Book: The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande

Review

Checklists are great. We use them in all parts of the company process and a lot of documentation is made obsolete just by changing it to a checklist that anyone can follow. This is a great read.

tl;dr

Jobs are becoming too complex to be done from memory alone. Checklists remind us of the minimum necessary steps. Reminders of most critical and important steps. Practical. Between five and nine items. Let it evolve.

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Book: Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy

Review

A classic from 1963 and still very relevant, even when writing for the web.

tl;dr

Do the market research. Make the product the hero. The headline should sell the product and promise a benefit. Put identifying words in the headline when selling to a small group. Pretend you are writing a letter. “The more facts you tell, the more you sell”. Long copy better than short. Write copy in the form of a story. Pretend to be a magazine editor and you will get better results.

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Book: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

Review

A quick read, about 2 hours, with a lot of great non-conventional advice like in Maverick. We already follow a lot of the things mentioned but there are quite a few new good ideas.

tl;dr

Chaos should not be the natural state at work. Things can wait. Ideas should be written, shown, left for a while, and only then discussed. There is no “low hanging fruit”. Cut down on interruptions. Most people should miss on most things most of the time. Equal work, equal pay with yearly market rate review. Doing “nothing” should always be on the table. The cost of consensus is simply too much to pay over and over again. Disagree and commit.

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Book: Slicing Pie, Mike Moyer

Review

A good model on how to allocate equity in bootstrapped startups. The author also offers a software that simplifies the process.

tl;dr

It’s not about the money, people want to know that their contribution is valued. A “Pie” is a promise to allocate equity when the time comes. Calculate the relative value that each person brings. The percentage of pie for each person remains fluid and changes from day to day. 

The main value ingredients:

  • Time. Calculate your market hourly rate and multiply by two. If receiving a salary, then the calculation is based on whatever compensation is put at risk.
  • Cash and business-enabling equipment is the actual value times four.

Allocate equity at the point of diminishing returns or when the idea becomes a business that has a predictable revenue stream and cost structure.

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Book: The Mom Test, Rob Fitzpatrick

Review

Talking to potential customers about your idea is not enough. You need to ask the right questions, the right way to get relevant answers. Great book.

tl;dr

Ask about the customer’s life (problems, cares, constraints, goals), not about the idea. With requests, you need to find the root cause. Get commitments to the next step. Keep having conversations until you stop hearing new stuff. If you aren’t finding consistent problems, you don’t have a specific enough segment. Avoid receiving compliments. Talk less.

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Book: Small Giants, Bo Burlingham

Review

Company culture, an elusive ideal. Can you keep it once you start growing, and how? Lessons from a few companies, analyzed by the author.

tl;dr

A Small Giant has “mojo”, a buzz about it and everyone wants to be a part of it. To build a small giant, you need to stay private and without outside shareholders. Stagnation is a threat to culture.

Small giants excel in customer service. But customers come second – people/employees come first.

Create opportunities for great people to grow and take on new challenges. Create an atmosphere in which people feel valued and respected but also make it possible for them to have fun at work.

You can only excel only at one value type: the best price, the best product, or the best overall solution. Each comes with its own kind of organization, culture and mindset.

In the end, to be successful, you also need: healthy margins, healthy balance sheet and a sound business model.

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Book: Financial Intelligence for Entrepreneurs, Karen Berman and Joe Knight

Review

A great book if you don’t have a background in economics/accounting or if you want to refresh the knowledge.

tl;dr

Separate out whatever is most important so that you can track it easily. Highlight what is changing, which numbers are where they are supposed to be, and which ones are not. Operating profit margin percentage (gross profit minus operating expenses) indicates how well you are running the entire business. Train your team on financial literacy. Open Book Management (OBM) at its best creates an environment where employees feel that they are part of the success – and are at risk for the failure – of the business.

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Book: The Subconscious Mind In Business, Robert Updegraff

Review

A classic from 1929. It’s really hard to find and it costs an arm and a leg to buy (printed scan book is ~$30). It’s short and has some interesting stories, however you’ll get 99% of it by reading my summary below.

Probably all of us have found ourselves finding a solution to a problem when we were not actively thinking about it. We might have gone for a walk, working on a hobby or just went for a shower. This is the subconscious mind at work. When you give it time and relax, ideas start popping up that you haven’t thought of them when you were actively thinking about solutions.

I hoped this book would go into detail on how to do this effectively, however the lesson is just “leave the desk and relax”. Simple, really.

tl;dr

Desks are not thinking machines. Do not plan or think about business when behind a desk. When stuck with a problem, leave it and focus on something else. A solution will come up on its own later. Part of your day, do whatever you want to do, is pleasant and puts the mind at ease.

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Book: Differentiate or Die, Jack Trout

Review

Similar lessons to author’s previous book, Positioning, but worth a read nonetheless. Lessons here can be a difference between a failed or a successful company. Also great lessons for successful companies that don’t want to fail.

tl;dr

Quality is not a difference, it’s a given. When the market is confused, the leader wins. Every aspect of your communication should reflect your difference. Oversimplify your message. The more variations you attach to the brand, the more the mind loses focus. If you can’t get everyone to prefer you, find a group that will. When you chase after another target segment, chances are you’ll chase away your original customer. Differentiating has got to line up with the perceptions in the mind, not go against them.

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Book: Maverick!, Ricardo Semler

Review

If you’re not an entrepreneur for the ego-trip of being “the boss”, then this is one of the best books you can read. It emphasizes empowering your team, giving them more information, responsibility, power to make decisions, profit sharing, … In Semco’s case, the results speak for themselves. The Brazilian conglomerate has been one of the best to work for in the country for decades and it has survived through turbulent times in 90’s Brazil. The author credits a lot of the success to the methods described in the book.

At our company, we already had a lot of these elements, however the book gives a good guide on how to go even further.

Absolute must-read.

tl;dr

Workers are responsible adults outside the job, regard them as such on the job. Empower workers, give them autonomy to do the job. Open books, full information – everyone should know where the company stands. Flexible work hours. Minimize documents. Managers vote on each others proposals. Manager evaluations by subordinates.

A company should trust its destiny to its employees.

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