I love reading business books. You love reading business books. But all that reading is nearly  worthless if you don’t apply what you’ve learned. And unless you’re writing something down, you’re not applying most of what you learn when you read the latest book by, say, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jim Collins, Clayton Christensen or even Dr. Seuss, (Green Eggs and Ham has some great lessons for salespeople.) 

You may remember a thing or two, but if you’re like me, you’ve read books that had 30 great tips for your business, and yet when you finished the book you put it down and 29 of them were forgotten by the next day. You know you should read the book again, but you have limited time, and what difference will reading it again make if you didn’t remember much the first?

And so you move onto the next book and repeat the same almost useless process. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Here’s a free and easy way to instantly turn what you read into valuable action items and next steps to help you grow your business.

Related: 5 Steps to Building a Business Book Club

Step 1. Start a business reading club. This is not a business book club, although those are great, too. I don’t call it a book club because you may choose to include more than just books in your reading. The process I'm advocating can be used just as well with all those business articles you like to email to everyone on your team.

Step 2. Invite co-workers to your salon. What you’re going to get from this business reading club is probably not going to be for public consumption. This isn’t a reading club for you and your buddies; this is internal, for your company only. This business reading club may include your entire company, a certain division or the executive management.

Your company may have multiple reading clubs. You don’t have to be the owner, the CEO or a manager to start a club. Even if it’s just you and a group of co-workers or you yourself, you can still benefit from following these steps.

Step 3. Choose a focus. What’s the most pressing issue for members of you club? Is it marketing? Sales? Customer service? Operations? Choose a focused topic, and stick to it. If you want to study another topic, start a separate club, even if it’s with the same group of people. You’ll see why in a moment.

Related: The Secret Entrepreneurial Lessons of a Liberal Arts Education

Step 4. Decide what to read. Once you have picked the topic, find the best reading material you can, whether it’s books, articles or other publications. At my company we’re focusing on customer service, so we’re reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Shieh, Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki, The Ultimate Question 2.0 by Fred Reichheld and Rob Markey, The Supernova Advisor by Rob Knapp and Hugh’s Rackspace Book by Hugh MacLeod, among others. (If you have more suggestions for great customer service books, please let me know in the comments.)

Step 5. Set Up a Spreadsheet. “Not another spreadsheet!” you wail. Don’t worry; I told you this is simple. And this is where the real value appears. Your spreadsheet is labeled according to your topic, so ours is named “MWI Reading Club -- Customer Service.” Each book or article gets its own tab, so we have a tab labeled “Supernova.” Across the top the columns we have are “Team Member,” “Quote/Thought/Idea,” “Application to MWI,” “Next Steps” and “Comments.”

As we read Supernova together, my team and I are filling in the spreadsheet whenever we across a great idea. I type in my name “Josh” in the first column. In the second I insert the quote, thought  or idea from the book that caught my attention. In the third column I explain why I feel it applies to our company. In the fourth column I type in possible action items or next steps. The fifth column is for me or others to include comments.

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If Oprah Had a Business Book Club

 

Step 6. Follow through. Steps 1 through 5 will allow you and your team to get much more out of your business reading, and you’ll end up with a list of action items you can implement at your company. At my company we’ve already collected several ideas from reading Supernova that may have a substantial impact on how we run things. The next step is to do something with those ideas by changing policies, setting goals or other activities.

These steps are easy and fast. Instead of handing out books or sending links to articles and then wondering what has happened to them, you’ll have a process that puts everyone on the same track and bakes accountability into the system.

You’ll have a method for changing corporate culture, improving results and affecting the bottom line. When you record your ideas about what you’re reading, you’ll find that your reading comprehension is enhanced and your mind becomes more stimulated, knowing that what you’re reading now matters more than it ever did before because this is no longer mere entertainment.

If you’re not sure, try it out. It takes minimal effort and time, so you have little to lose. You may like it; you will see.

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