Businesses are cool, books are cool, and choosing which books to read is tough. Here’s a new way to do it.

One Sentence Guides To 40 Great Books for Each Stage In The Business Lifecycle that you can enjoy while WFH.

Adam Naor
Mission.org
Published in
7 min readApr 23, 2020

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The business life cycle is the progression of a business over time. By convention the cycle has five stages. However, my list includes a sixth — pre-launch — that naturally comes first; it is followed by the traditional definitions of launch, growth, shake-out, maturity, and decline.

My former economics professor insisted that exam answers not exceed one sentence per question. His thinking is that if one truly understand a topic one can boil it down and explain it concretely in a few precise words or equations. In the spirit of this logic, I have organized 40 business books I enjoy (and have learned from) and provided a one sentence synopsis per book. I have placed each in its appropriate lifecycle category.

If nothing else, businesses are cool, books are cool, and choosing books is tough. So here’s a new way to do it.

I recognize that this sorting method is imprecise as some of these books span more than one stage; however, I hope that my approach enables you to delve straight into the content most suited to your interests and needs.

Books pertaining to ideation, market trends, understanding risk and reward, learning to ask the right questions, and introspection.

  • A Curious Mind: Pays homage to the power of asking questions, showing you how being curious can change your entire life.
  • The Algebra of Happiness: Think critically about the variables that add up to a happy life.
  • What You Do Is Who You Are: Build a company culture that works by turning to history and seeing what you can learn from the world’s greatest leaders and companies.
  • How Will You Measure Your Life? Articulates how one can sustain motivation at work and in life by spending time on holistic relationships across work, family, and friends.
  • How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking: Math is the science of common sense; studying a few key mathematical ideas can help you assess risks better, make the right decisions, and improve outcomes.
  • Made to Stick: Examines advertising campaigns and narratives to determine the traits that make ideas stick in our brains, so you can best spread your own ideas more easily among the right people.
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street: Using an asset’s past price movements is an unreliable means of projecting its future direction.
  • The Wisdom of Finance: Know numbers, know stories, know how stories and numbers impact how you think about risk, reward, and an uncertain future.

Books pertaining to releasing products, defining Product Market Fit, and attracting (happy) clients.

  • Venture Deals: Offers insights into the mechanisms that govern venture capital deals as well as strategy that will help you get the most out of negotiations with investors.
  • The First 90 Days: The first 90 days of any career transition — be it a promotion, a new job, or forming a company — are critical and can determine if you succeed or fail in the new role.
  • Zero to One: An inside look at Peter Thiel’s philosophy and strategy for making a startup succeed; leverages lessons he learned from scaling PayPal and investing in Facebook.
  • Measure What Matters: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are an important approach to goal-setting at Google and other successful companies.
  • Super Pumped: Uber launched and scaled rapidly, catapulting to the top of the tech world; yet for many, Uber came to symbolize everything wrong with Silicon Valley.
  • Smarter Faster Better: Explores 8 different concepts and how they can make a difference to your life including: motivation, focus, teamwork, goal setting, managing others, making decisions, innovation, and absorbing information.

Books pertaining to solidifying your stance in the market. Growth firms are typically engaged in relatively new industries in which there are few if any dominant players.

  • Blitzscaling: Details strategy some of today’s most valuable companies have used to achieve huge market shares, insanely fast growth, and big profit margins.
  • Narrative and Numbers: Storytellers can better incorporate and narrate numbers and number-crunchers can calculate more imaginative models by using stories.
  • Crossing The Chasm: Gives firms a blueprint in order to make their product get the initial traction needed to reach the majority of the market and not die in the chasm between early adopters and pragmatists.
  • One Click: Tracks the rise of Amazon from its genesis to the modern Kindle era.
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future: Musk is behind the modern electric vehicle at Tesla and has revolutionized the cost and convenience of spaceflight at his rocket company, SpaceX.

Books pertaining to the consolidation of an industry. Some businesses are naturally eliminated because they are unable to grow along with the industry or are still generating negative cash flows.

  • High Output Management: a guide to the most important skill for any entrepreneur: managing a business; encourage employees to deliver their best performance.
  • The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success: Highly informative analysis of eight individualistic CEOs whose firms’ average returns outperformed the S&P 500 by 20x.
  • Trillion Dollar Coach: A leadership blueprint of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell, a leader who helped build some of America’s greatest companies, including Apple and Google.
  • The Hard Things About Hard Things: A look at the tough decisions and lonely times all CEOs face and what it takes to build a great organization and become a world-class leader.
  • Power: Why Some People Have It — and Others Don’t: Power is a force that can be used and harnessed not only for individual gain but also for the benefit of organizations and society.
  • Dollars and Sense: We think of money as numbers, values, and amounts, but when it comes down to it, when we actually use our money, we engage our hearts more than our heads.
  • The Ride of a Lifetime: Bob Iger’s autobiographical account of innovation, growth, and M&A activities as CEO of Disney.
  • What It Takes: Blackstone chairman, CEO, and co-founder Stephen Schwarzman explains how to build, transform, and lead thriving organizations.
  • Onward: Starbucks fought for its survival while maintaining its cultures and values; it focused on improving user experiences in order to scale operations.

Books pertaining to firms that are well-established in an industry, with a well-known product and loyal customer following. Mature firms at this stage typically exhibit slow and steady growth.

  • Once Upon a Car: The fall and resurrection of America’s Big Three Automakers — GM, Ford, and Chrysler — is a tale of success, failure, and redemption.
  • The McKinsey Mind: Summarizes the McKinsey problem-solving methodology so as to improve your decision-making success rate and structure your thinking about business problems.
  • Irrational Exuberance: When investors are so confident that the price of an asset will keep going up, they lose sight of its underlying value.
  • Factory Man: Competition drives long-run economic profits to zero, forcing innovation or collapse, as evidenced in the furniture markets.
  • Built to Last: An analysis of how visionary companies should operate, including asking firms to assume a work-centric culture and keeping an eye out for tomorrow and the long term.
  • Barbie and Ruth: Ruth Handler was a remarkable innovator who brought revolutionary change to the toy industry and happiness to children, while forcing open doors of opportunity for women.

Books pertaining to the reduction in a firm’s intrinsic value, decrease in a security’s price, or fraud that led to the downfall of business leaders.

  • Prosperity in The Age of Decline: avoid investing pitfalls by reviewing leading economic indicators.
  • Aftershock: A practical, humane, and thoughtful blueprint for both restoring America’s economy and rebuilding our society after a financial crisis.
  • Bad Blood: The story is an incredible demonstration of the weaknesses of human psychology and fraud at Theranos.
  • When Genius Failed: The shift from fantastic wealth to a bankrupt hedge fund in five weeks due to highly leveraged trading strategies that failed to pan out.
  • Billion Dollar Whale: Jho Low defrauded the Malaysian national investment fund and pulled off one of the twenty-first century’s most audacious heists.
  • Big Short: Investors make a fortune by taking full advantage of the impending economic collapse in America during the Great Financial Crisis.

Thanks for reading. I am following the key learnings outlined in these books to launch a Work From Home venture that makes working from home more enjoyable and productive for all: WFHAdviser.com. If you’re interested in connecting you can reach me there.

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Adam Naor
Mission.org

FinTech BD— Startups @ Amazon. Co-Founder: WFHAdviser.com. Previously Cornell Tech, BRV Fund, Google.