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Recommend Reading For CEOs, Entrepreneurs and Senior Executives

From The “Secrets Of A Serial Entrepreneur” Series

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Resources For CEOs and Entrepreneurs at Startup and Emerging Growth Companies

This article is a sample chapter from one of our books in “The Secrets of A Serial Entrepreneur” Series. To see the list of books, audio programs and DVDs click here now 

I highly recommend reading 2-3 new books every month, especially for entrepreneurs and executives, as it is one of the most effective ways to continuously improve and learn from others. Unfortunately, many individuals stop actively learning after completing their formal education or once they have a few years of work experience. However, exceptional individuals understand the value of lifelong learning and consistently strive to enhance their knowledge and skills. I often advise people that if they are not on a learning curve, it may be time to consider a new job. By constantly working to increase your personal value through learning, everything else will naturally follow.

Personally, I have read over 1,000 nonfiction books, predominantly focused on business and related subjects. From this extensive reading, I can confidently recommend a select few as some of the best business books available. While I may not agree with every single idea presented in these books, I believe that the authors possess genuine experience and offer valuable insights and recommendations. Unfortunately, there are numerous books written by individuals who have merely studied the subject matter without actually experiencing it firsthand. Making the leap from theory to practice is a significant challenge. Would you enter a sword fight after only reading a book about it? Would you trust a book written by someone who solely read other books?

It is crucial to consider the author’s background and how it may influence their perspective, particularly regarding the distinctions between small and large companies in the business world. Only a few authors possess experience across all stages of company development, and these tend to be the most valuable sources. Furthermore, few books effectively cater to both startup ventures and larger companies, let alone explicitly specify their target audience. Therefore, it is essential to continuously analyze the context from which the author speaks, specifically regarding the stages of companies they have worked with. Understanding whether the insights are based on academic research, real-world experience, or external consulting (an outsider’s perspective) is also crucial. It is important to remember that what may be excellent advice for a large company can be detrimental to a smaller company’s success.

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Great books on starting companies are few and far between. These are the best I have found:

  1. Entrepreneur America – Rob Ryan – EXCELLENT! A MUST-READ!
  2. Innovation and Entrepreneurship – By Peter Drucker – A Classic
  3. High Tech Start Up – By John L. Nesheim
  4. High Stakes, No Prisoners – By Charles Ferguson – Although a bit of sour grapes, from a first time entrepreneur who was inexperienced and naive when he started.  This book shows the worst case scenario for a founder when dealing with venture capitalists and CEOs who can be less than forthright, and focused purely on their own personal gain, as opposed to working in the best interests of the company and its team.
  5. A necessary and now classic, read if you are in the technology market: Crossing The Chasm Jeff Moore. A classic which originally came out about 1990.
  6. Eboys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work – by Randall E. Stross – Also available as an audiobook at www.Audible.com
  7. Rockerfeller Habits – By Vern Harnish

Read all of the above, BEFORE starting any company, right after reading all my ebooks  :). These will save you years of aggravation and learning curve.

Here Are Many Other Good Books on Business, Management and Market Positioning:

  1. Competitive Advantage – Michael Porter – One of the best books on understanding competitive positioning – A Must read!
  2. From Good To Great – Jim Collins and team – An academic study of companies that became great and how what they have in common. Excellent book on defining your business.
  3. Balanced Scorecard – Robert S. Kaplan, David P. Norton – A system for evaluating medium to larger companies and balancing resources and priorities.
  4. Value Leadership – Peter Cohan. Good concepts and structure for thinking about your company.
  5. Principal Centered Leadership – Steven R. Covey
  6. Discipline of Market Leaders – Michael Treachy & Fred Wiersema
  7. No Excuses Management – T.J. Rodgers – Most useful in a “rising tide” situation.
  8. Sam Walton – The Inside Story of America’s Richest Man – Vance H. Trimble
  9. The Art of War – Sun-Tzu – All about intelligence, competitive intelligence, misinformation and stealth. Critical stuff for all companies, but especially early-stage companies that are fragile and susceptible to competitive response from larger established companies. (Download a free copy by clicking here)
  10. Customers.com – Patricia Seybold
  11. The Popcorn Report – Faith Popcorn
  12. Value Migration – Adrian J. Slywotzky
  13. Jack Welch and Leadership – Jack Welch – Virtually all of this is large company stuff, but Jack’s philosophies of managing people, setting up the right motivation systems and focusing on results and market share are timeless and generic across all company types. Jack has many good books, but lots of redundancy across them. Pick a couple, and you will have picked his brain.

