If you are anything like me, you are always looking for good books to read. I used to spend hours scouring reviews on Amazon, hoping to stumble across a “good” book. If you’ve ever attempted this “review” approach you likely have a stack of books, that despite the glowing reviews, just didn’t benefit you.
After wasting countless dollars on underwhelming books, I decided to attempt a new approach. When I found a book that I really enjoyed I would write the author and tell them how much I liked their book, and ask them for additional reading recommendations. Surprisingly, this approach actually worked (and still works)!
So here are some book recommendations from some of top business gurus to help you make the most of 2012.
Seth Godin Recommends:
Seth is a New York Times bestseller and successful business owner. He has fourteen international bestsellers, and has even been dubbed “America’s Greatest Marketer.” His blog may very well be the most popular marketing blog in the world, you can read it here. Here are his suggestions:
The Republic of Tea – Mel Ziegler, Patricia Ziegler, & Bill Rosenweig
“Almost all of us have at some point dreamed of starting our own business but have not been able to get past our fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about pursuing those dreams. Through a 20-month exchange of faxes, The Republic Of Tea chronicles the feelings and emotions of three partners as they confront their fears and dreams to create an enormously successful start-up company. The book shows the budding entrepreneur how to start a successful business that embodies his or her own soul and economic realities. The insightful correspondence between Mel Ziegler and Patricia Ziegler, co-founders of The Banana Republic chain, and their new partner Bill Rosenzweig provides a map for the entrepreneur. It tells of the day-to-day breakthroughs and breakdowns of the creative process–inventing a product, developing a plan, and structuring a business partnership–and even provides the actual business plan used to raise money for the venture.”
See You at the Top – Zig Ziglar
“The 25th anniversary edition of the classic motivational and self-improvement book that has sold more than 1.6 million copies in hardcover. For more than three decades, Zig Ziglar, one of the great motivators of our age, has traveled the world, encouraging, uplifting, and inspiring audiences. His groundbreaking best-seller, See You at the Top, remains an authentic American classic. This revised and updated edition stresses the importance of honesty, loyalty, faith, integrity, and strong personal character.”
The Bootstrapper’s Bible – Seth Godin
“Seth Godin offers inspiration, ideas, and roadmaps to those starting their own business. To encourage bootstrappers, he shares his own story and covers other bootstrappers (from Dell Computer to Haagen Dazs) who have parlayed a great idea into a sizable fortune, using the smart strategies and cash-stretching tactics revealed in this book. In The Bootstrapper’s Bible: How to Start and Build a Business with a Great Idea and (Almost) No Money, Godin shows precisely how his own venture, and a slew of others like Dell Computer, Burton Snowboards, Bose Corporation, Starbucks, and many lesser-known companies, ultimately managed to turn that nothing into something quite substantial. “Bootstrappers built this country, and they continue to make it great,” he writes.”
You can also download the FREE eBook version of Bootstrapper’s Bible.
Ari Weinzweig Recommends:
Ari is the co-founder of Zingerman’s Delicatessen, a community of businesses that employs over 500 people and includes a bakery, creamery, sit-down restaurant, training company, coffee roaster, and mail order service. Ari is also the author of the best-selling Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating and the forthcoming Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon.
Growing a Business – Paul Hawken
“Paul Hawken — entrepreneur and best-selling author — wrote Growing a Business for those who set out to make their dream a reality. He knows what he’s talking about; he is his own best example of success. In the early 1970s, while he was still in his twenties, he founded Erewhon, the largest distributor of natural foods. More recently, he founded and still runs Smith & Hawken, the premier mail-order garden tool company. And he wrote a critically acclaimed book called The Next Economy about the future of the economy.
Using examples like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, and University National Bank of Palo Alto, California, Hawken shows that the successful business is an expression of an individual person. The most successful business, your idea for a business, will grow from something that is deep within you, something that can’t be stolen by anyone because it is so uniquely yours that anyone else who tried to execute your idea would fail. He dispels the myth of the risk-taking entrepreneur. The purpose of business, he points out, is not to take risks but rather to get something done.”
Ignore Everybody – Hugh MacLeod
“MacLeod has opinions on everything from marketing to the meaning of life, but one of his main subjects is creativity. How do new ideas emerge in a cynical, risk-averse world? Where does inspiration come from? What does it take to make a living as a creative person? Ignore Everybody expands on MacLeod’s sharpest insights, wittiest cartoons, and most useful advice. For example:-Selling out is harder than it looks. Diluting your product to make it more commercial will just make people like it less.-If your plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail. Nobody suddenly discovers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain.-Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether. There’s no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one.-The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours. The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.After learning MacLeod’s forty keys to creativity, you will be ready to unlock your own brilliance and unleash it on the world.”
