I love reading, and learning, so I spend most of my time scouring not only the business literature, but also sociology, psychology, and behavioral economic fields for insights, research and methodologies that can help with living a mindful life, making conscious choices, and succeeding in capitalism.
Here are a few recommendations, chosen because they not only contain valuable insights and information, but are readable and accessible. I’ll try to warn you when they’re not an easy read.
This is my “short list” — not meant to be comprehensive (that would be hundreds, if not a thousand) but to be the books that have been particularly valuable in specific situations, or so generally applicable to so many situations, that I come back to them again and again. There are a few classics in here, which I first encountered over 30 years ago when trying to find out late at night… what to do at the office the very next day.
Priceless advice for valuing your family, friends and personal life… while building your career:
A classic on getting straight with your own money, while you manage a business’s money (this is also a great resource for planning your career):
If you’re in a startup and married (and want to stay married) get this and find some way (sales!) to get your spouse to read it (relevant to all genders). And read it yourself. The stress is normal:
Startups & Funding
Probably the best single book on capturing what to embrace, and what to avoid, in a venture-backed startup:
And why you don’t need, or even want, venture capital (and most of the time, I heartily agree):
The surprising truth about who leaders really are… and whether you are one of them:
Lessons from turning around an NFL team, and basically launching a startup:
Got what it takes to lead? This fellow did…
Although focused on examples from politics and government agencies, the principles explained and promoted here are highly relevant to all forms of leadership:
What you need to know about what you THINK you know… how to battle entrenched market leaders, what it means to succeed… really, and even what revenge really means. In short, a compressed summary of relevant issues in psychology and the behavior of people… that really, really matter. Hint: give this to your college-bound child if they are ambitious… wish I’d read it.
(Almost) everything you need to know about developing a new product (really!). Most of my clients already have this book, and if they don’t, I send it to them. Essential.
If you haven’t read this, and you are launching, or have launched a new business… I think you’re nuts. No offense, but understanding how new products / companies are adopted by their customers is absolutely key. This classic goes beyond marketing strategies… and affects operational plans, funding, and capital formation, as well as when to sell (or when to buy) the company.
A graduate course in competitive analysis & strategy, in a single book. In fact, that’s what this classic was created for, and by, perhaps the greatest author ever to pen on the subject:
Stop thinking about sales as a transaction, and worse, thinking its some kind of skill in manipulating people to do something they don’t want to do… its just not like that. And this book provides great insight and research results for modern, effective sales.
An unfortunate name (since it has absolutely nothing to do with spinning or sound bites) but the best sales methodology I’ve ever used, or seen used, for selling to businesses, particularly large ($100,000 to $10,000,000 scale) projects.
Some call it “Behavioral Economics”; I call it Effective Marketing. Either way, good stuff for understanding how influence works:
And of course you need to read this, if you haven’t already. A classic in understanding influence:
And the importance of differentiation:
You’ll hear “Big Data” and you may assume that means Wal Mart and the rest of the Fortune 100. Nope, it can mean you too (see my blog on that here and here) even with small businesses. Read this to catch up on the basics:
A classic I first studied, and then used, in a hands-on experiential learning seminar on negotiation decades ago… is still relevant. I use the concept and strategies of principled negotiation (instead of positional negotiation) almost every day when coaching clients through high-stakes deals:
I admire Dan Pink and his work, but I have to remind myself that he’s a journalist in style… he starts with a belief, or a hook, and then he assembles a relentless argument to explain (and defend) his point of view. I wouldn’t call it balanced, but that’s okay… his insights, and the results of his homework into the underlying research, makes it all worth it: you will be smarter about people, about what motivates them for having read this. Which will inform your recruiting.
Send me your suggestions for helpful books, and if I use your idea, I’ll send you a book as a token of my appreciation!