January 27, 2014

9 Business Books that Changed my Life

Many of those close to me will know that when I started my first company over 4 years ago, I started with very little. A tiny network, virtually no work experience and only a few month’s worth of money saved up. A potential recipe for disaster in retrospect, but what I did have was a burning desire in my heart to make a dent in the world. 4 years later, I find myself heading up SA’s foremost social media technology company, with ambitious plans to scale things up an order of magnitude in 2014.

The journey has been pretty exciting so far, and I feel it is just the beginning of something much greater. One of the values I hold dear to me and ensure my staff adopt is perpetual education – constant learning in their fields of interest and expertise. This gives my organization and my people an edge, as we sharpen our minds continually to ensure we’re on top of changes in the market and industry as they happen.  I’d like to share the 9 business books I’ve read in the last 4 years that have catapulted my businesses forward and in many ways replaced a more traditional MBA with a practical body of knowledge. Education, of course, is but one component of the business success puzzle, but it is a crucial building block upon which all others stand. If your educational foundation is flawed, you will make costly mistakes through strategic errors as you traverse the path of business.

Losing my Virginity – Richard Branson

losing my virginity
Richard is a great storyteller. He inspired me to believe in my dreams and made me realize my ambitions are actually not all that crazy. This book is an account of his life, and shows what is possible if you give your heart and soul to what you love.

The E-Myth Revisited – Michael Gerber

e mythThis book showed me some solid foundations for developing a business as an income generating asset, developing business systems that are scalable and repeatable and essentially building businesses that do not rely on you to run effectively. If you see business as an extension of your passion, then it may be acceptable to be irreplaceable and permanently vested within it. My goals incorporate developing business systems that work with or without me, leveraging and growing off of each other.

The Black Swan – Nassim Taleb

black swanThis book helped me understand how the human brain considers risk and calculates probability (hint: it’s pretty damn inaccurate at the best of times!). It provides a good framework for assessing and dealing with risk in business as well as life in general. Its a highly intellectual read so you need to stay focused when going through it, but the knowledge and critical thinking you gain is indispensable.

The Four Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferriss

4hour work weekLove this book or hate it, it’s become an international best-seller for a reason. Its filled with practical tips and advice for growing passive income streams with relatively low input cost. Although not the best book in the world if you want to build a global enterprise, it was a great start for me a few years ago to better understand the many ways the Internet can be leveraged to maximize sales.

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

think and grow richThe timeless classic – this business book focuses on the mental aspect of business. A strong mind makes for a strong leader, and is absolutely critical to business success. I’ve come to realize that our minds construct our entire reality, and through our thoughts we can change our minds, thus changing how reality is perceived by us. The thoughts we think play a profound part in the quality of life we live, and this book shows you how to condition your mind for success.

Good to Great – Jim Collins

good to greatAnother classic read, this book deciphers the differences between average companies, and companies that have found the “secret” to skyrocket their businesses. Focusing on the success of larger multinational corporates, Jim distils insight into what made these companies special. I learnt a lot about leadership, company culture and creating a balanced environment of fun and discipline at work.

The Lean Startup – Eric Ries

lean startupThis book really helped me understand how a cutting edge technology company like the one I am building can remain cutting edge despite fast market changes. Coming from a software background, I understand agile/lean methodologies pretty well already. However, this book applies the process of agile iterations in software development to business processes. Emphasis is placed on data-driven business decisions based on real product usage, fast prototyping, accurate measurement and tracking of business metrics and creating a culture of speed and agility. Its a must read for any entrepreneur working in a fast changing industry.

Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki

rich dad poor dadIts not like this book needs any introduction, but it is the indispensable guide to understanding the mindset of the entrepreneur. It probably took over two years to fully recondition myself from the JOB mindset (also known as “Just Over Broke”), to the entrepreneur mindset. The more work experience you have in the 9-5 game, the harder it is to change gears. This book contrasts the two mindsets through the stories of Robert’s two dads, and shows how they both thought very differently about success and growth.

The Undefeated Mind – Alex Lickerman

Undefeated mindA business is only as strong as its leader, and its leader must have a mind that is undeterred when conditions get hard. The business game is extremely difficult and never really gets easier, but you do learn to react with less emotion and become more strategically precise as the years progress. The Undefeated Mind is not a business book – it is a framework for living successfully. I’ve adapted its principles into my life and my businesses with great success, and think its a must-read for any entrepreneur wanting to find balance in their life.

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