Self-Taught MBA: Inspired Reading
I recently picked up a book called “The 100 Best Business Books of All Time,” by Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten (Penguin Books 2009), the book begins with an alphabetically arranged, to-do list of the 100 most popular business books the facetious command to, “start reading.” As I browsed down the list, staring with “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and ending with “Zag,” I thought about why it’s so important to keep in mind your business management framework in mind as you allocate precious time to your self-education. You cannot tackle everything all at once, or read 100 books in random or alphabetical order, and it’s easy to get lost by heading in a different direction every time you pick up an inspiring new business angle-Swimming With Sharks, The Art of war, etc. With the backbone of the eight business management roles in mind, you can choose what to read based on what you need (or want) to know.
Here are a few examples, and an invitation for readers to suggest a few more:
1. Financial Management: About financial management and accounting, there’s, “Financial Accounting for Dummies,” by Loughuan, “Financial Intelligence,” by Karen Berman, and “Running a Successful Construction Company,” by David Gerstel.
2. Marketing Management: Marketing strategies are always the most fun part of running a business, some books I like: “Guerrilla Marketing,” by Jay Conrad Levinson, “Selling the Invisible,” by Harry Beckwith “The Story Factor,” by Annette Simmons, and “The Network Is Your Customer,” by David L. Rogers.
3. Human resource management: in the small construction company, managing people if not only about coordinating, but often about inspiring and building loyalty with little to offer in benefits, in other words: Leadership. Some inspirational and useful title include: “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” by Patrick Lencioni, “The Leadership Challenge,” by James M. Kouzes, “Employees First, Customers Second,” by Vineet Nayar, and “Leading Change,” by John P. Kotter.
4. Strategic planning: The first step in strategic planning comes with developing a business plan. Most of us in construction have never done this because we got into the business end through the trades, our initial business plan, “get a job and pay the rent.” Even if you’re well into your business career, it pays to ask, “If I had to do it all over again, I would…” Some books that can help you develop a new direction or refine your existing course: “The E-Myth revised,” by Michael E. Gerber , “In Search of Excellence,” by Thomas J. Peters, “Competing for the Future,” by Gary Hamel, and “Strategic Planning for Dummies,” by Erica Olsen, when you’re ready to actually draw your business blueprint.
5. Production management: It’s at the jobsite we make or lose money. After you learn to do your job efficiently and well, the next step is to organize the jobsite –or multiple jobsites – so others can work as efficiently as you. “Basic Construction Management: The Superintendent s Job” by Leon Rogers, “Fater, Cheaper, Better,” by Michael Hammer, and for inspiration, “Toyota Production System,” by Taiichi Ohno.
6. Operations management sounds an awful lot like project management, but it’s not, it has to do with how the operations of your company work together in a streamline flow from first call to cashing the last check. “Managing a Construction Firm on Just 24 Hours a Day,” by Matt Stevens.
7. Service management: The companies customers prefer are the ones that make the buying experience pleasant, easy, and worry free. “Discovering the Soul of Service,” by Leonard L. Berry
8. Information Management: The information age has come of age and now permeates everything from communication to home automation. Although there are libraries full of computer books about everything from using QuickBooks to social media marketing, here are a few that will provide an overview of what information, especially with tools like computers and the internet can do for you: How Work Gets Done: Business Process Management, Basics and Beyond, by Artie Mahal.
Lastly, there’s the category of self-development books that can help you become a more effective leader and a better person: “The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done,” by Peter Drucker, and “Sage Leadership,” by John Murphy.
My recommendation for your weekend reading: “The Ten Commandments for Business Failure” by Donald R. Keough (Penguin Books 2008). Realizing there is no guaranteed formula for success, but several guaranteed roads to failure, the former president of the Coca-Cola Company presents a witty and insightful discourse on what not to do for business success, dispensing a treasure-trove of wisdom on what to do in the process.
For more business insight, read the previous installments of the Self-Taught MBA.
Business books can provide inspiration. But they can also lead you in too many directions if you don't pick topics by the areas in your business that require renewed focus, such as finance, marketing or operations management. Once you know what you need to focus on, you'll find a library full of useful business books both technical and inspiring.