Three Books That Have Shaped My Business Thinking

I don’t believe in coincidences or luck. Luck is for me is the culmination of learned knowledge applied to a problem. If you don’t have the knowledge you cannot solve the problem. That is why reading books is so important to your success. In this post, I want to propose 3 books that have shaped my business thinking.

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

I read this book twice a year. It’s one of my favorites. I’m more of a logical person and sometimes emotion can evade me. The reason I love this book is that it brings me back from the ledge. It speaks to me in a logical way about emotion. That’s not an easy feat but Dale Carnegie managed to make emotion a logical process. There are four wonderful lessons I learned from this book.

I learned how to teach people in a way that I don’t teach at all.

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself.

The book told me what to focus on in business. For a long time I couldn’t understand how I could understand the complexities of algorithms and computer science but couldn’t sell a thing.

…about 15 percent of one’s financial success is due to one’s technical knowledge and about 85 percent is due to skill in human engineering—to personality and the ability to lead people.

It sparked in me a love for linguistics. Words matter they have an effect on how we perceive reality.

Simply changing one three-letter word can often spell the difference between failure and success in changing people without giving offense or arousing resentment. Many people begin their criticism with sincere praise followed by the word “but” and ending with a critical statement. For example, in trying to change a child’s careless attitude toward studies, we might say, “We’re really proud of you, Johnnie, for raising your grades this term. But if you had worked harder on your algebra, the results would have been better.” In this case, Johnnie might feel encouraged until he heard the word “but.” He might then question the sincerity of the original praise. To him, the praise seemed only to be a contrived lead-in to a critical inference of failure. Credibility would be strained, and we probably would not achieve our objectives of changing Johnnie’s attitude toward his studies. This could be easily overcome by changing the word “but” to “and.” “We’re really proud of you, Johnnie, for raising your grades this term, and by continuing the same conscientious efforts next term, your algebra grade can be up with all the others.

Lastly, it showed me how to inspire people. Being a logically minded person means I sometimes brush aside people’s emotions and can be brutally honest without taking into account how that person will feel.

I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people,” said Schwab, “the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement. “There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a person as criticisms from superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a person incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise

If you read no other book about business, read this one. Knowing how to interact with people is fundamental to business success. Understanding and knowing how to arouse the needs of people is paramount, not to manipulate but to sincerely help. I’ve always liked the quote from the movie Family Man where Jack is trying to get a job at a brokerage firm. He tells the interviewer

Business is business. Wall Street, Main Street. It’s all a bunch of people getting up in the morning, trying to figure out how they’re going to send their kids to college. It’s just people.

This book shaped my business thinking on the emotional people driven side of business. To my logical brain it was a godsend.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It – Michael Gerber

I use this book as a guide for my company and also when working on other companies. The E-Myth shows us the life cycle of not only an entrepreneur but also to the evolution of a startup to maturity. I remember a time in my career as an entrepreneur where I was working 100 hours per week for months at a time and was not having the results I wanted by any stretch of the imagination. I finally found out why after reading this book.

The E-Myth is the romantic belief that small businesses are started by entrepreneurs, when, in fact, most are not. Small businesses are started by technicians who decided to quit their job and create their own businesses.

This was me to a “T.” I was a good programmer, but I was a terrible entrepreneur. I largely did things manually without a set process. Gerber explains the problems with starting a business.

 You must analyze your business as it is today, decide what it must look like when you’ve finally got it just like you want it, and then determine the gap between where you are and where you need to be in order to make your dream a reality.

The gap is always created by the absence of systems, the absence of a proprietary way of doing business that successfully differentiates your business from everyone else’s.

He goes on to say that most people who start businesses simply own a job, they work IN their business and not ON their business.

If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business—you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!

The Entrepreneurial Perspective asks the question: “How must the business work?” The Technician’s Perspective asks: “What work has to be done?”

The Entrepreneurial Perspective sees the business as a system for producing outside results—for the customer—resulting in profits. The Technician’s Perspective sees the business as a place in which people work to produce inside results—for The Technician—producing income.

The Entrepreneurial Perspective starts with a picture of a well-defined future and then comes back to the present with the intention of changing it to match the vision. The Technician’s Perspective starts with the present and then looks forward to an uncertain future with the hope of keeping it much like the present.

I nearly cried when I realized that everything that Gerber wrote was exactly what I was experiencing. This book is amazing and if you want your company to work without you there then there needs to be systems in place. Gerber tells you exactly what needs to be done in order to make that happen.

This book shaped my business thinking on the entrepreneurial side of business and the more technical aspects of things.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

Covey’s book is a list of seven habits that when followed bring prosperity. The seven habits are s follows,

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

The reason that this book stood out to me so much is that it is a combination of the first two books. Gerber had explained in order to have a mature company it h to start out that way. In other words, you have start with the en in mind.

Covey combines a logical approach with the emotional approach.

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.

I’ve learned through my career that most people do things reactively instead of proactively. This is because they do things in the moment with no real plan. This is the reason why most companies fail, because they have no real goals to speak of. This also the reasons why most websites fail.

Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging, and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase. Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink.

Covey teaches that it is important to be pro-active about our situation. This means having goals and treating people with sincerity and dignity. This brought together the two approaches that Gerber and Carnegie gave and completed my general business thinking.

In the end, these books for me are indispensable for anyone thinking about starting or currently running a business. I would be completely lost without them. You will learn more about business from these three books that anything I can currently think of. They have shaped my business thinking in a highly meaningful way.

Jacob Billings
PhD Candidate - Complex Systems

I am a software engineer, linguist, and researcher of Complex Systems. I hold a bachelor's degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Utah, a Master’s degree in linguistics from Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala City, and I am a doctoral candidate in Complex Systems at the Polytechnic University in Madrid, Spain.

Software Development: I bring over 20 years of experience in developing software for multiple clients in various environments. I have a solid knowledge of PHP, Javascript, MySQL, NoSQL, Python, and Java.

Over my career, I have had the opportunity to work on projects for some of the most recognized brands on the planet. Brands like Marriott Hotels, Microsoft, Ashland Chemical, Capital One Credit Cards, Cadbury Schweppes, GE and more. This has given me an in-depth understanding of my client's challenges as they grow. I know how to get a company from startup to maturity with technology. My specialties are in E-commerce(specifically Magento), process automation, and security.