“I don’t want people to buy my book.”
That’s a sentence I honestly don’t think I’ve heard an author say before, ever. But Barbara Gray’s vision for her second book, Secrets of the Amazon, was very different to that of most authors. It’s part of what she calls high fidelity, and she argues it’s the only response to today’s retail economy.
“You can’t compete on a functional value basis anymore. You can’t compete against Amazon in terms of price, convenience, variety or choice. They will kill you on that. Whether you’re retailer or whatever you’re doing. So you have to move up one layer; it has to be about creating an emotional attachment with your customers.”
Barbara was a guest on this show back in September 2016 talking about her first book, Ubernomics. It’s fascinating to hear how her writing and self-publishing journey has evolved since then, and how she’s walking her talk as a financial analyst through her books.
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Alison Jones: Hello and welcome to the Extraordinary Business Book Club. I’m here today with Barbara Gray who is the founder of Brady Capital Research Inc, a leading-edge investment research firm focused on structural disruption. She’s also the author of the books Secret of the Amazon and Ubernomics: How to create economic abundance, and rise above the competition. Barbara ranked as an all-star analyst for four consecutive years, achieving top three standings each year in the business trisector in the Brendon Wood annual institution survey.
She’s a chartered financial analyst with over 50 years of certified equity research experience in both Canada and the US. But more importantly than all that she’s a former guest on the Extraordinary Business Book Club podcast. So welcome back Barbara.
Barbara Gray: Thanks Alison, it’s great to be here again.
Alison Jones: It’s really nice to have you back, I love it when I have people back. Now it’s ages since we last spoke isn’t it, it was September 2016, which is ridiculous.
Barbara Gray: I think we actually spoke in August because it was published in September but I actually remember it was August because-
Alison Jones: It was August, really?
Barbara Gray: Yeah, so it’s almost two years ago.
Alison Jones: We’re recording this in May 2018. But back then you were launching your first book which was Ubernomics. So just start off by giving us a quick update and what’s been happening since then for you?
Barbara Gray: Wow. So much has happened. So back then and – actually I listened to the podcast the other day just to sort of refresh myself, and it was interesting because back then I was at a crossroads in my career. I was trying to figure out if I was going to go down the consulting route or if I was going to go back to being a sell-side equity analyst. And what’s interesting is, what I didn’t tell you in that interview, is that back in June I’d actually had a serendipitous encounter with one of my former colleagues. So I live in Vancouver in Canada and I’d flown out to Toronto to attend the launch party for one of my former colleagues since she just launched an asset management company.
I hadn’t been back to Toronto for like a decade because since then I’ve had. I have two boys age five and seven, and so I met up with all my former clients and I was telling them about this book Ubernomics I was publishing and I actually did back to back meetings for three days with them. I put up together a presentation on my Ubernocomics and it was so awesome to get dressed up again…
Alison Jones: “I’m wearing heels, look at me.”
Barbara Gray: In my heels, exactly. Get my hair done, feel like a professional again and meet up with them. Anyways, at this party, I ran into one of my former colleagues and he said, “One of our clients said, I need to talk to you.” And I said, “Well, why?” I said, “I’ve been doing research, I’m about to publish a book because I’ve been writing all this stuff.” And he said, “Well, I think you’ve got some good stuff.” And I said, “Oh, okay.”
So then we had a series of discussions after that. And what’s ironic is it was actually just I think a week or two after you published the interview two years ago that I went marketing with him. And so I flew up to Toronto and met with institutional investors, which were my former clients because I used to be a sell-side equity analyst before I took time off to have kids, and it was awesome. It was so amazing to get back in the boardroom, back in my suit, and just be so engaged and share with them all this research I’d done for like six years and they loved it. And it was a refreshing approach. So basically, bottom line is I got back to being a sell-side equity analyst.
Alison Jones: And do you think the book was a big part of that? Was it that the time that you took out researching helped or did just the space and the thought and the sort of advancing yourself?
Barbara Gray: That’s a good question. I mean, the opportunity cost was absolutely massive and taking six years off and not getting paid given I was making quite a bit of money before that. But in terms of the intellectual capital, and the new perspective that I brought to the research process, I think it’s been very valuable. And I think the book was great and especially for females, you know, it is hard to… you can have all the education in the world, you can have the top rankings, but when you’re a female, people don’t necessarily see that.
