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5 Steps to Building a Business Book Club

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Once a month, on a Wednesday night, you'll find Parham Nabatian heading off to his book club meeting. But the "Making It Happen Book Club" is no wine-soaked gathering to parse the latest fiction bestseller. The members of this club are more likely to be discussing an iconic theory or personal development book.

Nabatian, founder of Sherman Oaks, Calif. Internet marketing firm Infinite Communications, Inc. created the club two years ago for fellow business owners and leaders to discuss business books and concepts that would help them with their own enterprises.

Since then, the meetings have evolved into part book club, part CEO peer support group. Members choose books that relate to challenges they have in their businesses and discuss specific solutions and ideas. They even have a private group where they share information, articles and discussion between meetings. Nabatian thinks other business owners would benefit from such a group and shares his best tips for creating your own business book club.

1. Invite the right people.
You need to find the mix of people who are motivated, creative and not so completely overwhelmed that they can't find time to read a book in a month. Nabatian invited noncompeting business owners whom he respected and who he thought could give good advice to each other. Membership has hovered between six and nine people since the group was founded in 2011. That's the perfect size, Nabatian says.

2. Evaluate the best topics.
Before you start choosing books, discuss some of the specific challenges your business faces. Are the sales departments of member companies having trouble? Do members need more creativity from teams? Look for books that solve common challenges. Nabatian's group members put forth ideas for books each month and vote on them.

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3. Stay on topic.
It's easy for these types of gathering to become overtly social. That's fine for part of the meeting, but Nabatian says it's important to stick to the discussion topic to get the most of out of the book club. Perhaps allow a half-hour for socializing before you get down to business, he suggests. A list of book discussion questions can also be helpful to keep the group on track.

4. Make the meetings enticing.
Each member of Nabatian's group hosts a meeting according to a set rotation. Sometimes, they meet in homes or in places of business. One member's wife makes cookies whenever they meet at her house. Such niceties keep members looking forward to the club meetings. In addition, sometimes the group will have "homework" to bring in research materials on certain topics to share, such as magazine articles or YouTube videos. That amplifies the research power on any given topic and members can share what they found.

5. Cultivate trust.
The more your club members get to know each other, the more they'll trust each other. The book club needs to be a safe environment to share business challenges and offer solutions, he says. If you feel that you have members who can't be trusted, the dynamic won't work and members won't get the best benefit.

"We're a caring group of business owners who have really grown to help each other. We share business contacts and offer each other advice. We're able to grow our businesses together. That's probably the best thing that's come out of the group," Nabatian says.

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