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Ask HN: What books helped you in your entrepreneurship journey?

Ask HN: What books helped you in your entrepreneurship journey?

2023-03-15 09:16:23

1. “Lean Startup” (pretty standard)

2. “Spin Selling” (sales)

3. “The Four-Hour Work Week” (not because of the way of life promised in the misleading title, but because of the links to useful Websites, and for motivational reading)

4. “The One Billion Dollar App” (silly title but fantastic book from an actual taxi app product manager – I almost didn’t buy it because of the title, thank God I opened it anyway and started reading about viral marketing which like the tracking of pandemic is based on the r coefficient).

5. “Business Model Generation” (the mechanics of making money)

6. “The Startup Owner’s Manual”

7. “Why Startups Fail” (anti-patterns – better read about them before you get trapped by them)

8. “The Company Secretary Handbook” (UK only)

9. “Die Unternehmergesellschaft (UG): Gründung, Geschäftsführung, Recht und Steuern für kleinere Unternehmen und Start-Ups” (Germany only)

10. “Founders At Work” (motivational)

11. “Financial Times Essential Guides Writing a Business Plan: How to win backing to start up or grow your business” (to get clarity, write a plan – for yourself, to align all co-founders and the team, to get VC funding, to convince yourself that the business is financially viable)

“The Art of Action” It has changed how I approach everything, not just how I run my business. Is applying approaches used in militaries to organize action around the leader’s intent, taking action in the right general direction, and delegating the “what” (the intent) but not the “how” of the way it is actually achieved.

I assume you’re not interested in hearing the obvious ones (zero to one, lean startup, etc., etc.) so I’ll recommend two.

At the early stages when you’re defining your strategy? “Good strategy/bad strategy” by Richard P. Rumelt. “Strategy” is thrown around a whole lot in business, often by somebody who is talking about a goal, as opposed to how to reach it. This book can get a little repetitive but the overarching teachings are valuable and will serve you well throughout your entrepreneurship journey.

After the startup phase (growth/acquisition)? I recommend “The messy middle” by Scott Belsky.

The messy middle was fantastic. Only reason I didn’t list it in my comment below was that I read it recently and I’m 11 years in.

Highly recommend the book.

Traction, by Weinberg.

It goes over the various sales channels. How you get customers should really be the #1 priority for your startup.

Building stuff is easy. Getting customers is hard. And “if you build it they will come” doesn’t really work most of the time IRL.

The E-Myth – creating systems and processes

The Personal MBA – crash course MBA

Founders At Work – understanding how different startups survived

Buy Back Your Time – management and delegation

The Charisma Myth – to help w/ charm for sales

SPIN Selling – this + The Charisma Myth more than doubled our sales conversion rate

These books were the most crucial for me

+1 for mentioning Neil Rackham’s (1988) classic “Spin Selling”.

Got it recommended from a friend after his exit (and after buying a French mansion from his share of the proceeds) when I asked him what he can recommend on understanding sales, in particular sales of (complex) technology. It’s indeed a marvel for people new to selling.

Lots of good suggestions here. One I don’t see is Wotdke’s “Radical Focus”. It’s about OKRs, but don’t be put off by prior big-corp experiences with it. The book focuses on using them in an entrepreneurial context and it’s great. Even if you decide to come up with your own system, this will help clarify what you want out of a way to set goals and make sure you’re on track for them.

Entrepreneurship Negotiation by Dinnar and Susskind covers some of the most fundamental topics anyone wanting to become an entrepreneur must know.

I also find Richard Thaler work (Nudge, Misbehaving) very helpful particularly if you are in the B2C domain.

The Black Swan by Taleb is another book I find myself going back to often; it’s been of great help for decision making under lots of uncertainty.

You can get all the meaning you need from The Black Swan by just reading the first few chapters. Taleb has a nasty habit of saying the same thing over and over again and stretching it out to an entire book.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things. We bought a copy for every employee at my last company to help convey the messages that startups are not designed to be tons of fun but rather a tough (yet rewarding) grind. This was especially important for people who were coming from bigger companies to understand.

Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection by Jia Jiang

Highly enjoyable read! This book really captures the entrepreneurial experience of interviewing for insights while focusing on the fear of rejection, which is a major problem that isn’t typically found in most other books on entrepreneurship.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany – Steve Blank

The Discipline of Market Leaders – Fred Wiersema and Michael Treacy

It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small…It’s the Fast that Eat the Slow – Jason Jennings

Mastering The Complex Sale – Jeff Thull

How To Measure Anything – Douglas Hubbard

Sprint (product development and testing)

It left me with a more fundamental, “first principles” outlook on the 5 key stages of doing _anything_:

1. Understand

2. Explore

See Also

3. Decide

4. Prototype/Build

5. Test

So for example, when things often go wrong it’s because a stage was skipped, done out of sequence, or extremely neglected.

Traction by Weinberg. Understanding the distribution of your product, how to think about it and how much resources to devote to it was a missing piece for me as a technical founder. I easily fall into the fallacy of “build it and they will come” even when I don’t think I do.

While I briefly ran a ‘start up’ with a friend (we weren’t what most people here would consider a start up), we used the book ‘Business Model Generation’ almost weekly as we adjusted our business and pitched for new work.

I still go back to that when kicking off a new project.

I’ve read a tall stack of business books, and in all honesty, I think only one of them was of any real value to me. It also has the benefits of being short and an easy read.

“The Incredible Secret Money Machine II” by Don Lancaster

Steve Blank’s blog (not a book, I know) + The Startup Owners Manual also by Steve Blank.

Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen.

The two helped me understand what it meant to ‘get out of the building’.

7 Powers + Good Strategy Bad Strategy helped me think long term about the business model and evolution of the company.

I love autobiographies. Made in Japan (Sony), Made in America (Walmart), My Father Marconi (not quite an autobiography, but by his daughter).

My Father Marconi especially. The story of when he sent the first radio transmission across the air in his attic as a boy is wild.

– Awareness by Anthony DeMello

– The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi

– The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand

– Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove

More stuff here: (not flagged particular to entrepreneurship however all have had an affect in a method or one other).

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