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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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Entrepreneurs

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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7 Secrets to A Healthy Work-Life Balance

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7 Secrets to A Healthy Work-Life Balance

Do you feel like something is wrong with how your days are turning out?

It seems you’re on the edge of burnout, or you’re hearing loved ones complain about your “workaholism.”

You should probably consider if you’re having a healthy work-life balance, or work-life integration. If that is truly the issue, then you can do something about it. And you might want to learn the secrets to transformation.

These secrets are principles or data you can use to approach work/non-work. They are not specific steps because everyone differs in their circumstance. And so, everyone also differs in their approach.

1. Know If You’re a Segmentor or an Integrator

Sociologist Christena Nippert-Eng suggests there are two types of people when it comes to boundaries set between life and work. These are the segmentors and integrators. Other studies support these categories, although it’s a common theme across the existing corpus to not think about them as fixed or opposing poles.

  • Segmentors – People who draw a clear line between personal life and work. Forgetting about their job once they have left the office comes more naturally to them. Some show this tendency by having a separate calendar for professional commitments, or deliberately not choosing to prop family photos on their work desks.
  • Integrators – People who mesh work and life with ease. One of their strongest points is the ability to engage deeply with work. They can transition seamlessly from responding to work emails to having dinner with their spouse at dinner. These are also the workers who are likely to benefit from a company having onsite childcare.

Most people are not 100% segmentors or 100% integrators. But knowing which side of the spectrum you’re leaning toward can help you customize a balancing strategy. Why? There is always room to become better. For instance, segmentors can be okay with bringing their family to company parties. And integrators can prioritize their spouse over a work email during dinner.

2. Change From Within

I’m sure you’ve heard about people embracing digital detox (avoiding devices tied to work). Or you’ve encountered someone being mindful about the time they spend in the office. These individuals have seen some negative consequences of their past actions and are trying to change the present. It doesn’t matter much if they’re doing this or that. The point is they’re working toward more favorable results.

One of the things that can stop you in your tracks is copying another person’s idea of change. It could be their lifestyle, eating habits, and even opinions about work-life balance. It’s because you’re also likely to expect the same results they’re having. 

Change must come from within. That means looking inward, being honest, and aiming for a realistic assessment. Only then should you seek the advice of people who have gone through a similar experience. Because now you have probed the cause of your problem.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Whether you’re a segmentor or an integrator, practice mindfulness. This ancient practice traces its roots to eastern religions. However, these days, it can also simply mean intentionally bringing your attention to the present. That is, deliberately causing your mind to return to a task if you’ve been distracted.

If you’re with your spouse, then give your full attention to him or her. Be fully aware of his or her presence. Whether you’re in a restaurant having a date or in the bedroom conversing. That sounds more applicable to integrators since segmentors are good at compartmentalizing. But mindfulness also enables everyone to become productive.

7 Secrets to A Healthy Work-Life Balance

4. Make a To-Do List Before You Sleep

Well, didn’t I say no sharing of specific steps? You might be thinking “make a to-do list” is not a principle or data. It is a step. But before you grill me further, let me give you the rationale behind this fourth secret. This habit is about taking control, which is in our nature to desire.

Having an overview of tomorrow’s tasks offers you that sense of control. You’re more eager to let go. You won’t be going to bed anxious. Your brain is convinced by the list you made and won’t cause you to lose sleep over a problem at work. That can wait till morning.

5. Determine Your “One Simple Thing”

People at Google have a goal-setting practice that prioritizes personal well-being. They call it the “One Simple Thing.” Some examples are “I will take a one-hour break 3 times a week to work out” and “I will not read emails on the weekends.”

Employees share what’s in their “One Simple Thing” worksheet with their boss. And their boss will hold them accountable to their goals. It’s a simple tool that encourages you to be proactive about your work-life integration. And the involvement of your boss adds a more personal and connected component to it.

6. Get Help From Technology

Productivity tools abound on the web. But not all of them are effective. Otherwise, we should all be masters of productivity by now. On top of productivity, however, you should also be seeking tools that force you to stop when you don’t know how to stop.

Boomerang for Gmail is one. It prevents you from reading emails after work hours. You can also set the Do Not Disturb mode on Slack to pause notifications. Further, if you’re a manager, you can set default DND hours on the app for your entire team. Let technology help you regain control over your life, not the other way around. 

7. Remember that Balancing is Like Riding a Bike

Life is chaotic. It’s impossible to achieve perfection on all fronts. It’s impossible to even be okay on all fronts most of the time. So I want you to think of balance as a continuous effort. It doesn’t actually end. It’s like riding a bike. If you keep pedaling, you keep moving forward. But riding a bike is not just a means of transport, it’s also a balancing act.

