Even CEOs seek self-help in books

By Robert Trigaux, Times Business Editor
Published June 4, 2007

Over the years, I never tire of hearing what area business folks claim to have on their summer reading lists, whether for gaining business insights or for sheer escapist fun.

Self-improvement themes are big this year among those I queried. Current events books - not nearly as much this year on politics or the Middle East as we saw in 2005 and 2006 - are on the summer back burner. But the latest from south Tampa mystery writer Michael Connelly, author of a series featuring police detective hero Harry Bosch, is definitely on readers' radar screens.

"I became a Michael Connelly fan when we moved to the area, " says Tech Data Corp. CEO Bob Dutkowsky who, since landing here last year, notes he is at least trying to squeeze in some reading while revitalizing Tampa Bay's biggest corporation by revenues. "His books are quick, sharply written and always keep you guessing. The Overlook is his latest and I cannot wait to read it."

Neither can Bob Forsythe, dean of USF's College of Business Administration and, like Dutkowsky, a relatively recent transplant to the Tampa Bay area. "I have read every Harry Bosch mystery, " the dean says.

For different lighter reading, Tampa Chamber vice president of economic development Myron Hughes leans less to mystery and more to biography and American fiction. A jazz lover and the former No. 44 at low post for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats basketball team, Hughes is perusing Sidney Poitier's "spiritual" autobiography, The Measure of a Man. His night stand includes the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk about the harsh black experience in mid 20th-century New York City.

Anyone familiar with the humor of consultant Fritz Eichelberger, yellow-shirted host of the "Pure and Shameless" technology networking socials at International Plaza's Blue Martini, will not be surprised he's reading satire-master Christopher Buckley's Boomsday. The novel's about a blogger in the not-too-distant American future who, convinced the huge retirement of baby boomers will bankrupt the country, urges patriotic seniors to kill themselves - in exchange, of course, for a tax break.

"Hilarious insight into the coming aging population, " says Eichelberger, who plans to take the book on a vacation cruise.

Perennial entrepreneur Kurt Long, CEO of EpicTide (medical identity security) in St. Petersburg, plugs Patrick Smith's A Land Remembered - historical fiction often cited by summer readers over the years - for its feel for Central Florida history and development. "A must-read for any person who lives in Florida, " Long says.

Enough with the fun stuff. Each business leader offered up a business book or two in the never-ending search for a competitive edge. A sampler:

- Tech Data's Dutkowsky: What Got You Here Won't Get You There, which the CEO says helps readers take inventory of strengths and weaknesses and improve people skills.

- USF's Forsythe: Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Freres & Co. about the Wall Street firm's checkered history.

- HotSpaces' Eichelberger: The No Asshole Rule, which happens to be No. 2 on BusinessWeek's list of business best sellers. It's about how to avoid hiring disruptive employees and managing those on board. "I've held numerous interesting conversations about these issues with local executives, " Eichelberger says.

- Tampa Chamber's Hughes: God Is My CEO, which is about following God's principles in a ruthless bottom-line world. Hughes says he's on his second read of this book.

That's probably a good sign. Happy reading.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8405.

Myron Hughes

Tampa Chamber Committee of 100

For insight: God Is My CEO by Larry Julian for the second time.

For fun: The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier because he's had an amazing life.

Kurt Long

CEO, EpicTide

For insight: Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham because it's under-appreciated.

For fun: A Land Remembered by Patrick Smith for its local history.

Bob Dutkowsky

CEO, Tech Data

For insight: What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Goldsmith and Reiter because you can always improve.

For fun: The Overlook by Michael Connelly. "I can't wait" to read it.