I’ve been lucky enough to have great mentors come into my life. And for some strange and fortunate reason, I was smart enough even when I was a young, know-it-all New Yorker to shut up long enough to listen to the great wisdom being shared with me.
Not all of us are lucky enough to meet our mentors and work with them 1-to-1, but we are able to buy their books and read them, or of course, today listen to them on Audible.
There is so much to learn and not a lot of time to keep making the same mistakes.
One other fortunate thing happened to me when I reached the ripe old age of 30. I realized falling into the same holes over and over really hurts and is an enormous waste of time and effort, so I needed to learn how to stop doing that. Luckily for me, I did.
Yes, there are plenty of holes for all of us to fall in, so learning to look ahead, and better yet plan ahead, was a skill I had to learn — and much of that learning came through reading.
So, what are the three top books I want to tell you about? Glad you asked!
Note: These books are not listed in any particular order.
The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It (by Michael E. Gerber)
This book came into my life in the mid-to-late 1990s when I was working in my family’s plumbing, heating, cooling, and now electrical business on Long Island, New York. I was making good money, but the business was out of control and stressful beyond belief. I could see that the way I was going, I was certainly on a course to be a “rich dead guy,” and that was never my goal.
Fortunately, I had an intervention of sorts by two great contracting mentors, Ellen Rohr and Dan Holohan. They both recommended I read this book and do something with it.
I begrudgingly bought the book and read it. Not very far into the book, I latched on to what I hadn’t realized was eluding me, and that was that if I was always working in the business and never on it, nothing was going to change.
I read about what it meant to have reliable and repeatable systems, and I started to crave that.
The book gave me the “why” and the “what,” but it was up to me to figure out the “how.” The good news is I’ve always been a determined person, so once I knew what I needed to do, which was to finally put documented systems in place at my company.
My family in 1996 spent $150,000 in today’s money to create a manual for pretty much every box on our organization chart. It was about 150 pages, but it was the best thing ever. We paid off the investment in two years because we:
- Reduced callbacks, and
- Increased happy testimonials….
Which lead to not only more sales, but better sales. In addition to that, we were able to train new staff and get them out in trucks so they could make us more money.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (by Simon Sinek)
This book made an impact on me when I was running my own consulting business, The 7-Power Contractor. I was enjoying helping contractors attain less stress and more success, but I was growing tired of the travel and the homework.
Ellen once again came through for me by suggesting I read this book. She said it would help me refocus — and that’s exactly what it did.
Through his book, the author helped me to look beyond the “what” and “how” of my consulting work and reattach to my “why” — particularly, why I started my business.
I had forgotten along the way that the reason I started my consulting practice was to bring systems to both big companies and small companies. The big companies typically had grown fast but were wildly out of control, so they were stuck. And for small companies, those business owners’ main obstacle was that they only had so many hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a month, and months in a year. They couldn’t clone themselves, so they too were stuck.
Both groups were able to become unstuck by the 7-Power Systems that I introduced them to and helped them implement within their companies.
Reattaching to my “why” helped me wake up excited to go to work. And I’ve not lost this feeling of being energized to be of service to my fellow brothers and sisters in the contracting world.
Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen)
This book was a game changer for me when I was at my company trying to get better at employer-employee relations. I was not outgoing and found confrontation hard, which was especially challenging considering I was tasked with managing people as an owner of a company that had grown to 70 employees.
My communication skills had to improve, and I mistakenly thought that I had to talk a lot to get my point across or to win an argument.
This book taught me how to be honest about my feelings and perspective, and then how to shut up long enough to let the other person respond in kind. I learned that I had to stop interrupting the other person when they spoke, even if there was an uncomfortable silence, because people often need to organize their thoughts before they speak. I also learned that if I was building my counter-argument while the other person was talking to me, I wasn’t really listening. That’s because I was busy listening to myself in my head.
This book helped me improve my employer-employee relationships, my sales skills, and even my relationships with friends and family.
Take a listen or go old-school and read and highlight what’s in these books. I’m sure you’ll come away a better business person, and just a better person overall.