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The Hubspot story can be an inspiration to us all

Could you write a book about the IT industry as good as Disrupted? In your dreams, Steven King!

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: MicroScope: MicroScope: July 2016:

Where do you learn about the IT industry? Not on a course for a start. The training sector can be a rip off that desperately needs regulating.

Self education is not much easier. Even the best business books are unreadable beyond the first chapter. Have you tried reading The Long Tail, for example? It certainly lived up to its name, consisting of one decent chapter, at the start, which looked as though it was going to be regurgitated for about 72,000 more words. Even Social Media for Dummies would be too much hard work for me.

Still, the bottom line is the same. If you work in the channel, in sales or marketing, there are no enjoyable books to read about the IT business. All available titles seem to have been written by either narcissists or nerds or the increasingly common nerd-narc hybrids.

The one exception is Disrupted, by former Newsweek technology editor Dan Lyons, which describes his experience of working in a Silicon Valley start up. Not just any start up, but Hubspot, which was so hot that investors threw $100 million at it to fan the flames of its inbound marketing system. Despite all the hype, according to Lyons the software wasn’t very good. But that didn’t seem to matter, because Hubspot prides itself on being the world’s greatest sales and marketing company anyway.

That contradiction is what makes Disrupted, for me, the greatest book ever written about the IT business. It works on so many levels. If you’re a journalist, you will marvel at the work of a master of the craft. Horror fans will love this book too, as the books describes the nightmare of being sucked into an Inbound marketing funnel from which few escape with their sanity. The ghouls in human form, that lure poor Lyons into their netherworld, are beyond the imagination of science fiction writer. If Steven King presented these characters to his publisher, he’d be politely told to think again.

On the other hand, if you’re the type of person that describes themselves as ‘passionate’ about sales and marketing, this could be the book for you too. All the behaviour that Lyons describes will read like an instruction manual.

The majority of Microscope readers probably sit somewhere in the middle of the cynicism-gung ho spectrum. On one hand you’re brave enough not to be as cynical as we journalists. But you are sensible enough not to fall for the suffers of Messianic Marketing Syndrome, whose disruption of your business can be a very dangerous double edged sword.

If you are a UK reseller or service provider, you may want to be wary about committing to companies that over promise the future, suck all the juice out of you and then cast you aside like a used up orange husk. On the other hand, if you are – how shall I put this – a highly ambitious start up and want to ‘scale up’ like you’re on steroids until you’re too big to fail, then this book might have some handy life style tips. 

There are many ‘disruptive’ symptoms, described in the book, that a reseller may want to be wary of in a vendor partner. Any company with an obsession with youth, for example, clearly doesn’t value experience, which is arguably the most precious asset in a ‘knowledge’ economy. Any company with an obsessively ‘Krazy Kulture’ and a penchant for value signaling might be worth avoiding. Beware the Fearless Friday. Be especially nervous if you’re one of the people that the organiser of Fearless Friday wants to ‘empower’. The last thing you want is to be ‘Congratulated’ on your next career move, because that means your desk will be cleared, all your possessions stuck in a bin bag and you’ll be escorted from the premises.

Be very wary about investing in any company in which the CEO takes 100 hours to make a personal video that describes the unique company culture. Never trust any contact that seems to think they can ‘re-invent the rules’, describes everything as ‘awesome’ and imagines they can ‘democratise’ the market. They won’t. They’ll be all blog and no hard slog.

So, whether you view Disrupted as a confirmation of all your prejudices, a diagnostic tool or a sales instruction manual, it is required reading. There’s a lesson in there for us all.

This was last published in June 2016

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