I hate to sound like Michael Scott from The Office, but paper will never die. There’s a reason people don’t say “curl up with a good Kindle,” or “stay in with a Nook and a cup of tea.” Hence why, this week, I’m bringing you the top 35 books every field service professional needs to read.
Yes, a lot of these books are available on e-readers, too, but keep in mind that if you smell a new e-reader in the bookstore (where bookstores still exist), you’re just going to look silly.
I’ve divided the books into two categories:
Field Service Companies: books about the service industry, and titles for specific types of field service workers like HVAC technicians, electricians, plumbers, etc.
General Interest: General books about selling your services, or managing your workforce. Useful no matter what you do.
Field Service Companies
Angel’s book offers over 350 pages of instructions, information, and illustrations and photographs of HVAC systems. It’s also a useful guide to the design process of HVAC units, from the design submission stage, to a technician’s interactions with the unit on a repair job.
If you’re interested in HVAC guidance, design or standards, HVAC Equations is a good choice. It provides over 800 pages of information, with everything from basics like definitions and rules of thumb, to structural information and conversion factors. Sort of a Boy Scout Handbook for the industry.
- Lawn Care Business Guide: The Definitive Guide To Starting and Running Your Own Successful Lawn Care Business, by Patrick Cash
This is a valuable guidebook and resource for anyone starting a landscaping business. There’s information about the common pitfalls and challenges, but also templates for the sort of proposals, letters, and other documents you’ll have to write when getting established. There’s even a chapter on cross-selling and upselling extra services, like mulching, curbing, and hydroseeding.
Rosemary Coates and Jim Reily want to change the way businesses perceive service: not as a money drain, but as an opportunity to put the customer first and drive revenue. Their 42 strategies include ideas like developing a field service strategy, planning for emergencies, and telling customers how much downtime can cost them.
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber
Gerber’s E-Myth Revisited is for anyone thinking of starting a business. Rather than fight through the common challenges entrepreneurs face, this book can give you a preview of the sorts of basic issues any business faces when trying to get started. Forty percent of small businesses fail in their first year. If you know what’s coming, you’ve got a better shot at being part of the successful 60%.
The Goal is a plant or maintenance manager’s guide on how to improve operations. It builds on author Eli Goldratt’s ideas about management and performance. Better yet? It’s a thriller, so you get that information in a way you actually want to read.
This is a good title if you’re looking to get licensed as an electrician. David Herres provides a breakdown, step-by-step, of regional and national licensing requirements, and how to prepare for the exams. The end-of-chapter review questions are also a helpful tool to reinforce what you’ve learned.
HVAC companies for sale should check out Jacob’s book. It will guide you towards the right estimate. His book provides a comprehensive view of the process, from the theory behind pricing, to ways to increase the value of your business before a sale.
Steve Low, operator of the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, has authored an impressive guide to landscaping. The book is in a question-and-answer format, making this a simple-to-use handbook for questions like how to calculate rates, and whether you should give your mowing price per square foot to customers.
- Transforming Field and Service Operations: Methodologies for Successful Technology-Driven Business Transformation, edited by Gilbert Owusu, Paul O’Brien, John McCall, Neil Doherty
Field service is getting more complicated. Automation technologies have stepped in to make things easier, but it’s hard knowing how to best use those technologies in your field service business. Transforming Field and Service Operations covers those best ways to use technology (like field service management software) and automation.
Your marketing arsenal may include a website, a blog, ads, an email newsletter, or a podcast. Matt Michel wants you to add pricing strategy to that list. Michel looks at the way service businesses can use pricing and discounting to improve their bottom line in a way that benefits company and customer.
If you’re studying for the HVAC licensing exam, give this a look. It has over 800 practice questions, and while it may remind you of high school finals, it’s a great way to prepare for any of the exams, from ARI to RSES.
While not specifically about the field service side of electrician work, but this story of Lockheed Martin’s finest does cover some fascinating engineering challenges. An example? How do you plug leaks in supersonic aircraft, or how do you keep a cockpit cooler than a hot engine or cold high atmosphere conditions? Read and find out!
Mike Rowe’s (yes, that Mike Rowe) book is unconventional: half the pages are blank, and the proceeds all go to the MikeRoweWorks Foundation. The content, however, is interesting, and particularly of interest to those in service concerned about the absence of younger generations in service fields. Rowe tackles the issue of how jobs in service and the trades are going unfilled as older workers retire, and younger generations increasingly choose four-year degrees over vocational training.
If you’d rather read stories about hilarious mishaps than dry do’s and don’t’s, check out R.J. Schuster’s collection of anecdotes. You’ll learn a lot about the business, avoid the mistakes he made, and be entertained in the process.
Another R.J. Schuster title, with information the basic parts of the job (duct design and sizing, jobsite set-up, customer complaints). Like 101 Ways, it’s a funny, accessible guide to the real world challenges faced by HVAC techs.
