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7 Books Every Entrepreneur and Start-Up Founder Must Read

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7 Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

“This post contains few affiliate links. When you purchase from those links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.”

I have always been a huge advocate of learning through reading. To me, nothing will help you learn about something as thoroughly as reading about it. I read a lot of non-fiction books, and I know how good the impact can be. Even when I have no time to read, I read the summaries on Blinkist to get the core takeaways of the book.

The one consistent advise that every successful person out there gives to budding entrepreneurs is to read! Every entrepreneur who has made it in life knows the value of reading and has a set routine they follow which allows them to read. I have talked about the reading habits of highly successful people to motivate people to read more.

I have also written about how you can read more in less time and comprehend more because when you are starting, time is of the essence. Making time to read shouldn’t take away from other tasks, and reading shouldn’t be put on the back burner because you don’t have time. That being said, reading more means nothing if you don’t comprehend what you read. With fiction, it is okay if you forget. But, with non-fiction, the point of reading is to understand, learn and implement

Here are some books that every entrepreneur starting out should take lessons from. It can be scary in the beginning but knowing some things can ease the path for you. These seven books teach you the importance of various qualities you need to have and the lessons you need to learn in order to be successful.

1. Crushing it! By Gary Vaynerchuk

How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence- And How You Can, Too

7 Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

Crushing It! hit Amazon’s #1 bestseller list even before it was launched. This book is preceded by the book “Crush It: Why Now is the Time to Cash in Your Passion.” Many people get confused about the books because of their similar name.

Released in 2018, Crushing It explains and explores why having a strong personal brand is crucial in business. It offers brand new lessons and strategies. Gary Vaynerchuk uses his and dozens of influencers’ and entrepreneurs’ experience to showcase why having a strong, noticeable presence across multiple channels of digital media can be your blueprint to success. The advice and tactics mentioned in this book can help you become a household name via various social media channels.

If you are starting out and looking to build a brand, this book is a must-read. It will help aspiring entrepreneurs to take their business to the next level. Even if you are not into business and work a day job, it will help you increase your professional opportunities. This helps people understand the game-changing nature of digital and social media.

2. Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

7 Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

Smarter Faster Better uses personal stories of Charles Duhigg along with business research to show how being productive isn’t just about managing your to-do list. People can sometimes get stuck in the idea of being productive because they tick off everything on their to-do list, but being productive is more than that.

This book is different than the other productivity-based books out there based on its approach on the subject. It focuses on how you think rather than spending time managing what you think. The book also argues that our focus on getting the big tasks done first is flawed. Charles states how getting smaller and easier tasks done have the potential to create big changes in your life and business.

Being productive includes making the right choices and maintaining the right mindset. This book offers advice on how to stay motivated, keep yourself on track and work in teams effectively to maximize your creativity, productivity and success. Anyone with a serious long-term goal will benefit from this book.

3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

7 Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

In this classic book on entrepreneurship, author and entrepreneur Eric Ries explains the lean startup approach. This book helps start-ups and tech companies develop a sustainable business model, which has changed the way that many start-up founders build companies.

It is largely based around the principle of continuous rapid prototyping and focusing on customer-feedback data. Before investing heavily in an idea, Eric suggests ways to validate business ideas. This helps entrepreneurs test their visions and modify and adapt before any real damage can occur. The approach talked about is backed with last few decades worth of case studies and is based on the concepts of lean manufacturing and agile development.

This book provides a new approach to successfully managing a startup. The lean startup also talks through some of the innovative and necessary online business tools that can help you accelerate your path towards validation along the way. Entrepreneurs who are starting their own business or startup can learn a lot from this book, from ideas to quick product development and testing.

4. Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Notes On Startups, Or How To Build The Future

7 Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

Zero to One, written by PayPal founder and Facebook’s first investor, Peter Thiel, encompasses the power of innovation and how to go about creating new things. It also explores how companies can predict the future effectively and take action already to ensure that their start-up/business is a success.

Peter shares his learnings from his own personal experiences in this book. He states that when you do something new, you are moving from zero to one. (Yes, the title!) His takeaway is that the new wave of entrepreneurs will make completely new things and not just updates of existing products. That makes sense because there is so much yet to be innovated. I don’t think the world will ever run out of ideas.

