Local author offers a path to a better business | AspenTimes.com

Local author offers a path to a better business

Kelly J. Hayes

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Bonding together the practices of Buddhism and business may, on the face of it, seem an incongruous pairing. But Aspen resident Nancy Spears’ new book, “Buddha: 9 to 5,” compellingly demonstrates how the application of Buddhist philosophy can, and has, impacted the bottom line of businesses big and small.

Subtitled “The Eightfold Path to enlightening your workplace and improving your bottom line,” the book takes readers on a journey to discover how “right minded” actions espoused by Buddhists for more than 2,500 years dovetail with the goals and aspirations of capitalists. For those running an organization, or thinking about starting a business, Spears provides a fresh, optimistic view of how powerful “right minded” thinking can be.The basic premise of “Buddha: 9 to 5” is that in business, as in life, taking an “outward” view to how a business’s actions affect customers, employees and the greater world in general will lead to growth. Whereas too much “inward” focus on sales and the bottom line will lead to a stagnant, unfulfilling and, ultimately, unsuccessful workplace. According to Spears, many companies have prospered using the basic principles of the Eightfold Path, even if they didn’t realize that was what they were doing. Citing case studies ranging from Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz, whose initial business plan called for “building a company with soul,” to Timberland’s President and CEO Jeffrey Swartz’s goal to use company profits to introduce numerous environmental initiatives, to Ritz-Carlton founder Horst Schultze’s famed service orientation, this book examines how great companies are built upon philosophies that mirror Buddhist teachings.

Spears brings to this book a wealth of knowledge gained from a career as a serial entrepreneur, most notably having founded the event-planning firm CEM, which she sold to communications behemoth Golin/Harris International. In “Buddha: 9 to 5,” she shares her experience in the business world, offering personal, real-life examples of how situations achieved successful results when she applied elements of the Eightfold Path.”Buddha: 9 to 5″ is designed to be user-friendly. It breaks the Eightfold Path into a series of chapters each focusing on one step in the path, “Right Vision,” “Right Intention,” etc. The book offers highlighted exercises, case studies and templates, or mandalas, illustrating the interconnection between elements of the path. Spears’ writing style is dynamic, and the book is easily digested in a sitting. While she is tackling tough topics, Spears does so in a way that does not fall into pedantic text.

Though this is a book about business, the reader is struck that Spears’ philosophical approach and the “exercises” she includes for business professionals can be easily applied to other areas of our lives as well. It is the universality of the approach that makes it appealing.Some may be turned off by the concept that these basic principles are associated with a particular religion (and there is plenty of discussion about various practitioners and Buddhist leaders in the book). Nonetheless, the wisdom, leadership and taking a “do well by doing good” approach should resonate with many readers, even those who do not find Buddhism to be a religion they embrace.An easy-to-use, easy-to-read book, “Buddha: 9 to 5” meets the challenge of the message it imparts: Think about others first, and success will follow.