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Although many of us like to get lost in the pages of a riveting suspense thriller or sci-fi adventure, there are a number of books available that can educate the reader on becoming a better employee or employer, and that can be used to keep ourselves and our companies on the cutting edge and ready to face any trials and tribulations that may come along the way.

A handful of fleet industry experts, including Automotive Fleet's founder and Editor Ed Bobit, offered up a few book titles which have influenced them during their careers in fleet and have a prominent place on their bookshelves.

While some deal directly with the business of business, others tell stories of courage in the face of adversity. A handful of recommendations are historical tales from centuries past, while others are memoirs of titans of industry and unsung heroes — some who use four feet instead of two.

Learning from the Past

For Steven LaPorte, director of business operations at Iron Mountain Information Management Services, his reading recommendations date back to his college days when he was encouraged by his graduate school instructors to read a trio of books, which he still periodically refers to and continues to find them relevant today.

"I'm sure you will receive a number of responses touting the works of business authors, such as Steven Covey and Peter Drucker, all of which offer value to the reader, but are typically written in the form of a recipe," LaPorte explained. "My historical preferences have been to refer to the timeless classics that discuss the general business and economic environment; the motivations and causal factors within those environments, and then suggest thought-provoking interpretations the reader could best mold to their particular circumstances."

  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing by Burton Malkiel
  • Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors by Michael Porter
  • The Third Wave: The Classic Study of Tomorrow By Alvin Toffler

Although not a book, LaPorte also strongly recommended "The Core Competence of the Corporation," an article by C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel that introduced the concept of core competencies into management literature, which was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1990.

Reading as a Training Tool

As part of Siemens Vehicle Management Services Director Jim McCarthy's departmental training and development strategy, every member of his team is required to read a minimum of three books per year — one that is industry specific, one that is motivational, and one on personal development. This has been a departmental practice for more than a decade. Over the past four years, the group has read and discussed the following books:

Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business By Bob Lutz

"I have seen Bob Lutz speak a few times, but when I saw him at an Automotive Fleet & Leasing (AFLA) event a few years back, much of the discussion centered around this book. For me, having to manage a fleet from within the procurement community, the similarity of this book's premise with some of the issues facing our fleet operations at Siemens' (long-term decisions vs. short-term gains) seemed just too coincidental to pass up. As a whole, the team appreciated his distaste for spreadsheets and bottom-line management — they could relate," McCarthy said.

Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry By Steve Rattner

"I saw Steven Rattner speak at an AFLA event in San Diego in 2011 and was immediately struck by the enormity of what was expected of his team," McCarthy recalled. "Of course, many say that his team's actions were responsible for saving the automotive industry as we know it today. But, conversely, their approach was, in many ways, scary, intrusive, and even, some would think, un-American. Bottom line, this was truly an historic time in our industry, and I just felt that the team needed to better understand what was happening around them."

Outraged: How Detroit and the Wall Street Car Czars Killed the American Dream By Tamara Darvish

"I saw Tamara Darvish speak at the Conference of Automotive Remarketing (CAR) in 2012, and in the syllabus her keynote address was described as: Outraged: The 'Taking Out' of America's Dealers. But, the title of her book is a bit more insightful. Her heartfelt story was, in many ways, aimed toward enlightening the American public as to the potential dangers of government intervention," McCarthy noted. "And, since we were all right smack dab in the middle of this historic and horrific time, I felt the team would appreciate the personal insights as told though the pen of someone very much affected by the government bailout. Additionally, I thought that they would appreciate Darvish's persistent and tireless activism that, in the end, proved that you can, indeed, fight City Hall."

Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster By Paul Ingrassia

"This book caught my attention as a quasi-historical perspective of our industry, but with a pretty good emphasis on the bailout and its probable effects, both in the present and future. As one reviewer noted, 'This is the epic saga of the American automobile industry's rise and demise,' and that says it all in a nutshell," McCarthy said.

Taking a Page from History Books

When it comes to choosing reading material, Joe LaRosa, director of global fleet services for Merck Sharp & Dohme, looks to the recent and not-so-recent past for inspiration. His choices of books span from the opening of the Western Territory at the beginning of the 19th century to the remarkable tale of a once unknown airline pilot safely landing a passenger plane in the Hudson River.

