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Executive Letter #11: Read Like an Executive

Oct 25, 2021 9:00:00 AM

Over the years, I've accumulated quite the library. In the conference room where I work, there are stacks of books that I keep out, not only for my reference but also for the reference of any team member who cares to pick them up.

My team also knows to expect a new book every few weeks.

When I'm reading a book, I really try to get into the mindset of the author. And since I mostly read books by entrepreneurs and business leaders, reading their words helps me to focus my efforts every day when it comes to our company and team members. Seeing what they see. Noticing what they notice.

I try out their vocabulary and put an outsider's lens on our daily practices. What would that author think about this strategy we've been implementing? What would they say if they saw this issue playing out?

It's a way to ensure I'm always learning and looking to other great leaders for advice.

That's why I encourage my team to read along with me. Sometimes, I mandate it, because I think by reading something together our team will undoubtedly grow stronger.

Consider this letter further invitation to read along with me. In no particular order, here are five recommended reads.

Preview of How to Win Friends and Influence People

This one is a classic for good reason. Though, it wasn't a minted classic when I first got my hands on it. 

How to Win Friends was the first book I picked up when I began my study of business. I've said it before - I'm not a MBA. I didn't go to Harvard. I don't have a fancy pedigree, only the calloused hands and years of experience to back up what I have to say. But I know enough to know I don't know everything.

That's why I took this book seriously, and why I recommend it to anyone who says they want to make it in business.

Buy this one. Don't just download it on your device, buy the PHYSICAL BOOK. Take notes, stick post-its in it, mark it up. Come back to it a year after reading it, and again the next year. That's what I've done, and it's served me well.

Preview of Be the Best at What Matters Most


Joe Calloway was one of the first people I read who articulated how I felt about winning in business: If you can't have quantity, you sure as heck should have quality.

So many people go into business thinking only about themselves. What can I bring to this market? What am I going to do that's new? What team is going to work best for me? 

Hey, those aren't bad questions. But they should come second.

First thing on your mind should be your customer. If you aren't thinking about your business from their point of view, you're headed toward a dead end.

Another thing I like about Be the Best is that it's idiot-proof. He's got plenty of stopping points to help you make sense of what you're reading, with questions, activities, and next steps along the way. Calloway knows how to make the business man's workbook.

Preview of Living with a SEAL


Not all of what I read has to do with sales and business specifically. In fact, in my family, a lot of our topics of interest tend to overlap: heath, fitness, discipline, high standards, investing, etc.

Enter Jesse Itzler. Itzler is responsible for a number of off-the-wall contributions to such industries as music, air travel, marketing, and so on. Living with a SEAL is all about his stint with live-in trainer (spoiler alert!) David Goggins.

This book was important to me at a time when my health was becoming more and more of a priority. I saw a real connection between the rigor I expected at work with the rigor my body expected of me. Beyond the literal health aspects, there were lessons to be learned that apply to nearly every aspect of personal and professional success. 

Complacency can be a poison, and it can corrode even the best teams in the world.

Sometimes people label themselves as entrepreneurs or rule-breakers because of one accomplishment. The real accomplishment is doing it again, and again, and again. How you break your own patterns is a truer measure of success.

PS: We now count Jesse as a friend after he visited with us here at REI Nation. He's also the one to blame for getting my son Chris into ultra-marathons.

Preview of Shut Up and Listen!VIEW BOOK

I'll admit it, I'm going to buy nearly any book that promises hard truths. The fact that this one is by Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta is just icing on the cake.

I credit Fertitta with introducing me to the 95/5 rule:

"Most moderately successful businesses are good at about 95 percent of what they do. It's the remaining 5 percent that can determine whether the business excels or not." 

I completely agree. Though, I've updated this rule to be 98/2. 

The details absolutely matter. When you lose trees for the forest, you lose what makes your company unique: the strengths, weaknesses, the very mechanics of what makes you competitive in your market. This is a lesson I will never let my team forget.

Preview of Becoming Trader JoeVIEW BOOK

If you were to Google search "best business books," only one or two from my list would be on it. I try not to buy into the hype, but depend on sources like The Wall Street Journal's reviews to point me in the right direction. That's how I added this most recent book to my collection. It definitely piqued my interest due to my many years in the grocery business.

I didn't know much about Trader Joe's—the store or the man—beyond what I knew as a consumer and as a peer in the grocery industry. Turns out, he and I have quite a bit in common.

The no-nonsense approach of looking hard at the reality around you and making smart predictions about what customers will need before they need it is always a winner. And "beating the big guys" was the inspiration behind one of my most recent executive letters.

One thing that separates us is that I'm still above ground and kicking. Though, if I have my own posthumous best seller, it would be great proof of The Grind. 

Commit to The Grind

I could go on about more favorites - but I'll spare your inbox. 

Let me leave with with one more author recommendation. Since Tim Grover's Relentless and Winning were particular inspiration for The Grind, I'd be remiss if I didn't give him a nod here. Tim's books are all about the mindsets of the most accomplished athletes of our time and they really inspire you to be better than the best. I think everyone should read these, and I say so to my team nearly every day. Tim, if you're reading this, feel free to stop by anytime for a chat.

Reading like an executive doesn't always mean reading books by executives. Just like you don't have to be a CEO, own 100 properties, or be a billionaire entrepreneur to grind.

Remember, I don't just give out book recommendations. I also take them.

What book changed the way you invest, conduct business, or plan for the future? Let me know! It might just make it into my library.

Until next time,

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Kent Clothier
Chief Grind Officer

About Kent Clothier

CG5A0010-1Entrepreneur, Real Estate Investor, Husband, Dad, and Granddad. Through decades of personal experience, and a few other titles, Kent built a strong community around him at REI Nation. But it didn’t start there. It took 22 years of entrepreneurship – of losing money and making money, building small businesses and multimillion dollar companies alike – before he founded a family business-turned-empire. His sons Kent Jr, Chris, and Brett have worked alongside him, as well as leading successful ventures of their own. Real estate trends, managing towards efficiency, excellent customer service and leading the industry are what fuel him. Over the years, the skills he’s come to value are financial acumen, honesty, and forging new paths in business, investing, and winning.

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