Listen Innovate Grow (Michael Haynes & Garreth Chandler)

book review Mar 05, 2020

How to start a new business and grow it further towards sustainable success? There a plenty of resources available online and offline for small and medium-sized enterprises and startups, but it is not easy to find a comprehensive companion with practical relevance. The Australia-based authors Michael Haynes and Garreth Chandler joined forces for their oeuvre “Listen Innovate Grow” to create this guidebook full of untapped opportunities on the journey for companies in these modern categories.

Michael Haynes consults on the B2B side for more than two decades in various countries including Australia, Brazil and Canada, declaring both Toronto and Sydney as his home. While creating successful growth strategies for customer-centric organisations, he also collected practical experience in accompanying companies on that journey in various industries. His writing partner Garreth Chandler contributed with his first-hand experience of creating successful companies himself as well as consulting others across Asia Pacific and the US. The reflection of those compounding experiences is visible throughout the book.

As the title suggests, the book spans over three distinctive sections. It all starts with where to focus by carefully listening to yourself, your market and your prospective customers. The second part shows how to win around innovations. That includes products and services as well as processes, the organisation and marketing to finally develop and implement a proper B2B strategy. The final part continues the story towards growth talking about how to sustain success. A range of soft factors is coming into play like change management, people & culture and finance. Six case studies prove in a concentrated form how the model “Listen Innovate Grow” has been adopted successfully.

The practical approach of this publication includes some sentences which can pause the reader to reflect and adapt such as “Buyers and influencers in a company will often use three sources as part of their ‘shopping experience’. You need to know which ones will have the most impact on the decision-makers, influencers and change agent/mobilizer.” Another example: “Company culture is the unique personality of a company. It’s the group dynamic that emerges from placing people together to make decisions every day about how to work with others and deliver on their own role and objectives.” Voila, what a definition!

I took away a lot of value from this book. Especially working currently at a former startup with 100+ employees, I can imagine what the company leaders went through and what is still to come. It provides every employee or leader in SMEs a chance to understand their company and their challenges better towards a potential contribution. Those who are advising other organisations also find value here. Prospective clients in companies with barriers to growing further get the highest benefit from the book, especially when talking to Michael directly who can help to apply the content on concrete situations given his vast experience in different industry sectors.

Michael and Garreth created something very special with this book: they added an addictive passion for the segment of how great it is to be in a startup or a growing small and mid-sized company at this time. The chances and opportunities are clearly laid out throughout the book in the form of a roadmap to tackle piece by piece. The necessary drivers like active listening to the market or the hunger for innovation and thus also differentiation bring readers onto the right path. A key part compared to more theoretical books are the middle two chapters with all ingredients to develop and implement a winning B2B strategy.

Future book writers can take a range of inspirations for their own adaptability. It feels well in the chosen soft cover material to prove the outside value. Throughout the book, many subtitles are basically created as questions, that supports the usage of a handbook to always return to and scan for their own to be answered. Chapter summaries and “Take action now” pages at the end of each chapter underline the practical approach, also supported by a range of graphs, images and real-life examples from chosen companies. Not to forget: the graphics on the title along with the associated website and Michael’s LinkedIn background picture underline the united passion behind this publication.


Q&A with Michael Haynes

1. What was the deciding moment to write this book?

Writing a book was something I always wanted to do. It was probably back in late 2016 when I have been working with my co-author Garreth on a corporate small business strategy project. We found a gap in the marketplace in regards to effective, practical marketing and business strategy materials to help startups and SMEs. Recognising that gap in depth and breadth with details of practical strategies was the idea behind the book.

2. How long did it take from concept to launch?

Probably for Garreth and myself it took us about 18 months to do all the research and write the book, work with our editor and publisher of the book.

3. How did you perform the research to create the practical content?

The book is based on the practical experience of Garreth and myself who have been working with businesses for about 20 years so the research is based on practical experience in a range of businesses from startups through to multinationals on their issues retaining to understanding markets and customers, developing and implementing marketing, sales, service and customer strategy programs. We did a lot of in-depth interviews with a range of start-up founders and small and medium business owners who are working in the B2B space. The research leverages their practical experience and a fair bit of secondary research to get an understanding of the market dynamics of what is going on with respect to the challenges and issues which founders and small medium businesses owners defining and building their businesses were facing,

4. What was the biggest challenge along the process (and how did you overcome it)?

We were pretty much organised and focused to get the research done. The biggest challenge of creating a book is not the writing itself, but the marketing of it which requires a fair bit of work to get visibility and cut through, but it needs to be done over time. Traditional publishers typically want very large audience to leverage. The book marketing is a science of itself. That was a challenge where Garreth and I only scratched the surface to get into Amazon marketing as one way and book launches and getting the desired coverage.

5. What was your own reflection along the journey?

In my own reflection the three key activities – listen, innovate, grow – are exactly what all businesses need to succeed. To continue growing my own business, I also need to practice what I preach how to listen, how to innovate and then how to manage that growth which includes the personal level as well.

6. What is the outcome in having this book available?

The book has been a great resource to help startups and SMEs to understand how they can take advantage of the opportunity to win larger customers. It has been great for me personally being able to engage with other experts in the B2B space and thus to further learn and improve my own skills as well. The book helped me to get closer to influential thought leaders and consulting firms being able to share ideas and insights with them.

7. What would you advise others about writing their book?

Put together an outline plan to get the book done and find out what works best for you. Maybe you like to write in smaller chunks with a couple of hours each or you block out a couple of days. Just crank it out and get a good editor to help you with a structural edit. That is what it needs to take your book from good to great even if you want to self-publish.


Michael Haynes & Garreth Chandler: “Listen Innovate Grow”, Sydney: 2excell consulting, ISBN 978-064698855-9 (Paperback)

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