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Shop Leaders Share Their Top Business Books

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Inspiration can come from anywhere. Whether it’s from formal training, going to a movie or talking to a trusted friend, there’s no shortage of ways to learn how to become a better leader. And one of those ways just might be from a good management book.

From ideas about culture and people to process and operations, books can be a source for helping your shop stand out and thrive.

Four industry leaders share their most inspirational reads that shaped the leaders they’ve become today.

The Book: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

The Leader: Ron Nagy, owner of Nagy’s Collision Centers in Orville, Ohio,  and immediate past chairman of the Automotive Service Association

The Takeaway: Nagy is a self-described book lover: he participates in multiple book clubs, regularly holds book discussions in his shop, and in his spare time, can often be found with a book in hand. Of the many books he says have inspired personal and professional growth, the one that has left the biggest impact is Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

“I really think it’s why we have built such a strong team and a strong company,” he says.

Lencioni uses a leadership fable to break down—in pyramid form—the five reasons why teamwork fails: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results.

“Those five points on the pyramid are what build teamwork,” Nagy says.

Nagy says the importance of trust has become especially crucial in building his team.

“What that means is that you should be able to say anything to anybody in a meeting and they don’t get upset,” he says. “By going through this book, our executive meetings are completely different than they were two years ago. You can’t be afraid to bring anything up. Now there’s so much trust that I can ask them to tell me what they think and they will.”

Nagy says that as a result of working through and discussing the book with his team, it’s not only produced the most productive meetings he has ever had, it’s also increased accountability and passion for the business. He is now having all employees read the book and uses workbooks as discussion tools.

“There is no one who knows everything,” he says. “That trust is such a foundation.”

The Book: Good to Great by Jim Collins

The Leader: Todd Zigrossi, president and co-owner of Nu-Look Collision, a 12-location MSO in New York

The Takeaway: Todd Zigrossi says that fundamental concepts are called so for a reason: They’re a necessary base core. As he’s grown Nu-Look Collision from one location to 12 with more than 130 employees, Zigrossi says he’s been reminded again and again of the importance of sticking to core fundamentals. It’s why he touts Good to Great as an influential leadership read.

“I think there are a lot of books that come out now with crazy concepts. And while it’s good to keep an open mind, it’s sometimes dangerous if you try to adapt something without the fundamentals being in place to begin with,” he says.

In Good to Great, Collins describes how companies transition from being average companies to great companies with sustainable results and why some companies fail to make the cut.

Collins devised a list of seven core characteristics of companies that went from “good to great,” including a focus on the right people in the right place, confronting the brutal facts, “level 5” leadership, a culture of discipline and technology accelerators.

“The key items for me are the continuous improvement and respect for people,” Zigrossi says. “It’s so fundamental, but without respect, you’re really going to struggle to get to that next level.”

The Book: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The Leader: Melissa Miller, national director of operations, CARSTAR

The Takeaway: As national director of operations at CARSTAR, Miller says she’s always acutely aware of one facet of the company: culture.

“Despite the age of technology and emails and working over phone or text message, there is still one thing that is ultimately important: the human element of face to face,” she says. “The physical human contact is what a lot of people struggle with.”

To work with her team of field directors on soft skills, Miller turned to Dale Carnegie’s more than 60-year-old book of time-tested advice. The book, which outlines how to handle people, make them like you, inspire change and win others to your way of thinking, is a crash course on overcoming barriers of communication.

Miller says those soft skills are not only necessary for effective leadership, but also translate to customer service and building partnerships within your company.

“It really shows you body language styles, communication styles, making sure you’re not always criticizing a process and keeping an open mind,” Miller says. “It really focuses on the interpersonal skills to influence people.”

The Book: The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

The Leader: Paul Gange, president and COO, Fix Auto USA

The Takeaway: There is no such thing as an “overnight success,” says Gange. What might appear to the world as instant success is, in fact, usually preceded by years of preparation, diligence and execution.

It’s that diligence that Jeff Olson expounds upon in The Slight Edge; consistency, bit by bit, will compound into great success.

“It’s like that guy who gets up every morning and says, ‘I’m going to do 25 pushups and 25 sit-ups every day, no matter what,” says Gange. “The first day, you see nothing. The first week, you see nothing. You’ve just  got pain in your arms and stomach. But by the end of the year, you’ve probably lost 12 pounds and your abs are stronger. That happens not because you’re doing 2,000 pushups a day, but because you’re doing 25 every single day. It’s the concept of the compounding effect.”

The compounding effect struck a chord with Gange, who drives the growth and oversees strategy as president of Fix Auto. To continue growing and expanding as a company, it is necessary to take small steps every day.

“My goal is to fulfill our mission, which is to serve the independent repairer,” he says. “That’s why I like this book. The message in business is to do one little thing every day. But do it repetitively and it will compound into great success.”

The Book: Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper when They Create Widespread Empathy by Dev Patnaik

The Leader: Marcy Tieger, owner, Symphony Advisors LLC

The Takeaway: The No. 1 reason most employees leave a business is due to their owner, boss or manager, Tieger says. In her years consulting with shops and shop operators, she’s seen the same problem time and time again.

“Part of it is that [employees] really feel like people don’t care about them and they don’t see the meaning in what they do,” she says.

Wired to Care, Tieger says, helps create a level of introspection for leaders of an organization, helping them to regularly evaluate what they’re asking of their respective teams, how they’re asking it of them and whether they are modeling this behavior themselves.

Bottom line: This book helps to teach business leaders how to operate with empathy—how to demonstrate to employees that the business not only depends on their work, but also cares about them personally.

“I’ve spoken about these ideas before and I’ve joked that, in most shop environments, we are regularly called upon to know about these qualities, but only when it comes to customers, because they lead to good CSI scores,” Tieger says. “It can seem totally exhausting to treat employees the same way, but that needs to be the goal of every business.

“This book helps to create a mindfulness and recognition that it’s not just that you have to lead, but it’s how you lead.” 

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