Long ago, I realized that one of the keys to success in business was to surround myself with the smartest people I possibly could. Of course that meant becoming a connoisseur of talent and hiring great people, but the real power came when I figured out that for the investment of a few dollars and a few hours I could enlist some of the most brilliant businesspeople in history as my mentors and advisors.
By buying and reading their books.
So every year since 1989 I have read more than 100 business books. Here are a few key ideas from my favorite ones.
THE DEFINITIVE DRUCKER
Written by Elizabeth Edersheim, The Definite Drucker captures the wisdom of the father of modern management, Peter Drucker. Drucker is famous for his pithy quotes that boil down entire management philosophies to just a few key words. Here are a few of the best:
- “The best plan is only good intentions—until it is effectively put into action with the right resources.”
- “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
- “An enterprise’s purpose begins on the outside with the customer… It is the customer who determines what a business is, what it produces and whether it will prosper.”
- “Money follows knowledge. Money is not a problem. The problem is leadership and direction.”
MAVERICKS AT WORK
Here is a critically important idea from Mavericks at Work by Taylor and LaBarre:
- “Why would great people want to work here? (The answer, we add with emphasis, can’t be about salaries, bonuses or stock options.) What is it about the ideas your company stands for, it’s point of view in the marketplace, the ways in which employees interact with customers or collaborate with one another, that becomes irresistible to the best people in your industry? These are not trick questions; they are the building blocks of long-term prosperity. You cannot have happy, satisfied customers if your organization is filled with unhappy, dissatisfied people.”
THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE
From what I would consider the best book ever written on the key characteristics and attitudes of highly effective leaders, here is an overview of the main findings from a massive global research project undertaken to write The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner:
The Five Fundamental Practices of Exemplary Leadership
1. Challenge the process.
2. Inspire a shared vision.
3. Enable others to act.
4. Model the way.
5. Encourage the heart.
WHAT REALLY WORKS
Along the same lines, there is another book I absolutely love called What Really Works. It also is based on a massive research study of the most effective management practices at top companies around the world. In a five-year study the authors (Joyce, Maria, Roberson) uncovered four primary and four secondary management practices that lead to sustained business success. Here is my interpretation of the most critical management practices:
- Strategy: Devise and maintain a clearly stated, focused strategy that is sharply defined, consistently communicated and well understood by employees, customers, partners and investors.
- Execution: Develop and maintain flawless operational execution around the core strategy.
- Culture: Develop and maintain a performance-oriented culture that is highly innovative, proactive, embraces change and is based on accountability and ownership mentality.
- Structure: Build and maintain a fast, flexible, flat organization that refuses to tolerate bureaucracy or mediocrity.
RULES OF THUMB
Lastly, I’d like to share with you a really great idea from a book written by my good friend Alan Webber called Rules of Thumb:
“What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you up at night? If you’re not working on those two lists, you’re wasting your precious time.”
I understand that all of the answers to business success are not in books, but I also know that most of my best business ideas have come as a result of reading something in a book and then adding that knowledge to my real-life experience to develop the ideas and plans I needed to move my businesses forward.
I hope you found the quotes above as helpful and insightful as I did.