  14. Differentiate Or Die – Jack Trout – Jack has several good books. I just heard the executive summary of his latest on strategy, which is a great “back to basics” treatment of strategy from an expert on marketing.
  15. United We Brand – Great for figuring out your brand. And yes you need one, brands are not just for the big guys anymore.
  16. Purple Cow – Excellent book on trends that are changing the way businesses are built, moving from mass marketing to niche marketing and differentiation.

For many, many years I also have gotten executive summaries of books on tape which can be listened to in the car, exercising or whatever.  This can add another two to four books per month very easily during your commute, or 24 to 48 books per year, to your knowledge and idea base. It seems to me that typically these summaries contain 90% of the valuable ideas and points of any book anyway, as most books are very redundant, saying some things two, three and even, frustratingly, four different ways. If a book is particularly complex or relevant to you, then you can read the entire book, but getting most of the value in a 45-minute audio summary is a fantastic way to constantly learn and a terrific value in money and time!

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Other Books on Specific Disciplines and Topics I Really Like:

  1. Visionary Selling – A classic.
  2. Strategic Selling – Miller-Heiman – These folks have a great selling course which I highly recommend for sales professionals and all managers too. It puts great structure and thought around the sales process and can be customized to specific situations easily and get management and sales on the same page in terms of measuring results, discussing a pipeline.
  3. Selling The Invisible – Excellent and required reading about the psychology of pricing, sales and image. I saw Harry Beckwith speak at the national speakers association, and he is a master of product and service presentation to protect margins.
  4. Selling to VITO – Very Important Top Officer
  5. Brian Tracy has lots of good audio tapes on many topics like selling that are a good investment too. These include A Million Dollar Habits and The Psychology of Achievement.
  6. Getting Things Done – David Allen
  7. The Art of The Deal – Donald Trump
  8. On investing and building wealth, I really like Robert Kayosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad series. Both a book and tape set on the mindset and thinking necessary to accumulate real wealth and have money work for you, instead of you working for money.
  9. On personal philosophy, “The Power of Now” is a tremendous book that help you focus on what you can change and make happen and be more effective by controlling fears that hold you back from your full potential.

  10. STARTUP.COM -The Video – A great “case study” movie about the startup process and what NOT to do that shows many of the reasons companies fail and the results of a deteriorating environment or situation. Though it is lacking much data and has no “post-mortem” it is a very useful case study to review with your business/executive coach or mentor. If someone can provide experienced commentary on what is going on, and their many mistakes as the movie develops, this can be an invaluable case study. Someday I would like to hold a seminar a play this, stopping after each scene to list all the mistakes they made. This would be highly educational for new entrepreneurs.

Inspirational Stuff From the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association – www.wifca.org

“The Secrets of A Serial Entrepreneur” Series. To see the list of books, audio programs and DVDs click here now

Most of the above are available at  www.amazon.com and www.BarnesandNoble.com

Bob Norton is a long-time Serial Entrepreneur, CEO and investor who founded six companies with four exits that returned over $1 billion to investors for a 25X ROI. Two others are still in development. He has trained, consulted and advised thousands of Entrepreneurs, CEOs and boards since 2002. ™. Mr. Norton works with companies to 2X to 10X growth rates and valuation using AirTight Management™, the world’s most comprehensive Leadership Operating System™. He also helps companies raise capital to fund growth. He is also the Founder of The CEO Boot Camp™ and Entrepreneurship University for early-stage companies that have not reached product-market fit and $1M ARR.

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