Book yourself some time this December to enjoy my list of great business reads. They are packed full of fresh business ideas and perspectives that will help you kickstart your 2016. Including stories of shop floor successes and tall tales of tumultuous team dynamics. I have found each of these books enjoyable and insightful in equal measures. My hope is that you will also find these gems helpful in your businesses and professional lives during the year ahead.
Biography / Company history
Zappos managed to take a commodity product (shoes) and infused the online shopping experience with their own special recipe of exceptional customer service. To build a stand out business and brand. This book charts the Tony Hsieh’s (Zappos founder) journey from business failure to runaway success and acquisition by Amazon. He explains the secrets of the Zappos’ award-winning culture and shares many other lessons learnt along the way.
Eric Ryan & Adam Lowry
Method combines its non-toxic cleaning products with iconic product (packaging) design. The founders’ intense focus on building an environmentally conscious brand, married with their obsessive pursuit of ground-breaking product design, has turned out to be a winning formula. Quickly catapulting them into a globally recognised brand and industry leader.
It is an unfortunate reality that we live in a world where every whim and wish is now just a click away. In this crowded landscape, how do you run a differentiated product/service offered and avoid the downward spiral of the ‘race to the bottom’? Seth Godin is a long-time business thought leader with a string of bestsellers to his name. Any one of which could have made it onto this list. My hope is that you read Purple Cow and then look at his other works.
What if you intentionally set out to structure your business to become oversubscribed? After all, having a long queue of people lined up in front of your shop is a strong signal to the market that you must be offering something valuable. This book challenges you to understand your current, or desired, capacity and revenue. Then encourages you to incorporate clever signals and social proof into a campaign-based marketing strategy. All intended to drum up more business than you’ll possibly be able to serve. Rather counter-intuitively, the goal is to end up turning customers away, in order to command a premium for your product/service.
L. David Marquet
We have all seen those black and white war movies where the navy captains shouts his commands. They are quickly echoed back to him by each subordinate along the chain of command, until the poor guy actually holding the wheel makes the course change. This is the excellent book of one submarine captain who took over a failing submarine crew and turned it into an award-winning unit. His approach was to inject initiative into every layer of the hierarchy. Officers (managers) no longer issue orders. Instead they become responsible for approving their teams’ recommendations. This was a revolutionary break from the traditional management style in the military. However, its results – empowered staff and safer operations – are lessons that should be applied to our businesses too. Boiled down to its essence, every conversation should start with “Captain, I intend to…”
Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, Chris Yeh
The founder of LinkedIn makes the argument that lifetime employment has been replaced by what he has coined ‘tours of duty’ of between 6-36 months. Employees can have multiple tours at the same company. But the current generations of workers are framing their decisions and career progression in these new terms.
Gene Kim, George Spafford, and Kevin Behr
This is a novel that explains a fictional company’s decision making process and adoption of the increasingly popular DevOps methodology. Through clever storytelling it logically steps readers through all the elements that make up DevOps. All from the perspective of a stressed and over-worked information worker, who starts the story trying to turn down a promotion to join the management team.
Going Postal (2004), Making Money (2007) & Rising Steam (2013)
The Moist von Lipwig mini-series – part of the larger 40+ book Discworld series by Terry Pratchet – follows the entrepreneurial endeavours of a condemned fraudster. Saved from the gallows by the city’s conniving ruler, he is instead put in charge of revitalising the city’s postal service, bank and railway. I’m not usually a fan of Terry Pratchett’s genre, but I found the business story arcs of this mini-series rather enjoyable.
On my own list
Kathy’s Head Rush blog has been an invaluable resource that I have returned to again and again, for several years. I happily admit that I didn’t think twice about buying this book purely on the strength of the author’s name. To be honest, I figured the title said it all.
Ignore the title! This book is primarily about Tim’s efforts to distil the most efficient method for learning any new skill into it’s constituent parts and arriving at a repeatable process.