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10 Books Every Entrepreneur Must Read From 2010

| December 29, 2010 | 62 Comments

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?  – Seth Godin

linchpin - seth godinThere used to be two teams in every workplace: management and labor. Now there’s a third team, the linchpins. These people invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos. They figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. They delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art.

Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organizations. Like the small piece of hardware that keeps a wheel from falling off its axle, they may not be famous but they’re indispensable. And in today’s world, they get the best jobs and the most freedom. Have you ever found a shortcut that others missed? Seen a new way to resolve a conflict? Made a connection with someone others couldn’t reach? Even once? Then you have what it takes to become indispensable, by overcoming the resistance that holds people back.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose – Tony Hsieh

tony hsieh - book* Pay brand-new employees $2,000 to quit
* Make customer service the responsibility of the entire company-not just a department
* Focus on company culture as the #1 priority
* Apply research from the science of happiness to running a business
* Help employees grow-both personally and professionally
* Seek to change the world
*Oh, and make money too . . .

Sound crazy? It’s all standard operating procedure at Zappos, the online retailer that’s doing over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually. After debuting as the highest-ranking newcomer in Fortune magazine’s annual “Best Companies to Work For” list in 2009, Zappos was acquired by Amazon in a deal valued at over $1.2 billion on the day of closing.

In DELIVERING HAPPINESS, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shares the different lessons he has learned in business and life, from starting a worm farm to running a pizza business, through LinkExchange, Zappos, and more. Fast-paced and down-to-earth, DELIVERING HAPPINESS shows how a very different kind of corporate culture is a powerful model for achieving success-and how by concentrating on the happiness of those around you, you can dramatically increase your own.

Rework – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

reworkMost business books give you the same old advice: Write a business plan, study the competition, seek investors, yadda yadda. If you’re looking for a book like that, put this one back on the shelf.

Rework shows you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. Read it and you’ll know why plans are actually harmful, why you don’t need outside investors, and why you’re better off ignoring the competition. The truth is, you need less than you think. You don’t need to be a workaholic. You don’t need to staff up. You don’t need to waste time on paperwork or meetings. You don’t even need an office. Those are all just excuses.

What you really need to do is stop talking and start working. This book shows you the way. You’ll learn how to be more productive, how to get exposure without breaking the bank, and tons more counterintuitive ideas that will inspire and provoke you.

With its straightforward language and easy-is-better approach, Rework is the perfect playbook for anyone who’s ever dreamed of doing it on their own. Hardcore entrepreneurs, small-business owners, people stuck in day jobs they hate, victims of “downsizing,” and artists who don’t want to starve anymore will all find valuable guidance in these pages.

Never Get a “Real” Job: How to Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke – Scott Gerber

scott gerber - never get a real job

A twenty-something hustler, rainmaker, and bootstrapper who has survived and thrived despite never having held the proverbial “real” job, Scott Gerber is the ultimate “Generation Y-er.” He’s a self-taught serial entrepreneur who built several successful businesses without storied business connections, a business school background, executive training—or investment dollars. And in Never Get a “Real” Job, he shows you how he succeeded so you can overcome today’s chronic conditions of mass unemployment, underemployment, and dead-end 9-to-5s.

Gerber gives you the no-bull reality on turning your business idea into a viable enterprise capable ofgenerating real income now—based on his hard-knocks lessons learned in the entrepreneurial trenches. From the perils of doing too much too fast, to bogging down a promising start-up with infrastructure long before it’s needed, Gerber has experienced firsthand how you can sabotage your own business. Never Get a “Real” Job will help you avoid the costly mistakes that can take down your enterprise at any time, helping you to get off the ground, establish your business, and keep it successfully up and running.

But Gerber isn’t just giving you a collection of war stories. He gives you insights from a fellow young entrepreneur on how to start from absolutely nothing—building a viable business model from the ground up. Along with straight-shooting advice on creating contacts and cultivating clients, he offers practical, affordable, step-by-step instructions on how to constantly analyze, refine, and target your business offerings—while minimizing wasted time and keeping you on track.

Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-Free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business – David Siteman Garland

david siteman garlandIf you’re interested in building, marketing, and promoting your business with agility and grace, not sloth and dullness, get Smarter, Faster, Cheaper. This one-stop guide to the new entrepreneurial landscape—minus the “same old, same old” baggage that drags so many down—gives you real-world examples (as opposed to fluffy theory) from unique, winning innovators, inspiring you to think big and then take successful action.

