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18 Must Read Business Books for Emerging Entrepreneurs and Startups

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Reading is both relaxation and training for the mind. Who reads, dives into another world. Learning, entertaining and breaking out of everyday life for a short moment. One could go even so far as to say reading is the second most beautiful thing in the world! Whether it is non-fiction or a novel of all the world’s man has created, the book is the most powerful tool. That is also, why we wanted to find out which business book you should undertake in the new year.

Here are 18 business books you might not have heard of but you need to read:

1. Prediction Machines by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, Avi Goldfarb

The book “Prediction Machines” helps to classify the development of artificial intelligence and deal constructively with uncertainty about changes. The book first appeared in October and highlights the changes that AI inevitably brings with it. The three renowned economists give an overview of the possibilities of AI and deal with economic issues related to this technology. This book offers some illustrative examples of use.

2. Growth Hacking with Strategy by Hendrik Lennarz

The book by Hendrik Lennarz provides numerous tips and practical examples for the successful introduction of a growth hacking strategy for companies. The spectrum ranges from organization through product development to marketing and customer loyalty. The growth-hacking-readiness checklist is particularly useful here. In my view, the book is a must for anyone looking to maximize user growth.

3. 7 Ways to Effectiveness by Stephen R. Covey

A classic among the business advisers, which appeared in 1989, but has since lost none of its topicality. Covey describes the habits of successful individuals and derives universal principles from them. They help me both in my professional and personal life and are reflected in the successful development of extremely strong teams. The book is one of the most influential business books of the last 100 years, according to Time Magazine.

4. Digital Offroad by Ulf Bosch, Stefan Hentschel, Steffen Kramer

“Digital Offroad” shows that digitization should not be considered one-dimensional. It touches just every area of a company and must, therefore, be understood as a holistic challenge and an opportunity. The authors argue that digitization has an impact on a variety of factors, including corporate culture. Provocative thesis that reveal important questions, as well as best practices, make “Digital Offroad” an absolute must-read for me.

5. The Startup Code by Johannes Ellenberg

In seven chapters, the book sums up clearly and pragmatically what middle-sized companies can and must learn from startups. It clearly represents startups and why they are better prepared for the future. Johannes Ellenberg, who helped set up the startup scene in Stuttgart, explains how companies have to change their course and adapt to changing market conditions in order to remain sustainable. A new mindset is postulated: cooperation instead of competition!

“Reading is a way for me to expand my mind, open my eyes and fill up my heart.” – Oprah Winfrey

6. From Zero to One by Peter Thiel

“From Zero to One” is full of unconventional perspectives on starting a business. The basic idea of the Silicon Valley veteran Peter Thiel is to build something fundamentally new — a monopoly. He explains what has to happen to ensure long-term success and how to protect this monopoly from imitators. From the book, I was able to draw many valuable ideas for our own startup — a real must-read for anyone who wants to start their own business!

7. The Platform Revolution by Geoffrey Parker, Marshall van Alstyne, Sangeet Choudary

Although the book was published in 2016, the content is more relevant than ever. The authors clarify all important questions about the development of a successful platform business model and the concepts can be applied to both B2B and B2C. The examples are very practice-oriented and the analysis of how established companies can adapt to new requirements in the market is sound. Whether founder of a startup or established player in a changing market, this book is a must for everyone!

8. Artificial Intelligence by Peter Buxmann, Holger Schmidt

Holger Schmidt is an economist and journalist on platform economics and has even developed a stock index exclusively for listed companies with platform business models. In his new title, he and some colleagues are scientifically dedicated to artificial intelligence and its impact on the economy and society. The book deals with many myths and provides exciting facts and case studies. The book is very inspiring for me.

9. Fast thinking, slow thinking by Daniel Kahneman

This excellent book opens your eyes to the countless limitations and influences of your own thinking. It helps to reflect on how decisions and assessments – which you as a founder and entrepreneur must constantly make — actually come about and this often does not go as rationally as you would wish. Admittedly, it takes some time to read — definitely not easy reading — but it is worth it.

