What to read this summer10th August 2016
A bit of a change of pace today… It’s the dog days of summer, after all (at least allegedly - I have a feeling many business owners are as busy as ever).
But if you are lucky enough to be able to take a break in sunnier climes, and have a few hours to yourself, I have some reading material for you.
These are some of the business books I consider absolutely critical reading for any serious business owner.
While they aren’t all, strictly speaking, finance-related, I believe that building your business strategically and building a business that is well-run financially go hand-in-hand.
They’re also all pretty good reads (OK, perhaps not as good as the latest blockbuster, but certainly very accessible…).
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It by Michael E Gerber.
One of the great misconceptions is that businesses are created by entrepreneurs when in fact most are created by technicians – people who love what they do, and want to build a business around it. The problem is just because you have the skills and experience to do a particular job, doesn’t mean you are any good at running a business.
Gerber advocates building your company as if you were creating a franchise - in other words, a business model which can be repackaged and sold on without needing you, its founder. By creating processes and systems which even the most unqualified employee can follow, you will create a well-polished, professional business that will run just the way you want - and can scale quickly.
It’s brilliant advice, which reflects exactly what I believe you need to do with your financial management as well (and in fact, I’m going to delve into this more deeply in next week’s email).
If you read one thing this summer, make it this.
- Stickier Marketing: How to Win Customers In the Digital Age by Grant Leboff.
My Bible for how to market your business in the Internet era.
Leboff argues that the concept of the Unique Selling Proposition is ancient history when every idea and everything you say about your company can be copied almost instantly by the competition.
What differentiates you, he says, is not what you do – but how you do it (and who for).
Can you give your fans and followers online a unique experience? What emotions are they going to associate with you? How can your marketing get your prospects involved, instead of simply talking to them?
Leboff does a terrific job of explaining why the Internet has changed marketing and giving really practical, solid examples of how companies of all sizes can adjust.
- Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action by Simon Sinek.
You know what your business does. But can you articulate why you do it? That is, not just to make money – but what your business’s higher purpose is?
Sinek argues that your business won’t truly flourish and be exceptional unless you, your employees and clients understand why it exists. This is what inspires. This is what gives a leader charisma and the ability to inspire change - not the mechanics of what you do.Sinek is, in effect, providing a different answer to Leboff’s question: “How do we differentiate our companies in today’s day and age?”
This one appeals to me personally, because part of our own work is to help customers figure out what they really want to achieve with their business, and give them the financial tools to do so.
If you don't have time to read the book, make sure you watch Sinek's popular TED talk on the same subject.
- The Beermat Entrepreneur: What You Really Need to Know To Turn a Good Idea Into a Great Business by Mike Southon and Chris West.
How do you grow a company, from the moment you think of setting one up, until you sell it?
Southon and West argue that entrepreneurs are mavericks who love a good idea, but find it hard to see them through (if the entrepreneur was in charge of running the back office, they joke, you’d come into work to find an advanced phone system, but no milk in the fridge…).
If you want to grow your business, you need to surround yourself with key people in key areas such as sales, production, technical and – of course! – finance. They can build the right team for you and create the processes you need to make your business a success.
They set out the stages of business growth clearly, and give every entrepreneur a really practical map for building a business that works. Invaluable.
Which business books do you recommend? I’d love to hear your favourites too – please drop me a line.