You know I’m a big reader.  I love books of all shapes, lengths and genres.  However, I am too old to tolerate a bad book.  I’ve no time for it.  So, let me save you some time.  Here are a few sure-fire business book recommendations guaranteed to make you wiser, richer and better looking.   Well, maybe not better looking.   But wise and rich are pretty attractive.

As Benjamin Franklin says, “Empty thy purse into thy head.”  Invest in you with these…

Jack – Straight From the Gut, by Jack Welch

This classic book lives up to all the hype.  General Electric has delivered over 100 consecutive quarters of positive financial performance to its shareholders.  At the helm for the last 20 years, Jack Welch created vital, responsive, successful businesses, as well as outstanding leaders, at every level of the organization.

Welch’s interesting career wasn’t all roses.  He was criticized for his massive labor cuts, laying off 100,000 people in the 1970s.  (Welch still chafes at the Neutron Jack moniker.)  He missed a career-capping acquisition of Honeywell in 2001.

But the wins are thrilling!  The chapter about the RCA acquisition reads like a Tom Clancy novel.   And Welch’s passion for teaching established Crotonville as the world’s premier management development center.

Sure, GE is a big company…400,000 plus employees.  But there are lessons here for the Small Shop owner.  Have you ever started a new program, or procedure, and watched it wither and die because your employees never “got” it?  Imagine getting buy-in at GE!  Welch is a master at reducing a complicated concept to a “catch phrase.”  In order to sell an idea, he would simplify it, and drill it into the minds of everyone affected.  For instance, his “fix, sell or close” phrase communicated the consequences for every division that wasn’t “number one or number two” in their markets.   He used those phrases for YEARS, consistently, and nearly constantly, to communicate the goal, and the consequences of not reaching the goal.

The key to success?  Welch says, “I stuck to some pretty basic ideas that worked for me, integrity being the biggest one.”  I like this guy.

Bonus!  If you are too busy to read, the audio book is delightful.  Buy the abridged version, and listen to Jack himself tell his stories.  Of Irish decent, and Boston born, Jack has a unique speaking voice.  He knows best where the emphasis should be in each sentence.  And I love how he smiles when he speaks of his mother.  (Note:  Behind every great leader is…Mom!)

Check it out!

Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing, by Robert Kiyosaki

I am a big fan of Robert Kiyosaki.  Each new title in his financial literacy series reviews the lessons of the classic, Rich Dad Poor Dad, creating a heavier book than necessary.  However, each book also lays out a few new nuggets well worth the price of admission.

Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing has a wonderful section on becoming the ultimate investor.  (Flip to the last quarter of the book.)   What do Bill Gates of Microsoft, John Schattner of Papa John’s Pizza and Martha Stewart of Martha Stewart Omni Media have in common?  They made their money the old fashioned way…the same way that Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford made their fortunes.  They built companies…and sold shares of the companies to the public.

Kiyosaki explains the ins and outs of advanced investing.  The ultimate investor is one who SELLS shares, not the one who buys the shares.  If playing a BIG game is on your list of life goals, this book is a good one to have in your library.

Natural Capitalism, by Paul Hawken

There are only two ways to distribute resources on this planet:  Business and government.  Give me business over government every day of the week.  In his compelling book, Paul Hawken (of Smith and Hawken gardening supply stores) explores the potential of creating businesses that profit from being socially and environmentally responsible.

God bless the plumbing industry.  Its goods and services are wanted and needed and promote the survivability of mankind on this planet.  (As opposed to the manufacturing of mass destruction weapons, for instance.)  Plumbers deliver safe, clean, potable water and remove disease-causing waste.  However, fresh water is a diminishing resource.

Hawken points out, “Most, especially industrialized, countries, still make all the same mistakes with water that they made with energy.  They deplete nonrenewable supplies and seek more water instead of using inexhaustible sources more productively and enhancing their capture by restorative grazing, farming and forestry.  They rely on the highest-quality water for ever task, flushing toilets and washing driveways with drinking water.”

He adds, “A tenth of the US household water usage is leaks from toilet valves, dripping faucets, and aging pipes.”  One tenth!

Who better than you to figure out ways to conserve, reuse and reclaim water?  Have you ever realized the far-reaching, positive impact of a simple leak repair?   Sure, the first round of low flush fixtures were, well, less than perfect.  But low flow has come a long way.  There are problems to be solved and money to be made.  Why not leverage the good work that you do and establish yourself as a “green” business?  Why not resurrect the save-the-planet commitment you made in the sixties…and combine it with the appreciation for profits you discovered in the eighties and nineties?

Read this book, and get inspired.

Empowerment Takes More Than A Minute, by Ken Blanchard

Hurray for Ken Blanchard!  He writes hundred-page business books.  Give me a red pen.  I could edit most business books down to 100 pages…and make them better books.

Are you tired of doing everything yourself?  Empowerment Takes More Than A Minute is a snappy, one-hour read that hammers home three components of creating an empowered team.    You help your employees grow when you…

  • Share information
  • Create freedom by establishing boundaries
  • Replace hierarchy with teams

When your employees are empowered, they start acting like they own the place.  When that happens, you can take the day off without getting a single cell phone call.

The book lays out the plan in simple terms, but warns that the real-life process is not so simple (hence the name of the book.)   How much information is too much?  How do you know where to put the boundaries?  While teamwork is terrific, there are times when the boss has to make the buck-stops-here decision.  As you practice imposing these elements into your company, be prepared to make some mistakes.  However, the whole messy process builds trust.  It demonstrates your willingness to distribute power throughout the organization.  Your employees are going to get that…and respect you for it.  Check it out.

Empty thy purse into thy head

Benjamin Franklin said, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him.  An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

Get thee to a bookstore (or a …and make an investment.