The Top 10 Books to Build Your Business Acumen

Ryan Cope  |  September 23, 2014

Whether you received a business degree or not, building and sharpening your business acumen on an ongoing basis is necessary to stay on top of your game. One of the most accessible forms of learning is reading, but there are so many books out there, it’s hard to know what which ones are worth your time. Fortunately for you, I’ve put together a list of 10 books that are sure to blow your mind (in a constructive way, of course).


Drive, by Daniel Pink

Have you ever wondered what truly motivates your employees – or yourself for that matter? In his book, Daniel Pink argues that there is a gap between what science knows and what business does. You’ll learn what he calls the three elements of true motivation (autonomy, mastery, and purpose) and why the carrot-and-stick approach can actually do more harm than good.

7 habits

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey

In one of the most influential books of our time, Covey outlines the “7 Habits” that successful people have mastered. Whether you are the CEO of a company, a college student, or a stay-at-home parent, this book is a must read.


Good To Great, by Jim Collins

There are a lot of good companies out there, but few companies that are truly great. Jim Collins, a master researcher, dedicated years to investigating the great firms of our time and what makes them that way. He shares his insightful findings and creates a framework that helps any company go through the good-to-great transition.


First, Break All The Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

The Gallup Organization studied over 80,000 managers from just about every industry to find out what sets great managers apart. What did they find? That the best managers do not hesitate to break the rules set by conventional wisdom. Buckingham and Coffman present the fascinating findings and provide practical insights for managers at any level.


The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey

When listing the qualities of a successful organization, the ability to build trust probably doesn’t make the top of the list, but Stephen M.R. Covey makes the case (and a very convincing case at that) that trust is necessary to build any high-performing company. This book will teach you how you can measure and improve your ability to build trust, and how this essential trait can save you time and money.


The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen

Perhaps one of the most influential books on innovation, The Innovator’s Dilemma explains why great companies fail, even when they don’t seem to be doing anything wrong.  CEOs, employees, and entrepreneurs will all find that this book sheds a whole new light on business and innovation.


Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson takes you deep into the life of one of the most interesting and inspiring leaders of our time. Although Jobs may not have done everything right, his approach to business provides countless insights into running a successful company.


Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler

Much of what we are able to accomplish is based on the quality of conversations we have – whether they are personal conversations with family or friends, or business conversations with customers, employees, or your boss. Based on 25 years of research, Crucial Conversations presents a model to help you improve your conversations in any situation.


The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell

We’ve all heard the term “going viral,” but what are the factors that lead up to this phenomenon? And I’m not just talking about YouTube videos that go viral, but social trends, ideas, and products. This is exactly what Gladwell set out to answer when writing this book.


Seeing the Big Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career, and Company, by Kevin Cope

Yes, this happens to be a book that we wrote, but it is also (in my humble opinion) the best book out there on business acumen. Best described as an MBA in 180 pages, this book helps you speak the language business. After reading Seeing the Big Picture, you will understand the 5 Drivers of any successful business and have a working knowledge of the financial statements.

One Percent…

Mike Wright  |  August 25, 2014

Consider this…

Recently Wyoming grew it’s population by a whopping 1%. That’s like having the entire town of Maquoketa Iowa (population 6,083) move to Wyoming. 

Interestingly enough, California also grew by 1%. That’s like having the entire city of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania pack up their bags and move to the west coast. 

When a company grows by 1% it might not seem like a big deal, but you need to remember that it depends on the size of the company. For example, Wal-Mart is massive – to grow by just a measly percent they would have to increase sales by five buh-buh-billion dollars! That’s like having every American (including children and little babies) walk into Wal-Mart and purchase $16 worth of stuff. That doesn’t sound so measly. 

While investors expect growth, employees are energized by it, customers are attracted to it, and executives are measured by it – it’s important to keep growth in perspective and have a clear understanding of what it takes grow a company. 


Click through the slides as a team and complete the activity…


Acumen In Action™

In your next team meeting click through the slideshow and use your business acumen to explore the following:

  • Why do investors expect growth?
  • Why is growth important to employees?
  • Why would a customer like growth? Why would they not?
  • How much would our company need to increase our sales by to grow by 1%?
    You may want to get the numbers ahead of time and calculate this as a team. You can download this tool to get the formula, look for Key Metric #08.
  • How much did our Revenues/Sales grow in the last year?
  • How much did our Profit/Income grow in the last year?
  • Are we beating growth expectations or falling short?
  • What are our company’s growth initiatives?
    List the initiatives on the board.
  • How can our team support these initiatives?
    Capture the ideas on the board.

Seeing the Big Picture

If you and your team have the book Seeing the Big Picture(Greenleaf, 2012) turn to page 67 and read the section on Why Focus On Growth.


What Does It Take To Run A Successful Business?

Ryan Cope  |  August 6, 2014


Jeff Gargas invites Kevin Cope, author of the bestselling book Seeing the Big Picture, onto his show, Treps Unite, to talk about Kevin’s journey as an entrepreneur and what it takes to run a successful business.



