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15 Must Read Ebooks No Entrepreneur Should Miss Reading

15 Must Read Ebooks No Entrepreneur Should Miss Reading

Every successful entrepreneur knows that knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have, the greater the advantage you’ll enjoy over your competitors. Today’s business climate is rapidly changing every day due to emerging technologies. You need to stay on top of the game to succeed. Don’t let yourself get eaten by the sharks. The 15 eBooks below will inspire and educate you on how to become a shark in the competitive ocean and reach your business goals.

Below is a list of 15 eBooks no entrepreneur should miss reading.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss – $15.20 Kindle edition

This classic helps you find motivation if you’re unsure if you can take the leap and start your own business. It teaches you how to build a business from scratch using minimal resources and make it look like a fortune 500 company even though it’s only you behind the wheel. If you want to be more productive and find ways to automate as many tasks as possible, while focusing on the core business, this is a must read. It’s filled with tons of real world advice and templates on how to move your business forward in all areas.

Influence by Robert D.Cialdini – $10.99 Kindle edition

Persuasion is a key skill to master in business. It’s valuable in sales, negotiations, and partnerships. This book cover everything you need to know to understand and master persuasion, it explains the hidden tricks so you can stay alert and be aware of the situation while communicating with internal and external stakeholders. Understanding human psychology is vital in every business, and this book will not only teach you how to use it, but also make you realize the importance of it.

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Contagious by Jonah Berger – $13.99 Kindle edition

If you’re on tight marketing budget or not, going viral with your product or service is beneficial. It’s cost efficient and word of mouth is a strong marketing tactic. Jonah Berger explains the mechanism of why things catch on, what goes viral and how. The book teaches you to spot the key ingredients that make people share and care. Triggering the right emotions at the right time with the right message is a skill every successful entrepreneur should master.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters – $18.10 Kindle edition

Paypal co-founder and early investor in Facebook, Peter Thiel knows how to build businesses. Yes, those are massive success stories, but you should always aim for the skies. This book will make you feel like a hero, and help you understand the underlying aspects of creating a business from nothing. Entrepreneurs are often told to listen to what customers want and not create anything more than a test product to later adapt it for success. Thiel talks about the importance to instead tell customers what they want, just like Apple did. We didn’t know that we wanted an iPhone since it didn’t exist. Steve Jobs told us that we wanted one. Influence by Robert D.Cialdini listed above is also extremely relevant in that aspect. Zero to One helps you learn to think for yourself,  and to apply the ultimate strategy suited for your business.

The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki – $19.97 Kindle Edition

As technology develops, new methods of creating businesses arise. Social Media, crowdfunding, and digital marketing are all cost effective methods to create a business today compared to 20 years ago. This book will help you deploy all these new tools in an efficient way, as well as help you manage fundamental challenges that have not changed as much, such as building a strong team. The Art of The Start will help you make your crazy ideas to stick in the constantly changing marketplace.

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The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – $6.24 Kindle Edition

A great framework can help any entrepreneur systematically create innovation and maximize the chances to succeed. You can use it as a checklist on how to develop your business into a successful machine. This is a step by step guide covering the start, learning, experimenting, testing, measuring, pivoting, adapting and growing– all aspects from start to finish. A must read for the ones who like to work systematically and have full control.

The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz – $16.99 Kindle Edition

Starting a business is great, but also challenging. You need to be aware that everything won’t go as planned all the time; to be prepared will help you stand up and rise in case you are on your way to fall. This book analyzes problems that entrepreneurs face each day. It talks about hard things from poaching competitors to firing employees and will help you predict the less pleasant situations and minimize the surprises when they happen.

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck – $11.99 Kindle Edition

This is a valuable read on how the Internet has given consumers their voice and a power to make it heard. You now have to compete on a different level. Marketing dollars are not as effective anymore, and it’s hard to buy your way into success and customer awareness.
This book helps you scale personal one to one attention to your clients using social media platforms that carry word of mouth. It will show you how and why to care and interact with your customers, to harness the word-of-mouth power of social media platforms. Contagious by Jonah Berger works well with this book.

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The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing by Quicksprout – Free eBook

You can’t afford to be missing out on content marketing. It’s a cost-efficient way to create buzz around your business and to drive traffic. Content marketing is also not as intrusive as traditional advertising and delivers value to the reader. The guide offers a number of ways to help you increase traffic, leads, and conversions.

The Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing by Oli Gardner and Carlos del Rio – Free eBook

Testing and measuring in order to know what works and what doesn’t is crucial. As you know more knowledge equals more power; the more data you have the better decisions you can take to create a positive impact on your business. You don’t want to drive without headlights in the dark right? This book will help you understand what to measure, why and how. It will help you create workflows and transform data into valuable information that can help your business decisions.

The Beginners Guide to Online Marketing by Neil Patel and Ritika Puri – Free eBook

This guide touches on all important aspects of online marketing strategies and makes sure you don’t miss out on any crucial steps when starting out with your online marketing efforts. It will help you be aware of your entire funnel, from the laser focus on customers to actual sales and everything needed in between in order to succeed online.

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Unleashing The Ideavirus by Seth Godin – Free eBook

Is the customer always right? According to this book, the customer should spread the marketing message of your company, not you. The book helps you understand the value of the customer-to-customer dialogue, contrary to the traditional business-to-customer model. Godin calls the powerful customer-to-customer marketing method the Ideavirus. The book shows you how to create your own virus and how any business can use it to succeed in the world that is moving away from traditional marketing.

Measure What Matters by Kissmetrics – Free eBook

Another book about measuring what matters and staying informed to make the right decisions. You can’t afford to lack competence in this field. This book will show you how the lack of the proper analytics tools holds your business back, and will help you see the advantages of having correct data. Being aware of where the analytics industry is heading is highly important in order not to be surprised in the future.

How To Build Your First E-mail List In Only 3 Days by Mike Mercadante – Free eBook

This is a great book that helps you build an e-mail list from scratch. E-mail marketing might not sound so sexy, but it’s actually a powerful tool for today’s entrepreneurs. Effective e-mail marketing campaigns deliver a high return on investment and you have full control and ownership. This book offers a step by step formula to build your list and make it grow in only 3 days. What are you waiting for? Start building!

The Bootstrappers Bible by Seth Godin – Free Manifesto

Starting a business is hard, starting one with limited resources is even harder. Effective bootstrapping not only makes it possible to make progress with limited resources, it forces you to make smart decisions and avoid waste and mistakes. This manifesto by the marketing guru Seth Godin will show you how to start a business with no money and help you see the light even in dark times.

What other books would you like to add to this list? Please share your knowledge to help entrepreneurs find content to learn from.

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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