Luru co-founders, Liza Serratore and Claire Russo
Don’t work in your business, work on your business.
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.
Often our professional development must occur at odd times, after work, on the weekends, on a flight, and so forth. Getting into the habit of reading voraciously, attending seminars and events, and connecting with other entrepreneurs inside and outside of your industry enriches your sense of where your company sits in the market, and helps put you in the driver’s seat for decision-making and risk-taking. And investing in yourself is an investment in your business. Carving time out for research, reading, and coffee dates may make you feel like you’ve left small tasks unattended. But, six months from now, will you remember that one package of samples you shipped, or will you remember that amazing case study you read on inventory modules that helped you re-organize your stock tracking system and solved that season’s biggest source of angst?
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Reading, we find, is our best way to invest in professional development for a few reasons.
First, it is low-impact. Reading can provide a half hour’s break in the middle of a hectic day. Or, it can take place during your commute, on a subway ride to a factory, or in the evenings. It’s a passive way to absorb information that you’ll store for later use. Good entrepreneurship books tend to come from fellow small business owners. Reading materials suggested by a contact gives us fodder for future conversations with the folks who recommended the books in the first place. This gets the communication flywheel going in your network and helps form lasting, trusting relationships with others whose expertise can help your business.
And, reading gives you a go-to list of books to recommend to others who may ask for advice. Especially for specific subject matter, recommending or lending a book to a contact helps build your authority over diverse subject matter, making you a go-to for others who need advice.
Here are our favorite business reads, in no particular order. Some are brand new, and others are older, but all have stood the test of time.
From the team that developed the Basecamp suite comes as refreshing a read as you’re likely to find. Get back to basics with a book that will inspire you with its pure simplicity. Read Rework to clear the cobwebs out your brain and reacquaint yourself with the core principles of your business, your company’s needs, and your goals.
Greshes breaks down the numbers game into bit-size, sensible chunks of wisdom. Follow his instructions for loading up your sales funnel, and internalize his math for sales strategy. His anecdotes are spot-on and he will introduce lots of accountability to your sales process.
If you are shipping goods into or out of the US, this book will become your go-to resource. While Customs Border Patrol policies and practices evolve over time in relation to political climate, the bedrock principles of this book are solid and will help you communicate with the shipping agents, export agents, customs brokers, and delivery services that your business depends on.
BMC Associates, a consulting firm in Washington, DC, has created this process for business partners as a pre-curser to the operating agreement. A blend of personality testing, scenarios and contingency planning, the Partnership Charter helps business partners and other stakeholders root out their individual preferences, inclinations, and risk tolerances to design a compact agreement for future phases of the company’s growth. A must-read exercise for all business partners.
You are only as equipped to meet business challenges as your network makes you. Never Eat Alone describes a strategy for folding relationship-building into your daily routine and outlines the value that a diverse network can provide. A wake-up call for entrepreneurs who can tend to bury their heads in the sand to get work done, rather than carve out time for nurturing a professional network.
For business owners, life and business tend to overlap. While entrepreneurs have an acute sense for where their businesses are in regards to the goals they’ve set, we can tend to sideline our personal lives to focus exclusively on our companies. This book, born out of a course in lifestyle design at Stanford University, walks individuals through a process of assessing the key performance indicators in their personal lives in order to create balance and alignment between factors like health, family, relationships, and career fulfillment.
Business owners negotiate at every step of the way in the business, a thousand times per day, but rarely consider the relationships they build a process of negotiation. Learn to think through the lens of negotiation, reviewing what you gain and what others gain, in any partnership, be it with a vendor, a customer, a supplier, a broker, an employee, an advisor, or a brand partner. Becoming aware of concessions gives you more control over decision-making, and creates metrics by which you can measure the success of any given relationship.
Learn to consider sales relationships as on-going, and you will begin to see your customers as people and as friends. Get past the rush of closing a deal to look more to becoming a good resource for your customers, and anticipating what they need, whether that be a service you sell them or not. Karma, karma, karma, as it applies to customer relationships.