I'm not much of a reader, so your book title better grab my attention and you better be able to take me through the journey of the pages in a concise manner – meaning keep it short. But now and then I find a find that impacts me so much I make changes to the fundamental ways that my business runs. Here are three such books that I'd recommend you put on your list of must-reads.
Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
Not only is this a New York Times Bestseller, but this excellent short read is by an author who is a Texan. You need no other reasons in my opinion to consider picking up a copy, but I'll brag more specifically as to how this little book changed my approach to branding our company and client relationships.
The title reveals some of the mystery, but the subtitle is what drew me in – “10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered.” The idea that you should reveal your methods, your “behind the scenes,” your flaws, your skills and in so doing you'll grow your brand and grow your reach. Chapter one is titled “You don't have to be a Genius.” For someone like me that took ten years to accomplish a two-year degree – this is a very encouraging start. Other chapters continue with challenges like “Share Something Small Everyday, “Teach What You Know,” “Learn to Take a Punch,” and “Think Process Not Product.”
Kleon offers his advice in a very laid-back, practical approach that resonated with me. He mingles in sketches and quotes that provide just enough randomness too. I had already been offering classes, but we added more. We started filming our live YouTube WordPress Q&A session with a simultaneous live Periscope feed giving folks an insider's perspective with a behind the scenes angle. Putting ourselves out there more has not only driven traffic to our website and increased our leads, but it has also helped us begin to establish ourselves as the “Good Guys (and Gals)” in our local WordPress community and city. Showing our work and becoming more open to our clients, students and YouTube fans has given us a new way to connect with new relationships, build our current clients' trust, and improve our business model.
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
If you haven't heard of this guy, please stop and watch his YouTube TEDx talks. He's extraordinary. This book has fundamentally changed the way we approach every project we create, the language we use on the website, and even how we teach. When most people start with “What they do” Sinek turns that on its head and says to “Start With the Why”. This has given us a fresh wind and light bulb moments with our clients – especially those clients coming in to redesign their current website that has grown old and boring to them. Applying Sinek's Gold Circle Theory – which is a horribly cheesy name – will allow you to change radically the conversation happening on your clients' website and even your own. This leads to conversion strategy and so much more.
Our lead project sheets no longer start with “Discover Your Brand” – we now say “Discover Your Why.”
His book gives examples of great leaders who have achieved the status of greatness because of their beliefs, because of their actions, and ultimately because of the way they thought. He reveals those repeated patterns seen in such greats like Martin Luther King, Jr., the Wright Brothers, Steve Jobs, and others.
“Any person or organization can explain what they do; some can explain how they are different or better; but very few can clearly articulate why.” – Afterword (back cover)
ReWork by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
If Sinek's book doesn't get you rethinking your approach in this industry, then this one will. ReWork is another New York Times Bestseller. These guys don't hold any punches. Seth Godin is quoted as saying, “Ignore this book at your peril.” Take every bit of business advice that you've ever received (or given for that matter) and throw it out on its ear. This is the guide for the DIYer. This is the only book that any person who is contemplating starting a business or going out on their own should read, and perhaps even consider it as your business plan (even though the authors will say a business plan is a waste of time).
For me, this book wasn't so much of “Ah Ha” moments as it was more an affirming read, giving me a green light to do things how I see fit, instead of following the leader. In the tech world, here seems to be a lot of competition for growth and advancement. Measure yourself against your industry's top competition for a quick summation of your complete and utter failure of an attempt to be an entrepreneur.
These guys tell us to go against the flow, do things the opposite of those big-wigs. Best leave them at their own game by playing to your strengths where you currently are. Growth isn't always best as long as success is what you pictured. Stay Small. Tell customers ‘No'. Don't hire until it hurts. Give stuff away. Pass on great people. Stop having meetings. All of these are tips and chapters that truly resonated with my past choices in our business culture, and it finally was incredible to feel like I wasn't the only nut-job out here trying to swim upstream and do things differently.
Their unfiltered perspective, the whimsical sketches and their real-world experience is what I value from this fantastic short read. Plus they're the guys who founded 37Signals (Basecamp), and this little side project book is just one of their offerings that have made millions for them. They know what they're talking about, and they're talking about you and me taking control of our business' destiny and our brands' reputation and not comparing ourselves to the rest of the tech world, or our local competitors. If you're not hooked by the first chapter, you've already sunk too far into the cruel world of the dangling carrot.
I run WebTegrity – a web firm that grew from my couch to half a million in sales in two years. That's not the best in some people's eyes, but to me, my family, and my team – we're in control, we love what we do, and we see that as success. These three books can help you let go of unrealistic expectations. They will have you laughing and inspired. Your business is your passion. If you've taken the time to read through this whole article to this point – you're probably hungry for direction and mentoring. Grab a copy of each of these and soak them in. You'll be a better person, business owner, and boss because of them.