To be successful with your business, innovation is what sets your business apart. Anyone interested to know why certain startups succeed while others fail will find their answer here. Current and potential startup founders need to read this book to incorporate innovation in their business plan so that even the investors know that it is worth investing in.

5. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money- That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

7 Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

If you are even considering reading business books, then there is a huge probability that you have already heard of this book. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, is a book recommended by many. It is one of those books that have become the face of the genre. In fact, this is the book that planted the seed of entrepreneurship in my mind when I read it for the first time in grade 10.

You can say that this book is primarily centered around financial advice and is considered to be the #1 personal finance book out there. It is autobiographical with personal advice from Robert Kiyosaki about how to become financially independent and wealthy. If you read this book at the beginning of your journey, it can have a big impact on your thought process, just like it did on mine

The biggest takeaway from this book is that you should let your money work for you, rather than spending your life working for money. You should avoid placing your money into objects, possessions or anything that’ll cost you and incur more expenses in the long run. Things like flashy cars and big homes are what people dream of when they think about making big bucks. Robert advises against it.

The core message that Robert presents in this book is that if you want to grow rich, then you have to buy things that will help you generate income. Robert states that this is necessary for getting rich and staying rich. He also argues that wealthy people pass on financial lessons to the next generation but others don’t. He retired at the age of 47   successful investment career. So, he knows what he is talking about. If you ever wondered how to approach the path of investment, then this book can be of great help to you.

6. Getting Past No by William Ury

Negotiating in Difficult Situations

7 Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

When starting a business, you will realize how important it is to have the skill of negotiation. The better you are at it, the more your business will benefit. Negotiation is not an easy skill to master. It becomes even difficult if the other person is a seasoned professional and also stubborn who keeps saying “no” to everything you bring to him. This is where “Getting past no” comes to your rescue.

William Ury is the co-founder of Harvard Law School’s “Program of Negotiation” and is also considered one of the world’s leading negotiation specialists. The teachings that he has curated in this book comes with various techniques you can use in negotiations. He also teaches how to counter dirty tricks and reach mutually beneficial agreements that satisfy the needs of both parties.

The art of negotiation is something that start-up founders and entrepreneurs need to get a good hold on. This book gives you the opportunity to learn from the best. William also has another book titled “Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In,” which is also a must read to finetune the craft of negotiation.

7. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

7 Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

Like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” everyone has heard about this book. My guess is that most people picked it up for it’s interesting, to say the least, title, but then stayed for the content. This book revolves around setting realistic expectations for ourselves and embracing our fears and faults.

I would say the core of this book states concentrating on living a better life by caring about fewer things. Mark Manson gives some rules to lead a happier, less stressful existence. Mark’s writing is as free-flowing as the title of this book. In a much relatable manner, he manages to put his point across. His focus is on doing what you want, not what you can.

This is one of those must-reads to prepare yourself before delving into a new journey. To find the courage, honesty, responsibility we seek. This is for people who feel stressed and overburdened in life, people who are working on self-improvement, and people who worry about everything.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

–Dr. Seuss

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Why Starting an Online Business is a Good Idea in Current Times

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Why Starting an Online Business is a Good Idea in Current Times

We live in a digital age. Everything, from socializing, to office work, to shopping is shifting to the online space. The advent of inexpensive (and fast) internet and smartphones has meant that now no matter where you go, you are always connected to the cloud. And, that invariably, you end up turning to this messianic network to satiate your every need.

Smart companies are busy embracing this very change. The workplace of the future is not one of a unified brick-and-mortar structure. Employees can now sit thousands of miles away and still collaborate successfully on a project. This is not just something I’m pulling out of thin air. Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, postulates that if only more organizations embrace the immense power of the internet, they would be able to streamline their operations and ensure a happier and more productive workplace. You can listen to his amazing, thought-provoking and insightful talk in the video given below. 

Personally, I have always been an advocate of the work from anywhere culture. Partly because of the time it saves me (which I can then spend on any one of my myriad other hobbies), and partly because it frees me up to travel the world. 

