Editor’s Note: This article was first published in Inc. Magazine here.
I talk a lot about role models and mentors. And one of the things I do when looking for a role model is to look for lessons, experts and authors who have stood the test of time. I’ve found that most of what you need to learn can be found in books that have been around for decades, or even hundreds of years.
This is why we have bookshelves in our office, full of books for the taking, and the Drift Book Club, where anyone in the company can request a book they’re interested in reading.
At any given time, I’m reading multiple books. But here are three books that I recommend to everyone on my team.
1. Made in America by Sam Walton
Made in America was released in 1993 and is the story of how Sam Walton create Wal-Mart. He lived an incredible life and was the epitome of what I talk about a lot — which is the quest to always be learning, to always be humble and to go out and constantly learn from others.
Walton writes about how he’s never had an original idea in his life, but rather he took the best ideas from the best people and put them all together. So he would visit stores and see how they were set up — what worked, what didn’t — and think about how he could apply that to his business.
He also talks about servant leadership, which is when you are in service to your employees (not the other way around), and is something I have tried to embody.
2. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter Drucker
There are a lot of books out there about management and leadership that are entertaining, but they’re all built on top of The Effective Executive.
I believe that if you want to lead, this is the only book you need to read. One of the many lessons he teaches is all about managing your time. Because we all only have 24 hours — but it’s what you do with that 24 hours that matters.
According to Drucker, the question you have to ask is, “What would happen if this was not done at all?” And if the answer is nothing, then obviously you have to stop doing that thing. It’s all about focusing on the big rocks — focusing on that one important thing.
He also teaches that effective executives focus on outward contribution. In other words, it’s all about the results. It’s not a combination of working hard, or working smart — it’s a combination of both. And in the end, the way that you measure success is not in the effort, but in the results.
3. Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer
I’m obsessed with great customer service. And nobody knows delivering great service than Danny Meyer, one of America’s leading restaurateurs. In Setting the Table, he writes that in restaurants, food is secondary.
What really matters is creating positive outcomes — for both human experience and human relationships. Because it’s all about how you make people feel, and this is what I try to repeat at Drift every day (and actually why we often hire people who have been in the hospitality business as part of our customer success team).
To me, one of the most fascinating experiences I can have is when I encounter amazing service somewhere. Because not only is it rare, but it’s amazing when you think about how companies can repeat that amazing experience for people every day.
The best part about these three books is that they have nothing to do with with specific programs or software. But, I go back to them time and time again. Because the lessons I’ve learned from them have everything to do with how I think about the company we’re building and the experience I want to create.