Read these books so the next success story is yours
Want a better handle on building your business? Reading is fundamental.
The trouble is deciding where to start. Which of the thousands of business books out there are worth dusting off and cracking open?
To answer that question, it’s helpful to ask for personal recommendations.
Davon Cook, a family business consultant with Ag Progress, encourages producers to read what she says isn’t technically even a business book—Howard G. Buffett’s “40 Chances.”
“I argue for those of us in the business of agriculture, it provides an important perspective,” says Cook, who is also a facilitator for Farm Journal’s Top Producer Executive Network (TPEN). “It provides many vignettes of agriculture and hunger issues around the world, including some perspectives from the U.S. I also work some in international development and believe in the next decades, we will see our very different ‘worlds’ of agriculture overlap, collaborate and compete in new ways. This book is an enjoyable read to get that perspective.”
Read on for four more business books hand-picked by a group of farm business experts who also are TPEN facilitators.
Strategic Relationships at Work by Wendy Murphy
No top operator tries to go it alone. Even so, true peers and mentors can be especially hard to come by in the agriculture industry. This book can help farmers get in the proper mindset to build a great network, says Sarah Beth Aubrey, author, speaker and executive coach to the agriculture industry.
“For producers looking to better understand how to build a peer advisory network of mentors and strategic partners, this read breaks it down as a process,” she says. “It’s a great read for analytical types who like to think differently and yet appreciate a process-oriented approach.”
The book bills itself as the “first comprehensive mentoring guide written specifically for 21st Century career building” and includes checklists, worksheets, self-assessments and more.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Feeling stretched too thin? Staying busy but not productive? Author Greg McKeown argues people who study the “way of the essentialist” will learn how to abandon a do-more-in-less-time approach and focus on doing only the right things.
“I absolutely love this book,” says Sarah Beth Aubrey, author, speaker and executive coach to the agriculture industry. “It’s a simple read that gets to one point: Can you define what is essential and what isn’t in your life and business?”
Aubrey says McKeown makes a good case that for greater efficiency and ultimately profitability, a businessperson needs to drill down and uncover what they really need to spend their time and money on.
In the process, cut out activities that aren’t a fit.
“It’s a wise read during times of belt-tightening,” she says.
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman
This book centers on Gino Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) used by more than 2,000 companies worldwide. He calls EOS a holistic system that gives business leaders the titular traction they will need to grow a healthy, functional and cohesive team. His approach to business has earned high praise from many CEOs and has a near-flawless 4.7 rating on Amazon.
“Traction” breaks down every business into six key components so business leaders can work on running a profitable and frustration-free operation.
“This is a great book to help define your core vision and strategy,” says Joe Kluender with Farm Family Dynamics. “It also validates the development of key members of your business team.”
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson
Barbara Dartt, consultant at the Family Business Consulting Group, a company that specializes in financial and succession planning, recommends “Crucial Conversations” to a lot of her clients. There’s little denying it: Farming is an oft-stressful job, and this book can help address those high-stakes situations.
Learn how to turn anger into constructive dialogue, work on your persuasiveness (versus your abrasiveness) and other communication skills that can lead to healthier interpersonal relationships.
Co-author Joseph Grenny says positive feedback led to the revised second edition.
“The most rewarding experience for me was hearing from real people about how our work has helped them make a positive difference in the world,” he says. “[For the second edition], we compiled the most inspiring reader stories [and] updated facts and figures.”
Chances are these books are all available for free at your local library. (Just mind the late fees.) If you’re not a big fan of reading, each of these books also has an unabridged audio version.
Speed Round: 16 More Great Reads
There’s no mistaking it: Dennis Henks loves to read. Ask Henks—an estate and succession-planning specialist with Lincoln Financial Advisors—to name his favorite business books, and he more than delivers with the following recommendations. Each of these books can help farmers brush up on their business and leadership skills, he says.
1. “Great by Choice,” Jim Collins
2. “Family, Inc.,” Larry Colin
3. “The Power of Positive Thinking,” Norman Vincent Peale
4. “See You at the Top,” Zig Ziglar
5. “Roger’s Rule for Success,” Henry C. Rogers
6. “Unlimited Power,” Anthony Robbins
7. “In Search of Excellence,” Tom Peters
8. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Steven Covey
9. “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” Dale Carnegie
10. “Think and Grow Rich,” Napoleon Hill
11. “Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth,” Nick Murray
12. “The Practice of Management,” Peter Drucker
13. “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman
14. “Give and Take,” Adam Grant
15. “Necessary Endings,” Henry Cloud
16. “Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius,” Erik Wahl