In this 2020 business advice round-up, I’ll give 58 takeaways from 25 books on business. Having the right knowledge can be critical to success.
Who’s This Post For?
•Small, medium, and large sized business owners.
•Employees who want to learn more about business techniques and strategies.
•Managers that want to work on their leadership skills
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59 Business Tips, Advice, and Strategies from 25 Business Books
1. Duplicate your best clients.
More customers should not be your only goal, better customers are just as important.
Do a deep dive into your best clients. Figure out precisely why they’re a good fit, and then find other prospects like them.
2. Don’t do anything else while making important phone call. Give it your full focus.
The person you are speaking to will be able to tell that you’re focused on something else, leading to a poor business call. It can have a significant impact on your bottom line (especially if the call is with an important customer).
3. People tend to use the time that’s allotted to do a task.
If you give your employee (or yourself) a week to get something done, they’ll generally use the full week to complete the task. If you give them a day, they’ll tend to do it in a day. While certain deadlines are unreasonable, people can work much more quickly and efficiently when they’re up against a deadline.
4. Pivots: taking data and figures to make an adjustment to your strategy.
Don’t just think about how much time you have before you run out of money, think of how many pivots you have left. Iterate fast and release often.
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn)
5. Use bullets and numbers rather than huge blocks of text
This can be for sales copy, on your website, blog post, or social media descriptions. We want people to actually read what we write, so include white space and make your copy easy to read.
6. Customer-relationship management (CRM) software and monthly follow up is the key to repeat business.
7. Create a reproducible system.
This will allow the business to scale. Without a reproducible system, everything will continue to rely on you. Standard Operating Procedures are important.
8. You want your company to be dependent on the system, not dependent on you.
If your company is dependent on you, you’ll be a bottleneck and you can never leave or take a vacation. The best-run business is one that could operate while you’re gone.
9. Innovation isn’t always a brand new invention. Innovation can be in how the product is priced, financed, packaged, supported, delivered, or managed.
10. You and your company should become a thought leader.
Become a company that’s sought out for their opinion and comments. Not only will this help build authority and exposure, it will also elevate your value (both real and perceived) and excel you toward becoming a leader in your industry.
11. Build in time for problems that may come up.
It’s not a question of if problems will arise. Problems will arise. Do not build things about the best-case scenario. You need to build in some extra time. If you plan ahead, you won’t be in trouble when problems arise.
12. Create checklists for the processes in your business
For example, run an accounts receivable report. For invoices 7 days overdue, send a friendly reminder. For invoices 14 days overdue call customer and tell them to pay. Forward any invoices more than 27 days overdue to a debt collection agency.
Consult with and work with your team members that handle this to make sure it’s set up correctly (and they understand it).
13. When customers buy the primary expensive item, the suggested add-ons and upsells will appear relatively cheap.
Shirts seem inexpensive after buying a suit. The same is true when you buy a car and get smaller add ons. Upsells are an incredibly effective way to increase a sale
14. Your business can’t just exist because the technology is going to be big. You need a vision. You need a goal.
So many company think they are going to be “the Uber of X” or “the Amazon of Y”. Companies with a clear vision and goal will be more likely to succeed. Execution is so much more important than the concept or belief that the technology will be big.
15. Often, it’s not great ideas that make the biggest impact in a company. It’s expert execution of a great model.
The CEO, team, and execution is so much more important than simply “a great idea”
16. It’s ideal to be making $150,000-$200,000 per employee or at least 2.5x the labor cost.
It’s also important to have 6 months of pay set aside for an employee before you hire them. You don’t want to hire someone and need to lay them off two months later. You want to make sure your business can sustain that new employee.
17. Culturally, everyone notices how firing and departures go. Tell people what you can about the split.
People pay attention. If the person was let go without any advanced notice and isn’t looked after, people will notice. Tell people what you can, otherwise they will gossip and come up with their own answers.
18. Southwest had one main focus and they did it well.
Other airlines tried to use both their existing strategy as well as copy Southwest’s strategy. They were using two incompatible strategies simultaneously, which doesn’t work.
19. In meetings, be highly observant. Notice not only what’s being said, but also, what’s not.
Who sits closest to the leader? Who’s silent at the meetings? There are so many power dynamics that play out in every meeting
20. People often buy the safest choice, not just the most exciting and unique.
Don’t underestimate the power of trusted, proven, and secure. Long established brands have a significant advantage.
21. People are bad at estimating how significant emerging and disruptive markets will be.
This can be both overestimating or underestimating the impact. Here’s 43 quotes from executiveswho laughed off disruption.
