For those of you that know me I do a lot of consulting with companies looking to launch tech products. Recently I have a had a lot of luck with Intrepenureship or building a startup inside of a larger more established organization that is looking to compete in the modern and ever changing market. I am also passionate about building businesses around the life I want to lead, not trying to cram your life in around a job.
This post is meant to be used as a recommended reading list for my clients, the startups I mentor, and pretty much anyone looking to escape the day to day grind and do something more interesting.
Where to start:
The two most powerful books that quite possibly saved my life:
This is a controversial book, and I do not agree with all of it but it has significantly impacted the way I live and do business. It is a manual for designing your businesses around the life you want to live and not the other way around as so many people do. It has a step by step guide to removing yourself from a desk job crafting a business that can be run with very little day to day attention. Their for the four hour work week.
If you know me you know I am currently doing 10+ hours a day and weekends on a contract so you're probably pondering the effectiveness of this book. Well I can assure you those 10+ hour days are my choice working on a project that I enjoy every second of. I spend less than four hours a week doing things that bore me or things I am not passionate about.
Another example of something that has been criticized I do not outsource outside of the US. I do outsource and crowdsource as many tasks as possible but call me an idiot or call me patriotic, my dollars stay in the US unless I know the service provider personally. For example my last two Virtual Assistant were in Detroit and Phoenix.
Another great book on the topic of starting a business on a shoestring budget and all the available options to you whether you want to scale or stay small. Do you want to consult or build a product business. This covers all of your bases and give you tons of case studies on how others have gotten started
Choose your path:
Before I go on there are three main paths people typically choose from here:
Full out Startup Company:
This means bootstrapping or raising money then hiring a team and going full throttle at making it big. Thats fine. If that is your choice move on to the Startup Basics section.
Find that special skill set that you have that is tough to come by. If you don't have it start learning it, but don't wait to start selling your new services. The best way to learn is by doing. A lot of the other sections are still relevant like the Marketing, Scaling, and Personal Finances sections but the Consulting section is where you should head next.
Licence or muse:
This is the passive income route. I love startups and I love consulting but passive revenue is like a warm blanket that frees you to explore, create, and live without boundaries. Check out
This is if you decide to go the route of a full out startup.
The reason I list this first is as a warning to those of you hell bent on spending months or even years building the perfect product before showing even a single customer. Then having the illusion that someday you will just unveil the product and the massives will come crawling over one another to buy your product cash in hand. This is what I call the "If you build it, they will come" fantasy. Well wake up, read a copy of this book and get those ideas out of your head. Feedback is key, get feedback early and get it often to avoid losing your life savings(trust me I made this mistake more than once).
Marketing your business:
If you are new to marketing then this is the first book I would recommend to you. This explains some of the underlying principles of marketing. They don't go into detailed tactics at all. It's like The Art of War for marketing. The technology may change the tactics and strategies but the principles are timeless. I recommend you get these principles down before going any further.
This is a great book on communication in general and how a message can spread through a community. What does it take to craft a message that spreads virally. If you can craft a message that is interesting and simple to wrap your brain around and remember then your message will spread.
Now we are starting to focus in on Marketing as it applies to startups or any smaller organization trying to have a big effect. Purple cow talks about how to make your product unique so that marketing it is much easier. A unique product is eye catching and gives people something to talk about their doing 1/2 the leg work for you.
NOTE: Pretty much anything by Seth Godin is marketing gold. I just didn't want to pad this post by listing all of his works
This is an amazing book. It does have some... questionable tactics for kicking off PR campaign that will get incredible results, but it also dives deep into the principles behind what make the global media machine work and how the blogosphere feeds that beast. This book was quite an eye opener. Everytime I need to get a little press for one of my endeavours the understandings gained from this book have been eye opening.
This book on its own is just a list of tactics. Implementing them without a greater plan is not what I would recommend. But if you take the time to read the above strategies and come up with a solid plan then this book can provide a reminder of lot of little things that you might normally look over when marketing.
NOTE: Normally I hate audiobooks narrated by the author as authors typically suck at narrating but Gary Vaynerchuk does a hilarious job "going off the record" on off the wall rants about this or that. Buying the audio book actually has much more content(in rant form) then the regular book. I strongly advise it, plus he is hillarious
Scaling your operation non-technically:
This is intended for those of you that have started something, a consulting practice, or a small business but find yourself buried under the business instead of building the business.
This is in easy to digest book in a fable format about a man who build a mildly successful consulting business. Unfortunately he built it around himself and was getting crushed under the weight of it. When he tried to sell it he finds he would have to sell himself as well. They go through step by step how he focuses his business on what they do best and enjoy doing best. From there they talk about how to create processes and procedures his people could follow so they were not dependant on him for direction.
This is the book that single handedly saved me from bankrupting Schematical back when we still did Facebook apps. I'll expand on this in a separate post.
