10 Books Every Entrepreneur MUST Read

Any entrepreneur worth their salt, will tell you that there’s no entrepreneurship class that can prepare you for business better than starting your own business;  and I’ve had the opportunity to learn first-hand by creating and working for some very successful entrepreneurial ventures. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn second-hand from the successes and failures of the entrepreneurs in my family. My maternal grandmother built and ran a very successful nursery, that’s still serving the community long after her death. I’ve also watched as my father would leave his day job to do taxes and help small businesses manage their finances. Most recently I’ve had the pleasure of helping and watching as my oldest brother took an idea and turned it into a successful startup that just closed a $1.7M round of funding. With that said, my advice for any new entrepreneur is to start working towards your business ASAP, find a mentor that’s been “through the ropes” that you can ask for advice, and finally open up your favorite e-reader or audio device and check out some of my favorite books on entrepreneurship.

1.Rework by Jason Fried

I’ve been a huge fan of the crew at 37 Signals (David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried) since 2006. I’m an avid reader of their blog Signal vs. Noise, and when word got around in 2010 that they were releasing a book, I was excited. Rework, challenged everything I thought I knew about starting a business. Its core philosophy is shut up and start working. Stop wasting time with business plans, searching for investors, and matching your competitors feature for feature. Instead build half the product, work smarter not harder, and stop wasting time with toxic meetings.

2. Good to Great by Jim Collins

This book, may just be the best business book I’ve ever read. In Good to Great, Jim Collins et’al studied over five years, the histories of twenty-eight companies. to discover the key determinants of “greatness”, and why some companies make the leap and others don’t. Some of the findings include:

  • Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness.
  • The Hedgehog Concept: (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence.
  • A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology.
  • The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

3. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

In 2005, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team was required reading for all leaders at my job at the time. I wasn’t officially leadership then, but I decided to read the book anyway, and I’m so glad I did. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a fictional story following Kathryn Petersen, the new CEO of Decision Tech, as she  faces the ultimate leadership crisisUniting a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company.

4. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point, wrote  what I believe may be his best book ever. David and Goliath challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, by using a collective of stories including the Bible story of the little shepherd boy David and his eventual  defeat of the “unbeatable” warrior Goliath to illustrate how David and Goliath’s size and combat experience, was in fact the reason why David was able to defeat Goliath.

5. Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port

Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid, teaches you the strategies, techniques, and skills necessary to get more clients and increase profits. The book uses a mixture of verbal and written exercises to help you discover the keys to developing a strong marketing plan and brand image. I’m more than 3/4 of the way through the book and the exercises have already opened my eyes to some of the pitfall in my business strategies.

6. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

At one point I thought that and MBA gave entrepreneurs an advantage in creating a successful business, and though it may help, I’ve talked to many entrepreneurs who told me that actually starting a business is a better use of my time, effort, and money. So when I heard about the Personal MBA, I figured I would read it to help fill some of the business knowledge gaps. The Personal MBA explains concepts such as:

  • The Iron Law of the Market: Why every business is limited by the size and quality of the market it attempts to serve-and how to find large, hungry markets.
  • The 12 Forms of Value: Products and services are only two of the twelve ways you can create value for your customers.
  • The Pricing Uncertainty Principle: All prices are malleable. Raising your prices is the best way to dramatically increase profitability – if you know how to support the price you’re asking.
  • 4 Methods to Increase Revenue: There are only four ways a business can bring in more money. Do you know what they are?

7. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Delivering Happiness is written by Tony Hsieh, the influential CEO of Zappos, the billion dollar online shoe retailer. In it Hsieh discusses how he created the revolutionary Zappos’ corporate culture. Hsieh details many of the unique practices at Zappos, such as their philosophy of allocating marketing money into the customer experience, the importance of Zappos’s Core Values. Culture is essential to attracting, managing, and retaining a high performing workforce.

8. Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley

Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Church is one of the world’s foremost  leaders in developing Church leaders. In Next Generation Leader, Pastor Stanley shares material from his leadership training sessions, developed to address essential leadership qualities such as character, clarity, courage, and competency. This book is not only for church leadership, but I’ve applied all of the learnings in the book to developing myself as a leader.

9. Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out by Marc Ecko

If you’re not familiar with Marc Ecko or the multi-million dollar Ecko Unltd. clothing brand then you need to crawl out from under that rock you’ve been living under for the last 20 years. In Unlabel, Ecko, chronicles struggle building the brand, and discusses the conflict he faced balancing staying creative while acquiring business savvy. This is a fun and education read.

10. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Lean Startup is more than just a book, its a revolution that’s sprouted other  books, businesses, meetup groups, conferences, and countless blogs. In Lean Startup, Ries offers, businesses of all sizes, a way to test their business visions continuously and adapt and adjust based on the data they acquire . Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, Lean Startup relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want.   Hope this was helpful. Feel free to share your favorites.

It All Starts with an Idea

For as far as I remember, I’ve had an obsession with entrepreneurship. That obsession was exacerbated when I took the plunge into the field of technology more than 10+ years ago (wow am I really that old?). Since then, I’ve researched some of my favorite companies, studied some most of my favorite entrepreneurs, and more importantly attempted to learn firsthand when I  tested the entrepreneurial waters myself. One of the most important lessons learned from this research, was that it all starts with the idea. Before you can determine your market, do a SWOT analysis, or figure out what technologies you need to scale your product, you must first have a solid idea.

Anyone who knows me, knows that when it comes to ideas, I don’t have a quantity problem. In fact, for the past 5 years I’ve been writing most of my ideas down in a Moleskine journal that I so creatively named the “idea book”. That’s right nearly 50+ pages/sketches of ideas, collecting dust in my nightstand drawer. The main reason these ideas have been laying dormant for the past 5 years is that I’ve been having trouble determining which ideas are good enough to work on. So last night while eating dinner, I had an epiphany. Why not blog about each idea, including explicit details, target market, possible site names, etc… circulate them around my social networks, and have an open dialog to help determine which idea have legs, and which aren’t worth the effort (maybe I can even get a co-founder or investor out of one of these post).

So over the next few months (or years if it take that long) I will be dedicating a post to each of my ideas. If you think its dope tell me, if you think it’s dopey, tell me (don’t worry, I have thick skin.). Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away. -Dr. Linus Pauling