What Are You Reading?

What Are You Reading?

Recently I’ve been asking that question a lot it seems. “What are you reading?”

Most business owners in the decorated apparel industry seem to not be reading anything. “I’m too busy”, they lament. “Where do you find the time?”, they say.

You have to make the time. Start with thirty minutes a day. Block it off.

Reading and absorbing new information is the key to broadening how you view the world. Personally, I can’t get enough. I’m always reading a book. At least one a week for as long as I can remember.

In fact, I’m constantly sharing my favorite books with people who have a particular problem or challenge they need to sort out. To that end, I’ve created a new page on my website, with links to my favorites over the years.

Below is a quick synopsis of each, and why I like that particular book. Included are links, so you can simply click and order any that you fancy.

“Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win”

This is a fantastic book by Jocko Willink and Leaf Babin. In it is my all-time favorite quote for leadership in this industry, “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”

If you are a manager or owner that is struggling with team accountability or problem employees, this is a great book to learn and understand how to lead.

I have bought this book for a number of clients, and I recommend it probably at least twice a month to someone.

“The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement”

One of my favorites. I reread this book at least once a year. Yes, I know that the cover art is lame…but you shouldn’t be judging a book by its cover anyway.

“The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt is an easy and fun book to read to understand the “Theory of Constraints”, which says that you can only go as fast as the slowest part of your process.

The book is written like a story, and you’ll tag along with Alex Rogo, as he tries to understand why his manufacturing plant can’t stay on schedule. If you have this particular problem in your shop, this is a must-read for you.

“Profit First: Transform Your Business From a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine”

This is a revolutionary book that you must read and implement to help position your cash flow correctly. Many shops in this industry are now operating on the principles outlined in this book. My coaching business is built on it. Your business should be too.

Why? For starters, listen to Mike tell you in The Big Idea podcast interview I did with him.

Sadly, many shop owners in this industry don’t understand how to operate financially. Even with sales rocketing in, they still close their doors every year because of poor financial management practices. Don’t let that be you. Get this book!

“Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins”

World renown blog author Mark Schaefer delivers the goods in his latest book, “Marketing Rebellion”.

Remember, your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what your customers say it is. And customers these days are saying a lot.

This book explores how companies should be embracing the concept of human to human marketing. How to create better experiences. Why customers have evolved, and where are their brains going for the future? Go beyond pay per click and social media posts. Learn to do it better.

“Awesomely Simple: Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas Into Action”

Yep, this book came out in 2009 but it is still on my must-read list. Why? For starters, author John Spence is a master-level consultant to huge companies and organizations.

Find out how successful companies are using six core strategies to build a better business. This is an easy-to-read book and will get you wanting to improve your business immediately.

“Awesomely Simple” reveals the six key strategies that create a foundation for achieving business excellence: Vivid Vision, Best People, A Performance-Oriented Culture, Robust Communication, A Sense of Urgency, and Extreme Customer Focus.

“Never Split the Difference: Negotiating Like Your Life Depended On It”

What can ex-FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss teach us about dealing with customers during the sale? Evidently quite a bit.

In the book, Voss uses examples from his career with the FBI and shows you how they relate to situations you face every day running your business.

Learn how to read people and understand what they are thinking. Voss has tried and true techniques that are easy to implement in conversation that can get you to the finish line a winner. If you are in sales, then this is the book for you.

“The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It”

I have to have the classics, right? This book came out in 2004, but don’t let that keep you from reading it. It is still relevant and powerful.

Author Michael Gerber packs a punch with his stories and examples, and I know you will be able to see yourself in the tales he tells.

This was voted the #1 business book by Inc. 500 CEOs. For a reason.

Have you read it yet? Lately? Don’t walk. Run! Get this into your reading mix today.

“This Is Marketing”

I’m a huge fan of everything Seth Godin. Do this, click over to a new tab and type in one word.


You’ll find that he comes up first on Google search rankings.

“This Is Marketing” is an instant classic the day it was published. It was written to help you position your business in the marketplace by changing the way you think about marketing.

“The Experience Economy”

In this outstanding book, authors Joseph Pine and James Gilmore share examples and stories of businesses that utilize experiences to drive differentiation in the marketplace.

Read this book and re-energize your customer-facing experiences. Rethink how you are positioning your business with “goods and services” and move more into creating unique experiences for your customers to not only enjoy but to brag about and share with their network. This book has been around a while, but it is still very relevant.

“Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen”

Here’s a book that I recommend to people easily three or four times a week.

Most people simply call it “StoryBrand”. Author Donald Miller has created something very unique with his SB7 framework.

