What Are the Top Business Books MSPs Should Read?

What Are the Top Business Books MSPs Should Read?

By Special Guest
Stuart R. Crawford

Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying: “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”

This is exactly what we set out to do when we asked some of the most successful experts in the IT world what business books they recommend to those just starting out.

Let's take a look at what they had to say.

What Business and Management Books Do Top MSP Experts Recommend?

A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility by Mark Schwartz

This book recommendation comes to us from Generation IX’s Holden Watne, who calls it “a must-read book for all CIOs or those who work closely with CIOs."The book is authored by the CIO of AWS, Mark Schwartz. In it, Schwartz "outlines what it takes to be a modern-day CIO and how [readers] can guide [their] organizations to utilize technology in order to achieve business outcomes."

Notably, Walden does not recommend reading the famous, Jeff Bezos-recommended book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don't by Jim Collins until A Seat at the Table has been read: “I would skip it until the foundation of Schwartz's book are ingrained in how you think about organizational IT.”

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don't by Jim Collins

Even though Holden Watne does not recommend reading Good to Great before A Seat at the Table, it’s an any-time read favorite for some other IT experts like Advantage Industries’ Mike Shelah who says, “It is about not tolerating the status quo and constantly pushing to innovate and change for the better."

The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencionis

Don Baham of Kraft Technology Group recommends The Ideal Team Player, calling it “One of the best team leadership books I have read in the last few years.” The book focuses on looking for the right people to be part of their team by having them focus on three key areas: humility, hunger, and intelligence or common sense. If you’re looking at adding new people to your team, this may be a good book to read first.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

Mike Shelah of Advantage Industries says that Gino Wickman’s Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business is definitely a good place to start when it comes to business management books.

“The core principle of Traction” he says “is to run highly efficient meetings, develop & execute highly effective processes and build a staff who all believe in having the same goal. Specifically, each staff member understands how doing their role effectively benefits the entire company and the company goal.”

Ian Hansen of Philantech3 also had good things to say about Traction as well the other EOS Traction Series books, calling them "great for leaders [who want] to create a culture of accountability [and] bring tangible results and business growth to an organization."

Hansen specifically recommends reading Traction alongside The Four Disciplines of Execution “to get meaningful scorecards and focus on the correct lead and lag indicators for success. Together the EOS and 4DX systems are very powerful.”

Scaling Up by Verne Harnish

The top book recommended by Myles Keough of Spade Technology is Scaling Up by Verne Harnish, a book “about building a fast growth, dominating business, which is what most IT departments need to be within their organization.”

Unlike some of the other books on this list, Scaling Up has a unique and specific process it recommends for improving your business. Keough explains:

“The true value of this book is the process it teaches you for taking all of the distractions, shiny new technology toys, and requests from management, and [honing] them down to the 3 to 5 things you need to be focused on over the next 3 years, 1 year, and current quarter.”

Many MSPs don't realize how important it is to create a process like this — often because they are not used to working for businesses that think in this way. Still, “even if your organization does not have a formal business planning process, the IT department can and should have one,” says Keough. “Verne’s process forces you to step back and look at the big picture to make sure you are working on the most impactful things. The four key areas this process focuses on are people, strategy, execution, and cash.”

If you’ve been feeling lost with how fast technology changes — especially when you actually work in the tech industry — this book could be an excellent resource on how to slow down and forge a unique path that focuses on what matters. Says Keough: “Having a process for managing and forecasting these key areas is invaluable for any CIO.”

The CIO Paradox by Martha Heller

Martha Heller’s book is recommended by Palindrome Consulting’s Ilan Sredni, who claims there are “three core management functions that a CIO must master to achieve greatness and deliver exceptional value to an organization.” To Sredni, these functions are: building technical human talent, building a technology infrastructure, and strategically applying technology in order to achieve the organization's goals.

In some ways, these functions may end up presenting paradoxes for CIOs. However, says Sredni, “Martha Heller, working with CIOs and the CIO community over more than a decade provides insight into the conflicting forces within an organization and practical solutions for neutralizing these ‘paradoxical’ elements.”

Multipliers, Revised and Updated: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman

Baroan Technologies’ Guy Baroan recommends Multipliers to help “managers develop those around them to grow and to become independently able to complete the responsibilities they have on their own, in their own way, with very little direction from their leader. It gives insight into how to grow the capabilities and additional tasks, not by adding more staff but by empowering the existing staff and developing their capabilities.”

This is a unique and exceptional concept in this day and age — when an increasing number of businesses are looking outside their own employees and current technologies for the answer. As Baroan explains, often all you need to do is look at how you can improve your current staff.

The Bible

Not all books recommended by the MSP professionals we spoke to are from the “management" or "business" sections of the library. Alec Light of IT Network Solutions Group, for example, says that his boss Jimmy recommends reading the Bible for insight on best management practices. “The Bible is Jimmy's go-to book on management,” he says. “He leads our team with a servant leader attitude."

The Power of Books and Reading

There is no end to what you can learn by reading. No matter what it is you want to learn or get better at, there will inevitably be a wealth of books on the subject and related topics. Often, the true difficulty is wading through the more non-helpful books and finding those that can actually teach you something. We hope to have provided you with just such a list above.

As Guy Baroan of Baroan Technologies says: “Anyone can learn anything through books. Replace news and other time-consuming things with reading, and your life will be more fulfilled.”

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