In a Forbes article, Brent Beshore, founder of adventu.res and business angel, started his guide to reading and learning for entrepreneurs with this quote from Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger:
“I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time — none, zero.”
While yes, reading is fundamental, it’s even more pertinent for the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur has the freedom to make his or her schedule, and good books should have time set aside for their readers to devour them. At his recent talk at South Summit, an attendee asked him this precise question: What books do you recommend?
That list is quite long, but Joe focused on a select few. Now, before we go ahead and summarize them for you, here are two tips you need to keep in mind as you start tackling this extra reading:
That’s right; you’ve heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. According to Haslam, “The good books should be read many times.” Reading books multiple times has a certain number of benefits, and for those looking to use them as a rule of thumb, it makes sense to savor them repeatedly. Consulting information several times is a powerful way to remember more details; consider that good news for those who don’t have time to write everything down (the method that best helps to retain it). Not only will you remember better, but you’ll also keep finding details the second, third, and subsequent times that you didn’t notice the first time around. Those thoughts will even linger long enough for you to be more prone to take action on those ideas, and thus, the impact lasts for much longer.
You may be thinking I don’t have time to read a book chapter every single day, with everything else I have on my plate to make sure we get it all off the ground. Haslam says that’s not an excuse. It doesn’t take much to make time for reading a chapter: just wake up a half-hour earlier and start off your day with some enlightening literature to help you grow your venture.
While the first result to pop up when you Google “scaling up book” is Verne Harnish’s Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t, there are a lot more books out there than this sequel to Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. Here are Haslam’s recommendations for three essential reads.
This book is different than other management books. First, there’s an altruistic component because author Ben Horowitz decided to donate all the proceeds from The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers to the American Jewish World Service’s efforts to help women all over the world fight for their fundamental rights. Not only that, Horowitz saw that there was a gap amidst all the other management books out there.
In an interview with Leena Rao when she was at TechCrunch, Horowitz explained that he wanted to expand on Andy Grove’s work in Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company “by talking about the real problems and issues entrepreneurs face in the context of his own experiences.” This was how Horowitz framed the unique value proposition of this read:
I would have never wanted to write another management book. There are so many of them and everybody says the same thing about them, and they are all the same — they give the exact same advice. It’s like a diet book, they all say eat less calories, exercise more, and every single book has the same conclusion. So I didn’t want to write another one of those. But having been on the other side I really felt like there was a missing book, which was what happens when everything goes wrong, and you have set it all up right.
Entrepreneurship is not a rosy experience by any means. Preparing for the detours along the way is essential, and Horowitz’s insights are an essential part of getting ready to scale.
Peter Thiel is one of the most prominent players in Silicon Valley, as the legendary co-founder of PayPal and one of the first investors in Facebook. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future rightly has a spot on this list of essential reads, yet there’s more to it than Peter Thiel being Peter Thiel alone. Need a little more convincing? Well, Derek Thompson in The Atlantic titled his review like this: Peter Thiel’s Zero to One Might Be the Best Business Book I’ve Read. One of the reasons why this one is worth a glance? Thompson uses a fantastic analogy. While many business self-help books “managed to express bad economic principles with even worse metaphors,” instead of following that pattern, Thompson explained that “[i]nto this fog of fuzzy-headed nonsense, Peter Thiel’s new book, Zero to One, shines like a laser beam.”
While it still is a self-help book for entrepreneurs professing the need for startups in the world, at the end of the day, according to Thompson, “it’s also a lucid and profound articulation of capitalism and success in the 21st century economy.” As Thiel’s book website puts it, Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.”
And, what may be the most significant boon of all, is that it’s short. On the Zero to One book website, it will tell you that it takes three-and-a-half hours to read, meaning that you will only need to wake up a half-hour earlier.
Why move away from pure entrepreneurship books, you ask? The beauty of this writing, in the words of Haslam, is that Alfred D. Chandler Jr.’s Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism gives you a bit of business history, and more precisely a look into how capitalism was invented. The basis is a decade of research Chandler Jr. carried out into the managerial system. By analyzing patterns of competitiveness and growth in the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, Chandler spends the pages “tracing the evolution of large firms into multinational giants and orienting the late twentieth century’s most important developments.”
Why is it worth a read? We believe these excerpts from Christopher Farrell’s review in Business Week at the time of publication, as cited on the Harvard University Press website, brings it all together:
Alfred D. Chandler Jr.of Harvard Business School has brought unprecedented rigor and sophistication to the study of the corporation. In so doing, he has profoundly shaped our understanding of that institution’s role in modern capitalism… The book speaks to all the major debates swirling around Corporate America—including those over shareholder value, mergers and acquisitions, and global competitiveness.
His research will give you insights into common factors for success across these three historic industrial powerhouses, which will serve you well as you create your scale-up plan throughout the HiOP.
The syllabus for the MBA elective Haslam teaches at IE is a treasure trove of recommended reading. Expand your reading list even further.