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December 22, 2022

Top 10 Business Books of 2022

By Verne Harnish 

It was an excellent year for books that brought fresh thinking to scaling both your business and personal life, with many revolving around the simple notion that people remember most how you leave them feeling.  

Normally our Top 5 list is aligned with our Scaling Up framework of People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash; I included a runner’s up list of five additional books for 2022.  

Before we dive in, I’d like to note that we released three new books in 2022, as well:

  1.  Scaling Up Compensation details five design principles for turning your largest expense into a strategic advantage.  Get compensation right and it can add magnitudes more top- and bottom-line growth while helping you attract and retain your A-players.
  2. Scaling Up Revised Edition has been significantly updated since its release in 2014, including a new chapter focused on “The Exit.”
  3. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 20th Anniversary Edition, the original classic, was updated to provide an easier “first book” for team members to read in supporting implementation of our fundamental tools and habits.

And now for this year’s Top Business Books. 


What’s in It for Them?: 9 Genius Networking Principles to Get What You Want by Helping Others Get What They Want by Joe Polish

Joe Polish gets right to the point when he opens this book—the modern-day version of How to Win Friends and Influence People and the #1 business book of 2022: “The secret to success in life and in business is learning how to connect and form relationships with other people – and most people don’t know how to do that,”  he writes. You scale up through relationships, yet trying to connect with people can be painful experience, causing you to miss out on crucial business opportunities (or love)!  Equally important, Polish looks at how to connect with key influencers and gain their support for scaling your dreams. Please study this book to hone your relationship-building skills.  

Key Takeaway: In making the right connections with the right people in the right way, there is one key question: “What’s in it for them?”  In figuring out how to make others’ lives better, you become a magnetic and valuable person with whom people want to collaborate.


The Crux: How Leaders Become Strategists by Richard P. Rumelt

Every successful scaleup identifies a critical issue within an industry and then develops a game-changing solution that elegantly masters this constraint and provides the company with an outsized 10x or more advantage over the competition.  Elon Musk’s reusable rocket approach means Falcon 9’s cost per pound into low-Earth orbit is 23x cheaper than the old space shuttle.  This book helps you think through and design a similar strategic advantage in your industry. 

Key Takeaway: The process of diagnosing a key challenge/constraint and then creating a response is the best theory we have for strategy creation.  Starting with long-term goals gets all of this backward.  


The Frictionless Organization: Deliver Great Customer Experiences with Less Effort by Bill Price and David Jaffe

Removing friction for customers really is a miracle cure.  It helps deliver better customer experiences, save money, and grow your firm’s revenue.  And it almost always makes work easier for your team.  The key to identifying these opportunities is focusing on customer interactions because a universal truth is that customers don’t want to contact you; you made them do it!!  Figure out why they had to reach out to you, and you’ll understand where to focus your time and efforts to make the organization better for everyone – customers and employees alike.

Key Takeaway: Measure the number of customer contacts per unit/service (CPUs) sold.  The goal is to continue to move this number down, not just to be excellent in handling customer contacts.  


Beating Inflation: An Agile, Concrete and Effective Corporate Guide by Hermann Simon

Most leaders have not led through a 1970’s-era like inflation. Pricing guru Hermann Simon’s new book is a quick read and details the right way to raise prices.  If not handled correctly, your pricing strategies can do grave harm to the business.  For instance, it’s often better to raise prices a small amount, multiple times, than make one huge price increase.  There is an art and science to pricing, and Simon’s team has the decades of experience and research to back up its recommendations.  

Key Takeaway: The CEO must warn the workforce against price illusion.  If sales are inflated by inflationary prices, but real profit stagnates or economic profit vanishes, then nothing is gained.


Kick Up Some Dust: Lessons on Thinking Big, Giving Back, and Doing It Yourself by Bernie Marcus and Catherine Lewis

Bernie Marcus (93), co-founder of Home Depot, details the “do-it-yourself” road he pursued to build not only one of the more successful firms in the world but also to launch a foundation that has donated over $2 billion to support cutting-edge research on stem cells, autism, cancer, integrative medicine and PTSD for veterans.  Pick up some real-world ideas, inspiration, and chutzpah from this entertaining and insightful biography. 

Key Takeaway: Four factors were key to Bernie’s success: he was passionate about Home Depot, understood the risks, was not afraid of failure, and told the Home Depot story to anyone who might help his team reach their goals.


Play Nice but Win: A CEO’s Journey from Founder to Leader by Michael Dell

 This biography details how Michael Dell scaled his firm to $100 billion and orchestrated the “Deal of the Century.”  I encourage you to listen to the book – Michael narrates it himself.

CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest by Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, and Vikram Malhorta

Written by three McKinsey Senior Partners, they answer the question “What does a CEO really do?” in those firms that excel.  There are six: setting the direction, aligning the organization, mobilizing through leaders, engaging the board, and managing personal effectiveness.

Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect by Will Guidara

After transforming a middling brasserie in New York City into the #1 restaurant in the world, the founder details how all firms can reach beyond providing good service (what you do) to delivering hospitality (how you leave people feeling).  

The Advisory Board Playbook: People Power Profits by Nancy Mayer

All scaleups should utilize an advisory board.  This book provides the playbook for how to identify, recruit, compensate, and get the most from this crucial resource.

The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for a Happier, Stronger Relationship by Nate Klemp, Ph.D. and Kaley Klemp

Anyone in a longer-term relationship will suffer from the illusion of fairness.  Instead, bring “radical generosity” to the relationship. This book details how to make this a reality.

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.