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10 Books Business Owners Should Read This Christmas

Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection, an ideal time to take stock, look at the triumphs of the previous year and look to the horizon for the next great challenge.

Since many businesses tend to close down for the holidays, it is also the perfect chance to steal away some private time to curl up with a good book.

We have put together a list of some of our favourite titles that are not only engaging to read but can also spark the next big idea to help you grow your business in 2018.

Books-1
Principles - Life & Work

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Once referred to as the “the Steve Jobs of investing”, Ray Dalio has made a name for himself as one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs. Starting out in a two bedroom flat in 1975, he built his investment firm, Bridgewater Associates, to become the fifth most important private company in the United States, according to Fortune magazine.

In his book, Principles: Life and Work, he shares a series of somewhat unconventional principles, which he has developed and refined with experience over the course of his career, which can be adopted by any individual or business on the road to success.

His book lays out hundreds of practical lessons encompassing what he describes as “an idea meritocracy that strives to achieve meaningful work and meaningful relationships through radical transparency.” Using his tools both individuals and organisations can develop new ways to approach decisions and challenges while also building long lasting and stronger interpersonal team dynamics. In addition to real-world business applications, the book also offers personal insights that Dalio believes anyone can apply to their life, even outside the workplace.


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Even the best ideas and products can wither on the vine if they don’t stand out and offer something truly remarkable to customers. Seth Godin’s book has given this X-Factor a term – The Purple Cow. It is that thing that big companies like Apple, Starbucks and Dyson have used to rise above competitors and create brands that breed loyalty and advocacy from its customers.

Godin believes that the golden age of advertising is over. Focusing solely on pricing, promotion and publicity are no longer good enough to make a brand noticeable. You also need to be a Purple Cow to avoid becoming invisible in a sea of brown. You need to offer something phenomenal, counterintuitive, exciting or flat-out unbelievable so customers will stand up and distinguish your message from the white noise of traditional advertising.

In his book, he talks of ways you can put a Purple Cow into everything you do in order to create a product, service or experience that is truly unique and worth marketing in the first place.

Books-5
22 Immutable Laws

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In order to defy gravity, an airliner must adhere to the laws of physics or it will never get the chance to soar. For a business to defy all odds and soar, it similarly should adhere to a set of laws when connecting with customers – the laws of marketing.

Al Ries and Jack Trout, world-renowned marketing consultants and best-selling authors of Positioning, have created The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing which they believe are essential for the successful growth of any brand.

These are principles every business owner should know for understanding and succeeding in the international marketplace. It includes chapters such as ‘The Law of Leadership’, ‘The Law of Failure’ and ‘The Law of Candor’ which respectively talk about being first to market, expecting and accepting failures as well as admitting your flaws to build positivity. By following these 22 laws, you can better communicate with your customers and gain valuable insights to drive future growth.


Hard Thing

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While many of us talk about how great it feels to start a new business, we tend to keep things closer to the chest when discussing the difficulties we have experienced when developing a startup. In this book, Ben Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, turns off the filter and tells it straight in order to provide advice on building and running a startup while surviving sleepless nights, stress and hard decisions when things aren’t necessarily going right.

Filled with his trademark humor and amplified with lessons set to the lyrics of his favourite rap songs, Horowitz shares insights he has gained while developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. He talks about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in. The Hard Thing About Hard Things is not only equally invaluable for veteran and inspiring entrepreneurs but is also a fun and entertaining read that will make you think about how to better approach your business in the new year.

Books-7
Creativity Inc

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You may not know the name Ed Catmull but you certainly know of his dream. As a young man he strived to make the world’s first computer animated movie. Following a Ph.D at the University of Utah and an early partnership with George Lucas, he founding a company with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986 would see his dream become a reality. Over the next nine years, against all odds, Pixar created Toy Story which changed animation forever.

Creativity Inc, offers a candid look into the early days of Pixar, what makes it special and why it is essential that business owners possess a deep sense of courage and vision if they want to create something truly original. It is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights and a manual for anyone who strives for originality. In a world that tends to find comfort in familiarity it can be a hard battle to fight when trying to push something that doesn’t stick to tried and proven methods and ideas. However, to innovate you must find reassurance in the discomfort of originality.

Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so admired and, ultimately, highly profitable. It is, at heart, a book about how to build and sustain a creative culture—but it is also, as Catmull writes, ‘an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.’


Tools of Titans

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Tim Ferriss, the best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, has put together a collection of tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers gleaning from the many interviews he has conducted as part of his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show. His guests range from Hollywood celebrities and sports icons to pillars of industry, the military and even a black-market biochemist.

His focus is on understanding what makes the day-to-day lives of these greats different from everyone else in order to devise actionable tools. He asks his interviewees a barrage of very specific questions to collate the minutiae into tools that can be applied others. Understanding the first 60 minutes of each morning, how and why they work out, what books they have gifted to other people and what they believe are the biggest wastes of time for novices in their field are just some of the topics that are drawn upon.