7 Secrets to A Healthy Work-Life Balance

That said, pursuing a healthy work-life balance is necessary for you to keep moving forward. So don’t worry if you’re not that good at it yet. One day, it’ll be as natural for you as breathing. And balancing will have become a way to live.

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Ways to Inspire You to Build A Business

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Ways to Inspire You to Build A Business

Ever felt the entrepreneurial call tugging at your consciousness?

Maybe you have. You’re just waiting for the right timing, you say.

But let me tell you from the outset that there’s no better time than now. You either start or not. Seth Godin often says that if you start now, you’ll have a business or at least a wealth of information to work on when you look back 5 years later. But if you don’t, you have nothing. Zero, nada, zilch.

And even if the economy is facing a downturn, the pros of building a business still outweigh the cons. If your business is the only one supplying the demand, you’ll also be raking in all of the profits. 

I’m not saying that you should found a startup willy-nilly. But don’t let overthinking or fear stop you from planning and dreaming. Perhaps these business ideas will inspire you to dare:

Listen to Your Needs

Sometimes, you have to take a cue from your personal needs. Take this story about two young men from Irvine, California, who were frustrated about the lack of lunch options in the area. There weren’t many fast food restaurants near their workplace. And surrounding food courts invited long lines while the adjacent parking lots were too small.

This sparked a question on their minds: what if there was a way to deliver good food to them instead? Having an idea is one thing. But the money is in the execution. So they started a restaurant delivery business. Since then, they have served over 15 million people. It turns out their problem is universal among workers whose break gets cut in half because of those lunch runs.

Monetize Your Skills

People in the arts might cringe at that statement. There are artists who don’t create for the “mainstream” audience. Or literary writers who don’t want to sell out to big businesses. But this is not about being a capitalist pawn. It also goes beyond knowing how to use a camera, edit videos, and upload them on YouTube. 

I’m referring to a wide range of technical and artistic skills. Are you good at landscaping? Photography? Interior design? Home cleaning? All of these require a specific skill set. And if you’re good at any of these, you can build a sustainable business out of those mad skills.

Ways to Inspire You to Build A Business

Find Your Cash Cow

If you’ve thought of selling goods to augment your income, why don’t you go for it? Burt’s Bees began with the two founders making candles from beeswax for extra cash. Then, they thought of creating other products like soaps, perfumes, and lip balms. The lip balm was a hit.

Once it was clear to them which products were selling big, they created more of those. Your business doesn’t have to be as huge as Burt’s Bees to apply this method. But if you have a bestseller or two, focus on them and never compromise their quality.

Get Into E-commerce as a Side Job

Do you have a penchant for collecting stuff? Maybe you have a sizeable collection of toy cars or vinyl records. What if you build an e-commerce site out of your hobby? Not only will you be able to practice it; you will also be making money.

Some people start selling the objects they buy from abroad. I know someone who loves golf but orders clubs overseas. Before, he would ask who among his buddies would want to tag along and then buy the items in bulk. Soon, he created a website, marketed his service to other golf enthusiasts, and built a stable sideline from there.

Start a Home Business

The digital landscape provides many opportunities for people of all ages. This means you can test out a business before diving into it full-time. You can rent out a room on Airbnb or Homestay, manage social media accounts of brands and individuals, or become a virtual assistant to a startup entrepreneur.

These are all legitimate jobs which you can do on weekends or evenings. You don’t even have to quit your day job just yet. But while you’re exploring your options, you can draft a business plan and brush up on your skills. Once you’ve gathered enough experience, decide whether it’s time to become your own boss and do what you’re passionate about.

Build A Conscious Company

Going green is not just a trend but a necessity. So if you can create products around environmental efforts, you’re also serving the greater good. Organic products tend to command a higher price, though, so it’s a plus if you can make yours affordable.

Further, you have to brainstorm your unique selling proposition with business partners (could be your family or friends). This diaper delivery service is a great example. The cloth diapers it sells minimize your baby’s environmental footprint. At the same time, it also solves the soiled nappy problem for most parents by providing a weekly dirty diaper cleaning service. That’s hitting two birds with one stone.

Don’t Be Afraid

At the end of the day, you’ll have something to work on if you get to building a business. Whether it’s mistakes or sales you accumulate, you can use what you have to continue aiming for your goals. The examples I mentioned exist because their founders dared to try. So don’t be afraid to respond to the entrepreneurial call and dare to try.

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