As a leader at ModBargains, one of the things I do now is lead the entire company through book groups. I’ve been running this program for about a year and a half now, and the way it works is this: I buy 25 copies of each book, hand them out to each person here – as their copy of the book to keep. After the employees have a week to read on their own time, I then separate the company into 3 groups, and hold a meeting, where we read the book together in 20-30 page segments per week. We meet once a week and discuss the 20-30 pages that we read at home.
This isn’t cheap to do – each book we go through costs the business around $10,000. That $10,000 estimated cost breaks down several ways: the hourly pay of every employee that spends their time in these weekly meetings, the cost of the books, and the opportunity costs of employees being in a meeting instead of at their desks or in the warehouse/shop. Essentially, I am paying my employees to read books, and each week it also takes approximately three hours of my time to run the meetings.
So, considering the cost, why would I, as a business owner, spend $10,000 on leading my employees in book groups? WHY? From my perspective, the answer is clear: our PEOPLE are our strongest asset and a major point of differentiation that sets us apart from the competition. Our employees are the reason why customers become loyal to us and trust ModBargains Modification Experts to help them modify their cars. The stronger our people are, the stronger our company is. So really, it’s not a waste of time or money, but rather, it’s an investment in the business.
I started ModBargains with Ron Hay nearly 10 years ago. Back then, it was just the two of us. We personally interacted with every customer, every supplier, and every vendor ourselves. Today, that is not the case. Our staff of 25 people today now have far more day to day interaction with customers & suppliers. Because Ron and I are invested in the operations of the business, it falls on our employees to represent the company to the rest of the world. What that means is that ModBargains is only as strong as the people that work inside its walls.
The catalyst behind the ModBargains Book Groups idea was the result of a chance occurrence. On a routine visit by our UPS account representative Lori Gonzales, she mentioned that at UPS they were reading “Monday Morning Choices” by David Cottrell. I asked her for details and she explained they would read the book in segments and then meet in small groups to discuss. I asked her what she thought about the whole thing and if it was weird or a nuisance to her. She said she really enjoyed reading something together with her co-workers and had started to see positive changes around her. Thank you, Lori, for sharing the book groups with me.
If UPS can execute a program like this with thousands of people, I thought that with (at the time) just 17 people, I could certainly do it at ModBargains. I wasn’t sure what kind of results I would see, but if it resulted in positive changes in my staff, it would be worth the gamble. I decided to start with the book that Lori had mentioned to me. So, I pulled the trigger, and ordered 17 copies of “Monday Morning Choices”.
Before announcing the book group idea, I was NERVOUS. What would my team think of this? Would they refuse to read? Would forcing them to read cause a mutiny? Would they say I was crazy, throw their books at me, and walk out? Would they talk behind my back and say, “Mike is nuts, why doesn’t he do some real work instead of leading us in book groups?” With those fears weighing heavy on my mind, I announced the book groups.
I started the announcement with this simple explanation:
“I am excited to read this book with all of you. I know that I will learn right alongside with you, and we will all become better people and a better company. I don’t know exactly what to expect from this, and we will figure it out as we go along. My intent is not to create more stuff for you to do and take up your personal time at home. My intent is to help us all grow, learn, and be happier.”
I think it was well received, but of course, there were some doubts, and some grumbles and chuckles around the office about “Mike assigning us all homework”. I didn’t take any of it personally, laughed it off, and the next Monday morning we all sat down and discussed Chapter 1 of Monday Morning Choices.
For the first few weeks, it was a feeling out process of how to have the best meetings possible. Eventually, the pattern we settled into was to go through the chapters we had read page by page, and discuss each of our favorite parts. As we did that, we shared personal or work stories that related to what we were reading. After a few weeks, it became natural, people started to open up, and I could literally see the trust being established in my company right in front of my very eyes. Since then, we’ve held the meetings regularly, almost every week.
We have read many books since, each focused on improving the day to day lives of our employees both personally and professionally and I do genuinely feel like I get more out of my staff as a result.
Here are few of my favorite bits of feedback that I have gotten from the ModBargains team, their families, and our colleagues in the aftermarket automotive industry about the book groups:
- “I find myself making more choices to be happy and positive.”
- “I’m so happy that you do book groups at ModBargains. I have noticed some really great changes in my husband when he comes home from work. Please keep doing them!”
- “I think it’s great how you are leading everyone through these books. I am sure it’s creating a common language internally at your company.”
- “My son saw me reading and said ‘daddy doesn’t read!’ – then I saw my son a little while later decide to pick up a book and start reading as well.”
- “I almost got into an argument with a supplier, then I remembered something we learned in book groups and I stopped myself from making a bad situation even worse.”
- “A customer was having a problem with an order and I was able to take what we learned about customer loyalty and earn back his trust. In the past, I might have been defensive and lost the customer forever.”
- “This book helped me realize and put my feelings, goals, and health into perspective. I am much more focused on my personal and work goals by being more self-disciplined and not using excuses.”
- “I don’t think I would have gotten married if I wasn’t working here and learning through these books.”
The rest is history, and our book group program continues on to this day. I am proud of my team at ModBargains for dedicating their time, effort, and energy towards these books. It is amazing how personal stories have been shared with co-workers, our people have grown closer to one another and understand each other better, and from a business standpoint, there’s been significant, measurable improvement as a result of the meetings – since we’ve started the book meetings, we’ve had fewer problems with customers, and suppliers. Internally, everyone gets along with one another more harmoniously than before.
Here are all of the books we have read as a company so far at ModBargains:
- Monday Morning Choices: 12 Powerful Ways to Go from Everyday to Extraordinary, by David Cottrell (Started June 2012 at ModBargains)
- The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy, by Jon Gordon (Started October 2012 at ModBargains)
- One Word that will change your life, by Dan Britton, Jimmy Page, and Jon Gordon (Started January 2013 at ModBargains)
- Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service by Performance Research Associates & John Bush (Started February 2013 at ModBargains)
- How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath (Started April 2013 at ModBargains)
- Trust Works! Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships, By Ken Blanchard (Started July 2013 at ModBargains)
- No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline, by Brian Tracy (Started October 2013 at ModBargains)
I recommend any of the above books above, as all of them will change your perspective on life for the better. Seven books later, I would consider the program a huge success and absolutely worth the investment in company time. I look forward to selecting the next book to share with my staff and take great pride in seeing each of my employees grow as individuals. My purpose in life is to use my leadership strengths to create love, happiness, and prosperity. Leading these book groups is one of the best ways I have found so far in my life to feel purposeful and really make a difference in the world around me.