Business is difficult. Whether you’re pursuing rapid growth or struggling to remain relevant, there are often many obstacles that need to be overcome. So, let’s explore some of the best business books that can help you address common challenges.
While every business is unique, many of the challenges they face are predictable. So this list features books that address fundamental insights that can benefit every CEO, founder, or entrepreneur. By reading each one, you’ll be better prepared to make the most of future business opportunities while avoiding potential pitfalls.
1. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
While this book is geared towards startups, it addresses an issue that is common across many businesses. Teams often invest their time and energy into a new product or service before validating the idea with potential customers. And this often results in a lot of wasted time, energy, and money on a solution that fails to attract customers.
This book presents an alternative approach. It stresses the value of identifying early assumptions in a product or service idea. And it provides tools for validating those assumptions as quickly and as inexpensively as possible.
It’s a must-read for startups or large organizations that want their teams to operate more like startup businesses.
2. Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis & Morgan Brown
Business leaders often organize their employees into teams based on the type of work that they do. For example, the marketing department may work together as a cohesive unit, and the product development department might work elsewhere as another separate unit. The result is that expertise is isolated by divisional silos.
Unfortunately, this prevents teams from quickly identifying and acting on opportunities to improve the business. Every initiative or idea needs to be passed through multiple departments to be explored. And this bureaucracy can cause the progress of the organization to slow to a crawl.
This book explains the importance of building cross-functional growth teams. The goal is to bring together diverse talent to more effectively act on key business opportunities, including customer acquisition, activation, retention, and monetization. The result is increased innovation, collaboration, and organizational agility.
3. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
It’s common to see well-established businesses disrupted by nimble startups. Often we assume the larger firm suffered from complacency, bureaucracy, arrogance, poor planning, or short-term investments. But that isn’t always true.
This wildly popular book explains why it’s often the strengths of well-managed, customer-driven businesses that cause them to be overtaken by startups. In other words, their ability to focus relentlessly on what their customers truly value is what can cause their eventual failure. And this can happen to almost any business.
I highly recommend the book both for startups looking to disrupt an existing industry and established businesses that want to avoid disruption.
4. Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Businesses often focus on communicating ‘what’ they do. Some will go a step further and explain ‘how’ they do what they do to differentiate their brand from rivals. But, as Simon Sinek explains, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Many of the most successful brands clarify and communicate ‘why’ they do what they do. In other words, they share the deeper purpose behind the business and everything they do for customers. And this book provides practical advice on how to apply this same approach within your organization.
5. Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore
Many of the most innovative businesses fail to appeal to mainstream customers. They often find limited success with passionate early adopters, but they cannot attract the far more lucrative mainstream market. And this failure severely limits their potential for long-term growth and profitability.
This popular book is about marketing disruptive products to mainstream customers. The insights can be applied to any product or service that requires users to change their habits, routines, or behaviors to adopt it. If you offer a solution that breaks with the status quo, this is one of the best business books you can read.
6. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Reis & Jack Trout
Brands often struggle to stand out in a sea of competition. Even if their products are unique, potential customers often struggle to understand the differences. And as a result, their brand is often seen as just one more option in the marketplace.
This classic book can help you position your brand as the preferred option in your product category. It explains how customers think when selecting brands and what you need to do to make your brand memorable and attractive. It’s a short and powerful read that I recommend to anyone interested in business or marketing.
7. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne
It’s very tempting to fall into the trap of obsessing about the competition. Many businesses focus on appealing to the same customers, with the same core product, and the same general strategy as their rivals. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to a bloody red ocean of competition that destroys profit margins and limits growth.
This popular book offers a different approach. It provides tools and frameworks to make the competition irrelevant by constructing uncontested market space. This way, you can deliver exceptional value to customers while generating a healthy profit.
8. The Language of Trust by Michael Maslansky
Today, people are more skeptical than ever before. Many have been burned by institutions, governments, and businesses over the years. And many have worked within organizations that have abused the trust of their employees and customers.
As a result, it’s no longer enough for business leaders just to do the right thing. Even the best of intentions can be seen as being a result of ulterior motives. So we must learn to communicate in the right way if we want to cut through skepticism and connect with others on a deeper level.
This book is all about how to communicate with people on their terms. It’s an essential read in the age of social media, where false information spreads faster than ever. And after-the-fact corrections do little to change people’s initial impressions.
9. Friction by Roger Dooley
Friction refers to anything that needlessly complicates the lives of prospects, customers, or even employees. For example, anything that makes it difficult for people to place an order, receive the product, or make full use of it. And this kind of friction can be found in all types of business interactions.
This book is about finding ways to eliminate steps, reduce confusion, and address uncertainty. This is important because when something is easy, people do more of it. And when something is difficult, they are more likely to avoid or give up on it.
So, if you want to boost sales, increase customer engagement, and promote things like word-of-mouth referrals, it’s essential to identify and remove friction. Not only does this apply to products and services, but also internal business processes.
10. Measure What Matters by John Doerr
As an organization grows, it can become difficult to establish and communicate strategic goals. Increased size often leads to increased bureaucracy. And this can bring momentum to a grinding halt as individual teams struggle to set priorities.
This book introduces ‘Objectives and Key Results,’ or OKRs. It’s a proven approach that Google, Intel, Disney, Dropbox, Slack, Spotify, and others use to manage organizational goals more effectively. The method can increase transparency, accountability, and collaboration for teams of all sizes.
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