"Reading non-fiction books and learning from historical events that were too shortened to teach us in our history classes promotes our leadership and interpersonal skills," LaRosa said.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West By Stephen Ambrose

"This look at the Louis and Clarke expedition gives details about how Louis and Clarke came from entirely different backgrounds, but used their individual expertise to accomplish the main goal/objective for expanding the U.S. territory for President Thomas Jefferson. There are teamwork and subject matter expert lessons to be learned," LaRosa noted.

From Worst to First: Behind the Scenes of Continental's Remarkable Comeback By Gordon Bethune

"Continental Airlines CEO Gordon Bethune's story explains how he battled a tough union in making compromise, and looks at how costs and bringing the team together can affect the company as a whole," LaRosa explained.

Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters By Chesley B. Sullenberger III

"The book tells the tale of how the airline pilot nicknamed 'Sully' safely piloted the Airbus A320 into the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2011, with no engines, and how his countless hours of training paid off in a matter of a few minutes," LaRosa said.

Bloody Crimes: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Chase for Jefferson Davis By James L. Swanson

"This book details the historical events concerning what happened after President Lincoln was assassinated, as well as the fleeing of Jefferson Davis and the state of the Union before and after Lincoln's assassination and the effort by both the Union and Confederates to attempt to heal the country," LaRosa said.

Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog By Damien Lewis and Mike Dowling

"Sergeant Rex, a German Shepard, and his trainer, Sergeant Mike Dowling, were part of the first Marine Corps military K9 teams sent to the front lines of combat since Vietnam, stationed near Iraq's infamous Triangle of Death in 2004," LaRosa noted. "The duo's story shows how basic training instincts saved lives and the loyalty earned between troops and a dog."

Defining Our Experiences and Ourselves

Success can be both taught and learned through experience. By gazing through the looking glass of other people's lives, we can find ways to create our own success, which is why Wheels Inc., Vice President of Client Relations Laura Jozwiak offered a handful of books on just this subject.

"Our experiences define who we are, how we think, and how we solve problems," Jozwiak said. "The more experiences you have, the more value you can bring to the table, so read everything you can to build on your experiences and knowledge. Stay curious and you will stay relevant."

Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard By Chip and Dan Heath

"A great book to make you think about how we change, the internal and external forces of change, and how to balance those to move forward," Jozwiak said.

The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy By Jon Gordon

"A quick read to remind you how your attitude is 90 percent of your success and your team's success. Positive and supportive behavior is key to control your path," Jozwiak said.

What Every Body is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People By Joe Navarro

"This book is written by a former FBI agent. It is about reading and understanding body language. Very helpful to understand others and be mindful of what your body is saying too," Jozwiak said.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln By Doris Kearns Goodwin

"Beyond a great history lesson, it is also the classic book on the importance of bringing different views together to build an effective team," Jozwiak said. "Choose the best people for your team, not just those that agree with you. You learn more from people who don't think just like you."

A Little Something from the Coach

With more than 50 years in the fleet industry, Automotive Fleet founder Ed Bobit (affectionately referred to as "Coach") also weighed in with a couple of suggestions of "business readings" that fleet managers may find helpful in understanding their own company's mantra.

How to Become a Rainmaker By Jeffrey Fox

"This book outlines the rules for getting and keeping customers happy," according to Bobit. "It can release you from being too heavily focused on our day-to-day activities and reminds us of the opportunities for our company and ourselves if we truly know solutions to directly assist customer account's needs."

The Ultimate Question 2.0 By Fred Reichheld

"How net promoters find success in a customer-driven world. For Internet novices, like me, it gives answers to the questions surrounding electronic media's ultimate role in seeking solutions for success with almost limitless boundaries," Bobit said.

The Corporate Warriors By Douglas Ramsey

"This gem of a book may be out of print, but it was most interesting at the time and is thought-provoking reviewing it now," Bobit said. "It's six case histories that were highly discussed in the '80s for their strategies employed for business leadership in the cases of high-level companies. Looking back, it's most revealing to see which ones worked and how those marketing battles were fought."

About the author
Stephane Babcock

Stephane Babcock

Former Managing Editor

Stephane Babcock is the former managing editor of Heavy Duty Trucking.

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