fun. Traditionalists and Boomers view the office with a little more reverence. Conflict is bound to result when new hires think they can wear cutoffs in a place where older employees previously wore ties and suits. Whether you're a Boomer, a Traditionalist or one of those Preppy In-betweens, this is a must-read book for understanding the stuffy old boss or the flippant youngster.
They want me to do what?Work 2.0: Rewriting the Contract by Bill Jensen is the new guide to working with a younger generation. Jensen says work is changing. Employees choose a workplace and a career and then get on board to work hard and long. But these same employees expect their loyalty, time and talent to be repaid. This is a hard-edged, get-with-the-program book that says today's talent doesn't just want work-life balance; they will have it or will find new employers. Work 2.0 faces the crucial fact that September 11 re-emphasized what most Americans already believed their time is only on loan, not for sale, to an employer.
And in the city . . .How do those beautiful women in HBO's Sex and the City afford the wine, the clubs, the shoes? Well, Juliette Fairley, author of Cash in the City: Affording Manolos, Martinis, and Manicures on a Working Girl's Salary (Wiley, $14.95, 288 pages, ISBN 0471209813) can tell you how. In this funny and surprisingly practical book, Fairley lays out the financial rules for 20 and 30-something women of the city. Far from focusing on the martini side of her title, Farley details the pitfalls of debt, erases some common money myths and just plain brings girls of a certain age back to their senses about their love affair with the almighty dollar. Sharon Secor is a business writer in Minnesota.