As someone with ADHD, who grew up with reading difficulties, sitting down with a book was never my go-to pastime. I preferred hands-on learning over classroom education -- so when I traded in my textbooks to run my own business, I don't think anyone was surprised.
But even though I believe experience is the best teacher, there are always opportunities to learn from the experts (whether you're in startup or 30 years into your business). If you don't know where to start, here's my shortlist of the best books for business and life as an entrepreneur.
3. The 4-Hour Work Week - Timothy Ferriss
When I first started 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I spent every waking hour on growing the company. I believed if I wasn't working, I was killing the business -- because to me, time away from the office meant missed opportunities. The reality can actually be the opposite.
If you think more hours logged equals more money and success, you're going to overwork yourself. And an overworked leader is an unproductive leader (not to mention an inattentive partner, parent, and friend). If you don't balance your time between work and home, every aspect of your life will suffer.
Now, I use Mondays as out-of-office 'Think Days' to focus solely on big picture goals and priorities. I also take Fridays off completely, to spend time with my kids or learn a new skill. I haven't gone as extreme as a 4-hour work week (and neither has Ferriss, who always goes full throttle). But this book opened my eyes to how taking time away from work can be the best thing for business in the long run.
2. Good to Great - Jim Collins
It took almost a decade for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to hit its stride. We'd been on a steady growth path for years out of our small scale operation, but we knew we could be bigger and better. So we decided to franchise, opened our next location in Toronto -- and we shot into a period of hyper-growth we never could've expected.
Jim Collins calls this the "flywheel effect." He says starting a business is like getting a 5,000-pound flywheel to rotate on its axle as fast and for as long as you can. At first, the effort seems futile -- with each push, the wheel only budges an inch. But as you keep pushing, it picks up speed exponentially, until you hit a breaking point and it propels forward through the power of its own momentum.
We saw this phenomenon with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, and we're on the verge with our other three brands: WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me, and Shack Shine. Though we're still in startup, we know long-term gain starts with upfront effort. Any moment now we'll become unstoppable.
1. The E-Myth Revisited - Michael Gerber
Back in 1995, I moved to Victoria, BC, to open our second operation. I wanted it to look and feel the exact same as the original, but wasn't sure how to decentralize our standards and practices. That's when I came across a simple concept from Michael Gerber that forever changed the trajectory of the business: "People don't fail, systems do."
This idea inspired me to create an operations manual so detailed that anyone could operate a 1-800-GOT-JUNK? business. We made continuous improvements year over year until we became so well oiled that the next step was obvious: franchise on a major scale.
Systematizing our business took 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to the next level. We then replicated the model across three more brands to round out our family of home service companies. If I'd never read Gerber's book, we wouldn't be half of what we are today.
Not every book you read will have a game-changing impact on your life or your business. To be successful as an entrepreneur, you need to always be learning and adapting to new ideas. Whether it's finding work/life balance, catapulting your company to full potential, or streamlining the way your business operates -- the lessons we learn only take full effect when we put them into practice.
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