E-commerce has given the customer an advantage over companies, and Scott’s book seeks to rethink sales and service to fit with that change. Scott examines the ways businesses, from enterprise to SMB, are using an increasingly digital landscape to make their sales strategy more agile and customer-focused.
Ron Smith’s highly praised book addresses the challenges of running an HVAC repair and servicing contracting business. It’s considered one of the best books in the industry, and explains how to weather business challenges in a how-to format.
Wirz’s book is pitched at HVAC technicians who have to affix that ubiquitous “R” to their job description. Climate control engineers occasionally need to service refrigerators, and this book introduces the distinct yet related world of refrigeration with diagrams, definitions and examples.
General Interest Field Service Books
The economy has changed from product to service-based, and Harry Beckwith thinks marketing should account for this. Selling the Invisible explains how service-based marketing should be about relationships, rather than products. Given how much field service depends on trust and reputation, a relationship-based focus like Beckwith’s could be a useful marketing tool.
Berry’s book is another that rethinks what service can be. Where the others above dealt with digital technology, Berry’s interested in the way contemporary customers tend to take products for granted. If that’s the case, can service be anything but a nuisance or an afterthought? The answer’s a resounding yes, if the company has a sustainable, value-based strategy.
Blanchard and Spencer’s book on business leadership is told as a parable, and is organized around three “secrets:” one-minute goals, one-minute praisings, and one-minute re-directs.
There might be as much talk about internet marketing as there is internet marketing. If you want to cut through this, or you’re intimidated by how hard it is to make your business stand out in the data deluge of the internet, give Chandler’s guide a look. She takes a straightforward approach to the usually jargon-filled world of online marketing.
Most sales pitches get a non-committal “I’ll think about it” out of me. That wouldn’t be the case if the sales people I met had read this book. Cialdini digs into the psychology behind why even someone like me might consider saying “yes” to a cold call.
If you want your business to succeed from the start, Collins’ landmark study of management can help you. Collins tried to understand why some businesses succeed, and others fail, by studying 28 businesses over a period of five years. The answers could make your company a standout.
There are two things I like about this book: 1) the pithy, to-the-point style of the author, and 2) the delicious irony that a bestselling capitalist how-to shares a name with Chairman Mao’s little red book. Seriously, though, this is a handy sales guide from an author with a passion for entrepreneurship.
Some marketing thrives on variety and novelty, but John Jantsch’s book reminds readers that a stable strategy is ultimately more important. The result of a consistent approach is marketing that sticks with a potential client as well as duct tape.
Like Eli Goldratt’s book, Five Dysfunctions tells a story (technically, a fable) to deliver its message. The story follows a CEO trying to keep a company together. As you’d expect, five key dysfunctions (like absence of trust and avoidance of accountability) threaten to tear the team apart.
- Guerilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business, by Jay Conrad Levinson
Levinson’s book got to a fourth edition because it took a radical approach to marketing. Jay Conrad Levinson argued that marketing wasn’t about your product or business, but what your customer wanted or needed. To that end, he developed a list of 200 weapons any small business can use to land sales and get to the “m” of SMB.
When someone asks me “business or pleasure,” I’m always tempted to counter that my work and my emotions are inseparable. Mark Matteson’s popular book about improving habits and attitudes may seems more like self-help than business, but when you consider how much your feelings and outlook can affect your business, Freedom From Fear becomes a worthwhile use of your time.
Even if you know the right marketing strategies, it’s likely that other companies know them, too. That’s where distinguishing yourself (differentiation, in business speak) comes in, and that’s where Ries and Trout’s book shines. You may not be able to change the number of competitors trying to get customers’ attention, but you can change how customers perceive of you, and even those competitors.
Great Game is an example of gamification before the term became sexy. In the 90s, Jack Stack reorganized a failing company around athletic and democratic principles, and the mixture of competition, fun, and fair play worked. This is a good one to check out if you’re interested in running a business where financial accountability is everyone’s concern, from janitor to CEO.
Politics has been called “war without bloodshed,” but that could apply just as well to business. So, who better to talk winning and competition than a Naval Academy grad who’s worked with Olympic gold medalists and surviving POWs? I’m normally cynical about phrases like, “repeat again and again, ‘I want to—I can,’” except when it’s from someone who did stuff like this during his college summer vacations.
Traction’s all about getting control of your business. It’s also an introduction to Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System, which posits that there are six things you business should focus on: vision, data, people, issues, traction, and process. It’s an organizational system intended to make your work easier and more successful, so it’s sort of the paper-and-ink equivalent of software.
You might have a great service company with knowledgeable technicians, but neither can perform unless you know how to make a sale. Enter Zig Zigler, whose classic on establishing trust and exuding confidence has helped business people sell products and services for decades.
Field Service Books
Have you read one that I didn’t catch? Have you written one I didn’t catch?
Tell me about it in the comments, either way. A link to Amazon wouldn’t hurt, either!