The Top 3 Business Books to Read Next Month

“You seem to always be reading; what are the top 3 business books that you’re reading right now?”

I was asked this question by a friend the other day, and thought that I would share with all of you the top 3 business books that I read in the month of August.

The most successful business owners and CEOs share a common trait: they love to read. In fact, it’s said that the average CEO reads over 50 books per year! Business legends like Warren Buffett, Mark Cuban, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have been known to read for hours each day, and attribute much of their knowledge and ability to generate innovative ideas to the fact that they’ve read a lot of books. Going into 2017, I made it a goal to read 25 books by the end of the year. My previous high was 10, so while dwarfed by the titans of industry, 25 was going to be a challenge. Still on track to accomplish this goal (I’ve finished 17 so far), here were the top three business books that I read in the month of August.

Top 3 Business Books:

1. The Great Game of Business — Jack Stack

This book really opened my eyes to the benefits of open communication and financial transparency with your employees. In many companies, there is a divide that often exists between management and workers regarding the company’s financial standing, strategic direction, and even why certain tasks must be done. These issues present a major challenge to any company’s moral, productivity, turnover, and bottom-line.

The Great Game of Business proposes an open-book management concept to running a business, claiming: “The best, most efficient, most profitable way to operate a business is to give everybody in the company a voice in saying how the company is run and a stake in the financial outcome, good or bad.” The book talks a lot about having complete financial transparency so that workers can learn and understand exactly how they’re accountable for successes and failures within the business.

While the genesis of this model took place in a large manufacturing company, where workers assembled motor parts and worked on massive machines and assembly lines, it has significant carryover to my marketing agency. In the agency model, the goal is to go out and get clients and projects, then service them at the highest level of quality using the fewest workers possible to maintain margins. Each person is essentially a machine on the assembly line; if one of them is not working well or even worse, shut down, there are serious consequences to our workflow, and in turn our bottom-line.

At first, I was a bit hesitant to “open up the books” and show my employees exactly how they impact the financial statement. What if they use it as leverage against me? Are they constantly going to be coming into my office demanding more pay or less hours? After finishing the book and cautiously implementing a few of its ideas, I immediately saw a benefit to it. Once employees understood their responsibilities and felt accountable, their work became more urgent and the quality improved. As we’ve continued to go farther with implementing open-book management (we’re not all the way there yet, but working towards it!) I can sense that each employee is becoming more business-savvy and have begun to really take responsibility for our financial and client servicing successes.

Regardless if you own the business, manage a team of people, or are a person on a large team, I highly recommend reading this book.

Key Takeaways:

  • If your employees not only learn but understand the financial ins-and-outs of the business, they will begin to figure out ways to positively impact your top- and bottom-line
  • Giving workers equity in the company can be a great way to increase their feelings of responsibility for the financial successes or failures of the business
  • Gamification of your goals and objectives is key in creating a system that engages and motivates employees

Read Time: 3 Weeks

2. Go Legal Yourself — Kelly Bagla, Esq.

The legal side of business frightens many business owners — myself included! Did I structure my business correctly? Am I protected if someone tries to sue me? What stage is my company in, and do I even have a vision or plan for what I want to become? If these questions keep you up at night you must read Go Legal Yourself.

What I found special about this book is how easy it was to read and understand. The author does an outstanding job of breaking down her years of knowledge and expertise as a high-profile business attorney into bite-sized pieces that all business owners can understand and implement. Other legal handbooks I’ve read left me confused and asking even more questions; fortunately, that wasn’t the case with this book.

Right away, I connected with the book because of its central focus on the ‘Legal Lifecycle’ of your business, which essentially breaks the life of your business down into four phases:

  1. Start-Up Phase
  2. Growth Phase
  3. Established Phase
  4. Exit Phase

Knowing where you’re at is key to not only understanding where you could be weak legally, but where your business is headed. My favorite aspect of this book is that not only does it share valuable legal advice, but it gives useful advice on all areas of your business — from human resources and management to marketing and scaling. If you take the outcome of your business ventures seriously, then this book is a must-read.

Key Takeaways:

  • At some point in the life of your business you’re going to be sued
  • There are four phases in the legal lifecycle of your business that you must understand: Startup, Growth, Established, Exit. You must plan and prepare for each accordingly.
  • The only way to protect your hard work is understand the legal lifecycle and to legal up!

Read Time: 1 Weekend

3. #AskGaryVee — Gary Vaynerchuk

Written by successful entrepreneur and social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk, this book is formatted Q&A style which makes it very easy to read and fun to digest. Different from his other books which focus more exclusively on social media marketing such as Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, #AskGaryVee is special because in it Vaynerchuk weighs in on all things related to building a business and living life as a true entrepreneur.

Vaynerchuk runs VaynerMedia, a large social and digital marketing agency in New York which produces revenues >$100M and has over 700 employees. Being the owner of a much smaller social media and digital marketing agency, the information and guidance in this book is pure gold. For one, Vaynerchuk’s reinforcement that cash is king in your business reminded me to stay focused on the growth and servicing of our clients. Without the all-important cash, your business will suffocate.

Other information that I found especially helpful was his take on company culture and leadership. Growing a company from the ground up requires careful construction of personalities and skill sets, and the knowledge I gained from these sections of the book have really helped fine-tune the way we run our HR and operations. If you’re a leader or manager of people, I believe you’ll find Vaynerchuk’s input on building a company culture while scaling employees to be useful.

As an entrepreneurial business owner, one key lesson I learned from this book was to remember to celebrate victories — even the small ones — with every employee. Failing to take the time to recognize the people and processes that created the success will have serious consequences. Even though I may be focused right away on conquering the next challenge, I must take the time to recognize the people around me who helped get us there, and give them the time and resources to celebrate a job well done.

Key Takeaways:

  • When building a business, focus on growing your top-line because as Vaynerchuk puts it, “cash is oxygen”
  • The two things you need to focus on to get attention is putting out great content and working tirelessly to promote it
  • As an entrepreneur, it can be easy to forget to celebrate victories because we’re so focused on climbing the next hill. Be sure to allow those who helped you get there celebrate success

Read Time: 2 Weeks

Although it can be tough to take time away from working directly on your business to read a book, I can assure you that making some time to read will have a direct impact on your success. Personally, the quest to 25 books in 2017 has significantly increased my skills as a business owner, marketer, and all-around person; for me, the return on my time has been nothing but positive.

If you read or have read any of these books, feel free to drop a comment below and let me know your thoughts and what you learned from each. Happy reading!