The Lean Startup

I read this book during my last visit to Chicago, and was pleasantly surprised at how much of what was in this book was not immediate common sense. The usual “don’t waste money” and “be realistic” was obviously abound, but the overall message of the book focused far more on specific philosophies of operating lean, rather than simply the financial sense most of us focus on.

In the truest sense, the author focuses on the sentiments of doing meaningful things and being able to adopt quickly when those “things” change with the market(s). Being lean doesn’t simply mean paying your staff the lowest they’re willing to accept anymore; it means being able to dramatically shift the purpose or mission of your business if your customers dictate it; or more likely if the lack of customers forces you to do something different.

Further, the emphasis put on simply learning from mistakes as quickly as possible was a warmly welcomed intuition. Coming from a startup that was absolutely stubborn to the point of willing to fail for it, this is perhaps the philosophy that most resonates with me personally, and one I hope to live up to in future endeavors.

Eric Ries does a masterful job in this book of using real life examples, scenarios, and use cases to illustrate a a point, to the extent he nearly makes it a science.

Anyone who wishes to initiate a startup, or even invest in one for that matter, would benefit greatly from having read this book as it wonderfully illustrates simple mistakes that are easy to avoid, and also things to look out for in founders and leaders that will spend doom; imminent or delayed.


REMOTE: Office Not Required

This book is dear to me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which that it is perhaps the easiest way to identify someone’s “school of thought” with respect to business. I read this book years ago, but as I find it increasingly more relevant, and with my efforts to catalog what I read, I thought doing a retro-post on the book worthwhile.

In one of my previous lives, I offered this book as a guideline to our recruiting and staffing plans for a startup that was in the late-early stages of being funded, and the rest of the executive team was immediately defensive of the approach of David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried. Not surprising, he heralded from an era of business with secretaries and executive assistants, both of which were part of his plan; also the plan we eventually adopted, unfortunately.

Regardless, the quips and anecdotes found within this book should be taken seriously, because they are serious. That startup no longer exists, and recruiting top talent is incredibly difficult if you limit your talent pool to a very specific geographic region. We witnessed it first hand, and we swallowed the consequences as a result.

In the end, I agree with the authors; unless you operate your business in a talent hotbed like Silicon Valley or Seattle, operating a technology business without supporting remote staff is a suicide mission.

If you want to organically grow your business, reduce your turnover, increase the quality of your talent pool, reduce your recruitment costs, and be a diverse organization, read this book, or watch this video.

The Power of Habit

Books like this fascinate me because they answer dinner-party questions like “how did Febreze become so popular” and “have you ever driven to work but not remembered the drive?”

This book answers those questions and a lot more around how to identify your own bad habits and create new good habits in their place.

Perhaps most importantly it helps as a parent to teach your kids to develop great habits that will benefit them… forever.

I found this book particularly interesting when the author dug into real life examples and scenarios that came to life; from how Febreze became a household brand, to how someone with severe brain damage can still be taught to be pseudo-independent by repetition and habit forming.

This book is both instructive and insightful. If you’re looking for a self-help book this probably isn’t it, but if you’re interested in the science of habits, and understanding your own, this is a wonderful read (or listen).

The Power of Habit