Business, Entrepreneur

Five must-read entrepreneur books

By Harley Alexander on February, 26 2018
Harley Alexander

Co-Founder of Mayte.

Reading books is simply delightful. Whether you’re a hard-copy traditional, a kindle lover or an audiobook chiller, they’re a great escape from the real world, and not only do they help with better sleep but they can inspire you and will exercise your brain.

I always have a book on the go and am a business book addict, because I believe that learning from the best is important - hence why I am sharing a few of my secrets and giving you my top five books for entrepreneurs.

These entrepreneur books cover five main skills that are essential to any start-up chaser; productivity, people skills, sales, pitching and negotiation. Armed with these AND your killer product idea, you will be unstoppable.

The 4-hour work week
Tim Ferris

This is a must-read staple. Made famous by the book title and phrasing of his elite club “The New Rich”, Tim Ferris is the king of monetising new ideas and automating them so there’s minimal work involved running them. Beyond the “Digital Nomad” lifestyle, there are some serious productivity hacks and principles that I strive to live by in my day-to-day work life. My highlights are;

  • You don’t want to actually be rich – you want to be rich so you have the lifestyle of a millionaire. That means being more than financially successful - time rich and high mobility.
  • Systemise everything - so someone else can do it. You are the biggest inefficiency in your business. When you step away and it still works, you have achieved zen. Hire a VA and train them on these systems and procedures. You will become time rich very quickly.
  • Maintain a low-information diet. Don’t bog your consciousness down with hundreds of email promos, magazines, social feeds or news feeds. It kills your productivity and sweeps you away with it. If there’s something important to know about world affairs chances are you’ll hear it from someone else. He calls this “selective ignorance”.
  • Ask for forgiveness, not permission. It can be harder to get things over the line if you ask first. If it’s not dangerous, just do it and gauge the reaction. Most of the time people are fine.
  • In business, cut the small talk. Skip the “Hey, how are you” calls, “Hope you’re well” emails. Extrapolated over a year, it can save you tens of hours. Don’t be rude - just be to the point. We’re all here to make money not talk. It can be infuriating for both parties.

How to win friends and influence people
Dr Dale Carnegie

A classic must-read. All of the principles are still relevant today despite being published in the 1930s. You must understand how to cultivate and work beneficial, genuine relationships. The principles can be used in work or personal life and are designed to make people like you and think highly of you. My highlights would be;

  • Don’t criticise and complain – instead give your honest appreciation. People management 101 - the first way to make someone hate you is to criticise them. Honest appreciation shows genuine interest in their success and see you as a trustworthy ally. This rings true for both staff and external clients.
  • Be a good listener (active listening) and become genuinely interested in people. No fake smiles or laughs. Really put yourself in their shoes and feel their passions. The more genuine you are the more people open up to you.
  • A person’s name is the sweetest word in their vocabulary. I can’t stress this enough and made the biggest change for me personally. Make an effort to remember names. Come up with strategies to do so. Repeat it back to them, visualise it in block letters on their forehead and write it down after the conversation if you must.
  • Avoid arguments. Never point out someone is wrong. Admit when you are yourself. We struggle with pride a lot day to day and backing down from an argument can be humiliating. What you don’t realise though is that it makes other people respect you more when you can admit your wrong-doings and come to a consensus between you.
  • Throw down a challenge that forces the other person to live up to a reputation. Ask “You have been excellent in this - can you finish it by the end of the day?” instead of “I need this before the end of the day.” Firstly we’ve imposed a reputation they must uphold. Secondly, they will answer “yes, I can finish it by the end of the day” and therefore created their own deadline.
  • Always put yourself in others’ shoes. This is extremely hard to do sometimes yet incredibly valuable. Sometimes in seeing another perspective, you can see how to bring them around to your own. Seek first to understand, then be understood.

Dr Robert Cialdini

Despite the title, this is more about selling tactics than personal influence. Dr Cialdini spent years going guerilla into sales training for various companies to figure out what tricks they teach their staff to coerce people into sales.