What does one have to do with the other? Well frankly, the kind of location independence afforded by the advent of Skype has made it possible for anyone to interact with their colleagues no matter where they are. Like I pointed out earlier, not being restricted by a physical office means you can be just about anywhere in the world, and still get work done.

However, there is another facet of this digital revolution which has fascinated me even more. Honestly, it is something which seems to be staring you right in the face, but it is surprising how many people still fail to (or is it a refusal to?) connect the dots and use technology to their advantage. What is this facet I talk about? Well, it is the ability for just about anyone (yes, I mean anyone) to become an entrepreneur.

“But,” you contend, “entrepreneurship isn’t really for me. It takes time and money, and really, where’s the job security in entrepreneurship?”

I would have agreed with you if I myself didn’t know better. For the past many years, I have bet big on online entrepreneurship and reaped great rewards. Frustrated and sensing the endless possibilities afforded by the internet, I quit my regular 9-to-5 job and decided to start my own online business. As an added challenge, I left just about enough money in my savings account to last me one year. The very fact that I’m happier than ever right now bears testament to the fact that, when done well, online entrepreneurship can give you the freedom you deserve.

Why Starting an Online Business is a Good Idea in Current Times

When you come to think of it, the market hasn’t ever been better for an online business. It is now possible to get your own website started for less than $50/year. And even if you don’t know a single word of coding, you can have your very own, professional-looking front-end, thanks to the power of content management systems like Drupal, WordPress and Joomla. Don’t like the plain vanilla look they offer? One Google search, and hey bingo! Thousands of themes and skins to choose from! Are you into e-commerce? No worries, mate! Payment gateways like PayPal and its ilk have you covered. Don’t have money to invest? That’s alright. Start a free website on Wix.com. Or, just start hawking your wares on Facebook.

My point is that in this day and age, there really is no excuse to not have your own business. You don’t even have to have the next big Facebook killer to be successful as an e-entrepreneur. I know of enough people selling junk jewelry (sourced from their local flea market) on Facebook/eBay/Etsy. And guess what? All of them seem to be doing really well for themselves. How well? Well enough to not have to work for anyone else to earn their living.

Why Starting an Online Business is a Good Idea in Current Times

All that you really need to succeed online, in essence, is the will to actually take the plunge and just start something. It really is as easy as that. I’m sure even you have a killer interest you’ve always wanted to exploit. A love for movies perhaps? Or expertise in minting long-form articles your current job has no use for. Or, even an insane desire to turn every song you listen to into a minimalistic poster. Yep, I just gave you three solid ideas for online businesses. Yep, you don’t necessarily have to sell something to be an online entrepreneur. Even Google AdSense revenue from your movie blog counts. Or, commissioned works your Facebook and Behance design pages fetch you.

If you still aren’t really sold on the entire concept and ease of online entrepreneurship, maybe you should actually ask yourself whether you’re actually happy with your day job; whether it fulfils you. If you, like me, happen to be like the majority of the working population, chances are you aren’t really satisfied with what you’re doing. 

Maybe, ok, it manages to pay your bills, but it’s either the rigidity of the corporate world, or a bad boss, or the endless commute to-and-fro, or even the nature of the work itself, which gets to you. And, I also know that much like the majority of the workforce today, you too have a secret desire to be your own boss and just do something for yourself. It’s all about the right day.

The right day, frankly, is on us. We are firmly in the middle of the small and medium enterprise revolution. The parity of opportunity between the big fish and the startup has never been greater. In the coming weeks, I will guide you through the various kinds of online businesses you can start and how to actually go about setting them up. Like me, you too can earn a good living running your own business.
Welcome to the age of the e-entrepreneur. Welcome to the best time in human history to start your own business and be your own boss in the true sense – the good and the bad.

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Be an Entrepreneur: Be Your Own Boss

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Be an Entrepreneur: Be Your Own Boss

Being your own boss fascinates a lot of people, but a few really see the toils and struggles behind the glamour of the idea. When people realize what being your own boss actually means, you see them falter. My job isn’t that bad, they say. What they fail to understand is that to get a taste of success, you first need to sweat over building your business.

