Summer Reading List 2019

It’s been a few years since I’ve compiled a suggested list of business books to read over the summer (and beyond). Professional development need not always require enrolling in a semester-long course or workshop. Reading is a gateway to so many positive experiences, from learning to pleasure. If you don’t want to buy books, visit your local library and check one out, at no charge. A library card is a good investment.

  1. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big (Scott Adams)

For Scott Adams, creator of the world-famous Dilbert cartoons, life’s path wound through many jobs, failed startups, useless patents he applied for and countless other indignities. In his memoir, Adams shares lessons learned about keeping himself motivated, healthy and happy while racking up all the failures that ultimately led to his success. Dilbert, a clever gallows humor cartoon that allowed him to share his failures and frustrations with the world, has been in circulation for nearly 30 years.

  1. Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional’s Guide to Building a Practice (Alan Weiss)

Having now written 49 books on the subject, it is reasonable to regard Alan Weiss, Ph.D. as a consulting guru. If you are consulting, or thinking about packaging yourself as such and searching for clients, Weiss is recommended reading. His insights and recommendations are based on lived experiences of starting and operating an international management and organizational development firm.

As the book’s title implies, Weiss claims that he has consistently produced over $1 million/year in revenues. Although his background is in management consulting, his practical advice applies to all types of consulting. The book contains an abundance of ideas. The focus is on helping existing consultants take their practice to the next level, but he includes advice for beginners as well.

 3. Dare to Lead (Brene Brown)

Brown is an Oprah-endorsed author who gets invited to participate on the global mega-speaker circuit, TED Talks included. In the book, she dispels common myths about modern-day workplace culture and shows us that true leadership requires vulnerability, values, trust and resilience.

Brown asks the reader to think back to the most important leadership role one has had. Were you the captain of your high school football team or cheer leading squad? Or did you take on a leadership role only as an adult, such as overseeing a business unit with dozens, or maybe hundreds of employees? Whatever it may have been, there’s a high probability that you fell into one of the many leadership traps laid out in modern culture.

You may have thought you had to look strong and could never admit to a failure. You may have avoided telling the truth because you didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. These things often happen, especially in the office, because that’s how leadership is portrayed in our society. However, we usually figure out later, when it’s too late to make amends, that the exact opposite behavior would have yielded the best result.

  1. The Breakthrough Speaker: How to Build a Public Speaking Career(Smiley Poswolski)

“If you want to get paid to speak, you have to speak about something that matters and something that other people are passionate about. You need to speak about something that other people (specifically people that are in a position to book you to speak) are obsessed with. This is the single most important lesson to keep in mind when building a paid speaking business.”  —Smiley Poswolski

  1. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Simon Sinek)

“The limbic brain is responsible for all our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It is responsible for all human behavior and all of our decision-making. It has no capacity for language.”  —Simon Sinek

When we communicate starting with the why, we speak directly to the section of the brain that controls decision-making and we use our limbic brain. In contrast the language center of the brain, the neocortex, allows one to rationalize those decisions. The limbic brain has no capacity for language and that is why it is so often difficult to explain one’s true feelings. When we make a decision that feels right, we frequently have a difficult time explaining why we did what we did.

  1. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It (Michael E. Gerber)

The book explains why 80% of small businesses fail and details how to ensure that your venture doesn’t wind up in that group. Gerber says that building a company based on systems and not just on the skill set and labor of a single individual is the secret because having great technical skills does not mean you know how to run a business. Gerber points to this misconception as the entrepreneurial original sin. Being a great baker, graphic artist, or writer does not necessarily make you an expert at running a business in that industry.

