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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Not Big on Sports or ESPN, but I Loved It!
It's hard for your average author to effectively chronicle a company's growth. You have to draw out lessons and patterns from decades of details. You have to put your own biases aside to tell the story as it was. At the same time, you need to make readers understand the importance of how the company handled the challenges inherent to its evolution.

It takes the...
Published on January 7, 2010 by Drea Knufken

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent Book
This book was a nice read on the history of espn along with a series of business lessons. As a sports fan and an espn admirer I appreciated the info in this book. However, I felt that most of the lessons were basic and the story could have been a little more detailed. The author fell a little short on going into details of the history of espn.
Nevertheless, I would...
Published on July 20, 2011 by Brooklyn Joe


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Not Big on Sports or ESPN, but I Loved It!, January 7, 2010
By 
This review is from: ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports (Hardcover)
It's hard for your average author to effectively chronicle a company's growth. You have to draw out lessons and patterns from decades of details. You have to put your own biases aside to tell the story as it was. At the same time, you need to make readers understand the importance of how the company handled the challenges inherent to its evolution.

It takes the right combination of mind and skills to pull this kind of thing off. And that's exactly what authors Anthony F. Smith and Keith Hollihan manage to do in "ESPN: The Company."

"ESPN: The Company" pulls you into life at ESPN through vivid character and company descriptions. You learn by vicariously participating.

That's what consultant Anthony F. Smith did during his 20+-year tenure with ESPN, though he experienced the company firsthand. He joined with McKinsey just as ESPN was gaining traction as a startup. He stayed all the way through to its current incarnation as a $30 billion sports media giant.

In those years, he grew intimate with the people, culture, and strategy of ESPN. He and cowriter Keith Hollihan chronicle the highlights of those years: The prominent personalities within the company, the victories and losses, and the lessons learned.

Each of the book's eight chapters covers a guiding principle to ESPN's success. Those guiding principles helped ESPN evolve from idea to empire, but could be applied to any company wanting to stay competitive and creative while ascending competitive ladder.

Individually, each principle can be applied to any company. Taken together, though, they are the unique formula that led to ESPN's success.

Principles include:

*Turn Fanatics into Fans: Make your business all about the customer, and hire fanatics to work for you.

*Think like an incumbent, but act like a challenger: Let your innate insecurities drive your achievement. Believing you are the best while being driven by doubts can be a good thing.

*Find the right leader at the right time: Every stage of an organization demands a different type of leadership. Surround yourself with other leaders who compensate for your weaknesses.

*Expand your brand: Let your mission drive your brand, not vice-versa. Protect the brand more aggressively than you expand it.

While chronicling ESPN's story, Smith also explains how it developed and kept its winning formula. For example, ESPN started up with a hungry, passionate, hardworking culture. Smith explains how they were able to keep it intact even after they grew large.

Smith also details how the company created the markets it now dominates. In another, especially strong chapter, he describes how each of the company's leaders contributed to the right growth at the right time. He also breaks down how ESPN harnessed its employees' and fans' passion to gain business wins.

These are lesson every business should learn.

"ESPN: The Company" rewards readers with company intimacy and wisdom. The authors incorporate tidbits from a variety of sources to add nuance to the story. These include quotes, anecdotes, cable TV industry history, anthropology, and organizational science.

This richness helps you feel like you're participating in ESPN's story. You come out of each chapter having learned through your reading experience. The authors recap lessons in a short summation at the end of each chapter. The book's tone, while deeply respectful of ESPN, doesn't make bones about the contentious aspects of the company's growth.

Conclusion: The book's a winner.

A book is a success when it makes you respect a company you formerly knew little about. It is a success when you feel like you've experienced, rather than read, the story within. Ditto if it makes you want to read more of the authors' work.

ESPN: The Company did all three for me. I highly recommend it.

(Review by Drea Knufken)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside scoop on the growth of a great Sports Network - ESPN, October 18, 2009
This review is from: ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports (Hardcover)
As a big sports enthusiast and a businessman, I thoroughly enjoyed ESPN The Company! I found the passion of ESPN's founders, as well as their employees and all future leaders to be inspirational. For a growing company to maintain, and improve on, the original commitment to the sports fan is truly impressive. What dedicated adherence to the key core value! As business leaders all know, it is very difficult to stay focused and maintain strategies and corporate cultures over time. To do so over 30 years, with multiple CEO's across an ever-evolving cable environment and sports markets is the true lesson in this book. Each CEO brought his own skill sets and strengths that were perfect for the stage of growth the company was gong through at the time.

As a sports fan it is interesting to learn about the story of how the network expanded their offerings - and the actions that transpired at all levels to make this commitment work. The business lessons Anthony Smith shares throughout this book offer powerful insights business leaders can tap into for instilling or enhancing their own commitment to their employees, customers and markets.

