Monday, July 2, 2012

5 Must Read Classics for Entrepreneurs

There are a number of lists of top "10 books for entrepreneurs" all over the internet and most of those are filled with some of the latest works buy new authors. Though I enjoy these new books and have read a number of them, there are some classics that every entrepreneur should own. Many of these classics are the basis for the new books that flood the market. Following is a short list of some of the classic books on entrepreneurship and leadership and what I find so compelling about them.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey 

This is one of my all time favorites and a true classic of business literature, which is why I am always surprised to meet a beginning entrepreneur who has never heard of it. Covey does a fantastic job listing 7 habits, i.e. principles, for success in life and in business in general. One of my favorite habits is to “Start with the end in mind”, which is also a design concept. Instead of focusing on how to do something, focus on what it would look like if it were already done, then start planning from there. This is an absolute must read and is always at the top of my list when talking to new entrepreneurs.

I absolutely fell in love with this book, perhaps because I am such a man of logic. Some may argue that Collins' book is not quite a classic, but I believe it is well on it's way. Jim illustrates that there is no magic behind successful companies, but a deliberate process that they all employ. This can be duplicated by any company, whether large or small. Jim says there are three interconnected circles to focus your attention - that which you do better than anyone else, understanding your economic engine (the true driver of your revenues), and that which you are most passionate about. Combine these three and you create something that few compete with. Jim also proves this is why companies in the same industry, economy and geographic locations have opposite results – one excelling and becoming a leader of industry and the other falling into bankruptcy. It is because of the intersection between these three interconnected circles, which he refers to as the hedgehog concept. This one is an easy read. Get it. 

Customer Centric Selling – Michael T. Bosworth and John R. Holland 

Selling is not an art, it’s a science according to Bosworth. After reading his book, I must agree. To call something an art is to say one must be an artist in order to do it successfully. If this is the case for selling, then most of us are in trouble. Bosworth explains in methodical fashion how to scientifically help the customer buy, instead of attempting to sell them. I internalized much of the advice in this book and sales meetings turned into conversations about problems and solutions. Honestly, I did not consider it selling as much as diagnosing a problem, which was appreciated by my customers. Not exactly a quick read, but it should be studied by all entrepreneurs and used as a reference. By the way, the original edition of this book served as the solution selling Bible to many of the world’s largest corporations.

The Laws of Success – Napoleon Hill 

This is more of a course than it is a book. Napoleon Hill is also the author of “Think and Grow Rich”, which you may have heard of. The Laws of Success, a sixteen volume college style course, is the source of “Think and Grow Rich”. This is a set of lessons in sound, universal principles of success and is the basis for many of the today’s books on leadership, entrepreneurship and self help. It is a lengthy set of books and must be studied, not simply read. Hill’s overarching theme of all of his works is that our thoughts determine our stations in life. However, far from just thinking positive, Hill explains the specific actions required that go along with right thinking in order to achieve the success we desire. This classic is available for download from many legitimate sources all over the Internet. Read this series even if it takes you months to complete. I refer to it often as a reference.

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill 

This is a primer to “The Laws of Success” and also a must read. I read this book before reading its larger cousin and found it more beneficial than I can describe in a few sentences. I have learned a great deal  studying Hill’s material and have digital versions on my iPad that I refer back to them often.

Well, there you have my short list of classics, which is is not at all complete. If I listed every book I would like to recommend, this post would go on for dozens of pages.

So then what do I do with all of this information in my head? You see, I'm an avid reader to the point of bordering on obsession. I have far more information to share than the above short list. Then inspiration struck me this morning while in the shower. Starting in March, I will be introducing a monthly "In a Nutshell". This is a monthly summary of key points from a number of my favorite books on entrepreneurship, leadership, sales and business. Why? Well, as an entrepreneur, do you have time to read a 300 page book on entrepreneurship? What about ten 300 pages books? Probably not. So, let me do the reading so that you don’t have to.

As part of my passion for helping beginning entrepreneurs increase their odds of succeeding, I am going to distribute this monthly summary of key takeaways free of charge to all email subscribers to this blog. This will not only be a quick description of what I like about the book, but a detailed bulleted list of what to apply from the text. Then, if you decide to read the book further, you can dash out to your local book store and do so. Soon I will post more details and make a available a downloadable .pdf as an example of the monthly "In a Nutshell". In the meantime, if you don't already have them, go check out the classics I listed in this post.

Godspeed and I look forward to seeing you in The Players Lounge.