Archive for the ‘Bookshelf’ Category


Some of these are unusual choices that don’t fit neatly into the “business book” genre. But being an entrepreneur involves a lot more than nuts and bolts and outcomes, so this list includes books about leading people, making decisions, the broader meaning of wealth… all the other “stuff” that goes into starting a business and running a company. Most importantly, each will make you think—and that’s the best measure of a great book. — Jeff Haden

Best reason to read it: Thirty pages into Thinking, Fast and Slow and you’ll start to question a lot of the decisions you’ve made. Kahneman looks at fast, intuitive, emotional decisions vs. slower, theoretically logical decisions and shows how the two combine (and compete) to help us make judgments—many of them wrong. You’ll learn about risk, predictions, overconfidence, and how to make better decisions. It sounds like heavy going but Kahneman makes it fun, especially if you enjoy laughing at yourself.

Fun takeaway: Framing matters; German judges tended to give a shoplifter a longer sentence if they had just rolled a high number with a pair of dice. Think about that the next time you start to negotiate.

Best reason to read it: Granted it’s a little on the fan-boy side, but In the Plex is probably the best account of the birth and growth of Google. You’ll get a look at the decisions, both technical and business, that made the company what it is. It’s a true inside look at the company and its major (and relatively minor) players, and a non-geeky description of how the various technologies work.

Feel free to skim: Don’t fret if the technical details, especially early on, are hard to follow. Understanding how technologies work isn’t as important as knowing how their use impacts the business.

Best reason to read it: If you like sports, this is your book. If you like behind the scenes access to personalities you’ve watched and listened to for years, this is your book. If you like learning about key decisions that turn a struggling company into a global phenomenon, this is definitely your book. If you don’t like sports and hate ESPN, stay away—otherwise it’s a great read and an instructive tale of how a number of smart, driven people built a business… and how a few might have let a business get away.

Spoiler alert: It’s safe to say Mike Tirico wasn’t a fan of Tony Kornheiser after all.

Best reason to read it: Starting a business is both art and science, and The Lean Startup provides a framework for the science of founding a company. “Lean” doesn’t only refer to bootstrapping, though; it also refers to developing a minimum viable product and then deciding, based on data, when to stay the course or shift directions.

Key Takeaway: As odd as the thought may sound, creativity and innovation can be efficient processes.

Best reason to read it: Many entrepreneurs create a company based on a technology, or a service, or a value proposition… and many have absolutely no leadership or management background. Managing Right for the First Time lays out a simple, logical, and intuitive blueprint that helps new leaders avoid the mistakes the rest of wish we hadn’t made.

Tip: Buy five or 10 and hand them out the same time you hand out promotions.

Best reason to read it: Some companies go through expensive formal transformation initiatives. No matter how comprehensive or “groundbreaking” the process, they won’t work when, as Practically Radical explains, leaders haven’t first challenged and transformed themselves. Taylor shares plenty of behind-the-scenes stories that make the book an easy—in a good way—read.

Key takeaway: If you want your company to stand for something, first you have to stand for something—and look for ideas and innovations where others don’t. Sounds simple but it’s not, and Taylor describes how to turn your big ideas into actions.

Best reason to read it: While the financial crisis is hardly breaking news anymore, the effects will reverberate for years. Boomerang provides an international perspective that will at the very least make you sound a lot more intelligent at parties.

Tip: Anything by Michael Lewis is a great read—he’s the king of making complex subjects light and entertaining reads. Start with Liar’s Poker and work your way forward.

Best reason to read it: Every successful entrepreneur has his or her “what’s it all for?” moments. Beyond Wealth will make you think about a broader, personal approach to success and living a “good life.” (You, of course, get to define what a “good life” is.) If you like to think about your place in the world—and in the world of your family, friends, and community—you’ll enjoy this book. If you like to have your assumptions challenged, you’ll love it.

Key takeaway: The only definition of “true wealth” is the one you choose—and live by.

Best reason to read it: If you’re of a certain generation you’ll love I Want My MTV if for nothing more than all the stories behind the music videos. If you’re not, you’ll love the insiders’ account of how a few people with an idea built a company and sparked massive cultural change. Either way you’ll wish that you too could create a business where other people created and provided your product at no cost to you.

