It’s a sign of the times. The best business books of 2012 were short on number-crunching, strategy formulation and bottom-line focus, and long on personal development and professional improvement. A few even swerve into touchy-feely territory, but that’s no sin, given the lingering uncertainty still holding back many sectors of the economy.
Good business books, whatever the tone, take you beyond the walls of your company, your customer base, your industry, and even your own talents and skill set. (It wouldn’t kill you marketing types to pick up a finance book occasionally, and vice versa.) Shaking up your notions about how to best operate your business can lead to a kind of private brainstorming that can spur new approaches to old problems, or even inspire a total “re-boot” of your company’s business philosophy.
Besides, when it comes to holiday gift-giving, you can’t go wrong with a good book. If you find yourself asking, “who?” after picking a name for the office holiday gift exchange, a business best seller is a safe bet.
2012 may not have produced any game-changing, instant classics in the tradition of Jim Collins’ Good to Great or In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, but there’s no shortage of practical, easily-implemented advice on how to make your company better.
So read on, dive in, and please send us your own reviews after wading through one of our picks.
The Power of Habit
New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg applied the lessons learned while researching The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Random House, $28) and managed to lose 30 pounds, train for and finish the New York Marathon, and, he says, improve his productivity at work.
Part business how-to, part social psychology, The Power of Habit drives home the very obvious but very overlooked point that individuals are responsible for – and have control over – their actions. At the core of Duhigg’s message is that the root drivers of our patterned behaviors – as business people, as consumers, as parents, etc. – can be understood, and then manipulated or changed. It’s a more enjoyable read than you would probably expect, and the four chapters focusing on the habits of successful companies are powerful.
Buy it for yourself, and then pass along The Power of Habit to a friend or colleague stuck in a rut.
Small Business, Big Vision
You won’t find any ivory tower, academic approaches to business operations in Small Business, Big Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right. (Wiley, $19.95) Brothers Adam and Matthew Toren have pulled together an impressive collection of lessons, case studies, interviews and real-world advice for business owners stuck at any point on the entrepreneurial roller-coaster.
Topics include raising capital, start-up marketing, and assembling an advisory board. The chapter on creating the one-page business plan is eye opening.
The Torens can be preachy at times, and the social responsibility stuff – while certainly important – becomes repetitive. But, for the most part, this straightforward, get-your-hands-dirty-and-follow-your-passion book hits the bull’s-eye.
The Millionaire Messenger
Any writer runs the risk of alienating potential readers by putting “millionaire” in the work’s title. First, because it comes off as, what? Crude? Obvious? Over the top? And second because it’s easy to assume the book pushes some sort of get rich quick scheme. Fortunately, that’s not the case with The Millionaire Messenger: Make a Difference and a Fortune Sharing Your Advice. (Free Press, $14.99)
Author Brendon Burchard steps hard on the gas and never lets up, as he makes the case that your business experiences, knowledge and expertise are valuable…and shows you how to leverage and package what you have into a compelling, marketable proposition.
The lessons in The Millionaire Messenger are perfect for any business owner who understands the need to position himself as an authority, and his company as a client-focused, problem-solving resource in the marketplace. It’s an easy read (176 pages) packed with great insights.
How Will You Measure Your Life?
Recently named the “World’s Most Influential Business Thinker” (wow!), Harvard’s Clayton Christensen came to the public’s attention with his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, which addressed “disruptive technologies” and explained how effective companies can embrace change and prepare to meet customers’ future needs.
In How Will You Measure Your Life? (Harper Business, $25.99) Christensen, along with co-authors James Allworth and Karen Dillon, takes on a completely different subject matter, exploring how to achieve happiness in your career while still maintaining balance in your personal life. If you’re thinking, “well, that book has been written…hundreds of times,” no one could blame you. But the advice doled out by Christensen (Example: Set boundaries, and don’t cross them – not even once) is refreshing.
It’s also worth noting that Christensen started writing How Will You Measure Your Life? shortly after beating the type of cancer that had taken his father’s life years earlier. The result is a surprisingly human, candid work that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from “the world’s most influential business thinker.”
Sales experts have talked about “consultative selling” for years. Clients First: The Two Word Miracle (Wiley, $21.96) tells you how to make this approach work for your company.
Joseph and JoAnn Callaway, who according to their bios have sold $1 billion in real estate, lay out a three-part approach to effectively serving your client base.
- Offer complete honesty. It builds unshakable relationships
- Show total competence. It lets you exceed expectations
- Provide unwavering care. It turns clients into advocates for your business
To focus on the Callaways’ real estate success is to run the risk of missing the point of the book. The lessons are timeless, and apply to anyone in sales or customer service in nearly any industry.
You could do worse than making Clients First required reading prior to your next sales meeting.
MP Star Financial can help you get a better handle on your company’s cash flow management. Call for more information. (800) 833-3765, extension 150.