10. Founder to CEO by Matt Mochary

I can recommend this book to anyone because it covers the most important start-up and growth topics: competencies and motivation in the team, knowledge transfer and productivity, cash flow, finances and scaling — all in all, the perfect sweeping blow. Founders who are CEOs for the first time will find guidelines and answers for challenges. Long-time CEOs can use the guide to reassess their own and the company’s performance.

11. Rethinking Agility by Klaus Leopold

The book “Agile Rethinking” by Klaus Leopold is my book highlight for 2019. Just 136 pages of concentrated knowledge with precise illustrations of why agile teams alone are not enough if you want to re-think the entire company and be agile. A case study, which shows all the problems and the appropriate solutions in the practical example. My clear recommendation for every leadership team at C-level — from 50 employees to a global corporation.

12. The Startup Way by Eric Ries

Eric Ries is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who helps large and small organizations with transformation processes. He helps them to focus on their customers and their requirements with little capital and lean processes in order to bring the right products to the market. Based on his experience of the past twenty years, Ries has developed a system of corporate governance that leads to stable growth and sustainable effect.

13. Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari describes in his bestseller how people have striven to challenge the status quo from the very beginning. At the same time, he explores the question of what a world in which man has become “homo deus” through technological progress looks like. A must-read for the entire tech industry, which deals with future topics and looks for the appropriate modus operandi. Harari points out the potential of innovation and warns to think about developments from the potential end.

14. The Design Thinking Playbook by Michael Lewrick, Patrick Link, Larry Leifer

Design thinking is a great approach that defines customer needs and practical use cases for these needs for constant innovation. Too many companies are still pursuing an “inside out” approach, focusing on internal skills and innovation plans in the development of new services and products. The book provides a playful approach to the methods and tools used. It also provides sufficiently detailed and clear explanations for those who want to get directly involved in the practical application of design thinking.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Joseph Addison

15. Smart Business – Alibaba’s Strategy Secret by Ming Zeng

Alibaba looks at some digital transformations we are about to face and which an almost unbelievable success is the group’s platforms attract more users than the US, and earn higher margins than Amazon. Alibaba’s chief strategy officer Ming Zeng, who is also a former professor, discusses the guidelines for the world of artificial intelligence. Spoiler: human creativity and innovative ability are essential.

16. Hard Things about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

The book gives an open and realistic view of entrepreneurship, with all difficulties. Through the own experiences of the author and Silicon Valley investor Ben Horowitz, the tips and advice are very practical and have a real added value for the reader. After reading, you are prepared for the next lows as an entrepreneur. Many books and guides ignore the negative aspects of founding. That is not the case here. A real recommendation for every entrepreneur!

17. Digital Vortex by Michael Wade, James Macauly, Jeff Loucks

A vortex described in fluid mechanics is a mathematically not precisely formable circular flow, which sucks things with increasing speed into their center. Metaphorically transferred to organizations, they whirl chaotically along the flow, collide, merge or dissolve completely. They head for the center of the movement — a digital revolution. For entrepreneurs, the question of what role they play with their company in the wake of digitization is decisive. Therefore, the question of what incumbents should know as they move in the digital vortex is at the heart of the book.

18. Measure What Matters by John Doerr

My must-read for 2019: “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr. He describes how goals and responsibilities can be defined and controlled by means of objectives and key results. In particular, the case studies and knowledge resources in the book help to understand the approach and to find starting points for the implementation in their own environment. In summary, a very practice-oriented book that shows possibilities for direct involvement.

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Max Babych is serial entrepreneur and IT professional. Owner of https://spdload.com/. His focus optimizes the business process and increases KPIs. Expert in Growth Hacking, Lean Methodology and Customer Development approach. You can reach him through LinkedIn.