So when you have a book, and you put that in front of them, they can see your whole body of work and all the research you’ve done, and it really adds a real sense of credibility. So I think that was the biggest thing, because I had taken time off to have kids, but I kept doing my research and kept investing in companies myself, but, I hadn’t been out publicly meeting with investors, and it was awesome and I used my calligraphy and I signed copies for them and it was just so much fun to share all this knowledge that I’d researched with them.
Alison Jones: And you and I were talking just before we came on about the thing with women and business books and how few there are out there. So it’s really interesting to hear you kind of encourage people that way as well.
Barbara Gray: Oh totally. Well, I mean I work in the finance industry and I think I said in the last interview we had there’s very few females, so I’m a chartered financial analyst and I think only 15% of charter financial analysts are actually females and I’ve read over 100 business strategy books and I can probably count on two hands the number of books that were published by females. So I don’t know what it is. I mean, to be honest, it’s not that hard to write a business book. It’s fun. I’m writing my third one right now as we speak, it’s not that difficult-
Alison Jones: You’re an addict.
Barbara Gray: No it’s just that I love writing and I’ve realised this is a great way to package things, but it’s… I guess you have to have the confidence to do it, but it’s fun.
Alison Jones: Yeah. Who knows? I mean, I think there’s points of failure all the way down the line, but I think you’re dead right, that the confidence is a big part of it. And of course, as you say, once you’ve done one, you know what you’re doing and you can… it’s easy to write another one. So it’s a sort of self perpetuating thing. But I really do struggle to find the women. One of the things that’s extraordinary about the Extraordinary Business Book Club is that I really try hard to get gender balance and it’s flipping difficult, it’s more difficult than it should be, I think.
Barbara Gray: Definitely. Because I think females, I mean we tend to do a lot of research and writing, probably more so than men. I think it’s just men are more aggressive in terms of promoting themselves, but I think females probably know just as much or do just as much research as men do.
Alison Jones: They just don’t tend to package it in a book, which is very frustrating. So if you’re a woman out there and you’re thinking about it, for goodness sake crack on and do it. So tell us Barbara, about the process of researching and writing book two, what was different for you second time round?
Barbara Gray: Well, I actually didn’t just… so book number one, I never intended to write a book. The way book one happened, and I think I shared this in the last interview, is that, I think it was in January of 2016, I was talking with my husband and he said, “Hey, why don’t you take all this stuff you’ve done over the last six years and package into a book?” And I said, “Oh, that’s a good idea.” So I basically then bundled all the blog posts, all the research reports and all the LinkedIn articles I wrote into a book. And the process took me from back then from January until… and then I published a book in October, so it took about 10 months from beginning to end.
And all of the content had already basically been written. So this time around, again I had no idea to launch a book. So what I did is to continue the story. So once I started going marketing and went back to being a sell side equity analyst, I started publishing research again and writing research and in this time what I ended up doing and what sort of evolved is every week I write a research note talking about emerging structural disruption.
And I started off calling it the Ubernomic Fault Lines because in the beginning I was really focused on how Uber was disrupting the taxi medallion market because, people don’t take taxis anymore, they just call an Uber or a lift. And then I went onto the rental cars. But then I guess it was in March, April last year, I realised that Amazon was becoming a more and more disruptive force. And as you know, in June Amazon announced it was acquiring Whole Foods. And what’s interesting is my Ubernomics book Whole Foods was one of the companies I wrote about that had a heart and soul.
And what’s ironic is that – I was actually looking back at my notes – so on June 13th I published a note that I called the flywheel effect and it I actually said, and I write this in my Secrets of the Amazon book, I’m thinking we should change the name of our research from Ubernomic Fault Lines to Amazonomics Fault Lines because every week we learn of new disruptive developments from Amazon. How its flywheel seems to be spinning faster than ever leaving a wake of destruction in its path because retail rates ie malls are now facing the risk of declining lease durations.
And Alexa’s disrupting consumer packaged goods brands. So, it’s sort of written about how Amazon was being so disruptive. And then days after that, like on June 16th, Amazon announced the acquisition of Whole Foods, which completely led to huge structural disruption throughout the whole ecosystem, whether it’d be in the grocery retailers, the consumer package goods companies, the retail rates, it’s just everything has completely been disrupted. I think in London you have been feeling the impact as well. Even though you don’t have Whole Foods there.
