Article: What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team, NY Times

Review

This is just a bit longer article on NY Times but it has some very important lessons I thought should be noted and shared.

tl;dr

Create a safe, respectful environment where everyone feels safe to talk and contribute. If this is done well, you can expect all team members speak roughly the same proportion. Team members must be able to talk about hard topics and feel heard.

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Book: Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Ron Chernow

Review

A very long and fascinating read about one of the great American industrialists and/or Robber Barons. The book is brilliantly written, putting you at the center of The Gilded Age. Although it’s very long, never once was I bored and many times looked forward to reading and immersing myself into the late 19th and early 20th Century.

Besides Rockefeller and his family, you will read about many other, well known people that shaped the US (and the world) as we know it today: Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, Joseph Pulitzer, Baron Alphonse de Rothschild,  Lelan Stanford, Sigmund Freud, James Joyce,…

A very enjoyable read and something to keep you company for a few weeks, if not months. Besides great storytelling there is also some surprisingly relevant business advice which I’ve compiled below.

Buy on Amazon.com.

Summary

John D. Rockefeller drew strength by simplifying reality and strongly believed that excessive reflection upon unpleasant but unalterable events only weakened one’s resolve in the face of enemies.

“A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.”

Searching for oil was wildly unpredictable, whereas refining seemed safe and methodical by comparison. Before too long, he realized that refining was the critical point where he could exert maximum leverage over the industry.

One of Rockefeller’s strengths in bargaining situations was that he figured out what he wanted and what the other party wanted and then crafted mutually advantageous terms.

“Success comes from keeping the ears open and the mouth closed.”

On employees: At first, he tested them exhaustively, yet once he trusted them, he bestowed enormous power upon them and didn’t intrude unless something radically misfired.

Part of the Standard Oil gospel was to train your subordinate to do your job.

“Has anyone given you the law of these offices? No? It is this: nobody does anything if he can get anybody else to do it… As soon as you can, get some one whom you can rely on, train him in the work, sit down, cock up your heels, and think out some way for the Standard Oil to make some money.”

He was always careful to couch his decisions as suggestions or questions.

Standard Oil created demand as well as satisfied it, and its obliging agents helped consumers clean lamps and burners to enhance their use.

Book: Start Small, Stay Small, Rob Walling

Review

Great intro into building a small software company. Some really good advice on finding and serving your market.

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tl;dr

Order of importance is market, marketing, aesthetic, function. Go into niche markets and create focused products. Target small businesses and consumers. Create complementary products not products across niches. Build an email list. Outsource tasks and automate processes.

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Book: Hooked – How To Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal

Review

A must read. If you build any kind of products, you need to read this book.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

Customers are less price-sensitive about products around which they have formed habits. They increase the dependency by storing value in the product. Two factors for habits: frequency and utility. The more users invest time and effort into a service, the more they value it. Identify habitual users, codify the steps they took (“Habit Path”) and modify the product to fit the new insights.

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Book: Better and Faster, Jeremy Gutsche

Review

Great book, reminding us in this day and age, no matter how big or small or how successful your company is, you need to always innovate and “be paranoid”. Recommended.

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tl;dr

Look for connections and try to understand the patterns. Be a hunter (insatiability, curiosity, willingness to destroy), not a farmer (complacent with success, repetitive, overly protective). Understand your customer, adapt, and fashion fast solutions. Experiment with new ideas. Target niches.

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Book: The Pumpkin Plan, Mike Michalowicz

Review

Really good book and very fun to read. It reminded me again of the importance of systemizing work and focusing on your best customers. Highly recommended.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

Find the top clients (/client type), treat them preferentially, fire all other clients (/client types). Ask the top clients about their frustrations and solve them. Don’t work, build systems for people and things to do the work.

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Book: The Year Without Pants, Scott Berkun

Review

Great look at one of the most interesting companies on the web, WordPress. While not everybody is as lucky to be able to focus only on product and leave everything (especially marketing) as a second thought, this book still has some great lessons and ideas, especially on managing employees. Definitely a recommended read.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

Hire by trial. All employees participate in support. Scoreboard for the entire company. 5 people in team is best. 1. hire great people, 2. set good priorities, 3. remove distractions, 4. get out of the way. Always ask “how will this impact the user?”.

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