Six Business Books Independent Consultants Must Read

By MBO Partners | September 2, 2015

man eating while working

As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who. The same concept can be applied to professional development– it’s not only what you know, but who you present to your clients and the world by how you package your services, products or insights.

Putting your best foot forward in the workplace can include topics as mundane as grooming habits and as detailed as future planning strategies. Packaging it all up and presenting a cohesive professional presence day in and day out is a lot of pressure, but at MBO we pride ourselves in providing independents with the tools and resources they need to lighten this load.

So this week we’ve asked some of MBO’s top talent to highlight the books and resources they’ve found to be instrumental in shaping their professional careers.

These six books (and individuals) should be on your must read and follow list in the weeks to come.

Rebooting Work: Transform How You Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship

Maynard Web is easily one of Silicon Valley’s top problem solvers and in this best-selling book he tackles the idea of outdated business structures and models of work. Webb identifies four different mindsets around work: the company man, CEO of your own destiny, disenchanted employee, and the aspiring entrepreneur – and then breaks them down into pros and cons. Rebooting Work discusses and evaluates how to take control of one’s own future by finding greater fulfillment, higher productivity, and more happiness.

Maynard isn’t afraid to leverage his clout as the former COO of eBay, a board member of Yahoo! and an overall web guru. He directly and unapologetically addresses outdated business models and systems – breaking them down to expose flaws. From there he is able to present a new framework that can leverage technology to create better job opportunities and foster more balanced lives. Maynard believes the way we currently work isn’t correct and that there are tangible ways to fix it that will make people’s lives more fulfilling and make companies more competitive. When adults spend more of their waking hours at work than anywhere else, shouldn’t it be a place of inspiration and innovation?

The book is very encouraging and highly motivating but one of the biggest takeaways is actually a literal take-away—streamlined worksheets allow you to immediately put Maynard’s steps into action. Independents would be wise to pick up this book, consider the worksheets, and evaluate how they can create and maintain business models and practices that are modern, efficient, practical and successful. –Gene Zaino, Founder & CEO

Never Eat Alone (and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time)

Keith Ferrazzi’s book features a simple message at its core – generosity, at the end of the day, genuinely works. People who don’t keep score ultimately get ahead when advancing their network. He also lays out a step-by-step overview of how to step-up in certain areas, e.g. – laying out your attack plan for who you need to connect with, warming the cold call to manage gate-keepers and of course never EATING ALONE.

Networking is an essential skill for anyone trying to start their own business. Knowing that your network should be looked after, valued and nurtured should be just as important as paying expenses and sending out invoices to your clients.

Creating meaningful connections is essential in business and in life.  Being genuine about your need for help as well as lending help goes hand in hand. Being able to keep up with your network has also been made easier by technology, but remember that in person and personality will go a very long way vs. relying on email, texting or other technology. Also, remember that you never want to burn bridges – the assistant who is taking your call today may be running the company in the next couple of years.  – Monica Lucero, Vice President of Strategic Account Development

Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office:  Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers

Years ago, one of my mentors recommended this book to help me identify and address typical mistakes that I was making in the workplace – and that I was not alone in making them. A warning: the title is misleading, while the book is explicitly geared towards women (as seen in the title), many of the scenarios are applied to both men and women.

While the book is not expressly designed for Independents, it proved immensely valuable when I decided to become an independent marketing consultant. The book tackles subjects such as reluctance to negotiate, overlooking the value of mentors, being too thin skinned, couching your statements as questions and many others that are common issues for independent consultants.

Be forewarned – this is not a book that you read cover to cover – it’s more of a “pick and choose based upon your challenges” read. Hint: use the diagnostic questionnaire in the front of the book if you don’t know what your challenges are. – Kris Stevens, Vice President of Marketing

Start with NO…The Negotiating Tools that the Pros Don’t Want You to Know

Jim Camp, a professional negotiation coach, rebuts the dominant win-win approach to sales. His alternative proposes that stronger agreements can be made when participants focus on their own objectives and retain control to walk away when those objectives aren’t met.

Many ICs, including myself, hate selling new clients or projects and will take the quickest path to “get it over with.” We promise more and accept less than we should because we need this project and good client relations. Camp’s system offers ways to avoid negotiating at a disadvantage, but without turning into a type-A salesman.

Although primarily targeting a different audience—large corporate sales, many of the lessons and techniques apply directly to individual professional services, including how to avoid taking a bad deal, how to foster recognition of your value and how to renegotiate a bad deal.

Much of the book is repetitious; Camp tends to illustrate his points with ambiguous or overly personal anecdotes. Skim past these to focus on the few key points in each chapter. The 33 rules in the appendix are a great way to zero in on highlights. Also, the book was first published in 2002 and is due for an update in today’s knowledge economy. Consider how the “okay/not-okay” dynamic works when you’re selling your own expertise: would you hire the project manager who can’t remember to bring a pen and paper to a meeting? – Julian Richards, Vice President of Product Management

The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization

Jacob Morgan provides a refreshingly practical look at how work is changing in a sea of books that are otherwise just theoretical or academically focused. This book is a common sense view of the sweeping changes rapidly affecting the way we make a living in the United States.

Morgan delves into the forces that are pushing companies and individuals away from fixed-role employment toward flexible arrangements – dissecting them one by one. Current role, geography, hours, and leadership responsibilities are all included in his definition of flexibility. He describes corporations that operate almost entirely without managers using a new structure he calls “Holacracy,” which empowers decision making and flexibility throughout the organization.

Independent consultants will enjoy that he dedicates one chapter entirely to freelancing as a core component of the future workforce. Citing numerous sources and ubiquitous trends, he reveals how independent workers will be a key component of flattened organizations. Further, he cites that worker preferences and technology are driving this trend from the supply side. – Dave Putt, Vice President of Consultant & Client Services

 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People has been considered a boardroom essential for over 25 years and its timeless lesson are the reason why. Students, teachers, presidents and CEOs alike have drawn from the book to help identify, isolate and elevate specific traits to help them further their professional careers.

Covey explains that before you can adopt the seven habits, you’ll need to accomplish a “paradigm shift” – which he defines as a change in perception and interpretation of how the world works. Covey takes you through this change, which affects how you perceive and act regarding productivity, time management, positive thinking, and the development of your “proactive muscles.” This process may sound like a gimmick but having a prompt to step back and look at not only your methods, but also your surroundings in a big picture sense opens your awareness to where flaws or cracks may exist.

Being a business of one takes a lot of determination and motivation, and a majority of time it is self-sourced. As an independent you’re your own manager – so having a philosophy on how to manage your time and stay positive is paramount – 7 Steps, in many ways, is a tool. Maybe it can be your road map to success, or your blackboard for ideas or maybe it’s the hammers and nails you need to build a great career. – Cyndi Zaino, Director of Digital Marketing & Customer Experience

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