Entrepreneurs

Want to Be an Entrepreneur? It’s Impossible Without These 3 Characteristics

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They go by many names: self-employed, 1099 Contractor, Side Hustle, CEO, Business Owner, or Agency Owner, but our favorite term is Entrepreneur. No more working for the “man!” Be your own boss, set your own hours, answer to no one is the cry of everyone that has ever had to punch a clock, ask to take a bathroom break or be elated with a 5% raise. Why would anyone want to work for someone else for 40 years when they can work for themselves and make millions?

If you could only will things into existence by belief, we’d all be the boss. With over 300 Million people living in America today, only 15 million of those are self-employed full time.

We’ve all heard of the Pareto Principle, right?  The 80/20 rule? In sales, business ownership, and entrepreneurship that means only 20% have the right skills, masteries and characteristics to succeed. My personal experience in observing thousands of other entrepreneurs makes me think Pareto might have under-promised and over-delivered. Seems as if only 5% have what it takes.

So what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? I believe all the books, podcasts, blogs, webinars, and self-help seminars on this subject could be summed up with the following three simple characteristics:

1. Working Smarter and Harder than Mark Zuckerberg presenting before Congress

At the end of the day, a millionaire mindset cannot be paired with a part-time work ethic. I wholeheartedly believe that there are two types of entrepreneurs in the world: the work horses and the lame ducks.

Entrepreneurs put in more hours than anyone else. It’s mandatory to succeed. Yet, they are not empty hours wasted on non-productive activities. You have to be efficient with your time.

The lame duck entrepreneur can be described as continually using their time to do something well, that needs not to be done at all, as Brian Tracy says. They’re busy doing mundane tasks that are not sales generating activities. While a work horse entrepreneur has developed a system that focuses only on the most important sales generating activities and either eliminates everything else or delegates the rest to an assistant.

You have to have an extraordinary work ethic to make it as an entrepreneur these days. There are 1000 other guys right behind you clawing and scraping to win. Do you have the smart, dialed-in, planned out work ethic required to succeed? Do you have that drive to succeed? I hope so.

“When I was young, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work.” – George Bernard Shaw

2. Downloading more Data than the IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence

“Always be closing” is the mantra at the sales seminar. It should be scrapped and changed to “always be learning.” Closing is easy, but if you stop learning, you won’t have the right product or service for long.

Some studies say that knowledge is doubling every 12 months. Think about that for a second. If you had truly gained mastery in a subject and waited a year or two, you’d now be a dinosaur. It’s been said that most people don’t have 20 years’ experience, but one year of experience repeated 20 times.

You have to continually be learning and staying at the forefront of your niche. Watch the early adopters, test the waters and figure out a way to improve upon what they’ve done. Find someone that has mastered an area that you want to excel in and buy their course, attend their seminar, or read their book.

Experience is a teacher, but it’s a difficult way to learn. Find those that have trail blazed the path before you and implement what they tell you to do. Every successful entrepreneur has had dozens if not hundreds of mentors over their lifetime. It’s been said that your net worth is equal to your network. To succeed you have to continually hit the books.

3. Treat your Finances like you are Warren Buffet’s Hedge Fund Manager

Guess what? You can have the strongest work ethic in the world, you can watch every YouTube video and listen to every podcast created for your niche, but if you’re broke all the time, you’ll never succeed. You have to have some money to make money.

Now what I’m about to tell you used to be common sense because it’s very basic, but balancing a checkbook, creating a budget, spending your money wisely is no longer common knowledge. If you do not have a budget written out, that accounts for every dollar coming in and every dollar going out, then you are doing life wrong! Look up a simple online budget and put it all on paper.

Make a budget for your personal finances. Then start a business checking account. Drop in as much operating capital as you can. Then, create your budget for your business. Write it all down. Take what you’ve learned from your mentors and apply your exemplary work ethic and go make some money.

Pay yourself a meager salary until you have enough money saved in your business account to pay cash for a mid-sized sedan. Then give yourself a raise! Learn what your cost per acquisition is and pull that lever over and over again.

