When Lisa Earle McLeod’s latest book, Selling with Noble Purpose, is released next month, it will span more than 200 pages.
Yet readers of a summary by getAbstract, which bases its Americas operation in South Florida, will be able to absorb the key points in five pages.
And that’s perfectly fine with McLeod, an Atlanta-based sales leadership consultant, who is also a getAbstract subscriber and uses the summaries for her clients.
“Everyone is not going to read the full book, and even for people who do read the book, it’s hard to synthesize it and use it in meetings,” McLeod said. “When a company has the abstract, they get the knowledge faster, and it exposes more people to your ideas. It also increases the likelihood that your ideas will stick.”
Indeed, most busy professionals need to keep up-to-date on a range of business topics to shore up their wealth of knowledge.
Yet in today’s high speed, multi-tasking world, executives and employees tend to be too short on time and resources to take a course or read a book cover-to-cover.
Enter getAbstract, whose business is compressing knowledge and disseminating it in easy-to-digest doses that can be read online, printed out or listened to as you drive to the office, jog or wait to board a plane.
The company, which says it is the largest compressor of business knowledge in the world with 10 million users, was founded in Lucerne, Switzerland, 13 years ago. And for the past five years, it has had its Americas headquarters, its only other office, in Aventura.
“The way we learn now is snippets of information,” said Michel Koopman, chief executive of getAbstract Inc., the firm’s Americas arm. “We can no longer dine on information. You snack on knowledge.”
GetAbstract’s library includes more than 9,000 business book summaries, covering more than 90 topics that are divided into 12 categories: leadership and management; strategy; sales and marketing; finance; human resources; IT, production and logistics; small business; economics and politics; industries; global business; career and self-development; and concepts and trends.
The information is culled from books from more than 400 publishers. The company has contracts with such publishing houses as Random House, Harvard Business Review Press, John Wiley and Sons, Jossey-Bass, Penguin,Viking Press and Putnam, Koopman said. The summaries are available in seven languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese and Russian.
Among well-known books are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey, The Secret of Teams, by Mark Miller and Look at More, by Andy Stefanovich.
McLeod, the Atlanta-based consultant and business author, is delighted that getAbstract also offers a summary of her 212-page book about a conflict resolution model, The Triangle of Truth, published in 2010.
“It turns the book into a learning tool for the manager or the employee,” she said, “which is huge.”
Each getAbstract book summary is five pages long, and follows a set template. The company says you can read a book’s core knowledge in 10 minutes or listen to it in eight.
“We find relevant information, expertly compress it and make it available at the point of need,” Koopman said, “so individuals can make business decisions and be better professionals.”
The company’s biggest competition, he said, is other ways people learn, by searching on Google, for example.
GetAbstract is benefiting from a shift in corporate culture toward enhancing internal education to maximize productivity and profits. In this economy, where companies may often be laying off employees and asking those who remain to take on greater responsibilities, being able to learn new skills is considered critical.
As a result, getAbstract says 1,200 companies, including 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies, are subscribers, such as General Electric, MasterCard, General Motors, McDonald’s Corp., Boeing, Microsoft and Motorola Solutions.
North Highland Co., an Atlanta-based global management consulting company with offices in Florida, bought a subscription for 2,200 people worldwide about a year ago to access such topics as strategy, marketing, innovation and finance, said Patrick Curry, director of learning at North Highland.
“It actually gives great resources at the fingertips of our consultants wherever they are in the field,” he said. “What is great about the product for us is that we have executives identify books and we pass that on to the consultants. It really helps generate conversations between consultants and clients, and it gets our consultants up to speed quickly with current trends, ideas and business concepts.”
Unlike CliffsNotes, which summarizes each chapter, getAbstract highlights the key concepts in the book, which Curry said he prefers.
Each summary begins with “Take Aways,” — the top 10 points. It then gives the book a rating: overall, as well as on its applicability, innovation and style. It then discusses its relevance, what the reader will learn and recommendations, followed by the abstract of the book, itself, and lastly, information on the author.
Koopman said that 100 summaries are added to the library each month.
“For us it really provides an informal way to give people the latest, greatest information that is out there,” said Curry, adding that consultants use it on a daily basis. “I would call it a major find to be able to provide this kind of resource to our people.”
A subscription to getAbstract costs $299 per year for an individual; and from $15,000 to several hundred thousand per year for a corporation, depending on the size of the company. The corporate subscription allows employees to download the information on various platforms, including smartphones.
Growing demand and a widening sales effort has led getAbstract’s revenue to skyrocket, despite a stumbling economy. While the privately owned company will not reveal figures, its revenue for the Americas was up 24 percent in 2011, compared to 2010, and is already up nearly 100 percent for the first three quarters, compared to the same period last year, Koopman said.
Yet, getAbstract’s offices in Aventura are surprisingly modest. Forget rooms of readers writing up summaries. The company has 30 full-time employees, including sales representatives. It also has a roster of more than 125 writers who work on the abstracts offsite.
At getAbstract, an editorial staff selects the books, reviews the summaries, translates them into other languages and converts them into audio summaries, said Koopman, 39, who was born in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, but has lived in the United States for 20 years.
For its next phase, getAbstract is looking to go beyond business books, into other sources of knowledge. Examples Koopman offered include articles, keynote speeches, events, videos or web content.
Clients demand it, he said.
“We’re expanding to be more of a true compressed knowledge source than just a business book summary company,” he said. “It’s in our title; we just now have to make that happen.”