22. Many companies go out of business after their best year.
Businesses have an amazing year and assume this is the new normal. They’ll spend a ton of money, hire lots of new people, and plan on continued exponential growth. Then a huge client will leave or there will be a market downturn.
23. Sunk cost: I
f we’ve already invested in a project, we tend to stick with it so we don’t lose the time we’ve invested.
However, we can use way more resources. Think, if I was starting off today, would I still invest x amount of money in this project? What’s its chance of success?
24. Automation in an inefficient environment will magnify inefficiency. Automation in an efficient environment will increase what can be accomplished.
Do an objective analysis of a process before you automate it. Automating an inefficient process will make things even more inefficient.
25. Never delegate something that can be eliminated
Have a process to decide what is necessary and what can be eliminated. It’s a huge waste of time and money to delegate something that can be eliminated.
26. Sometime you need to just bring people to salmon.
When you go to a restaurant, you want to be served delicious salmon. You don’t want the chef to take you into the kitchen, show you every appliance, and have you meet every person. You simply want the salmon. This can be true in business. Sometimes the person simply wants the end product. They don’t want to help you make it or see every single part of the process. They simply want the end product.
27. Apple created an identity and a sense of belonging around their product.
They created a core group that people felt they could belong to. They not only defined who their customers were, they painted a picture for what they wanted their customers to accomplish and who they wanted their customers to become.
28. New retailers need a way to differentiate themselves from online competitors.
What can experience can they offer that online competitors cannot? Sephora does a good job at this.
Online retailers can’t offer the same in person experience and customer service as Sephora. They’ve created a unique experience that can’t be recreated online.
29. In your office, feedback should be a dialogue, not a monologue.
It’s much more productive to have a conversation. If someone gives a bad presentation, don’t give a long condescending monologue. Talk with them and get to the root of the issue/problem. It could be on account of laziness or incompetence, or it could be a result of poor directives, help, and communication.
30. Make it clear you want to help and aid the person that you’re critiquing. Be direct in your feedback
Don’t be wishy-washy. Be direct in what you say, but make sure the other person knows you are trying to help them improve.
31. Sometimes you need to change a platform incrementally. Many people felt Windows Vista tried to change too much at one time and the users rebelled.
You can have an audience who is accustomed to something. It’s challenging to make drastic and radical changes overnight.
32. Trapeze artists are willing to do more daring tricks if the owner provides a net. The ability to take risks is very important.
Are you providing a net for your employees? People are allowed and even encouraged to take intelligent risks at great companies.
33. Barefoot Wine sold wine to people who were intimidated by wine.
The mass market was intimidated by wine. They didn’t like the sophistication and complex terms. They were overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices and products. Barefoot wine offered 2 choices. It was fruity. Wine drinkers hated it, but it became one of the top selling wines of all time, and turned many people into wine drinkers.
34. When you meet with people, ask what might prospects say that would trigger me giving you a referral? Also, let them know what should trigger them thinking of you for a referral.
Get specific. Don’t say “if you ever need someone who needs a video have them reach out”. People don’t randomly say I need a video. A much better trigger would be:
“if you know any realtors who have trouble increasing customers during the slow season, that’s something I help businesses conquer frequently”.
35. Leaders should take complete ownership. They should work so hard that they’re no longer needed.The Dichotomy of Leadership-Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Great leaders do an incredible job training their employees to the point where employees can effectively operate without their help.
36. Having too many projects/problems you’re focused on at once can result in failure.
Fracturing your focus and attention can lead to overall failure. It’s important to be able to focus on a project or problem for more than 10 minutes without getting distracted by something else.
37. As a leader, you need to care about your team’s welfare.
Make sure your team has all the resources and information that they need. Your team will function best if they are in the loop and feel trusted and supported.
38. Don’t let your team always look to you to answer every question.
Once your team is properly trained and given the proper procedures, they shouldn’t need to come to you for every questions and task.
39. You shouldn’t care too much about trivial details. Be overly strict and hold the line for only THE most important things.
Be incredibly strict with the most crucial and important things. If you are incredibly strict with trivial and unimportant aspects of business, it will be hard to find control and attention for the things that truly matter.
40. Most underperformers need to be led, not fired. Fire them only if they’ve been given many chances and they’re hurting your team and your company.
Often people will need better training and leadership. Fire people if they’ve been given ample opportunities over and over again.
41. When you make a request, make a case for why it needs to be done. Pulling rank is rarely an effective way to lead.
Sales professionals needed to log data from their sales data in the computer. They didn’t want to do it (especially after a long challenging day). This drove management crazy, however, no one had ever explained to them why this was so important and how it could impact them. Once they understood the reason it was being done (and that it could raise their sales and commission by 10%) they were happy to make the change.
