My Top Business Books

Warren Buffett’s business partner Charlie Munger once said, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads — at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”

Professional development has played a fundamental and a critical role in my development and in the success of Service Express.

I have a teaching degree from Central Michigan University (fire up, Chips!) but I often tell people that my MBA comes from reading books and then applying the principles I learn to my business.  I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded leaders at Service Express and that has made all the difference.

The right book, at the right time, can have a transformational effect on a person and on a business.

As with any habit, the habit of reading takes discipline to build and to maintain, but not all that much.  The smallest daily investment compounds and produces great returns. For example, if you commit to reading 10 pages a day, you’ll have read 300 pages in a month.  The average business book happens to be… about 300 pages.  Make this small commitment and you’ll read approximately 12 books in a years time!

Here are a few habits I’ve built that have helped me:

  • I highlight and take notes.  The value of highlighting is not more apparent than when you’ve completed a book and want to look back at the concepts that stood out to you in order to organize your thoughts and create action plans.
  • I write a book summary.  Books are timeless and I’ve found myself reviewing my book summaries years after I’ve written them.  This allows me to revisit the ideas and concepts that stood our without having to keep or reread the book.
  • I share what I’ve learned.  The best way to retain knowledge is to teach it.  And, if I’ve read a book that was particularly applicable to our business, I have my leadership team read the book as well and then I schedule time on the calendar to discuss the book.

Here are some of the top books that I’ve read and would highly recommend:

1.) Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Other’s Don’t – Jim Collins

Built of exhaustive research, Jim Collins writes about characteristics that separate average companies from great ones.  He also recounts how average companies made the leap to becoming great companies.

Honorable Mentions: Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall, Great by Choice

2.) 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You – John Maxwell

John Maxwell takes a lifetime of experience and insight into leadership and distills it into an easy to read and practical book.  In my opinion, this is a must read for anyone who wants to get into leadership.

3.) How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

This classic book on leadership was originally published in 1937 but is still as applicable today as it was then.  SEI’s Vision to “work with our employees to help them achieve their personal, professional and financial goals” is a reflection of the principles found in this book.  Again, a must read for anyone who wants to be a leader.

4.) The E-Myth – Michael Gerber

As we’ve grown SEI from a small business we’ve taken a number of concepts from Gerber’s book that have helped us to scale our business.

5.) Strength’s Finder 2.0 – Tom Rath

When you walk through an SEI office, you’ll find a plaque outside every workspace with a persons name and their top 5 signature strengths.  Every employee at SEI has read the Strengths Finder 2.0 book and has taken the assessment.  Our diversity of strength’s make us strong.  But we’re only as strong as our willingness to recognize and leverage those strengths together.

6.) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni

This is a leadership fable that tells the story of how a new CEO rebuilds a leadership team, that is in total disarray, into a functional and healthy team. Lencioni highlights five dysfunctions that every leader has experienced, or will experience, when building a team.

7.) The New One Minute Manager – Kenneth Blanchard

This is a great book that focuses on managing people using three practical concepts: One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings and One Minute Reprimands.

What book recommendations do you have?