Alison Jones: As publishers, Amazon has been the big disruptor, capital D, for years now, because they use books as sort of loss leaders really, you know, they sell books at almost no margin at all because they get people in to buy other stuff, which of course has massively disrupted the book selling market. So we’ve lost all our booksellers apart from Waterstones. So yeah, I’m sort of nodding sadly, the Amazon disruption. But then they’re so smart, so you get why it’s happened.
Barbara Gray: And so to go back, so I actually didn’t plan to write a second book. And what’s ironic Alison, it was back in October because I actually clearly remember walking in the rain along the sea wall and I was listening to one of your interviews and all of a sudden it just occurred to me, I’m like, “Hey, why don’t I take all the research I’ve done and see if I can make it into a second book?” And I thought maybe that would make a nice gift for my institutional investment clients. Because at that time I think I had about 500 institutional investment clients. And for those of your listeners that aren’t in the investment industry, what basically that means there are people that manage billions and billions of dollars, whether it be pension funds or mutual funds, investment funds or hedge funds.
And so I thought of that and then I looked back at my Ubernomics book because it was like a year to the date that I published my Ubernomics book and so much had changed. I mean Travis Kalanick was no longer the CEO of Uber. Mark Fields was no longer the CEO of Ford and Whole Foods had been acquired by Amazon. So all the content that I had written like just a year before, that was completely out of date. And I remember actually I was listening to our interview and I was talking about how, I guess back two years ago, I’d actually been in touch with a publisher, but I decided not to go the self publishing-
Alison Jones: That’s right because: it’s going to be two years, it’s going to be out of date by the time it’s published.
Barbara Gray: Because it’s reached its published date. And because I remember at that time she’d given me a timeframe of like, January 2018. What’s ironic is I ended up publishing the second book in November 2017. But I guess the downside to the self-publishing thing, and this is like a reality check for people that do want to write a book is, you know, I probably lost money on the first book. I didn’t have anybody to push or promote it for me. And to be honest, I’m not a salesperson. I have an introverted personality. I love just sitting and doing research.
So I didn’t really want to sell my book. I just wanted to write it, put it on Amazon and let it sell. It doesn’t sell because there’s a million books on Amazon, you know, it’s a long tail and I didn’t really feel comfortable pushing it and I’d much rather just give a signed copy to someone to share my knowledge. So I didn’t make money. So I guess the bottom line is if you are doing it for a business, it’s not necessarily going to sell. I think I’ve probably sold less than 500 copies, you know, I’ve given away quite a few. And the value of giving a book to a client, I think it’s priceless versus someone buying it for 10 bucks on Amazon.
Alison Jones: And that’s a good reality check because it’s really hard to make money out of books, you know, they’re low margin. As you say, it’s very competitive. It’s quite hard to find them, it’s a perfect market, but you get one big client out of your book and boom, it’s paid for itself, hasn’t it? Or you retain a client….
Barbara Gray: Yeah. And instead of spending time marketing the book and, you know, trying to push it. I spent that time just researching what was emerging next and because of that I probably saved my clients millions of dollars. Because I was able to point out all these value traps on the investment landscape, and had I been spending my time going out and doing book launches and presentations and stuff, that wouldn’t have happened. So it is really a sense of where do you prioritise your time?
Alison Jones: Yeah, that’s so interesting.
Barbara Gray: So back in October I started looking through all my research notes, so because I’d had, I’d written actually 40 research notes for my clients. And so actually I used Reedsy which I did last time and I just started cutting and pasting – because what I like about them is they have the chapters, so I just cut and paste all the notes into the chapters now.
I already had an editor because I’ve got my own editor now and so all the notes were edited so I didn’t have to do any of that. So all I had to do was cut and paste the notes on chapters. And I think I reached out to you and you gave me the advice of doing it on a chronological basis and by category. So I sort of did the first six chapters about how Amazon is having a disruptive impact, the next four chapters about how the auto industry is being disrupted by Uber and then the last part about Airbnb and WeWork how they’re changing the way we travel and the way we work. So it was October 15th, I think, that I started doing it and I kept working in the meantime so I wasn’t doing this full time, and I ended up publishing the thing on November 30th and what was awesome is, you know, this was 60,000 words so it was actually even bigger than my Ubernomics book, I think it weighs about a pound, well actually I know it does because I had to weigh it for shipping.
