For the longest time, I was a stubborn businessperson. I still am, only I’ve started to learn that I don’t know everything about running a business.
I thought I knew all there was to know and no one could tell me otherwise. I was different, my company was unique and special, and if there were any problems, I could surely figure them out on my own. I’ll admit, that was my ego talking.
In a moment of weakness, I gave in and read my very first business book: Mark Cuban’s How to Win at the Sport of Business.It taught me some valuable lessons, many that I had struggled to learn for years, right in front of me and for the low cost of $12.99. While I recognized many from experience, it became clear that, had I not been so stubborn I could have learned and applied these lessons a lot earlier.
But because I’m stubborn, I have an ego and I’m a bit lazy, I failed to take advantage of certain resources. When you’re running a business, reading a business book can seem inefficient or like more work. Any moment not spent directly gaining customers seems like a waste of time. I was an idiot.
Taking two hours a day to step away and pick up a book turned out to be a great use of my time; I was practically handed the kind of information that would have taken years to learn otherwise, which benefited my business exponentially in the long run.
I’ll bet a lot of you are like me— stubborn SOB’s who think they have nothing to gain from some educational reading on their industry. So, I’d like to share a little about what I’ve learned since Mr. Cuban opened my eyes to the world of business books.
First things first: pick the right books. Many are overrated and others are simply not worth reading (#hottake The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is overrated and anything by Napoleon Hill is hot nonsense). Here are some that I do recommend:
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Profit First by Mike Michalowicz
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (a must)
Agency: Starting a Creative Firm in the Age of Digital Marketing by Rick Webb
Now, I understand that many of us in business think we have no time to kick back and read a bunch of books, so for those people I’d first suggest making the time and second to listen to seminars, podcasts (the Creative Agency is a personal favorite) and conversations with other business owners—successful or not. There’s always something to learn, no matter who or where you get it from.
To make things more digestible, I’ve broken down some of the more insightful lessons I’ve absorbed, and since applied, from some of these titles.
Know the value of your work. When it comes to understanding the value of your work, it’s important to not only take a step back and criticize the product, but also find confidence in it. That way, you really know your worth and you’re better able to determine a price for it.
Price things correctly. When you know the value of your work, you charge what it is worth. Charge the amount it takes for you to feel good about spending the necessary amount of time to put out a good piece of work.
Trust your colleagues. When you trust your team, it shows in the quality of your company’s work, and allows you to focus on your role. Once I trusted my production team was going to turn out amazing work (they always do) I could concentrate on building new partnerships and bringing them more work to crush.
Find your target customer. Identify your audience and figure out what it is you do best for them. Say no to things outside your wheelhouse.
Manage your finances. This one may seem obvious but it’s fundamental to running a successful business. Better budgeting=more growth. (Thanks Mike Michalowicz!)
There’s value in being a small company. You don’t have to be a venture backed unicorn to be a valuable business. Say it with me, “my customers like me, I offer a good service and I run a real business” (more on this to come)
Learning things through experience is extremely valuable, but takes a lot of time. Books, podcasts, and other resources are like a shortcut. If you’re not taking them you’re just being a stubborn SOB.
Sure, it took me years to swallow my pride and pick up a business book but better late than never, right? Even now, I still need to remind myself not to get complacent and go back to my old ways. So, no matter what field you’re in, stop being a stubborn SOB and remember that there’s always more to learn.