Read, read and read s’more — the best advice I can give

My collection of “Lean in 15” books is getting a little out of hand now…

One of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone who is starting a business is to read. There is so much knowledge out there that is applicable for so many types of businesses at various stages in their lifecycles. Smart people the world over have been kind enough to share their experiences of starting and running multi-million and billion dollar businesses, the lessons they learned through trial and error and the mistakes they made along the way. I want to share a few of the books that I found to be the most interesting and relevant (in no particular order):

  • Hooked: How to build habit forming products — Nir Eyal

This book will teach you why you are so addicted to checking your emails, Facebook and Instagram feeds and how to think about incorporating those addictive features in your own product. A short but powerful read with lots of examples, actions and takeaways (which I highly recommend you doing) that crosses product design, consumer behavioural psychology and traditional marketing.

Pretty much any of the big businesses you can think of that have sprung up in the last few years will be ‘platform’ businesses — Facebook, AirBnB, Uber et al, they don’t sell any products themselves but instead exist to facilitate interactions between parties. Platform scale explains this new phenomenon at great length and dissects what made some platforms more successful than others. It can be slightly repetitive at times but there will still be numerous analogies and applications relevant to your business.

  • Crossing the chasm — Geoffrey A. Moore

This describes the issues many tech companies face when marketing their products to the masses, the chasm referring to the gap between adoption from the ‘early adopters’ and the ‘early majority’. The book explains how to close the gap and increase the likelihood of adoption.

0 to 1 refers to how the truly revolutionary businesses start with nothing to copy and create something incredible and how that is where the most value lies in starting a new business, rather than by taking existing business models and improving on them (1 to n). The book focusses on how you should be thinking about not incremental improvements but how you can make an experience 10x or 100x better. If nothing else it will certainly inspire you to aim high!

  • The hard thing about hard things — bhorowitz

A book that doesn’t glamourise the start-up/early stages of running a business, instead focussing on how tough it can be and the difficult decisions you may have to be forced to make, whether that be firing large numbers of staff or selling off prized parts of your business. There is a lot of practical wisdom in here and Ben has some fantastic ways of looking at things from different perspectives in a humorous way.

  • How Google works — Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg

A fascinating history of Google from the very early days and the market leading practices they implemented first on hiring and performance reviews, decision making, company culture and dealing with disruptive competitors. If you are building a business from the ground up you could do a lot worse than leveraging the thousands of hours Google have already put into making their operations as efficient and effective as possible.

Probably the first book you should read, it has been a staple of start-up culture since its introduction. The book focuses on how to build and grow your business, testing along the way, with minimal resources, minimizing risk but learning as much as possible about your strategy and trajectory in as short a time as possible. After reading you would think it mad to start a business in any other way.

Essentially a history of Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos. I found it interesting because in my mind Amazon has never been the prettiest or easiest to use website but this is because it is the outcome of all business decisions being made based on A/B user testing and reams and reams of data, results of which are sometimes counterintuitive. It gets into Bezos’ motivations and vision and the challenges Amazon has faced along the way are nothing short of fascinating.

  • Thinking, fast and slow — Daniel Kahneman

Less business focussed but nonetheless, incredibly insightful. Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in behavioural economics and this book is full of anecdotes and examples that will make you stop and think about all the little decisions you make daily. I am recommending it here as the hope is it will help you understand your customers and the decisions they make and thus be able to help you design more engaging products for them.

  • Creativity, Inc — Ed Catmull

A book by one of the founders of Pixar Inc, a company with a very special culture. Some great lessons in how important candour is in a business environment and how vital it is that you build a high performing organisation that is collaborative if you want to succeed. Also, some ideas for how to structure your organisation as it grows in order to maximise its effectiveness.

An inspirational book on how going against the grain can pay off when done in the right way. Adam Grant is a fantastic speaker (see his TED talks) and a clear writer. Through many, many case studies he demonstrates how you can go about championing your own and other people’s ideas, re-inventing outdated ideas.

While I don’t agree with all that has to be said in this book I love the general theme. It is great for a first-time entrepreneur, is a very quick read with short snippets of wisdom that will make you think. It also has the added bonus of telling you a lot of things that are deemed requirements in many other circles are actually pointless and superfluous (so you won’t feel as guilty when you don’t do them).

So that’s my list so far, there are so many others I would like to talk about, but I tried to keep it to the most impactful ones as you probably don’t have tons of time… Hope you enjoy and take as much from them as I did!

Now put down that Rubik’s cube (you pretentious fool) and start reading.

If you found this interesting or think others might please ❤️ it or share it and check out some of my other posts! Also feel free to comment to your heart’s content if you liked it, didn’t like it, have suggestions or questions.

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