Once you start a business, you’re not just the person doing the technical work; you’re also the CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO and a whole bunch of other things. You must bring in customers, track and manage finances, create advertising material, answer customer requests, set a strategy and, and, and…

  1. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant (W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne)

Are you tired of competing head-to-head with other companies? Do you feel like your strategy differs little from the competition surrounding you? You may need to redefine the rules of competition by defining a new strategy. The book describes two types of playing fields:

  • Red oceans, where competition is fierce in bloody waters, strategy centers around beating rivals, and wins are often zero-sum.
  • Blue oceans, where a market space is new and uncontested, and strategy centers around value innovation.Blue ocean strategy pushes company leaders to create new industries (well…!) and break away from the competition. In short, you create a blue ocean by focusing on the factors that customers really care about and discarding factors they don’t appreciate. This often attracts a new type of customer the industry hadn’t previously encountered and so the market grows.
  • The hard part is actually finding a reasonable strategy and executing it successfully. This book contains plenty of examples of successful blue ocean strategies, and it teaches you how to discover and execute them.
  1. The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence (Kerry Goyette)

Being in touch with the emotions of those around you is key to developing strong, reliable relationships. Kerry Goyette’s guide to upping your EQ is a powerful tool for understanding how you can trnslate emotional skills into valuable business practices. The techniques included show you how to navigate change, find the root causes of problems and make better decisions.

9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey)

Increasingly, people look for quick fixes. They see a successful person, team, or organization and ask, “How do you do it? Teach me your techniques!” But these “shortcuts” that we look for, hoping to save time and effort and still achieve the desired result, are simply band-aids that will yield short-term solutions. They don’t address the underlying condition.

Covey advises us to allow ourselves to undergo paradigm shifts, to change ourselves fundamentally and not just alter our attitudes and behaviors on the surface level so that we can achieve true change. Start with a clear destination in mind. Covey says we can use our imagination to develop a vision of what we want to become and use our conscience to decide what values will guide us. More than 15 million copies of this classic have been sold.

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)

Since it first appeared in 1936, this beloved book has sold more than 15 million copies. Dale Carnegie developed courses that became famous in the disciplines of sales, corporate training, public speaking and interpersonal skills, from networking to business best practices to Emotional Intelligence. Carnegie will teach you actionable skills such as six ways to make people like you, twelve ways to win people over to your way of thinking, nine ways to change people without arousing resentment and much more.


Thanks for reading (and read a book very soon, please!),


Image: The Bibliophiles, 1879 Luis Jimenez y Aranda (Spain, 1845 – 1928), Private collection

Publish or Perish

Today, Friends, I have for you the wild and wooly tale that will explain why I have not posted for the last four weeks,  after reaching out to you every single Tuesday since I opened this blog in June 2009.  Be advised that I was not in Sardinia living la dolce vita.  I’ll present the tale in chapters, since the action centers on writing.

Chapter  One opens on July 12.  I was ready to publish bright and early at 8:00 AM,  when I discovered that I could not access my account.  Wordpress had locked me out.  Neither could I reset my password, because it’s connected to an email account that has been overstuffed with messages for two years and frozen by the provider until I get ambitious and do some deleting.

A frantic search of the forums brought me to an email address wherein I could access a live person and learn why my blog was locked. I was told that in 2012 (!), LinkedIn had a data breach (I remember being asked to change that account password),  so four years later WordPress leaps into action and shuts down all WordPress members who have LinkedIn accounts (millions, I would imagine).

When I politely asked why WordPress members who affiliate with LinkedIn simply did not receive an email to advise us to adjust our passwords within, say, the next two logins to prevent being locked out, I received no answer.  Oh, and if I couldn’t access the appropriate email account, I could always refer back to the original URL link to this blog that is contained in an email that was sent to me by WordPress seven years ago.  Find a seven-year old email? Are they serious?

So there I was, with a post all ready for you, Friend, and no way to publish.  Apparently, the folks at WordPress felt it would be fun to lock the account on publishing day  (and I’m certain that was by design; now you know why I hate techies).  But maybe my blocked WordPress account was a blessing in disguise, because since early June, I’ve been immersed in a book editing project that has taken over my life and that opens Chapter Two.

The book is about a women’s club that is celebrating its 125th anniversary.  The author, a club member,  is an academic who’s written in the neighborhood of two dozen books. The book tells the history of the club against the backdrop of certain social, economic and political events that happened since its founding in 1890: the Gilded Age (think of today’s billionaires and income inequality); the Progressive Age (a reaction to the Gilded Age; think Bernie Sanders’ run for the presidency); the fight for women’s suffrage (a woman running for president); and the rise of women’s colleges and clubs (Lean In ). I was brought in to be the photo editor, but I was as well the de facto developmental editor and copy editor, because the book needed both and there was no one else to do it.  This is a self-publishing project.

