Every year I read a great book worth sharing with my audience, and this summer's offering, “What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence,” by Stephen A. Schwarzman, a New York Times bestseller, is an excellent read with terrific insights that I think worthy of your attention. Given now is a roofing contractor's "busy season," I've summarized its messages so readers can concentrate on the business of business. 

The book's author, Steve Schwarzman, was the former CEO of a top global asset firm, Blackstone, who grew the company's valuation to exceed a half-trillion dollars. The book shares many stories, so I've offered a bird's eye view of its pearls of wisdom that contractors can use as a playbook for success.

Beacon has consulted very successful contractors whose revenues have ranged from $8 million to more than $300 million. All of these achievers, whether first, second, or third-generation owners, had grit, humility, incredible determination, and ethics, plus they knew how to mentor, lead and grow a strong team.

Success in business and leadership is a journey that equips us with essential skills and principles crucial for triumph. The book reveals the traits needed for success in this journey.  

These include persistence, strategic thinking, continuous learning, an entrepreneurial mindset, adaptability, relationship building, financial literacy, ethical practices, and resilience.

Persistence and Determination

Persistence and determination are vital traits that require a committed mindset. Do you retreat or persist? It involves acknowledging difficulties, staying determined, and reflecting on past challenges to strengthen resilience.

An entrepreneurial mindset goes beyond founding startups; it's about viewing challenges as opportunities and developing creative solutions.

Entrepreneurial Mindset

Entrepreneurial thinking is beyond startup companies. It is a mindset with a lens for facing challenges, seeing the opportunities and gaps that others miss, and finding a better way. 

By thinking like an entrepreneur, we can fill gaps and bring about incremental changes in our roles.

Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is seeing the bigger picture, what is possible, anticipating outcomes, and making decisions with future implications in mind. It requires foresight, seeking long-term solutions, and integrating diverse viewpoints into planning.

Step back, reassess, think creatively, and find new angles. Over time, you'll see a shift in your approach to problems and a newfound ability to identify and seize opportunities.

Leadership and Management

True leadership involves:

  • Leading by example
  • Confronting our blind spots
  • Listening
  • Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of our teams
  • Fostering a shared purpose and creating a positive work environment
  • Celebrating successes and constructively addressing areas for improvement motivates and engages teams
  • Leadership is a journey, not a destination, and every step you take in this journey shapes the kind of leader you will become

Continuous Learning

Embracing continuous learning means cultivating curiosity and openness to new experiences and knowledge. It involves staying current in our fields, reading trade magazines, engaging in NRCA and regional associations, exploring related and different areas, and reflecting on mistakes and failures as learning opportunities.

This thirst for knowledge keeps you evolving, growing, and continually improving.

Relationship Building

Building relationships is about something other than accumulating contacts on LinkedIn. It is about relationships that are genuine connections with active listening, empathy, and sincerity. It's less about what people can do for you and more about how you can contribute to the relationship.

We can open doors to partnerships, collaborations, and opportunities by valuing people and contributing to relationships.

Adaptability and Flexibility

Adaptability and flexibility are about navigating change and embracing new ways of doing things. It involves being open to new ideas, exploring different solutions, and recognizing that change is a part of growth. Conceptually, it is about cultivating a mindset of curiosity and openness to new experiences and knowledge.

Like a river that finds its way around obstacles, it's about flowing with change, not against it. Over time, you'll become more resilient and better equipped to handle whatever comes your way. That's the power of adaptability and flexibility at work.

Financial Literacy

Financial literacy isn't about becoming an accounting expert. It's about understanding the fundamentals of finance, being able to interpret financial information, and making informed decisions based on that information. It involves understanding cash flow, budgeting, investment, and risk assessment concepts.

When dealing with financial reports, focus on more than just the numbers. Understand what they signify and the story they tell about your operations. Ask questions when you're uncertain and seek expert advice when necessary.

Educating ourselves, asking questions, and seeking expert advice to anticipate challenges and identify opportunities is essential.

Ethical Business Practices

Ethical business practices extend beyond the following rules and regulations. It encompasses fairness, transparency, respect, and responsible decision-making. We can build trust and a reputable image by aligning actions with ethical standards, treating others fairly and respectfully, and encouraging open dialogues about ethics.

Remember, it's not just about doing business; it's about doing business right. In the long run, ethical business practices can lead to sustainable success and a strong reputation.

Resilience and Grit

Resilience and grit involve the courage to confront challenges, bounce back more robustly, and adopt a growth mindset. By focusing on solutions and seeking support when needed, we can navigate the ups and downs of our professional journeys.

See challenges as opportunities for learning rather than as roadblocks. When things go south, focus on finding solutions instead of dwelling on the problem.


In a constantly changing world, it's essential to embody the key traits above that enable us to survive and thrive. Just think about COVID and the supply chain challenges you recently faced.

When applied with consistency and commitment, these principles above can significantly affect how you navigate your career or run a business. They pave the way for sustainable success, ethical practices, and meaningful impact.

Remember, success is not an overnight phenomenon; it's the cumulative result of small, consistent actions aligned with these principles. So, embrace these traits, apply them in your endeavors, and witness the transformation they bring.