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Jacqui Pretty, Founder of Grammar Factory, Shares the Books That Helped Transform Her Business

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Books can be the ultimate business cards… if done right. Jacqui Pretty is the Founder of Grammar Factory, a publishing company that turns entrepreneurs into authors through their courses, publishing and ghost writing services.

Since 2013, her team has worked with clients from all over the world, helping business leaders across a range of industries edit and publish over 150 books.

She is also the author of Book Blueprint: How Any Entrepreneur Can Write an Awesome Book – a resource with strategies and ideas that can inspire entrepreneurs who want to write a great book, but lack the time needed.

I discovered her work thanks to an article from GrowthLab, where she talked about a book that made her rethink assumptions and changed her financial perspective, get back to basics and 26x’d her business profit.

From our interview you’ll find out more about her reading habits, the books and authors that impacted her, and the resources she’d recommend to young people interested in her career path. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

This is a tough one! The most recent business book I found that had a transformative impact on my business is Profit First by Mike Michalowicz, which completely changed the way we manage our finances at Grammar Factory.

For non-business, a nonfiction one would be Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield, which is about taking a professional approach to your art – ensuring you sit down every day and do the work, rather than treating it like a hobby. When it comes to fiction, there are so many to choose from! Some books I’ve loved in the past year include Circe by Madeline Miller, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Incendiary by Chris Cleave, If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch and The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell us about it?

As I mentioned in the previous question, Profit First transformed the way we manage our finances. Before I read it, Grammar Factory looked great from the outside (happy clients, a great service, a growing team), but behind the scenes our expenses were averaging 90% of our revenue, I couldn’t pay myself and if anything went wrong, we would make a loss. As soon as Mike’s book explained the targets I should be aiming for, I overhauled our expenses and dramatically increased our prices, which put the business in a much healthier position.

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What books had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path.

I feel like I’m repeating myself – Profit First again. 🙂

What five books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path & why?

This is tough because I don’t actually read a lot of business books personally – because I read so much nonfiction in my role at Grammar Factory, when I read for myself I try to focus on fiction. Additionally, the resources I’ve used to develop throughout my career are largely online courses and coaching programs, along with learning on the job, rather than books.

Having said that, here are some that might help:

  • Profit First for money management
  • The e-Myth for business mindset
  • The Pumpkin Plan for differentiation
  • Turning Pro for doing the work (especially for creatives)
  • Book Blueprint for how to write a nonfiction book – while this is a shameless self-plug, it is actually required reading for any new editors who join our team to introduce them to our approach to evaluating and structuring books

We’re interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How do you make time for reading? How often do you read? What format do you prefer?

When I was living in Australia, I had a much more regular reading schedule! I would travel into the city 4 days a week and read on the train, which was about 40 minutes each way. Now that I’m in Estonia, I tend to walk most places, and if I get a bus it’s only ever 10 minutes, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for reading. With this in mind, I try to set aside 30-90 minutes for reading fiction before I go to bed. I read most days, but occasionally I’ll take a break if I’ve had a disappointing reading experience, and it will take me 3-4 days before I feel like diving into something new, and I average one book a week outside the reading I do for work (next year I’d like to get that up to two). As a writer, I consider reading to be an essential part of the job – like doing scales for musicians.

When it comes to format, I definitely prefer physical books – usually paperbacks. However, I read a mix of paperbacks and eBooks. eBooks are just so convenient, and it’s nice to have the option to download a sample before you purchase the entire book. If you enjoy the sample, you also get instant gratification when you then place the order!

Interestingly, while I can read fiction in paperback or eBook format, I stick to physical books for nonfiction. For some reason I find it harder to remember nonfiction in eBook format, and have a tendency to skim and skip over things. It’s also harder to flip through the book to find content on a certain topic.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

Because I edit and write a lot of nonfiction, I have a good understanding of how books are structured and know what I can skip and what I need to read. So often I’ll skip the introduction of a book and dive straight into the content. If I’ve picked up a book to learn something specific, I’ll jump straight to the content on that one thing, rather than trying to absorb all of the other information that I don’t need at this point in time.

I also take notes to ensure I remember things, and try to do any exercises in the moment (this is something I’m less likely to do if I’m reading an entire book, which is another reason I focus on the relevant sections). If I don’t have time to do an exercise, or I’m not in a convenient place to do so, I’ll dog ear the page or use a sticky note to remind me to go back to it later.

How do you choose what books to read next? Do you prioritize books recommended by certain people?

I’m a big fan of Goodreads, and try to follow people I respect in the community to see what they’re reading (this might be an author whose books I enjoy, or someone who leaves thoughtful, in-depth reviews). If they recommend a book, or leave a good review of it, it then goes on my ‘to read’ list. When it comes to prioritisation, for nonfiction it comes down to the problem I most need to solve at the moment, and I’ll devour whatever I can on that subject. For fiction, it depends on the mood I’m in – some days I might be in the mood for literary fiction, other days I might want to read genre fiction, other days I might want to read YA and so on. Often I’ll go through phases, where I’ll read a handful of books in one style and will then switch to another.

Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I’m not! I just finished An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green, and tonight I’m planning to start Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. For nonfiction, I have a couple of Grammar Factory projects on the go – one on improving kids’ sleep by addressing breathing issues, and one on B2B sales.

Links where you can follow Jacqui Pretty or find out more about her projects:

All books mentioned by Jacqui Pretty in our interview:

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