I came upon an article yesterday in Entrepreneur Magazine titled “Learn to Scale Your Business with These 10 Books.” It is an interesting read for not only entrepreneurs, but also for economic developers who need or want to better understand entrepreneurship. It got me thinking about a list of books we recently put together for a potential project, where the hopefully soon to be client wanted to get an understanding of what type of readings inform our approach to economic development and entrepreneurship.

I think our selections include some expected, and unexpected titles.

  • Governing for Economic Development” y “Gobernando Para El Desarrollo Economico,” Kevin Crowder. The first publication of the BusinessFlare® Publishing Group, this short book is based on my own experience in one of the most successful economic development efforts of the 20th Century, and how the lessons from that experience are relevant to any community seeking authentic compatible economic growth. My wife and I also recently published our Goodnight’s Red River Spice Company cookbook, “Texan and Latin Comfort Food Recipes,” which includes commentary on my family’s historic connection along the Red River.
  • “Tribes,” Seth Godin. Mr. Crowder received this book from a member of the BusinessFlare® Team for Christmas 2021, and quickly finished it, discovering many timely and relevant lessons as the firm moves into its 2022 business plan. The first page of the book showcased its relevance to the BusinessFlare® Team (Tribe) and Approach: “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” This is consistent with our philosophy that for a movement to be real, it must be defined by those that join it, not by those that lead it.
  • “Learning from Bryant Park,” Andrew M. Manshel. Bryant Park is one of the original and best placemaking stories of the past half century.
  • Community Ties: Understanding What Attaches People to the Place Where They Live,” The Knight Foundation. The results of this study have been incorporated as a core element of the BusinessFlare® Approach and are the foundation of the “think and feel” concept previously referenced. The study identified the most important things that connect people to their community. These are themes that infect our work as we engage with communities, and it includes specific attention to the Aesthetics – how a place looks and feels; Social Offerings – opportunities for people to engage with one another; and Openness – how open and welcoming the community is.
  • “Inside the Magic Kingdom – Seven Keys to Disney’s Success,” Tom Connellan. All brands need the proper balance of three things: market and financial feasibility, regulatory efficiency, and identity and brand. This is a key element of the BusinessFlare® Approach and is relevant to entities as diverse as Apple and Starbucks, Uber and AirBNB, and Downtown Weatherford and the Magic Kingdom. Disney is an interesting study, not just as a place but also as a brand and the lessons of its success are expansive and relevant, especially regarding the customer service experience. Just as interesting and maybe even more relevant is Carl Hiassen’s own take on Disney: Team Rodent – How Disney Devours the World.”
  • “Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time,” Daniel Gross. One of BusinessFlare® Owner Kevin Crowder’s favorite books, this is the tome that not only inspired him to become an entrepreneur, but it also inspired him to form the BusinessFlare® Publishing Group as a vehicle to continue to share his economic development knowledge and the BusinessFlare® case studies, especially with communities that have limited resources and need a respectful, realistic, and efficient approach.
  • “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith. Adam Smith is the father of modern economics, and his book An Inquiry into THE Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and concepts such as the Invisible Hand and basic economic realities are as relevant today as when they were first written down in the 1700s. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect to eat our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”  
  • “When the Boomers Bail,” Mark Lautman. Even before the current workforce challenges that have come out of the pandemic, BusinessFlare® had identified workforce development, talent attraction and retention, and the related necessary quality of life enhancements as the critical economic development strategies of the future. Quality of life, and quality of place are how communities will compete to attract talent, which will form the basis of their economic growth in the future, and high quality, authentic downtown experiences are critical to a community’s competitive position.
  • “Five Rules for an Effective Presentation,” Anthony Robbins. A short, half page interview that appeared in Forbes Magazine several years ago, it transformed how BusinessFlare® engages with customers, clients, stakeholders and partners. It has become second nature and allows us to not only understand our audience’s concerns, hopes and dreams, but to truly respect them. To go deep quickly with the truth, to know your outcome, and to embrace spontaneity and not bore everyone to death with just another powerpoint.
  • Give Me Liberty of Give Me Death,” Patrick Henry. Plans that promote a bunch of goals and strategies that, while having strong local support, also are unrealistic when it comes to implementation, are plans that sit on shelves. To counter this, a successful, realistic, implementable strategy must incorporate a “respectful reality check.” Additionally, it is critical to our approach that during public engagement all voices are heard, and that everyone have the ability to speak freely and share their opinions. While many people are familiar with the end of his speech, it is the beginning that is relevant here. “Different men often see the same subject in different lights; and therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.”
  • Defining the 15-Minute City,” Congress for New Urbanism. The concept of the 15-minute city has gained more acceptance recently, especially during the pandemic. While generally viewed as an urban concept, we believe that it can be more inclusive as the originators intended, as it is relevant to all different types of communities, as long as the community accepts that different stakeholders can have different views and definitions of how their 15-minutes are determined. This is important especially in rural areas where it requires broader definition than just being a concept of urban walkability.
  • Big Ideas for Small Town Revival,” Governing Magazine. This article is about a developer in Ohio, and his approach to revitalization in his hometown. At BusinessFlare® we related to this story, because similar to our approach of exporting the relevant lessons of our successes to other struggling communities, he is doing the same thing in the Midwest.
  • How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” Gallup. Millennials have been the talk of economic development for the past decade, and attracting them as residents, workers and entrepreneurs has been one of the top goals of many community leaders, often being identified as a priority without even an understanding of why they should be prioritized. This analysis answers important questions that can help a community understand how a millennials strategy may or may not realistically fit into their economic development plan.
  • “The Seamless City,” Mayor Rick Baker and “Comeback Cities,” Grogan Proscio. These books are important examples of not only successful city revitalization and transformation, but of the importance of leadership in that success. We often tell our clients that they can succeed if they have the will to do so, and these books show that community and political leadership is the most important attribute for successful implementation.
  • “A Brilliant Solution – Inventing the American Constitution,” Carol Berkin. The story of the creation of the US Constitution is not only a fascinating historical read, it also provides real insight and understanding of interpersonal conflict, consensus building, politics and the leadership necessary to succeed in changing the status quo and creating an entirely new, untested but ultimately successful, approach. The New York Times Book Review called it “That rarest of achievements – civic education that also manages to entertain.”