It does not take a high-pressure, deceptive, shaming approach to sales - rather allowing the customer to come around to the product themselves and feel happy in their purchase. He calls these tools “Weapons of Influence” which I absolutely love. Highlights;

  • Contrast. A $3,000 pool table looks expensive next to the base $500 model - but cheap in comparison to the deluxe $5,000 model. Use a higher margin decoy, it’s a win-win for you.
  • Reciprocation is a (golden) human instinct. I spoke about this in a previous post. Reciprocation is the primal reaction to pay someone back for something. I always endeavour to provide value and help someone before going hard with the sale. It sets the odds in your favour - you’ve been so helpful already that they feel rude going with someone else or not giving you the sale. Don’t abuse this by shaming them if they don’t reciprocate though - just move on.
  • Commitment and consistency. People feel the psychological need to remain consistent with what they’ve said in the past. Let’s take an example - IKEA. One of their many brilliant sales tactics is to supply free pencils and paper to take notes as you walk through the store. Firstly, reciprocity is at play here. Free stationary! Secondly, by writing down the shelving locations of your desired furniture, you’re committing mentally to taking it away from the store. You almost feel a loss if you walk away empty-handed. Simply brilliant.
  • Social proof. Social media made this easy - but other forms of social proof are testimonials, reviews and ratings. These all amount to ‘FOMO’. There’s an interesting, potentially life-threatening dark side of this though - read the book to find out!
  • Liking. This is essentially How to win friends and influence people condensed into one chapter. Ever noticed how salespeople are always smiling, sharply dressed and uber friendly? It’s not because they want to be. It’s because it gets results! A study was done where scientists got a hippie and a well-dressed businessman to Jay walk a busy street. Almost 90% of the time regular joes followed the businessman into potential danger simply because he was looking dapper.
  • Scarcity. My favourite. Next time you’re selling something on Gumtree, try to line up the viewing times so they overlap. Let each person take their own look - but only for a minute or so. Observe how everyone starts to slowly lose their mind and collapse into an early, potentially expensive sale. Those having their time looking are once again experiencing extreme FOMO that this opportunity will disappear. Those on the sidelines will be beside themselves that they could potentially lose the item to the person in front of them. It’s hilarious.

Pitch Anything
Oren Klaff

This book reads more like an extreme rollercoaster ride with a few slow bits to digest some theory. Oren has closed billions of dollars worth of high-stakes deals over his career and focuses on something he calls “Frame Control”. Frame control is about asserting yourself in a pitching situation and flipping the script on the buyer. This has seriously helped us structure our pitches and deviate away from overloading with the technicals of deals. It has shown us how to get clients to want to work with us. He’s one part ego, one part genius and it just works. My highlights;

  • Keep it short. Don’t pitch for longer than 20 minutes.
  • The croc brain! Buyers are run by a reptilian brain that is scared of detail, threats and anything they don’t understand. Croc brains like excitement, curiosity and desire. Talk to the croc brain.
  • Tell a story and leave on a cliff-hanger. This works similar to how TV shows keep you on the edge of your seat. Set the story up, deliver your pitch and then reward them with the final plot resolution. This tickles the croc brain.
  • Small acts of defiance to control the power frame. Be cheeky. If the person you need to impress is spinning their pen and looking disconnected grab their pen and use it as a pointer (ask for forgiveness, not permission).
  • The time frame. Why do we have to act now? This ties into scarcity from Influence (many of the same studies are referenced). Set up a meeting directly afterwards with the competition giving ample time for your pitch but only enough for 2-3 questions. They will feel like they need to close due to FOMO.
  • Qualifying back. Don’t appear desperate for the sale and always be ready to walk away. Appearing needy - as in with relationships - is a bad way to start. Instead, get them to appear needy to you. Explain that you only work with innovative clients who have qualities X, Y and Z. They will tell you in no uncertain terms that they indeed have these qualities and would be good to work with.

There’s plenty more gold - the entire book is essentially an executive summary and anecdotes. Easily read in an afternoon.

Never Split The Difference
Chris Voss

Chris Voss was an FBI hostage negotiator for over 10 years. After quitting, he applied everything he’d learnt to business. A stroke of mastery really, business would appear child’s play after dealing with murderous criminals! As with Pitch Anything, this book is equal parts summarised theory and nail-biting anecdotes. Key strategies when negotiating;

  • Build Rapport first. I.e. How to win friends and influence people.
  • Don’t rush. Let the other party feel as though they’ve explored all options.
  • Listen actively. Repeat what they have said so they feel you get their motives.
  • Use a “late-night FM DJ voice”. You know, love song dedication style. It’s calming. Nerves are your enemy.
  • Use language to your advantage. Use “I see” and “I understand” frequently.
  • Step on your pride and ego, but don’t be a pushover. Apologising is OK and keep that smooth FM voice flowing.
  • Summarise what they are saying. This leads them to say “That’s right”.
  • Calibrated questions. Get them to solve the problem for you. Use phrases like “How can we”, “What are we supposed to do” and be careful with “why” (it’s accusatory). So is using “you and I” - it’s a challenge. You and we are a team.

So there you have it – my top 5 books for entrepreneurs covering productivity, people skills, sales, pitching and negotiating.