As we approach the last few weeks of 2016 and finalize our plans for 2017, I find myself revisiting some of the books that helped grow our business to date. Pure determination, good old fashioned hard work, trail and error and a lot of self-education build this business. Nothing can prepare you for the roller coaster of being an entrepreneur except being one, but reading about other people’s journeys and heeding their advice will help when things get tough, which they definitely will. If you are anywhere in the process of starting or leveraging your business, adding some of these books to your library will be a great help.
Originally released in 2006, this was the first and most significant book I read in the early stages of the business. Book Yourself Solid, avoids the tendency of other books for and by entrepreneurs to be indulgent on theory and instead focuses on practical, implementable steps. My biggest take away: not everyone should be your client – and that’s a good thing.
I’ve read this book by Jack Mitchell, owner of Mitchell’s; the Connecticut-based retail institution known for its designer clothes, customer service and employee engagement at least a dozen times over the years. Well before we decided to open our store, Jack Mitchell’s philosophy has been a guiding force in every decision I’ve ever made about our clients and business. I’m excited to finally have a store of my own to put some of his more retail-specific advice into action. In a world that is becoming increasingly automated and impersonal, I think going old-school with your business model and focusing on one-on-one service is the way to go.
I have a healthy obsession with Gary Vaynerchuk. I’ve read all of his books, including The Thank You Economy and Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. His latest book, #AskGaryVee is based on his popular web show where he answers viewers questions about entrepreneurship with so much honesty it’s scary. He gives it to you straight whether you want to hear it or not. Like, entrepreneurship is not for everyone, even though it’s the cool thing to do now (totally agree) and that you need to work harder and smarter. If you try only to work smarter, you will fail (also totally agree). You need to hustle, all the time, it will not get easier, that’s why you need to love what you do. As a world famous social media expert, he is your man, if you’re trying to learn how to build and leverage an authentic brand in the online space.
Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, by Howard Schultz
Onward is the story of how Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks in 2008 after realizing that the brand was losing its way. He essentially rebuilt the business from within, with methodical focus and attention. I love when people love the crap out of what they do, and Schultz is the greatest example of passion and integrity. It’s also a fascinating account of how Starbucks came to be and how they try to maintain the original mission while becoming a global brand.
Defying the Odds, by Maricia Israel-Curley
Marica Israel-Curley originally opened her first tiny shop, Judy’s in 1948, at a time when women barely worked outside the house let alone ran their own business. Over the next 40 years, she became a pioneer in women’s retail. Judy’s became the precursor for stores like The Limited and Express. I first read Defying the Odds when I was 23, and it cemented my dream over owning a store one day. I reread it this summer and found, after all, these years; it was just as exciting and inspiring as the first time I read it, if not more. Now, with the perspective of a businesswoman and working mom, Marica’s story is even more inspired, and while times have certainly changed, the principles of her success remain the same.
I am a massive introvert with an extroverted job, so Susan Cain’s remarkable book, Quiet, spoke to me on many levels. After watching her TED talk a few years back, I had to dive deeper into her research around how introverts best function, why we are the way we are and how beneficial we are to the world of business. I was comforted to know that my thoughtfulness, depth of feeling and tendency to prefer working alone, was not only okay but an asset. Sometimes you just need to hear that you’re not a freak and that’s what this book did for me. I was grateful to understand that I was striking a positive balance as a creative with a strategic mind, but the energy it requires to leverage my talents often leaves me depleted which meaning I need to leave time for recovery to be my best self.