Recommended Reading List

One of our Guiding Principles is “We Learn.” To help, we've compiled a list of leading authors who write about middle market companies.

Topgrading author Brad Smart found that reading is one of the things that separates A-player executives from B and C players. A-player executives read an average 24 books per year. The same should be true for their advisors. (Thanks Verne Harnish Scaling Up)

The following books include theory, research, case studies, and how-to which will help as you work with your clients to

  • establish or confirm company vision and mission
  • identify specific company goals
  • build strategy to reach these goals
  • Advise CEOs and their teams on generating documented, proven and systematic processes that drive tactical success

The relative importance of any of the suggested readings is determined by your client’s goals, and your professional goals inside the engagement. This list is updated periodically, please check back in.

The top four CEO corporate goals:

  1. Grow Revenue and Profit
  2. Strengthen Operations so the company is easier to run and allows work/life balance
  3. Sell at a defined time (e.g. “when we reach $5MM in profit”)
  4. Sell immediately

The Business Advisor’s Role:

  • Architect, creating the strategic plan to accomplish the client’s goals
  • General Contractor, working as a peer with the CEO to convert the plan into reality
  • Tradesperson, delivering subject-specific consulting services (tactical execution)

To identify the client’s goals and start the business consulting conversation use CoreValue Discover, the 10 minute initial assessment of company strength and value.

Suggested Reading

1. McFarland, Keith R., The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers, Three Rivers Press, 2013.

McFarland researched 7,000 middle market companies who made it to the Inc. 500, and identifies the common characteristics of 9 ‘Breakthrough Companies’ who outperform not only their competition, but redefine markets to become large enterprises. A great read. See esp: Chapters 1, 2 and 10. “There are three places a leader can have the greatest impact on an organization: strategy, people, and execution”

2. Lencioni, Patrick. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, Jossey-Bass, 2012.

Ex Bain & Company --Pat is a Business Advisor’s Advisor. Theory distilled from a career as a top strategic advisor and management consultant Highlight: focus on Organizational Health, the often-missed complement to ‘smart.’

3. Harnish, Verne.

Scaling up: How a Few Companies Make It ... and Why the Rest Don't. Gazelles Inc., 2015.

Rockefeller Habits 2.0.

“How to" vs Theoretical; See esp Chapters 1-3. Highlight: discussion of value, and the One Page Strategic Plan See also: Rockefeller Habits, same author.


4. Wickman, Gino, Traction, Benbella Books, 2012.

Easy-to-understand and execute manual that helps an organization identify who they are, where they are going, and how to get there. See esp Chapters 1-3; Highlight: Vision/Traction Organizer

5. Marquet, L. David. Turn the Ship around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level. Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2012.

Great book, source for our own Guiding Principles. Would rate as a “must read,” entertaining and informative.

6. Zweifel, Thomas D., and Edward J. Borey. Strategy-in-Action Marrying Planning, People and Performance. BookBaby, 2013.

  • How do you build vision and strategy in a way that your people align around them?
  • How do you combine planning and action in a single seamless process?
  • How do you mobilize people for strategic, catalytic action?


7. Ashkenas, Ronald N., and Manville, Brook. Harvard Business Review Leader's Handbook: Make an Impact, Inspire Your Organization, and Get to the next Level. Harvard Business Review Press, 2019.

See esp Chapter 2 on crafting strategy: “[S]trategy [is] a coordinated set of concrete actions to reach the vision and achieve impact in the market.” p. 45

8. Achor, Shawn. Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being. Currency, 2018.

Research on the power of collaboration versus individualism. Inspiring.

9. Weiss, Alan. Million Dollar Consulting: the Professional's Guide to Growing a Practice McGraw-Hill, 2016.

10. Weiss, Alan. Million Dollar Consulting Proposals: How to Write a Proposal That's Accepted Every Time. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

11. Roberge, Mark. The Sales Acceleration Formula. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.