Having started a consulting business, Savvy Technical Solutions, last year, I’ve been trying to spend as much time reading business-oriented books as technical books. I was delighted to run across two books, each written by a long-term business owner of a succesful business based right here in St. Louis.

Across the Divide: Navigating the Digital Revolution as a Woman, Entrepreneur and CEO
By Susan S. Elliott

Susan Elliott started working for IBM in 1958 and has since witness the evolution of the digital revolution since its early days. She started SSE, a St. Louis-based software and training company, which is today run by her daughter, Elizabeth. At the beginning of her career, she witnessed databases with actual spindles and disks. In the early 80’s she was able to purchase her own home computer and launched a PC training business to area companies. Since then, her company has navigated the birth of the internet and now mobile computing.

Although the trivia about how data processing and computing has advanced over the decades was amusing, what I found especially fascinating was reading the history of a small business owner in the technology field. She talked about the decision to not earn a salary for the first several years so she could afford to hire someone; about how she hired contractors instead of employees at first to facilitate cash flow; about how she had to start off in her basement and steady move to larger offices; and even the mistakes (and near misses) her company made along the way. As someone who works in St. Louis myself, I found it especially interesting to learn about her business interactions with companies who I still do business with today.

Although some of the book reads more like a trip down memory lane for ex-employees at a company anniversary, (which I can’t fully appreciated, having never worked at SSE), I did find that there were many helpful lessons I was able to learn from a fellow woman in the business. I recommend this to other St. Louisans, women in the field of technology, and small business owners, who can learn from someone who has “been there, done that.”

Doing Business By The Good Book CoverDoing Business by the Good Book: 52 Lessons on Success Straight from the Bible
By David L. Steward

David Steward is one of the owners and founders of World Wide Technologies, one of the most successful companies in St. Louis. Year after year, he is honored by Black Enterprise magazine as the owner of one of the largest African-American owned companies in the country.

Over the years, he has tried to build his company based on principles he has gleaned from the Bible. He eventually took these ideas and put them into a book with 52 chapters — one for each week of the year. (The book was originally written as a kind of textbook for a Sunday School class he was asked to teach at his church.)

The kind of topics he covers are: integrity, delegation, taking a stand, consistency, flexibility, team work, risk-taking, being customer-focused, servant leadership, quality of work, empowering your employees, etc.

Although I felt like each of the topics were a bit on the simplistic side, it’s a good reminder of the basic building blocks that make up a healthy business. Interestingly enough, a friend of mine just got hired at World Wide Technologies last year. He hasn’t read this book, but when I’ve grilled him on the corporate culture of WWT, I’ve been rather amazed to learn that it truly does seem to live up to the priciples that David Steward talks about in his book. Talk is cheap, but when I hear in person that the priciples work, it makes me stop and take notice.

Since each of the chapters is quite short (usually 5 pages or so), this is a good book to pick up every once in a while when you need a good reminder about what it takes to have a healthy business.