Be willing to invest in your business. Buy the courses and materials needed to grow in your niche. Investing in your business wisely and prudently is the only way to scale up your business and be truly successful.

“Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.” – Will Rogers

There’s a reason that the richest 1% own half the world’s wealth. They have the drive to work harder and smarter than anyone else, they’ve invested in the best mentors and coaches, and are continually learning to stay on the cutting edge in their field. Additionally, they’ve mastered the simple money management skills that are necessary to fund the whole endeavor. Do you have what it takes?

Which one of the above 3 characteristics do you think is the most important to succeed? Share your thoughts below!

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9 Reasons Why Attending Networking Events is Crucial for Entrepreneurial Success

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No matter how big or small your business is, as an entrepreneur, you must attend as many industry-relevant networking events and conferences as possible. Communicating with other like-minded and motivated people can take your business to the next level and lead to startup success.

Shockingly, 30% of new businesses don’t make it past the first 24 months. By attending networking events and conferences, you can acquire the tools required to ensure your business doesn’t fall into this percentage. Essentially, attending events could save your business. What’s more, most networking events and conferences are free or incredibly low budget.

If you’re still on the fence about attending events, here are 9 of the most notable benefits for your startup:

1. To learn from the best

No entrepreneur, no matter how talented they are, can possibly know everything about everything. Attending networking and conference events is a chance to learn from other entrepreneurs who have been in similar positions and learn from their gains and their loses.

2. To create contacts

In today’s digital world, where most communication happens online, there’s nothing more valuable than face-to-face interaction. Networking events allow for these valuable interactions and to create contacts. The good thing about networking events is that they often allow for speed networking, allowing for multiple interactions in a set period of time. By partaking, you can massively extend your network base.

3. To generate customers

Depending on the type of networking or conference event, and the services you offer, you may find customers. A good way to generate customers at an event is by engaging in discussions about your services and by presenting in front of the crowds.

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” – Bill Nye

4. To learn about the industry

Often, entrepreneurs are too busy growing their business that they forget to see the wider industry and disruption can come as a major surprise. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to be prepared and attending events can shine a light on any industry changes, giving you time to plan and prepare ahead.

5. To find partners

Networking and conference events often have a specific topic and theme. Therefore, the people that attend the event are usually in a similar industry and have much in common. These events are perfect for finding new business partners by finding people that complement the services you offer. It can be useful talking to competitors too as you can potentially work together for an optimised version of a project.

6. To meet investors

The best way to engage the attention of an investor is by speaking directly to them. Face-to-face conversations can build trust and begin the foundation for a future relationship. Investors often attend networking and conference events to get to know the up-and-coming businesses in the industry.

7. To be inspired

Once you start networking with like-minded people it’s easy to find creativity, be inspired and come up with new ways to advance your business. You will come away from the event with new ideas and a new lease of life on your business.

8. To build recognition

Recognition can be one of the biggest obstacles for a start-up. Online marketing may not have the desired outcome if you don’t spread the word effectively. Networking is a great opportunity to meet potential customers and build recognition by engaging on your product or services. Most networking events allow for startups to stand or pitch in front of attendees which is a great opportunity to build recognition around your product or service.

9. Because you’ve got nothing to lose

No matter what industry you’re in, you’re guaranteed to pick up something when attending a networking or conference event. From making valuable connections to finding out what customers think of your product, there are many benefits to events.

“Behind every successful person there are many successful relationships.” – Joe Apfelbaum

From gaining inspiration to learning about the industry, building recognition to generating valuable connections, networking and conference events are crucial for event success. However, turning up to an event is simply not enough. You must put as much effort in as possible by talking to as many people as you can.

When networking, get out of your comfort zone and engage with people of all job levels and all industries. When it comes to business, it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.

Once the event has ended, always follow up with your new connections via an email, phone call or LinkedIn message. It’s important to get in touch while you’re fresh in the mind of your connection to lay the foundation of future cooperation. Lastly, always remember events are fun and never take them too seriously.


