Sometimes, we take our knowledge for granted. When moving in certain social circles, some stuff is just very basic knowledge. As an entrepreneur, I sometimes forget that I too, at some point, didn’t have the knowledge I had at some point. Recently, I talked to a friend of mine who’s just started to found his own company. I casually asked him, „well, what’s your MVP?“. He looked at me. „Most Valuable Player? I don’t get it.“ . Hehe, no, I wasn’t talking about Tom Brady – I referred to a concept called „Minimum Viable Product“ as described in Eric Ries’ book „The Lean Startup“. My friend had never even heard of it – yet, in my circles, „The Lean Startup“ is pretty much the equivalent of the bible. Everyone has read it.
At the same time, books are by far the best way ato quickly gain access to knowledge. After all, these people writing books have usually mastered their subject. They’ve put in the 10,000 hours that it takes to get to mastery – and then condensed that wisdom in a way that allows you to access it within 10 hours. That’s crazy leverage of your time. Use it. With that in mind – and knowing that apparently not everyone has access to these life-changing books – I figured I’d put together a short list of books that have helped me tremendously in my journey to becoming a better entrepreneur. Let’s dive in.
First things first. Everyone who even remotely thinks of founding a startup should be familiar with this book. Eric Ries tells you how to create a product that your customer actually wants while spending only the minimum amount of time required working on it. After all, who wants to develop features that no one needs in the end? There are two takeaways that I’d like to point out here:
- What’s your MVP? A Minimum Viable Product is a prototype of your product that exhibits the features that are absolutely necessary to make it „your product“, but no added shenanigans. For example, an MVP of a car would be 4 wheels, a steering wheel, a couple seats and some form of chassis around it. That’s all you need to have a car that drives. Everything – such as a radio, windshield wipers, security measures – are added gadgets that do not make it „more“ of a car.
- The Build-Measure-Learn Cycle. Once you have built your MVP, you can give it to your customers. Then, you observe and measure its performance for the customer. From these observations, you start learning – and these learnings are implemented in the next prototype. Using this loop – and going through it very quickly – will greatly accelerate your product development.
These principles can be applied to literally every startup – and therefore, this is a very universal book to read.
Chris Voss is a former FBI chief hostage negotiator and has learned a thing or two from his 20 years on the job. I’ve read many books on negotiation, and this one is by far the best. Why? Because it gives you a ton of actionable advice that is useful in everyday life, sprinkled with super exciting stories from hostage negotiations – that stuff alone is good for documentaries. It’s a very entertaining and useful read at the same time. The title comes from the fact that „splitting the difference“ is a very common strategy to end negotiations, such as „my budget 2,000 €, you want 3,000 €, let’s do 2,500 €“. This, however, isn’t always a good deal for both sides – after all, both sides are a little bit disappointed. If you were deciding if you should wear a black or a brown pair of shoes, you’d end up with one black shoe and one brown shoe. Not exactly that most desirable outcome.
Another good nugget (and there’s a lot more valuable information in there, I’m just picking this one out because it works in isolation of his framework) is using your own name to your advantage. How so? Well, if people who normally wouldn’t know your name know your name, they will feel more personally connected to you. Next time when you’re haggling at the bazar, try this: „My name is Dominik. What’s the Dominik discount?“ – although I recommend you use your own name instead of mine.
In a startup, you will negotiate and sell your ass off – this book will help you save some of it.
Back in 2014, a friend of mine told me that he reads a lot of books and that they give him a lot of knowledge. I asked him for a recommendation. He mentioned this book. Once I started reading it, I devoured it – and my life hasn’t been the same ever since. This book doesn’t just give you actionable advice – it bends your whole reality. Ferriss explains how to design your life in a way that fits your needs – and that literally anything is possible if approached in the right way. For me, this was mind-blowing. You can live life on your own terms? You don’t have to be employed? Holy. Shit. It’s also a great story, a very entertaining read that I’d strongly recommend.
One thing I’d like to pick out here is the 80/20 principle, also known as the „Pareto Principle“. Wilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who was growing peas in his backyard. At some point he noticed that there are a couple particular plants that produce a lot of peas (around 80% of them), with most plants only bearing a minimum amount – 20% of the plants were bearing 80% of the fruit. What if you could only have plants that bear 80% of the fruit? He, being an economist, started looking for the distribution in other contexts – and found it in economics, too: 20% of people possess 80% of wealth. This is also true for personal productivity: 80% of output are produced in 20% of your time. The key now is to identify which 20% of your time produce this output, and to maximize that time and cut out the 80% of time that doesn’t yield a lot of output. For me, doing in-person sales meetings are very productive, despite the fact that they only take one hour. Therefore, my #1 priority should be to do as many of them as possible. The same is true for super focused work in the morning – I need to protect my morning hours for brain work, which is also the reason why I’ve started working out in the late afternoon as opposed to early mornings. If you identify your high-leverage activities (maybe reading?) and maximizing them, you’ll go a long way.
If you’ve read those books, great! You know the basics. If not, I strongly encourage you to grab a copy and read them. If you’re looking to become your own boss and go into your own business, they’ll be well worth the investment. And then you’ll be part of the circle for whom this shit is elementary knowledge.