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September always seems to be a month of new starts, new learning and new challenges for me—and probably more so than the New Year. I tend to spend all summer preparing for it, too! This summer, I dove into a large pile of books, and I wanted to share them with you in hopes that you’ll find them as interesting, motivating, and inspiring as I did!

1. The Benevolent Dictator: Empower Your Employees, Build Your Business and Outwit the Competition
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? Starting a company seems so effortless for some people. Voilà! They build it, and people come. What’s the secret? Is there one? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps it all comes down to how you manage it. Note: While this book is written for the entrepreneur, the lessons found inside are valuable to everyone who works in business.

Michael Feuer, founder of OfficeMax, shares 40 lessons on empowering your employees, building your business, and outwitting the competition in his new book, The Benevolent Dictator.

Some of my favorite lessons:

  • Lesson #2: The Best Ideas Can Come from What’s Right Under Your Nose

  • Lesson #7: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Focus, Discipline, and Follow-Up

  • Lesson #11: Always Be Prepared with Plan B … And Sometimes C and D

  • Lesson #13: Never Be as Weak as Your Weakest Link

  • Lesson #16: Managing People Is About Achieving Objectives Through Others

  • Lesson #23: Don’t Drink Your Own Bathwater—You Could Choke

2. Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul
Onward is the story of Starbucks after former CEO Howard Schultz came back in 2008 to stabilize and save his beloved brand. The challenge he put forth was to refocus on core values all while fending off harsh critics and hungry competitors.

Starbucks is a customer-centric company, and this book shows how its core values allow it to be so. Themes include: Magic, Loyalty, Believe, Nimble, Innovate, Balance, Conviction, and Conscience.

How often do you hear these words in business? Not very!

3. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization
If you’ve worked in corporate America long enough, you know one thing exists: Silos. Tribes aren’t silos. Tribes are how groups naturally form within organizations and they may be cross-functional, cross-department. With Tribal Leadership, Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright show you how to embrace the natural tribes in an organization.

Tribal Leadership can be gained through five stages:

  • Stage1: On the Verge of a Meltdown (“Life Sucks”)

  • Stage 2: Disconnected and Disengaged (“My Life Sucks”)

  • Stage 3: The Wild, Wild West (“I’m Great”)

  • Stage 4: Establishing Tribal Leadership (“We’re Great”)

  • Stage 5: Toward Vital Work Communities (“Life is Great”)

What’s great about this book is that it addresses three different levels: The Main Story, Technical Notes, and Coaching Tips.

4. Social Marketing to the Business Customer: Listen to Your B2B Market, Generate Major Account Leads, and Build Client Relationships
If you’ve been investigating social media for your business, you’ll find one thing for sure: a shortage of books that address social media for B2B companies. Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman aim to help B2B  marketers understand today’s marketing, the need to be social and how to best allocate social media resources—resources that are often limited.

Topics include:

  • The Changing Rules of B2B Marketing

  • Creating a Social Organization

  • Learning by Listening

  • Understanding Search (SEO)

  • Lead Generation

  • Profiting from Communities

  • Return on Investment

You may keep hearing that social media is free or there isn’t any ROI in social media, Paul and Eric debunk both of these myths and with a lot of B2B examples!

5. Measure What Matters: Online Tools For Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships
Katie Payne’s first book on measurement, Measuring Public Relationships: The Data-Driven Communicator's Guide to Success, is a standard desk reference book for me. When I had the chance to read her latest book, I leaped at the chance.

The book kicks off with dispelling some ROI myths that are deeply engrained in business:

  • Measurement is Expensive

  • You Can’t Measure the ROI, so Why Bother?

  • Measurement is Strictly Quantitative

  • Measurement is Something You Do When a Program Is Over

  • I Know What’s Happening: I Don’t Need Research

If you or anyone on your team has quietly thought this or muttered any of it out loud, Measure What Matters is a must read.

Key topics include: Seven Steps to Perfect Measurement; Yes, You Can Afford to Measure; How to Measure in a Social Media World; and Measuring Relationships with Your Community.

6. Reputation Rules: Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset
Are you really paying attention to your reputation? Is there a core team focused on it? In Reputation Rules, Daniel Diermeyer, Ph.D. debunks some closely held values when it comes to reputation management. If you believe that a good reputation flows from good business practices or reputation management is common sense, it might be time for you and your company to rethink how you look at managing your reputation in today’s business environment. It’s simply not enough to throw any issues or crises over the fence to your public relations team.

Using business examples from Bank of America, Shell UK, Mercedes, AIG, and Walmart. Core chapters include:

  • Beyond the Obvious

  • The Decisive Moment and How To Miss It

  • Brand Management Beyond Customers

  • Perks, Scandals, and Moral Outrage

  • Strategic Management of Reputational Risk

  • Values, Culture, and the Teachable Moment

This book should only be read by management teams that are serious about protecting, maintaining or restoring their reputation.

7. Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators
What happens when there is too much content to get through and digest? Steven Rosenbaum leads the way in helping businesses get focused on content that provides quality and context. If you are living in the digital world already, Curation Nation is not only a must read—it’s the future.

What is curation? According to Steven, it’s two things:

“Adding value from humans who add their qualitative judgment to whatever is being gathered and organized” and it’s “amateur and professional.” A curator’s job isn’t to create more content, but to make sense of the content that others have created.

I’ve curated some of the topics included in Curation Nation for you. (Sorry! I couldn’t resist.):

  • Big-Time Curators on the Rise

  • Consumers, Conversations and Curation

  • Content Entrepreneurs

  • Tools and Techniques

  • Naysayers

  • Brands: Curating Your Consumer

  • Networks: Writing Inside a Curated Community

  • Are Content Aggregators Vampires?

Happy reading!

Let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: While I did pick each book due to their subject matter, I must note that I received them at no cost. The Benevolent Dictator, Onward, and Tribal Leadership were received from literary agent Kevin Small. Social Marketing was received from co-author Eric Schwartzman. Measure What Matters was won in a competition hosted by Zoetica. And last, but not least, Reputation Rules and Curation Nation were received from McGraw-Hill as part of their blogger outreach. Receiving these books for free in no way changes my review as they are topics that I am passionate about ... and I would have bought them anyway.

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image of Beth Harte

Beth Harte is a marketer, blogger, speaker, communicator, thinker, connector (people & dots), adjunct marketing & PR professor and Director of Marketing at Advent Global Solutions.

Beth has over 15 years of experience in integrated marketing communications, strategic planning, branding, SEO/SEM and five years of experience with social media. Beth speaks on a range of topics including: integrated marketing and communications, public relations, brand monitoring and management, social media measurement & ROI.

Beth's blog, The Harte of Marketing is featured in AdAge's Power 150, a globally recognized ranking of top media and marketing blogs and the MarketingProfs' Daily Fix blog.

You can find Beth here too: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Beth also digs smart people, brilliance, history, the arts, culture, books (historical fiction & business), politics, travel, beer, and cowgirl boots.