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With entrepreneurs in India a growing breed, 10 entrepreneurs share with us books on entrepreneurship that act as inspiration for entrepreneurs.
By Aparna V. Singh
The popularly held image about entrepreneurship in India is that a Start-up Founder is one who comes up with the Big Idea, and powers through with it to revolutionize an industry, or even create a new one (think Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg). Where do Big Ideas come from though? And why is it that only some of them succeed while others vanish into oblivion? Starting a business and staying successful at it is tougher than it looks, and takes more than just an idea.
Many entrepreneurs in India are walking a less-chosen path, and need inspiration and knowledge – on how to start a business, how to continue when the going is tough, to pick oneself up after a disaster, and to do better. Here we look at inspiration for entrepreneurs through one source that many entrepreneurs cite – Books. 10 entrepreneurs from very different fields, both in India and elsewhere tell us about the books on entrepreneurship that have inspired and taught them to do better on their road to becoming and being entrepreneurs.
Everyone loves a good story, and entrepreneurs are no exception! Besides offering valuable insights, the experiences of other entrepreneurs are inspiration for entrepreneurs and reassurance for first-time founders that one is not throwing away a well-paying 9 to 6 job on a madcap venture.
Mukund Mohan, a serial entrepreneur and currently CEO, Jivity, a social commerce firm recommends Founders At Work, by Jessica Livingston, one of the Founders of YCombinator, a seed-stage venture funding firm. He says, “It is practical, actionable and full of stories. I love stories.”
Sumesh Menon, Co-Founder and CEO of U2opia Mobile, a start-up in the mobile space too is a fan of Founders At Work. He says, “It’s great because it has candid interviews with people who made it big in the world of start ups. Each interview has hidden gems on what not to do, which is sometimes more important than what to do.”
Another great story offering inspiration for entrepreneurs is Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the Founder of online shoe retail business, Zappos, famous for its customer-first approach. Katrina Razavi, Founder, marriage.com, says, “Tony is an awesome CEO and leader and he transparently shares his journey, hardships, and the trials of growing Zappos from a 3 man team into the behemoth it now is today. He also shares his advice on building a strong corporate culture which is very important in business.”
For Ciciliya Mannala, Co-Founder and COO, DTecH IT Education, an Oracle partner running Oracle based training programs for IT Professionals, the one book that really inspires is Starbucks ex-CEO Howard Schultz’s, Pour Your Heart Into It, How Starbucks Built A Company One Cup At A Time. She says, “The way Howard Schultz fought for the integrity and quality of the Starbucks brand, his passion for coffee and pouring his heart into what he believed in, his success in sharing the mission and vision to all people he worked with – all of these inspired me. The story of Starbucks is proof that passion and quality can make a huge difference in this world.”
And in case you thought there were no frontline stories or books on entrepreneurship from entrepreneurs in India, think again. Suparna Umashankar, Partner at a start-up law firm, Legal Torque, suggests High Performance Entrepreneur by Subroto Bagchi, one of the Founders of MindTree Consulting.
She says, “Bagchi enlightens one on specifics such as selecting your core team/partners, how to select your employees and to retain them. A few more important concepts that every entrepreneur would benefit from are details on how to make a business plan and on branding for your venture.”
While entrepreneurship stories are great inspirational material, Founders also need help dealing with the challenges of running a business when funds are hard to come by, and to cope with the tough times. Here are some books on entrepreneurship that can help you deal with key challenges at the start-up stage.
Michael Kaiser-Nyman, CEO and Founder of Impact Dialing, an auto-dialling solutions offers Four Steps To The Epiphany by serial entrepreneur Steve Blank as his choice. He says, “It describes how, in building a start up, the most important thing is not to focus on your product, but to focus on your customer. For a long time, I had been caught up on the idea that we needed a certain feature before we could sell our product, but his book taught me to question my assumptions by marketing the product, without the features, and then seeing if people actually requested them. I learned that what customers want can often be very different from what you expect!”
Heather Dubuque, Founder and CEO of The Lillian Nanny Agency, says that another book on entrepreneurship by Howard Schultz, Onward, has taught her about having courage to deal with the extreme ups and downs that can be a part of running a business. She says, “I first heard Schultz speak on NPR about the book and the difficulties found in riding out a poor economic climate along with the lessons gained from the experience. I immediately pre-ordered the book and started reading it the day it arrived. I couldn’t put it down.”
Mukund Mohan also recommends venture capitalist and well-known blogger Guy Kawasaki’s Art Of The Start as a source of tips that will get entrepreneurs to think about how to create traction quickly.
Entrepreneurs can sometimes get so focused in the day to day challenges of running a business that the big picture gets left out. Creativity, finding new challenges to challenge, re-thinking one’s assumptions about customers and markets, following best practices, building a strong company culture – all these can take a beating. Here are some books on entrepreneurship to help you think beyond the daily bread.
Sonu Ratra, President, Akraya Inc., an IT Consulting firm, mentions Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. She says that this book taught her how to link together the 3 core processes of managing a business: people, strategy and operations. It also helped her understand that as a leader, her most important job was selecting and appraising the people that get hired. At Akraya, she now interviews every single candidate herself to make sure that the right person gets hired for the right job. She believes that once the right people are in place, they will form a business strategy and corporate culture that becomes the core of a successful business.
Nandini Hirianniah, Co-Founder of Morpheus, a mentoring firm that works with Indian start-ups says, “Irrespective of what one does in their lives, I think it is super important to cultivate the habit of reading. Even prior to my avatar as an entrepreneur, I read a lot of non-fiction, particularly biographies and auto biographies. The learning derived from others life experiences are immense.” Among her favourites, she counts Hug Your Customers by Jack Mitchell, Chairman and CEO of a large family-owned clothing business. She believes that it is a offers inspiration for entrepreneurs on how to think innovative and focus on customer experience.
Finally, keeping daily fire-fighting and strategic goals in balance is something that most entrepreneurs in India struggle with. Jessica Clark, Founder of Room to Breathe, a professional organising firm, suggests The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber, the Founder of a business skills training company. Jessica says, “The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber is my ‘go to book’ even now, after 10 years in business. It reminds me there are different roles I need to play in my business. Each time I think about the book, I remember that how quickly I attain my goals in my business corresponds to the percentage of time I spend as a technician, visionary, or manager.”
If you are an entrepreneur or want to start a business one day, what books on entrepreneurship have inspired you on your journey?
Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas
Good article Aparna. There are so many books that it is difficult to wade through them to find the right one for you…
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