Reading a lot of marketing, business, sales, and success literature is one of many recurring habits of highly successful people. I consider myself a fairly well-read person when it comes to such books, and today I’d like to share with you five books that I think every tax practitioner needs to read. In fact, some of these books should be read on a regular basis.
Let’s start with a classic: How To Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. This book should be on your professional bookshelf at eye level, and also on your Kindle device or Kindle app for your smartphone and computer. This is probably one of the most important books ever written about human interaction for business professionals, and is particularly useful for folks like us, as consultants and service professionals.
There’s a reason that this book has been in print for so long and is recommended by everybody: The principles it contains actually work. From how to deal with irate (or irritating) people, to how to be more approachable and likable, the ideas in the book really are solid. This is definitely one of those books that you should re-read at least once per year.
When it comes to marketing, there is one guy that is the “guru to the gurus”, and has been for over 30 years – Dan Kennedy. It’s difficult to pick just one of his marketing books to recommend, but his classic (now in it’s 4th edition) The Ultimate Marketing Plan is one of his best, as it contains the majority of the basic information you need to start towards becoming a successful marketing machine. This is one of his books that I refer to the most, particularly when I want to “ground myself” in fundamental direct marketing principles.
One of Dan Kennedy’s other books happens to be the best book ever written on the subject of management. Dan is not really known as a management guy, per se, as his niche is definitely direct marketing. However, Dan is sort of an off-beat kind of guy, and his to the point, no-B.S., direct approach to management is quite refreshing. No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits is exactly that: Ruthless. It contains the kind of advice that we all need to hear, but that might make us squirm a little bit. It all makes sense, however, once you get over certain hangups. It’s important to remember that your tax practice is a business, and needs to ran like a business.
There are numerous popular sales trainers out there in the world, and all of them have good stuff to say. Guys like Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, and Stephan Schiffman all put out great sales training books and programs. My personal favorite is How To Master the Art of Selling, by Tom Hopkins. Tom comes from the world of real estate sales, which is amazingly similar to the world of tax service sales. Tom comes at the topic of sales from somewhat of an old-school perspective, which is good. However, he was also one of the first sales training greats to teach consultative selling using a formulaic (checklist-driven) approach to qualifying buyers, ensuring that our service meets the buyer’s needs, and then allowing the sale to close itself, rather than relying on high-pressure closing techniques. I still regularly refer to this book when I have a question about selling, and many consider this book to be the “bible” of basic sales principles.
Lastly, there is one other book that should be read on at least an annual basis by every entrepreneur (and if you own a tax practice, you’re an entrepreneur by default). It should also be read by every partner, and every person that wants to achieve more in life. It’s an old book, first published in 1937, and it was the first, and probably still the greatest, book ever written on the science of personal success motivation. The book is Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. I almost think of this book as a companion piece to How To Win Friends and Influence People, and they should be kept next to each on your bookshelf, and both should be read once or twice per year.
Think and Grow Rich is all about the habits and thought process of successful people. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, then the richest man on the planet, gave Napoleon Hill the task of identifying the common thread amongst successful people. Twenty years later, this book was the end result of all that research. This book is where the moniker “PMA” (Positive Mental Attitude) first came from, and introduced the world to such concepts as visualization, living for a defined purpose, and planned leadership. The examples and references in the book are obviously old, but just as relevant today as they were back then.
There are, of course, many more books that you should have on your professional bookshelf. But these five will provide you with the core elements you need to run a successful tax practice, and will (hopefully) alter your thought processes towards a success orientation.