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Essential reading for entrepreneurs

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With so much conflicting literature surrounding the entrepreneurial path, the world of successful business can be testing to navigate. Having worked with entrepreneurs from start-ups to global corporations, we've put together our favourite reads by those who've made it to the top.

Essential reading for entrepreneurs

Alongside market leading and challenger brands, we enjoy working with select ambitious start-ups. While it is a different kind of challenge for us, we are well equipped for this given our strategy and planning expertise and wide range of services.

We know that starting your own business can be both a daunting and exhilarating experience, and it’s often assumed that a business degree is necessary to take on such an ambitious challenge. However, very few of the world’s most successful start-up founders ever went to university or college but instead, learnt through hands-on experience.

While no “how to” book guarantees you’ll become the next Bill Gates, reading up on the lessons learnt from those who have already been there, done that can certainly send you on your way. To help you absorb some of the vital knowledge you’ll need to kick-start your entrepreneurial adventure, here are a few of my favourites...

1. Zero to One - Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel is the co-founder of Paypal and was an early investor in Facebook. He’s a technology entrepreneur and venture capitalist and in his thought-provoking book, Zero to One, he discusses the premise of technological stagnation and encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to ‘embrace monopolies’ and effectuate ideas that might not be considered conventional outside of Silicon Valley. Throughout the book, Thiel talks about his own experiences in order to describe phenomena like the ‘founders paradox’ and offers new and practical ways to approach innovation. Zero to One is guaranteed to get you motivated and excited.

“Every business is successful exactly to the extent that it does something others cannot… Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.”

2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things - Ben Horowitz

As one of Silicon Valley’s most experienced and respected entrepreneurs, co-founder of Andreesen Horowitz, Ben Horowitz, is a valuable source for essential business advice. His book embraces the elements of building a business that other authors tend to ignore, but are often vital to starting and scaling a business effectively. Like Thiel, Horowitz draws on his wealth of experience to explore difficult topics like managing your own psychology whilst running a business and navigating the political issues that arise when growing a team. A must read for the ins and outs of entrepreneurialism that nobody thought to tell you.

“If you run a company, you will experience overwhelming psychological pressure to be overly positive. Stand up to the pressure, be overly positive, and tell it like it is.”

3. Lean In - Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg certainly knows a thing or two about becoming a successful female leader. In ‘Lean In’ she talks about the obstacles many women encounter during the course of their careers and outlines ways for businesses to think about how they can be better represented and supported on a broader spectrum. Start-ups in particular are often better equipped to overcome any biases against women, as they can plan for growth and prevent bias becoming ingrained in the culture of the company. Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ should be the manifesto for equality in the workplace and a book I can wholeheartedly recommend to all businesses, regardless of their size.

“I marched in to see [the] Google founders… and announced that we needed pregnancy parking, preferably sooner rather than later. He [Sergei Brin] looked up at me and agreed immediately, noting that he had never thought about it before.”

4. Creativity Inc. - Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull’s ‘Creativity Inc.’ is a mix of business advice and historical lessons from Pixar’s exponential growth. A huge amount can be learned from the media giant which has worked so hard to build and sustain a creative culture. The book had a profound impact on my perception of creativity in business, even detailing simple strategies that can be employed at a lower level. It is an engaging read that reveals Pixar’s tried and tested techniques through delightfully entertaining storytelling.

“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.”

5. The Score Takes Care of Itself - Bill Walsh

One might question the relevancy of a book written by an American football coach in a list of entrepreneurial reads, but surprisingly, Bill Walsh’s The Score Takes Care of Itself draws numerous parallels between the contrasting worlds of business and sport. The book, recommended by Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, focuses on a particular style of management employed by Walsh to lead his San Francisco 49ers to Superbowl victory, after two consecutive years of poor performance. Walsh’s approach to leadership had a transformative impact on his franchise and has had a serious impact on businesses across the globe.

“Even when you have an organization brimming with talent, victory is not always under your control. There is no guarantee, no ultimate formula for success. It all comes down to intelligently and relentlessly seeking solutions that will increase your chance of prevailing. When you do that, the score will take care of itself.”

At Salad, the experience and strength of our strategy & planning team means we are extremely well set up to help start-ups and companies that are embarking on a growth journey. Great strategy leading to beautiful and effective execution is more important than ever at this point, as there are often no second chances. If you would like to find out how we can help you and your business, please drop us a line at [email protected]

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