This summer, get away but stay-up-to-date and be ready to move your business forward with you when you get back. Discover the latest insights and lessons that will take you one step closer toward turning the vision of your company into reality.
When most people think of summer, imagery of beaches, sunshine, braais (barbeques) typically come to mind. And while many of us will, at some point, enjoy those things this summer, the truth is that entrepreneurs – even if they do take a vacation – can never really afford to totally escape from their business.
After all setting up a startup is often a 24/7 gig, and the challenge of constantly discovering new ideas, learning new techniques, and improving existing processes is ongoing. Fortunately reading is one activity that can keep entrepreneurs away from their businesses whiles at the same empowering and equipping them for business challenges.
Reading a great book when away from hectic schedule of your business is a worthwhile investment. The following are some of the recommended books (in no particular order) that will provide critical insight, advice, and ideas on topics ranging from ideas conceptualisation, leadership, marketing to business failure, business mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs is the authorised biography of Steve Jobs. The biography was written by Walter Isaacson at the request of Jobs. 650 or so pages, it look daunting to read but once you read the first chapter, you will be hooked and will find it difficult to put it down.
Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years, in addition to interviews with family members, friends, adversaries, competitors and colleagues – Isaacson was given “unprecedented” access to Job’s life. Jobs is said to have encouraged the people interviewed to speak honestly. Most biographies tend to focus on the positive aspect of the biographer but this is an honest and unfiltered assessment of who Steve Jobs is (or was).
Among others the book tracks Jobs’s long and combative rivalry with Bill Gates. There is also section devoted to Jobs’s illness, which suggests that his cancer might have been more treatable had he not resisted early surgery. His love for music, philosophy based on Zen, his management style.
2. Black Man’s Medicine – Muzi Kuzwayo
The title of this book comes from the African adage: “The Black Man’s Medicine is the White Man” implying that a black person cannot achieve much without a white man’s supervision.
The book attempts to show that it does not necessarily have to be true that Setlhare sa moSotho ke lekgowa, that black man’s medicine is the white man.
Kuzwayo tackles everything from rising food prices to unemployment, from thieving workers to lazy ones using superstition to avoid work. He explains where the concept of “African time” comes from. He introduces concepts such as SEE (Self Economic Empowerment). Africa as a Superpower, The Etiquette for Success.
The book is seasoned with funny quotes throughout, such as this one that had me weeping with laughter: “The poor masses are an invention of the elite; the chauffeur-driven class who would have us believe that they burp champagne for the benefit of the poor.”
I loved this book, easy to read to an extent that you may finish it within a couple of days.
3. Black Like You – Herman Mashaba
Black Like You is the story of entrepreneur Herman Mashaba, who takes the reader on a journey from his early years growing up in the GaRamotse township in Hammanskraal, through his wild youth to his recent business life.
Mashaba, against all odds, has excelled at business with, most famously, his cosmetics company Black Like Me. He relates growing up with his siblings while his mother worked as a domestic worker – “the bleak fate of many talented black women during the apartheid era”.
It might have been a tough childhood, but Mashaba looks back at his childhood with increasing affection as he ages. “The warmth and intimacy my family enjoyed casts a glow on my memories.”
The story of his journey should be an inspiring read for both black and white young South Africans.
4. Lemon Leadership – Brett Johnson
Since the release of the first edition in 2009 LEMON Leadership has become a consistent top seller in the Business book category in South Africa. LEMON is the acronym for Luminaries, Entrepreneurs, Managers, Organisers and Networkers.
LEMON Leadership will help you to identify which type of leader you are and show you how to apply your specific characteristics within your organization. Understanding these leadership types uncover keys to dealing with yourself and others in situations calling for different types of leaders. Much has been written on leadership, but most writings focus on only two or three types of leaders. In LEMON Leadership, Brett Johnson expands our view of leadership to over five distinct types of leaders.
5. The Icarus Deception – How High Will You Fly
Everyone knows that Icarus’s father made him wings and told him not to fly too close to the sun; he ignored the warning and plunged to his doom. The lesson: Play it safe. Listen to the experts. It was the perfect propaganda for the industrial economy. What boss wouldn’t want employees to believe that obedience and conformity are the keys to success?
