I struggled to write this post, because frankly, I LOVE business books. I mean I really love them. I read about 1 every two weeks (well, technically I don’t read them, I listen to them.) If you check out my Audible account it’s pretty ridiculous the number of books I have in my library.
But I took this week off from reading business books, because technically, I’m on vacation.
So why am I posting when I should be on vacation? The break I’m giving myself from business books made me think. Maybe we should ALL put the business books down for a moment.
Because they can totally drive you C-R-A-Z-Y and your staff even crazier.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking. Business books, especially the best sellers, are innovative, they are the wave of the future, they present new ways of thinking and enhancing your business. Why wouldn’t you want to learn from them?
The answer: because they can destroy your business.
Here’s the thing: Few people I have met have the same filter that I do when it comes to business books. Maybe it is because I read so many, but I read them out of curiosity rather than look for the game-changing aspect of them. I might pick up a tidbit here and there but I rarely ever integrate them into my business or my recommendations to my clients. To me, they are just a different perspective.
What typically happens to our clients, though, is different. The client will read a business book and, excited about the concept presented in the book, will come back to the organization and want it implemented…. yesterday.
This disruption can be catastrophic, and the change temporary…. Until the client reads the next best seller and wants that implemented too…
Here’s what I’ve found: there are so few business books that provide real solutions to the fundamental business question we all have.
The question is this: How do I make money, with as little effort and cost as possible and turn this business into something that I can sell or hang on to and provide a nice living for myself and my family.
That, my friends, is a very, very complicated question, that cannot be written about in 300 pages or less. Here are a few reasons why business books fall short of helping owners get the answers they need:
They only answer part of the question. What I find with business books is that they all try to answer part of the question above, but their methodologies for answering their part vary, and very often conflict with each other. This leaves the average business book reader excited, confused, and energized… but without a comprehensive plan.
They make the owner doubt their current course. We work hard to set a plan for our clients, as do most of our client’s other advisers in the legal, marketing and HR fields. When a client reads a business book they begin to doubt these plans, because frankly they can seem dated and slow. You know what we tell them? That’s right. They may be dated, and they are often deliberately slow. They are dated because they work. They are slow because good, solid change comes with time and thought and planning– none of which can be rushed.
They oversimplify the solution. Most books have a “formula for success.” Just follow the plan, they say, and you too can have miracles happening in your business. I wish it was that easy. No matter what research they have to back up their solution, they have probably selected the data that most convincingly supports their hypothesis in the book. Through carefully crafted worksheets and exercises they package up a solution nicely with a bow so the owner thinks it is simple to roll out to the team.
One-size-fits-all doesn’t fit your business. The author of the business book may have been an academic, a journalist or maybe someone writing from real-life experiences. The thing is, they aren’t sitting in our clients’ businesses, knowing all of their individual challenges. Their solutions, often glaze over some of the consequences of implementing the solution, causing havoc in other areas of the business.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some really great books out there. I have a treasured few that I find I go back to often. (Email me if you want my list.) The critical point is if you are going to read business books, take them with a grain of salt. Think about the impact of your solution on every aspect of your business, and use your advisers who know you and your current situation before you create a new initiative that will have your staff rolling their eyes and huffing behind your back…. “Here we go again…”
What business books were game changers for you?