A great book can take you places…and a great business book can inspire some amazing things. I’ve personally always been a big fan of reading (which is why I enjoy doing the Business Book Reviews we do every month). To me books are almost magical – repositories of wisdom and inspiration that are just out there waiting to be found.
Reading a lot when I was young was a big reason for my success in school and as I’ve gotten older it’s clear that continuous learning is a huge part of what it takes to be successful (not just my opinion – see HBR’s For those who want to lead, read). When I’m feeling stuck, I look for a book that might help me. If I know I’m not up to speed on a topic, I’ll add in a few of the right books to my upcoming reading list. And if I’m looking for inspiration…I start with great books.
Here are just a few big ideas from some great business books – hopefully at least one of them will inspire you and help you:
1. Your job is to work ON your business: The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
Michael Gerber wrote the E-Myth back in the 80′s but the central ideas are still extremely relevant today and he absolutely nails the challenge and frustration that most entrepreneurs and business owners have in the first few years of running their business. Most business owners started their business because they’re really good at what they do – but creating a successful business that’s scalable requires a lot more than technical expertise, it requires you to purposely build the business as if someone else was going to own it and run it. As long as you are implicit in the day to day operations, you don’t have a business…you have a job.
Does your business own you? When’s the last time you took a long vacation and didn’t deal with work?
2. People don’t buy what you do but WHY you do it: Start with Why by Simon Sinek
This particular idea is a little deeper philosophically than the others.
If I’m in the market for a great widget, then I’m going to buy the best widget I can find that fits my price range – pretty straightforward and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with having a purpose, a cause…or a WHY. But it turns out that if you are going to make a great widget (or offer a great service), then the bigger picture of WHY becomes really important. It becomes the difference between Southwest Airlines and the short lived TED airlines from United. They had the same basic business model, but TED was built to compete with Southwest and Southwest was built to bring fun, cost effective flights to the masses and that made all in the difference in terms of the product / service they created. See the difference?
What do you stand for and is it represented in what you sell and do?
3. You MUST have the RIGHT people on the bus: Good to Great by Jim Collins
It’s pretty difficult to only pull 1 great idea from a Jim Collins book, but getting the right people on the bus is the one that stands out to me. Based on a lot of research into how companies succeed, Collins and his team uncovered a clear pattern that having the right people on your team is a lot more important than having a clear destination. The right team are people who share your values…the ones who get what the company is all about (see Start with Why above) and will go the extra mile to make things work.
Another way to look at this that might be a little more actionable: If you have the WRONG people on your team, they are killing your business and it’s going to be very difficult to succeed in the long run.
When’s the last time you looked at your people and asked if they were really the right ones for you?
4. Planning should be simple and focused: Traction by Gino Wickman
This is another book that has several great ‘big’ ideas, but the one that I come back to over and over again is the importance of having a simple, focused planning process and developing a business plan that gets used every 90 days. Most people will shudder when you talk about business planning…and for good reason. They’ve been taught that a business plan is this big, complex document that gets created when you first start your business and then sits on a shelf collecting dust from that point on. Traction makes a great case for the need of a SIMPLE business plan (2 pages) that forces the business owner to really focus in on what’s most important…and to use that focus to drive the business, while updating every 90 days.
Can you (and your employees) quickly list off the 5 most important things you need to accomplish this year?
5. Focus on creating marketing that is Useful to prospective customers: Youtility by Jay Baer
There’s a huge amount of noise in the marketplace today, so if you want to get attention from your prospective customers, you have a choice to try to either be Amazing (think viral videos) or Useful (think free app that helps your clients out). Jay Baer makes a really strong case that focusing your marketing efforts on being useful is clearly the best way to go (check out 5 Examples to get you thinking about better marketing). When you focus on being useful, you establish credibility and you start building trust and relationships – all the things you need to create long lasting clients who aren’t shopping for the best price.
Look at your most recent marketing efforts? Do they add value? Are they educating anyone?
What books would you recommend?
There are literally thousands of new business books written every year, so it’s virtually impossible to keep up with all of them…and there are probably at least a couple of good ideas in every book. What books have had a big impact on you? What big ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach
*Note – the book links above are via my Amazon account…if you were to buy a book from that link, I might get a really small amount of money from it…just letting you know.