5 Business Problems That I Solved Through Reading

Books are the main tool for a first-time founder to overcome inexperience.

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Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

If you’re a business owner — especially a first-time business owner — then it’s likely that you don’t yet have all the experience to deal with new situations.

I personally find books to be a great resource for dealing with the unknown, especially in a business context.

The experience & lessons coming from skilled executives, investors and other founders may prove handy in your own journey

#1 How to identify great ideas

Early in my startup journey, I knew I wanted to build a company. I had some ideas that I could start with, but I couldn’t choose which one was better.

And then I read: Zero to One, from Peter Thiel.

This book was thrilling as it explains what it takes for an idea to create an entirely new market. According to Peter, your goal as entrepreneur (and his goal as an investor) is to create zero to one companies. Zero to one means not taking an existing concept and offering a slightly better product. It means creating an offering that creates a new market. From 0, to 1.

Some zero to one companies that Peter mentions in the book are Facebook, Google & Microsoft.

What I learned from this book is how to distinguish between ideas that make a process incrementally better, versus ideas that create entirely new processes and change people’s habits.

#2 How I found inspiration

Motivation has its highs & lows. Sometimes you feel highly motivated and sometimes you just don’t. Upstarts, was the book that brought back the motivation at a period where I felt uninspired.

Upstarts follows the early days of Airbnb, Uber and other silicon valley startups. The insane ups & downs that the founders go through, inspired me to do business with the same decisiveness and persistence.

From conception, to ideation, and all the way to scaling, this book shares the legendary tale of the 2008–2009 scaleups that changed the way we live.

#3 How & when to scale

Most startups don’t survive long enough to reach a revenue-making phase. The startups that do, realise that scaling can be a lot harder than getting their initial traction

Blitzscaling is the book that helped me understand the stages of scaling and understand the concept of blitzscaling.

Written by Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn founder) & Chris Yeh, the book goes through the journey of LinkedIn, Airbnb & other examples that managed to scale to the unicorn level and beyond. The thing that I found most interesting about it, is how the authors split the stages of growth in 5 stages depending on the number of employees:

  • The Family (1s)
  • The Tribe (10s of employees)
  • The Village (100s of employees)
  • The City (1,000s of employees)
  • The Nation (10,000s of employees)

They then go into specific advice for each stage on topics like HR & management. What I learned, is what’s the right thing to do at the current stage of my company and have an approximate understanding of what’s next.

#4 Dealing with impossible situations

There are great management & business books about how to deal with numerous situations. None of these books talk about dealing with impossible situations though.

That’s where “The hard thing about hard things” by Ben Horowitz comes in. When you are going through knee-weakening adversity, there no answers for you in any book. And there are no answers in this book. But the key difference is that Ben is entirely honest and unfiltered about how hard it is to be an entrepreneur.

Any time I was going through intense adversity, I would re-listen to this audiobook and realise that not all impossible situations end up negatively. There are both failures and successes after the hardships and you can’t judge beforehand

#5 Build a Sales Team & Sales Process

I had never before worked in sales in my life before starting my own company. But as an entrepreneur, being on the frontline is crucial. So I had to learn how to do sales myself, but also work with my co-founder and our team to build a structure.

I got enough value out of articles I read online, but it had never clicked as much as when I read Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross.

Aaron Ross, ex-VP of Sales at Salesforce.com, wrote the outbound sales bible for companies in the 21st century. From not knowing how to do prospecting, sales, increase our pipeline and close deals, I went a long way towards understanding important things. Some examples that would have taken me a lot more time to understand were around lead generation, sales development VS business development and predictability around the sales process.

In case you have high-ticket options where having a sales team would make sense, or if your product can’t grow in an entirely self-serve way then this book will help you understand and set up the right structure.

Books can be crucial in learning and dealing with new situations faster. Especially as an entrepreneur, dealing with the unknown on a daily basis, books can serve as a foundation for peace of mind but also for success. It is true that many successful business people attribute their success to their habit of reading, and this is why I created this list from books that helped me on my journey.

Founder & CTO @ GuestFlip

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