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Geoffrey James' business book is all killer, no filler

May 31. 2014 8:03PM

GEOFFREY JAMES has learned to love the title of his latest book - after all, he says it's been selling well since it was published a couple of weeks ago - but "Business Without the Bullsh*t" was not his first choice.

The Hollis-based writer's original title was "The Book of Business Wisdom." While that's a good way to describe its contents, his publishers at Hachette Book Group thought that name was, well, boring. And boring is a tough sell.

The subtitle of the corporate survival guide is "49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know." Not enough room for 50 secrets? It's safe to say that's also a marketing thing, quirky in the same way as that bull on the cover with the red "X" painted through it.

James, who has written and published a blog post every business day since February 2007, currently for, designed the book as a series of short hits that can be read in any order. He aimed the book at people who need a primer on how the business world works, such as college graduates just entering the work force and engineers and other technical folks who suddenly find themselves spending more time dealing with the business side of their companies, where people skills play a larger role.

"What I bring to the table is making complicated things very, very simple and taking a lot of situations that involve a lot of politics and a lot of complexity and boiling them down to 'This is what is really happening,'" says James, 60, a veteran of the Silicon Valley and New England tech industries who has worked as an independent journalist since 1996.

James has written eight previous books, most recently "How to Say It: Business to Business Selling," his first foray into general business writing after several books about computer programming and the technology industry. As its subtitle suggests, the latest is closer in approach to the style he employs in his blog posts.

"What I've tried to do is take every chapter as what another author would bloat into another book," James says. "Here are the 12 types of bosses. Here are the 10 types of annoying people you're going to run into, and here's the easiest way to deal with them. Here's what you need to know. Only useful stuff. There are no anecdotes. No case studies. No theory at all. Just stuff you can take home and use."

The book includes sections on managing bosses, coworkers, employees - and yourself.

"For example, it's not that hard to manage your boss, but you do need to know how to do that, and more importantly you need to have the mental headset to understand that you're going to have to manage your boss because you are a freelancer," James says. "Everyone is a freelancer because everyone can be fired at will."

The book's unifying thread is to help prepare workers to take control of their careers and enable them to face whatever challenges arise. That means maintaining strong networks and job options so that you're not blindsided when you lose your job.

"You can't have job security, but you can have career security. Career security is the ability that creates the ability to say no and to act in the corporate environment without feeling afraid of being fired because you know where you could go and because you've made yourself so valuable where you are," James says.

He recommends always having three opportunities under different stages of development, lining up people you would call and knowing the type of job you would pursue should you lose yours or need to jump ship.

"You've changed your LinkedIn profile so it matches those kinds of jobs," James says. "You have it all set up so if you do have to leave you can just go on automatic, and you have a reasonable sense that you would be able to find something good and quickly.

"Opposed to what most people do - they go into denial until they are fired, and then they send out resumes, which is crazy behavior. Because first of all, resumes are just spam. They really aren't job hunting tools in any meaningful way. And you want to be able to be thinking of that stuff when you're on top, not when you are shocked by being laid off."

Achieving career security, landing that dream job and how to ace a job interview are collected under a section called "How to Manage Yourself." It's the part of the game that James says he has the toughest time with, too.

"The most important person of all you have to manage is yourself. And a lot of people don't think of themselves that way," James says. "In fact, some people are just horrible bosses of themselves. They make themselves miserable and tell themselves awful, mean things that if their bosses said, they'd be ready to walk out."

James' advice is simple and pragmatic: Make the most of your situation.

"A lot of this is looking at, 'Hey, I'm an independent entity. How can I use the resources that are available to me to accomplish what I want to accomplish and help the others I care about accomplish what they want to accomplish?'"

Makes sense. No BS about that.

Mike Cote is business editor at the New Hampshire Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321 ext. 324 or

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