What was cool about it is I already knew how to get the ISBN number. That took me a total of like five minutes. I already had the designer that had done the cover for my first book, who I was very comfortable with the first time we did it. I think we went back and forth for two months. This time we got it done in like three weeks because you know, the template, everything was there and we knew how to work together and it was just a matter of uploading onto Reedsy and then saving it and exporting it onto CreateSpace. So it was simple.
Alison Jones: It’s almost like having a second child isn’t it?
Barbara Gray: Yeah.
Alison Jones: You’ve learned so much the first time you need to do it again or it’s a waste…
Barbara Gray: Yeah. My second child, Adam is now five, there will be no third but I end up with writing my third book, someway working on my third baby now. The books, not the child sense.
Alison Jones: I know that you were saying that the model that you… the actual kind of fundamental underlying model behind the two really changed during that research period. I mean, the self development you’re bringing out here is brilliant, isn’t it? The way that you developed your own thinking through the writing is really powerful. So just tell us a little bit about that. The shift and your understanding of what you were writing about?
Barbara Gray: So for the six years I was on this intellectual journey, I was discovering this new era of what I called economic abundance, and that was all what my Ubernomics book was about. But the sad thing about abundance though is you don’t make money. I did a post on Linkedin, I guess four years ago now, June 2014, talking about social capital being the secret behind Airbnb and Uber, it ended up going viral. It’s now being viewed by just under 400,000 people on Linkedin. People still like it, which is just ironic because it’s very dated. But I made absolutely no money from that. None whatsoever. And so what I realised is there’s value in scarcity. And that’s my business strategy now because my client base are my institutional investment managers. So I have a MailChimp list of about probably 400 actual portfolio managers and every week they get my research, no one else gets access to that.
And what I do also is I do my weekly note and then I do marketing once a quarter and I write in depth 50-page research reports, talking about specific investment ideas. But it’s this concept of scarcity. So when I decided to do the second book, I didn’t want it… I wanted to put on Amazon because I wanted it to be there to sort of show that I’ve got this body of work, but I didn’t really want anyone to have access to it other than my institutional clients. So what I decided to do is I decided to price it at the stock price close of Amazon stock on November 30th, which is the publication date. And it was in US dollars $1169.27 because-
Alison Jones: That’s quite a punchy pricing for a book, isn’t it?
Barbara Gray: I really didn’t want anyone to buy this. And instead, as you know, you can go on CreateSpace, and so my cost to acquire at a wholesale basis is about $7 US per book. So we buy them wholesale in bulk and then we hand them out to clients, signed copies, and that’s where the value is. But it’s a high fidelity product. This is not a commodity thing that I’ve produced. It’s something that has really high fidelity. And so when clients go on Amazon and they see the price of the book, they’re like, “Wow, she gave me something of value.” And the other thing is what I’ve realised, and this is actually sort of how do you compete against Amazon? So one of the concepts I discussed in my research is this idea of the customer capital pyramid. And your listeners can use this in terms of thinking about their business or their book, but it sort of looks at what the customer value proposition is.
And the thesis is that in the age of Amazon the value is moving up the pyramid. So you can’t compete on a functional value basis anymore. You can’t compete against Amazon in terms of price, convenience, variety or choice. They will kill you on that. Whether you’re retailer or whatever you’re doing. So what you have to do is you have to move up one layer and it has to be about creating an emotional attachment with your customers, and you do that, Alison, through your podcast. Even though we’ve only spoken a couple of times, I listen to your voice every single week, and you’re like a friend to me. Even though we don’t know each other. You’ve created this emotional attachment with your podcast listeners and that is huge because you-
Alison Jones: It’s really lovely to hear actually. I remember you saying you were listening to me along the seawall. It’s just such a lovely thought that you’re in somebody’s ear, even though you don’t know. It’s really nice.
