I Built a Billion-Dollar Company With the Help of These 19 Business Books
Reading books is a great way to obtain information and advice from experts that can help you grow your business. If you're looking for a place to start, try this list.
There's arguably no better way to learn how to start and grow a business than to just dive in with a hands-on approach. At the same time, as someone who built a "unicorn" from the ground up, I can also testify that there's a lot of wisdom in taking advice from others who have already gone through the school of hard knocks. Books are a wonderfully accessible way to get that advice, and there's no shortage of incredible professionals who are sharing what they know through the written word. These are the titles I consider to be must-read if you're serious about entrepreneurial success, leadership and creating a hypergrowth company.
1. The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to Go from $0 to $100 Million (Mark Roberge)
This is the story of how Hubspot went to $100 million in sales per year in eight years. My team at KnowBe4 studied how the Hubspot team achieved this, and we patterned ourselves on their best practices.
2. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (Al Ries and Jack Trout)
A PR and marketing classic about how to differentiate yourself, get customers to think about you and stay in their minds.
3. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (Jocko Willink and Leif Babin)
This summarizes the top leadership ideas SEALs rely on in real combat and shows you how to apply them to your company. We have found it to be truly useful at KnowBe4 for encouraging personal responsibility and making all employees think as if they are the owner of the business.
4. High Output Management (Andrew Grove)
A classic from the former CEO of Intel, one of the first organizations that essentially put a foundation under what we now know as hypergrowth management. This book outlines Grove's views on building a business, including how to motivate and build teams.
Doerr built upon Grove's ideas. This book details his framework, which uses objectives and key results (OKRs) to continue hypergrowth. The OKR concept is what fuels Silicon Valley's 10x growth policy.
6. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Patrick Lencioni)
Explores corporate culture and corporate health. This book argues that organizational health is a major competitive advantage and shows you how to achieve it.
7. Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company—and Revolutionized an Industry (Marc Benioff)
The story of how Benioff built up Salesforce. This text offers well over 100 "plays" (strategies) that address how to manage hypergrowth, broken down into each sector of your organization.
8. Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility (Patty McCord)
Addresses company culture from an HR perspective. This is the "Did you say it to their face" book that challenges you to use radical transparency.
9. Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue (Nick Mehta, Dan Steinman, and Lincoln Murphy)
The seminal book on making existing customers happy, keeping them happy and getting them to renew, specifically for anyone in SaaS.
10. Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell (Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle)
Outlines the leading principles taught by "Trillion Dollar Coach" Bill Campbell, who advised visionaries like Steve Jobs and Larry Page.
An FBI hostage negotiator for two decades, Voss outlines key principles for negotiating well in just about any area of life. Voss gave a keynote speech for KnowBe4 employees at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, FL — look him up on YouTube!
12. Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com (Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler)
Considered to be the "Bible" for generating sales leads, this book explains the sales process Salesforce.com used to become an industry giant.
13. How Successful People Lead (John C. Maxwell)
A great, short, powerful and simple read that describes the five levels of leadership.
14. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras)
A classic that explores what lasting companies do that helps them endure for the long haul — not just years, decades.
Your handbook for how to keep innovating and coming up with new products.
16. The Copywriter's Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells (Robert W. Bly)
Recognized as the best copywriter in the U.S., Bly shows you a range of techniques for communicating well in ads, mailers, and more, so people actually buy what you're selling. I recommend this to all of my employees, even if writing has nothing to do with their position, because being skilled at communication, whether verbal or written, is a necessary skill for everyone.
17. A Data-Driven Computer Defense: A Way to Improve Any Computer Defense (Roger Grimes)
From KnowBe4's own defense evangelist, this book outlines how to align your security efforts to the threats you actually face. Read to ensure hackers don't get in!
18. Valley Speak: Deciphering the Jargon of Silicon Valley (Rochelle Kopp and Steven Ganz)
Need to speak the language of Silicon Valley to get funding or other support for your business? This is your dictionary.
19. UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence (Richard Stiennon)
If you're selling to enterprises or B2B and you want to be on analysts' radars, then you need to understand how analysts operate, what they do and how to talk to them. This is the book on how to manage the whole analyst process.
Starting a company and managing it well requires you to cover a ton of ground on a lot of different topics. But nothing says you can't take expertise from people who have already been successful. In fact, that should be one of your top success strategies. If you want to get started with a business of your own (or successfully grow the business you already have), this is your essential reading list. Save trees, get digital copies (that you can highlight), and prepare your mind to accomplish your business goals. P.S.: Think BIG.
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