Starting a business is like getting a train moving. It takes a HUGE amount of energy and effort to get a massive locomotive to move just a few inches. Yet, once it starts moving, it picks up momentum.
A good example is my own company, The Clean Thumb LLC. When I first started the business, I was anxious about all the potential pitfalls. Now, I’m sending out thousands of direct mail pieces, targeting specific markets, and business is really picking up. Of course, it's not that simple, but you get the idea.
The books I read along the way were the things that helped me push through my fear, develop a plan, and stay the course. I thought it would be a good idea to make a list of my favorite books I think all entrepreneurs should read when starting a business.
One Million In The Bank by Michael Slavin
I’m not sure where I heard about this book, which isn’t good, because I only read it about a month ago. It’s one of the best “start your own business” books I’ve read in a long time, because it gives the reader an instant reality check.
It lets you know that you don’t need thousands of dollars in startup capital, a fancy business plan, or a decked out office. All you need to do is pick a tried and true business, learn a little sales and marketing, and get help from people who have done the same thing. In retrospect, I did exactly this.
I picked a tried and true business. Cleaning is boring. Yawn. Who could possibly be passionate about scrubbing toilets? That’s not the point. The point is that the cleaning industry has been thriving for years and years, and office cleaning is virtually recession proof. No app is going to replace mopping floors, nor can the job be outsourced to someone in China.
I learned sales and marketing. I’ve been studying sales and marketing for years. I’ve worked several sales jobs and practically got a second degree in marketing. The cleaning business (especially commercial) is based on a lot of direct mail, so I studied copywriting legends like Dan Kennedy. I also get a ton of leads from Google PPC because I studied AdWords gurus like Perry Marshall.
I got help from people who have done the same thing. I networked my tail off to find people who succeeded in the cleaning business. I ended up finding three people who became pretty big successes in the janitorial services industry.
Don’t fret if you don’t have any mentors in your inner circle. You don’t need someone to physically hold your hand through the process. Look for online courses, books, and podcasts to help you get where you want to go. I read and listen to podcasts every single day. I even use THIS so I can listen to them in the shower. Dedication.
The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone
Grant Cardone is definitely a role model for me because his sales game is incredible and his real estate portfolio is tremendous. He’s headed for a billion dollars and nobody can stop him.
The biggest lesson I learned from this book is that most of us underestimate the amount of effort it will take to achieve a desired effect. For example, direct mail has a typical response rate of 1-2%. This means that if I send out sales letters to a hundred offices in my area, I should expect to get one or two responses. But what happens if I send out a hundred and get nothing? Should I give up? Not at all – this is just statistics. I might send a hundred and get nothing, but the next hundred letters might yield four clients. I just keep my faith in the system and keep plugging away.
The 10X Rule will help you increase your targets and your expectations. It teaches you to shoot for the stars so, even if you fail, you will land on the moon. Rather than thinking it would take me one hundred sales letters to get a client, the book helped me convince myself that it would take a thousand letters.
10xing your expectations will help you out a ton in business. It will allow you to stay the course where others would get discouraged. On a more practical note, it definitely helps with your customer acquisition cost. If you can reasonably estimate that your customer acquisition cost will be $50, 10X it to $500. Can you still be profitable? If the answer is yes, you’ve got an amazing business on your hands.
Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success by Steve Harvey
I’m a pretty big Steve Harvey fan, so I picked up this book when it first came out. Depending on your source, Steve Harvey is an entertainment mogul worth around $100 million. What people don’t see is the fact that he had jobs he didn’t enjoy, he had stretches on the road with no gigs, and a there was a period of time where he was actually homeless. Yet, he managed to overcome all of these obstacles.
The book is truly inspiring and will help you overcome whatever limiting beliefs you may have about improving your life. He tells a story about what happens when you put a flea in a jar. The flea will jump only high enough so that its head no longer hits the lid. If the flea has babies, the baby fleas are born with the ability to jump two hundred times their size. However, because of the environment where they can only see others jumping so as to not hit their heads, they begin to duplicate the same behavior. Steve tells you that you can’t concern yourself with duplicating the behavior of those around you; you have to break away from those negative influences.
