25 books for your summer reading

These picks from veterinary experts will feed your brain and renew your spirit -- whether you're on the beach or sneaking a few minutes between appointments.
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Jul 01, 2010

Read any good books lately? If you’re like me, the answer is yes, and you’re always looking for more. With so many high-quality books on the market covering so many useful topics, choosing your next read can be a daunting task.

To assist you, I’ve collected book recommendations from five well-known people in the veterinary industry—including myself. We five avid readers come from diverse professional backgrounds, including education, veterinary service, finance, nonprofit, and private practice. The only ground rules for our selections were that the books had to be nonfiction, currently in print, and valuable to readers of Veterinary Economics. The resulting list of 25 books is for your summer reading pleasure. They’re guaranteed to educate you in your downtime and inspire you. Let’s get reading!

Ramp up your management skills

Dr. Peter Weinstein, MBA, is the executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association. He’s also a former president of VetPartners, a partner in Veterinary Success Services, and a former practice owner. Dr. Weinstein recommends:

How to Win Friends and Influence People (Simon and Schuster, 2009). Excerpt
First written in 1937, business guru Dale Carnegie’s guide to people skills is just as pertinent today as it was 70-plus years ago. It’s the ultimate time-tested guide on how to communicate with virtually everybody: staff members, clients, vendors, and even family members.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (Harper-Collins, 1995).
Learn to fight the myth of the entrepreneur with Michael E. Gerber. Gerber provides a great vision of the small business world that will make you think seriously about how you run your practice. Can you create a practice that’s so well organized and systematic that you don’t need to be present for it to be successful? After reading this book, you just might.

The One Minute Manager (William Morrow, 1982). Excerpt
This is one of the most celebrated books on management, and it begins like a business fairy tale: “Once there was a bright young man who was looking for an effective manager.” This insightful parable by Kenneth Blanchard, PhD, and Spencer Johnson, MD, simplifies business to its most basic activities. If you need to learn how to work with your team to accomplish your goals, you can start with this book. Though you can read this in one sitting, you’ll find yourself going back to it again and again.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (Thomas Nelson, 2007). Excerpt
The title of this book by John C. Maxwell says it all. Our success is forever tied to the people who make up our teams. To achieve anything, we need to know how to motivate them. This book by a leader with more than 20 years’ experience is a must-read if you want to be a effective leader—not just in your practice but also in life.

Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle (Twelve, 2009). Excerpt
Dan Senor and Saul Singer explain how a nation of 7 million people surrounded by hostile neighbors continues to grow its economic base. Why do some of the highest-tech companies in the world have offices in Israel? Find out in this unique story of how one country’s military philosophy has influenced its business acumen.

Develop your leadership style

Dr. James E. Thomas is an owner of Veterinary Emergency Center, a multispecialty practice in Richmond, Virginia. Here are his top picks for business reading:

Leading at the Speed of Growth: Journey From Entrepreneur to CEO (Wiley, 2001).
This quick read by Katherine Catlin and Jana Matthews outlines how to transition your business from a mom-and-pop shop to a successful organization that can survive long after you leave.

If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 1/2 Things You Would Do Differently (Second River Healthcare, 2004).
Fred Lee has written probably the best book on establishing a culture of exceptional customer service. This motivating book on Disney’s best corporate practices should be mandatory for every member of the veterinary team.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (Jossey-Bass, 2002). Excerpts
Every boss and manager will recognize himself or herself as a contributor to team dysfunction in this quick but powerful read by Patrick Lencioni. Fortunately, the author spends much of the book presenting lots of great ideas for improved and effective team-building.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t (HarperBusiness, 2001). Excerpt
In this leadership and management classic, Jim Collins shares compelling insights about how narrow the margin is between being good and being great. The choice is ours.

Management Lessons From Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the World’s Most Admired Service Organizations (McGraw Hill, 2010).
Leonard L. Berry and Kent D. Seltman provide a phenomenal illustration of the power of collaborative medicine in which culture dictates that the client and the patient are priority number one. This is an excellent read, particularly for those involved in multidisciplinary practice.

Nurture your relationships

Dr. Donald J. Klingborg is associate dean at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He actively engages in preparing his students for the financial and business aspects of the veterinary profession that await them. Here’s what he’d place on your bookshelf this summer:

Fabled Service: Ordinary Acts, Extraordinary Outcomes (Jossey-Bass, 1997).
Author Betsy Sanders reminds us of the importance of great customer service. Veterinary medicine is a profession operating as a service business—and it is the pet-owning client, not the veterinarian, who defines whether the service is good or bad.

Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others (Jossey-Bass, 2003).
Out of the plethora of leadership readings available today, this short book by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner gets to the heart of the biggest issues surrounding great leadership and focuses on effective recruiting and supporting of “followers.” After all, a leader without followers doesn’t accomplish anything.

