Summertime is at its peak and if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to close your computer, ignore your emails, and take just a little bit of time to pick up a good read, sit back, and relax. For some people, this may mean purchasing the top selling romantic novel or fiction piece. For entrepreneurs, however, a business book is the perfect fit for guilt-free relaxation.
Instead of leaving you walking the aisles of Barnes & Noble searching for a business book that will keep your attention while offering you great value, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites to get you started.
Here are my top three favorite business books:
The E-Myth Revisited — Somewhere around 2010, Larry Snavely suggested that I read this, and I found myself saying “yes — that’s me!” and “exactly” as I read it all the way through to the end. The Entrepreneurial myth is that many business owners are not entrepreneurs. They are technicians (sometimes very good ones) with no business training or experience. I was a good graphic design technician when I quit my job in 1997 and worked as a freelancer. I was bolstered by a booming economy and by providing great service for the first ten years, I was able to get away with my ignorance regarding marketing, hiring, and business strategy. Around 2010, when I set a goal to take a vacation (without calling in) in the midst of a poor economy (marketing) and the globalization of graphic design (strategy), reading the E-Myth was eye opening. I realized I had a “job”, not a business. I realized that whether or not I liked it, I was wearing every hat. To solve this issue, I had to get my process out of my head and onto paper. When doing so, I began to understand what I needed to do to create a business that could run on its own and that was identified as “me”. Now, I have a “playbook” made up of a collection Word documents and a folder full of worksheets and tools, which makes it infinitely easier to delegate, hire and train new team members.
Blue Ocean Strategy — When I joined the EO accelerator program in 2012, my first mentors, Alex Boyar and Mike Brey, recommended that I read Blue Ocean Strategy and I could not put it down. I found myself saying “wow” as I read through the case studies. It’s all about creating a “strategy canvas” that reduces costs, increases value, and opens up a blue ocean of new business (as opposed to a red ocean where competition results in cost cutting and/or price gouging). My favorite example was Yellow Tail wine. They did not compete on tannins and vineyards, which few customers understand anyway, and brought a drinkable, affordable wine that converted beer drinkers to wine drinkers to market (a blue ocean). It started me thinking more creatively about business strategy and what was truly important to my customers, instead of what I thought was important, or what my industry thought mattered. This was the first book that really got me thinking about strategy, and it was because of this that I began to think about how to position and niche my graphic design services.
Getting Things Done — This book couldn’t have come at a better time. It was recommended to me by my friend, Neeraj Baghat. In it, David Allen explains how, to free your mind up to be more creative, you have to download all of the details of what needs to get done into to do lists. But, in doing so, you can’t just say “develop MailChimp webinar”. Instead, you need to write down only the next step. For example, it might be “brainstorm 10-20 topics to include in webinar”. If you do have a project on a to-do list, he recommends that you identify only the next discreet step in the project in order to move the project forward and avoid becoming overwhelmed. To put this advice to use, I dump all of my to-dos into OmniFocus each week, which syncs across my iPhone, iPad and tablet. Every Friday, as he recommends, I do a weekly review. This is when I sort through my emails, complete any to-dos that take me 2 minutes or less, prioritize, sort and file longer actions. This is key to making sure I’m moving my big rocks forward and allows me to hit the ground running every Monday morning. After reading the book, I saw him speak in DC and I have to say, he is a terrific presenter. I changed the way I work because of this book.
So there you have it — the top three business books that have shaped the way I organize and run my business.
Feel free to email me at [email protected] and share some of your favorites with me. I can always use a good read!
Heather Cox’s business, The Mighty Little Web Shop, serves small businesses who sell professional services. Mighty Little Web Shop’s mission is to help organizations to confidently attract a steady stream of visitors, and convert them into paying clients or long-standing donors. You can view her profile HERE.