I set a goal five years ago to blog regularly about my day job running a software company. I setup the Startup Lessons category and managed a handful of posts that year before things stalled. Since then, most of my Startup Lessons have been about related books or riffs on interesting posts.
So after a lengthy hiatus, I’ve decided to reboot Startup Lessons. My (new) goal is to write at least one post a month sharing what I’ve learned running a business over the past 15 years.
I would consider myself a follower of Seth Godin. I discovered his blog over 10 years ago and have been a daily reader ever since.
Seth has also written a lot of books on marketing and business, but I hadn’t read any of them. I might be changing my tune after recently reading The Bootstrapper’s Bible.
No, this isn’t a book review about gambling. although it tends to be the way most companies price their product, especially when the product is software. Why is that?
Pricing a software product is a difficult, challenging task. The problem is that the cost of software doesn’t lie in making another copy. The marginal cost to make an additional unit is effectively zero. The internet has eliminated the cost of distributing it. So if production and distribution are free, what makes software so expensive?
It’s the cost of the people required to develop, market, and sell it. These elements add up quickly and can get very expensive.
In Don’t Just Roll the Dice, Neil Davidson addresses the difficulties pricing software. And as the subtitle states, it is a ‘usefully short guide to software pricing,’ with the operative words being short and software.
Most business books tend to be dry and boring. An author introduces a framework or set of concepts. These are explored in detail. Theoretical examples of how to apply them are given. Every once in a while, I’ll come across a business book in this format that is well written and reads easily. For the most part though, these books are a slog and take me a long time to read.
The business books I like are those that weave the framework or concepts into a story. They are easier to read and entertain at the same time. While I may not be able to apply or use the concepts presented, more often than not, I read through this style of business book faster. It feels a lot less like work and is way more enjoyable.
My latest business read, Get A Grip: An Entrepreneurial Fable by Gino Wickman and Mike Paton, uses the story-telling style to introduce their Entrepreneurial Operating System framework, or EOS for short.
I’m continually on the lookout for ways to improve. I especially like reading books that provide tips and techniques on managing myself. With each book I read, there is often at least a couple of things, and sometimes more, that I learn about and can incorporate into my daily routine.
It’s one of main reasons that I became interested in The Miracle Morning, which is available in numerous versions. There is a generic title that is applicable to everyone and other versions tailored to specific occupations. For example, there is a version for real estate agents, one for salespeople, one for writers, and one for college students. Since I spend the majority of my days running my own business. I chose to read the version titled The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs by Hal Elrod and Cameron Herold.
Last month’s delay of the WeWork IPO and the subsequent turmoil around the company got me thinking about the startup scene again. There seems to be a never-ending supply of capital available to promising startups. We’re seeing public market exists for companies Uber, Lyft, Slack, Peloton, Pinterest, and Zoom in the billions of dollars. On the surface, it would appear that we are in a golden age for startups.
Are we really in a golden age for VC-funded startups? Or is it possible that we could be in the gilded age of VC funded startups?
My go-to resource for web analytics is Avinash Kaushik. Guru does not adequately describe his level of expertise on the topic. If you have any interest in analytics, his blog is a great resource that is chock full of information. The articles are deep dives into the concepts, techniques, and tools that allow you to get the most out of your online presence. For bite-sized pieces of insight, I’d recommend subscribing to his newsletter, which you can do from his website.
So what does Avinash Kaushik have to do with the book Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It? In June of last year, Avinash mentioned the book in one of his newsletters. I have such high regard for his opinions and insights, that I immediately added the book to the top of my reading list.
I wasn’t disappointed.
When it comes to work, there are a few principles that are important to me. One is to always be learning new things. A second, closely related principle, is to continuously improve. As part of living out these tenets, I like to read books that I can apply to my business. Because time is precious, I look to trusted sources and watch what other CEOs are reading and recommending to add to my reading list. I learned about the book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland and J.J. Sutherland through Matt Blumberg’s Return Path blog. He had great things to say about the book. Since I run a software development business, it was a no-brainer to make sure I read the book during 2017.
With most books, it’s pretty clear what you’re going to get when you read them. Others can surprise you. I’d have to put Setting the Table by Danny Meyer in the latter category.
I received the recommendation from a customer I started working with last year, who I would now consider a good friend. When we started working on a project together, he suggested that I read the book. My first thought was, “a book by a guy who runs restaurants, how could it possibly apply to my technology business?”
Turns out, the book is very applicable to my business. In fact, anyone running a business that deals with customers, meaning every business owner, can benefit from the lessons and experiences Danny Meyer’s shares.
As part of my new routine, I’ve been reading “learning” books in the morning. Many of these books reference other books from where they’ve derived their ideas, or used their concepts as a foundation to build upon. My general rule of thumb is that I don’t add a book to my reading list unless it is mentioned in more than a couple of books. One book that consistently appeared in many of the self improvement books I’ve read recently is “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Naturally, it made it to my reading list and moved quickly to the top given the number of mentions.
To say Think and Grow Rich is a classic is an understatement. It was first printed in 1937, and it’s still relevant 80 years later. That makes it more than a classic. It makes it a timeless treasure.