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Blanchard, Ken, and Sheldon Bowles, Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, William Morrow & Co., 1993
Written in Blanchard's now well-known parable style, this book simplifies the critical area of customer service down to its simplest, most fundamental aspects. If you apply these simple concepts, outstanding customer service will become an integral part of your company, not just something talked about but never done. And if you're out there circulating in the world, you know just how rare excellent service really is...so read this book and become one of those rare business.
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Blanchard, Ken, and Sheldon Bowles, Gung Ho!: Turn on the People in Any Organization, William Morrow & Co., 1997
Another of Blanchard's charming, simple, yet surprisingly deep parables. This time, the topic is turning on the people in your organization and getting them to become enthusiastic, committed members of your team. Let's face it, without that, your company has little or no chance of becoming truly great, yet most business managers and owners treat their employees as though just a paycheque should be enough to keep them at the peak of motivation forever. Stop dreaming, 'cause it doesn't work that way. Read this book instead and start getting your staff gung ho!
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Byham, William C., with Jeff Cox, Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment: How to Improve Quality, Productivity, and Employee Satisfaction, Revised Edition, Fawcett, 1998
If you're only going to read one book about employee motivation and empowerment, this is the one to read. It's a simple, easy-to-read story that explains all the things you do as a manager that truly tick off your employees—and how you can solve them. The hundreds of small ways you "sapp" your people every day and leave them less and less enthusiastic about their jobs and your business eventually lead to what you see in the vast majority of companies: an unmotivated, uninterested, uncaring workforce. This book will teach you how to "Zapp" them and energize them in a way that is rarely seen. All the marketing and management techniques in the world will fail if you don't get this part right.
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Byham, William C., with Jeff Cox, Heroz: Empower Yourself, Your Coworkers, Your Company, Fawcett, 1995
This follow-up to Zapp! focuses on what middle level management people can do to change things for the better even when they don't have company-wide support. It's an excellent companion volume to Zapp! Make sure you buy everyone in your company a copy of both.
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Covey, Stephen, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, Fireside, 1990
This may technically be a book on self-improvement, but the habits discussed are nothing short of the basic requirements for success in life—and business. Covey developed the habits after studying all the literature about success throughout history and distilling the common elements down to their simplest form. Read about them. Then practice them.
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Covey, Stephen, Roger Merrill, and Rebecca Merrill, First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy, Fireside, 1996
"First Things First" is the third of Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and is about making the best use of your time. His approach is so good that it deserved its own book. You may have read lots of books and articles on time management, but this way of looking at the subject takes things to the next level. After you've tried it and experienced the results, you'll want to give a copy to your family, your friends, your employees...
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Dominguez, Joe, and Vicki Robin, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, New Edition, Penguin USA, 1999
Although this book is technically about personal finance, not business or management, you should read it anyway because it really will transform your relationship with money—and therefore significantly affect your business goals and strategies. Most of us in business only have one wish when it comes to money—more of it—this book will get you to re-evaluate that position and show you a much better approach.
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Gerber, Michael, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, Harperbusiness, 1995
Any entrepreneur that goes into business without reading this book is making a big mistake. There is no better explanation of the reasons most entrepreneurs fail. What's even better is that Gerber also provides the solutions that are simple but very rarely done.
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Gerber, Michael, The E-Myth Manager: Why Management Doesn't Work—and What to Do About It, Harperbusiness, 1999
Gerber applies his insights into the workings of business to the management function and brings a new perspective that can help both businesses and individual managers make dramatic improvements in the way they manage.
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Gerber, Michael, The Powerpoint, Harperbusiness, 1991
Although it is now sadly out of print, you should be able to find this wonderful book in your library or used bookstore. And you should definitely read it and try to absorb the brilliant insights into the idea and philosophy behind your business that Gerber shares. It may not have much meaning for anyone new to business ownership, but if you've been in business for a while, you'll find some great common ground with Gerber and also have your thinking stretched to new levels.
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Heiman, Stephen, and Diane Sanchez, The New Conceptual Selling: The Most Effective and Proven Method for Face-to-Face Sales Planning, Warner Books, 1999
There have been a million books written about selling. Many of them have some valuable tips and inspiring stories. But if I were to recommend just one, this would be it. It's an approach that focuses on the customer and his needs, not on superhuman techniques to be used by the talented salesperson. It's a simple, no-pressure method that even those who hate selling will gladly adopt. If more salespeople did, they wouldn't have such a bad name!
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Heiman, Stephen, and Diane Sanchez, The New Strategic Selling: The Unique Sales System Proven Effective by the World's Best Companies, Warner Books, 1998
This is the companion volume to Conceptual Selling by the same authors and focuses on dealing with the special challenges of dealing with larger companies and multiple decision makers. Read the two as a set and you'll never again be at a loss about how to handle a sales situation.
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Lynch, Dudley, and Paul Kordis, Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World, Fawcett, 1988
This book is also sadly out of print, but is found in most libraries and quite common in used bookstores. It will teach you why you don't want to be an aggressive, win-at-all-costs shark, or a weak, dependent carp. The dolphin strategy is smart, based on a win-win concept of business yet without self-sacrifice. The "tit-for-tat" strategy alone is worth the price of the book.
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Peters, Tom, and Robert Waterman, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies, Warner Books, 1988
Although time has taken some of the luster off a few of the companies profiled in this book, the attitudes that characterized them are still sorely lacking in most businesses today. Adding value, treating people well, staying close to customers...these ideas are just as powerful today as they were when this book first became a bestseller.
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Ries, Al, Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It, HarperBusiness, 1997
According to Ries, it's focus—or die. This book is filled with examples of companies who followed the trend toward diversification and suffered for it. The point is to do one thing extremely well and stop trying to be all things to all people. Even though Ries' points and examples are about big business, the lessons can be applied just as well to any size of business. Ries, who co-authored the classic Positioning with Jack Trout is worth listening to. Even though it may not seem logical, this book will convince you that less can in fact be more. 
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Trout, Jack, with Steve Rivkin, The New Positioning: The Latest on the World's #1 Business Strategy, McGraw-Hill, 1997
This is a follow-up to the original 1993 book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (which Trout co-authored with Al Ries) and refreshes the basic concept that your company must hold a clear and unique place in the mind of your customer.  Although the examples are about big business and mass marketing, many of the concepts can and should be applied to companies of all sizes.
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Winninger, Tom, Price Wars: How to Win the Battle for Your Customer, St. Thomas Press, 1994
If you thought playing the discount game was the only way to compete because that's what everyone else is doing, read this book right away. It will show you dozens of techniques to establish a value added advantage where your price becomes secondary. Oh, and by the way, you'll make a lot more profit, have les stress, and generally attract a better, more loyal class of customers. Your competition will never again get an advantage over you just by dropping their price. In our view, it's the only sane way to compete and win over the long term.
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