In Chapter Three, I take on the role of publisher in addition to being three editors rolled into one.  The club is the official publisher in this venture,  but guess who’s done all the publishing house work? I even wore the hat of literary lawyer when on the fourth Saturday of July,  I sat at my computer reading up on intellectual property and copyright law and then ordered those two long sets of numbers that legally must appear on the copyright page of every book published, plus the bar code.  I also submitted the book to the Library of Congress (that is usually done before publication, so that you get to list the catalogue number on the title page) and two days later was so happy to learn that the title was accepted.

Chapter Four is the tale of my various editing functions.  I learned that developmental editing is surgery: get into those sentences and paragraphs and realign or remove until the story is a good one and flows smoothly.  Copy editing (and its little sister, proofreading) ensures that sentence structure is correct and spelling and punctuation are accurate.  Photo editing entails finding photos for the book that illustrate and support the story and then submitting them to the author for approval.

No, Friend, I was most definitely not sunning and swimming in Sardinia with the beautiful people.  Instead,  I was Googling the names of historical figures who were named in the book and filling in quick descriptions of who they were, so that readers could better understand the story the author wanted to tell because the author, a history writer, apparently didn’t feel that such explanations were necessary.

I also searched for the given names of some two dozen women mentioned in the book who were known only as Mrs. HIM (as the author puts it).  Why the author neglected to give proper credit to those amazing trailblazing women,  I’ll never understand. There were only two names that I could not find: Mrs. Clarence Burns,  a well-bred, high-achieving lady who once lived at 1 West 83rd Street in Manhattan and who in 1903 wrote a cheeky little article entitled Prominent Clubwomen Must be Good Housekeepers  that appeared in Collier’s Magazine.

The other unnamed woman was Madame (de) Sumichrast, one half of a social-climbing couple who were leaders of the Victorian Club of Boston (him) and the Victorian League in London (her).  The surname they shared was originally Sumichrast,  but they saw fit to add the  “de”  when he was named to the faculty of Harvard University’s French Department.

Madame de Sumichrast lectured in French literature at least once at Harvard, meaning that she was a highly educated woman,  but she must have felt it proper for a wife to subsume her identity in deference to her husband’s,  as did Mrs. Burns.  So frustrating, so sad.  Not even the magnificent Sophia Smith Library at Smith College, which has a comprehensive collection of information on women’s organizations, was able to uncover the identities of those two women.

However, a librarian at the Sophia Smith Collection most generously found and sent to me a 1905 photo of the officers of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, three of whose members were founders of the club that is the subject of the book.  What an excellent photo it is,  one of  nine superb vintage photos that I brought to the book in my role as photo editor.

Chapter Five, like the first chapter, holds frustration.  Wordpress is the villain of Chapter One and the book’s author is the antagonist in Chapter Five.  As I noted,  the book is a self-publishing project and that means all hands on deck.  The author,  unfortunately, did not see it that way.  When there was copy editing work to do, or when the request to register the book’s copyright was made, she simply refused to respond to emails.  When she did step in to do some work, she was controlling and obstructionist.  Too much time was spent needlessly rewriting the photo captions, for example.  A photo entitled Christmas greetings 1939, and captioned in that way by me, had to be rewritten to read Christmas 1939. The Notes page that I was asked to create, labeled Notes at the center top of an otherwise blank page, as is the custom,  was deemed insufficient and so the author spent precious time rewriting it to include her name and that of the book.

But, on the first Saturday of August at just after 7:00 PM,  I received from the book designer the PDF to upload to the self-publishing website. The book’s formatting was checked electronically and found to be fine and on Sunday, I ordered a physical proof. We’re on our way to printing enough copies to have ready for the September 18 book launch party. Hooray!

As Epilogue, I hope that this story is useful for those of you who’ve been thinking about self-publishing a book that will help you to promote your brand and services. Self-publishing houses will provide assistance with cover design.  Hire an independent copy editor.  To legally register your book, go first to the ISBN website and also buy your bar code there.  Separately register the book’s copyright at

Thanks for reading and I’m delighted to be back!



