What Types of Books Successful Executives-Entrepreneurs Read – And Why?

According to the 2004 report “Reading at Risk”, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, only 57% of American adults had ever read a book. Given that so few American’s read books, I became curious as to what types of books do successful entrepreneurs/executives read?

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet the founder of one of the few remaining black-owned cosmetics companies in America with an annual revenue of $30 million. More than 400 beauty products are manufactured by the company, including lipstick and shampoo. Sam Houston State University was visited by one of the company’s public relations officers to speak to students about black entrepreneurship. I was teaching entrepreneurship at the time.

Arif Bhalwani Net Worth was invited to North Carolina by Mastermind, a group that he called “Mastermind” after the meeting. All of the participants were either actively or interested in starting small businesses or being involved in them. All of us arrived in the afternoon and were given a warm reception. However, we were instructed to go to bed as our meeting would start at 4am the next morning. We all met in a large conference room at 4 am after a 3 AM wake-up call. After a warm “good morning”, we were instructed to read a classic guide on thinking and becoming rich. After everyone had read the book, around 10:30 am, the founder and president offered a commentary about the wealth creation process. As the only person of color in the room, it was a great honor to be able to share my experience and gain first-hand insight. The entire group was taken to the home of Mr. Smith, where they were given a tour. A relatively recent book on sales was found by his bedside. There were many shelves full of books that he clearly had read (they were marked up and underlined): All books were on sales strategy, and all books about management. I noticed that his bed was filled with motivational tapes about sales from well-known motivational speakers. I asked him why he was reading those books, when he was clearly already very successful in sales management. He said, “I play to what I’m good at.” I learn new perspectives and sharpen my skills by reading books about sales and management. I listen to music while driving to work. I carry those tapes with me. It keeps me ‘charged-up.’

The AACSB-International hosted a conference for business school deans in April 2010. The Chief Executive Officer of America’s top food companies was one of the speakers. After his fascinating talk, I reached the podium to say hi. His brief case was placed at the podium’s table. I noticed that his brief case contained a newly published management book. It had a paper clip inside it, which indicated that he was actively studying the book. Again, I wondered why one of America’s most successful executives was reading a “trade” book about management.

There are many more examples of successful entrepreneurs and executives I’ve met who were “top of their game”. They were clearly reading books about management, sales, and economics while on their travels. I was invited to dinner one evening with a former member the National Security Council, who had previously worked for President Clinton on the National Security Council. After his speech at Erskine College he revealed to the group of academics that President George W. Bush was an avid read. Liberal academics, all admitted Democrats, were stunned to learn that Bush had intelligent conversations over highly sophisticated books with this national security adviser (whom they trusted). The group was stunned when our dinner guest spoke about the 700-page titles of Bush’s books and the number of questions he raised over them. Many asked “How could he guy who couldn’t form a sentence comprehend the intellectual content of such sophisticated academic research tombs?” Bush was a different person in one-on-one conversations than he was in public. He reminded them that Reagan was intellectually poor, but his personal library of readings and extensive writings (including a diary detailing his presidency) surprised many of his critics.

This is the lesson: Successful politicians, executives, entrepreneurs, and others can build their success by reading books about their subjects. Reading gives them perspectives, wisdom, and “lessons” that will help them grow professionally.

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