Welcome to my annual Best Business Books of the Year post. This is the second annual post, and it’s a tradition I plan on keeping not just out of a love for reading. There is a business advantage to it as well.
Whenever I’ve made a quantum leap forward in my career, books (and reading in general) have been the propellant. And I’m not alone:
- Warren Buffet reads 500 pages a day
- Mark Cuban reads 3 hours a day
- Bill Gates reads 50 books a year
Check out their reading habits and those of other successful people.
Sounds great, but who has time to read? Well, if those titans of industry can do it, we can all do it. Here’s my simple strategy to not only read, but also really make it stick.
Every day, 15 minutes a day, then write it down
I began a habit last year, and I’m proud to say I’ve continued it in 2020.
Every day, for fifteen minutes a day, I read from a business book and write down one profound insight (yes, by hand).
I use this beautiful little journaling book that my wife gave me for Christmas a few years back. It’s called One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book, and its premise is simple: Just write down one profound line a day.
Looking for an insight to add to the journal makes me read closely, and writing it down helps me really absorb the golden nuggets. I’m going to share a few of these gems below.
The list: My fave business books
I was a little off 2019’s pace, when I read 10 business books. This year I read six, but two of them were meaty reads, so I’m cutting myself some slack. Here is my list:
- Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity – Avinash Kaushik
- Content Chemistry – Andy Crestodina
- Faster, Better, Cheaper in the History of Manufacturing: From the Stone Age to Lean Manufacturing and Beyond – Christoph Roser
- The Fourth Industrial Revolution – Klaus Schwab
- Ditch the Act: Reveal the Surprising Power of the Real You for Greater Success – Leonard Kim and Ryan Foland
- Stop Being the Best-Kept Secret: Manufacturing eCommerce Strategies – Curt Anderson
I feel a sense of gratitude to these authors. “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” said Isaac Newton. My thanks to the giants on this list.
Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity – Avinash Kaushik
“Identify your critical few, whether it’s priorities, goals or metrics.” – Avinash Kaushik
One of my biggest struggles is with the quantitative side of digital marketing, particularly analytics. I was determined to take a step forward in this realm in 2020, so I followed this book recommendation from Chris Hofmann, one of the smartest digital marketers I know.
Avinash Kaushik is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. This seminal work was originally published in 2009, but its fundamentals hold true today, especially focusing your analytics on “the critical few.” It changed how we report to clients.
Kaushik notes the paradox of data for marketers today: A lack of it means you cannot make complete decisions. But even with it, you still get an infinitesimally small number of insights. However, it’s within those small number of insights that the game-changers lie.
Content Chemistry – Andy Crestodina
“Almost no one links to sales pages or brochure websites. But people link to useful articles every day.” – Andy Crestodina
Simple, pragmatic nuggets like the quote above summarize Andy Crestodina’s contribution to the world of content marketing. His ability to understand the big picture of how content marketing works and communicate it with astounding clarity is why he’s built a legion of followers. (Me included.)
It’s surprising that it took so long before I finally got around to reading this book. After listening to countless Andy presentations, I always thought, “Why read it? I could probably write the damn thing myself by this point.”
Yet the devil is in the details, and Andy always drills down from overall strategy to elegant execution. There are so many helpful insights like the one above that you’ll think Andy invented the field. He didn’t, but he’s documented how to do it successfully like no one else.
Faster, Better, Cheaper in the History of Manufacturing: From the Stone Age to Lean Manufacturing and Beyond – Christoph Roser
“Throughout history, humanity made significant advances in technology. Yet the organization of manufacturing lags far behind, while steel bends to our will, we have major problems working with other human beings.” – Christoph Roser
And so it goes. I picked up Christoph Roser’s detail-rich recounting of the history of manufacturing for a deeper understanding of the field. We’ve worked with manufacturers for years, but a little industry backstory never hurt anyone.
Roser takes you through the entire journey, and while it takes some time to get through (it ranges from the Stone Age to the present), it’s an amazing overview of where we’ve been and where we can potentially go.
I picked the quote above because it’s the book’s leitmotif that holds as true for manufacturing as it does for humanity: Our machines and technologies get smarter, but humans keeping doing the same dumb shit.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution – Klaus Schwab
“The fourth industrial revolution is characterized by a much more ubiquitous and mobile Internet, by smaller and more powerful sensors that have become cheaper, and by artificial intelligence and machine learning.” – Klaus Schwab
Rosen brought me up to speed, but Schawb’s summation of the fourth industrial revolution got me very jazzed — and a bit unnerved — about manufacturing’s future.
He explains that all the technologies mentioned above are combining in the “physical, digital and biological domains” to make this revolution fundamentally different from previous industrial upheavals.
As a marketer and a consumer of all the manufacturing world has to offer, it’s thrilling to see this firsthand. But Schawb also instills a sense of foreboding. All these miraculous advances include the potential for destructive societal and political forces as well. Will we manufacture a new world on Monday, only to tear it apart on Tuesday?
Ditch the Act: Reveal the Surprising Power of the Real You for Greater Success – Leonard Kim and Ryan Foland
“The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.” – Leonard Kim and Ryan Foland
At some point, you’ve got to work on yourself, not just your business. And as I was looking for a new book to read, this one called my secret name.
I’ve never been an open book, online or otherwise. Oh sure, I’ll share the pics of my fam and my thoughts on this or that, but getting vulnerable isn’t one of my strong suits.
This collaboration by Leonard Kim and Ryan Foland presents the business value of sharing your vulnerabilities, and explaining why it can help build your personal brand and ultimately strengthen your business.
But pragmatism aside, this book is excellent methodology for helping a closed book such as myself share what’s inside. The authors also don’t push or persuade; they grant you the space and the time to reveal what you choose, and when.
PS – This also launched a new business opportunity for me, which I’ll be piloting in 2020. I’ll share details in the 2021 update of this post. : )
“That is how you grow your business, right? By diversifying. That’s what I always thought, until I realized being too diversified is not a strength.” – Curt Anderson
Curt is a master connector, and he’s introduced me to a ridiculous amount of people within the manufacturing realm. We’ve become friends in the process.
Now this is the second business book I read this year authored by a friend. And I’ll have to admit, sometimes you agree to read these things out of a sense of guilt or obligation. I’ll admit this was my mindset as I approached Curt Anderson’s book.
So it was with a bit of unfair trepidation that I picked up the book. Right from the start, I started kicking myself in the presumptuous ass.
Not only does Curt showcase his chops as an eCommerce guru, he understands manufacturing inside and out. This isn’t marketing window dressing applied to a niche; Curt really gets it.
From denouncing the machine shop blues (aka putting all your eggs in one basket) to the benefits of marketing your manufacturing facility like it’s a five-star hotel, Curt combines industry insight with razor-sharp marketing acumen.
Easily one of my favorite books on this list and, for my business, likely to be the most influential.
The value of this list
Why do I bother writing this blog? Probably envy.
A friend once told me a story about his dad, who was hospitalized as a young boy.
He was bedridden for months. At the time, I’m assuming there were no TVs in the hospital rooms. All he could do was read.
He read, and read, and read. He also kept a list of all the books he had read. And he didn’t stop once he left the hospital. He continued the habit throughout his life, and as he was a minister and a man of letters, he was a voracious reader.
I can imagine him, in his senior years, fondly looking back on that long list and all the memories it held.
I wish I had chronicled all the books I’ve read over the years, as a reminder of lessons learned.
Thank you, writers, for guiding us and sharing your insights. The world is a better place for it.