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6 Creative Ways to Hype Up a New Product on Social Media

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It’s the week before the big product launch, and you’ve been asked to help with a big marketing splash. The problem is despite brainstorming for a few weeks and pushing out a few tweets to build the pre-launch buzz, you’re out of ideas. But merely wondering how to help the new product capture the minds of prospects and customers doesn’t really help.

Here are 6 creative things you should consider to generate excitement for your product in the target market:

1. Create a goal

Don’t limit your awareness program to merely “make people aware” of the product. Go beyond the ideal definition and expand it. There has to be a goal that assists you to measure the success of your program.

This goal can be the number of followers you drive to your webpage, or probably the ones who sign up for more updates. Find out what other options work best for you and let them guide you through the awareness campaign. The key is to make it measurable and ensure if your website is any good; it is fully geared to be not much more than a giant lead magnet.

2. Sell smart, not hard

No matter how much effort you put in, if you don’t do it smart, they’ll lead you to failure. Just because you are leveraging social media, doesn’t imply you can aim in the dark and wait for the arrow to hit the target miraculously. Make sure you very well know the problems that you are trying to solve.

Analyze the people affected by those issues and what attracts them. Leverage social media, but target your buyer personas. New products are often a great time to reconnect with existing clients and prospects. A fantastic way to do this is by getting your sales team to share the content and measure the engagements and click-through rate. Once you have the comparative view handy, you can make the most of social platforms.

“Working hard is very important. You are not going to get anywhere without working extremely hard.” – George Lucas

3. Strike a chord

Personalization is the key to hit the sweet spot in the hearts of buyers. Have the sales team personalize the message. Give your employees the chance to explain the value to their networks.

Write high-level social copy for the various vertical markets you serve and then set the team lose in honing the conversation online. Done effectively, the click-through rate can go through the roof!  

4. Build engaging content

Consider buyer personas while drafting the social copy of your content. And take note, we are referring to buyer personas, not a persona. It includes more than one streak of your ideal buyers.

Invest time in understanding the critical aspect of each of them. Make sure you know what your product has to offer to each of them and translate that understanding to explain this value proposition. The better you do at segmenting the message, the more clicks and engagements your content will produce.  

5. Don’t reveal too much

Sometimes, marketers get carried away and unveil too much of the information in the pre-launch phase itself. What is left for the final big reveal? Apparently nothing but the product itself. And mind you, dear friend, curiosity killed the cat because she could not withhold it. Why not leverage this mentality for your product marketing as well?

Build anticipation and create mystery around the product. Drop hints, create hype but make sure you have some excitement reserved for the actual launch. Don’t disclose every significant twist.

“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.” – Andrew Davis

6. Narrate a story

Compelling narratives are a powerful way to engage people with your product even before it hits the shelves. Let the existing buyers talk about their experience with your current products. Not only will it talk about your offerings, but it’ll also highlight the positive relationship with existing clients. That’s something that can pay dividends when building a bond with the new ones. Additionally, you receive attention from followers of the customers you are showcasing.

Is your product launch is just a few days ahead, and you need to create product hype on social media? Well, it is quite a task to make the pre-launch ripples. But these six creative strategies can help you get the job done effectively. Use these ideas to showcase the hard work your product team has done and ensure a successful product launch.

Which one of the above 6 ways to market a product do you believe is most important and why? Share your thoughts below!

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5 Skills I Learned in the Military That Helped Me Become a Successful Entrepreneur

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The moves I’ve made in my career from the military, to the mining industry, to running a multinational business in Latin America, aren’t linear. It’s not every day an ex-Australian military officer finds their niche in Latin American business.

Graduating from Australia’s Royal Military College and Defense Force Academy, I served as a commissioned officer in the Australian Army for nearly 11 years, completing operational tours to Central Asia and the Middle East.

