Success factors

Cracking the code: 5 books that will change the way you think about business

Published on
June 29, 2023
Elisha Dunn
Content Manager
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What are the best books for business success? 

Growing and scaling a business is not an easy path to tread, and those who embark on it need to be ready to face whatever is coming from all directions. This is where the guidance and knowledge of experienced thought leaders can come in handy. 

Books written by some of the world’s greatest minds can offer insights, inspiration, and valuable advice to those who are looking to blaze a trail in their respective industries and stay ahead of the game. 

That is why we have curated a list of the top 5 books that all business leaders must read. 

These books cover a range of topics, from leadership and management to marketing and sales. We will also delve into the key concepts of each book and highlight real-life examples of businesses that have implemented the lessons successfully.

Whether you are just starting out or have been in business for years, these books can help you anticipate what comes next in an ever-evolving business world and provide you with the tools to succeed.

Let’s begin.

1) “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries

Eric Ries is a successful entrepreneur, author, and consultant. He founded IMVU, an online 3D avatar-based social network and one of the first successful “lean” startups.

What is a lean startup, you ask?

In a nutshell, the lean startup is a methodology that helps businesses and entrepreneurs quickly validate their proposed business model and shorten product development cycles. 

Ries has since become a leading expert in this field and wrote the book, “The Lean Startup,” a must-read for any entrepreneur looking to build a successful business.

The key concept of The Lean Startup is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) — the most basic version of a product that can be launched to the market, allowing for customer feedback and iteration. 

The Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop is a critical component of the Lean Startup methodology, allowing entrepreneurs to continuously improve their products or services based on customer feedback.

Many successful companies have implemented the Lean Startup methodology, including Dropbox, Airbnb, and Uber. 

Dropbox started as a simple MVP, allowing users to store and share files. Today, it is a leading cloud storage provider valued at over $8 billion. 

Airbnb started as a simple website to rent out air mattresses during a conference in San Francisco. Today, it is a leading accommodation provider valued at over $100 billion. 

Uber started as a simple app to hail a ride. Today, it is a leading ride-sharing platform valued at over $100 billion.

See the pattern here? While not perfect for every type of business, the Lean Startup methodology’s ultimate goal is to rapidly determine if a business idea is viable in the real world and make necessary changes to improve its chances of success.

As entrepreneurs, knowing if your business can benefit from this practice and learning how to effectively implement it can be the best first step in the right direction.

2) “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

Jim Collins is a renowned author, researcher, and consultant. He has authored several bestselling books, including “Good to Great,” which is a must-read for any entrepreneur looking to take their business to the next level.

The key idea in Good to Great is the Hedgehog Concept, which is based on an ancient Greek parable. 

It states that companies should focus on what they can be the best in the world at, what drives their economic engine, and what they are passionate about. 

The Flywheel is another critical component of the book, stating that businesses should focus on continuous improvement and momentum-building.

Many companies have gone from good to great by following the principles outlined in the book, including Walgreens, Kimberly-Clark, and Nucor. 

Walgreens went from a good company to a great company by focusing on what they could be the best in the world at: convenience retailing. 

Kimberly-Clark went from a good company to a great company by focusing on what drove its economic engine: consumer products. 

Nucor went from a good company to a great company by focusing on what they were passionate about: steel.

In short, Good to Great helps businesses focus on building a strong Unique Selling Point (USP) a.k.a. the essence of what makes your company better than competitors. And it is not only limited to your products or services.

It can also be your price structure, placement strategy (location and distribution), and/or promotional strategy. As entrepreneurs, knowing where your business excels and knowing how to build on that further can take you from good to great in no time.

3) “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey was a renowned Harvard-educated author, educator, and businessman. 

He was the founder of the Covey Leadership Center, which has since merged with Franklin Quest to become FranklinCovey — a global professional services firm that helps organisations and individuals achieve results that require lasting changes in human behaviour.

In the early 1980s, Covey was experiencing some financial difficulties with his company. He realised that his focus was too narrow, and he needed to change his approach. 

Covey began studying successful people and discovered that they all shared similar habits. This led him to write “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, which became a bestseller and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide.

The seven habits outlined in Covey’s book are:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  6. Synergise
  7. Sharpen the Saw

Entrepreneurs who have successfully implemented these habits have seen significant improvements in their businesses. 

For example, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, is known for being proactive. He takes action and makes decisions quickly, which has helped Facebook stay ahead of its competitors. 

