A couple weeks ago we gave a talk at World Maker Faire in New York called "Makers going Pro". It was a short talk about a few things we have learned about starting a business. We get asked for advice on how to start a business fairly often. Sometimes it is from people who are just feeling out the waters, and sometimes it is from people who are full on running the show.
The first piece of advice we have learned is that you can never get too much advice. That doesn't mean you have to take all of it. But you should listen to any and all advice you can get. Because when you really need it, good advice is expensive and difficult to find.
We are not business experts, we just happen to run one. We started out knowing nothing, and we are no where near knowing everything. Over the years we have read tons of business books that have helped us out. We shared the ever growing list of books the end of our Maker Faire talk, and we said we would post it here too.... so here it is:
First off, get thee to Nolo
Nolo is a publisher that specializes in all things legal. Starting a business means filing legal documents with the local and national government. These guys are great for helping you decide what kind of business you'll want to start and why. They have all the answers to how to hire your first employee, how to change your business name, and anything else you may want to do that the government needs to know about.
But honestly, whatever it is you're doing Nolo has a book for it. Working for yourself? Book. Buying a house? Book. Writing a Will? Book. It's totally awesome. And, if you go to the main store in Berkeley everything's 30% off or more, and they also have lots of other non-Nolo business books there.
Secondly, here are some great specific business books that have helped us out:
How Firms Succeed: A Field Guide to Design Management is specifically for a creative service based business. It talks about everything from marketing to billing to customer relations. It is very nuts and bolts, and very helpful if you are in the middle of running your own firm, or just working at one.
Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers This book is great if you are trying to figure out the ebb and flow of how your business runs (or can run). It has very easy to use diagrams that explain what business models are, and how to apply them to what you are doing.
The Four Steps to the Epiphany - From the stanford MBA program, this book focuses on lean startups and product design. This is a dense read and not for the meek, but filled with great information.
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement A good book for businesses producing goods of any kind. This one focuses on process and how to define and get rid of bottlenecks. And it is a pretty easy read with it's fictional story underlining the thought process.
Last, here are some inspirational books that we've found helpful. These are great fast reads that will keep your spirits up, and offer up short priceless tidbits of advice:
It's Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be: The World's Best Selling Book This book and Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite are great inspirational handbooks to pick up when you need a thought change. Each page is filled with large text of one thought provoking idea that you'll be thinking about for days.
Rework is written by the guys who made Basecamp, and is also large text filled with one idea for every few pages. This one is very specifically about running a business, and has a wonderful, inspirational outlook.
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us is about social networking, marketing, and so much more. And it is written by Seth Godin, which is always a good read.
That's all for now. Good Luck out there!