The transition from various Army engineering and infantry roles through to managing a team of legal and financial executives was neither quick nor painless. But, as I entered the company formation process, I found my military service played a significant role in shaping my entrepreneurial fitness. The skills I developed in the Australian Defense Force supported me through several commercial iterations more than once.

Here are some of the key connections I drew between core military values and those I apply to the boardroom environment:

1. Be calculated and decisive

Unsurprisingly, a crucial requisite of military functionality is working quickly and effectively under pressure. This rings especially true for the strategic planners of operations: the commissioned and non-commissioned officers.

My military role made tough demands on me to decide on the best course of action for myself and my team. When deployed overseas, making the wrong decision or not making a decision fast enough could mean failing our mission, and putting people in danger.

In business, it’s vital to understand, analyze and communicate the risks involved in the options laid out before you at various stages. Making offers to clients, moving into a new market, investing large amounts of money into projects. And decisions need to be made based on this analysis before these opportunities pass by.

I can confidently draw on my experiences in service to act fast and capitalize on opportunities as they become available, and make tough decisions in high-pressure situations.

“You cannot make progress without making decisions.” – Jim Rohn

2. Resilience is key

Resilience is fundamental to success in any military career. In training and on operations, one soldier’s spiralling morale could put an entire section in danger. Military personnel are vetted for their adaptability and mental strength from day one, using tried-and-true techniques to push people to their limits.

Having a high level of resilience allows you to cope when things don’t go to plan in business. Investments might not show returns as quickly as hoped, a competitor snatches up an important client, or a difficult situation arises between staff that needs careful management.

I can confidently draw on military-learned techniques to support my own and others’ resilience in the office. Being able to maintain a high level of morale among teams fosters productivity and a willingness to ‘soldier on’ in challenging situations.

3. Leadership and cooperation

People in leadership positions are those that others turn to for advice and support. As a leader, you have to be prepared to make tough decisions that others can’t or won’t. A high-performing team has a courageous, empowering, and communicative leader at its helm.

This is as true in the military as it is in business. Building the right team and driving them to success is both challenging and rewarding – whether the outcome is securing a key logistical foothold to allow aid and other supplies to travel into a war-torn area, or seeing a newly-opened office secure its first major client.

4. Discipline

Not every soldier has an easy time appreciating the ubiquity of drills in their military workplace, nor their role in underpinning the success of a smooth operation. But a lack of discipline is tantamount to putting oneself and others at risk. Ignoring lawful orders, or not applying proper first-aid to a fellow soldier, are a couple of examples of this.

To me, commercial discipline means being professional always, even in stressful or frustrating situations. Maintain integrity in everything you do, and don’t cut corners. Carrying out proper legal and financial procedures means staying compliant under local law, and avoiding complications with authorities.

Staying committed to an objective and refusing to drop standards enables you to build a credible reputation for your business that clients hold in high regard.

“We don’t have to be smarter than the rest, we have to be more disciplined than the rest.” – Warren Buffett

5. Cultural awareness

Finally, but no less importantly, showing respect for cultural customs in business is essential for cultivating strong professional relationships. Being aware of your cultural background, and sensitive to those of others, will help build social connections, and make you more relatable to others.

Foreign militaries operating in troubled parts of the world understand that building trust with local individuals and communities is imperative. Without that trust, moving around becomes difficult and more dangerous. To gain trust, soldiers must show respect for people’s culture and way of life.

The same is true in business. A small hiccup such as not shaking hands, or giving an air-kiss to a new acquaintance here in Latin America could start an entire working relationship off on the wrong foot. Cultural sensitivity shows a willingness to embrace people and their society. Never underestimate the significance people place on this element when evaluating your suitability as a professional partner.

It’s no secret that commercial success requires passion, hard work, and dedication. Don’t be afraid to call upon your own and others’ previous experiences to find solutions to problems or forge ahead with complex projects. For military personnel considering testing out their business acumen, be confident that your years of service to your country have also set you up for success in the world of business.

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