If you are not in alignment with your customers, or if you are redesigning your website, or if your sales are in a slump and you want to refocus your marketing efforts to gain new sales…then this is the absolute perfect place to start. Get it.

“Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com”

Here’s another book that I wish they had hired a better graphic designer. Oh boy.

However, we choose books based on their content. Right?

Authors Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler give the rundown on how to generate an ongoing steady stream of new clients and sales. Although Salesforce.com is dominant in the title, this is not a book on how to use that platform. Instead, it is a primer on how to set up a sales engine that can achieve predictable results by using a systematic approach and best practices. If you are lacking sales, this is a good place to start to turn that around.

“Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Old Ones”

I absolutely loved this book.

Author James Clear gives plenty of inciteful examples and quote-worthy phrases to flesh out this book on making things better. In your business, your life, your team, wherever.

We usually all want something to get better. But, quite often we aren’t exactly sure how to get there. This book sheds light on how to do it and gives some step-by-step examples of how to change your bad habits into good ones. You can do it!

“Lynchpin: Are You Indispensible?”

This book by Seth Godin was a favorite of mine a few years ago. I reread this recently and found myself re-energized afterward.

It’s all about making a difference and doing things that you want to do that matter.

Are you just another replaceable cog in the machine?

There used to be two teams in the workplace, management, and labor. Now, consider a third. The lynchpin. This is the person that is the glue. That has a great idea. That saves the day. The one everyone turns to for advice. Is that you?

“The Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook”

Where do you turn when you need to understand some Lean Six Sigma concepts in an easy to read manner?

The “Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook” that’s where!

This book by Michael George, David Rowlands, Mark Price, and John Maxey covers a lot of ground. So if you are building a continuous improvement program, or beginning a cost optimization initiative for your shop, this is a handy tool. It’s loaded with terms, how-to’s, and other ways to help you understand how to get that Lean Six Sigma program underway in your business. Handy.

“Free: How Today’s Smartest Businesses Profit By Giving Something for Nothing”

Right now, you are in the middle of a free giveaway. Don’t think so?

Here’s a fact. I don’t charge you to read this blog.

Never have, never will. But yet, I’m in business. What’s going on?

For starters, I’m hoping that you will like what I write enough to buy my eBooks I have for sale or become one of my coaching clients. “Free” details examples of “Freemiums” like blogs to showcase other products and ways to make money. This is an interesting book and one you should consider purchasing. That’s right. “Free” costs money.

“Clockwork: Designing Your Business to Run Itself”

Chances are if you are reading this you are a small business owner. If you are not, maybe you will be one sometime in the future.

“Clockwork” by Mike Michalowicz wants you to take a month-long vacation. Not just a vacation, but one where you don’t have to call in, check-in, or email your business at all while you are gone.

It seems impossible, right? In the book, he lays out the groundwork for what you have to do to make that happen. Find out how.

“Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder”

I’m sure you know what “fragile” means. Easily breakable. But what about “anti-fragile”?

Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb takes us through the concept by exploring ways that take a known problem, and after inserting it into something, it makes it stronger.

For example, that’s how vaccinations work.

So, how can you use this in your business? On your website? With your staff or business model? This is how you prepare for disruption, and make your company stronger. Read this thought-provoking and entertaining book and consider what changes you might make to become anti-fragile.

“Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be”

Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith’s book “Triggers” examines the emotional, environmental, and psychological triggers that push us into the wrong direction.

This book is full of examples and stories that you can learn from to help you overcome these challenges. We all react to things differently than we want to. I’m sure you have reflected back on a situation and thought to yourself, “Boy, I could have handled that better.”

“Triggers” gives you the tools to deal with those challenges to produce a better outcome.

“High-Hanging Fruit: Build Something Great By Going Where No One Else Will”

My friend Alan Howe recommended this book to me, and I really enjoyed it.

Author Mark Rampolla takes you on a journey of doing the unimaginable…leaving a high paying job to start a new venture with zero promise of success.

It sounds like every business in this industry, right? Rampolla started Zico coconut water and introduced it to the New York City market and grew his own category in his industry. Learn how he did it and the struggles he and his family faced on their journey.

“Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business”

Author Gino Wickman has hit a home run with this book. In it, he describes how you can build an “Entrepreneurial Operating System” to take your business to new heights and achieve your goals.

If your business needs some solid fundamental organizational and leadership help, this is the book that I’d turn to. I recommend it quite a bit.

Learn if you are a Visionary or an Integrator. Learn how to execute plans with a cycle based on completing “rocks”. Plan out your business to get the growth that you want and need.

