Jason Provonsha, the CEO of Steam Logistics, leads one of the fastest growing companies in Chattanooga. After starting his career in media and publishing, Provonsha shifted gears and joined Access America Transport as director of business development a decade ago. He joined Steam as chief sales officer in 2015, and became CEO of the company in 2016. Steam, which employed 30 people five years ago, now employs nearly 600, and has plans to grow further in a new headquarters in the historic John Ross Building at Fourth and Market streets later this year.
What books have you read and recommended to others that influence your leadership style and how you've developed your career?
My favorite business book of all time is "Shoe Dog," the memoir Phil Knight wrote about starting and building Nike. It's such an amazing look at how hard it is to build and scale a business. Nike almost didn't make it multiple times. We see Nike as one of the world's most recognizable brands now, but reading about what it took to get there is both sobering and inspiring. Ben Horowitz's book, "The Hard Thing About Hard Things," had a similar impact on me. Great wisdom about building a company. Horowitz also wrote a great book that shaped a lot of my thinking on how important culture is to an organization. That book, "What You Do is Who You Are," came at a great time for us, as we were putting a lot of intentional work into designing our culture at Steam. Brene Brown's books have had a big impact on how I think about leading with a sense of empathy and vulnerability, particularly "Daring Greatly," which I believe was her second book, but I've read them all. Lastly, I've enjoyed reading books from former military leaders like Jocko Willink and David Goggins. Their books will really challenge you into examining your discipline and how you hold yourself accountable to others.
What books have you recently read for pleasure that you're telling others about?
One that comes to mind is Neil deGrasse Tyson's "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry." The title is hilarious, but it's just a very accessible look at what would otherwise be pretty dense material that is way above my moderate level of intelligence. Others that I've told others about would be "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi. Both were amazing works that were challenging in completely different ways. Also, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Matthew McConaughey's "Greenlights." That's a great read.
What is next on your to-read list?
I keep a running list on Goodreads. A few that are on my list include "Blitzscaling" by Reid Hoffman, "Courage is Calling" by Ryan Holiday, "The Constitution of Knowledge," by Jonathan Rauch, and "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. I need to get busy on these.