Stephen King has commented that ‘Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.’
It’s a lovely quote and reminds me to pick up a book and put down my phone on the train these days.
2019 has been a cracker so far for new business reading and this list was hard to curate as a result. But since last year’s list, these are the 4 books I’ve read that immediately stand out.
So here are my suggestions for your business summer reading enjoyment…
1) The Empty Raincoat by Charles Handy
This classic by Charles Handy is the ultimate unification of business and philosophy for me.
Having said 2019 was awesome for new books, let’s be clear, this book is not new. It harks from 1994 when Youssou N’Dour’s ‘7 Seconds’ and Ace of Base’s ‘The Sign’ were topping the charts.
For me though, it’s still an all-time classic. In many ways I think it deserves a big new marketing push because it’s so relevant to the business space we all find ourselves in today.
Handy has always written about businesses being a force for good in the lives of employees and customers and I’ve always attempted to live out his approach in the businesses I’ve founded.
His heart-warming approach unifies people and capitalism in a way I have not seen attempted before. (Largely by making businesses a little less capitalistic, but that’s a really good thing. And results in really capitalistically-successful businesses… Bear with me.)
In this book, Handy lays out a philosophy that reaches beyond the simple cogs and workings of companies, to paint a picture of an alternative reality where, as one commentator puts it “work ethics can contain a natural sense of continuity, connections and a sense of direction.”
The book’s title The Empty Raincoat comes from Handy’s entreaty that none of us should be reduced to simply being ’empty raincoats’. He says,
“We were not destined to be empty raincoats, nameless numbers on a payroll, role occupants, the raw material of economics or sociology, statistics in some government report…”
“If that is to be its price, then economic progress is an empty promise.” Handy believes that it is every individual’s challenge to fill their empty raincoat. And that we, as companies and business owners can support people with this challenge.
We often say to candidates we interview for roles here at Customer Thermometer that we want to embrace the whole person – their personality, traits and history. Those are the things that make people themselves. It’s why we don’t have a set of corporate values – we hire for aptitude and positivity. we don’t want people to feel they have to hang their soul up on a peg as they start work each morning. We get so much more if people are free to be themselves.
A modern classic and very enjoyable to boot.
2) How to Own the Room by Viv Groskop
So… not to over-hype this in any way, but this book changed my life in a single day.
I have always hated and actively avoided speaking to big crowds of people, especially big crowds of people I don’t know. I’ve read a ton of other books on the subject but the basic premise of them all seemed to be to breathe more, which didn’t help much.
I was still terrified of it, just overly-oxygenated.
This book on the other hand is brilliant. If you just want someone to tell you the stuff – the actual practical steps you can take – to get better on your feet then I highly recommend it.
Don’t underestimate the huge amount of work it takes to write, learn and prepare a good talk. But this book helps you even to understand and embrace that, and the preparation really grows your confidence.
After reading it I did three big speeches at 3 conferences in a month and by the third one I wasn’t even that nervous (kinda). The book is aimed at women but I think anyone who has a fear/hatred/complete boot-quaking-nightmare over speaking in public would benefit enormously from reading this book.
As Groskop says ‘You don’t have to be perfect… You just have to be a plausible, comfortable version of yourself, even if that isn’t perfectly poised.”
3) The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath
The latest book by Chip and Dan Heath, authors and academics, from Stanford and Duke Universities respectively.
I loved their take on how to create magic moments for staff and customers. Our tendency as managers is frequently to try to bake these things into our company cultures in a process-driven way. However the authors argue that we are probably removing some of the magic if we do these things regularly or try and we should embrace the ‘random acts of kindness’ and empowering our people to go that extra mile instead.
The Heath brothers cite a lovely example of a child who left his favourite cuddly toy at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. In order to assure him it was safe, the staff took photos of it in the spa with cucumber on its eyes, and sitting by the pool with a drink and a snack and emailed it to him.
Simple but a hassle to execute, but the goodwill and remarkability surrounding the story has ensured it has been shared, travelled and had
Don’t underestimate the difficulty of making “moments” happen. As the authors themselves observe, the concept is simple but the execution is hard. And most of the reason for this is, it’s no-one’s job to create those moments. To create a peak experience, one has to step outside of the day to day, in all the ways
We liked it so much we wrote a full review of The Power of Moments, featuring our top 5 takeaways and quotes, which you can read here.
4) Subscribed by Tien Tzuo
This book is excellent. Tzuo makes an incredibly convincing argument that we are all (or should be aiming to be) in the subscription business.
I have long been fascinated by the interaction and flywheel dynamic at work between product, service, customer and experience.
As soon as you start subscribing to something rather than buying it, service becomes even more important to your revenue and lifetime value. In fact, you won’t know how much a customer is ultimately worth to you until they leave you, which is a sobering thought.
As the creators of a customer feedback system, we were delighted to read how passionate Tzuo is that you should be putting customers at the heart of what you do, and changing everything to focus around them.
We have been such busy bees that we also wrote a full review of Subscribed here.
If you’ve got a top business read you want to recommend, just pop it in the comments below… Happy Reading! Later this week we’ll be publishing the Customer Thermometer team’s fiction picks :)
Written by Customer Thermometer’s founder, Lindsay.