There are, by recent calculations, a crap-ton of business books out there. Most are a blog post masquerading as a 200-page epic. I do, however, find myself recommending the same two books again and again to business-minded designers and creative pros looking for insight into business management and entrepreneurship.
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
This book is popular because it hits home for so many small business owners and entrepreneurs. It describes the mistakes we all make, which can sink a business on its maiden voyage.
The essence of the book is this: Every business needs to depend on three personas — the Technician, the Manager, and the Entrepreneur. The Technician is the person who does the thing — that could be a personal trainer, a lawyer, a carpenter, a pie-baker, or a graphic designer. This individual actually does the money-making activities, and enjoys doing so. The Manager isn’t necessarily the boss, barking orders from some glass office, but a person who makes the Technician’s life easier. This could be someone who helps book training appointments, an office manager who makes sure every printer is filled with paper, or the bakery supply chief in charge or ordering flour and sugar. If the Manager does his job, the Technician can get back to doing his. But the key to it all is the Entrepreneur, who’s not working in the carpentry shop or design studio hour-by-hour, but is instead out there in the world, building relationships and bringing new clients and projects into the business. This is the person thinking of ways to cross-promote those pies with the coffee shop down the street, and who knows when to do pro bono case work for viable publicity.
Every business, even a solo practice, needs these three roles. That, perhaps, is the difficult part as someone who’s normally a Technician, suddenly needs to play Manager and Entrepreneur on top of everything else. Something to be mindful of, certainly. The book features several more case studies and is definitely worth a read.
Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson
This one doesn’t have a single central thesis, but has two very succinct themes. First, the title tells half the tale. The idea here is what we’re coming to learn: nothing is perfect upon start. Publishing and iterating is the way forward; ideas need to be tested and results need to be analysed. That can’t happen if you’re waiting around for the perfect moment to debut your big, shiny thing. The book reinforces the idea of swiftness and freshness, that we can take advantage of an idea by getting it started fast, rather than testing and presenting and speculating. This is especially relevant in larger companies, where the pace of creation can turn painfully slow and where new ideas are so often smothered out of fear. Help yourself by just getting started — you’ll figure it out later. Capitalise on that energy and freshness of a new idea, and beg forgiveness if it goes horribly wrong.
The second theme in the book is a bit more operational than creative, and governs management of businesses depending on their sizes. If the company is 6 people, you can manage them directly. But if each of those 6 has size people of their own, you can’t expect to have a close contact with all 36 people, so you have to manage the managers. I’ll let you read that to get the full picture.
What are your favourites?
What business books have opened your eyes and changed your thinking about organizations and management? Did you pick up anything about clients or project management that we should all know? Share your picks in the comments to continue the conversation.