The Great Game of Business – Jack Stack
“In the early 1980s, Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation (SRC) in Springfield, Missouri, was a near bankrupt division of International Harvester. That’s when a green young manager, Jack Stack, took over and turned it around. He didn’t know how to “manage” a company, but he did know about the principal, of athletic competition and democracy: keeping score, having fun, playing fair, providing choice, and having a voice. With these principals he created his own style of management — open-book management. The key is to let everyone in on financial decisions. At SRC, everyone learns how to read a P&L — even those without a high school education know how much the toilet paper they use cuts into profits. SRC people have a piece of the action and a vote in company matters. Imagine having a vote on your bonus and on what businesses the company should be in. SRC restored the dignity of economic freedom to its people. Stack’s “open-book management” is the key — a system which, as he describes it here, is literally a game, and one so simple anyone can use it.”
Servant Leadership – Robert Greenleaf
“Twenty-five years ago Robert Greenleaf published these prophetic essays on what he coined servant leadership, a practical philosophy that replaces traditional autocratic leadership with a holistic, ethical approach. This highly influential book has been embraced by cutting edge management everywhere. Yet in these days of Enron and what VISA CEO Dee Hock calls our “era of massive institutional failure,” Greenleaf’s seminal work must reach the mainstream now more than ever. Servant Leadership helps leaders find their true power and moral authority to lead. It helps those served become healthier, wiser, freer, and more autonomous. This book encourages collaboration, trust, listening, and empowerment. It offers long-lasting change, not a temporary fix, and extends beyond business for leaders of all types of groups.”
Neil Patel Recommends:
Neil Patel is the co-founder of 2 Internet companies: Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics. Through his entrepreneurial career he has helped large corporations such as Amazon, AOL, GM, HP and Viacom make more money from the web. You can follow him on his popular blog QuickSprout.com. Here are Neil’s recommendations:
The Art of the Start – Guy Kawaski
“What does it take to turn ideas into action? What are the elements of a perfect pitch? How do you win the war for talent? How do you establish a brand without bucks? These are some of the issues everyone faces when starting or revitalizing any undertaking, and Guy Kawasaki, former marketing maven of Apple Computer, provides the answers. The Art of the Start will give you the essential steps to launch great products, services, and companies—whether you are dreaming of starting the next Microsoft or a not-for-profit that’s going to change the world. It also shows managers how to unleash entrepreneurial thinking at established companies, helping them foster the pluck and creativity that their businesses need to stay ahead of the pack. Kawasaki provides readers with GIST—Great Ideas for Starting Things—including his field-tested insider’s techniques for bootstrapping, branding, networking, recruiting, pitching, rainmaking, and, most important in this fickle consumer climate, building buzz.”
The Dip – Seth Godin
“Yet another easily digestible social marketplace commentary from the blogger/author who penned Purple Cow and Small is the New Big, Godin prescribes a cleverly counter-intuitive way to approach one’s potential for success. Smart, honest, and refreshingly free of self-help posturing, this primer on winning-through-quitting is at once motivational and comically indifferent, making the lofty goal of “becoming the best in the world” an achievable proposition-all you need is to “start doing some quitting.” The secret to “strategic quitting” is seeking, understanding and embracing “the Dip,” “the long slog between starting and mastery” in which those without the determination or will find themselves burning out. As such, Godin demonstrates how to identify and quit your “Cul-de-Sac” and “Cliff” situations, in which no amount of work will lead to success. Godin provides tips for finding your Dip, taking advantage of it and becoming one of the few (inevitably valuable) players to emerge on the other side; he also provides guidelines for quitting with confidence. Quick, hilarious and happily irreverent, Godin’s truth-that “we fail when we get distracted by tasks we don’t have the guts to quit”-makes excellent sense of an often-difficult career move.”
The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
“The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it 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. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.
Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs – in companies of all sizes – a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in a age when companies need to innovate more than ever.”
MJ Demarco Recommends:
Entrepreneur, author, and the revolutionary “get rich slow” anti-guru, MJ DeMarco not long ago lived with his mother, mopped floors, and sought the dream like so many others: the dream to live free from bosses, free from 9-5 jobs, and free from life mediocrity. Through rigorous years of self-study, countless errors and failures, MJ uncovered the real essence of wealth, dreams, and was able to retire YOUNG in his thirties without sacrificing lifestyle. MJ recommends:
Who Owns the Ice House – Clifton Taulbert
“In the late 1950s, Glen Allan, Mississippi, was a poor cotton community. For many, it was a time and place where opportunities were limited by social and legal constraints that were beyond their control. It was a time and place where few dared to dream. Based on his own life experience, Pulitzer nominee Clifton Taulbert has teamed up with entrepreneur thought leader Gary Schoeniger to create a powerful and compelling story that captures the essence of an entrepreneurial mindset and the unlimited opportunities it can provide. Drawing on the entrepreneurial life lessons Taulbert learned from his Uncle Cleve, Who Owns the Ice house? chronicles Taulbert’s journey from life in the Mississippi Delta at the height of legal segregation to being recognized by Time magazine as “one of our nation’s most outstanding emerging entrepreneurs.” Who Owns The Ice House? reaches into the past to remind us of the timeless and universal principles that can empower anyone to succeed.”
