Summer Reads: 10 Books for Entrepreneurs

Posted Jun 20th, 2017

This week, members of Conquer's leadership team were asked to recommend two books for an entrepreneur's summer reading list. Check out their recommendations and let us know what you think. Do you have books you'd recommend? Then connect with us on our social media channels (check out the footer!) and let us know what books and why!

Recommendations from Tom Stewart, Conquer Accelerator's Program Manager
Pitch Anything, by Oren Klaff

We all know you have only seconds to hook that investor, audience member, pitch judge, or next employee. Pitch Anything really helped me understand the best ways to go about doing that by introducing the STRONG method: 

  • Setting the Frame
  • Telling the Story
  • Revealing the Intrigue
  • Offering the Prize
  • Nailing the Hookpoint
  • Getting a Decision

This book fundamentally changed how I went about creating presentations and forming persuasive arguments to help me land big clients and big investors.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown

As a founder, your to-do list is endless. It's easy when you're a first-timer to get caught up in the feeling of always being overwhelmed. Essentialism helped me climb out of that cycle, giving me a process to follow to really figure out the most important things in my business and personal life. Whenever I feel myself getting short of breath from all of the things piling up in my life, I go back to this book and remember how important it is to actively subtract things from my life. It can seem counter-intuitive at times, but it's absolutely brilliant!

Recommendations from Amber Shinn, MSU Innovation Center's Marketing Director, Conquer Storytelling Leadership:

Essentials of Negotiation, by Roy Lewicki, et al. 

Inside: Solid strategies to consider in different negotiation and conflict resolution situations. Assists in thinking past typical winner-takes-all negotiation and apply creativity and best practices. This book helps set boundaries, find flexibility, and explore types of conflict. Life is full of negotiations and conflicts to manage—sales, salaries, project planning—even updating your smartphone service. Having tools to understand, communicate, and acquire what you want or need, while maximizing what you can give others and minimize negative outcomes is the process both satisfying personally and professionally. 

Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams and Why People Follow, by Tom Rath, Gallup Press 

Inside: Effective leaders not only know their own strengths, but also invest in the strengths of others, build effective teams and understand the basic needs of those who look to them for leadership. Leadership doesn't always come from the top of an organization, it can flow in multiple directions, and being able to work effectively with others at any level is critical for success. Provides an online test to accurately identify personal strengths as well as case studies on how leaders in other organizations are successful with their best qualities.

Recommendations from Christopher Sell, MSU Innovation Center's Director of Alumni & Entrepreneur Engagement

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

This book is an inspiring take on fostering creativity and the best possible work within an organization, from Ed Catmull, President at Pixar. From managing fear and failure in an organization, to ideation and creation, to protecting new ideas and imposing productive limits, this book provides behind-the-scenes stories and true-life examples to illustrate real how-to principles that can be applied in startups and large corporations. Catmull’s emphasis on not confusing the process with the goal is stellar, as his insistence on linking ideas about creative work to behaviors – even those that ultimately fail. An awesome read for anyone interested in optimizing creativity within a business.

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller

Great read for learning about ways to cut through the clutter, achieve better results in less time, build momentum toward your goal, and master what matters to you. The book is a fun and refreshing take on leadership and scaling a business in the right way. Many of the lessons taught in this book are not only applicable to a business, but to one’s personal life as well. The author, the co-founder of Keller Williams Realty, Inc., built the company into one of the largest realty companies in the world. He is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and finalist for Inc. Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year.

Recommendations from Travis Stoliker, Conquer Accelerator's Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I remember reading Antifragile for the first time and feeling like I had just been punched in the gut—but in a really good way. I had a profound sense that much of what I had believed before reading Antifragile had been completely wrong, or at least, incomplete. Antifragile challenges the idea that “experts” can predict crashes. It challenges the idea that "big data" always produces actionable insights. It challenges the idea that we can control things to make them more predictable. Antifragile makes the case that randomness is what generates long-lasting stability. Randomness is what makes something the opposite of ‘Fragile’. Antifragile.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Exposed and Explained by the World's Two, by Al Ries & Jack Trout

Marketing is an ever-evolving topic with rapidly changing tactics. When I was in college over a decade ago, we focused on TV, Radio, and Print marketing. Branding and Mad Men style tactics were the rage. Now, as we all know, marketing people are obsessed with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Snapchat. What I love about The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is that it distils marketing to its core elements that transcend individual tactics or platforms. This book points out the laws of marketing that will continue to be true, regardless of the particular tactics we use. It gives lots of examples and real world case studies that help illustrate the author's points. For instance, one of my favorite concepts in Marketing is that you should try to "own a word in the prospect's mind." The idea is that successful brands powerfully reinforce a core message and consistently market it repeatedly.

Recommendations from Aaryn Richard, MSU Foundation's Communications Manager, Conquer Storytelling Leadership

Ava, by Carole Maso

We become better storytellers when we read beautiful, challenging works. Ava is exactly that: beautiful and challenging. Ava is an attempt, in the words of French feminist philosopher Helene Cixous, "to come up with a language that heals as much as it separates." The fragments of the novel are combined to make a new kind of wholeness, allowing environments, states of mind, and rhythms not ordinarily associated with fiction to emerge. Ava's theme is the poignancy of mortality, the extraordinary desire to live, the inevitability of death—the things never done, never understood, the things never said, or said right, or said enough. Ava yearns and the reader yearns with her, struggling to hold on to all that slips away.

Good Is the New Cool: Market Like You Give a Damn, by Afdhel Aziz & Bobby Jones

Marketing has an image problem. Media-savvy millennials, and their younger Gen Z counterparts, no longer trust advertising, and they demand increased social responsibility from their brands—while still insisting on cutting-edge products with on-trend design. As always, brands need to be cool—but now they need to be good, too. It’s a tall order, and with new technology empowering consumers to bypass advertisements altogether, it won’t be long before the old, advertising-based marketing model goes the way of the major label. With seven revolutionary new principles—from “Treat People as Citizens, Not Consumers,” to “Lead with the Cool”—and insights and interviews from a new generation of marketers, social entrepreneurs, and leaders of such brands as Zappos, Citibank, The Honest Company, as well as the culture creators working with artists like Lady Gaga, Pharrell, and Justin Bieber, this rule-breaking book is the new business model for the twenty-first century, and a call to action for anyone committed to building a better tomorrow. This visionary book won’t just change your business—it will change the world.


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