Getting Better All The Time

Build a better business with a little help from these books.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the December 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

What would make your better? More motivated employees? More knowledge of what makes a successful entrepreneur? More , maybe from a venture capitalist? Read this month's and start getting better-now.

If you've come across a book that's taught you to grow your business better, let us know. We'll pass it on to other looking for solutions-or mere inspiration. Write to us at

The Art Of Possibility

(Harvard School Press, $22.50)

You won't last as an entrepreneur without a strong sense of the possible. Sure, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander aren't entrepreneurs-they are, respectively, a family therapist and an orchestra conductor-but based on their rather optimistic sense of what's possible, perhaps the two should be.

The husband-and-wife Zanders offer ways to engender optimism and enterprise in a variety of people. For instance, Benjamin describes how he told one music class at the start of the semester that every student would get an "A," provided each wrote him a letter describing why he or she deserved it. With the certainty of getting an "A," Zander says, the music students tapped their inner reservoirs of enthusiasm and, ultimately, possibility.

The book is full of similar ideas that seem impractical at first but, once they're explained in warm and witty style, reveal themselves as very practical indeed.

The Art Of Possibility is available at

The Entrepreneurial Mindset

(Harvard School Press, $29.95)

Many detail the hard-knocks experiences of entrepreneurs, and an increasing number of academic studies investigate the traits and practices of successful business owners. But there are few books that mingle pragmatic and theoretical information from top-flight university researchers who have real-world experience founding companies. This book, by professors Rita Gunther McGrath of Columbia University and Ian MacMillan of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, fills that void.

Among the pair's contributions is identifying the unique traits of entrepreneurs who habitually start companies. Based on much research, the authors find that successful entrepreneurs: 1) passionately seek new opportunities, 2) pursue them with enormous discipline, 3) pursue only the very best opportunities, 4) focus on execution and 5) engage the energies of everyone they can reach. Gunther McGrath and MacMillan do much more than that, however. They provide a slew of usable ideas and plans of action for entrepreneurs who are interested in innovating new business models, introducing imaginative products, reaching untapped markets and otherwise expressing, in the real world, their unique entrepreneurial mind-sets.

The Entrepreneurial Mindset is available at

Done Deals

(Harvard School Press, $29.95)

Venture capitalists are to the first decade of the new century what Internet entrepreneurs were to the 1990s and investment bankers were to the 1980s: They are seemingly making the most the fastest and having the most fun doing it. Respected financial journalist Udayan Gupta takes the reader into this world by letting top venture capitalists talk about what they do. His interviews with such legendary VCs as Eugene Kleiner, Arthur Rock and John Doerr make fascinating reading and provide an intriguing view of this closeted community.

It's a wild world, too, in which amazingly energetic businesspeople work outlandish hours for unworldly profits. If you want to know how to earn annual rates of return measured in the thousands of percent, this is one of the few places you can do so. The VCs profiled are not mere exhibitionists, however, nor is the book strictly for voyeurs. are exposed to a steady stream of revelations about ways for entrepreneurs to raise VC money while limiting VC control of their companies.

Done Deals is available at

What Are You Reading?
Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time (Hyperion, $14.95) by Howard Schultz and Dori Jones Yang .

"This book chronicles how Schultz built the Starbucks gourmet-coffee business, and it highlights the things in him that made him successful. It's helpful for me to be able to learn more about such a good role model."

-Andrea Halperin, 35, owner of F3 Fat Free Foods, New York City

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