Unfortunate outcome: You’ll feel really bad for Billy Squier.

Best reason to read it: I have a heavy process improvement background, which means I typically run screaming from process improvement books. Little Bets is different, because it transforms those formal, rigorous, boring processes into something a lot more fun: experimenting, taking chances, just giving lots of stuff a try. Sims argues that if you’re not doing the bulk of your learning by doing, you’re probably not learning much.

Fun fact: The writers for The Onion dream up about 600 possibilities for every 18 headlines they run; that’s experimenting.

Best reason to read it: While technically not a business book, Moonwalking With Einstein offers a lot to every entrepreneur. Why? We are what we remember, in life and in business. Foer shares practical—and easy—ways to improve your memory while describing his attempt to win the U.S. Memory Championship (the existence of which is a sure sign there’s a competition for almost anything.)

Cool quote: “People used to labor to furnish their minds. They invested in the acquisition of memories the same way we invest in the acquisition of things.”

Best reason to read it: It’s one of the best underdog stories you’ll encounter. Unlike most founding fathers, Washington didn’t attend college and was always self-conscious about his “defective education.” He got over it, becoming one of the wealthiest Americans of his time, a great general (he lost a lot of battles, but still: You try holding an under-paid, under-fed army together for eight years), allowed public service to cripple him financially, and walked away when he could have become a quasi-king. Oh, and he also helped build an economy and a country.

Tip: Chernow’s other books are also wonderful, especially Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller. Read it and then build your own empire.

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Our CEO Kalika Yap was quoted in Wall Street Journal Today!

Here’s the full article written by Ms. Barbara Haislip

There are countless self-help books aimed at budding entrepreneurs. But which of them have actually helped people start or improve an enterprise?

We asked business owners and educators for the books that have given them the best advice. Here are some of their top picks.

"The E-Myth" By Michael E. Gerber

“The E-Myth”
By Michael E. Gerber 

“Gerber’s book caused me to rethink what I wanted to accomplish in my business and how I was going to do that,” explains J. Richard Braun, owner of Braun Agency Inc., an insurance firm based in Virginia Beach, Va.

“The E-Myth,” he explains, argues that most businesses are started by people who know how to do technical work—such as a plumber who launches a plumbing company—but who don’t know how to run a business. The answer? Build “replicable systems that can and will operate in an owner’s absence,” Mr. Braun says.

By putting those systems in place, owners can hire other technicians to do the company’s core job and then get managers to oversee the business’s various operations. Then the owner can concentrate on the true work of an entrepreneur—providing a vision and overall goals for the company, as well as looking for new opportunities.

For instance, Mr. Braun says, creating systems at his own company “has allowed me to pursue additional ventures, including real-estate investments and other business start-ups.”

"Who: The A Method for Hiring" By Geoff Smart and Randy Street

“Who: The A Method for Hiring”
By Geoff Smart and Randy Street 

“Who” is the book “that has had the most influence on my business,” says Craig Zoberis, president of Fusion Systems Inc., a contract manufacturer based in Burr Ridge, Ill.

The book argues that managers make hiring mistakes half of the time and then must spend precious resources cleaning up after bad employees. The authors provide a four-step process for hiring more smartly, including using professional networks to find the best candidates.

Mr. Zoberis adopted this approach at his 40-employee company in 2009 and now doesn’t have a lot of “mis-hires,” he says. “I have been able to take the fundamentals and strategy for hiring as outlined in ‘Who’ and successfully implement them into Fusion’s hiring process—with undeniable results.”

"Start With Why" By Simon Sinek

“Start With Why”
By Simon Sinek 

“Sinek’s message changed my life. He had me understand why it’s important to know why you’re in a particular business, both for your own fulfillment and for attracting the right customers and employees and ultimately achieving great success,” says David Hassell, CEO of San Francisco software start-up 15Five.

The book argues that companies must give employees some bigger reason to work there, and give customers a cause to align with, not just a product or service to buy, Mr. Hassell says. “It means the difference between having people show up and working for a paycheck, or giving their all,” says Mr. Hassell. “It means the difference between having customers who become evangelists or those who will jump to the cheapest competitor as soon as they can.”

