WITH SUMMER VACATION LOOMING, ChannelPro-SMB asked a select group of VARs, MSPs, and consultants to recommend business-related books they have enjoyed—those that have left an impression or imparted important lessons. When heading out for some well-deserved R&R in the coming weeks, pack along one of the following titles. And if you’re facing a long drive to the beach, try audio books, says Michael Klein, president of IT services company Computer Directions Inc., in Albertson, N.Y. “I can consume many more books a year than with a traditional paper copy,” he says.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass)
This fable focuses on leadership and team dynamics. The story follows the tribulations of a CEO who is challenged with bringing together a team in disarray. Nothing less than the future of the company is at stake.
Vince Tinnirello, CEO of Anchor Network Solutions Inc., an IT services and consulting company in Lone Tree, Colo., recommends this book for its practical perspective. “It has been instrumental for our company,” Tinnirello says. “All of us read the book and recognized what it takes to build a team. We will be rereading it again shortly.”
Future Crimes: Inside the Digital Underground and the Battle for Our Connected World, by Marc Goodman (Anchor Books)
Cybercrime is top of mind today. Goodman, who has a background in law enforcement, outlines how bad actors are primed to exploit the technologies of tomorrow.
“[Goodman] does a masterful job of exposing how we are the product when it comes to how our use of the internet is being captured, sold, and used against us,” says Bob Nitrio, CEO of Ranvest Associates, an IT consulting firm in Sacramento, Calif. “After reading this book, no one will trust what happens virtually every time they use their computer or cell phone. This is truly a must-read book.”
Matter: Move Beyond the Competition, Create More Value, and Become the Obvious Choice, by Peter Sheahan and Julie Williamson (BenBella Books)
Matter tells the stories of innovative companies that have surpassed their market competitors by providing value in ways that other companies aren’t. “This book is a key read for any IT service provider,” says Peter Melby, president of Greystone Technology, a technology services provider in Fort Collins, Colo. Especially relevant, says Melby, is the “irony in the fact that technology changes very quickly, but technology services evolve at a snail’s pace.” With ample opportunities to create new value by rethinking traditional offerings, “Matter provides a blueprint for how to do it. We all want more valuable businesses,” he says. “We’d all like to break away from the status quo.”
The Go-Giver: A Little Story about a Powerful Business Idea, by Bob Burg and John David Mann (Portfolio/Penguin)
The premise of this book is simple if counterintuitive: The key to success is not getting from others but giving to them. The authors relay this message in a parable about an ambitious young man who is focused on landing the next sale; he is subsequently taught the power of giving by a consultant. Stories focus on the success that comes to those who put the interests of others first. Arlin Sorensen, CEO of Harlan, Iowa-based HTG Peer Groups, a community of MSPs, is a big fan of this book, as it provides “a great lesson on value and treating people right.”
The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, by Kevin Kelly (Viking)
Kelly posits that much that will happen in the next 30 years is inevitable, due to technological trends that are happening now. This book offers a road map, explaining how technology such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence overlap and are dependent on each other—and will contribute to changing every aspect of peoples’ lives. “The Inevitable explains the seismic changes taking place in our industry, and what it means for us going forward,” says Mike Schmidtmann, business consultant at Trans4mers LLC in Warrenton, Va., who provides IT sales consulting services.
The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford (IT Revolution Press)
This book offers a fictional account of one company’s IT project. Over budget and behind schedule, the project is critical to the company—and the CEO is giving the DevOps team 90 days to fix it, or the project will be outsourced. Steven Banks, president of tech solutions company Banks Consulting Northwest Inc., of Port Orchard, Wash., singled out this book as one of the favorites he is currently reading. The book’s fast-paced style and emphasis on helping the business side of the house is a story that will resonate with anyone who works in IT, he says.
The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field, by Mike Michalowicz (Penguin Group)
A pumpkin farmer is the protagonist of this book, which delves into what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. Among the lessons: Don’t spend time on noncore activities, get rid of the bad customers, and focus on the things your company does best. This is another of Tinnirello’s recommendations. The book “gave us a real perspective on evaluating our clients and how to rate them,” he says. “It’s not just about who pays the most. We used this to build a chart that we refer to regularly, with a defined set of criteria across all customers.”
Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, by Robert Cialdini (Simon & Schuster)
This is another book on Schmidtmann’s must-read list. The author is a social psychologist who describes what sets successful persuaders apart from merely effective communicators. The concept: Persuasion begins not with the message, but in the moments prior to when the message is delivered. Taking advantage of that window of time is the key to achieving success in persuasion. Says Schmidtmann, “Pre-Suasion is a highly readable book on how to influence customers and get them to take action.”
The Compassionate Geek: How Engineers, IT Pros, and Other Tech Specialists Can Master Human Relations Skills to Deliver Outstanding Customer Service, by Don R. Crawley (soundtraining.net)
Currently in its third edition, this book was written by a tech professional for other tech professionals. It offers customer service best practices and practical, realistic ideas that channel pros can put into action. Brimming with practical tips and real-world techniques, “this book is a must for IT service providers,” says Tinnirello. “It is very insightful as we train our technical-minded teams in customer service delivery.”
Make A Difference: In the Lives of Those You Love, Live with, and Lead, by Dr. Larry Little (iUniverse)
Sorensen recommends this title for its insight into how people tick, saying, “It is a useful tool for helping people understand how they are wired.” The book focuses on the idea that all relationships are intentional, in that they take investments in time and require work. Those relationships that don’t receive such investments are likely to suffer and eventually wither. Little offers advice to help readers invest the energy that all good relationships involve.
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