A debut book applies the principles of surfing to the business world of the 21st century.
Wessinger’s volume intriguingly combines a memoir and a professional manifesto. He spends a good deal of the book’s early pages recounting his own experiences feeling dead-ended in the business universe and learning about the world of surfing off the coast of Malibu, California. With spirit and easy readability, the work details his formative experiences in sales and marketing and the rigors he endured (“I have firsthand experience with everything written in this book and have the mental and physical scars to prove it”). He alternates those stories with his account of overcoming his doubts and fears in order to learn surfing’s intricacies, which were at first intimidating and required new ways of problem-solving. The inspiration here is to marry the two worlds—to import into the realm of sales and marketing some of the basic tenets of surfing. “Surfers know how to leverage progression on wave after wave, and they can quickly move through a series of tricks and challenges to improve their surfing,” he explains. “The surfers that have mastered the process of building skills through progression will not stop and bask in their accomplishments.” In this view, companies that rely blindly on old patterns rather than continuously shifting their approaches to fit new situations are just asking to be swamped by the next big wave. Rather, the author maintains, companies should use risk, harnessing it to prod their thinking in new and necessary directions.
Wessinger’s writing is clear and inviting, enlivened both by his frank honesty about himself and his hard-won understanding of business dealings. One core concept of his unconventional book is the idea of progression: the atmosphere of constant change that is the new normal of the business world. Some of his comments about this concept are basic enough almost to be truisms —the fact that successful companies survive by being responsive to their customers isn’t exactly a new discovery—but the author’s insights into the modern-day dynamics of that relationship are unfailingly captivating. “As customers become savvier about how they find information and make decisions about products or services,” he writes, “organizations will need to change to meet the customers’ new level of expertise.” That new reality in which customers are no longer dependent on sales or marketing to inform them about products and services—they can make assessments on their own—is neatly presented to mirror the case-by-case unpredictability of each wave a surfer rides. Wessinger’s blending of these two seemingly disparate worlds, a gimmick that could easily come across as strained and artificial, here feels smooth and valid, mainly because of the author’s plainspoken conviction.
This rare and engaging business manual should appeal equally to the manager’s inner surfer and the surfer’s inner manager.