“7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Have you read this? It’s been out for over thirty years. But I’m still surprised that more people haven’t heard about this book, or have read it.

Talk about influential!

“7 Habits” has been named the number one most influential business book of the twentieth century. This book by Stephen Covey comes up in conversations, presentations, articles, and even in other books on a consistent basis. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and grab a copy and get going.

“2 Second Lean: How to Grow People and Build a Fun Lean Culture”

Paul Aker’s book is an easy-to-read guidebook on how to streamline your business.

Want more accomplished every day?

Get this book and put the lessons in it to good use. This is all about saving time and money. But mostly it is about seeing your operation from a different perspective and changing things for the better.

“How you always have done it” can change into “How we should be doing it.” This book guides the way.

“Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In the Way of True Inspiration”

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’m a big fan of all things Pixar. When this book came out, I devoured it because I wanted to learn how they were able to achieve their high level of success on a continual basis.

Author Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, details how the team at Pixar works. It’s fascinating and one to model your company after for sure. But be warned, they stress having a great team as that is the secret sauce behind their success.

“It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.” Are you making it safe in your business for others to take risks?

“The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer”

I bought this book when I moved from being an Art Director to VP of Operations because frankly, I felt like I was in over my head a little.

I knew I could do the job, but I need some guideposts to help me sort things out. This book helped with that.

Toyota leads the way in eliminating waste, building quality, empowering employees, and saving time and money. Who wouldn’t want that? Read this book and understand the principles that have made Toyota a world leader. You can take those same ideas and build them into your business.

“Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable”

Would you ever talk about a cow? Probably not.

But what if it was purple?

That would be so unique that not only you, but everyone else would need to discuss it as well. A purple cow!

That’s what you need to build for your business. Something so unique, it’s like a purple cow. In this book, author Seth Godin (yes, again!) discusses what you need to be in order to be like a purple cow.

“Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action”

Another classic. I’m sure by now you have watched Simon Sinek’s TED Talk – “Start With Why” which is the third most popular TED Talk in history.

Learn the concept of the Golden Circle, and why all great ideas are powered by the same concept…understanding the “Why” behind the idea. Your customers won’t buy into your offerings until they understand the “Why” behind it.

Take a break from what you are doing and dig into the “Why” in your business with the classic book.

“Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant”

These days success doesn’t come from winning the war with your competitors, but from charting your own way out into the “Blue Ocean” where nobody else is going.

Authors Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne detail examples from different industries and will poke you into thinking about what you can do.

This is a classic book and a must-read for anyone that is tired of fighting over the same sales scraps as everyone else in your area. Chart a new course!

“The Black Swan”

This book came into my life on the recommendation of my friend and mentor Mark Coudray. It was a pivotal moment in my life as my mom was in failing health due to cancer, and I had some career decisions to make.

“The Black Swan” is an event, positive or negative, that is deemed improbable yet causes massive consequences. Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains and tells stories that illustrate this concept and how people learn or react to them.

How do you deal with it? Black Swan events shape our world and our decisions moving forward. If something is going on in your life that you can’t grasp, this just may be a resource you need to figure it out.

“A Whack on the Side of the Head”

Back when I was an art director, it was common for me to have to design the “coolest t-shirt in the world” a dozen times a day. After a bit, the idea faucet slows from a gush to a drip.

I bought Roger von Oech’s book on how to think differently and dislodge new and creative ideas. In the book, he has tons of great ideas and ways to look at projects differently.

Stuck when your creative needs outstrip your ability to produce? Grab this book and revolutionize the way you pull from the well.

“Good to Great”

Yep, another classic. Jim Collins’s fantastic book is a must-read about what makes a great company.

He gathers many stories and examples to illustrate his point about what makes a great company shine.

What makes a great company? What makes one that isn’t so great?

Can you see traits in your business in either example? This is a basic thought-provoking book to read, learn and share with your team.

So, what do you think?

Are these all the books I’ve read? Absolutely not. These are the books that I’ve been recommending to people when they are facing a challenge.

Have you read some of these? Hopefully so. If not, click the “Buy it now” button and get it shipped to you. By the way, I often purchase the books used from Amazon so they are considerably cheaper. Some of these books I’ve bought for only a few dollars.

I’d love your take on your favorite books. Leave yours in the comments!

Happy reading!

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over someone who can’t read.” – Mark Twain

“If there is a book that you want to read, that hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” – Toni Morrison

“The more you read, the more you will know. The more you learn, the more places you will go.” – Dr. Suess

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