One of the quotes that stick out in my mind involves asking other people for help. He said, “You have no idea of the number of successful people around you who are waiting for someone to come up and ask them for assistance or guidance. I could have saved myself a lot of pain if I didn’t mind asking people for things.” Learn from Steve Harvey – don’t be afraid to ask people for help. It will accelerate your learning curve like nothing else.
He goes on to talk about a study done by sociologist Annette Lareau that showed how kids from different economic backgrounds view asking questions. She found that kids from affluent environments believed they were entitled to ask for the things they felt they deserved. Kids from poor backgrounds feel like they’re viewed as weak if they didn’t know something. Because Steve grew up in a poor environment, he didn’t want to let anyone know he needed anything. His pride kept him from getting all that he wanted, needed, and deserved.
Remember, it doesn’t make sense for you to make mistakes if someone else has made them for you. Ask for help.
7 Strategies for Wealth and Happiness by Jim Rohn
While this isn’t a business book in the truest sense, it certainly changed my life. To be more clear, all of Jim Rohn’s stuff is life-changing. Here are two quotes that should be framed and put in your office:
“Success is no more than the natural consequence of consistently applying the fundamentals of success to life.”
Again, if you find the fundamentals that others have already figured out for you, you can be successful too. Just figure out what the fundamentals are by asking for help. I know this is too simple for most people to accept, but it’s true. Success involves becoming a better person. You should change, grow, and develop to get whatever it is you want out of life.
Here’s the second quote…
“Wealth comes from the conversion of effort and enterprise into currency and equity.”
Rohn talks about the importance of discipline in becoming successful. Opportunities flock to people who’ve developed skills and have the ambition to act. All good things come to those who are willing to swim upstream, and lack of discipline will inevitably lead to failure.
The book also points out that failure itself is rarely the result of an isolated event. It’s a consequence of many little failures. So if you feel like you’re not doing enough or accumulating a ton of small failures, be careful. If you consistently have small wins, you’ll get to the big wins.
Jim Rohn ended the book beautifully, too. He wants you to ask, “Why not?” What else are you going to do with your life? Why not see how far you can take it? Why not see how much you can do? Why not see how much you can become?
I strongly suggest you YouTube or Google Jim Rohn and consume all his content.
Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer
With a title like this, I didn’t know what to expect, but this book changed my thinking for the better. To be completely honest, it got kind of dry towards the end, but the beginning of the book had several gems:
Theory of Next: You maintain a positive mental attitude by recognizing that no one deal is that important.
This was crucial for me to realize. In my line of business (everything from sales to janitorial services to pitching media products), most deals don’t close. The reason I can keep my positive attitude at all times is because I have the ability to say “Next!” and quickly move on to the next deal when things don’t work out.
If something doesn’t work, just forget about it, move to the next deal, and let the law of averages work its wonders. If I go on ten bids, I know I should close three or four of them. Do I lose any sleep over the ones that fall through? Not one bit. I keep moving forward because I know that the ones that do close are the ones that will pay me. The ones that fall through will never pay my bills, so I scream it out loud and proud… “Next!” Salespeople who are reading this can boost their income just by remembering this one thing.
Mortality Theory: Since your time is limited, it makes sense to aim high and move fast.
This is similar to The 10X Rule in the sense that you should set BIG goals. To me, it makes no sense setting little goals. You want big, juicy goals that will cause you to stretch yourself.
Tortoise and Hare Theory: Most situations in life are determined over the long term.
Earlier I said that starting a business is like getting a train moving. Don’t worry if you don’t have immediate success or even inklings of success after months of hard work. That’s completely normal. The person who has quick success merely wins a battle, but the person who is ahead at the end (winning consistently and applying fundamentals consistently) is the one who wins the war.
There you have it – five books about entrepreneurship that changed my life and the way I do business. Do you have any favorite business books? What books do you think entrepreneurs should read? Let me know in the comments below!