In Smarter, Faster, Cheaper, you’ll meet a slew of already legendary new entrepreneurs and promoters, such as “Nametag Guy” Scott Ginsberg, Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker” Patti Stanger, Wine Library founder Gary Vaynerchuk, bestselling author and Squidoo founder Seth Godin, and many, many more. As you learn from their successes and failures, as well as those of author and entrepreneur David Siteman Garland, you’ll discover fresh and exciting approaches to:

  • Becoming a trusted resource
  • Building your audience and community
  • Helping others while helping your business
  • Using your content as a handshake
  • Creating and growing one-on-one relationships with your customers
  • Communicating effectively online and via social media
  • Avoiding “selling” by educating, inspiring, and entertaining instead
  • And more!

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard – Dan Heath & Chip Heath

switchWhy is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

In Switch, the Heaths show how everyday people—employees and managers, parents and nurses—have united both minds and, as a result, achieved dramatic results:

  • The lowly medical interns who managed to defeat an entrenched, decades-old medical practice that was endangering patients.
  • The home-organizing guru who developed a simple technique for overcoming the dread of housekeeping.
  • The manager who transformed a lackadaisical customer-support team into service zealots by removing a standard tool of customer service

In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup – Brad Feld & David Cohen

do more fasterIt is a cold, hard fact of business life that most startups fail. Even many of those entrepreneurs who ultimately succeed have stories of personal challenges, unsuccessful companies, and difficulties along the way. The founders of TechStars, a mentorship-driven startup accelerator, have worked with entrepreneurs and companies over the past twenty-five years, and have seen a number of the same issues come up again and again.

In Do More Faster, the founders of TechStars identify the key issues that first-time entrepreneurs encounter, and offer proven advice from successful entrepreneurs who have worked with the TechStars program.

The authors organize the most critical issues into seven themes: Idea and Vision, People, Execution, Product, Fundraising, Legal and Structure, and Work and Life Balance. Many of the examples are personal experiences from the entrepreneurs themselves, integrated into a cohesive narrative—while at the same time able to stand on their own. Throughout the book, they debunk numerous myths about startups and reveal some surprising truths. They explain, for instance, that the core of a startup is not always a world-changing and earth-shattering idea—in fact, it is often the case that successful startups started out doing something else. They also underscore the efficiency of execution: great entrepreneurs know how to synthesize data, make a decision about the path they are going down, and execute. And they offer some alternatives to traditional ways of raising money, while stressing that you shouldn’t start with the assumption that you need to raise money.

Mastering the seven themes may not ensure success, but understanding the issues, reading the stories, and getting advice pertaining to these issues will increase your chances dramatically. And if nothing else, you’ll realize that you aren’t alone in facing these challenges.

The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence – Tom Peters

tom peters - little big thingsIn his latest book, business guru Peters (In Search of Excellence) combines observations he has gleaned from his travels, current news items, conversations, and followers of his blog in a compact guide that aims to help readers realize effective projects, customer contentment, employee engagement, and business profitability. No doubt, Peters is on target as he advises readers to appreciate the angry customer, work on their last impressions, make sure that the restroom is clean, and 160 other ways to guarantee success. Each suggestion contains a rationale, example, and method of implementation, all in two pages apiece.

VERDICT Those who want to improve their business, whether a boss or an employee, will find great ideas in this compelling and very browsable book.—Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ

UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging – Scott Stratton

unmarketingConsider marketing. It’s a vital aspect of running a successful business, but lately its practices have been taking a beating. And why not? Do you like getting cold-called just when you sit down to dinner? Having your mailbox clogged with random offers you immediately toss? Do you listen carefully to the ads that interrupt your favorite TV show? No? If these experiences are “marketing,” you—and your customers—probably prefer whatever’s the complete opposite.

Instead of trying the same tired methods, what if you could have a new kind of conversation with your customers and prospects? If you’re ready to stop marketing and start engaging, then welcome to UnMarketing.

Taking an on-the-ground look at the changing landscape of business-customer relationships, UnMarketing gives you innovative ways out of the old “Push and Pray” rut, which assumes that messages sent out blindly and broadly will magically lead to loyal, long-term clients. Instead, you’ll discover a new, highly responsive “Pull and Stay” approach that brings the right customers to you through listening and engagement, enabling you to build trust and position yourself as their logical choice when they need you.

With a smart take on using social media as a new toolset rather than just a fad, UnMarketing features numerous bite-size chapters you can consult and apply according to your unique business requirements. These chapters are all bursting with practical tips and real-world examples, giving you a sense not just of what works (and what doesn’t) but of how and for whom.

If all business is built on relationships, then, no matter your enterprise, building good relationships is your business. UnMarketing supplies you with a winning approach to stop ineffective marketing and put relationships first—then reap the long-term, high-quality growth that follows!

The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself – John Jantsch

the referral engineMarketing expert John Jantsch offers practical techniques for harnessing the power of referrals to ensure a steady flow of new customers. Keep those customers happy, and they will refer your business to even more customers. Some of Jantsch’s strategies include:

-Talk with your customers, not at them. Thanks to social networking sites, companies of any size have the opportunity to engage with their customers on their home turf as never before-but the key is listening.