So You Want To Write A Book?

I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago and learned that she is in the process of writing her fourth book. She’s not a great writer and she addresses only one topic but she self-publishes, which guarantees that her books will always be available as long as she has the money to bring them to the page and she even sells a few, mostly to people who know her and likewise have an interest in that topic. I laughed and said that I would never write a book. And yet…..

For business owners, business executives and of course Freelance consultants, writing a business book is good business. A business book is a the ultimate self-marketing tool and it conveys much respect. If you’re looking to wear the crown of credibility, write a book. If your book addresses its topic cogently and is reasonably well-written, you can dine out on the self-promotional benefits for the rest of your life.

Business authors recommend that you treat your book like a new venture launch. A business book has the potential to broaden your audience, raise your stature and notoriety, help to get you quoted as an expert in business-themed articles, get you invited to give interviews and host webinars and best of all, generate leads that bring in more business. You probably assume that writing a book is a tremendous and all-consuming process and I’m told that is correct. However, business owners and executives only need to write one book and their reputations will be set.

Be prepared to work enormously hard to research, outline and write your book. If you have money consider hiring a ghost writer, who will interview you and put your insights and anecdotes on paper. Be prepared to spend several thousand dollars to self-publish, because unless you have a national or very strong local reputation, no publishing house will sign you.

Finally, brace yourself for low sales and expect to buy dozens of copies of the book yourself. Give signed copies to good friends, family members and clients. Here are a few items that will help you evaluate the decision to become an author:

Subject Your biggest challenge may be choosing the subject. Content matters and one is advised to have something relevant to say to potential readers. Moreover, you are advised to choose a subject that you enjoy and will not mind speaking about ad nauseum, because you must promote the book and its topic and when you use the book as a way to get speaking engagements, the topic will be the center of your talk. There are two basic subject options:

  • A creation story, an inspirational memoir that tells how you either overcame adversity or bounced along on good fortune and quick wit and used your competitive advantages to launch and sustain a successful enterprise. The first is sincere and compelling, the second ought to be humorous and fun.
  • A how-to book shares your special expertise and shows readers how they can become better marketers, sales people, customer relations managers, public speakers, business financial managers, Freelance consultants — you get the idea.

Publish Expect to self-publish your book. Hire an experienced copy editor, so that you won’t embarrass yourself with grammatical or continuity errors. Most self-publishing houses will offer these services at an additional cost. Hire a graphic artist to design the cover and a professional photographer and make-up artist to ensure that you look wonderful on the (front, back or inside) cover.

Promote Even if you manage to persuade a traditional publisher to accept your book proposal, do not expect the company to promote your book. You must develop a proactive marketing plan that will get your book noticed and validated as worthwhile. Consider hiring a public relations specialist to help with book promotion, if you have the budget. Create a website and/or a Facebook page for your book as well as a podcast that features you speaking about the book (maybe in an interview format). You or your PR specialist will approach the local cable access station and inquire about you appearing on a program that includes segments about local business people; ditto for radio stations (think Sunday morning radio); and local newspapers and magazines to interview you about your business and the book.

It is not an easy task but if you decide to move forward with the concept, becoming an author will emerge as one of the most significant achievements of your life. The book will become your ultimate business card and will give readers an impressive introduction to you and the enterprise that you created and lead. Publishing a book is an event known to bring prestige and momentum to your business and brand.

Thanks for reading,


Business Books to Read Summer 2011

Our Summer idyll will end in just a couple of weeks, but there’s still time to squeeze in some all-important professional development and maybe a meeting with a promising prospect, too.  Freelancers cannot afford to merely work hard when September rolls around.  We must also work smart.  I’m lucky to have discovered a trove of worthwhile business books that will make me smarter and I’m happy to pass along my take on what I’ve read.

The books will teach us effective ways to turn prospects into clients (sell only to VITOs),  how to devise business goals and strategies that will ensure our long-term success (because the red ocean is where you’ll drown)  and that  y=f(x) —and how to apply that formula to make both our own and our clients’ business processes operate more efficiently and profitably (what’s your sigma?).