On 11th April 1910, a 27-year-old club singer Gabrielle opened a tiny shop at 21, Rue Cambon, Paris. She wanted to sell hats. 

Orphaned at the age of 12, Gabrielle had been raised by nuns who taught her how to sew, a skill that led to her life’s work. Three years later, she opened two new stores at Deauville and Biarritz, where she first tasted success when she designed a dress she fashioned out of an old jersey on a chilly day. A few years later, Gabrielle, nicknamed ‘Coco’ from her days as a singer, launched the immensely popular perfume, Chanel No.5 and thus the fashion label Chanel was born. 

First used in 1723, today the term entrepreneur implies qualities of initiative, leadership, and innovation in business. An entrepreneur is an opportunity seeker, a generator of new ideas and business processes. Economist Robert Reich has called team-building, leadership, and management ability essential qualities for an entrepreneur.

But why become an entrepreneur at all? Why leave the comforts and the structure of an established firm, to work 12 hours a day out of a basement?

Be an Entrepreneur: Be Your Own Boss

Mike Templeman, CEO of Foxtail Marketing, says “As an entrepreneur, I always have a story to tell. Whenever I tell someone I run my own business, they always want to know what I do, how I do it and how it’s going. I always am able to provide a tale or two, and the best part is that I get to determine the story’s chapters.” 

Have you ever been fired? As an entrepreneur, you run the show. Plain and simple. This is your company, your brand, your pride, and joy. You are financially independent. Initially, you’ll work for longer hours, but if you keep at it and do it right, the freedom that being an entrepreneur provides is unmatched. 

A start-up also provides a brilliant learning experience. Ashim Seth, founder of Chicago based Seth Business Co. says, “The lack of structure in a start-up is precisely what leads to better learning as compared to big corporations, especially for youngsters.”

Entrepreneurs develop new ideas all the time, but how do you know when to pursue one further? Therefore it is extremely necessary to ask yourself some essential questions before you leap. Do others think my idea is good? Will people pay for it? Why am I the person to make it happen? Henry Ford, with Ford Motor Company, became successful simply by building the first car for the middle-class American, thus converting the automobile from a luxury item to a practical conveyance.  

So list your options and do plenty of research. Think like the customer. Analyze the competition. Build your own idea.

However, while many new businesses boom, many fail as well. An entrepreneur is required to put his career and financial security on the line and take risks in the name of an idea, spending time as well as capital on an uncertain venture. “Though there is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you are responsible for your employees’ success, at the beginning you also have to work hard every day to keep them convinced that joining you was the right decision,” says Gaurav Kumar, Associate Director, KPMG. 

An idea may be too novel, or the market may simply not be ready for a new entry. What is important to understand is that a failure is an option. Successful entrepreneurs excel at adapting to new obstacles. 

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show us how badly we want something.”

– Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.

Have you ever wanted to do more? To do good? As an entrepreneur, you also decide where the profits of your company go. You can fund an NGO, or a charity, or even hire the homeless. HarVa, founded by BITS Pilani graduate Ajay Chaturvedi in 2008, is the first BPO set up in rural India which has hired and trained 500 women in Haryana as part of its first project. 

So decide what you want to do. Make a plan. And work on it every day. Change the world in your own little way.

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How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth

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How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth

Here’s a growth strategy: simplify your business systems.

Maybe your workflows are tried and tested. Everyone knows them and does them. This is how you’ve achieved growth after all. But now, you’ve hit a slump. And we know what will happen if you keep doing the same thing:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

As a side note, this quote has been misattributed to Albert Einstein. But somebody traced it back to a 1983 book by Rita Mae Brown, a mystery novelist.

With that out of the way, let me ask you to change your core business systems. Inefficient systems can cost you more. You run the risk of losing 20% to 30% of your revenue if you don’t deal with them. No, this doesn’t mean you need to add more to gain more. But you will have to trim, discard, merge, and automate. 

Let’s do this.

The following steps can be applied either on overarching systems or standalone systems:

1. Visualize Your Workflows

Create a system flowchart or process map to ensure everyone is looking at the same big picture. You can use tools like Lucidchart for faster implementation.

