There are thousands of books on business. Here are a few that we think are particularly worthwhile.
When you need to organize—or revisit—the basic premises of your human-scale business, the Business Model Canvas is an invaluable tool. Rather than the linear, text-heavy, spreadsheet-dense approach of business plans, the Business Model Canvas is a single large-format page, read write-to-left, addressing the key elements of your value-creation and value-capturing proposition. In Business Model Generation Osterwalder and Pigneur explain how to unbundle your assumptions about businesses and reconfigure 9 elements of the Business Model Canvas: Customer Segments, Customer Relationships, Channels, Value Proposition, Key Activities, Key Resources, Key Partners, Cost Structure and Revenue Streams. Along the way, the authors provide sufficient fundamentals to get you started with a wealth of tools and processes useful individual work as well as group collaboration, including empathy maps, visual thinking, prototyping, and scenarios. Refreshing in its clarity, the book provides a straight-speaking approach to innovating through business model design.
When it comes to raising money, human scale businesses have much in common with tech startups. That is, absent unambiguous collateral value and financial track records, both kinds of businesses need to craft clear and compelling stories. Easier said than done. In "Get Backed," Evan Baehr and Evan Loomis provide templates, real-world examples, and practical advice to improve your business story. Although the book focuses on raising venture capital, its lessons are equally relevant to entrepreneurs raising funds through friends and family or crowdfunding platforms. (Note Baehr is a co-founder of Able Lending, a marketplace lender that focuses on friends and family-based loans.) The book emphasizes application, but it also includes very practical theory such as the brief introduction to social network theory. I'm learning much from the book, and you will too.
We prototype our products, but we too often resist the notion of modeling our businesses. We accept that the application of good design principles can improve the performance of manufactured goods, but take a haphazard approach to organizational design. In this compact volume, Kim Warren explains that strategy is how an organization tries to achieve its objectives. The strategic process, therefore, involves choosing objectives, positioning our business relative to others, and steering performance over time. Tools such as the Business Model Canvas can help with goal selection and positioning, but it takes dynamic tools to manage performance. This book is a useful introduction to how we can use relatively simple (but still quantitatively rigorous) visual models to help us "push back the fog of uncertainty" and make better business choices. Read it and start succeeding on purpose.
You should never ask your mom whether your business idea is good. She'll lie to you to protect your feelings. Entrepreneur-turned-author Rob Fitzpatrick goes one further: everyone will lie to you. In this short, to the point, and practical book, Fitzpatrick provides actionable advice on how to engage in productive conversations that will help you accelerate your discovery of the truth regarding your business idea. Like scientists, we must work against our nature in order to seek disconfirming evidence. It's bloody hard. It's harder still to discover our ideas are crap after we've invested a lot of time and money trying to be right.