This is a fascinating look into the lives of these personalities and the way Ferriss has distilled them into tools and tactics can be easily adapted to open your mind to possible ways to structure your life that have been proven to work for others. We all live in the messy reality of life but with these ideas we can find ways to make the most of our time and better focus our attention when it comes to finding a successful work/life balance.


Sapiens

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We live in wonderous times, built on the back of innovation, discovery and scientific curiosity. We are both the most remarkable and most destructive animals to have every walked the earth and have had a greater impact on it than any other during its 4.5 billion revolutions around the sun. What makes our blip of time on its surface significant? What makes us special and what makes us dangerous?

It is the core of what makes us who we are – the need to find answers.

Sapiens looks at the history of humanity through the lens of its revolutions of thought and industry. It explores the origins of Homo sapiens from pre-historic Africa and how we rose to dominate the planet. It delves into the cognitive revolution, agricultural revolution and industrial revolution to discover how we developed the current critical mindset that has created the current scientific revolution.

The book celebrates the idea that once we accepted that there are things we did not understand and overcame a fear of the unknown, we strived to discover knowledge. It challenges us to step out of our own comfort zone and realise that while our individuality does us credit, no great achievement was done alone without reverence to the past or standing together in the now. By creating communities with shared passions and by understanding and analysing our past, we can find ways to tackle the challenges of the future. It is not a book about business but is massively popular at the moment in Silicon Valley as it provides a great deal of insight into how people think and the role business can take in making our best future possible.

Books-10
Last Days of Night

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While we have been taking a look at various books that provide actionable ideas for your business, this one is the first to provide a literal light bulb moment. The Last Days of Night is a brilliant non-fiction look at a time in American history that saw the transition from gas light to electric light. It tells the remarkable tale of the battle between Westinghouse and Thomas Edison over who invented the light bulb and therefore who holds the right to illuminate America and earn billions in the process.

It is a courtroom thriller, based on true events in 1888 and gives fascinating insights into the patent laws of the light bulb. The story centres on Paul Cravath who, fresh out of law school, took an impossible case on behalf of Westinghouse which became an obsession. On his journey he crosses paths with the brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla and the exquisite opera singer Agnes Huntington and quickly discovers that everyone is the story is playing their own game and not what they seem.

We recommend this book to entrepreneurs for no other reason than the fact that the subject matter is interesting beyond measure and a load of fun to read.


Start With Why

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In the world of business, communication is the key to success. In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek looks at the trailblazing spirit of figures like The Wright Brothers, Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King Jr. to discover what it is that makes them so different from everyone else.

His conclusion is that they think in a way that is the complete opposite to the norm. He believes that the three things you need to communicate with others about your product or ideas are why, how and what but many businesses tend to get the order of importance wrong and start with ‘what’ rather than ‘why’.

Starting with ‘what’, a computer company might talk about their product first then move to the ‘how’ with its features, price or what makes it different and then expect people to buy it. It is rarer to hear ‘why’ a company does what it does.

In his example which we have paraphrased here, he talks about how Apple starts with the ‘why’ and ‘how’ and lets the ‘what’ take care of itself. ‘In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently’ (the why) ‘The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products, beautifully designed and easy to use’ (the how). The product itself is already sold by that point.

In business, it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters WHY you do it.
Why do you do what you do? Why do you exist? Why should people care? Those are important questions for any business to ask themselves and within his book Sinek outlays the framework needed for businesses change their thinking to start with why.

 


Oversubcribed

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Our final book on the list tackles the idea of generating demand. We have all been in a situation where we have had to deal with a long queue at a restaurant, have had to book months in advance for our favourite hairdresser or spam refresh to get tickets to a particular concert or play to make sure they don’t sell out. These are companies that don’t have to chase clients.

In Oversubscribed, entrepreneur and bestselling author Daniel Priestley explains why and how to get clients to chase you. He creates a recipe for ensuring demand outstrips supply for your product or service so you will have a mountain of customers and the success that brings.
His advice uses the principle of scarcity in marketing to generate demand and provides leaders, marketers, and entrepreneurs with practical tips alongside inspiring examples to alter mindsets and generate ideas on how to become oversubscribed, even in a crowded marketplace.

Ready to start reading?

Our Christmas list if quite varied in its approaches but shares a common theme of reflection. The holiday season is the perfect time to look at what worked in 2017 and embrace failures to drive your own personal innovation. These books can give you the perspective and mindset to perhaps look at a problem from a different angle and come up with some awesome strategies for 2018 and beyond. We would also love to hear what books you have read this year that could help others in our community.

Is there a book we missed? Let us know in the comments.

About The Entourage


The Entourage is Australia’s largest educator and community of entrepreneurs with over 100,000 members around the world.

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