It’s a question many of us have probably wrestled with at one point or another: Should I go back to school? If you’re feeling trapped in a particular industry or role (and especially if you’ve just had a really bad day at work), earning a graduate degree can seem like the perfect way to steer away from an unsatisfactory career and set sail for a new one.
A number of us (the bolder, possibly crazier ones) have likely also entertained a competing question: Should I start my own business? For those who find themselves electrified with the entrepreneurial spirit, this is no doubt the more exciting proposition. Business school could be great, but wouldn’t it be better to build something from scratch — something born from pure passion?
According to statistics, an MBA is probably the safer route to a better job. Business Insider reports that 50% of businesses fail by their fifth year. Meanwhile, among the 127 full-time MBA programs ranked by U.S. News in their annual survey, “the average employment rate among 2017 graduates three months after graduation was 84 percent.”
True entrepreneurs, I suppose, won’t be intimidated by the long odds. They’ll take the risk, and more power to them.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everybody who forsakes school to start their own business knows what he or she is doing (just because Steve Jobs and Bill Gates made it look easy doesn’t mean it is). Starting a business, after all, is a lot like becoming a parent: You won’t even know what you don’t know until you start doing it. Thankfully, just like with parenting, there a lot of books to read. They won’t fully prepare you to forge your own path, but the right ones can help you get started on the right foot.
To help the budding business leaders out there, we wanted to present a few of our favorite books. These titles have helped inspire good things at Torrent, and we hope they do the same for you.
3 Books that Helped Shape the Way We Do Business
Start With Why, by Simon Sinek
Start With Why is Simon Sinek’s attempt to tackle a profoundly difficult question: “Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential and more profitable than others?” His answer introduces a concept that everyone starting their own business should understand: the Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle is a simple idea: Picture a circle labeled “Why.” Around that, imagine a ring labeled “How,” and around that another ring labeled “What.” Sinek argues that every leader or organization understands what they do (sell software, for example), some know how they do it (via specific differentiators), but very few know why they do what they do. “What’s your purpose, what’s you cause, what’s your belief?” Leaders who know the answer, Sinek argues, are much more likely to find success — because “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish
Once you understand your company’s Why, the next step is to grow — and Scaling Up by Verne Harnish is a great resource to turn to. Full of useful strategies and tips, the book focuses on practical ways to build a winning business.
As Harnish puts it, “The goal of this book is to help you turn what feels like an anchor into wind at your back — creating a company where the team is engaged; the customers are doing your marketing; and everyone is making money. To accomplish this, Scaling Up focuses on the four major decision areas every company must get right: People, strategy, execution and cash.”
One key takeaway we’ve implemented into our company? The value of organizing around different business units. We’re confident you’ll learn equally valuable lessons.
Small Giants, by Bo Burlingham
This is the logical next choice after you finish Scaling Up because the message here is that growth for growth’s sake isn’t the point of a business — or at least it shouldn’t be. You can decide to grow your business up to a point and then pivot to focus on other things: Creating a great workplace culture, honing world-class customer service or making a difference in your community, for instance.
In Small Giants, Bo Burlingham “takes us deep inside fourteen remarkable privately held companies, in widely varying industries across the country, that have chosen to march to their own drummer. He searches for the magic ingredients that give these companies their unique ‘mojo’ and the lessons we can learn from them.”
These companies have provided excellent models for the kind of business we want Torrent to be, and they could do the same for you.
Want to expand your library even further? Let us know in the comments. We always love chatting about our favorite books.