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January 28, 2011

Books for Entrepreneurs

By: thejunctioncoil

I got the same question a few times after posting Results-Centric Product Design: “what books is this taught in?”.

Well, it isn’t. Not ones I know anyways (reply if you do).

It did get me thinking what books would I recommend to entrepreneurs. I enjoy reading good “professional” books. There is just a very small number of good ones.

if you want a great post about non-business-books-must-read for entrepreneurs, you should check out Fred Wilsons Books for Entrepreneurs post. It’s definitely different.

Tried sorting these in the order of how much it was different, useful, thought provoking, yada-yada-yada. YMMV. I actually bought 5 copies of each, and I’m giving them out to entrepreneurs I meet.

  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity (by David Allen): A true life changer. There are so many useless “self improvement” and “habit changing” books, but GTD has almost become a cult amongst followers. There are concrete, easy to implement (hard to follow, of course) tips & tricks that make a difference, combined with higher level concepts that make sense. Start writing everything into a single list. Categorize by contexts in which your attention could be useful (don’t look at tasks requiring Internet while on a plane). Do any task requiring less than 2 minutes immediately (reduce your task backlog so your mind will be free to focus on the important ones), and more.
  • The One Minute Manager (by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson): Define your expectations, look for positive feedback you can give, provide negative feedback quickly. Yes, simple – but rarely implemented well.
  • Crossing the Chasm (by Geoffrey A. Moore): A true oldie, but surprisingly relevant still. Deals with the question of how do you move from a customer based comprised of early adopters to the mainstream. Too often we forget that many of the “techcrunch” companies have not yet crossed that threshold (Quora, anyone?).
  • The Innovators Dilemma (by Clayton M. Christensen): The short, distorted version of this by me: big companies have all the advantages, but they have tunnel vision into markets that can “move the needle” for them. If you have a great new technology that could change an industry, select a small market where the big guys won’t want / be able to / have an advantage in competing with you. Then you can use that to leverage your way into revolutionizing the entire industry. Go easy on the talkbacks here.
  • Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story (by Jerry Weissman): Do you dread those presentations where in the best case, the presenter is reading each slide and at worse, you go ahead and read it yourself, wondering why in the world did you go to the presentation? I do. The base toolbox of this book is figuring out who is your audience, thinking WIIFT (What’s in it for them), what is the point B you want people to get to by the end of the presentation and (probably the biggest change for me) not thinking in slide terms but in content, and only then structuring it into a series of slides. Another great resource for improving your presentation style is Guy Kawasaki’s “The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint
  • Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (by Tom DeMarco and Timothy R. Lister): How do you manage teams to be able to deliver on projects… almost on time, figuring out the major issue is humans, not processes.

While writing it, I added a few books I have been meaning to read for a while to my shopping cart. If you happen to have a strong opinion of them, don’t be shy.

  • High Output Management: consistently recommended by Ben Horowitz of Opsware/a16z
  • Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming
  • Founders at Work
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

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11 Comments

  1. Neta Weinryb

    4/02/2011

    Somewhat different than the above, I am now reading (for the 2nd time) the book Startup, by Jerry Kaplan. It describes the founding, funding and running of a company which, 20 years ago, was founded to develop a tablet computer. It’s interesting to see Silicon Valley 20 years ago – on the surface it seems that so much have changed, but really – so little.

  2. ophirk

    4/02/2011

    Eden – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is worth reading. It is quite short and easy to read , but carries a strong message on team building.

    I found the first Jack Welsh book to be extremely useful and non trivial (Jack: Straight From The Gut), the rest are kind of repeating the same ideas.

    I think any entrepreneur has to read one of the classic usability text books.

  3. on

    6/02/2011

    John Trudel’s “High Tech with Low Risk” tops my list (sorted by wisdom per page :). An old, yet timeless, masterpiece.

  4. eden

    6/02/2011

    On, I didn’t know that book. Actually, never heard of it. Wonderful – seems to be out of print. If you ever come to the junction, would love to loan it for a quick read.

    Ophir, agreed about Jack Welsh. I didn’t connect to the writing style, so that’s probably why it didn’t make the cut for me.

    Neta, that’s the story of the world as we know it. Then again, it was before much that allows tablet computer to exist, so the local (vs. global – what’s silicon valley) must be very very different. What was the company? What ended up with it?

  5. Neta Weinryb

    6/02/2011

    Eden – it’s GO corporation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GO_Corp.). When I say that little have changed I refer to the challenges of building a team and keeping it motivated when there are setbacks, raising money and handling VCs, working with partners/competitors etc.
    The technology issues described in the book are, for me, just an excuse to look at somebody else’s real world experience. It’s different than the books you recommended – it is more of a novel, telling a specific story rather that aiming to teach a work method or describe a phenomena. I guess it is a bit like a really good business case.

  6. [...] כללנו מספר המלצות לספרים. אחרינו דיבר אדן שוחט, וגם הוא המליץ על מספר ספרים. בשנים האחרונות אני מנהל יחסי אהבה-שנאה עם מה שמכונה [...]

  7. Roee Adler

    7/02/2011

    Following our mutual talk at GeekU, I also published my own list on Newsgeek, you’re welcome to take a look: http://www.newsgeek.co.il/startup-101-7-books-for-an-entrepreneur/

  8. Katy

    8/02/2011

    Re:Founders at work – I found in an interesting read, some stories more interesting and some less, depending on the personalities/story in it…

  9. Jon Webster

    1/03/2011

    Hi Eden:

    I enjoyed Founders at Work, but I don’t recall coming away with actionable items from reading the book.
    On the other hand I found “A Good Hard Kick in the Ass: Basic Training for Entrepreneurs” by Rob Adams to be full of hard-won wisdom on proving your market, keeping delivery cycles short, and focusing on what customers really need, as in what they’ll pay for right now. Also great info on VC valuation, capital valuation inflection milestones, and other early stage information.

  10. eden

    1/03/2011

    Hey Jon – great to hear from Aternity people on this blog.

    Haven’t heard about “A Good Hard Kick in the Ass” to date. Quite a name they’ve chosen. Added to my reading list – thanks!

  11. I do recommend Andy Grove’s High Output Management.

    The most important idea I took from the book is that a manager of a group automatically has credit for his group’s accomplishments. If his group does outstanding work, it means that he manages them well. If a subordinate has a fabulous idea, his manager has credit for creating and maintaining the environment, which allowed the subordinate to cultivate that idea.

    Thus, for a manager to steal his subordinate’s idea and claim credit for it is like stealing money from his own left pocket and putting it in his right pocket. And his superiors might notice that he spends time on technical work rather than managing his people.

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