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7 Business Books Worth Reading

Bedtime reading for the curious consultant

Remember books, those things that hold about 15 tweets to a page? Here at Sterling Communications, even as we move to 400-word press releases and 600-word blog posts, we believe there continues to be value in the long written form. A newspaper or magazine article sometimes can’t contain all the ideas and case studies the author wants to share. Below is a list of books that have inspired animated discussions in our agency off-sites and “lunch-and-learns.” We recommend you have your teams read them too!

1.     Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty

By Patrick Lencioni

This is truly a “fable” written in an entertaining style that can be easily read in one sitting. It uses a David vs. Goliath portrayal of two fictional consulting firms to teach lessons on best practices for developing winning customer relationships. It’s stuck with me; I keep a note on my office bulletin board that lists out the “three fears that sabotage customer loyalty” described in the book.

2.     Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

By Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein

This book has echoes of Pavlov and Skinner in its description of how “choice architecture” (also called “liberal paternalism”) can encourage people to make better choices for themselves without having decisions forced upon them. At Sterling, this philosophy has inspired multiple changes in our office operations, from the important to the seemingly silly. Those boxes in the kitchen for recycling wine corks and batteries? An idea that came to me while reading “Nudge.”

3.     Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

By Carol Dweck

The book discusses how we can learn to fulfill our potential in business, school, parenting and relationships by subscribing to a positive mindset and encouraging such “”Little Engine That Could” attitudes in others. I found chapters 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8 to offer the most relevant examples and advice for a business environment.

 4.     Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t

By Jim Collins

What makes a company great? The author examines leaders in a variety of industries to find the commonalities. The chapters that have had the most resonance for me include chapter 3 (“First Who … Then What”), 4 (“Confront the Brutal Facts”) and 5 (“The Hedgehog Concept”).

 5.     The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World

By Fred Reichheld

How likely is it that you would recommend Company X and its products or services to a friend or colleague? That is the “ultimate question” that produces the Net Promoter Score, a popular customer relationship metric. The book cites company case studies with useful tips on how to manage customer “detractors” and turn “passives” into “promoters.” One of the lessons I took away from this book was to think carefully about balancing the effort put into managing relationships with passives versus detractors. Passives can be nurtured to promoter status, while some querulous customers (and employees) may never be fully satisfied.

 6.     The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company

By Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter & James Noel

This book discusses critical career passages (managing self, managing others, managing managers) and offers tips on coaching and performance standards. One thing to know before you decide to read it is that while it offers some lessons for small companies, it’s really aimed at large companies with many levels of seniority.

7.     The Number: How America’s Balance Sheet Lies Rocked the World’s Financial Markets

By Alex Berenson

Although this book was published before the start of the Great Recession, it offers many valuable lessons as to what went wrong in the early 2000s with companies such as Enron, Worldcom and Tyco — lessons that, obviously, people ignored. I read it several years ago to gain a better understanding of the difference between public and private companies and their laser focus on quarterly earnings reporting. The author is a former New York Times reporter, which was a major reason I read it. I knew he would be able to present dry material in a clear, compelling style, and he succeeded!

Happy reading!


Lisa Hawes can be reached at lhawes@sterlingpr.com. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisakayhawes. There is no connection between Sterling Communications and the authors or publishers of these books. The photo credit is to Lisa’s iPhone.