I don’t remember how I got into business books or the first business book I read, but I remember devouring them with the same appetite that I had novels a few years back. Those books – about business, economics, biographies, etc. – would eventually shape my career path and life philosophies. I have put together a list of five business books that have had the most profound input into my thought process and entrepreneurial journey.
Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Kim Chan and Renée Mauborgne
I had been running my first business for a while before I read this business book. After I did, something changed in my thinking and approach forever. The book’s central message is don’t compete. Create your own market, create your own monopoly, and make the competition irrelevant. The red ocean depicts cut-throat competition and a dog-eat-dog scenario. If you compete on prices, the reality is that someone would always undersell you. The blue ocean is a different market. You write your own rules, make competition irrelevant, create value, and set your own prices. There is no such thing as a saturated or matured industry. The more saturated an industry is, the more the blue ocean opportunities that exist therein.
Purple Cow by Seth Godin
This business book states that customers are the lifeblood of any business. Without customers, a business is dead. Customer care shouldn’t necessarily be a department in the business; it should be what the entire business is about. Purple Cow goes beyond talking about customer satisfaction; it emphasises customer obsession. I learned to go the extra mile for customers, to deliver more value than expected, and to create a memorable buying experience for my business.
Seth opines that cows are boring animals and even the most fascinating of cows eventually get boring. However, a purple cow is something one can never forget. That’s something going out of your way to see. That’s something worth recommending to your friend to go see and that’s how our businesses should be – something remarkably, unusual, better than the norm, and outstanding. In other words, a purple cow.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Imagine you always had an idea as to how something should go, but it is against conventional wisdom. But then you read or hear about it from someone who isn’t just mouthing the concept but has practiced it and got results. That was my experience with The Lean Startup. As entrepreneurs, we waste time dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s, making the business look fancy, caring about aesthetics, etc. (and no one says those things aren’t important), And forget that the more important thing is to get the product or service out there and generating revenue or usage within the shortest possible time.
The minimum viable product (MVP) which is the central theme of the book, says get your product out there in the least usable state possible within the shortest possible time using the least resources (well, I added some of my own thoughts). It won’t be perfect, expect that. Better to work with feedback from real users than sit in your lab, constantly tinkering with the product or service without knowing what the clients consider value. Stop tweaking, get the product out there, and let the market decide for you; that is what this business book is about.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
He came into the writing business with a unique style and approach. He tells stories and if you manage not to get carried away, you would get the business or life lessons he passes. I have read all his books, but David and Goliath not only ranks as his best book for me but also makes it to my top five business books.
For the uninitiated, the business book draws its background from one of the oldest books around, The Bible. It is about a shepherd boy, inexperienced in the art of battle that killed a giant who was a seasoned and trained fighter. This is a clear case of the underdog, the disadvantaged, toppling the big guy.
Goliath was a warrior, had the relevant battle experience, had better work tools, had location advantage (he’s a giant) was first to market (he was on ground), and pretty much had everything else going for him. David, in spite of his disadvantages, bad work tools, zero battle experience, location disadvantage, etc., took Goliath out clean.
Business is war and everything you think is an advantage can end up being a disadvantage, and vice versa. That you have limited funds to start your business, while a seeming disadvantage, could be turned into an advantage. Your competition has 20 retail locations and you have just one location can be an advantage. You enjoy more flexibility, can have a more personal relationship with your customers and can be more responsive to market changes without having to wait for word from head office.
Circumstances, people, and events are neutral. What matters more is how we interpret them. This business book is bound to entertain you. But beyond that, it will educate and equip you to thrive in business regardless of the cards life deals you.
See Also: 10 Main purposes of a business plan.
Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar
Your number one job as an individual, whether you are a doctor, mechanic or junkie, is selling yourself. We sell ourselves all the time, consciously or not. When people interact with you or observe you from a distance, they form an opinion about you. You have just sold yourself, albeit unknowingly.
This old school classic taught me the basics of first selling myself and then my products and services. It taught me how to read a sales situation, how to set up a sale, how to sell without making it look like one is selling. It taught me how to know and influence the decision-makers in a sales setting, how to anticipate objections, and allay fears before they even show up. Learn to see quickly through situations where you are being sold to. Avoid being manipulated. This business book shows you how to avoid that.
These five business books have played significant roles in influencing my entrepreneurial journey. Hopefully, reading them will alter your journey in equally positive ways.
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