Spelling out his own company’s mission—that all employees can make crucial contributions to a business—has helped build loyalty and trust, he says. Some customers were willing to pay for 15Five’s software while it was still in a rough state, “knowing that we were committed to improving it,” he says. “In fact, one of our beta customers even approached us and offered to pay well before I’d even considered asking them to pay.”

"The Art of the Start" By Guy Kawasaki

“The Art of the Start”
By Guy Kawasaki

This book tackles an old topic—starting a business—but is much more clear, focused and entertaining than a lot of other manuals on the market, says Steven Kaplan, faculty director for the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

It centers on “substance rather than fluff, encouraging entrepreneurs to focus on customers and be specific about their business model,” Mr. Kaplan says. “Start-ups have a tendency to overfocus on how great their technology is, how big the market is. They spend too little time understanding their customers deeply and why the customers actually will buy the technology.” (A caveat: The book is geared toward high-growth and high-value start-ups, such as tech companies, Mr. Kaplan says.)

"Little Bets" By Peter Sims

“Little Bets”
By Peter Sims 

This book demolishes the usual excuses entrepreneurs have for not starting a business, says Saras D. Sarasvathy, an associate professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

For instance, she says, “when people say ‘I don’t have an idea,’ they mean they don’t have a world-changing, path-breaking blockbuster idea—and unless they have a big idea like that they cannot begin.”

“Little Bets,” she says, argues that you don’t need one of those big ideas; you can start with something simple. The book “shows how ‘doing the doable’ without waiting for a big idea, or guarantees about the final outcome, can lead to amazing breakthroughs,” she says.

"Mastering the Rockefeller Habits" By Verne Harnish

“Mastering the Rockefeller Habits”
By Verne Harnish

This guide to developing structured, disciplined routines was “an important influence in my journey from lawn boy to serial entrepreneur,” says Barrett Ersek, CEO of Holganix, a Glen Mills, Pa., start-up for fertilizer supplements.

For instance, Mr. Ersek set up a strict schedule for meetings. He now huddles with his executive team for 1½ days once a year, two hours quarterly, 45 minutes weekly and five minutes daily, and each of the get-togethers has a clearly defined purpose. “Before, we might have had a strategic meeting, but it would occur a lot less frequently,” Mr. Ersek says. “There would be a lot of complaining and little focus.”

"Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs" By Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham

“Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs”
By Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham 

“I wish I had this book before I started my four businesses,” says Kalika Nacion Yap, CEO of Citrus Studios, a Santa Monica, Calif., interactive-design agency. “It would have helped me tremendously and saved a lot of heartache.”

The book covers a range of topics that entrepreneurs need to know about, from basics like managing people and finances to bigger issues like understanding your overall life goals. “Reading this book was like having coffee with a veteran entrepreneur,” Ms. Yap says. “Norm passionately shared real-life experiences that were far more valuable to me than books that merely spout theories. I loved reading the ups/downs and final successes.”

One of Citrus StudiosCore Values is to “Do more with less.” We came upon this article, “Why women make better business owners,” and while we are not trying to say that, we were impressed with the idea that women do more with less! “Women do more with less. This is the rule for today’s economy — but women have been doing it for decades. Attracting far less in the way of institutional and venture funding, women build more businesses and more jobs than business on average. They’re more focused on profit than revenue, extremely thrifty and allergic to waste.” A few things we do at the office to abide by the Value are:

Using old magazines for wrapping paper.
Using and reusing decorations for parties.
Using glasses for drinking water, as opposed to bottles.
Using scrap paper in our printer.

Read more here!

I’m currently reading Peter H. Thomas’ inspiring new book: Be Great – The Five Foundations of an Extraordinary Life in Business – and Beyond. I received the book during the Entrepreneurs Organization Global Leadership Conference. Thank you for the book!


“I firmly believe that everyone can have the life they want. They just need a book like this to help guide them. Cars have operating manuals, as do Blackberry devices and even blenders, so why not humans? All you need is a pen and a piece of paper, or laptop, your brain and this book.”

Peter was the founder of Century 21 Canada.