-The sales team is the most important part of your marketing team. Salespeople are the company’s main link to customers, who are the main source of referrals. Getting them on board with your referral strategy is critical.

-Educate your customers. Referrals are only helpful if they’re given to the right people. Educate your customers about whom they should be talking to.

The secret to generating referrals lies in understanding the “Customer Referral Cycle”-the way customers refer others to your company who, in turn, generate even more referrals. Businesses can ensure a healthy referral cycle by moving customers and prospects along the path of Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, and Refer. If everyone in an organization keeps this sequence in mind, Jantsch argues, your business will generate referrals like a well-oiled machine.

What other must reads do you have from 2010?

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About the Author: Jared O'Toole

Co-founder and editor of Under30Media. You can send an email to Jared(at)Under30CEO.com. Follow him on Google+ or @JaredOToole

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Category: Startup Advice

  • http://twitter.com/ben_hebert Benjamin Hebert

    I just finished reading Rework last night, probably the best read out of everything here by the accomplished team at 37 signals.

  • http://twitter.com/LiveUrLove Brankica U

    Ashamed to say I have never heard of any of these books but I am sure going to get them all and read them, nothing beats sitting in a comfortable chair with a book and how chocolate in your hands.

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  • Anonymous

    Delivering Happiness was one of the best books I have ever read. Tony’s story was incredibly inspiring.

  • http://Under30CEO.com Jared O’Toole

    Sounds like a plan for the new year!

  • http://Under30CEO.com Jared O’Toole

    Thanks for the comment that is one of the books I have not has a chance to read but I think it is at the top of my list to get to.

  • David Siteman Garland

    Thanks for including Smarter, Faster, Cheaper guys. An honor!

  • http://thindifference.com/ Jon

    Rework was a solid, straightforward book. I would add Jim Collins to the list with How the Mighty Fall. Invaluable insights which will help any business navigate through their growth.

  • IM2bizee2write

    I may be well past the under 30 mark, but even as a man in his 50′s may still be able to make it as a small business owner. I cannot qualify for unemployments and have whatever in the bank to make things work. It’s taking that first step outside of the paper activity with plans and forecasts. I hope I can get things all under control and this article has been helpful to me.

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  • John Devivo

    Great list….many of these books currently reside in the Ambrose Library!

    If you’re looking for some more great reads for entrepreneurs, check out http://www.ambrose.com/insights/library.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/ButterflyHerder Cynthia Lay

    Excellent list of books! I’ve read a few of them already, and will definitely add the rest to my reading list for 2011…. even though I’m just a tiny bit OVER that 30 year mark. LOL

    Bravo!
    ~ Cynthia

  • http://www.facebook.com/ButterflyHerder Cynthia Lay

    Excellent list of books! I’ve read a few of them already, and will definitely add the rest to my reading list for 2011…. even though I’m just a tiny bit OVER that 30 year mark. LOL

    Bravo!
    ~ Cynthia

  • http://www.businessinsanity.com Shane Petty

    I’d add Built to Sell by John Warrillow. Excellent book with great how to steps.

  • Ethan Beute

    Loved “Rework” and recommend it as a hardcover read (layout and design give it all a little extra something to the experience).

    Not sure that it’s worthy of this list, but Lisa Gansky’s “The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing” ties together some nice macro trends into a quick, easy and insightful read.

  • http://www.hypedsound.com jonathanjaeger

    Haven’t read Switch yet, but you should definitely check out their other book Made To Stick if you haven’t already. Currently in the middle of Do More Faster which is very solid and easily digestible.

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    I’m batting .500 on this reading list, not too bad

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Need to read Delivering Happiness next

  • http://twitter.com/marksoper Mark Soper

    Brad Feld & David Cohen is good, but the rest of this list doesn’t speak to startups in the right way (ReWork possibly excepted)

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  • http://thestartupdaily.com Karl Krantz

    Great list, many of these choices would be on my own top 10 list for 2010.
    I’m happy to see Do More Faster on here, I’m halfway through it and I’m really getting a lot out of that one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.nolan Roger Nolan

    I’d add Open Leadership by Charlene Li. She is talking mostly about bigger companies, but I think much of this applies just as well to startups.

  • Kaira Rouda

    Great list – but I think it would be more complete with at least one female author and her book. So, she suggests humbly, I would add Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs by Kaira Sturdivant Rouda. Check it out on amazon.com –> http://www.amazon.com/Real-You-Incorporated-Essentials-Entrepreneurs/dp/047017658X/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1290405800&sr=1-1

    Thanks – and Happy 2011!