But we tend to forget that Icarus was also warned not to fly too low, because seawater would ruin the lift in his wings. Flying too low is even more dangerous than flying too high, because it feels deceptively safe.
The safety zone has moved. Conformity no longer leads to comfort. But the good news is that creativity is scarce and more valuable than ever. So is choosing to do something unpredictable and brave: Make art. Being an artist isn’t a genetic disposition or a specific talent. It’s an attitude we can all adopt. It’s a hunger to seize new ground, make connections, and work without a map. If you do those things you’re an artist, no matter what it says on your business card.
Godin shows us how it’s possible and convinces us why it’s essential.
Loved the book and is a strong contender for my book of the year for 2013
6. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants – Malcolm Gladwell
Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David’s victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn’t have won.
Or should he have?
In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.
Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago. From there, David and Goliath examines Northern Ireland’s Troubles, the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, murder and the high costs of revenge, and the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms, all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity.
In the tradition of Gladwell’s previous bestsellers The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers and What the Dog Saw, David and Goliath draws upon history, psychology, and powerful storytelling to reshape the way we think of the world around us.
To be released in October 2013, this one promises to raise the bar higher than Outliers.
7. Personal Growth African Style – Barbara Nussbaum
Personal growth, African Style takes an approach to leadership which offers a path to personal development, dealing with leadership as a process of self-discovery and a journey to the centre of oneself and one’s origins.
It inspires leadership through the individual’s reclaiming his or her wholeness as a human being, as an African, as a global citizen. It seeks to regenerate and ignite the less tangible aspects of leadership: those linked to higher purpose and self-awareness and to the good of a broader community. While focusing on personal growth, this approach not only calls upon you, the individual, to expand the level and depth of your self-awareness, but to honour and enrich the potential of those whose lives you touch.
The book contains a variety of readings and tools as well as written exercises to help you to grow personally and to encourage you to begin to see yourself as a person who expresses the values, knowledge and behaviour which consciously embody ubuntu. It seeks to reclaim the possibility of a more human style of leadership. Not only for Africa, but for the world
8. 43 Mistakes Businesses Make – and how to avoid them – Duncan Bannatyne
Imagine you had your very own personal business adviser, who could give you the benefit of their expertise and help you avoid making costly, embarrassing, time-consuming and even career-ending mistakes. Duncan Bannatyne is that person and he’s here to help you. 43 MISTAKES will make sure you avoid the most common business howlers, and is just as relevant if you are a sole trader on the high street or a bond trader in the City.
Duncan Bannatyne is one of the dragons in the British TV show called Dragons Den.
9. How They Blew It
The book delivers an insight into the lives of famous businessmen, who took incredible risks, won – and then lost it all. A book about men, who were entrepreneurs to the core, not only because of the money and the fame but because entrepreneurship determined, who they were.
The authors recount the stories of sixteen entrepreneurs of international repute. It follows them from their often modest beginnings to the height of their success and to the depths of their fall.
As varied as their backgrounds, professions and motivations might have been, one of the common traits of all of the portrayed businessmen was that they all had their “Eureka” moment at the right time and were able to seize it. Equally common was their subsequent tendency to going into overdrive: From the former head of Lehman Brothers, Dick Fuld, to German Industrialist Adolf Merckle, Ken Lay of Enron, all the way to Zhou Zhengyi, the Chinese tycoon – they all overestimated themselves and underestimated others and the blew it.
10. Eating the Big Fish – Adam Morgan
This is more than a book; it’s a way of life for the rebels and the revolutionaries amongst us, for the market makers and the ground breakers, to what Morgan describes so poetically as Challenger Brands. Following on from his highly acclaimed first edition, Morgan takes us on a journey of discovery, helping us re-familiarise with his original concepts and injecting new ideas to keep us flicking the pages.
The great thing about this book is that it’s not just for start-ups, market makers or early growth companies, it’s a book that when you read it opens your eyes to creating innovation and stand out within your own company. And let’s face it, that’s pretty much all of us.
I’m sure there are plenty of great books out there. What are you reading and would recommend, lets share…