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5 Must-Read Leadership Books for Shop Owners

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Working “on” the business rather than “in” the business has always been an aspirational goal for many shop owners. And with the start of a new year, it’s likely many shop owners have that atop their to-do list for 2022. 

One aspect that often goes missing when thinking about working “on” the business, is working on yourself. As the shop owner, you are the head of the company. In many ways, you are the business. So working on the business means working on yourself. And one of the best ways to work on yourself is through reading. 

So to help shop owners continue to work on themselves, FenderBender tracked down book recommendations from inside and outside the industry that will help shop owners become better leaders. 


How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnigie. Recommended by Kevin Conner, former owner of Conner Brothers Collision Centers. 


The Summary

Considered one of the most popular books ever written with more than 30 million copies sold since it was published in 1939, Carnegie details 30 principles spread across the four-part book on how to build relationships and understand human behavior.  

“The book is packed with stories that illustrate his points on topics such as how to make folks feel valued and respected,” Conner says. Having left the collision repair business, Conner says he still continues to use the takeaways he found in this book now working as a farmer and sees it as an essential read for any leader, regardless of if they are in the collision repair industry.  

Conner’s main takeaway 

"The one point that has stuck with all these years was when he talked about a person’s name: ‘A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.’ I am absolutely horrible about remembering people’s names.  I can’t say the book changed my life and I have photographic memory today regarding names, but what I can say is that it made me aware of a deficiency in myself that helps me when I meet new people.  

“There are many other points Mr. Carnegie makes in his book that will help anyone be able to navigate life easier.  It is an old book with time tested points we can learn from.  I think it should be on everyone’s shelf.”


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Recommended by Ken Cook, collision repair instructor at Norwalk High School. 


The Summary

Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck discusses how changing your mindset is a powerful, yet simple, tool that can enable growth and ensure a leader and its followers are set up to flourish. 

Cook recommends the book to his students, and implements the teachings of the book in his own work, both as a teacher and coach. 

“It’s a fascinating read all about perseverance in life and how talent can take you so far,” Cook says. 

Cook’s main takeaway

“We place our value system on outcomes, not effort. If we focus on effort, we can truly grow,” Cook says. 

In his coaching of SkillsUSA, he does not give the students the goal of winning—at least not right away. At first it is just about getting their feet wet. Then it's to become contenders. Then, maybe they could win. But all the while, progression and effort are emphasized, not the result. 

“Everyone focuses on the best this or the best that, I just focus on being the best Ken Cook,” he says. “I only compete against myself.”


The Book - Good to Great series by Jim Collins. Collins’ fifth book, in particular, Great by Choice, was recommended by Keith Myers, CEO of Eurotech Refinishing and Collision.


The Summary

In the fifth of his six-book series, Collins explores one central question: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?

Collins and his colleague Morten Hansen enumerate the principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous and fast-moving times

“I believe that you should read all of the books, and especially Great by Choice, because it deals with chaos, which nobody would doubt we’re going through this time,” Myers says. “The premise behind this book is that instability is chronic, uncertainty is permanent.”

Myers’ main takeaway

Myers has come back and read each of the books multiple times, each time pulling out a new takeaway than the last. To him “they’re just based on principles that really work.” 

With the current state of the collision industry, especially with what everyone dealt with for the last two years, Myers sees these books as a perfect way to learn how to deal with chaos and thrive in it. 


The Book - The Yesterwreck: The History of the Collision Repair Industry In America by Gary Ledoux. Recommended by Marie Peevy, owner of Automotive Training Coordinators.  


The Summary 

Written by industry veteran Gary Ledoux, the book lays out a detailed history of the collision repair industry. It discusses how businesses got started and how the advancement of technology propelled it to the industry we know now. 

Peevy recommends the book for longtime owners and up-and-comers alike, seeing it as an essential read. 

“It is a phenomenal book,” she says, “and what’s great about it is that you can pick it up at any point. From segment to segment or chapter to chapter, you don’t need to read it in order.”

Peevy’s main takeaway

Understanding the past is a great way to predict the future, Peevy says. By having a full grasp of what the industry was like and how it evolved, it should make it easier to stay on the cutting edge for the next advancements. 

“Especially with how we got here and how everything started, it’s really given me a better understanding of the industry,” she says. 


The Book: How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower's Biggest Decisions by Susan Eisenhower. Recommended by Darrell Amberson, president of operations for LaMterry’s collision, a Minnesota-based MSO. 


The Summary

Written by Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, the book documents how Eisenhower led America through pivotal moments in history, including D-Day, the Korean War and the Red Scare. 

“Ike was a strategic, not an operational leader, who relied on a rigorous pursuit of the facts for decision-making. His talent for envisioning a whole, especially in the context of the long game, and his ability to see causes and various consequences, explains his success as Allied Commander and as President.”  

The Takeaway

“I’m fascinated by history and leadership attributes,” Amberson said, adding that he’s read about some of history’s top leaders like Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincloln, Ulysses S. Grant, and others. “It’s a fantastic look into the leadership of one of our top leaders.”

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