Barbara Gray: Exactly. And that’s what you can do through a book too because you give a client and then you don’t know if they’re going to read it or not. But if they do decide to pick it up and read it, then you’re getting in their mind. And because the way I write – and I would recommend to people if they do write a business book, don’t write in an academic tone that will bore your readers to death. I mean, that’s how most research is written and it’s boring. That’s why research is becoming a commodity because there’s absolutely no soul to it. So the way I write is I obviously I write about the factual things and the analytical part, but I add a flavour to it. So this morning I published a research note called dot ICO, my thesis being in most of these initial coin offerings that are going on, it reminds me of dot com, I think most of them are a scam.
So I talk about how I attended a blockchain conference in Vancouver last week and this is my main takeaway. So I add personal elements and in it, like in the book Secrets of the Amazon, I talked about my son having a febrile seizure. I talked about being in New York City when I was working there during 9:11. And just adding elements of your life to it, and you do that in your book, Alison, when you talk about… you bring your family into it, you bring your personality, bring yourself into it and that’s what’s important because you need to connect with people on a story basis, on a real basis, not just on an academic basis.
Alison Jones: And I think that is one of the wonderful things about a book isn’t it? People immerse themselves in it and even though you don’t know them, they feel like they know you by the end of it if you do it right.
Barbara Gray: Exactly. And what’s really cool is in January I got an email from a client and I hadn’t met him before, but he was the former head of an investment bank. So quite a prominent fellow. Anyway, he sent me a picture of him lying on the beach in Australia, reading a copy of my book and he said, “I loved your book.” I was like, God, it’s so awesome because you would never, ever, nobody would ever one printout 40 pages of your research notes, pack them up, put them in a suitcase when they’re going on holidays in Australia. But because you package it into a book it’s something that the people want to consume.
Alison Jones: Yeah. Tell me a bit more about the pricing thing because that’s really interesting, has anyone actually bought it from Amazon?
Barbara Gray: Yes, two people have bought it. But what’s interesting is that, the positive is… so Amazon gives me, they take 40 per cent so I get 60 per cent of it. So I’ve gotten two checks for I believe $692.51 US, which is pretty good. But the bigger value actually would be if I knew who the individuals were that could afford to pay that price. To me that would actually be worth more than 700 bucks, knowing who that person is, because I could technically then reach out to them and probably sell them my research for multiples of that. But Amazon has that data, I don’t.
Alison Jones: They have your book, so obviously they’ve invested a lot of their time and energy and money in it, so they may well reach out to you. You’ve got to hope that, haven’t you?
Barbara Gray: Yeah, no one’s reached out yet, but it’s quite funny because I honestly, when I priced it, I didn’t want anyone to buy it. Like, I purposely put it that high price. If you look on Amazon, there’s no other books other than very outdated books that sells for over thousand dollars. But yeah, somebody, two people bought it.
Alison Jones: That’s hilarious.
Barbara Gray: But the other thing that’s sort of, well not annoying, but I’ve had family friends reach out to me and say, “Hey Barb, I’d love a copy of your book,” but well, one, I’m like, well, you’re not an institutional investor so you probably will find that a little bit too intense to read. No offence. And then the second thing is, I don’t have any copies because I ordered bulk copies, but I’ve given all my copies away and I can’t go on Amazon and order it. I have to order it through CreateSpace and I have to order it in bulk. So I’ve got like one or two copies sitting at home, but a family friend was here and he was like, “Barb I’d really like a copy of your book.” And I’m like, “Oh.” Anyways I did give him a copy but I’ve had other family members ask and I’m like, “No, they’re just for my clients.”
Alison Jones: But surely you can order a copy or two from CreateSpace? They do them in single copies.
Barbara Gray: Well no, you can but you have to pay for the shipping. The shipping is so much more. So it’s not like you can just… because with Amazon you go on and the shipping is free when you order on a retail price, but not on a wholesale level.
Alison Jones: It’s still a good discount on the list price though!
Barbara Gray: Yeah. Well, that’s true.
Alison Jones: That’s so funny. So I’m just going to ask you one question for everybody else as well. What do you wish you’d known when you started out on this journey? Because you have learned so much over the last two, three years.
Barbara Gray: It’s not so much writing about writing a business book, I probably wish that I’d actually had a copy of your book when I had the idea because I think this was back in… when was this? This was maybe back in 2007.