The Borders book chain is going out of business, so why not make the most of that sad event and scoop up a few titles on the cheap? What’s not left on the shelves at Borders can be checked out of your local library.  Get started now on creating both a strong fourth quarter and laying the groundwork for a financially healthy 2012.

The Secrets of VITO: Think and Sell Like a CEO (2002)  Anthony Parinello
If Freelancers expect to convince decision-makers to award us assignments,  it is imperative that we understand what motivates them to hire us.  This astute and sophisticated book helps Freelancers understand the standard concerns,  priorities and mindset of the typical CEO or organization leader.  Learn how to win trust and convey expertise.  Learn smart ways to approach, persuade,  negotiate with and sell to those who can either veto or green-light our projects.

Blue Ocean Strategy (2005)  W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Blue Oceans represent untapped markets and undiscovered customer preferences.  Who knew they craved Sony’s Walkman or Apple’s iPod until the marketing campaign told them so?  Red Oceans represent mature,  shrinking and highly competitive markets.  Remain there and your business will surely operate in the red and perish. This classic guide to innovative strategy development shows Freelancers,  business owners,  corporate execs and nonprofit organization leaders how to pursue fearless, rational and uncomplicated approaches that will redefine and energize strategic direction,  articulation of the value proposition, the business model and marketing.

Six Sigma for Dummies (2005)  Neil DeCarlo, Craig Gygi and Bruce Williams

Six Sigma is a highly sophisticated and exacting data-driven process improvement system that was originally designed for manufacturing companies.  However,  the system can be successfully applied to service delivery as well,  from hospitals and health clinics to restaurants and financial institutions.  Six Sigma will substantively minimize errors and inefficient practices in product manufacturing and service delivery systems.  The material is complex,  but the book is well-written and very clear.  I found that anyone whose work involves operations,  strategy or finance will benefit from exposure to the basics of Six Sigma, whether or not you become formally trained in its tenets.  You’re bound to gain useful insights on how to accurately measure, assess and streamline the delivery of your organization’s products or services.

Thanks for reading,

Summer Reading List

For just about all of us,  the school year Summer Break meant having fun: hanging out with friends,  going on picnics and trips to the beach,  summer camp and family vacations.  Yet Summer was not all fun.  When I reached high school,  Mom and Dad made sure I got a job every year,  so I would earn some money and learn the habit of saving when they insisted that I bank half of my paycheck each week.

Also,  students at my college-prep public high school were required to read two books  (from the school’s list)  over the Summer and submit a book report for each when we returned to school in September.  I’ve always been an avid reader,  so the reading assignment was never a chore for me  (although I disliked writing the book reports).

This year,  I decided to renew that tradition and get into some business-themed books.  It had been a while since I’d mined that category and I had the appetite to make up for lost time.  Here are three books I’ve read since June.  Maybe you’d like to suggest a few titles that you’ve found to be useful?

TouchPoints  (2011)     Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard

Freelancers,  corporate execs,  nonprofit organization leaders and business owners all require leadership training.  This excellent and informative book provides first-rate lessons for experienced leaders and those new to the club.  Learn how to create a leadership model that reflects your unique style and values,  rather than merely mimicking a cookie-cutter template.  Learn how communication skills promote leadership skills.  Explore the existential question of why you choose to lead.

Knowing Your Value  (2011)     Mika Brzezinski

Although this book’s intent is to confirm that women deserve to receive appropriate financial reward for their professional gifts and teach them how to successfully negotiate a raise,  salary or contract fee  (and other perks)  that accurately reflect the value they bring to the organization for which they work,  I recommend this useful and enjoyable book for both genders.  The Haves are shamelessly using the weak economy to withhold money from the Have-nots and that means we all need to learn how and when and under what conditions we can respectfully request money and recognition  (plus a good title!).

