Before I deliver my list, I should start by stating that I have read–or listened to–hundreds of books and audio on business and self-development. I continually read articles on techniques for improving business and I constantly look for the silver bullet that will transform my company into a self- sustaining organization. This article is about listing the top three books that have made the most impact on me and my business.
Let’s start when I was a teenager. When I was 17 years old, my mother, who had great insight into human nature, understood where I was in my life and gave me the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
I read this book and then immediately bought the cassette tape. I listened to it over and over until I drove the principals deep into my head. This book taught me to believe that focusing on goals, and having blind faith in achieving these goals, will ultimately create success. This book fed my appetite to find more books on training my brain to be highly goal orientated. I read books by Brian Tracey, Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar and many more for the following five to ten years. This gave me the confidence to believe that I can achieve what I see within my mind’s eye.
After finishing my engineering degree and working for a CAD/CAM company in the Detroit market, I started reading books on sales and the selling process. I took training courses and constantly looked for ways to improve my value to customers.
Around the age of 33, I started my own business selling CAD/CAM/CAE technology. This led me to start reading books on how to write a business plan, and starting your own business. After running my own business for a couple of years, the one book that made the most impact was The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.
Early in my business I was the Sales Rep, Sales Manager, Receptionist, Collections, etc. You can see where this is going, right? The E Myth helped me discover that the special talents I have need to be leveraged into running a company, especially in the first few years of start up. It helped me make important decisions in outsourcing the activities that I don’t do well, and find suitable people or processes that can provide these at a higher value. I used my talents for selling and spent money on the part of my business that I wasn’t good at–administrative, accounting, etc… I’m simplifying the analogy of the book, but it made me focus on what I do well and do only that. I have kept that philosophy with me for the remaining part of my career. Even today, I firmly believe in, and practice, outsourcing as many skills, or processes that are not a value add for my company. This allows us to focus on our core competency of selling and servicing technology-based products that help our customers become better, faster and smarter.
The third book came to my attention a couple of years ago. It’s called The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni.
The Four Obsessions is written as a story of a CEO and his obsession to grow and develop his business. He formulates the secret sauce of success into four key principles that drive everything he does. It becomes his guiding principles and helps him lead the company into domination into his specific market. This book only makes sense when your company is of a certain size and you have a management structure in place. Had I read this book years earlier, it would not have made sense and the value I got from it just wouldn’t resonate. I connected with this book because at the time I read it, the characters in the book resembled real life situations within my business. I could see the similarities in the challenges the CEO had, and it allowed me to align people within my organization while making changes to our structure. It allowed me to see what I wasn’t seeing, and gave me better insight into what I should be planning for the future.
These three books only worked for me over a 25 year period. Each has a specific message for the entrepreneur at a specific point in the building of the company. As with every business book, it is important to find the message that resonates with where you are in your business; whether you are in the Startup, Growth or Maturity phase. I will continue to read because, as I learned from Think and Grow Rich, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”