Zuckerberg also has a clear vision of where he wants to take Facebook, which aligns with the second habit of beginning with the end in mind.

Another example is Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square. Dorsey is known for putting first things first. He prioritises his time and focuses on the most important tasks. 

Dorsey also seeks first to understand, then to be understood. He listens to his employees and customers and incorporates their feedback into his decision-making process.

Thanks to Covey’s personal experiences and research, the seven habits outlined in the book have been successfully implemented by entrepreneurs far and wide, leading to significant improvements in their businesses.

All of this says one thing: Business strategy is not enough

To succeed in business, entrepreneurs must also look inward, address their weaknesses, and build on their strengths — only then can they shape their brand into something that reflects what they truly stand for. 

And, in turn, drive it in the direction it needs to go. 

4) “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing About Hard Things” is a book written by Ben Horowitz, co-founder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm. 

Horowitz has extensive experience in the tech industry, having co-founded multiple startups, including Loudcloud, a cloud computing company that went public in 2001. 

Despite its initial success, Loudcloud struggled during the dot-com crash and was forced to pivot its business model. Horowitz navigated this difficult time by making tough decisions and focusing on the company’s core values.

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Horowitz shares his experiences as an entrepreneur and provides advice on how to navigate the challenges that come with running a business. 

One of the key concepts in the book is the struggle. Horowitz emphasises that the road to success is filled with obstacles and that entrepreneurs must be prepared to face difficult situations head-on. 

He also emphasises the importance of the struggle with oneself, which involves developing the skills and mindset needed to overcome challenges.

Another key concept in the book is the struggle with others. Horowitz discusses the challenges of managing a team and building a company culture that encourages collaboration and creativity. 

He emphasises the importance of building trust with employees, communicating clearly, and being transparent about the company’s goals and vision.

One example of a business that faced hard times and overcame them is Airbnb. 

In the early days of the company, the founders struggled to gain traction and were close to running out of money. They decided to focus on creating a great user experience and building a community of hosts and guests who were passionate about the platform. 

This strategy paid off, and Airbnb is now valued at over $100 billion.

Another example is Netflix, which faced a significant challenge when its DVD-by-mail business became obsolete with the rise of streaming services. 

The company made the difficult decision to pivot its business model and focus on streaming, which required significant investment and a shift in company culture — a difficult feat to embark on.

Fortunately, this decision succeeded, and Netflix is now one of the biggest streaming services in the world.

Horowitz's experiences and insights provide valuable lessons on how to overcome obstacles, build a strong company culture, and lead a successful team, making The Hard Thing About Hard Things an essential read for entrepreneurs who are navigating the rarely-discussed challenges of running a business. 


5) “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen

The Innovator’s Dilemma” is a book written by Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, and entrepreneur. 

Christensen was an expert in innovation and taught many successful executives how to manage disruptive innovation. He received several prestigious awards for his contribution to business research and was included in the Times 100 list of influential people.

In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christensen introduces two types of innovation: sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation. 

Sustaining innovation is the gradual improvement of a product or service that is already established in the market. Disruptive innovation, on the other hand, creates new markets or industries by offering products or services that are simpler, cheaper, and more accessible.

Christensen explores the paradoxical challenge that successful and established companies face when dealing with disruptive innovation. He argues that companies that focus on sustaining innovation often fail to recognise and adapt to disruptive technologies that can eventually overtake them. 

The book emphasises the importance of understanding customers’ needs and how disruptive innovation can lead to the creation of entirely new markets that serve previously unserved or underserved customers. 

Companies that are too focused on their existing products or customers may miss the opportunity to embrace disruptive innovation.

Christensen provides several examples of companies that failed to adapt to disruptive technologies and went out of business, including Kodak, Digital Equipment Corporation, and Blockbuster. 

Kodak, for instance, failed to recognise the potential of digital photography and continued to focus on its traditional film products. In contrast, companies like Amazon, Apple, and Netflix embraced disruptive technologies and transformed their respective industries.

The Innovator's Dilemma is an insightful book that challenges businesses to rethink their innovation strategy by understanding how they can take part in the disruption, create new opportunities for growth, and — ultimately — adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing marketplace.

After exploring several business books and applying them in real life, the BeingIconic team has learned many valuable lessons that can help business leaders succeed in the ever-changing business landscape.

For one, entrepreneurs must be proactive, adaptable, and willing to face challenges head-on. By embracing these principles, businesses can achieve great success and overcome any obstacle that comes their way. 

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