The 5 Books I Read That Helped Me Build a Multi-Million Dollar Company
Even a book published in 1910 can teach us about avoiding negativity and disillusionment and about feeling grateful.
Mistakes will be made, money spent, time wasted and opportunities missed: That's the life of any entrepreneur, considering that there is no blueprint for how to start a company.
Mistakes etc. are all part of the risk (and thrill) of starting your own company. Still, even the lack of a road map needn't mean you have to go into the startup world completely blind.
As someone who has helped thousands of founders and executives take their businesses to the next level, and built a multi-million dollar business along the way, I can tell you that some of my best education didn’t come from a formal education, but from the lessons of others.
By engrossing myself in books by some of the greatest, I was able to successfully scale my business. Turning pages, not taking tests, helped me gain confidence, deliver a powerful sales message, learn how to lead with integrity and so much more. And the best part? This kind of education cost me less than $100, total.
For those struggling to get to the next step, here are some of the books that helped me find success.
1. "Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook"
By Gary Vaynerchuk
When it comes to guerilla marketing tactics, no one does it better than Gary Vaynerchuk. He started out helping his parents in the wine business (if you can believe that), and has since grown to be an authority in the digital marketing and social media worlds.
What I love about Vaynerchuk’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is that, as the title implies, this book is about the fight. And that means fighting to get customers -- and, in turn, revenue. The weapons for that fight are social media marketing tactics and what I'll call the art of giving.
Entrepreneurs need to implement various strategies -- hence the jabs and hooks -- to highly engage with readers, fans and followers. Vaynerchuk explains that there is no one-size-fits-all content strategy for getting customers hooked on your brand on social media. Rather, entrepreneurs,need to customize content to work on social media channels, and Vaynerchuk shows you how to do that.
The book is also a great reminder to put your best stuff out into the public domain. His philosophy is to give away the best content and advice you have so that you’re being of service first -- and not focused on always taking.
Takeaway: The book reinforced for me how to do that in a digital space, as for years previous, I'd always done it face to face.
By Ray Dalio
While hardly a flashy character in the current startup landscape, Ray Dalio is still a legend. He founded Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, and he knows how to spot opportunities and what it takes to succeed.
In his book Principles, Dalio shares the leadership lessons he has learned over the years, with a strong focus on “radical truth” and “radical transparency.”
While entrepreneurs will gain valuable insight as they're learning how to lead with integrity, what I specifically found most helpful in Dalio's thinking was the removal of the ego.
In short, everyone in his company had the ability to express what they were experiencing or witnessing. One of the best stories in the book is how Dalio empowered everyone, and in this particular instance, his secretary, to call him on any poor behavior or misguided thinking. All opinions were valued.
Takeaway: This story resonated with me in my approach to business. It’s not about ego; it’s letting the best idea win based on the overall goals for the company.
3. "How Showmanship Sells"
By Elmer Leterman
A lot of people hate selling. Yet, it is sales which makes your company stay afloat. Without revenue you would be a sinking ship.
While the book How Showmanship Sells came out as long ago as 1965, its principles are still true today. Leterman dropped out of school to get into the insurance business. Working his way up in the field, he ended up being one of the most successful salespeople of his time. In his book he breaks down the actual techniques he used, including his ability to command attention through different forms of showmanship.
Takeaway: His principles taught me how to think differently about sales, including how to use influencer marketing to create massive sales in my business before I was really known.
4. "Getting to Yes: How to Negotiate Agreement Without Giving In"
By Roger Fisher
Creating win-win outcomes can be challenging for leaders and entrepreneurs. Often, founders just think about what they want, without taking into account the other person’s needs. But that sort of mindset will create little success for your company.
In Getting to Yes, Fisher explains the power of negotiation and how to use it to your benefit. Yours doesn’t have to be a one-sided victory; both parties can come out of a discussion feeling satisfied.
Fisher, who is part of the Harvard Negotiation Project, lays out what you need to do to successfully negotiate, including not taking things personally, focusing on common goals and reaching an agreement that is a win for all parties.
When I was growing my business, negotiation was something I needed to do often. Fisher's book taught me how to rethink the belief that there needs to be a winner and a loser.
Takeaway: By understanding what is important to the other side, I could help those people get what they wanted while also receiving what I wanted.
5. "The Science of Getting Rich"
By Wallace D Wattles
While a lot of business books focus on the tactical advice -- what you should do every day to meet your goals -- a lot can be said about how you need to think, too.
The Science of Getting Rich was written way back in 1910, proving that while our external world has changed, how our mind works has not: We all have certain desires and strive to achieve them. The book dives into having a wealth mindset -- believing you can be successful -- and then discusses how you can become rich (however you define that term).
One of the biggest lessons in the book is found in Chapter 14, “The Impression of Increase.” There I learned the principle of adding value before asking for anything. I learned that the desire we have to succeed is something inherent in us.
I also came to understand how to line up my thinking and behaviors. The point is to experience success in life while keeping your mind free from the negativity and disillusionment that can accompany that effort.
Finally, Wattles wrote about the importance of gratitude. When you are grateful you know everything is moving you deeper into your purpose and closer to your success.
Takeaway: I’m grateful for everything -- all the hardships, the negative results and personal failures. They’ve all been necessary for me to become who I am today. When you forget gratitude, you become a victim, and nothing is more unempowering.