Sports fans and business leaders will both enjoy and benefit from the story and strategies in this excellent book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars ESPN: The Greatest Company on Earth, February 18, 2013
At least, that's what the author of this book would have you believe.
Don't get me wrong, the 4-letter is pretty great but I was hoping for more 'insider' stuff on the birth, growth & success of ESPN' from the people who made it happen and were involved.

Not the case.

This is simply a consultant who wrote a 'leadership principles' book using ESPN as the 'catch'. A disappointing read - especially considering there are WAY better leadership books out there.

I feel somewhat duped. Don't be the same.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent Book, July 20, 2011
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This review is from: ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports (Hardcover)
This book was a nice read on the history of espn along with a series of business lessons. As a sports fan and an espn admirer I appreciated the info in this book. However, I felt that most of the lessons were basic and the story could have been a little more detailed. The author fell a little short on going into details of the history of espn.
Nevertheless, I would recommend this book to sports fans, especially if they have time to go through it quickly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Hit, October 14, 2009
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This review is from: ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports (Hardcover)
I enjoyed Taboos and while this book deals with a totally different subject, Tony Smith has brought his usual unique style to the story of ESPN. While ESPN helped reinvent the way sports is reported, the background and strategy behind the story makes for great reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book (and I am not a Sports fanatic), October 2, 2009
This review is from: ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports (Hardcover)
I am not a sports person (there is a difference between being active which I am and loving to watch sports). I did, however, find the book interesting.

ESPN certainly created an awesome, well known brand. They deliberately set out to cater to sports fanatics(their words - not mine). They are passionate about it. They also set out to create sports fanatics.

One thing that makes ESPN unique is there is not a single person behind it. There have been a succession of owners and leadership. There is no icon behind the brand. Culture can continue to drive an organization regardless of the leader.

From the book:
"It is easy to get mystical about leadership. To generate alchemical formulas to explain its wondrous power. The reason is simple. Leadership is confusing and messy as hell. It comes in many difference circumstances and personalities. So we want to distill it."

All the leader does is start minor course corrections which have impact over time if they are continuously reinforced. One thing I learned from running larger companies is culture takes time and vigilance to change. It is likely the most important aspect of a company and at the same time, the toughest. I try hard to let people make decisions but coach on culture.

The book talks about Smith's Stages of Organizational development. Startup - Survival - Ramp Up Growth - Institutional. Smith implies that different stages of companies need different leaders.

I like the "Key Points" at the end of each chapter. If you really wanted just to get the business message and not the story.

Some of the chapter summary points (and the book has a lot more detail than this):
Let insecurity drive achievement.
Deviate from the start (a version of my Fail Often, Fail fast, Fail cheap). Plans are meant to be broken.
Follow your values and challenge the rules.
Seek transformational - not transactional partnerships.
Like relationships - partnerships require work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read!, February 8, 2013
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As an avid reader of how businesses were built, this one really hits home as every one of us has experienced the ESPN brand and many of us have watched it's ascent from a single channel showing 3rd tier sports to the media and entertainment juggernaut that it has become.

Filled with interesting and humorous stories from the early days right on through to the present, ESPN The Company is a quick read and well worth your time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Can't Put It Down, October 27, 2009
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This review is from: ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports (Hardcover)
Pick up "ESPN: The Company" and just begin reading it. If you are at all like me, you will find that you can't put it down. This book has all the ingredients of a truly great business book: A hugely successful company, a world-famous brand, a hyper-competitive landscape, a wild ride through the four stages of ESPN's development described by the author, and fascinating and amazingly diverse leaders. And, of course, the "insider/outsider" perspective that author Tony Smith brings to the story. As the primary management consultant to ESPN for 20 years, Tony is in the unique position of being able to reflect in a very compelling way not only the history of the organization, but also the culture -- the stories, the values, the very sense of the place. At the same time, the author does a good job of keeping his obvious admiration for the story's key players in check. We learn, for example, not only about CEO George Bodenheimer's "calm, reassuring, purposeful" leadership style, but also his conflict averse nature; about former CEO Steve Bornstein's extraordinary intelligence and strategic acumen, but also his tendency to "strip people down in a New York minute." As with his first book, "The Taboos of Leadership," Tony seeks at all times to "keep it real." If you are a business-person wondering what to read on that next long flight, you will find that this book resonates, educates, and even entertains.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Has it all, October 15, 2009
By 
Stuart Grauer (Encinitas, North Coast San Diego) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports (Hardcover)
Tony Smith is a treasure trove of expertise on leadership. Getting his sage observations bundled as a part of sports history is defintely a two-fer. This book is a lot more than just a great lesson for growing businesses--its a great story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ESPN the Company, October 14, 2009
By 
CCH (Del Mar, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports (Hardcover)
Tony Smith has written a fresh and engaging book, with lots of "insider" glimpses of this iconic company. It was filled with thought-provoking ideas and actionable principles. Highly recommended for sports fans as well as leaders-
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ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports
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