Blackwood Impact Group’s Top 9 Books Business Leaders Should Read

by Blackwood Impact Group

One of the most common traits all successful business leaders share is being well-read. All the modern greats, from Warren Buffett and Elon Musk to Sheryl Sandburg and Former First Lady Michelle Obama, are quick to share their habit as avid readers, as well as the books that were instrumental to their personal and business success.

At Blackwood Impact Group, we’re not quite ready to name ourselves in their company yet! However, reading certainly has been pivotal in our development as consultants and entrepreneurs. Since we consult in the areas of marketing, sales, and operations, we thought we’d shared the top three books in each category that shaped our operating philosophies, governed our practices, and help us win successes for ourselves and our clients.

Marketing Books We Recommend

Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

This book is all about how creators in different genres, such as books, film, and TV, create stores. Stories are not just for entertainment; they are also excellent learning tools for students of all ages. Stories can also be a powerful methodology for businesses to connect with their audience and customers.

Stories help people remember, react to, and retell information over and over. The way Donald Miller presents it, you will see stories as critical building blocks of your marketing and branding efforts.

We love this book because it is very detailed and gives a plethora of actionable steps to follow. The concepts are explained in a way that resonates with you and makes implementing the ideas seems doable. This book is particularly helpful if you are undergoing a rebranding or are just founding a new company.

Miller offers specific tips for a variety of applications including developing your website experiences, crafting your company culture, increase word mouth marketing, and getting referrals. By following his advice, you’ll find that no matter your industry, this framework will make all of your marketing and branding efforts easier to execute, regardless of the platforms and channels you use.

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

This book was written over 20 years ago, but it still has a lot of relevance for modern business. It is built around a simple concept: think of your marketing as the ocean you must swim in to fish for clients. A red ocean represents shark-filled, bloody waters where you’ll be fighting for customers. It is where you will face the most competition. It is hard to swim in these waters for long because if you’re not the biggest and fastest shark, you will likely get eaten too.

What you want is to find a blue ocean to swim in. This represents an uncharted territory where you will be able to attract clients easily. We love this book because it helps its readers to think outside of the box and come up with imaginative ways to position and market their business. The bluer your ocean is, the better it is for your business in the long term.

Guide to Managerial Communications by Mary Munter and Lynn Hamilton

This book is excellent for entrepreneurs who are the face of their business. It is also a good fit for salespeople and anyone who does a lot of public speaking or presentation giving. Within these pages, you will learn about the best ways to present your company through your visual and oral communications. We recommend this book because it gives rock-solid advice for vital elements in your process of marketing your business and selling your products and services.

Munter and Hamilton provide many opportunities for easy application of their ideas and plenty of action steps. You will learn how to write faster and more persuasively. You will also learn how to make all your presentations look amazing. Putting their tips into practice, you’ll elevate the style of your visual presentations, your emails, marketing collateral, proposals, and more. You’ll even receive public speaking tips. If you are looking to polish your communications and easily convince more people to work with you, this book will help you accomplish that goal.

Sales Books We Recommend

The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Brent Adamson & Matthew Dixon

If you are in sales or have responsibilities for pitching your company in any capacity, The Challenger Sale is a must-read. In this book, Adamson and Dixon share their categories of the different types of sellers. What we love about this book is that it goes against the way most people think about sales and what they think makes a good salesperson.

Their insights are not the obvious or conventional wisdom, so if you are ready to be challenged on how you close deals, this book will hook your attention. For Adamson and Dixon, the “challenger seller” is someone who is not a “yes-man” to the prospect.  Instead, they are consultants who help figure out the client’s business needs in order to make recommendations that are in the customer’s best interest. Even if the salesperson won’t directly benefit from their suggestions, their integrity makes them a customer-centric type of provider.

We highly recommend this book because it demonstrates how to be a consultative seller. It encourages entrepreneurs and service providers to remain curious throughout the sales process. You’ll be prompted to ask plenty of questions to get to the real root of your prospect’s business problem before you begin offering solutions so that you are truly meeting their needs.

Getting Naked: A Business Fable by Patric Lencioni

Getting Naked is a unique business book. For one, it is a true story about a consulting group, so it reads like a novel. Even though it doesn’t outline their processes in a traditional step-by-step learning fashion, you’ll still want to take notes. You’ll be whisked through their journey of how they began taking a different approach to selling from their industry peers. As they transformed into consultative sellers, the firm experienced a better internal culture, attracted a higher caliber of clients, and made more money in the end.

One of the things we appreciate most about this book is how transparent the authors are as they share their stories. They share lots of nuggets we can all learn from about how to shape a company’s culture, how to be vulnerable enough to ask themselves the tough questions, and how to be brave enough to make changes.

Prospect the Sandler Way by John Rosso

We can’t lie: here at Blackwood Impact Group, we are huge fans of Sandler sales methodologies! So we had to include at least one Sandler resource on the list. This book is great for sales teams. It shows how you can break down your big sales goals into the monthly, weekly, and daily activities needed to accomplish them.

It offers excellent advice on how to overcome negative attitudes and beliefs about the sales profession and your own self-talk so that you can achieve your personal best. Sales can be stressful, so you’ll also find practical tips for stress management.

One of the things we appreciate most about this book is that it is not a “fluffy,” motivational book. It is very action-oriented and gives plenty of detailed, practical advice and actionable steps. When you start experiencing your successes, you might just find yourself falling in love with sales all over again.

Operations Books We Recommend

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

Initially released in 1998, Michael Gerber published an updated, “revisited” version in 2004. This book is ideal for solo entrepreneurs or small companies where the owner and other core team members wear multiple hats. This book is designed to help small companies get out of “start-up” mode.  It will help you to build repeatable and measurable processes into your business so that no one person wears multiple hats in their business forever.

Gerber does a great job of showing solo business owners how to work “on” their business instead of “inside” of it. His goal is to help those who feel as though they traded a traditional job for one they now own.  As such, Gerber lays out a doable pathway for the entrepreneur to move beyond being a technician and doing all the work to being a visionary who is able to scale their ideas and reach.

Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey

“Entreleadership” is a portmanteau financial guru Dave Ramsey created out of the words “entrepreneur” and “leadership. This book is perfect for employees considering venturing off into entrepreneurship. But it is also excellent for existing business owners and their core teams to read as a group.

Ramsey talks about how to have an entrepreneurial mindset and the benefits of developing a culture of like-minded and actioned people. He shares how to be a motivating and encouraging leader that develops an awesome culture. Ramsey gives practical advice on how to build a dream team by attracting the right people and placing them into optimal positions where they will thrive. He also breaks down how to hire and fire people, plus provides advice on how to maintain your character and integrity in all of your business dealings.

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz

A popular statistic about new businesses is that most don’t last beyond the five-year mark. Part of the reason could be that many new business owners erroneously believe that it can take a long time to turn a profit. Enter Mike Michalowicz to turn that theory on its head.

In Profit First, Michalowicz shows how you can begin paying yourself early in your company’s history and how to ensure it doesn’t take years for you to turn a profit. This book gets down to the nitty-gritty of small business finance. You’ll receive detailed advice on how to physically set up multiple business accounts. You’ll learn how to manage them, plus determine what percentage to allocate towards taxes, marketing, salaries, and more.

This is an excellent book for employees who are considering entrepreneurship to read before they launch their companies. It is also ideal for young entrepreneurs whose profits have been limping along.  You will have the tools you need to make sound decisions about your business’s finances and run a lean operation.

Happy reading!