By Phil Klutts
January 23, 2024

Impactful business books, part 3

Explore a curated collection of impactful business books that offer invaluable insights for career and leadership growth.

This is the third and final installment of a roundup of books that have most impacted my career. If you talk business or leadership with me for very long, you won’t be surprised to find a book from Patrick Lencioni on the list. I did have to decide which Lencioni book to put on the list because I didn’t feel right listing more than one here! 

These books help with both perspective and actionable advice for business leaders and round out this series of impactful books. There is no shortage of books I could have added to the list, but I hope these few will help you progress in your career and leadership. 

Radical Candor: Kim Scott, 2017

Radical Candor by Kim Scott is a how-to book on giving feedback that expands on a few ideas beyond the core tenant of feedback. The book covers team development, company culture, running meetings, and diversity. It is an engaging read that combines fun anecdotes and practical advice. The book is helpful for anyone who is a boss, has a boss, or is in any type of relationship.

The book is split into two parts that make it easy to digest and reference for tips. Part One helps level-set and encourage you on the hardships of being a boss, while Part Two conveys many tips and techniques on how to be a better boss.

The idea of Radical Candor is to build and optimize relationships through two factors: Care Personally and Challenge Directly. I usually recommend this book to anyone who asks about giving feedback.

The Advantage: Patrick Lencioni, 2012

Patrick Lencioni’s “The Advantage” is a compelling exploration of the often-overlooked aspects of organizational health, which he argues is the ultimate key to business success. Unlike many books that focus solely on strategy, marketing, or technology, Lencioni emphasizes the significance of organizational health, which he defines as a company’s ability to function effectively, cope admirably, change proactively, and grow sustainably.

Lencioni’s writing is both insightful and accessible, making complex concepts digestible for readers across various levels of management and leadership. He articulates four disciplines critical to achieving organizational health: building a cohesive leadership team, creating clarity, overcommunicating clarity, and reinforcing clarity through human systems. Each discipline is explored with practical advice and real-world examples, providing readers with actionable steps to improve their organization’s health.

One of the book’s strengths is its focus on simplicity and minimalism in business practices. Lencioni convincingly argues that complexity is the enemy of good management and that clarity and simplicity lead to better outcomes. His approach to problem-solving and decision-making is refreshingly straightforward, advocating for transparency and open communication.

Fix This Next: Mike Michalowicz, 2020

Despite how hard it is to read and say his name, Mike Michalowicz’s book, Fix This Next, provides a practical framework for business owners to address problems in any type of business. The Business Hierarchy of Needs is a five-level framework that defines the needs a business has and puts them in ascending order, modeled after Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. 

The first three levels of the hierarchy focus on the “Get” levels of business needs: Sales, Profit, and Order. The final two levels, “Give” levels, are Impact and Legacy. Michalowicz provides a checklist to find out what specific items inside each level must be addressed, and the reader can use this to find their “Vital Need.”

 Once the current need is fixed, the checklist can be completed again to find the next vital need. The book is practical and straightforward, and Michalowicz conveys ideas and stories the reader can connect to, sharing personal stories about his struggles as a business owner as well as case studies from others who have successfully applied these tactics. The diverse network of businesses chronicled in the book shows that any company type and category can benefit from Fix This Next.

The Hard Things about Hard Things: Ben Horowitz, 2014

In “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” Ben Horowitz delves into the harsh realities of running a business, moving beyond theoretical advice to offer practical wisdom gleaned from his own experiences in the tech industry. Horowitz, a seasoned entrepreneur and venture capitalist, doesn’t shy away from the tough aspects of leadership and decision-making that are often glossed over in traditional business literature.

One of the book’s most compelling qualities is its candidness. Horowitz openly discusses his struggles and failures, offering a rare glimpse into the high-stakes world of Silicon Valley startups. This raw honesty makes the book not just an informative guide, but also a deeply relatable narrative for entrepreneurs facing similar challenges.

Horowitz’s insights on topics like managing crises, handling layoffs, and navigating complex business ecosystems are particularly valuable. He provides actionable advice, drawing from his own journey, making the book a practical manual for decision-making in difficult times. His concept of a “wartime CEO” versus a “peacetime CEO” is a highlight, offering a nuanced understanding of leadership adaptability.

Overall, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” stands out for its unvarnished truth-telling and practical advice. It’s an essential read for anyone in the entrepreneurial trenches, providing both solace and strategy in the face of business adversity. Horowitz doesn’t just offer solutions; he shares a mindset, one that prepares entrepreneurs for the inevitable challenges of the business world.

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About Phil Klutts

Phil is an Edmond native and has managed to keep his wife here instead of traveling the world, which they both enjoy. They have two boys who love the outdoors, adventures, and learning new things. Phil is a problem-solver at heart and enjoys connecting people to the resources they need.

In addition to being the co-owner of Edmond Business, Phil founded the CK Group LLC after working for large and small businesses in the Energy, Construction, and Fitness industries. He focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their systems and processes. CK Group LLC's mission is to eliminate chaos and create clarity for small business by connecting vision, strategy, and implementation.