Cashverting – Drew Eric Whitman
“In 207 fast-moving pages, Whitman teaches you dozens of well-guarded secrets that he learned during his 25+ years in the ad business, including:
*60% of people read only your headline and what to do about it *Captions under photos get 200% greater readership than non-headline copy *Ads with sale prices draw 20% more attention * To double your ad’s attention-getting value, you must enlarge it 400% *Four-color ads are up to 45% more effective than black and white *Prices ending in “95” are less effective than those ending in “99” *The psychology of size… page positioning… typefaces… pricing…social proof… and color *How to make people believe what you say *How to persuade people to respond *Effective tricks for writing psychologically potent headlines *What mistakes to avoid at all costs *What you should always/never do in your ads *Expert formulas, guidance, tips and strategies *And much more.”
Hiten Shah Recommends:
Hiten Shah has started 2 Internet software companies. His first software company is Crazy Egg. And his latest company is KISSmetrics. You can follow Hiten over on his blog hitenism.com.
The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development – Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlaskovits
“This book is both an introduction for those unfamiliar with lean concepts and highly actionable for lean practitioners. It is a user friendly guide, written to be accessible to marketing professionals, Engineers startup founders and entrepreneurs, VCs, angels, and anyone else involved in building scalable startups.
Existing companies will benefit to from applying Customer Development principles described in detail herein: for example, startups struggling to achieve market traction, or well established companies seeking to spark new innovation.
This is a business book for startups like no other. No fluff, but rather sound principles and concrete steps to take to build your business. Get up to speed on Customer Development now.”
Four Steps to the Epiphany – Steven Gary Blank
“The essential book for anyone bringing a product to market, writing a business plan, marketing plan or sales plan. Step-by-step strategy of how to successfully organize sales, marketing and business development for a new product or company. The book offers insight into what makes some startups successful and leaves others selling off their furniture. Packed with concrete examples, the book will leave you with new skills to organize sales, marketing and your business for success.”
Demian Farnworth Recommends:
Demian Farnworth is the CopyBot–a St. Louis-based freelance web copywriter. His main gig is writing clear, concise and compelling web copy that demands attention, creates desire and compels action. You can learn more about Demian over on his blog TheCopyBot.com. Demian recommends:
Influence – Robert Cialdini
“Every entrepreneur, especially the bootstrapping type, needs to persuade people. Cialdini explains the 6 reasons why people say “yes” and then teaches you how to use and defend against them. A classic.” -Demian Farnworth
“Written in a narrative style combined with scholarly research, Cialdini combines evidence from experimental work with the techniques and strategies he gathered while working as a salesperson, fundraiser, advertiser, and in other positions inside organizations that commonly use compliance tactics to get us to say “yes.” Widely used in classes, as well as sold to people operating successfully in the business world, the eagerly awaited revision of Influence reminds the reader of the power of persuasion.
Cialdini organizes compliance techniques into six categories based on psychological principles that direct human behavior: reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.”
Coaching for Improved Work Performance – Ferdinand Fournies
“This is the classic management coaching “bible” that shows you proven ways to get workers to perform at the highest level while eliminating the self-destructive kinds of behaviors that have become increasingly prevalent in recent years.” -Demian Farnworth
“Coaching has proven to be one of the most powerful one-on-one management techniques for getting the best out of every employee. And Coaching for Improved Work Performance stands as one of the most practical guides for effectively coaching all levels of employees in any workplace situation. For decades, managers around the world have turned to best-selling author Ferdinand Fournies for solutions to their toughest coaching problems. Now, this classic has been fully updated to help managers face the challenges of today’s rapidly changing workplace, from absenteeism, high turnover, and teams to flextime, job sharing, telecommuting, and keeping employees up to speed on new technologies.
With brand new case studies and all new face-to-face interventions, this guide is the one must-have coaching reference all managers need on their desks to help them keep their employees more productive and more focused, as well as more satisfied and happier at work!”
Good to Great – Jim Collins
” Every page of this book is ripe with lessons for entrepreneurs, from level 5 leadership to the Hedgehog Concept, that will take his or her company to long-term, sustainable results.”
“Making the transition from good to great doesn’t require a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, innovative change management, or even a fine-tuned business strategy. At the heart of those rare and truly great companies was a corporate culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner. Peppered with dozens of stories and examples from the great and not so great, the book offers a well-reasoned road map to excellence that any organization would do well to consider. Like Built to Last, Good to Great is one of those books that managers and CEOs will be reading and rereading for years to come. —Harry C. Edwards”
What Say You?
What book(s) do you believe are must reads for entrepreneurs? Leave a comment an let me know.
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