(As published in the Sunday Star Times, April 19, 2015: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/better-business/67759948/Be-a-business-bookworm)
To be good at business, you must be hungry for knowledge.
Constantly seeking out new ideas, new expertise, new ways to do things better. A lot of this comes down to networking, talking to the right people, listening to successful business people, having access to good external people with astute business ideas… and reading.
Reading is a very effective way of getting new business ideas and best practice knowledge, but it’s often the missing link, because it’s something most of us do not always prioritise and find the time for.
But reading is a great source of inspiration and learnings – what to do and also what not to do.
I read somewhere that Warren Buffet reads 500 pages a day. it’s a real focus for him and something he prides himself on.
Bill Gates takes himself away for a ‘think week’. What’s on the itinerary? The answwer is one hundred to one hundred and twenty books, PhDs and white papers. Mark Zuckerberg has said he ideally wants to read a book every two weeks and American businessman Mark Cuban (who owns Landmark Theatres, Magnolia Pictures and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks), says he reads four hours a day.
Personally, I read new stuff about business every week and usually every day, most of it from things I subscribe to, online publications and newspapers, but I’d love to read even more.
Find a good read and it will really get you in the mood to think strategically on your business or career and encourage you to hone in on how you could be doing better.
Please note that you do have to be careful when reading business books to not jump on one bandwagon one month, and then move to the “flavour of the month” book next month and then change tack the week or month after. it will highly likely ruin your business.
Two classics that most business people have read are The E-myth by Michael Gerber, and Good to Great by Jim Collins. If you have not read them, perhaps pop them on your reading list. Here are some others that I have found really interesting and relevant for most businesses, in terms of them having practical power to impact on your business:
In Search of Excellence by Thomas J Peters and Robert H Waterman Jr).
Peters and Waterman observed excellent companies, and specifically the way they interact with customers, and what they found most striking was the consistent presence of “obsession”. This typically occurred as a seemingly unjustifiable over-commitment to some form of quality, reliability or service. Obsession on something that will really set you apart and help you to take market share.
Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance (by Louis V Gerstner Jnr).
The ultimate turnaround story via great strategy. IBM was practically bankrupt when Gerstner took over; eight years later they were on top of the world. He made bold decisions and changed the strategy completely. It is not too late for your business to change tack if you need to. Just consider it today, not tomorrow! This book is a great example of “execution” which is key to implementing your strategy.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (by Patrick Lencioni).
This will open your eyes to why your teams in your business might not be working together at an A-grade. I think Lencioni has written the definitive guide on how to build and manage successful teams. If you think your teams in your business or the team that you are running are not gelling and performing as they should, check this book out. It teaches you how to build trust and accountability within your teams.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (by John C Maxwell).
Read this book and you’ll walk away with a few golden nuggets of impactful leadership truths. Being an effective leader of a business will highly likely be the biggest reason as to why your business takes off or does not. This book teaches you the concepts of what a leader truly is and how you can become one. You can never read it too many times as all leaders (or wannabe leaders) need reminders to look in the mirror from time to time to check they are “walking the talk” of the best leaders.
It would be fascinating to hear what your favourite business books are and why. Please let me know – it would be great to hear from you. I always need new business books to read. We never stop learning…