6 books that helped me as an entrepreneur

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 out of nothing. Sometimes the path is pretty straightforward. Other times it may feel like you are up against something no one has ever gone through or solved before. Regardless of where you are on your path, it’s always helpful to pick up some wisdom, practical information, or just a different perspective from your fellow entrepreneurs. With that in mind, here’s a shortlist of titles—a few familiar ones and some hidden gems—that offer timely insights and perspectives for entrepreneurs in 2020. 

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

Its whimsical title notwithstanding, the book provides helpful insights on restructuring companies for completely remote work. It’s an easy read that takes you behind-the-scenes at WordPress.com (Automattic, Inc), as the company challenged traditional work years ago and created a highly productive all-remote global team. The author shares real-life stories and observational insights into what it takes to build a work culture and drive success with remote employees. You won’t get the nitty-gritty operational side of managing remote teams, but you’ll glean a few ideas from Berkun’s personal leadership experience and lessons learned, including why you have to find and define team culture from within instead of replicating someone else’s practices.

2. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr

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

3. Manufacturing Demand by David Lewis

From sales and marketing alignment to revenue-generating ideas to marketing automation—this book covers a lot of data-driven marketing ground. Lewis, CEO of DemandGen, discusses five key elements of demand generation and how to implement them: buyer personas, the demand funnel, lead scoring, lead nurturing, and analytics. You don’t need to be a techie to take advantage of modern marketing technology and make data-driven decisions. Whether you are a business owner or marketer, you’ll find the tips and case studies helpful in developing demand generation programs and measuring results. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to sell products and services in our digital age. 

4. Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon 

According to Moon, in order to differentiate your product or brand from all others, you need to stop imitating your competitors and start innovating. Moon debunks traditional competitive analysis and comparative metrics, claiming they’ve created conformity and “competitive herd” which, in turn, makes it hard for companies to stand out in customers’ minds. Read this book if you’re ready to break away from the herd and do something truly different, even drastic.

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