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By Todd Milton

Read any good books lately? Michael Stone recommends that construction business owners/contractors devote at least thirty minutes each day to reading business books, trade publications, etc. as an effort to continue to learn, grow, and set themselves apart from the competition. This may sound unfeasible to some, but in 30 minutes you could read ten pages. Over the course of a year, this could be over 2,500 pages – you could have read Les Misérables and more!

What business books have you read that you would recommend to other contractors? Here are some that I have greatly benefited from:

Markup & Profit: A Contractor’s Guide (Revisited), Profitable Sales, and Estimating Construction Profitably
by Michael Stone
In addition to Tolkien, this should be the trilogy that all contractors read over and over and over again. This year I took two of my project managers through these books (and the Maxwell book below) and we met once a month at 6:30am to discuss what we were learning. These books literally redeemed our business seven years ago and each time I read through them I either reinforce what I’m doing or learn something new to develop in.

Developing the Leader Within You
by John C. Maxwell
Not a real page turner, but good, basic, thoughtful material on leadership. As you go through, you will be introduced to other writers and books that you may want to reference in the future.

Called to Business
by Dallas Willard
This is a very short, but rich, philosophical look at what it even means to be a professional in business. It is basically a few short essays on the ethics of business. This is also on the re-read every year list.

Lincoln on Leadership
by Donald T. Phillips
This will whet your appetite for learning more about Lincoln. “Management By Roaming Around” (MBRA) is now one of my job categories.

The Go-Giver
by Bob Burg and John David Mann
Reads more like a story and encourages you to consider “generosity” beyond how we typically use that word.

The Win Without Pitching Manifesto
by Blair Enns
This book was given to me by another contractor – which really encouraged me to know that someone else is reading and learning. It is short and a page turner and offered much food for thought regarding viewing your business as possessing “expertise” that we will not give away for free and that we want to say “no” to many folks as soon as possible so we can find the clients who are a good fit for us and us for them. Highly recommend.

The Elements of Building: A Business Handbook For Residential Builders and Builder: Builders & Tradesmen Tell Their Stories
by Mark Q. Kerson
The Handbook is good, helpful, basic information. What is a contract? What kind of insurance do I need? The Builder…Stories is very enjoyable to read. Kerson interviews dozens of contractors of all ages, men and women, from home builders to chimney sweeps, across the nation and it is so enlightening to read these interviews. Not everyone runs their business the same way – or even correctly. But you will learn from them, nonetheless.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
by David Allen
I read this a few years ago with one of our project managers who was administratively-challenged. It introduces/reinforces some good “office habits”. Again, not a Grisham novel, but some hearty meat and potatoes for your business.

Carpentry & Building Construction (Glencoe)
Mark D. Feirer & John L. Feirer
This is a textbook that was required for the (open book) Virginia contractor’s examination. I decided to read it cover to cover and it took a few years. But it is such a helpful resource and overview of all aspects of residential building. First textbook I ever actually read.

Profit First: Transform Your Business From A Cash-Eating Monster To A Money-Making Machine
by Mike Michalowicz
A very different concept (than I had ever heard of) on how to organize your bank accounts so that you put away the profit first. I have incorporated many of these principles and it has worked! This book was recommended to me by an auto mechanic…another learner!!

The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States
by Floyd G. Cullop
Pulling a page from Casper ten Boom (if you don’t know who he is then what is wrong with you!?) we at Milton Construction begin our day with a brief pow wow. Over the years our pow wow will vary. We will sing hymns, read from the Bible, watch some videos such as Mike Rowe’s S.W.E.A.T. Pledge, (I even tried The Pilgrim’s Progress but their eyes began to gloss over) and yes, we even read through and discussed the Declaration and the Constitution. Couldn’t hurt, heh? You should hear these guys sing “The Star-Spangled Banner!” Maybe we can open for the Hillcats next season?

Seriously folks, if you have any good business (or life) books, please send your suggestions our way. We would be much obliged.

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