• Pierre Battah

2020 Holiday Business Books


In these decidedly unusual times, we are more aware of our friends and neighbors, and family members, who run a small business. Retails shops on our main streets that make up an important part of the fabric of our neighborhoods have had to close down or conduct business in a very limited capacity. So my annual holiday business book wish list has a decidedly more homegrown flavour this year, with a majority of my eight picks written by the home team.

The pandemic makes an appearance as a number of this year’s picks suggest ways the content can be helpful in these turbulent times.


(CAN) Unicorn in the Woods: How East Coast Geeks and Dreamers Are Changing the Game by Gordon Pitts. Fredericton: Gooselane Editions, 2020.

Two tech start-ups in New Brunswick built their business and became a takeover target. In this fascinating book, through the stories of tech companies Radian6 and Q1 Labs. Pitts explores how high-tech innovation and creation of value can happen just about anywhere. Pitts is an award-winning business journalist and best-selling author of seven books. Anyone interested in recent business history, specifically in technology, will revel in the behind-the-scenes innovation that defies geography, because geography doesn’t matter when bright minds and an unwavering entrepreneurial spirit meet opportunity. In this case, Radian6 and Q! Labs sold for more than $1 billion (combined). The book features many fascinating b&w photographs. Nothing like reading about success to start a new year.


(CAN) Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right by Michael Bach. Vancouver: Page Two Books, 2020.

Michael Bach couldn’t have known that his new book, penned well before the Black Lives Matter events of 2020, could be so timely and so helpful. Bach has been working in Canada and globally in the diversity, equity and inclusion space well before many of us knew what DEI was. He opens the book by helping us understand the language of DEI by defining race privilege; diversity and inclusion, and how they differ; reverse discrimination; equality versus equity; and much more. He then goes on to explain the two models for DEI used across the globe and creates an easily accessible roadmap for employers. This is a must read for anyone wanting to go beyond the feel-good statements and truly impact an organization’s ability to do diversity, equity and inclusion right.


The Art of Being Indispensable at Work: Win Influence, Beat Overcommitment, and Get the Right Things Done by Bruce Tulgan. Cambridge: Harvard Business Press, 2020.

Tulgan brings to light the challenges of wanting to be a go-to person, or in other words our well-intentioned desire to be of service to our colleagues. He highlights the wave of collaborative strategies, initiatives and collaboration apps that are leading a generation of workers to the cliff-edge of what he calls the “overcommitment syndrome.” He argues that this malaise of inefficiency and stress is fuelled by well-meaning individuals being inundated (without accountability by their bosses) and embracing a misguided “everything is my job” approach. The author helps his readers tackle the insidious nature of overcommitting by reinforcing and providing practical tools around setting boundaries, collaborating selectively and becoming indispensable without burning out.


Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. New York: Harper Business, 2020.

The authors of the popular New York Times bestseller the Carrot Principle that centred on employee recognition have now authored an accessible business book that puts gratitude in the workplace under a microscope. The authors explore all of the myths around ingratitude such as fear as a motivator, the lack of time that lets leaders off the hook for praising their teams, as well as offering a series of gratitude practices that we all can incorporate into our work life.


How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers by David M. Rubenstein. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2020.

Rubenstein, himself a noteworthy business luminary and recipient of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, spoke with a who’s who of mostly American leaders from business, the performing arts, professional and collegiate sports, and other walks of life. He takes the highlights from the interviews conducted on his PBS television series and weaves a conversation that friends or at the very least co-admirers would have. It is a fascinating glimpse into the motivations and perspectives of the leadership elite.


Recent Canadian titles not to be missed.


(CAN) The Street Savvy Sales Leader: A Guide to Building Teams that Consistently Win New Business by Mark Welch. Vancouver: Figure 1 Publishing, 2018.

I have given this detailed and highly informative book to salespeople and sales leaders and often get this response: “Where was this book when I was trying to figure out what sales is beyond the obvious, and what sales leader should do and how to do it well?” It is clear that Welch has done his time in the trenches and has expertly advised, coached and trained sales leaders in a variety of sectors. I thoroughly support his desire to “professionalize” the sales and the sales management profession. Each chapter closes with key questions for the reader to reflect on and answer, as well as key takeaways and actionable priority actions. This is a highly applicable, useful and important book for anyone wanting to understand professional sales, how to build a high-performing sales team and how to lead for sales growth and favorable outcomes.


(CAN) Rules of Engagement: Building a Workplace Culture to Thrive In in an Uncertain World by Carolyn Swora. Burlington, Ont.: BrightFlame, 2017.

Carolyn Swora adeptly walks readers through “why work isn’t working” as she explores how to be successful in the new world of work. Along the way she leaves readers with her take on four rules of engagement and her trademarked action plan Purposeful Workplace Experience.TM She intertwines many worthy leadership lessons with a compelling family narrative, and adds vigor with helpful short stories and instructional vignettes from her remarkable career as a senior leader with a global pharmaceutical company.


(CAN) Pinnacle: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfilment in Your Career by Gerald Walsh. Halifax, 2016.

Full disclosure, I’m a big fan of Gerry and his work, and he stands alone as one of Atlantic Canada’s recruitment and career transition thought leaders and practitioners. His book is informed by his decades of experience and providing advice on recruitment and job search. The layout of the book works brilliantly from helping readers develop a job search plan, build their toolbox and understand how to navigate the job search process, including how to successfully interview and negotiate and offer. Gerry adds his life stories, tales from the war for talent and his humanity to the book. This is an important book for job seekers.

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