Do you work hard or do you work smart?
If you’re a true entrepreneur (and that definition includes you if you’re a dynamic employee), then you know there’s really only one choice.
You’ve got to do both.
Hard work plus high productivity is the holy grail of entrepreneurship. The more you can do with less, the greater your prospects of success in work and business.
Entrepreneurship is now genuine study subject in many colleges and universities (wasn’t in my day), however, most of us don’t have the time, spare dough, or inclination to head off to Stanford or LSE to do MBA. Thankfully, through the miracle of modern technology, nearly every piece of knowledge and expertise is readily available to us in the space of just a few clicks of the mouse or swipe of the finger.
And so, here is my list of books, apps, tips, podcasts, blogs and videos that have helped me with my personal business struggles, and which I hope will help you with yours.
(Don’t have time to read this list now? Click Here to Download the PDF to read later)
I’ve tried not to go for the most obvious stuff so hopefully there are a few in here you hadn’t thought of. This is stuff I have used myself, so can personally vouch for. I’ll be adding to the list whenever I discover something new. But if you can think of anything that should be on there, just comment at the bottom, and if I agree, I’ll add it to the list.
Very long post this week so feel free to skim read. (And don’t forget to grab my freeElevator Pitch Guide, if you don’t have it already).
15 Books (in reverse order)
15. “The 4-Hour Work Week – Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, Join the New Rich” by Timothy Ferris
Problem it tackles: How can you change the way you work so that life doesn’t have to be all about work?
The Book’s answer: Tim Ferris is basically a life hacker, with a pretty extreme lifestyle of cutting corners (legally) to achieve maximum outcomes with minimal input. You wouldn’t want to follow his approach to everything he does, but there are some great time/effort saving tips – like only check your emails twice a day, and outsource everything you can to a Virtual Assistant.
Verdict: Worth the read and will change your approach to many things that currently eat up your time without giving you much benefit.
14. “Delivering Happiness – A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh
Problem it tackles: How can you build a brand that customers absolutely love?
The Book’s answer: Prioritise customer service over everything else including short term profits. Focus all efforts on wowing the customer and the money will follow.
This book made me feel sane because I’ve always believed you should go above and beyond to serve your clients and customers. Yet, when all around you see others succeed whilts offering poor customer service and customer value, it can make you doubt yourself . Nice to know that someone who sold his company for $1.2 billion to Amazon, thinks the same way I do, though I’m still waiting for that first billion. I actually got this as an audio book, which is actually narrated by Tony Hsieh (founder & CEO of Zappos) himself, which was a bonus.
Verdict: Learn from the master if you customer service is central to your approach to doing business.
(I’ll summarise the next few as this post would be far too long otherwise. It’s already pretty meaty as it is!)
13. “Steve Jobs – The Exclusive Biography” by Walter Isaacson
Lesson: Obsess over every aspect of the customer experience to create a brand that people will rave about. Surround yourself with a team of the highest calibre people you can find and you’ll achieve exponentially greater results than you and they thought possible.
12. “Start Small. Stay Small – A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup” by Rob Walling
Lesson: (primarily for tech companies) 99% of entrepreneurs will not build a unicorn (business with a billion pound valuation) and that’s OK. You can still make a perfectly good living if you accept that your business will stay small and optimise each aspect to maximise its profitability.
11. “Nail it then Scale It – The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating and Managing Breakthrough Innovation” by Nathan Furr & Paul Ahlstrom
Lesson: Just cos you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come. First figure out what product or service your customers really really want, then build that. Most of us build first, then afterwards try to figure out how to persuade our customers to want what we’ve built.
10. “Accounts Demystified – The Astonishingly Simple Guide to Accounting” by Anthony Rice
Lesson: For those of us whose brains get fuzzy when we look at a balance sheets. Apparently, accounts & company finances actually do make sense once you get it.
9. “The Lean Startup – How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries
Lesson: Don’t wait for perfection before you put out a product. Get it out there quickly no matter how flawed, listen to what your customers say about it and observe what they go through when using it, then iterate and improve continually. Repeat this cycle and in a much shorter timescale you’ll have a product or service that people rave about.
8. “Don’t Make Me Think (Revisited) – A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Krug
Lesson: The vast majority of websites (and that means yours and mine) are not particularly intuitive or user-friendly, making it difficult for customers to actually get to the point we want them to. (I confess my site www.greatspeech.co falls squarely into this category, so I’m working on it). Simplify your user-onboarding (the technical term for the usability experience your site visitors get) by making every step you want them to take clear and obvious.