6 Books for the Well-Rounded Entrepreneur

By Jeff Haden

Starting a business, personal productivity, marketing skills–these good reads cover the essentials an entrepreneur needs to master.

Most entrepreneurs wear a variety of hats. Some wear every hat.  That’s why most entrepreneurs need to be very well rounded.  Here are six books that at least partially cover the entrepreneurial gamut: starting a business, personal productivity, marketing, improving skills, operations–even health and fitness.  Each will leave you feeling challenged, inspired, motivated, and ready to take your professional life to new heights.

Starting and Sustaining a Business – Part research, part science, and part introspection exercise, Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck does help you understand your personality and decision-making traits–useful in itself–but more importantly is filled with cool insights and tips any entrepreneur can benefit from.

One is the Three-Minute Rule, based on the premise that what your customers do in the three minutes just before and just after they use your product or service tells you a lot about their needs and how they actually use what you sell.

For example, studies show customers buy less when their arms are full–which is why placing empty shopping baskets or carts in the middle of a retail store can dramatically increase sales per customer.

If you’re hesitating to take the entrepreneurial plunge, this book should jar you off the fence. If you already own a business you’ll learn a number of things you’ll want to start doing–or stop doing.

Personal Productivity – Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss a book simply because it has gained widespread popularity; it’s like playing the popularity backlash card.

If you’ve placed David Allen’s Getting Things Done in that category, rethink that decision. Yes, his process is comprehensive. Yes, you might think, “Wait… I have to do all that?”

And yes, maybe you won’t adopt his entire system. I haven’t.

But you will find ways to waste less time, be more productive, and focus more on what truly drives the results you want in your business and personal life.

Gotta love that.

Improving Skills – I admit it: I’m a sucker for books that give practical advice for developing skills and talent. The problem is that most “self help” books are mostly breathless enthusiasm and motivation; many can be summarized by Rob Schneider’s, “You can do it!”

Great. I can do it! But wait: How can I do it?

The subtitle of Practice Perfect is “42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better.” It’s like the “teach a man to fish” principle: Instead of describing how to improve one specific skill, Practice Perfect provides practical tools for practicing, modeling, using feedback, and making those new skills stick.

Best of all it’s a guide to not only improving your own skills but also your employees’ skills.

Helping other people get better–as a leader isn’t that your most important job?

Marketing – We all know that great advertising–or, really, any great “pitch”–contains a blend of emotional and rational appeal.

The Hidden Agenda lays out a blueprint for determining the hidden agendas of decision makers–and in the process transcend persuasion and create connections.

Sound fluffy? It’s not. As a consumer, I have needs. I have wants. And I have beliefs. Connect your products, services, or ideas with my needs, wants, and beliefs and then you don’t have to sell me.

I’m already with you.

Operations – I worked in manufacturing for 20 years and still take some productivity and quality improvement consulting gigs, so I’m also a sucker for operations books.

American Icon, the story of Ford’s turnaround, without a government bailout, is outstanding.

And it reads like a novel–although in this case a “novel” that will help you lead and run your own business better.

Health and Fitness – Guess what: Most people drink too much during and after exercise; for most of us drinking when we get thirsty is fine. Stretching before we exercise doesn’t seem to prevent injury and can actually decrease our performance. Chocolate milk is an awesome post-workout drink. Sitting too much is slowly killing us.

And exercise can make us smarter.

The First 20 Minutes debunks a number of health and fitness myths and lays out a simple blueprint for getting the most out of exercise–without all the conventional wisdom and marketing b.s. that tends to lead us astray.

Where our well-being is concerned, astray is the last place we want to be.

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden


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