How can an active entrepreneur stay in the know about business trends and support when they’re already too busy?
BF+DA Venture Fellow alumna Claire Russo of Luru Home said it well: “It is easy to work in your business rather than on your business, to justify closing a sale over reading up on e-commerce best practices. If you can’t pull back from your company’s day-to-day operational tasks however, your lens remains focused on the micro, rather than zooming out to take in the macro perspective.”
BF+DA Venture Fellow Founder Kyle Bergman of The Great Fantastic is all about the bigger picture and has read more than a few entrepreneurial books to keep re-framing his business. His brand’s mission is to create the world’s comfiest apparel using sustainable materials and practices to create the company’s main product called Swoveralls (think sweatpants+overalls). Cool, functional, and extremely comfortable – Bergman says his “Swoveralls are quite simply the comfiest thing you never knew you needed.”
So if they don’t know they need them, how do people find out about them? Thanks to BF+DA mentoring and lots of reading and tapping into community, Bergman intends to find out.
We caught up with The Great Fantastic who shared some business-related books he’s read recently that are useful to expand the entrepreneurial mind.
So tell us about these books?
The books I’d like to share with the BF+DA community are Get Backed, Traction, and All Marketers are Liars. I won’t go into too much detail for each book, but instead share a key takeaway that I had, which either helped inspire me, created a different (and valuable) perspective, or a combination of the two:
Get Backed – Even if you’re not 100% sure outside funding is the path you want to take, I think every entrepreneur can gain so much from this book as it’s more of a tool-kit that can be referenced again and again versus a one-time read. Actual pitch decks, founder stories, and templates anyone can use to help create effective communication channels (ex: “How to write the perfect follow-up email”) are just a few of the highlights in this book.
Key Takeaway: No entrepreneur has an easy road. Get Backed not only shares anecdotes but also real data as to the amount of investors pitched, the length of the fundraising process, and the amount actually raised. It’s reassuring in a way to know that every start-up at one point was grinding in an uncertain, risky environment just like you are.
Traction – I’m right in the middle of this book right now, and just like Get Backed, it’s more a tool-kit or manual than a book you read once. Traction breaks down 19 different ways you can create momentum within your business. Each strategy shared is supported by someone (usually an entrepreneur) that is crushing it with that tactic.
Key Takeaway:Understand your blind spots and biases. Some suggestions/tactics to gain traction might be irrelevant to a specific industry or brand but know this – if they seem irrelevant to you, then your competitors are probably thinking the same thing, so if you look at it from a different angle, it may be an unbelievable point of differentiation and competitive advantage.
All Marketers are Liars is a short read that takes you through the history of advertising with a ton of sharp and to the point insights. If the two books above are reusable tools, then this book is the mindset with which you utilize those devices.
Key Takeaway: Marketers aren’t the liars, we (as consumers) are…to ourselves! We all know every advertisement, good and bad, is a little story that we either choose to believe or ignore, but what a lot of consumers miss is the conversation we then have with ourselves about this story. Those shoes you bought? That gym you joined? Often times these purchases are a result of the inner lie we tell ourselves about how cool or how fit we will get with this item. It’s not a bad thing, just something to be aware of as a customer, and certainly as someone trying to build a brand.
Do you read business-related books often?
I’ve always been a reader, but my nightstand usually has a novel on it, and I think reading fiction is just as, if not more important, than any non-fiction book. Afterall, entrepreneurs have to dream! The business books that I’ve read are 99% of the time recommended by someone I know. I don’t think it’s uncommon for people to refer books to friends, but a habit I’ve gotten in to is ordering the book right there on the spot. I think people have the best intentions when they say, “Oh that sounds great, I’ll look into it,” but then life gets in the way and we forget. I’ve read so many more books because I order it from my phone right on the spot.
If people don’t have time to read or maybe don’t like it, are there any other channels you recommend?
I know reading isn’t for everyone the same way running on a treadmill isn’t for everyone, but there are other great ways to get an effective “workout” if you will.
Talk to your network, and people you want IN your network. This is somewhat ironic but the 3 books I spoke about above were all referred to me through other small business owners I know. You learn so much from hearing other people’s stories. Additionally, there is always the opportunity to level up outside of your network and ask someone to chat. Whether it’s sliding into someone’s Instagram DMs or sending a personalized note on Linkedin. I believe most entrepreneurs are happy to help a fellow hustler. I know I am, and anyone who reaches out to me and wants to ask specific or general questions about my business I am honored to speak with them.
When I was little I wanted a TV in my room so bad but my parents never allowed it, and so from an early age I was reading in bed every night. While I still don’t have a TV, I am a little embarrassed to admit some of my reading time is now taken up by “staring at my phone in the IG abyss” time – a terrible habit I’d like to quit. Point is – I think everyone has 5-10 minutes before they crash to get in a little reading. It’s also an incredible decompressor, and might even help you sleep better. I think some people are also intimidated by big, thick books (how am I going to read all of that!) that can bring back nightmares from assigned school readings. The famous angel investor and all around bad-ass guru Naval Ravikant hardly ever reads a book in its entirety, but instead skims, reads meaningful sections, and moves on.
That said, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite proverbs – “How do you eat an Elephant with a spoon? One bite at a time.”
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by Amy DuFault
February 7, 2019