I had the idea to write to write a book and back then it was actually… I was still single and I was trying to find… there was a bunch of guys and I was trying to figure out which one would make the best husband. And it was basically how to decide if your guy is a buy, sell or hold, and I was trying to take the whole investment thesis, and mash it together with the concept of dating and bring all the economic concepts together sort of as a way to teach girls. And inspire them to learn about finance and economics, but then also to apply the portfolio management process and stock selection process to find a guy and dating a guy.
But I wish I’d had a copy of your book back then because it really is valuable. And even when I decided to write the book almost three years ago, that would’ve been so helpful. I just had to do it in the dark. I really had no clue what I was doing. And I still don’t really know what I do. I mean I’m working on my, it’s, true, I think it’s what you do in life. I’m working on my third book now, but… I’m not really working on it, but what I’m doing is every week when I publish my research note and I’m in the discipline now, we can talk to that later, of researching and publishing once a week, usually a three- to five-page note and then I just cut and copy it on to Reedsy.
So I’m actually now at 40,000 words so I actually might have to publish a book before Christmas, because I think I’m a bit more prolific this year than last year. Just because there’s so much structural distraction happening throughout the whole corporate landscape. And so I’m probably going to reach 60,000 words by September, so I don’t know how I can make this during Christmas but-
Alison Jones: And you’ve totally embedded writing into your whole business plan, haven’t you?
Barbara Gray: Well being a research analyst, the basis of that really is writing. And especially what I’m doing. So most sell-side equity analysts do a lot of the quantitative side, so they do all the financial modelling, build out the financial statements and the forecast for companies. And then just a little bit on the qualitative side. And what I’ve realised is my big value add, and this has always been my strength, is to use Mosaic Theory.
Think about in terms of, I feel like I’m sort of like an artist, like Georges Seurat you know, the French post-impressionist painter. And what I do is each week I start out with a blank slate. Like, that’s the fun part. I have no clue what my note’s gonna be next week. But what I do is I basically just, well I’m addicted to Twitter and to Flipboard, but every single second I’m on Twitter or Flipboard I’m looking through the news and I follow all the news organisations like CNBC, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, Techcrunch, Business Insider, everything and anything that has to do with structural disruption. Normally in the retail space, but I’m also looking at it in the office space because I think WeWork is a huge disruptive force, the coworking giant Airbnb, and I just flag it and then I research it and then I connect the dots and come up with a story every week. And then what that evolves into is, once a quarter, I then take all that content, figure out what the emerging themes are and piece them together and actually come up with actionable investment ideas for my clients. And I think I’ve saved my clients like millions of dollars in terms of stocks that have been structurally eroded by Amazon and so it works.
Alison Jones: It works beautifully, I love the way you’re not just creating the content. You’re putting the content out there, you’re building a business that way, but actually also deeply integrating it into the services that you’re providing and it earns the money.
Barbara Gray: Yeah, and that’s what you do too, because I love how what you do is, your idea for writing your book was to take all the content from the interviews you did, with your podcast guests and then weave them into the book and create the content, because I can’t imagine writing a book if you’d actually have to sit down and just come up with stuff out of the air. I have no clue how one would do that.
Alison Jones: Yeah, I mean people do it, but I think you’re right. I think there’s a journalistic approach to it that is really satisfying, because you can just get really nosy. It’s really interesting and you follow a trail, don’t you, you’re like a detective. I love that.
Barbara Gray: Exactly. And I think the other thing, and sort of the other commonality that you and I have is, you’ve got a really strong background and expertise in publishing. So in the beginning of the book, you talked about the whole publishing framework and how you go about analysing like how to use the book with your business strategy. And in a sense, I’ve gotten the same thing because I’m a chartered financial analyst. I’ve been analysing companies for 15, 20 years. So when I read a new story, most people wouldn’t be able to connect the dots. But I see how that fits into the greater picture and the context and what that means for grocery retail stocks, for retail rates, for all this. And it’s like, “Whoa.” Like a good example is… so in May last year, Starbucks, the coffee company, Howard Schultz, who’s the founder of it, he was on CNBC and he mentioned during their quarterly conference call that they were evaluating their Tevana mall portfolio.
And when I heard that I was like, “Whoa.” Because I just been out marketing and I’d not got in to a fight, but I got into a discussion, into a debate with some of my clients, because their thesis was that the malls, and you classify malls by Class A, B, C, D and their thesis – which was the accepted one – was that the class A malls, which are the high end ones, were doing fine. It was just the B and the Cs which were seeing the impact. And I was like, “No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think all these malls are being disrupted by Amazon.”
