By: Chad Bell
Business school taught me the fundamentals of business which I use in my everyday management of Zen Den Web Design. However, my MBA did not prepare me for the challenges I would eventually face as an entrepreneur. I filled that huge gap with books that have not only taught me valuable lessons, but also inspired me and continue to inspire me when things get rough and I want to throw in the towel.
Being an entrepreneur is the hardest, most grueling, challenging, tiring, rewarding, exciting, and stimulating experience I’ve ever enjoyed and hated all at the same time. So, if you find yourself on this same roller coaster or are contemplating getting on this ride here are my personal top 6 business books to read for entrepreneurs. I’m sure this list will grow and evolve over time. Next on my to read list is Made to Stick, which has been sitting on my shelf for years waiting to be read.
1. Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur – This is one of the first biz books I read. I felt a certain connection to Stuart because at the time I had two friends who worked at Elephant Pharmacy in Berkeley, CA and I visited the store frequently. They both loved working at Elephant and my friend who worked in the corporate office would often tell me random stories about her interactions with Stuart and the respect she had for him. I remember thinking to myself, “I want to run a company in a manner that my employees hold me in such esteem.”
2. The Monk and the Riddle – This book was recommended to me by a successful entrepreneur. At the time I had recently quit a very good job in order to pursue my entrepreneurial calling. I was consumed with self doubt and often thought I had made a terrible mistake. The following quote from the book provided the inspiration to continue on the path I was on in spite of my doubts.
“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”
The journey I was setting out on was risky, but not as risky as not taking the journey at all.
3. The Art of War – I read this book just before I hired my first employee. It helped shape the attitudes I have towards the people who work not for me, but rather with me. This was reinforced when a contractor who was working with me at the time commented on the fact that I always paid on time. I still always pay everyone else before I pay myself knowing that I can not head into battle with troops that are hungry or worse, disgruntled.
4. Reality Check – I had a professor that frequently dropped Guy’s name in our class discussions so I went out and bought this book. I still incorporate lessons from his pages titled ‘The Art of Bootstrapping.’
5. The 4-Hour Work Week – I’m not the only skeptic who approached this book under the assumption that it was a get rich quick kind of read. However, by the time I was half way through the book every other page was dog eared. One of my favorite chapters is ‘The End of Time Management.’ I used to be a big multi-tasker, but Timothy impressed on me just how inefficient and unproductive this habit is. Now I always start my day with a task list and tackle one task at a time rather than 12 tasks at a time. I get a lot more done in a day. Although I’m still seduced by the illusion that if I do more I’ll get more done I start and stop tasks throughout the day much less.
6. Pour Your Heart Into It – I’m sure there are plenty of Starbuck’s haters out there, but no one can deny the success of the company. I have a friend who worked there when he was in graduate school. He took the job because he needed health insurance and could work part-time to receive benefits. He actually liked working there. At the time I was perplexed that a company could create an atmosphere where people felt valued and also liked to work. Now after reading Howard’s book I have a better understanding of how some companies do so.
By this time next year I’ll probably have a top 10 or 15 business books which have influenced me. I actually have left off at least 5 others books so perhaps in the near future I’ll at least get a top 10 list. One thing is certain, I draw on the experience contained in these books not some days, but rather everyday because if I’m not working I’m at the very least thinking about how to be a better entrepreneur almost every waking moment.