This book is a much more diverse study of the subject of scaling your processes and procedures. It contains a wide range of case studies on the subject.
Note:Part of my goal with Ship or get off the pot is to make it a more focused version of E-Myth. Giving people a framework that I have used to build efficient tech teams and product
Leadership and Culture:
Tony Hsieh’s Zappos is considered one of the leaders in companies that value culture. This is his personal story combined with in site into how he has cultivated an amazing culture at Zappos
UNRELATED NOTE: A couple of years ago hitched a ride down to SXSW with my friend Michael Fenchel, one of the founders of 100State. I was all excited because we were going to meet up with Tony and have a night out on the town. Unfortunately I slept through this and have regretted it ever since.
NOTE: I wanted to put in John Wooden but cannot find the proper link. At a future date I will link to his books that are important.
ANOTHER NOTE: Check out the video How GitHub Uses GitHub to Build GitHub that outlines githubs amazing stragigies and some interesteing insites on their culture.
Unless you are strictly online and a one person shop a big part of doing business is interacting with people. If you are going to get on stage you are going to want to know how to communicate with your audience and connect with them. For those of you that didn't know me as a mumbly, scrubby freshman in highschool you probably wouldn't guess at how deficient I was in the area of connecting and communicating with people, but I was. Lots of people and events made me who I am today. These are a few of the books that helped along the way:
This book has been around for ages, and chances are you have heard of it. His advice is dirt simple but it works.
In order to understand why this book is important I suggest you check out the famous 1992 debate between George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton. Which candidate can you connect with? Which candidate seems distant and cold? Why? This book covers charismatic behavior from a lot of angles. And I can say this book has definitely helped me in daily life as well as public speaking.
I am annoyed by those sleazy networking types eager to vomit out business cards at you as much as you are. I have seen a lot of books that encourage that type of behavior, that ingenuine speed networker type. This book does have some more technical areas on how to network but the message is clear "Take your time and actually take a genuine interest in people".
I was raised with the notion that it was rude to talk your finances unless it is to get advice on the subject from your family or with a professional. But if you start making and spending you should have a solid game plan. I have read many books on the subject but there is only one or two I feel comfortable recommending on the subject.
Did you know the majority of self made millionaire do NOT own fancy suits, watches, or cars. The majority of millionaires that did not inherit their money are cheap as hell(like me and I am proud of it). This book is a fascinating on the habits of the 'financially affluent'. After reading this you won't look at the guy with the fancy watch and brand new sports car the same ever again.
Though it may have one of the cheesiest titles in modern publishing(though SOGOTP isn't a lot better) the point is simple. Get out of debt, stay out of debt. It wont be easy or fun but it will be worth it.
I have always been a bit of a tinker growing up, just like my father. Now I proudly call myself a Hacker, of both hardware and software. Long story short I invent things and this book has the blueprint to licence those inventions to larger companies. There are only so many hours in the day and I am not as young as I once was but luckily I still have one millions and one ideas a day. This book breaks down how to licence those ideas to companies with the resources to execute on those ideas. It covers everything from the basics to all sorts of scenarios that I would have never seen coming. If you want to make passive income on your inventions, ideas, or intellectual property this book is for you.
I have been a consultant for the majority of my career and I have my own thoughts on the subject that I will write down in another post. My biggest piece of advice for anyone consulting: Find a niche and be the expert in it. One of the best decisions I did early on in my career was to become "The Facebook Guy". Within a year of making this decision without even so much as a bachelors degree I was the goto guy for Facebook apps for 6 separate high profile advertising agencies in Chicago.
I will tell you the bad news about this book first: 25% of this book is just Michael trying to sell you his seminars and other products. The other 75% is gold. Creating the red velvet rope... genius. If you are consulting on pretty much anything I would grab a copy of this book read it through and completely rethink how you are positing yourself. This includes my friends that are personal trainers.
NOTE: This book was recomended to me by Brad Grzesiak ceo of Bendyworks in Madison when we were discussing consulting. I asked him for his number one book recommendation on any topic. His answer was Calvin and Hobbes. Thanks for the recommendation Brad.
This is something admittedly I know little about. I am a bootstrapper by nature. I still do need to understand the deals I am getting into. My attorneys are great helping me with that. But it pays to know a little bit myself. This way I can save a lot of time and money by being able to spot red flags in a deal before I even send it off to my attorney.
Brad Feld is one of the founders of the prestigious Tech Stars Business Incubator. This book breaks down term sheets, the contracts between startups and big investors, from about every angle possible. If you are looking to bring on funding get this book today.
NOTE: This is one of the few books I DO NOT recommend getting in audio format. Simply because listening to legal jargon is like getting punched in the ear repeatedly
This is a start. There are tons of biographies and other books that I have read that I would recommend. Additionally please feel free to send me good book recommendations, I always enjoy a good book.