Since I was young, I have been an insatiable reader so I can recommend different books for different lessons, but these five are a must no matter what part of the business lifecycle you are entering.
Entrepreneurs should constantly be learning best practices and keeping ahead of business trends. The difference between the you right now and the you tomorrow is the people you meet, experiences you have and of course the books you read!
1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t
Author: Jim Collins
Summary: Collins shows how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning. But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? He shares insights on how good companies, mediocre companies, and even bad companies can achieve enduring greatness.
Takeaway: My biggest takeaway from Collins book is the need for competent leadership that focuses all of the company’s resources towards a specific area of competency. Repeatedly, he warns that straying too far from a company’s established strengths hinders the path to greatness. Furthermore, it is important to build a culture based on shared values that transcends profits.
Favorite Quote: “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”
2. The Lean Start-up: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
Author: Eric Ries
Summary: Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new. This is just as true for one person in a garage or a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom. What they have in common is a mission to penetrate that fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business.
Takeaway: Most of my clients can attest to the fact that I am a huge fan of Ries’ methodology for testing new ideas whether they are entering new markets, launching a new product or starting a company. Reis explains the importance of customer development rather than focus groups and a culture of experimentation. Build. Measure. Learn.
Favorite Quote: “We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.”
3. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
Author: Tony Hsieh
Summary: CEO of Zappos shows how a different kind of corporate culture can make a huge difference in achieving remarkable. Sound insane? Zappos was acquired by Amazon in a deal valued at over $1.2 billion on the day of closing. Turns out culture is very valuable!!
Takeaway: Tony emphasizes the importance of hiring and retaining the right type of employee. Your retention plan should include personal and professional development. And of course customer service is the responsibility of the entire company, not just a department.
Favorite Quote: “We view the lifetime value of a customer to be a moving target that can increase if we can create more and more positive emotional associations with our brand through every interaction that a person has with us.”
Authors: Jason Fried and David Hansson
Summary: Rework shows you how to launch from where you are regardless of whether you have a business plan, investors or staff. You need less than you think! This book is an extremely quick read filled with opinionated business talk, but most of it is well informed and very pragmatic.
Takeaways: Do not over complicate your business! Work uninterrupted and be careful what you say yes to in business. The biggest takeaway is to sound like you!
Favorite Quote: “You rarely regret saying no. But you often wind up regretting saying yes.”
5. Growth Hacker Marketing
Author: Ryan Holiday
Summary: Ryan, the acclaimed marketing guru for American Apparel, explains the new rules for aspiring growth hackers. The book explains that advertising, promotion, and marketing isn’t one major campaign for a product launch, but rather an on-going process that tested, refined, and improved upon. He says we need to start with a “minimum viable product,” and through this testing find a “product market fit”.
Takeaways: The 4 P’s of marketing are still relevant; however, they must be looked at in a digital dimension. Marketing has become a science focused on data and metrics, and product development and marketing should not be separate departments or steps of a sequential process but rather one unified whole.
Favorite Quote: “The end goal of every growth hacker is to build a self-perpetuating marketing machine that reaches millions by itself.”
Please comment with any favorite books that you have found helpful in your journey!
Kavita Sahai has 10+ years of experience working with entrepreneurs that are looking to better the world through technology, education, healthcare and/or business model innovation. She has worked on over $800M successful investment plans. Through a proven process, she will help you create a 21st-century business plan and execute on it. She has worked as a professional investor with large investment firms like Sun Capital Partners and TA Associates and as an operator at SOC and BackOps, both companies that she helped grow to over several million in sales!
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