Book clubs: Good for business

People who read at least seven business books a year earn a reported 2.3 times more than people who read only one. That stat, floating around the Internet, has been attributed jointly (and separately) to the U.S. Department of Labor and a survey conducted by Yahoo!Whether that information is strictly reliable or not, executives and avid readers everywhere will attest to the value of professional reading—for personal development, leadership training, continuous learning and company innovation. This value can be increase exponentially if businesses get groups of employees on board with the idea of professional reading and facilitate and encourage discussions in reading groups. Reading groups go beyond boosting knowledge, too, to offer improved morale and productivity.

For small businesses, internal company reading groups may be difficult to facilitate due to smaller staff sizes. But that shouldn’t stop you. Consider instead community-based discussions, focused on business issues. Partner with other local businesses or professional associations, perhaps through the library or your local chamber of commerce, to host a book club. Sound intriguing? Try these tips today to get started:

  • Give your group a name to add a sense of fun and pride to professional reading group efforts.
  • Invite enough participants to ensure at least six to ten participants each meeting for maximum discussion. Have bigger plans? Set your sights on recruiting participants from far and wide through a direct recruiting campaign through e-mail or direct mail—Magnets or Post–it Notes® with the details and a fun slogan are sure to draw attention.
  • Develop guidelines to focus participants and establish expectations, such as whether or not reading is mandatory to participate, or if guests can attend, or if a membership fee should be charged and who is responsible for facilitation.
  • Take turns choosing the book and outline parameters, including answering these questions: Are books to be industry specific? What about career or title specific? Do they have to have been written recently? Map it out so everyone is on the same page—no pun intended!
  • Establish a reoccurring meeting time and place as a way to encourage participation to become habit. Be sure to allow enough time between meetings for participants to read the entire book and develop a list of reflections and discussion points.
  • Meet over coffee or lunch to reduce interference with daily work schedules and personal obligations. Head to a local coffee shop or restaurant, reserve a public meeting room or host the club in your offices for a brown bag affair.
  • Provide handouts and takeaways like highlighters or Memo Books at each gathering to encourage participants to summarize the book and illustrate key points that they can bring back to the office and share with staff. Use other giveaways, like book lights or Bookmarks, as quarterly or annual gifts to further motivate participation.
  • Develop a scoring and review system to keep track of which books are read and the general consensus of and value found in each book. Consider offering such a list to staff, clients and vendors as an added resource.

Professional reading groups can serve as professional development for your small business staff, while improving morale and potentially increasing visibility. They can also be a relationship building tool when used in collaboration with community partners. It may be worth it to give a book club a go!

For more information on professional reading groups, see our Blue Paper®.

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