Side view of pretty woman concentrating on reading a book while resting in sitting room
Even during the best of economic times, it’s not easy being an entrepreneur. There are always problems and issues to deal with. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, many entrepreneurs are now facing incredible financial pressures and uncertainty.
But one way to help cope with all this is to, well, read a good book. “I’m rereading The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy because it is hilarious and absurd,” said Jim McKelvey, who is the cofounder of Square and author of the new book, THE INNOVATION STACK: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time (which, by the way, is excellent). “This book helps recharge my sense of humor. I’m also reading Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini. This books talks about how we make decisions in ‘irrational’ ways. It helps me to understand why people sometimes do things that on the surface don’t make sense.”
OK then, what are other interesting books that entrepreneurs are reading? Let’s take a look at some examples:
Dheeraj Pandey, CEO at Nutanix:
Lately I have been reading The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. This book distinguishes between two different games: finite and infinite. Sinek poses the question: How do we play to succeed in the game we’re in? He delves into the mindset leaders must embrace to build a stronger, more innovative company with the resilience to thrive at whatever obstacles come their way. This book is particularly useful to me as I lead a business during this time of uncertainty and aim to keep morale high for my employees.
Elizabeth Zaborowska, CEO and founder of Bhava Communications:
I’m re-reading Scott Belsky’s The Messy Middle. As the subtitle, “Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture,” proclaims, the contents in these pages are more fitting than ever in this unprecedented moment where even the volatility of “business as usual” has been turned on its head in a matter of weeks by the pandemic. Belsky has the perfect mix of realist and optimist (…and humorist), helping entrepreneurs get a grip on roller-coaster emotions to act practically and proactively without sticking their head in the sand when things get hard. Chapters have of-the-moment titles like “Sometimes a reset is the only way forward,” “Playing the long game requires moves that don’t map to traditional measures of productivity,” “Break incrementalism by questioning core assumptions,” “Identify and prioritize efforts with disproportionate impact,” and “Culture is created through the stories your team tells.” This book is the business how-to manual for being in the thick of things.
Jack Newton, CEO and co-founder of Clio:
Kim Scott’s Radical Candor is a book we provide every new employee when they join Clio. It’s about providing honest feedback in a respectful manner. This is extremely important as we navigate the new realities and challenges of working remotely. It’s only when we actively share what’s on our mind, and create a space for our teams to also do so, that we will uncover what our organization needs to succeed during this time.
Nick Patel, Founder and CEO of Wellable:
I am actually re-reading a book that I first read in the early days of Wellable: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. It found its way off my bookshelf again because I remember him telling the story of his company, OpsWare, with brutal honesty. I wouldn’t call it a book about management; rather, it is a book that reminds entrepreneurs that running a business is tough, even in the best circumstances. I find solace in his perseverance to overcome what seemed like numerous near-death experiences for the company. Along the way, he was forced to make a number of really difficult decisions, including some about the people who worked with him for years. As we prepare for what may come in the months ahead, I know the path will be riddled with hard choices, and I feel more prepared making them after reading about Ben’s experiences.
Alexander Lewis, the co-owner of Lewis Commercial Writing:
One book I’m reading these days is The Splendid and The Vile by Erik Larson. The book poses an interesting juxtaposition for the times we’re living through today. Larson transports readers to 1940 London, as Winston Churchill becomes prime minister to face off against Hitler. The worry, chaos, and overall uncertainty experienced by Londoners throughout the book reminds me a lot about the quick-changing world we’re in today. News moves fast and often. Weeks feel like months. Much of European life is paused in fear and confusion. Decisions made by the few cause repercussions that are felt all over the world. Sound familiar?
The Splendid and the Vile is a thoroughly engrossing book from one of my favorite narrative nonfiction authors. I couldn’t recommend it enough for entrepreneurs wanting to learn from one of the most famous historical figures—Churchill—during one of his most critical years in office.
Bird Blitch, the CEO and founder of Patientco:
Boys In the Boat is about the rowing crew during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The big takeaway is that there is a process in which you become something larger than yourself. But it takes resilience. Every time you take a stroke in that boat, you are counting on someone to put their whole effort and weight into that stroke. That will only happen if every person in that boat trusts the others at a very fundamental level.