Black Faces in White Places  (2011)     Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson

The title of this book is misleading.  It is not primarily a book about survival strategies designed to assist people of color who work in Euro-American dominated environments.  Randal Pinkett was the winning contestant on  “The Apprentice”  in 2005  and he is the only African-American to be named the winner.  The authors do speculate as to why no other  “Apprentice”  winner has ever been asked to consider sharing the prize.  Was it subtle racism?  Only Trump knows.  But who among us has not been treated unfairly at some point?  The authors posit that the most reliable way to triumph in life and business is to deliver excellence and that is the subject of this well-written,  dense and absorbing book.  Pinkett and Robinson  (who run a lucrative consulting firm)  provide a detailed roadmap that is applicable to Freelancers,  business owners and all professionals of all races.  Learn to identify your passions and your purpose,  nurture beneficial relationships,  develop and consistently deliver excellence and give back generously,  to pay it forward and mentor others.

I’ll be back next week with the rest of my Summer reading list.

Thanks for reading,


Give Yourself a Book Deal

I’ll probably not do this for myself anytime soon, but since I’ve mentioned the topic several times in this column,  I decided to finally do some research and figure out how one goes about getting a book in print.  Note that I did not say “how to write a book”. You’ll have to figure that one out for yourself!  Hint: first,  have something relevant and compelling to say and second, money and sex are two very popular topics.

However in this post,  I will dare to assume that readers will produce a business-themed book on a subject in which they’ve acquired considerable expertise. Writing a book is a marketing tool that can carry a Freelancer for years.  A book gives its author gravitas. The author will definitely be  positioned as an expert,  considered a more attractive conference speaker or panelist,  a more credible source to quote by journalists.  You are an author,  an authority.

The original method of getting a book into print was to write up a book proposal and shop it around to publishing houses that specialize in books in your subject.  If the proposal looked strong enough to generate sales that would justify the time and money involved in editing,  printing  and distributing the book,  then the author would receive a letter inviting him/her to discuss the proposal.

That is still done,  but not nearly as often.  There are far fewer publishing houses now and competition by aspiring authors looking to get in the door is intense.  It would be almost impossible for the average Freelancer to publish a book conceived to be used for self-and business promotion to succeed in the traditional manner.

Self-publishing houses and similar operators have stepped into the breach and opened the doors wide for those who have a business to promote,  a story to tell,  or a family history they’d like to document in print and pass on to future generations.  Self-publishing is most suitable for authors who are unlikely to attract a traditional publisher and who will sell directly to  readers from the author’s website,  at seminars or at other gatherings.

So let’s get started on your book deal.  Begin by visiting the websites of self-publishers to compare services and prices.  Createspace and Lulu are two outfits to consider.  When evaluating services,  pay attention to exactly what it is you will pay for and watch out for hidden fees.  Look for non-template, customized cover design charges;  editing and copy editing (i.e., typos) charges;  and distribution and renewal fees.  Expect to pay $1500.00 – $4500.00 to edit, design and print your book.

Examine with great care (and perhaps with the assistance of an attorney who specializes in the field) the subject of author rights.  True self-publishing means that all rights to the book lie exclusively with its author.  Furthermore,  clarify whether you are able to terminate your publishing agreement at will and without penalty.

You’ll need to decide if you’d like your book to appear in print or as an e-book.  Maybe you can do both eventually?  In 2010,  e-book sales accounted for 9%  of the overall book market,  according to the Association of America Publishers.  The e-book trend is upward,  spurred on by Nook and Kindle.

How your book will look (print style, lay-out, etc.) and the design of the front and back covers are another big concern.  You may want to hire a graphic artist with experience in book production to do art and design work.  Chances are that your money will be well spent. Your book must look professional and represent your brand well.  Also,  be sure to use the appropriate paper stock.

Do yourself another favor and hire a copy editor and a proofreader.  In fact,  this will be among the most important investments in your book’s production.  It is absolutely crucial to ensure that your book has no errors.  Your professional reputation depends upon it.  Your publishing service may offer copy editing,  but they may not be especially diligent.

Becoming a published author is a much more attainable achievement today than ever before.  Your book will be a useful marketing tool,  a door opener and a confidence builder for both you and prospective clients.  A significant amount of work must be done to bring the book to life and it will be necessary to carefully research available options—just like any other major goal you plan to reach.  Additionally,  it will no doubt be useful to seek out the blogs of self-published authors for more information and the real inside scoop.

Good luck and thanks for reading,