How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth

If you’re reviewing an entire business system, it would be more efficient to have the core teams meet separately first. Let them brainstorm and map out their recommendations. If the main concern is a specific system, then meet with the team involved and other key individuals. Let the team head prepare a visual to have everyone on the same page.

2. Evaluate Each Operation’s Importance

Overhauling an entire system entails a thorough analysis of its components. When looking at the subsystems, ask what they’re supposed to do. Be clear about their purpose. Some aspects have a more obvious impact than others. If you’re in e-commerce, logistics management workflow is a good example. But how about marketing? Where does this team’s work start and end?

So, have a stated purpose for each system. Once you’ve nailed that, ask: are they performing according to expectations? 

To answer that, focus on their output and output value. For instance, the marketing team is in charge of raising brand and product awareness. It’s also tasked to oversee customer experience in many cases nowadays. Ensuring marketing operations are streamlined actually helps the entire business. This translates to a high output value for this system.

Do the same thing to all of your core systems. Then rank them using the highest to lowest output value metric. Aside from the output value, you can combine outputs measured in dollars (market share increase) and outcomes measured by their long-term effects (improved public image)

3. Zoom In On the Steps

After ranking the systems, see if you can afford to take a shortcut or declutter a clunky system. Looking at each process workflow, identify steps that you need to eliminate, merge, do simultaneously, and/or automate. 

  • Merge or parallel – Are there redundant steps in your system? Would your system benefit from merging two or more steps? Are there steps that need to be done simultaneously instead of one waiting for the other to finish?
  • Automate – Is there a series of steps you can automate? Are there parts of the process that can be performed with reduced human input? What solutions exist on the market? Can you leverage those without compromising output quality?
How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth
  • Outsource – What steps in your process do you lack expertise in? Can you afford to hire and train new talent to perform them? If not, are you willing to outsource them to another company or an individual? Will you be able to afford to outsource?
  • Eliminate – Are there unnecessary steps in your system? Are your people performing tasks that are of low value? Are there specific bottlenecks that have kept your process from running smooth? Will you benefit from replacing or removing them altogether? 

4. Refine The System

By now, your flowchart or map may look very different from the one you started with. But the revamp does not end with a new visual. Once again, you need to gather key individuals and fine-tune your output. Your business will benefit the most if you include two sets of people in the brainstorming session.

  • Experienced Members
    Bring in your experienced team members. Their insight and perspective run deep, especially if they’ve been in the business for a long time. They’re also probably attuned to the changes that required the overhaul. And they have a track record for helping the company cross over in the past. One downside, however, is that they may be attached to the processes more than the new ones. 
  • “Outsiders”
    You may invite an experienced individual (consultant) from a different industry. He or she will be your fresh pair of eyes. This person will let you see blind spots that you and your managers may have missed. Having someone with a strong technological background can help you identify which processes to automate or streamline using technology.

    Additionally, you can include some new team members who can address blind spots and have strong technological skills.

5. Apply Growth Hacking

Growth hacking was coined by Sean Ellis after the method he’d been using led to the sustainable growth of companies like Dropbox and Eventbrite. Growth hacking comprises testing and learning approaches within short timelines and small budgets. It’s famous among startups but can be applied to any business.

How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth

So, how do you apply this in your business systems? Now that you have a new and simplified business system, you will have to focus your thinking on delivering value. 

“Value drives customer retention, which is a prerequisite for generating sustainable growth.” -Sean Ellis

Identify the common success metric for your company. Growth hackers call this the North Star Metric (NSM), which should reflect the aggregate value delivered to your customers. Test ways to improve the performance of this metric. This also requires your core growth team to meet, evaluate, and iterate each week.

Final Thoughts

Given all the steps above, you might be thinking about setting aside time to simplify your business systems. What’s a 90-minute brainstorming session compared to the revenue you’d lose if you stayed with the inefficient, clunky one you currently have?

In doing this, you’ll also be documenting your processes and stating purposes. It will be easier for your managers to pass the message down to their team members. The big picture will become clear for everyone. And your growth machine will be set in motion once again.

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