Taking time out of your busy day or week to read a book can seem difficult. But, Ken Hutcheson, president of U.S. Lawns, says it’s worth it. Even reading a book for a second or third time. “Each book is a step to be a little broader, deeper,” he says. “We should all grow. Each book I’ve read has helped me grow as a person and business leader.”

Hutcheson says certain books had an impact on his personal life and career based on problems he needed to solve and didn’t understand. “Ninety percent of the battle in any situation is knowing to ask the question,” he says. “Reading has forced me to ask the question.”

Hutcheson says he does the following when choosing a book to read:

  1. Researches the author
  2. Looks for an internal debate/struggle
  3. Finds a balance of content and entertainment
  4. Wants to address an issue, personal and/or professional

Hutcheson says that learning how to grow and see things change is his passion. “What I’ve realized was I enjoy growing things, whether they be plants, people or business,” he says.

“These four books were really a progression not just of my career but of my life experience, and each one affected me differently at a different time.”

1. “Tropica: Color Cyclopedia of Exotic Plants and Trees
by Dr. Alfred Byrd Graf

Hutcheson describes “Tropica” as a horticulture bible. It is a highly technical plant book that he says is about 5 inches thick. Hutcheson received the first edition of this book from his parents when he graduated from college in horticulture at the University of Florida. “Technical books are important,” he says. “But you have to have an understanding of yourself and of people, and you have to build enthusiasm.”

 2. “How to Win Friends & Influence People
by Dale Carnegie

Building enthusiasm, Hutcheson says, is something Carnegie says can help with success, along with seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view.

Hutcheson says his favorite quote from the book is: “The person who has technical knowledge plus the ability to express ideas, assume leadership and to arouse enthusiasm among people – that person is headed for higher earning power.”

3. “Atlas Shrugged
by Ayn Rand

A philosophical and thought-provoking book, Hutcheson says “Atlas Shrugged” is not something to necessarily read in one or two sittings.

His favorite quote from Rand in the book is: “There is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.”

4.  “Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
by General Stanley McChrystal

General Stanley McChrystal led the forces in the Middle East and is now retired from the U.S. Army. Hutcheson points out that chapter 11 of “Team of Teams” is titled: “Leading Like a Gardener.”

Hutcheson says organizational structures have been built around a model of how to do business around maximizing efficiencies and what is faster and cheaper, and we need to start thinking differently. The business model has typically been operated more like a chess master.

“This chapter talks about an eyes-on, hands-off style of management,” Hutcheson says.

The gardener creates the environment in which the plants can flourish, which allows each plant to grow individually, but all at the same time. “The gardener cannot grow tomatoes; they can only foster the environment in which the plants grow in,” Hutcheson says. People should be treated the same way, he adds.

McChrystal says in the book: “If the garden is well organized and adequately maintained and the vegetables are promptly harvested when ripe, the product is pretty impressive.”

The overall goal, is to build small teams quickly and to be strong. Hutcheson says franchising at U.S. Lawns is exactly that: 250-plus small teams across 42 states.

“The book has given me ideas on how to respond to the needs of this new world we live in,” Hutcheson says. “It’s given me ideas on how to respond faster to the needs of our team, and how we respond to our customers and how we do it fast.”

Read a conversation with Ken Hutcheson on LawnSite’s Ask the Expert series.