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Looking to scale your business exponentially in 2018? Then you’ve got to out-read the competition. In more than three decades of advising growth companies, it’s become clear to me that the most successful leaders are readers.
Here are eight of my favorite books from this past year, covering each of the four critical decisions in the Scaling Up system that all growing companies must get right: People, Strategy, Execution and Cash. (Because there is such a dearth of great books on Cash, I’ve focused that section on favorite business biographies by entrepreneurs who have generated tremendous wealth). Add these eight to your must-read (or listen) list or—hint—divide them up among team members in related roles and have them report back on what they’ve learned.
The Master Coach: Leading with Character, Building Connections, and Engaging in Extraordinary Conversations by Gregg Thompson
As we transition to a world where work once done by managers is being taken over by technology, we still need leadership. To be effective in this new environment, managers need to pivot from command-and-control to coaching. Thompson will help you master the mental and psychological aspects in one of the best books I’ve seen on the art of coaching.
Life’s a PIC/NIC by Aubrey Daniels and Alice Lattal
Great coaches learn how to identify the specific motivators for each of the people they lead and know how to use that knowledge to drive performance. In his latest book, Aubrey Daniels—the world’s leading expert on applying behavioral science to business—will show you how to deploy what he has learned to truly motivate your team so you can replace misguided employee-of-the-month, review and bonus programs that do more harm than good.
Jobs to Be Done: A Road Map for Customer-Centered Innovation by Stephen Wunker, Jessica Wattman and David Farber
If you don’t get your strategy right now, you’re going to spend the next year executing a mess. This book will help you avoid going down the wrong path by focusing you on the single most important strategic question ever created: What is the job done by your product or service? Their deep dive into a topic Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen—Wunker’s colleague—popularized will give you a roadmap to discern exactly what your customers really need done and to create the right products, services or solutions to keep them coming back.
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by Scott Galloway
Written by iconoclastic NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway, this compelling book expands on his famous YouTube lecture on how the “four horsemen”—Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google—have invaded our lives on a moment-to-moment basis. I can’t think of a company on the planet that isn’t threatened by one of these four juggernauts. Read it so you can understand their vulnerabilities and make the most of them in your growth strategy.
Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson
Every company is a technology business today. We’ve got to rely on digital platforms to scale. This book will show you how to make the most of the powerful ones that exist today. The authors bring deep expertise to the subject: McAfee is a principal research scientist at MIT, and Brynjolfsson is the director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.
Performance Partnerships: The Checkered Past, Changing Present & Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing by Robert Glazer
One of the best ways to build your brand is to leverage the reach of other brands and partners. This book shows you how to structure those partnerships so you only pay for results. Robert Glazer—founder and director of Acceleration Partners, an affiliate-management agency that works with giant brands such as Airbnb, Reebok, Target, Gymboree, and Warby Parker—shows how midmarket companies can do what they do to generate the one thing every business needs: Sales.
Am I Being Too Subtle?: Straight Talk from a Business Rebel by Sam Zell
Few entrepreneurs know more about bringing in cash than real estate innovator Sam Zell. This entertaining book provides hundreds of practical lessons and tips on how to make deals, generate cash and scale organizations. Zell’s strange but effective approach to the relationship-building that fuels revenue makes the book worth reading. Don’t miss the section about Sam’s music boxes—a year-end gift that signaled to recipients they were in “the club.”
Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, can teach even the most successful entrepreneurs how to create wealth. It’s not just studying spreadsheets that has given him an edge in a brutally competitive field. One of the most important principles that drove his billions is meditating twice a day. He even pays his employees to meditate. Do try this at home. Decluttering your mind—and your team’s—will free you to make the decisions you need to unlock faster growth in 2018.