Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thoughts and Books On Starting a Business

Being a serial entrepreneur, I'm occasionally asked for advice about starting a business. The first thing I tell folks is that more than half of starting a business is just showing up. I firmly believe that 98% of folks won't start a company even if they think they want to; several successful entrepreneurs I've spoken with have the same belief. Most people simply don't want the insecurity that comes with a start-up, and I can't blame them.You have to be realistic about that.

But suppose you do decide to show up after all, what should you do first? Raise capital? Hone your business plan? I would, and did, read a few books. I still read half a dozen business books a year, but most are not aimed at the sort of small start-ups I'm interested in. Here are three that helped me:
  • Growing a Business by Paul Hawken is the book that helped me more than any other. If you want to start a company just read this book. Read it twice.
  • Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson is not so much about what you need to start a company, but about what you don't need. That knowledge can be even more valuable.
  • Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. Part memoir, part environmental screed, and part philosophy, this is probably not a good example of a business how-to book. Yet every time I read it I feel inspired to make my company better.

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