6 books that helped me as an entrepreneur

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This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com.

As an entrepreneur, you spend a lot of time working on new ideas and business, solving problems, and creating something from scratch. Sometimes the path is pretty easy. In other cases, you may be faced with something that no one has been through or resolved before. Regardless of where you are in your journey, it is always helpful to gather wisdom, practical information, or a different perspective than your fellow entrepreneurs. With that in mind, here is a short list of titles – some well-known gems and some hidden gems – that offer up-to-date insights and prospects for entrepreneurs in 2020.

1. The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun

Regardless of its quirky title, the book provides helpful insights into corporate restructuring for work completely remote. It’s easy read to take you behind the scenes at WordPress.com (Automattic, Inc) as the company challenged traditional work and created a highly productive global all-remote team years ago. The author shares real-world stories and observational insights into what it takes to build a work culture and promote success with remote workers. You won’t get to know the smallest operational side of remote team management, but you will gain a few ideas from Berkun’s personal leadership experience and lessons learned, including reasons why you need to find and define team culture from within, rather than others to replicate practices methods exercises.

Insightly CEO Anthony Smith Book List

2. Measure what matters: How Google, Bono and the Gates Foundation are rocking the world with OKRs from John Doerr

In his book, Doerr explains the hugely successful Objectives and Key Results (OKR) method that he learned from Andy Grove, a longtime CEO of Intel, and then implemented it across a number of organizations, including Google. OKR is a simple goal setting framework made up of four pillars: focus, align, track, and stretch. It’s a quick read with interesting inside stories that show how OKR can help businesses big and small to focus on what matters and get it done. Read this book if you have a penchant for action and are looking for a clear and simple way to motivate and align your team, measure progress, and achieve goals.

Insightly CEO Anthony Smith Book List

3. Manufacturing demand from David Lewis

From aligning sales and marketing to revenue-generating ideas to marketing automation, this book covers many data-driven marketing areas. Lewis, CEO of DemandGen, explains five key elements of demand generation and how to implement it: Buyer Personalities, Demand Funnels, Lead Scoring, Lead Nurturing, and Analytics. You don’t have to be a techie to take advantage of modern marketing technologies and make data-driven decisions. Whether you are an entrepreneur or a marketer, you will find the tips and case studies helpful in developing demand generation programs and measuring results. It’s a must have for anyone looking to sell products and services in our digital age.

Insightly CEO Anthony Smith Book List

4. Different: Escape from Youngme Moon’s competition herd

According to Moon, to differentiate your product or brand from everyone else, you need to stop imitating your competitors and start innovating. Moon debunks traditional competitive analysis and comparative metrics, claiming they created compliance and a “competitive flock” that makes it difficult for companies to stand out in the minds of customers. Read this book when you’re ready to break away from the herd and do something really different, even drastic. While the book is not a guide, there are some specific ideas that can be used to develop your own differentiation strategy, appeal to customers who have a variety of options, and find ways to dramatically change your company’s growth rate.

Insightly CEO Anthony Smith Book List

5. Startupland: How three guys risked everything to turn an idea into a global business by Mikkel Svane

This is a story about how three people in Copenhagen started Zendesk to escape their corporate jobs and make customer service less painful. Svane (one of the founders) shares his journey from Copenhagen to the San Francisco Bay Area, fraught with personal and business difficulties, along with his unfiltered insights into what it takes to build and run a high-growth company. Find out why Svane doesn’t glorify mistakes, isn’t afraid of boring product ideas, and believes in giving back to the community. Even if you can’t relate to Svane’s experience as a tech company founder, you’ll find his straightforward style refreshing and the whole story engaging and inspiring. This book is also great read for people in your life, family or friends, who may not fully understand what it is to be an entrepreneur but want to learn more about your work.

Insightly CEO Anthony Smith Book List

6. The house that the race built, published by Wahneema Lubiano

The book is a compilation of essays by prominent writers and scholars, including Toni Morrison and Cornel West, on race, society, power and culture. You will get a historical perspective on legal, political and cultural constructs that preceded the events of summer 2020. Regardless of your background, these stories will help you better understand the history of racial injustice in the United States and its impact on generations of Black Americans and society in general. As an entrepreneur, you may be fascinated by your business and projects most of the time, but if we’ve all learned one thing this year, it’s that “we’re all in it” and everyone plays a role. These stories challenge you to do your part as a leader and to become aware of the unique experiences, humility and authenticity of the people.

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