About Treps Unite

Jeff Gargas started Treps Unite as a way of connecting entrepreneurs. Jeff interviews entrepreneurs across a variety of industries, covering all aspects of entrepreneurship, including: social media, online marketing, business planning, goal setting, time management, team building, sales skills, and more.

Using Google Alerts To Increase Your Business Acumen

Ryan Cope  |  August 1, 2014

One of our all-time favorite tools happens to be one that seldom gets used – Google Alerts. One of the key components to building your business acumen is staying on top of current business news and trends, and Google Alerts allows you to receive email notifications whenever there is news on a particular business or industry. Pretty sweet, eh?

 For example, let’s say you own a small apparel company. Using Google Alerts, you could follow anything from large apparel companies to industry trends, and use this knowledge to help formulate your day-to-day decisions and strategy. This is a great way to keep an eye on external factors that might affect your business.

 How to Set Up a Google Alert

 Step 1: Go to If you have a gmail account, sign in now and continue to Step 2. If not, don’t worry about it. Just continue to Step 2.


 Step 2: Enter your search query. As you type in your search, the alert preview window will appear and give you a list of example articles that would be included in your Google Alert. If the results don’t match what you are looking for, then try getting more specific with your search query or changing some of the advanced options (see Step 3).


 Step 3: Select your options. Once you start typing, an arrow will appear with the text “Show options.” Click this arrow to reveal the options and select how often you want to receive alerts, which sources you want to receive alerts from, language, region, and whether you only want the best results or all results.


 Step 4: If you are signed into your Gmail account, simply click “Create Alert” and you are good to go! If you don’t have a gmail account, you will need to put in your email and then click “Create Alert.” A notification will appear letting you know that you need to go to your email account and confirm the Google Alert before you are allowed to receive it.


 Step 5: Manage your Google Alerts. If you have a Gmail account, go to and sign into your account. From here, you will be able to change any of the options as well as delete the Google Alert. If you don’t have a Gmail account, you don’t have the ability to change the options on your Google Alert, but can unsubscribe from it by clicking the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of any of your Google Alert email notifications.


 Step 6: Enjoy your newfound tool!

 This certainly isn’t the only tool for tracking the latest business/industry news. Some of the other great tools we enjoy using include Seeking Alpha and Google Finance. What are your favorites?


Big Picture: Ideating

Mike Wright  |  June 26, 2014

Consider this…

You’re sitting in a meeting and someone says, “Now that’s a good idea! We should move on that.” The meeting ends and nothing happens. Sound all too familiar?

While everyone clamors to innovate and rethink what’s possible… it’s being confident enough to pull the thread of an opportunity a little further and build so much momentum around an idea that it gets traction – and gets done – that’s what sets innovators apart from people with good ideas. Said another way, idea people talk about opportunities… innovators unravel them.

  • Blockbuster: “Rent a lot of movies.”
  • Employees: “Got it.”
  • Blockbuster: “We’re gonna have to let you go.”
  • Employees: “Gees. Thanks a lot jerk.”


  • Netflix: “Rent a lot of movies through the mail.”
  • Employees: “Got it.”
  • Unravel… “What about streaming?”
  • Netflix: “Lets do it. Stream a lot of movies.”
  • Employees: “Got it.”
  • Unravel… “What about streaming our own content?”
  • Netflix: “Brilliant! Lets produce our own shows.”
  • Employees: “Got it.”

Coming up with the idea to rent movies through the mail wasn’t hard at all (I had that idea two years before Netflix). Neither were the ideas to stream video content and produce your own shows… but implementing those innovations is a whole nother story. I didn’t have a team, I didn’t have the resources or the funds, I had no idea how to get started, and, most importantly, I didn’t have the courage to start renting DVDs through the mail.

Now, the ideas that you and I come up with may not be as grandiose as a Netflix innovation. Nevertheless; a simple cost saving measure, a tweak to a process, or an improvement in efficiency are important innovations that can help build your career… especially if you rinse and repeat until the day you retire.

Watch this video in your next team meeting and complete the activity…

Acumen in Action™

In your next team meeting watch the video and use your business acumen to explore the following:

  • What’s the difference between having a good idea and innovating?
  • What do you think it means to pull the thread of an opportunity?
  • What role does momentum play in innovation?
  • Does it take courage to innovate?
  • How good is our team at coming up with new ideas?
  • How good is our team at implementing new ideas?
  • Does the idea have to be yours in order for you to be an innovator?
  • Does the idea have to be big (like a strategy change) in order for it to be innovative? Talk about the importance of small innovations repeated over and over again.
  • Discuss the The 12 Things That Successfully Convert a Great Idea Into a Reality (Llopis | Forbes | ’13). You may want to take turns reading the 12 ideas as a team.
  • In the article Mr. Llopis suggests that not being involved in innovative activities was irresponsible. What do you think he means?
  • How can we become a more innovative team? Capture the ideas on the board.
  • What can we do to unravel these ideas, build some momentum, and get something done?

Seeing the Big Picture
If you and your team have the book Seeing the Big Picture (Greenleaf, 2012) turn to page 88 and read the section on Anticipation & Innovation.