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“What book have you read that has most profoundly impacted the way you do business?”

A few years ago I was introduced to The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber (Harper Business 1990). This book has revolutionized how I do business today. It taught me to systemize my business and encouraged me to approach it like a franchise. The author believes that franchises tend to be the most systemized and efficient businesses.

In terms of business skills, this book has had a massive impact on my way of working! I have used the author’s principles in my business over the last 10 years or so and have managed to automate and systemize a great deal of our business practices, ultimately resulting in a more effective use of my own and the training team’s time, as well as in higher profits.

The book itself is an easy read; the format is the author telling how he consulted with one of his clients. This style makes it easy to visualize and understand how you can apply the theories to your business.

Tom Godwin
Managing Director, Foresight Fitness
Manchester, England

There are so many great books that it’s tough to pick just one. Each book provides little “gems” for me to apply to my business. As an entrepreneur (and I believe all trainers should view themselves as entrepreneurs because they are selling their most important asset—themselves—every day to every person they meet), it’s important to improve all areas of your life. Each area has either a direct or an indirect impact on your business (or your ability to live the life you want). Here are a few key categories with my favorite book(s) from each.


  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Dan and Chip Heath (Crown 2010). This fantastic book shows how proper leadership works in all aspects of life from personal to professional to social. It breaks down a complicated process of change into fundamental principles that are actually quite simple. It really helped me look at my daily interactions with employees, clients and my family. Now I feel I am becoming more of a leader instead of just a “manager.” People aren’t “managed”; they are motivated to change through effective leadership.

Personal Development/Mindset/

  • The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris (Crown 2007). It’s hard to put this book into a category, but regardless of where you put it, it can change your life in ways you never thought possible. It’s part business, part personal development and 100% mindset-shifting! Even implementing one tip in one chapter will completely change your life and how you approach each day.

I’m probably on my fourth round of reading or listening to this book, and each time, I implement bits and pieces that help me be more effective at work and allow me to set up business processes that work without me in the picture. As a bonus, the book is a very entertaining read!

  • The Myth of Multitasking by Dave Crenshaw (Jossey-Bass 2008). This short book is written as a fable but includes some practical and simple strategies for dramatically boosting your productivity. I recommend reading it more than once to make sure you are fully implementing the tools. The tips are deceptively simple, but are you doing them?

Sales and Marketing

  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek (Portfolio 2009). I just finished listening to the audio edition of this book, and it completely opened my eyes as to why my marketing has been so ineffective in the past. The book’s concepts made so much sense. I realized that all the tools were at my fingertips; it was just a matter of putting them together in the right order. I’ve just started implementing some of these changes, and the results are awesome—both internally with staff and externally with customers. The sales process has become much easier because of this information!
  • Any book by Dan S. Kennedy. Kennedy is a “no BS” kind of guy and the guru of direct-response marketing. His books are loaded with practical tips, tools and sample material to help you improve your marketing efforts.

On a side note, I consume much of my learning in the form of audio books. The convenience of having dozens of books on my iPhone and being able to listen to them anywhere, anytime, is a huge value.

Tim Borys
President/CEO, FRESH! Wellness Group
Calgary, Alberta

Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (Hyperion 2007) is a book I’ve read cover to cover once and refer to often. I picked this book up after I heard Goldsmith speak at a conference where he wowed the audience, which included people across a wide continuum of experience and success levels.

In the last decade, our fitness businesses have continued to grow in spite of tough economic times. Yet we’re going to have to change the way we do business in the future and the way we lead our current and new staff members to do business as well. Goldsmith’s words hit home with me as both a person and a fitness pro. He gives tips on becoming a better boss, supervisor and colleague, but primarily the tips come down to being a better person. If you’re looking for guidance and for reminders about being authentic and taking care of the people around you so that they take care of your customers, you’ll find this book a great read as well as a useful reference book.

In his “20 Habits That Hold You Back,” Goldsmith isn’t trying to identify the flaws that we have or the ways that we’re failing; he’s teaching us to recognize the ways that we could be unintentionally doing damage to, rather than building up, ourselves and our environment. Once we’re more aware of these habits, we can decide to do something about them on purpose! The book is not a quick fix but an evolution. I find myself listening much more closely to people and responding instead of reacting. I am thinking about the end result and the impact on our entire organization.

Debra Atkinson,
Personal Training Director, Ames
Racquet & Fitness Center
Ames, Iowa

A book that I feel has added a significant amount of value to me in the way I do business is, surprisingly, not a business book in the purest form, but a customer-service book called Satisfaction by Chris Denove and James Power (Portfolio 2006). It uses simple stories to highlight the power of great customer service and the associated benefits to both the customer experience and the bottom line of the business. The powerful concept I took away from this book was that if you have a reputation for great customer service, you can charge a premium. If you have a reputation for poor customer service, then one of the only ways to gain any form of market share is to discount your product.

The fantastic thing about the stories is that they “stick” in the reader’s mind. The examples highlighted in the book, from the power of community created by the HOGS (Harley Owners Group) to the analogy of advocates turning into assassins in the Starbucked.com story, are real-life examples of how good and bad customer service can have such a radical influence on the way we run our businesses. This is a must-read book that will not only spark you to action but will also identify potential blind spots that you may have if you treat your customer as just a number and not as an individual.

Darren Jacobson
Vice President of Instructor

Have Questions?

If you have a question you’d like to see your fitness peers answer here, send it to IDEA Fitness Journal via regular mail (see “Your Membership” page); email ([email protected]); or fax (858-535-8234). Include name, company, city, state/province and phone number.

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