Being successful is both a science and an art, whether in business or in your personal life. There are many well-defined approaches to strategy that I have learned from my reading, but increasingly, it is the human element that often separates the long-term winners from the long-term losers in both of these dimensions. The books below address some of the ways in which leaders can navigate their journey by ensuring they are committed to finding and keeping the right people, and to executing the right strategies and tactics to build lasting success.
Good to Great
Good to Great by Jim Collins is an insightful go-to guide on taking a business from being simply good to being truly great and sustainable. By great, the author means sustained success (although, there has been some amount of “fallout” from his initial list). The recommended acid test for building a great company is based on the “hedgehog concept,” a business philosophy that is defined by asking yourself three questions: What you are you passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? What best drives your economic or resource engine? Essentially, a good business is built on finding a way to execute your business at the intersection of these three core concepts.
Four Disciplines of Execution
Meeting goals is largely about execution. It sounds simple enough but execution can be a huge struggle – from overcoming unforeseen roadblocks to the invariable kinks in the chain that are bound to occur. Inevitably, execution isn’t quite as predictable as any of us would like. Personally, I’m a big fan of repeatable models. They allow leaders to focus on goals, rather than constantly reinventing the wheel. That’s what The Four Disciplines of Execution offers – a replicable model that you can apply across your business and management teams.
The four disciplines in the book are: Focusing on the Wildly Important (one of my favorite sections from the book), Acting on Lead Measures, Keeping a Compelling Scoreboard, and Creating a Cadence of Accountability. It’s well-rounded and gives you an actionable template to execute on the things that may make or break your company. What I also appreciate about this book is that it is highly applicable to your life outside of work.
Disciplined Growth Strategies
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Disciplined Growth Strategies by Peter Cohan. For full disclosure, SailPoint is featured in this book (Chapter 5, if you’re interested) but that doesn’t negate the fact that Cohan’s book is an excellent read on all the ways in which businesses have found their paths to sustainable growth and success. The wide range of case studies covers different industries, geographies and products, which makes it relevant to most business owners and leaders, and provides an insightful framework for successfully growing a company.
Depending on the stat you look at, around 60 to 90 percent of start-ups fail in their first few years of business. While reading books is not the silver bullet to avoid failure, arming yourself with the knowledge you need to make good business decisions certainly shouldn’t be dismissed.
What books do you recommend for business success?