Books that Inspire Business Philosophies
Short, quick and to-the-point books are ways for business leaders to learn new strategies and use them in their day-to-day business.
When leaders get comfortable in their routines, a step outside the box and a quick read of a 100-page book might be the solution to thinking more creatively.
Four leading industry operators share their favorite books that influenced how they approached their business philosophy. From starting small and reading a chapter every few days to finding only one or two books that resonated, operators share their key takeaways.
The Book: Leading the Starbucks Way by Joseph Michelli
The Leader: Kevin Conner is the owner of Conner Brothers Collision Centers, a 10,000-square-foot collision repair shop in Chester, Va. Conner runs the staff of nine at the shop, which produces $1.2 million in annual revenue.
The Takeaway: Conner Brothers Collision Centers has gone from a strict profit-centered shop to one that cares about their customer’s experience. After reading Leading the Starbucks Way, Conner saw the company’s growth was based on taking focus away from their personal growth and putting the focus on the customer. Starbucks went from being privately owned franchisees to a corporate-owned business, Conner says. So, he took those lessons and created a type of service that emphasized the customer comes first.
Now, Conner says he has come to realize every person matters. From the insurance adjuster to the customer, every person matters to the success of the business. Every time a new customer walks into the shop, Conner makes sure his team knows that it is important to listen “with intent” to understand, he says.
The shop also follows the book’s principles that “everything matters”, “surprise and delight the customer,” “embrace resistance” and “leave your mark.”
The staff offers customers something to drink when they arrive, offers to entertain children while the parent discusses the estimate, and always put their personal phones on vibrate during customer interactions.
In order to gauge the shop’s customer service experience and see if the shop did indeed leave a mark, Conner turned to Google. Reviews left on Google are more honest than any solicited customer review survey, he says.
“I can’t say that we always get 5 stars but I can say that 9.9 times out of 10, we do,” he says.
The Book: The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
The Leader: Kyle Wharff is owner of Ace Sullins CARSTAR in Miramar, Fla. The shop is on track to produce an annual revenue of $2 million in 2018.
The Takeaway: Wharff was introduced to The One-Minute Manager in 2007 by a leader at his CARSTAR orientation. The same year, Wharff joined the CARSTAR network. He took away the message that a leader should be straight to the point with employees, he says. The One-Minute Manager outlines how a leader can get across any idea or thought within a one-minute conversation. A manager can get across a goal, a reprimand or praise within one minute.
“Whatever you’re trying to get across to an employee or just in general, do it in one minute,” Wharff says.
Be specific; don’t sugarcoat if you’re mad or upset about something, Wharff says. By getting straight to the point, the team is able to move on to other jobs in the “fast-paced collision industry.”
And handling praise or criticism in 1–2 minutes enables the staff to realize the subject matter is closed and dealt with after the conversation ends.
With a staff of nine employees, Wharff has seen very little turnover since 2007, he says. His lead body technician has been at the shop for 14 years, his painter has been there for 10 years and his detailer for eight years.
Wharff is looking to implement the strategy in daily “release” or production meetings, he says.
The Book: Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon
The Leader: Juliet Lightner is body shop manager for Major’s Select Collision Center, a $2 million shop in Mechanicsburg, Penn.
The Takeaway: Lightner says her business philosophy is simple: She is in the business of customer service. Her team has one common goal and it is a shared responsibility to help the customer.
The book provided insight into how she could take her business from being a service provider to providing a personal relationship for the customer, ultimately creating a loyal customer base. Loyal customers are less sensitive to price competition, more forgiving of small glitches, and, ultimately, become "walking billboards" who will happily promote your brand. In Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit, Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon reveal the secrets of providing online and offline customer service so superior it nearly guarantees loyalty.
By taking time out of her morning commute to listen to an audiobook, Lightner spends an hour of her time gaining extra insight into customer service relationships.
She says she has learned corrective actions to take in case she made a mistake. There is a difference in having your business be a service provider to having your business focus on a personal relationship with the customer.
“It is easy to get sucked into believing that fixing cars is our main job,” she says. “Our main job is to serve our customers.”
Lightner and her team focuses on safety first and what the customer needs beyond the repair.
Since implementing this strategy, she’s had more 5-star reviews in which customers point out the team handled the repair while keeping the customer 100 percent out of the process of contacting the insurance company.
The Book: Win the Moment: Win Those Critical Moments That May Come Only Once! by Mike Jones
The Leader: Shannon Sunday, co-owner of Don’s Body Shop in Olathe, Kan., runs the shop’s human resources and accounting departments. The shop has an annual revenue of $2.9 million and a total staff of 16, including her and her husband, Grant.
The Takeaway: The 96-page book has taught Shannon Sunday to first focus on fixing her approach and attitude before attempting to correct her employees, she says. The chapter titled, “Whining Not Winning” kick-started some new strategies, including an idea to create a bonus-pay structure in the future.
She has been able to implement strategies from the book and says she chooses to start a new strategy every couple of days as she goes along and reads the book. For example, she has been able to approach her parts person and confront him more often if there is a parts return mishap.
“I’ve learned that I should confront him more face to face because he responds better to that,” Sunday says.
And she has started to approach her employees with a more positive attitude. In order to start her day out on a positive note and be held accountable for what she wants to accomplish, Sunday completes a list of eight items before 8 a.m. Those items include greeting her employees each morning and asking how their nights went.
Overall, Sunday says she has been inspired to take her knowledge that change begins personally to another level and work toward a goal to become a certified public accountant. She now attends night classes after work at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus in Overland Park, Kan.