Six Disciplines for Excellence

There are lots of good things that have come out of my hometown of Findlay, OH, in no particular order:

That small town America can churn out such manufacturing, culinary, and athletic excellence may come as a surprise to some, but not if you grew up there. That’s why, when my brother-in-law suggested a business book written by a local entrepreneur, I took it to heart and put it on my reading list.

Gary Harpst, a local Findlay guy who sold his financial software business to Microsoft and started a small business consultancy, wrote this book. The subtitle is “Building Small Businesses that Learn, Lead and Last.” Therefore, don’t expect to gain a lot from this book if you just finished your MBA and you’re shuffling paper at a huge multi-national.

In short, this book is a great overview of all of the different things you need to excel at in order to have a successful business. There’s not any single concept that feels particularly groundbreaking. In fact, if you’ve read much of the popular and classic business press, you will immediately see where Mr. Harpst is grounded. But he makes no bones about it and gives credit appropriately. I think he is comfortable that his book is intended to be an overview and that if you really want to become expert in each area, you have to read more on your own, or hire a Six Disciplines consultant, of course.

You have heard of the vest pocket MBA. This book is like that but it won’t fit into your vestpocket. Let’s call it the “briefcase MBA.” Some of the great books that he relies on follow, and I have already started picking up the ones that I have not read because I was so compelled.

If you are just starting a small business and you are curious about resources that can help you with the business side of things, you can’t go wrong with this book. I would blast through it quickly without reading all of the charts, tables, and graphs. Then, I would start from the beginning and read it for implementation purposes. When you get to an aspect of your business that you think needs extra focus, look at the footnotes that Mr. Harpst gives and start reading some of the books that he used to formulate his theories. The man ran a highly successful business so he knows what he is talking about.

I have another idea for those that have just started their own gig but have no business experience whatsoever. Try this, grab this book and the E-Myth and read them together. They are both about small business. Just bounce back and forth between the chapters or something. In the E-Myth, you don’t get charts, graphs, lists, or stats like you do in Six Disciplines. The E-Myth is motivational, theoretical, and emotional whereas Six Disciplines is practical and tactical. They are a great complement to each other. Give them a whirl.