This is a guest post from small business consultant and strategist, Zane Safrit.
Leaders are readers – Jim Rohn
We are all leaders. You could be reading this post during the first hour of your first day at your first job…ever. And you still are a leader. You are the leader for your career, your family, your church, your community, your pick-up basketball team on Thursday nights….What are you reading?
I read a lot. I always have read voraciously. This habit started in grade school. The habit continues today. Before I said “I-Do” I made sure my now wife understood to never leave me alone in a bookstore unless our budget allowed me to walk out with a lot of books. She laughed, then. She doesn’t now.
My reading focus now, as you would expect, is on the business category. And it has been for the past 10 years. What have I read? A lot. While the majority of the books offered value, I can’t remember their titles off-hand. Here are the three books that offered the most valuable solutions then, when I first read them, and now as I continue to expand my reading list.
Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force,
by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba http://www.creatingcustomerevangelists.com/
The term customer evangelists has become an accepted part of business lexicon. Say it and everyone understands. Use it to describe your goals and everyone nods in agreement. You see it regularly bandied about in blog posts, tweets on twitter, facebook, youtube…
This was not the case 7 years ago when the authors, Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, first published the book with its research and case studies.
7 years ago was when I found them, their book, their purpose. As CEO of a small company I had watched as traditional advertising no longer generated any results. ANY. I struggled to re-orient, re-articulate, a strategy, a purpose even find a tactic that worked.
Their book, their blog, reminded me of our company’s power then: making customers happy. All of that and their friendship showed me the path to reorient all of our marketing resources away from ads and agencies and towards employees and customers. Sales growth resumed, cash-flows flowed, conversions rose, testimonials accumulated.
The Smarter Interviewer: Tools and Techniques for Hiring the Best, by Brad Smart (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.)
Ben and Jackie showed me the goal. Now I needed the resources to reach it. The primary resources to create customer evangelists are employees. Employees drive a brand. Employees create and deliver the experiences that create customer evangelists.
I needed a dependable resource, one whose results could be duplicated by anyone in the company, to regularly hire only A-Rated employees.
Brad Smart provided it with his CIDS interview. CIDS stands for Chronological In-Depth Survey. Brad describes in great detail the philosophy of a CIDS interview as well as the series of questions to complete it. A CIDS interview offers a systematic method to survey a candidate in-depth on the patterns of decision-making throughout their career.
Maybe that description makes you yawn. The results from its use will not. 4 successful hires and 1 bad hire avoided.
Being Strategic, by Erika Andersen (www.beingstrategic.com)
This book is about…the future. The first two books were about today. Today’s goal is creating customer evangelists. Ben and Jackie in their book and blog, describe that goal and its metrics and offer examples of companies who have reached that goal. Today we have a tool, the CIDS interview, to bring us the resource we need to reach that goal: A-rated employees.
Now what? As a leader, of business or church, school or community, family or over-50 basketball team, we constantly look to the future. We ask ourselves where do we need to go on the next play, the next week, month, year.
And Being Strategic offers a remarkably thorough and concise approach to designing and defining your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future. But this is much more than mere day-dreaming. The tools, the steps, included in her approach to Being Strategic insures you have a systematic plan for gathering resources, identifying obstacles, being fair in your assessments (her term is being fair witness) and it is one that can and should be used at each stage of your progress.
If that is not enough she illustrates her approach with a fable. Great book. I reference it all the time in my plans and with guests on my radio show.
These three books stand the test of time and my reading desires by standing close at hand at all times.
What are your three books?