I’ve worked with many businesses over the years. And I’ve read countless books on business management and startups. Based on both experience and learnings, I have been in multiple conversations with friends, business owners, and executives about how to build their business. As many have found, it takes more than just a good product. Life, and building a business, is a dance you learn as you go though you don’t have to learn it on your own.
I am a student and not an expert. Most of what I relay is what I have learned from others. As such I wanted to write about the writings of others, and the information I have recommended and even taught to others to build and grow their business. Future posts will contain more commentary from me.
There are countless lessons to be learned from the experiences of previous founders and business leaders. Creativity and product innovation seem to come from a spark in one’s mind. Though business management is better pursued on the shoulders of others.
There are many resources that may end up in their own section of this website. Some are older yet remain the pillars of basic business understanding. And some may be as new as this week, learned from the many articles I read and podcasts I listen to. There is no shortage of content to be consumed. It is the thoughtful analytics of it that I will work on in future articles.
This is but one way that a business may find success. At worst it will find order and purpose. Let’s begin with my top 3 books to keep this first post a reasonable length.
BE 2.0 Turning your business into an enduring great company – by Jim Collins & Bill Lazier
This book cultivates over 30 years of detailed research into what makes an enduring great company. Its detail into who are the right people to lead and leadership styles helps you get the right people in the right seats. The research behind setting a vision with purpose shows that when everyone is going in the same direction it fuels and accelerates growth. Setting goals and persisting after them day after day. Defining strategy and what it means to an organization. Best of all in this book he literally provides a MAP of what makes great companies tick. The MAP leads you through the framework and for those with the discipline to build the foundation, puts you the founder or business leader in the most favorable place to lead your company to be great.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
I sometimes lead with this book as it helps with the vision section from the above book. Where Collins has mastered the research-driven metrics leaving no stone unturned, Sinek goes after the emotion. And with good reason. Your long-term customer will most likely be a human with emotions. Sinek’s TED talk on the Golden Circle has developed his tribe. His famous saying of “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” has been restated by marketing people worldwide. Even he stands on the shoulders of greats like David Oglivy with his saying “People don’t buy your product. They buy the story they can tell themselves when they own it.” All of this is to say, people will buy into your genuine story. You need to discover and crystalize what that is. When you do, you will not only think different, but you will have a propelling value that your tribe and customers will follow.
Measures what Matters by John Doerr
With the above books, you know why you are in business and have created the foundational structure to execute it. Now you need to execute efficiently. This is where objectives and key results come into play. As the self-proclaimed Johnny Appleseed of OKR’s, Mr. Doerr has educated millions on this goal setting and measurement method. Setting an objective and creating measurable and transparent key results with regular review and follow-up. Managing people is also covered with the same concepts. People need regular check-ins as well. These are the tools companies like Intel, Google, and many others have used as part of their growth to greatness.
[* 4th book added after several comments by readers]
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
I’ve edited and added this book due to a few comments from people I’ve worked with. The question came up “We know why we are doing what we do, we have set up the structure so everyone knows, and we have defined & set objectives. You left out building successful teams to manage all that”. This is where the 5 Dysfunctions book comes in. It works rather in reverse by identifying what makes a team dysfunctional. By addressing dysfunctions such as lack of conflict, trust, and dedication to team results, you build a more productive and successful team that can tackle all of the items from the above books.
When all the gears of an engine are milled and honed to the greatest degree of specification, that is when the engine runs at its finest. They are all connected by belts and timing is set with great care. They are all connected and spinning in rhythm. This is the type of operation we aim for with a company. The above tools help you build this type of operation.
Know why you exist. Set your vision and ensure that all existing employees, and any new employees, buy into that vision. Be forthright honest with a meritocracy where the best ideas lead the company and not just a leader with a title. And put those great ideas into objectives with measurable results that everyone in the company can see and follow. Then manage those with cohesive and committed teams. If I had not seen this achieved in some great companies I’ve worked with, I’d say this was unattainable. But the best things in life, at first, do seem unattainable.