For those of you that know me, I read a lot, so I thought I'd share some of what has inspired me over the years. A number of authors I'm about to quote have contributed in some way shape or form to the way I’ve held conversations, managed relationships, built successful teams, and succeeded in business. They have not only influenced me professionally, but have contributed positively to my personal life.
Here are my top 15 books that have inspired, educated, and entertained me over the years.
The Experience Economy by Pine and Gilmour
When I decided that customer experience was the space I was going to play in, this was the book I went to. The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage is about all that was available in 2003, and it uses the theatre as a metaphor to explain the change required in businesses to support a customer focused mindset. Published in the brink of the new-millenium, Pine and Gilmour provide tools and insights that have stood the test of time, proving that having a good product isn't enough, it's all about the experience.
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber
This is the 'instruction manual' on entrepreneurship. It teaches the difference between working ‘in’ a business and working ‘on’ a business, and encourages perspective so you don't get absorbed in the day to day. In Gerber’s world, value is what people perceive it to be - nothing more than that. My branding lessons came from Gerber, encouraging me to create the illusion of a large and credible organisation from Day 1. Read more in our blog 15 Years On. Like in The Experience Economy, Gerber states “The commodity isn’t what is important - the way it’s delivered is’’. In other words, focusing on delivering a great and memorable experience is what will set you apart.
Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, Robert M. Galford
I've recommended this book to many people since I founded CEC in 2003. The message remains true - if you don't have trust in this world, what else is there? Being a professional, we need to work hard to maintain knowledge, improve on our skills constantly and most importantly, create trust. This book is a must read for anyone in the consulting business, regardless of your title. It features real life examples from the three experienced authors, and even now 18 years after it was first published, still remains directly relevant to consultant success today.
Managing the Professional Services Firm by David Maister
Another great book by David H Maister is ‘Managing the Professional Services Firm’. Drawing on more than ten years spent of research and consulting to professional services firms, David has written what is basically an operating manual for a consulting company. He simplifies his advice to, “every professional service firm in the world, regardless of size, specific profession, or country of operation, has the same mission statement: outstanding service to clients, satisfying careers for its people, and financial success for its owners.” Look past the fact that this book was published in 1993 - there are many lessons and teachings in this book that I still use to this day.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
I don’t think it’s any surprise that The Art of War has made this list. It has been said that if all our leaders read this, many of the wars in history would have been avoided. Sun Tzu wrote this classic book 2,500 years ago based on Chinese warfare and military. Since reading The Art of War, I have adapted the teachings from this book and applied them in business, politics and throughout everyday life.
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Probably my favourite book, Good To Great examines what it takes for ordinary companies to become extraordinary. Published in 2001, and still relevant today, Jim Collins analyses 28 companies over 30 years, that managed to make the transition to ‘great’ or fell prey to their bad habits. Some of my favourite sayings come from here such as, "get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off, and the right people in the right seats" and “great vision without great people is irrelevant”.
The Go Giver by Bob Burg
The Go Giver is a great quick read which follows a young man named Joe who is desperately trying to succeed in his career. He is taught the "5 laws of stratospheric success" through a series of lessons from successful individuals and must put these lessons into practice in his own life. It’s worth spending the 2 hours or so it takes to read, but if you don’t have the time to finish it all there’s a short video overview on Youtube here.
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
Why do people remember urban legends? What do great advertising campaigns have in common? How do you make an idea last for weeks, or years after you have shared it? Based on 10 years of study, this book answers the question “why some ideas succeed while others die”, and provides a practical, repeatable way to create and convey ideas that are understood, simple, memorable and have a long-term impact.
Playing to Win, How Strategy Really Works by A. J. Lafley and Roger Martin
Playing to win is about the essential elements that determine business success. For me, this is one of the best contemporary guides to strategy. It tells you to decide where you will play, to make choices, don't try to do everything, and focus on a target market.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Start with Why is Simon Sinek’s mission to help others do work which inspires them, and uses real-world examples of great leaders to show you how they communicate and how you can adopt their mindset to inspire others yourself. Whilst I have been inspired many times in the last 15 years, from the people I've met to the situations I've been exposed to, books such as Sineks ‘Start with Why’ have been invaluable to me. Simon Sinek’s TED Talk ‘How great leaders inspire action’ is the third most popular TED talk of all time. Watch it here.
Exponential Organizations by Salim Ismail
An Exponential Organisation (an ExO) is one whose output is disproportionately larger than its peers because of the use of innovative organizational techniques that leverage exponential technologies. The book, published late 2014, identifies dozens of startup organisations considered to be ExO’s, and references case studies of companies such as Google, Netflix and GoPro.
Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play by Mahan Khalsa
Let's Get Real introduces a fresh approach to effective selling, by focusing on identifying the right problems that will make a real difference for customers. Ultimately putting the client first and helping them to achieve their goals, helps you to become an invaluable partner rather than a one off gig. The thing that sets this book apart is the tools and processes that Mahan provides you with to actually identify and quality opportunities and eliminate the fears that hold us back from making a sale.
Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon
Written by two leading experts, Moments of Impact unveils a simple, creative process on designing strategic conversations. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to hold effective conversations, and conduct meetings effectively and productively. It’s thoughtfully written and offers enduring tips and frameworks on perfecting the art of conversation.
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath
Moments are an essential building block of customer experience. In this book, Chip and Dan heath explore what powerful moments are made of, and what makes them that way. They discuss the common elements that define these moments and how to use them to create your own. A defining part of this book for me is how to find the right moment, rather than trying to fix every one. Share this book with your family, friend and staff - I promise it will get them thinking.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr Seuss
Oh the Places You’ll Go is a children’s book, but it’s a great book nonetheless. It’s enjoyable, a quick and easy read, and is usually a book given to those graduating from school or university. It’s one of the greatest books you can read when you are entering into a new chapter in your life, so I’ll leave you with this quote from Dr Seuss:
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So… get on your way!