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Christmas Books: For the Entrepreneur in your life

For most people starting their own business is pretty daunting. Luckily bookstores are awash with books to guide, advise and stop you making mistakes along the way. In some ways there is too much choice! So in case you are looking for some last minute presents for the entrepreneur in your life, here are four suggestions. I have no relationship to these books or authors, they just have some very sound advice!

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business - Gino Wickman

When running your own business there are always too many tasks that are top priority and always too few people so that each person has multiple roles. In startup phase this is then exacerbated by the fact that you may spend time pivoting on your offerings to identify what the market wants / is ready for.

This business fable takes you through a framework with which you can run a small to medium sized business. For those used to Agile development there is a lot you will recognise except that the aim is to run a business not to cut code. The standout items are

  • Right seats, right people - decide on the roles needed and only then fit the right people into them. The other way round invites too much compromise that can take an age to undo

  • Weekly, Quarterly & Yearly Cadence - Iterate at three levels to give your organisation a routine to manage around

  • Process and Guarantee - How can you make your customers feel safe using a small business. The process demonstrates certainty through repeatability and the guarantee reduces the risk of engagement.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable - Patrick M. Lencioni

First published in 2002 this book is still utterly relevant as it seeks to answer the age old question of how you build high performing teams. The question itself is simple to understand and even the five solutions are fairly straightforward. It is the understanding of how to consistently apply them in day to day life that is the challenge and the reason why regardless of development methodology high performing teams are still so rare. All five dysfunctions are worth a mention as they lead on from one to another:

  • Absence of trust - without feeling that you can be vulnerable with a team, you cannot safely expose the weaknesses and failures we all have. This leads to...

  • Fear of Conflict - the absence of trust stifles passionate and honest debate. Instead you have debates with dishonest agendas. This leads to...

  • Lack of commitment to goals - if you do not voice what you really think then how can you accept a group decision and truly buy in to the teams goals? This leads to...

  • Avoidance of Accountability - if the team is not bought into the goals at the start then who will feel accountable for achieving them during execution? This leads to...

  • Inattention to results - putting the needs and results of the individual before those of the team.

The book demonstrates how these traits, if present, present an absolute blocker on becoming a high performing team.

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility - Patty McCord

In this book Patty walks you around the culture that she developed at Netflix. As an organisation undergoing continuous change, Netflix needed a culture to support them. As an example of the size of the change, Netflix went from mailing DVDs, through streaming to mobile devices to their own content production in a short space of time. While some of the ideas grab the headlines there are many others which make sense but you will have a hard time finding them in any given organisation. My highlights included

  • Radical Honesty - Never hide from the truthful reality; just tell it sensitively. Whether that is appraisals or feedback on strategy, the truth is more efficient in the long term.

  • Building a team not a family - It is a high performing team not a high performing family and in a team some people get dropped and new members join in their place.

  • Paying the right salary - understanding not how cheaply you can attract/ retain someone but what value they bring to the business is an ultimately better way to build brilliant teams.

All these and more are encapsulated in the Netflix Culture Deck which not only articulates the values of the firm but gives you concrete examples demonstrating how they will be practiced.

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty - Patrick M. Lencioni

This fable is where two cultures of competing consulting firms are compared through the scenario in which one buys the other. The culture this time (compared to Powerful) is more externally facing - how should a consultancy engage with their clients? Patrick demonstrates this by again pointing out simple to understand solutions to simple problems that are devilishly hard to consistently implement. The three fears most consultancies are driven by are

  • The fear of losing business - if the client feels that you care more about their business than your revenues then the trust generated will pay back in the long term.

  • The fear of being embarrassed - if you won’t ask the stupid questions then how does the client know there is not a different way of doing things waiting to be discovered. This is particularly true when trying to re-imagine a business process with Distributed Ledger Technologies. A lot of the time actors have roles in processes just because they have always had them.

  • The fear of feeling inferior - when providing your services don’t be afraid to be deferential and even looked down upon. Nothing builds trust like setting your ego aside.

 

All four books are seriously thought provoking when it comes to how to run a business, creating high performing teams, developing the ideal culture and how to engage with clients. Subjects that we can always work on!

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Richard Miller

Richard Miller

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