An Edible History of Humanity (Walker and Co., 2009). Excerpt
Tom Standage—the author of A History of the World in Six Glasses—has written a fantastic book that will stimulate your thinking about civilization, social preferences, and the influence of food on our culture.

Skills for Communicating With Patients (Radcliffe Medical Press, 2005).
Jonathon Silverman, Suzanne M. Kurtz, and Juliet Draper provide the authoritative reference for effective doctor-client communications. The detail is fantastic for those who like sequential information. Dr. Klingborg uses it in chunks and finds it extraordinarily useful.

How We Decide (Mariner Books, 2010). Excerpt
Jonah Lehrer’s book about the psychology of decision-making has the potential to positively affect all our relationships. Understanding how our brains work can help us understand behaviors—our own as well as those of our staff and clients.

Learn from history with Dr. Stephens’ picks

Dr. Jack L. Stephens is the founder and president of Pets Best Insurance. He’s also a former practice owner and the founder of Veterinary Pet Insurance. Dr. Stephens recommends these historical books:

Truman (Simon and Schuster, 1993). Excerpt
David G. McCullough expounds on the life of Harry Truman, an underrated president who, in the author’s view, made more important, far-lasting, and critical decisions than any president since George Washington. Truman’s leadership style shines in this book, which portrays him as plainspoken, honest, and willing to accept the sometimes negative political consequences for his decisions.

Customer Mania! It’s Never Too Late to Build a Customer-Focused Company (Free Press, 2004). Excerpt
Ken Blanchard, Jim Ballard, and Fred Finch collaborated on this important read for all current and future business owners. They draw lessons from the rejuvenation of the world’s largest restaurant company—Yum! Brands, the owner of KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s, and A&W Restaurants—to show how companies large and small can become customer- centric and build fans, not just clients.

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (W.W. Norton and Co., 2005).
In this Pulitzer Prize winner, Jared Diamond provides remarkable insights into what causes nations and countries to evolve. He argues that the success of Western nations is due in large part to environmental differences between countries, not moral goodness or intellectual superiority.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Penguin, 2005). Excerpt
A companion to Guns, Germs, and Steel, this book by Jared Diamond explores the geographic and environmental reasons that some populations have flourished and others haven’t. Diamond’s two books have been available for several years. If you haven’t read them, they deserve your attention.

15 Stars: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall—Three Generals Who Saved the American Century (NAL Trade, 2008). Excerpt
Stanley Weintraub takes a close look at three remarkable generals who each attained the rank of five stars during World War II. The book also details exactly how these powerful generals affected the outcome of the war and the postwar construction of Europe and Japan. In Weintraub’s view, the lesser-known Marshall realized the greatest achievement.

Push the boundaries

And last but not least: I’m a partner with Gatto McFerson CPAs, a financial consulting, management, and business-appraisal firm specializing in the veterinary profession. Here’s what I think you should be reading this summer:

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Back Bay Books, 2007). Excerpts
Many people point to Outliers as their favorite book by Malcolm Gladwell, but I prefer Blink. Gladwell firmly believes that your initial gut reaction to a situation, place, or person (such as a potential hire) is usually the correct one.

Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk (Wiley, 1998).
Peter L. Bernstein discusses the evolution of risk. And risk is a major component of the veterinary practice appraisal process. The riskier an investment, the less a buyer is willing to pay. In this book, Bernstein teaches you how to capitalize on that risk.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Harper Perennial, 2009). Excerpts
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner shine a light on economics and certain trends in a unique and easy-to-read way, with wide-ranging examples: sumo wrestlers, the Ku Klux Klan, drug dealers, and parents.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (Broadway Business, 2010). Excerpt
Chip Heath and Dan Heath delve into the counterintuitive psychology of change, such as why life-altering transitions are often easier to make than smaller ones. Have you ever wondered why your staff reacts to a new computer system with a shrug, but a near riot breaks out when you switch brands of coffee? This book explains why.

Committed: Confessions of a Fantasy Football Junkie (Scribner, 2005). Excerpt
This book is for those who have a football fanatic in their lives. In it, Mark St. Amant exposes fantasy football and its addictive nature. I gave this book to my wife with a card that read, “See? You could have had it worse.”

Veterinarians often look to other veterinarians and veterinary consultants for the best thinking on business, customer service, and the like. But you can see from selections like these that some of the best ideas for managing, communicating, and learning about the world can come from outside veterinary medicine. Grab a book or two here, and satisfy a curiosity or solve a problem you have.

Tom McFerson, CPA, ABV, is a partner with Gatto McFerson CPAs in Santa Monica, Calif. Share your summer reading picks on our Community—visit dvm360.com/summerreading. Send questions or comments to ve@advanstar.com.