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.
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.
Back in early 2015, I watched the documentary series, “The Men Who Built America”. It was inspiring to watch how industrialists such as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford transformed America during the late 19th and early 20th century. While it can be debated how much came at the expense of the lower and middle classes, the fact remains that their ideas and the businesses they created had a profound impact felt around the world.
On the whole, I am rather disappointed with the innovation in our current generation. Too much energy and money is spent chasing the latest “quick buck” ideas rather than exceptional breakthroughs. Fortunately, there are two clear exceptions in my opinion – Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
I enjoy following and learning about how they have pursued their passions and built companies around their visions. One of my favorite books from 2015 was “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone. It was a fascinating tale of how Jeff Bezos conceived and built Amazon. When I saw that a similar book had been written about Elon Musk, I knew I had to read it.
Part of the rhythm of my reading list is to mix-in a business book between fun science fiction reads. Given I’m working on growing my business, I like to read and learn about the tactics and methods that other startups and tech companies have used or are using to market their wares. This desire led me to reading Startup Growth Engines: Case Studies of How Today’s Most Successful Startups Unlock Extraordinary Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown. Both Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown are well-respected in the technology startup community, particularly for working in and helping businesses rapidly grow their user bases. Bottom line, the book was a good fit according to the criteria I’ve established for my reading list.
I got a lot out of the book Same Side Selling by Jack Quarles and Ian Altman. It was one of my Must Reads in 2015 and one of my top business books to read for 2016. What I liked most about their approach was that, unlike most sales books, they don’t focus on driving the client to ‘yes’. They encourage you to examine your business model’s strengths and weaknesses, understand what customer problem(s) your solution or product solves, and identify your target clients. As I wrote back in July 2015, they don’t teach closing techniques:
Instead, they take a long-term view to the sales process and drive the delivery of value to the customer as the basis for a long-term relationship.
In other words, they propose an approach where the seller offers value by working together with the buyer to build a solution, or offer a product, that solves a buyer’s specific problem.
Given how much I liked the book, I decided to grab a copy of Altman’s Upside Down Selling.
Between my recreational, science fiction reads, I like reading books to brush up on product and business development, software development techniques, management and leadership skills, and business strategy. Strangely enough (tongue in cheek), the emails I get from Amazon are either full of sci-fi books or business books. Therefore, I was not surprised when UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products that People Want by Jamie Levy showed up in my Amazon recommendations. Since I work with clients on product development strategies, as well as potential product ideas for my business, UX Strategy looked like it had a lot of potential. The strong reviews on Amazon certainly didn’t hurt its cause, so I added it to my short list of books for 2016.
While I was a General Manager at Vitesse Semiconductor, traveling to our office in Woodstock, VT was always an interesting adventure. The town of Woodstock is your stereotypical quaint New England town that looks like it came straight off a postcard or out of the set of a Hollywood movie. The office there was a converted ski lodge off Route 12 on the outskirts of town. It wasn’t a big building. There were 2 offices upstairs, and a meeting area, break room, and space for about 10-12 cubicles spread across 2 rooms downstairs. From one of the upstairs offices, you could see the old rope tow that took you up the slight incline that had once serviced a single run ski slope.
It was ten years ago this month, October 10, 2006 to be exact, that Aumnia, Inc. officially incorporated. Since that time, it’s been a long road of ups and downs. Given that 90% of all startups fail, I feel very fortunate that the company is still alive and kicking. Some other time, I’ll document the history of the founding and early days of the company. In this post, I’m going to document a few of the things that I’ve learned in 10 years of running the company.
Given how often management theories change and evolve, there are very few “classic” management books. High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove qualifies as one. For those who are unfamiliar with Andrew (Andy) Grove, he was one of the founders of Intel Corporation, became its CEO in 1987, and served as Chairman of the Board from 1997-2005. He was an instrumental figure in many of Intel’s business strategies, particularly the decision to change Intel’s focus from memory chips to microprocessors. In other words, Andy Grove is synonymous with Intel. Even today, a lot of the business practices, strategies, and culture of Intel are a reflection of his philosophies of building and running a successful company.