And so when I heard that they might be shutting down Teavana. I was like, Teavana is in the high end malls, and it’s an experiential food retailer, which is what people are saying is going to be the salvation for these malls. And I’m like, something’s not connecting here. The retail REITs, the management companies are lying to you guys. And so I put out a note basically that second saying “Is the retail bifurcation thesis a fallacy?” So it’s just the ability to quickly act when you see news, that’s what’s fun and I think I’ve got this unique ability to do it because I got such a depth of knowledge and an unaccredited framework-
Alison Jones: And you’ve got a whole sort of spectrum of outputs from those instant reactions, those notes that you do weekly, that regular thing, to the book form, which is really… I want to talk all day but I can’t, so I promised my listeners it’s half an hour. So I’m going to ask you, what business book do you think that everyone listening should read? I’m sorry, not your own, obviously they should read those. But which other books would they read and why?
Barbara Gray: Okay. Yeah. Well No, I don’t want them to read my books….
Alison Jones: They can’t afford to read your books!
Barbara Gray: Well, I priced Ubernomics at 10 bucks. I think that’s totally affordable, but I honestly don’t care if people read my book or not. So I’ve read so many books, like I read a hundred, over a hundred business strategy books, but what’s depressing, or, not depressing, but I found lately I’ve stopped reading books just because they started to become repetitive to me, just because I’ve written so many and I found the themes were just repeating themselves. But probably one of the ones that I read back in 2009 is one of my favourites. It’s a theme that’s actually very relevant now. So it’s called Tradeoff: Why some things catch on and others don’t by Kevin Maney, and what he talks about is, it’s basically you’ve got sort of these two spectrums. On one end you’ve got convenience and on the other end you’ve got fidelity, and he talks about how this sort of the danger is what he calls the fidelity, the middle soft underbelly of it, and it’s playing out in the retail sense because Amazon is all about convenience.
The only companies, and this is what I write in my research, that are going to be able to compete against Amazon and actually survive are the ones that have this high fidelity experience. And those are usually the vertically integrated companies. And so if you want to think of sort of the luxury apparel accessories and luxury goods companies, companies like Tiffany and Co, and the high end luxury brands because they are able to create this experience in their stores. And you think about every single business, I mean this applies to book, not to book publishers but to book authors, convenience, like if you just price on Amazon for 99 cents, I don’t know if it adds that much value, but you know, I don’t know if you can follow my strategy but price it on the high end and it shows real fidelity. And you will attract probably less people, but you will attract maybe more of your target audience that could bring in some clients.
Alison Jones: That’s such an interesting concept. And of course it works, I always say to people price as high as you can and then add in a couple of dollars because it gives you freedom to play with it. You know, if you’re doing an event you can discount down and everybody feels like they’re getting a really good deal. And as you say, there’s that perceived value. Yeah. Fascinating. I don’t know Tradeoff, so I’m going to go and research that. So brilliant recommendation. Thank you. It sounds fascinating. Barbara, if people want to find out more about you, more about Brady Capital Research more about your books, where should they go?
Barbara Gray: Okay. They really don’t have to, I’m not…
Alison Jones: I’m still going to give him the link. It’s what I do.
Barbara Gray: They can follow me on twitter. I @BarbCFA, so at Barb Chartered Financialer, I’m on Linkedin. Just search Barbara Gray Brady Capital Research and they can go on Amazon and look for Ubernomics again don’t look for a sequence of Amazon because it’s too expensive, but they’re more than welcome to check out Ubernomics.
Alison Jones: It’s so clever because there’s so many countersuggestive people out there who are now going, “Well I’m going to buy it, I’m going to show her.”
Barbara Gray: Only if you’re an institutional investment manager, because to be honest, it is an incredibly intense read and it’s not for your average reader.
Alison Jones: Understood. Brilliant, it’s so much fun to talk to you, Barbara, and when you’ve done the third and fourth books, will you come back again?
Barbara Gray: I will, I’d love to.
Alison Jones: Excellent. We’ll see you then, then.
Barbara Gray: Okay. Thank you Alison.