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My favorite books on starting a scalable business

26 December 2018

I often get asked what resources or guides are best for people trying to start a business. This is often from entrepreneurs who want to start a scalable business that grows, operates, and succeeds massively and possibly without their day-to-day involvement in the operations of the business. Note that such a scalable business is different from other business – say, a consulting shop where you charge great fees (and make great money) but don’t scale beyond a small team.

A scalable business ultimately requires a repeatable sales and customer experience process; if it’s not repeatable, you can’t do it enough times to make it scale. It also requires a market that actually cares enough to pay for the repeatable experience (i.e., predictable service or product) – which means you need a large enough market, and one whose problems coincide with whatever you are selling.

With that in mind, I feel like the following books are fantastic when it comes to outlining a strategy for starting a scalable business, creating an operating model, and succeeding with it (i.e., running it forever or selling it).

Four Steps to the Epiphany and Well Designed. Both of these books discuss how to understand the needs of a market. Four Steps to the Epiphany is a classic, and outlines the interviews you should run, questions you should ask, and other customer discovery exercises to go through. Well Designed is a shorter book and I’d even call it “Four Steps Lite”; much easier to digest, but you’ll need to figure out a lot more on your own.

E-myth Revisited. While focused on smaller and franchisable businesses, this book encourages you to build an org chart for your business, document everything in playbooks, and ultimately make yourself replaceable across the board. This process might feel like you’re getting ahead of yourself, but once your business starts growing, you’ll need these materials and processes in place to scale effectively.

Built to Sell. This is a slightly different take on the scalable business model, and is similar to E-myth Revisited, above. The book outlines the differences between a scalable, product-oriented business versus one that is not, and provides a guide on how to convert your consulting-oriented business to a scalable product-focused one. It discusses different revenue generation strategies, the challenges of finding a focus (at the cost of generating revenue, sometimes!), and also has advice on how to ultimately sell the business. Having gone through these processes, I would emphasize that Built to Sell makes it sound easier than it is, but it does list the major steps you’ll need to take.

Have fun!