Entrepreneur

7 must-reads for entrepreneurs

(Editor’s note: Javier Rojas is a managing director leading U.S. investment activities for Kennet Partners. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)

If you’re an entrepreneur, odds are you’re insanely busy.  You may welcome constructive suggestions to improve your business, but don’t really have time to hunt for answers. The good news is there are plenty of great books on the market that can help make a difference.

No time to read? You’re not alone. But starting tomorrow here in the Entrepreneur Corner, I’ll be providing monthly reviews of helpful books for entrepreneurs that are meant to at least capture the authors’ big ideas.

I love reading: the value you get from an insightful book amazes me.  You are, in essence, getting the benefit of an author’s life’s work for a trivial amount of money and an investment of a handful of hours. Even more, I am entertained in the process.

That said, it can be a challenge deciding what to read and how to apply it. There are plenty of ways to distill the process:  You can ask others what they read and what they like. Or, you can cruise your favorite bookstore and pick the brains of the staff there. Amazon has an often-effective predictive model – and, of course, there are the New York Times book reviews.

But no source applies judgment and makes recommendations specifically for entrepreneur readers like myself (and, presumably, you) – readers who change technology, science and learning.   My recommendations are tailored specifically for this community.

The other issue is figuring out how to apply what you read.  You can be blown away by some amazing insights, but still puzzle what to do. That application is beyond the scope of most books, and I address it by sharing some of my experiences as well as those of others.

We’ll kick off the reviews tomorrow. But to give you a sense of my tastes, here are my top seven, most useful, business books – my ‘must-reads,’ if you will. Many are no doubt familiar, but if you’ve missed any of them, I can’t recommend them highly enough:

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey – A great model for setting the right priorities for yourself and your organization
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie–The title would benefit from an overhaul but this is a time-tested classic. Key point: to do well you need to genuinely like people and you can’t fake it.  The rest of the book is about how to do that well.
  • Good to Great, Jim Collins– If you want advice that is well researched, this is excellent on providing key principals for building lasting value.  Favorite points: 1) get the right people on the bus and 2) figure out your hedgehog ratio.
  • The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clay Christensen- Great insights on how disruptive change really happens. The great news for entrepreneurs is that disruptive change tends to be very capital efficient.
  • The World Is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman – The fundamental change brought about by tapping overseas talent to start capital efficient companies is a long-term trend, creating enormous entrepreneurial opportunities.  Another more recent lesson on this comes from “The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferris
  • Strategic Selling, Robert Miller – The lifeblood of a company is sales. Founders need to sell and manage sales well to be successful.  Here are the best principals in sales strategy and execution I have seen used by the most successful companies.
  • Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath – Entrepreneurs need to evangelize and spread their ideas.  A combination of great research and a simple formal helps you to do this consistently. (More on this, in depth, in a full review tomorrow).

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