Salt & Pepper October 2016: Most Influential Business Books

NOTE: Salt & Pepper is intended to foster intelligent dialogue between professionals. This is not a dagger throwing contest. Be honest and authentic, but please also be kind and keep it classy.


Both Kirby “Salt” Hasseman and Bill “Pepper” Petrie are voracious readers of books – both for business and for pleasure. In this month’s Salt and Pepper, Kirby and Bill share three books that have had the most impact on them as well as what book for pleasure they are currently reading. There was, however, one rule: no book by Seth Godin for the simple reason that both Kirby and Bill (and everyone else in the promotional products industry) is a huge fan. For this Salt & Pepper, the focus was on influential books by authors other than Seth Godin.

Salt – Kirby Hasseman

I am a huge believer in reading.  If you want to grow, you need to read.  I love the quote (attributed to a bunch of different people that says, “Five years from now you will be the exact same person, except for the people you meet and the books you read.”   I also try to share all the books that I read.  Feel free to check out the books I have read so far in 2016.  The challenge, for me, is to narrow it down to only 3 books!  But that is the challenge at hand…so I will narrow them down in categories.  

4 Disciplines of Execution:  You can put this in the category of leadership and growth.  All of us have had the opportunity to create a new strategy for growth in your company (or your personal sales) only to have it go by the wayside.  We lose track of the new excitement in the “whirlwind” of your everyday activities.  4DX helps you cut through the whirlwind so you can create simple strategies for real growth.

The Pumpkin Plan:  I have heard many people say over the years “The Riches are in the Niches.”  In this book, Mike Michaelowicz breaks down why you should solely focus on growing a business where you are truly an expert.  He discusses how this makes you stronger and why it makes the business more fun and profit-able.  I think this is appropriate for both the leader and the sales professional.

Fanatical Prospecting:  Some books make you think and others just give you a kick in the pants.  This is the latter.  In the world that we live in, we are always looking for the easy way to build a sales business.  The fact is, the sales leaders in every organization I know still put in the work.  This was a recent book for me…and a kick that I needed to hear.  I think every sales pro should read this one.

These are some great books that have helped push me in the last few years.  As for fun, I am a huge Lee Child (the Jack Reacher series) fan.  In the last year, I read his latest and I can tell you his newest one will come out in November.  I can’t wait!  

Pepper – Bill Petrie

My love of reading stems from the fact that I have a constant craving (not the k.d. lang song) to acquire knowledge. To have my way of thinking challenged gets my brain moving in ways it would otherwise not and becomes a fuel for creativity. Over the years, I’ve read hundreds of books and almost without exception, have taken something positive away that has helped me in business. The three business books that have had the most impact on me are below, along with a nugget or two I learned along the way from them.

1.       Just Do It: The Nike Spirit in the Corporate World by Donald Katz (1994) – Yes, I realize this book is well over 20 years old but I have read it at least once a year since I first bought it in 1994. Essentially, it does a very good job of telling the story of Nike Founder & CEO Phil Knight, but the fascinating parts of the book are revealed when discussing marketing strategy. For example, Nike essentially made tennis cool by creating the “Rock and Roll Tennis” perception of Andre Agassi and created a cottage industry for Bo Jackson with the “Bo Knows” campaigns. To read how these radically creative campaigns were developed and executed in an entrepreneurial way within a traditional industry has helped me follow my vision in my own organization. 

2.       Ninja Innovation by Gary Shapiro (2013) – I first heard Gary Shapiro speak at PPAI’s North American Leadership Conference (NALC) the year this book came out and couldn’t get his book fast enough. Thankfully, it was really fast since he handed out the book right after his keynote, but I digress. My well-worn copy of this book continues to teach lessons on every read. A personal favorite is that first is not always best where Mr. Shapiro shares that patience is a key ingredient to success. Using the example of Microsoft’s foray into tablet computing in 2000 as an example, the author shows how while Microsoft was first to market with a tablet computer, Apple used the lessons of Microsoft’s failure to fully marry what consumers wanted with the technology that can meet that desire.

3.       Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull (2014) – For those of you who don’t know, Ed Catmull is the co-founder of Pixar Animation and this book shares many of the lessons he has learned by working with creative (and demanding) people like George Lucas and Steve Jobs. In this book, Mr. Catmull shares that the single most important reason for the continued success of Pixar is the environment that protects the creative process. There are dozens of lessons contained within, but my personal favorite is this: It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them. Reading this book is akin to earning an MBA at the seat of one of the most creative minds of our time.

I do read for pleasure – usually when I’m ensconced in an airplane – and it is usually about music. You may want to sit down because I’m not going to tell you about the latest book about the mighty Van Halen. This is despite the fact that Greg Renoff has written a fantastic book about the early days of Van Halen titled Van Halen Rising. The book I’m currently reading for pleasure is Outlaw; Waylon, Willie, Kris and the Renegades of Nashville by Michael Streissguth. If you like music – especially old school country music – this book is for you. It chronicles the rise of “outlaw” country in Nashville during the 1970’s and details how rebels like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson bucked the trends in music city to stake their own claim with their own music. It’s a fascinating read and one I highly recommend if you love music and the story of people who buck the system.