If you ever asked someone outside a school environment to recommend you a business book, nine times out of ten they will refer you to a financial literacy book (usually one of Robert Kiyosaki’s) or far more likely, a motivational one. The aim of these books is to alter your mindset and give you that extra push you need to start out on your own entrepreneurial journey. Many an ambitious young person can trace their passion for business to one of these books. Unfortunately, these are not sustainable reading material for anyone who wants to progress beyond sounding clever in bank queues.
After you have received your dose of inspiration from the aforementioned texts you then have to acquire the actual practical knowledge needed to start and run the business of your choice. Over the years I have read a lot of books and found some to be more informative and useful than others. Here I have compiled a list of some of the books which I wish I had discovered much, much earlier. While the selections are biased towards tech entrepreneurship, the books themselves were written for all business audiences. This means that every current and aspiring entrepreneur should find these books to be invaluable additions to their reading collection.
“The lean startup” by Eric Ries
In this highly influential book, Mr Ries argues that all business and product ideas are nothing but assumptions that need to be tested as cheaply as possible. This testing must be done before any more resources are allocated towards the idea. He recommends that when you come up with an idea for a new product or service, you should first build a “minimum viable product” as soon as possible to test the market response. If the response of your customers does not meet your expectations then you can keep iterating. Iterating means you will be continuously tweaking and testing your m.v.p until it better resonates with its target audience. If this never happens you are advised to start working on a completely different product instead. This is called pivoting. After pivoting you repeat the iteration cycle.
I recommend this book particularly for those who have created or are in the process of creating new products. Sometimes no matter how well you are marketing your product, its present implementation may not be the best that it can be which results in you losing potential users and customers. I have seen websites and apps which are launched with dozens of features which the creator assumed the users would want. Hopefully, after reading this book, the products you create will be more streamlined, with features that you are sure customers really want.
“Yes!” by Dr Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin & Dr Robert B. Cialdini
In this book the popular behavioural psychology professor, Cialdini teams up with two others to outline what makes people resist or embrace messages such as personal requests, advertisements and even public notices. The book gives examples from real life and academic research while guiding us on how we can increase the likelihood of people doing what we want. This book will affect the way you market your products. The authors will bring to your attention the little things that influence peoples’ decisions in everyday life and how you can use them to your advantage. A must-read for business people who want to make their marketing and communication efforts more effective. This book is also possibly the most entertaining on this list.
“Traction” by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares
As I have mentioned in the past, Zimbabwean tech entrepreneurs have trouble figuring out how to market their products which often leads to failure, which is then blamed on the poor economy. “Traction” will help the modern entrepreneur take a closer look at his or her approach to marketing. Like Eric Ries, these authors believe in continuous experimentation. In this case, the reader is presented with the 19 marketing channels which they can use. Each then must be tested for effectiveness until a few remain. And like Ries, the authors emphasize the importance of keeping an eye on metrics to see what is and what is not working in their marketing campaigns. This is a very informative and interesting read for people who want to figure out how to better market their products and businesses.
“Start your own business” by the staff of Entrepreneur Media Inc
This book is written by the brains behind the Entrepreneur magazine. It is full of practical advice for every business stage from idea conception, right through naming it to handling your accounting. While some of the material may not be locally relevant it is filled with informative and inspirational case studies. Some of the best lessons come from these case studies and the entrepreneurs who are interviewed in the book. As an added bonus the book has several editions each with slightly varying content from the last.