  • http://twitter.com/agilewiz Akshay Shah

    Also a must read for all entrepreneurs who have seen some success & in the process of going to the next level ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’ – By Marshall Goldsmith.

    Akshay Shah
    http://www.iwebtechno.com

  • http://blog.thefoodpreneur.com/ Dom Celentano The FoodPreneur

    Also consider The New Experts by Robert Bloom. It focuses on how technology has changed the selling cycle at retail, empowering the consumer in new ways that are still not well understood by retailers and etailers. Bloom says Preference is now replacing loyalty and businesses have to think like consumers and NOT sellers.

  • http://www.yourinternetprofitcenter.net James Hernandez

    Wow my Amazon reading list just blew up!

    Thanks guys!

  • http://hauntingtheceo.com John D. Hughes

    Haunting the CEO, a leadership fable. It’s a quick, easy, insightful read. (I wrote this book, so yes, this is a somewhat shameless marketing plug…)

    John D. Hughes

  • http://twitter.com/ClintonSkakun Clinton Skakun

    I have Rework, one of the best books I’ve read on business.

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  • http://twitter.com/AndrewLStanley Andrew Stanley

    I would have to say that Linchpin was probably one of the most disappointing business books I have ever read. Seth did a great job at repeating himself over and over and over again, only to drive home a non-existant point.

    Andrew Stanley

  • Anonymous

    I love this list! Great choices, Jared. Can we re-publish it on http://www.prettyyoungprofessional.com, crediting you & linking back to Under30CEO at the top? Email me at Kathryn[at]pypmedia.com if so

    Thanks!

  • Blaise

    These are great books.

    In addition I would suggest that you read the first of my planned four business / management books titled You are the Limiting Factor.

    Blaise Brosnan.
    http://www.mriwex.ie

  • David McGregor

    10 great books/authors, which is #1 in everyone opinion?

  • http://www.youngpreneur.com Joseph Conrad

    The books above are great books. In fact, anything by Seth Godin is required reading for the high school students at our youth business education company, Youngpreneur. I would also highly reccomend the classic Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz, and Business Model Generation. I included Business Model Generation even though it is not an entrepreneurship book, because you need innovative Game-Changing Business Models and implementation of these models to be successful. There are some other books you can find at http://www.youngpreneur.com which I didn’t list which would be great for teens. I am a firm believer the sooner you start learning business the better your chances will be in the long run. Congrats to all the top Under30CEO.

  • Kevinhanchuk

    Great article. Also check out InvestorsPlace.ca for good information.

  • http://twitter.com/Craig_McKenna Craig McKenna

    Good article, and a great range of books. Try http://www.thegrowthacademy.com/blog for my thoughts plus feedback on the same theme.

  • http://www.collegeinfogeek.com Thomas Frank

    It came out at the tale end of 2010, but The Personal MBA is a fantastic read and acts as a great primer to anyone wanting to get a business education.

  • http://twitter.com/Minorwealth Michael

    This seems like a great list. I consider my self well read in the business area but haven’t got a chance to read most of these. Will put Delivering Happiness as my next read, as the bullets seemed extremely interesting.

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  • http://www.homerunprofits.com Pete Dimas

    I really liked Gary Vaynerchuk’s books Crush It and The Thank You Economy.

  • JenOrvis

    Great Great Books. I am reading REWORK right now and think it is superb! I think ‘Making Money is Killing Your Business’ by Chuck Blakeman would be a good addition to the list. (It was the #1 NFIB book for 2010). I happen to know Chuck and he is the real deal which makes it even better.

  • http://twitter.com/ethanaustin ethanaustin

    I haven’t read Crush It, but I agree with the Thank You Economy. I would also add Hug Your Customers to the list

  • http://twitter.com/to2 Trevor Owens

    The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits is a must read for any entrepreneur.

  • http://www.GenuineThriving.com/ Jeremiah Stanghini

    I love going to different sites, perusing their book lists, and finding that I’ve either read some of them or am about to read some of them.

    I really appreciate the short recap/review next to each book. :-)

    With Love and Gratitude,

    Jeremiah

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  • Denny K Miu

    just want to add my 99 cents ebook to the list, “Survival Guide for ‘Slow Start’ Entrepreneurs”.

    http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Guide-Start-Entrepreneurs-ebook/dp/B0054ECIV6

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  • http://twitter.com/dfortes99 Danny Fortes

    We should work together on that!!!!

  • http://www.techuelx.com sanjeev

    it will help of course….i know .. thanks for getting me all the books list…great lists..

  • Blaise

    If you have any Irish blood in you, you should read Jack –Business lessons from life, Life lessons from business.

    Blaise.
    http://www.mriwex.ie

  • http://twitter.com/AlenTodorov Alen Todorov

    Curated a list here with even more recommended reads from top VCs and entrepreneurs : http://booksforentrepreneurs.com/

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