Your 2016 Business Reading List

by Thomas White, CEO

It’s the start of the new year. A time of new beginnings, new goals and yes, even a new reading list. As a CEO myself, I always get asked, “what are you reading?” Well, look no further. Here’s a list of the Top 10 books you should have on your coffee table in the coming year – in no specific order.

Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary, by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval 

This book explains what ‘G.R.I.T.’ is and why is it important to have it. ‘G.R.I.T.’ is an acronym for Guts, Resilience, Initiative, Tenacity and the good thing is anyone can develop it – at any point in their lives. Today’s greats weren’t born great – Michael Jordan didn’t make his basketball team in high school; Steven Spielberg didn’t get into film school. Passion and tenacity are the reasons they made it big and it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and find your ‘grit.’

Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless, by Jeffrey Hayzlett.

I would encourage you to read this one because it’s a compilation of interviews, insights, and advice from leading c-suite executives around the world, meant to inspire entrepreneurs to own who they are by being bold, fearless and relentless. It goes beyond the excuses, self-imposed limitations, and preconceived notions to inspire readers to become the biggest, boldest, versions of themselves.  It is also about taking action and having an attitude to put oneself out there, steamrolling obstacles, ignoring perceived boundaries, and even being a little irrational.

Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans, by Peter Shankman 

Peter Shankman is a well-known personality – from his TV appearances, to his speaking engagements, to his insightful books. This time around, he defines the term “zombie loyalist” as a customer who is loyal to one brand all the time and gets their friends to engage in the same behavior. These customers are “zombies” to a specific brand because they are treated well and in turn, they are considered the brand’s best customers. Shankman adds that one of the worst mistakes companies with an online social media presence can do is not respond to its customers.

THRIVE: The Third Metric To Redefining Success And Creating A Life Of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder, by Arianna Huffington

Huffington argues that society’s relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success — money and power — has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers.

Huffington likens our drive for money and power to two legs of a three-legged stool. They may hold us up temporarily, but sooner or later we’re going to topple over. She affirms we need a third leg — a third metric for defining success — to truly thrive. That third metric, she writes in Thrive, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving. She also talks candidly about her own challenges with managing time and prioritizing the demands of a career and raising two daughters — of juggling business deadlines and family crises, and how her “a-ha moment” came as a result of a health scare. 

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How To Tell Your Story In A Noisy, Social World, by Gary Vaynerchuk

Vaynerchuk shares hard-won advice on how to connect with customers and beat the competition as well as give readers a blueprint to social media marketing strategies that really work. He is certain that when managers and marketers outline their social media strategies, they plan for the “right hook”—their next sale or campaign that’s going to knock out the competition. Even companies committed to jabbing, which he defines as patiently engaging with customers to build the relationships crucial to successful social media campaigns, want to land the punch that will take down their opponent or their customer’s resistance in one blow. Right hooks convert traffic to sales and easily show results. Except when they don’t!

Thanks to massive change and proliferation in social media platforms, the winning combination of jabs and right hooks is different now. Vaynerchuk shows that while communication is still key, context matters more than ever. It’s not just about developing high-quality content, but developing high-quality content perfectly adapted to specific social media platforms and mobile devices—content tailor-made for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr.

7 Tenets of Taxi Terry, by Scott McKain

This book talks about ‘Taxi Terry,’ a cab driver and successful self-starting entrepreneur who combines passion with effort and skill to create distinction in his job and in his life. McKain was so impressed by Terry’s joyful approach to customer service that he incorporated the driver’s inspiring personal philosophy and uplifting advice into his book and speaking engagements.

The 7 tenets are:

1. Set high expectations–then, exceed them

2. Delivering what helps the customer . . . helps you

3. Customers are people–so, personalize the experience

4. Think logically–then act creatively and consistently

5. Make the customer the star of your show

6. Help your customers to come back for more

7. Creating joy for your customer will make your work–and life–more joyful

Digital Wisdom: Thought Leadership for a Connected World, by Shelly Palmer

Well-known media personality, Shelly Palmer, highlights how social media users need to learn to differentiate between a popularity contest and a quality contest. Having a small number of quality connections is a good thing for you and your business; whereas one million superficial connections look important, and impressive, but they do not benefit either of you in the long run. The book also explains what it means to be a digital leader in a connected world since nowadays, there is no difference between leadership in a digital world and an analog world. Everything is connected and having digital leadership is just a new twist on an old skill set.

Palmer also states that privacy, in today’s world, is a generational issue and needs to be redefined. Millennials and those younger don’t care much about their online privacy now, but they might someday. Online privacy is being redefined as we speak and will continue to be redefined as technology changes. He argues that private is not the same as anonymous – it used to be, but it’s not the case anymore.

Amaze Every Customer Every Time, by Shep Hyken 

Hyken explores the ever demanding and always important world of customer service, and how stellar service can elevate a company from good to great. Delivering amazing service requires everyone in the organization to step up and be a leader. It doesn’t take a title; it takes the right set of tools and principles. 

In his book, Hyken takes the customer service experience and makes it applicable to today’s businesses. He believes all transformations require a role model and in this book, he highlights the successes of Ace Hardware, voted one of the top ten customer service brands in America. One way to achieve top status is by “asking the questions” and “focus on the customer, not the money.”

Display of Power: How FUBU Changed a World of Fashion, Branding and Lifestyle, by Daymond John

Daymond is a friend of mine and one of the brightest business minds out there. His book gets gets to the heart of his unlikely run to the top of the fashion world, and shines compelling light on what it takes to succeed-from the dizzying street corners of his old neighborhood to the dazzling corner offices of corporate America-and what it takes to harness and display the power that resides in us all.

Here is a man who is not afraid of taking risks and his drive and vision gives readers a glimpse of the new ‘generation’ of c-suite leaders.

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell takes readers on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”– the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful by asking the question, what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that people pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from — that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the diverse experiences of their upbringing.  Gladwell argues that the true story of success is very different, and that if we want to understand how some people thrive, we should spend more time looking around them. In revealing that hidden logic, Gladwell presents a fascinating and provocative blueprint for making the most of human potential. With this book, he transforms the way we understand success.