Business magazines from Fortune and Forbes to Entrepreneur and Wired abound with reviews of books to help businesspeople get ahead.
For example, here are the 20 Best Business Books of 2016 from Business Insider. Titles range from a biography of former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan to a couple of guides to negotiation to Pre-Suasion, the latest from best-selling author Robert Cialdini on how to convince people to do more of what you want them to do.
And in the solar industry, Elon Musk recommends his 9 Powerful Books, featuring biographies of Ben Franklin, Catherine the Great and Einstein.
Millions of copies of such books are sold every year because people working in industries from software to real estate to finance know that they need to read books to do better in their careers and in running their companies.
- They need to understand trends in the economy to plan ahead
- They need to understand psychology to reach more customers and manage employees
- And they need to inspire their own creativity and get the focus set big goals and meet them
But judging by magazines serving the solar industry, it would seem that solar people may not have time for much book learnin’.
And that could put them at a disadvantage in the challenging business environment of 2017 with Trump in the White House and solar slowing in some markets.
Solar Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Books
In trying to get the word out about my own book, The Solar Sales Leap, I expected that solar industry publications would also review books of interest to the smart and thoughtful people who install solar systems, manufacture modules and inverters and provide the financing that makes it all practical.
But maybe I was wrong?
Today, for example, I heard from one major renewable energy website that they don’t publish book reviews. A quick look at other websites that cover the solar industry brings up no book reviews in any of them either.
To take another example, about a month ago, the sales manager of a regional solar installation company asked me if there was an audio version of my book, since he said that his salesmen don’t read books.
So could it be true that people in solar are too busy — or that their attention span is too short — to read books?
Four Books that Solar People Will Love
Well, if Elon Musk and even Bill Gates aren’t too busy to read business books, then the average solar salesman or company vice president isn’t too busy either.
Anyway, I don’t believe that people in solar don’t read books.
In only a few months, I’ve heard from dozens of solar pros who’ve read my book. And I know that many people in solar are smart and curious lifelong learners. Surely, these people in solar know that they must read books to keep up their business skills — to “sharpen the saw” as author Steven Covey put it.
So, I’m going to test that thesis here. Below are super-quick reviews of four books I think that anyone who works in the solar industry should read in 2017. Two titles are about solar and energy specifically and two books are general business titles. I hope you’ll prove me right by getting them all.
(Full disclosure: if you buy any of these books via the links below, we receive a small commission).
1. Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy — and Our Planet — from Dirty Energy by Danny Kennedy, 198 pages, $17.95.
With Trump in the White House, the solar industry is right to be worried about the future of the 30% federal investment tax credit, the only major incentive for solar in some states. Now more than ever, the industry needs to enlist its customers and the public as lobbyists for good pro-solar energy policies at all levels of government. This book will help.
An entertaining and inspiring look at why solar is more than cheap electricity from the likeable founder of one of the leading US solar installers, Sungevity. Kennedy’s goal is nothing less than to recruit every American as a citizen-lobbyist for more solar. “Solar shines through the smoggy sameness of politics as usual and speaks to people…We have to raise our voices in chorus. We have to say to all the politicians we elect, from our nation’s president down to our neighborhood’s councilmember or supervisor, ‘Repeat after me: we want clean, local, affordable energy, and we want it now.'”
2. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in A Distracted World by Cal Newport, 296 pages, $28.
I work on the Internet and I try to get solar companies to do more of their customer outreach online and less of it with old-timey tactics that don’t work anymore like door knocking and cold calling. But even I can see that the Internet can be a huge time waster if you don’t control it but instead let it control you. If you agree, then Newport, a computer scientist, feels your pain and mine.
Even better, if you suffer from Information Overload, Newport absolves you of any guilt. It doesn’t mean you’re hopelessly out of touch if you’re not on four different social media services. Indeed, he shows how the people who get the most done in business are ones who control their own time and limit the information channels they use, whether it’s tweets or email. This book will help you start the year right by helping you know and do what’s really important and dump the busywork that just distracts you from meeting your goals.
3. The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling by Annette Simmons, 299 pp, $16.95.
Speaking of Information Overload, the biggest challenge for any solar business that wants to reach more customers is cutting through the clutter. Did you know the average American might receive 3,000 or more marketing messages per day? Too many companies seem to act like the way to be heard over the din is to shout louder than the competition. But corporate trainer Annette Simmons has a better answer: don’t try to explain things to people. Instead, tell them a story. As she explains, stories work better than data because people act on emotion rather than logic, they’ll fit your data into their existing story. Thus, story trumps facts. Read our full review.
4. Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath by Ted Koppel, hardcover, 288 pages, $16.
Saving money on electricity is nice…but having electricity at all is much more important. But the solar industry has done little to capitalize on the threat to America’s clunky old power grid posed by cyberattack. Of course, the utility industry and the government haven’t taken the threat very seriously either. And that’s a problem for veteran newsman Ted Koppel.
And his book turns out to be an excellent argument for rooftop solar and distributed generation. If the industry can install first solar PV and then storage on millions of rooftops of homes, businesses and government offices all over America over the next decade, then the country will be much less reliant on the grid and the centralized generation and distribution systems that are so vulnerable to cyberattack. Read our full review.
Get My Book Too
By the way, if you work for a solar installation company, I hope you’ll also get my book The Solar Sales Leap. It will help you break through the clutter of competing solar companies and stories of solar scam artists that make homeowners and businesspeople wary of getting solar now.
With modern marketing techniques that solar customers actually want, you can educate customers instead of selling them. While your competitors are wasting money and pushing customers away with annoying cold calls and awkward home visits, you can build customer trust and make more sales.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group