Tis the season to deck the halls, drink egg nog and spend some time under the mistletoe. And while Santa is busy making his lists and checking them twice, I thought I’d share some of my favorite books for entrepreneurs that might be good additions to your holiday wish list. Ho ho here goes;
1. The Four Steps of the Epiphany by Steve Blank
Arguably the bible for current day entrepreneurs, this book which was originally meant as a companion to Blank’s course on Entrepreneurship. A long time veteran of the tech world turned entrepreneur then professor, Blank takes a hard look at what makes companies and products succeed. The book is a great starting point for someone looking to start a business as well as for entrepreneurs inside larger organizations. Blank suggests that start-ups must get very good at talking to customers, a theory he calls Customer Development. He goes into great detail about how to find your market, validate it and ultimately deliver something of value to the people you are trying to reach. The book is dense (it was originally written as a companion to Blank’s class on Entrepreneurship) so expect to need to skim some sections. This is a book that you will read and reference again and again as you learn more about running your business.
2. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
The Lean Startup takes many of the tenets developed by Steve Blank in The Four Steps to Epiphany and develops them further. Ries defines the principles of the Lean Startup and studies examples of how companies are applying the principles in the real world. It many ways, it is a refram-ing of how start-ups are created, managed and how they measure progress. Ries carries on the build, measure, learn torch by emphasizing that learning is the most important way a start-up should measure progress. It covers the concept of a minimum viable product in great detail, listing examples from Ries’ own experiences as well as those he interviewed over the course of writing the book. The Lean Startup challenges the myth of the mythical Midas founder who is blessed with such visionary prowess that everything s/he touch turns to gold. Instead of the classic process of writing a business plan, raising money and making a large splash with a product launch, Ries borrows from Lean Manufacturing as suggests taking small, iterative steps in building a business to eliminate waste. The Lean Startup is required reading for any one new to the entrepreneur game and gospel for most people who have started a business since the books release.
3. Good to Great by Jim Collins
Good to Great is to the early 2000s as The Lean Startup is to the past few years. A seminal book tackling the question of what enables some companies to thrive over generations and what causes other companies to flame out in a few short years. The book is the result of a five year study of over 1100 companies and draws conclusions about leadership, strategy and a deep examination of change inside organizations. Although the book was released in 2001, the insights related to company culture ring true today. Collins does an excellent job of discussing what conditions are critical to long term success as well as identifying which characteristics are likely fool’s gold, great for the short run but poison for long term growth. All entrepreneurs should read this book before starting a business to understand the value and importance of creating a culture that stands for something, even if the entrepreneur doesn’t envision having a large team. This book encourages businesses to be thoughtful about what they stand for, something that is much easier to do when starting out in a business.
4. UX for Lean Startups by Laura Klein
If you are an entrepreneur selling a product, this book is for you. Klein’s book is an easily readable overview to help business owners understand user experience. It is choc-full of examples and best practices for entrepreneurs to use to experiment their way to a valuable product. The book applies the Lean Startup concepts of build, measure, learn in an attempt to root out waste in the product creation process. The book goes into detail about how to do a/b testing correctly as well as explaining how to listen to your customers throughout your product’s life cycle. Klein’s goes into detail to explain the differences between qualitative and quantitative research and when to use each. Further, she drives home the importance of learning rather than simply testing for testing’s sake through a series of engaging anecdotes. You’ll find UX for Lean Startups to be fantastic, hands-on complement to The Lean Startup.