ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

The Best Entrepreneurship Book of 2020

How to Turn Your Business into an Enduring Great Company

Photo by Trnava University on Unsplash

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” —Cicero

There are a lot of books to read. Thousands of books are published every day. You would need many lifetimes to be able to read them all. Because of that, it is essential to know what are the best books for you to read. I might start a book and stop it if I don’t believe that it will make my time worth it. You don’t need to finish a book just because you started it.

I love reading about entrepreneurship. One author in particular that I like is Jim Collins. He is an American researcher, author, speaker, and consultant focused on business management and company sustainability and growth. He is best known for four fantastic books he co-authored:

All of those books are great. I read them all. However, the best entrepreneur book I have ever read is another piece of him that is less known. The book is Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company, and it is from 1995. That is the first book Jim Collins wrote and recently got a 2.0 version. The new version contains the original work plus Jim’s view from 2020.

If you had to read just one book, I would read this one.

#1 Leadership

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” —Lao Tzu

Entrepreneurs usually try to act like other entrepreneurs they like. They might copy Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg. It would be best if you learned to be the best version of yourself, and for that, you should always be learning and growing as a person and a professional. Also, you don’t need to be charismatic to be a good leader.

Good leaders don’t let analysis prevent a decision. They know that a good decision today is better than an excellent decision tomorrow, and they follow their gut if necessary. When they fail, they assume the mistake and change direction if necessary. You will never have 100% of the information to make a decision.

#2 Vision

“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.” — Jonathan Swift

The most important job of a leader is to catalyze a clear and shared vision for the company and to secure a commitment to and vigorous pursuit of it. The vision is the context for strategic and tactical decisions as it provides the goal for the company, products, and features. It also helps by increasing cohesion, teamwork, and a sense of belonging. People like to work on something that is more than a paycheck.

The vision of a company can’t die in just one person. Everybody in the organization should understand it, and it should spread naturally. To help with that, Jim created a framework for the vision of a company, which contains:

#3 Strategy

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” —Michael Porter

The strategy shouldn’t be something complicated or a long and very detailed document. It is merely the basic methodology you intend to apply to attain your company’s mission written in 1 to 3 pages. It’s impossible to plan for everything. It’s better to have something that leaves room for individual initiative, opportunities, changing conditions, experimentation, and innovation.

The strategy isn’t something that just the executive knows either. All the people in the company need to understand the plan, and it should leverage their strengths and unique capabilities. Have the participation of those who are going to be on the front line to make it happen. Be realistic and focus on what you are good at.

#4 Innovation

“The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.” —Peter Diamandis

Some executives believe that it is hard to have good ideas, which indicates a lack of receptivity to them. There is no shortage of good ideas. They can come from everywhere. A way to help with that is to try to be the customer, feel their pain, and understand how to solve their problem. A new idea might sound crazy at first, but you have to give space to it.

Other executives are afraid of experimentation as they can make mistakes and spend too much money. You don’t have to build something big to validate an idea. You can test something small (an MVP — minimum viable product) and learn from the mistakes as they can get you closer to the final solution to the problem you are trying to solve. Give space to your team to try new stuff and avoid bureaucracy.

#5 Tactical Excellence

“Ideas are a commodity. Execution of them is not.” —Michael Dell

Many companies start with a great promise but don’t last much time. It won’t matter if you have a great idea if you have poor execution. To make that happened, people need to be clear on what they need to do; have the right skills for the job; be appreciated for their efforts; and see the importance of their work. As a leader, you need to create an environment where people attain consistent tactical excellence.

People are the most essential part of a company. You need to have a fair hiring and training process to have the best people working with you. Everybody needs to understand the culture and processes of the company. Also, people need to know if they are doing a good job, and for that, you need to help by giving feedback, so they can continue growing.

Final thoughts

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” —Ernest Hemingway

The most memorable thing about Beyond Entrepreneurship for me was the chapter about vision. It inspired me and taught me how to write the purpose and mission for my company. It was the basis of everything my team and I have to do. Without the learnings from this book, I probably wouldn’t get as far as I did.

A book isn’t something you read once and let aside. You can always read it all again or just revisit a specific part when in doubt. That’s what I did with Beyond Entrepreneurship since I read its first version from 1995. This book has helped me a lot since I started my first company, and it is the one that I more tell other entrepreneurs to read.

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João V Souza

João V Souza

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