42. Having a healthy relationship with your supervisor/employee is very important. Do what you can to build and maintain that relationship.
What can you do that’s within your power to maintain a healthy relationship with your supervisor or employee. This relationship is a valuable asset and it will have a big impact on work enjoyment, productivity, and workplace culture.
43. Often, when leaders lack confidence, they’re hypersensitive, nervous, or jealous.
Building self confidence is important for strong leaders. This is an important dynamic that employees and CEO’s need to be aware of.
44. Value your employees. Give them the tools to succeed.
Make an effort to make sure employees feel appreciated. They should also feel like they have the tools they need to accomplish their tasks and grow professionally.
45. Make a backup plan for everything important.
Things rarely go exactly as we planned. A well-defined strategy for mission critical tasks can be the key to success.
46. You must be determined to win at all cost, relentlessly pushing forward against all obstacles.
An inspired and determined team performs the best. Work to build a team that is ready to face the challenges and overcome difficulties to meet the desired outcome.
47. You will lose if you care more about yourself and your pride vs your people and your mission.
Your team and your mission or goal should be more important than your ego or pride. Learn to place focus on success and the wellbeing of the team.
48. Becoming an outlier is a wish, not a strategy.
Many companies assume they’ll be outliers but don’t have the strategy or process in place. Vague plans to become an outlier is not a strategy.
49. When you meet with people, they have a status perceived by the community but also their own perception of their status.
A CEO could be very insecure. Someone could also have very little successes or status and have an inflated view of themselves. This matters in meetings and discussions.
50. Be observant. Notice who eats first at meetings. Notice who sits closest to the emperor.
There are constant power dynamics at play. Whether you work at the company or you’re simply working with them on a business deal, it’s important to be aware of these dynamics.
51. Speak up and tell people how you are perceiving discussions in a professional way.
I’m reading “we need to move this item to last on the agenda” because it’s no longer important. For me, this is concerning since it’s where I’m spending 80% of my time.
52. Some organizations love the status quo. They will fight against facts that upset the status quo.
Not all data and information will go over well (even if it’s accurate). It’s not uncommon for organizations or employees to fight to keep the status quo, even if this isn’t best for the company.
53. You should always figure out why employees quit. You’ll often learn something important.
Youcan often learn valuable takeaways when employees quit. These are takeaways that will inform you about what’s not working in your organization, or what to look for in the next employee. It may be clear the person who left wasn’t a good fit. The conversation could help you better understand the type of employee that would be a good fit.
54. Be careful to play politics. People may feel like you’re grooming someone to take over someone else’s position.
You may think you’re simply helping someone think about their future career, be conscious of how other people in the organization may perceive things. You want to be careful of showing favoritism or threatening someone’s position.
55. Transparency is an important part of trust.
Employees that feel left in the dark will often make up their own stories. Be generous with the information you can provide. If times are tough, don’t lie to your employees.
56. Ego and control are often more important than price.
Business deals can be complex. A CEO or leader’s ego and feeling of control are often more important than the price of a product or service.
57. Don’t just say you have good customer service. Let people know PRECISELY what they can expect.
Good customer service is extremely vague. 2-day shipping, results in 6 weeks, or your money back are much more concrete promises. Let people know exactly what they can expect.
58. The most money is often where you and your team have the most drive and the most enthusiasm.
Be careful of shifting course and guiding your team toward something else because it’s more lucrative. If your team isn’t enthusiastic about the change, it won’t actually end up being more lucrative.
Conclusion: You Now Know Leadership Skills and Business Advice for Small and Medium Sized Businesses
We’ve covered how to be a leader, clarify your company’s message, create systems in business, and ways to expand. I encourage others to save this page and study it. This knowledge from some of the best books on business has had a huge impact on my business and I revisit it regularly for guidance and inspiration.
Want to know more about highly effective social media strategies? I have over 100 actionable tips here.
How about key marketing strategies from over 40 books? Find that right here.
1. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
– Daniel Coyle
2. The 4-Hour Workweek
3. The Innovator’s Dilemma
– Clayton M. Christensen
4. The Art of War
5. Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You
6. Zero to One
-Blake Masters and Peter Thiel
7. The $100 Startup
8. Closer’s Survival Guide: Over 100 Ways to Ink the Deal
9. The Freelance Manifesto: A Field Guide for the Modern Motion Designer
10. Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People
-G. Richard Shell
11. The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure
12. Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine
13. No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits
14. The Power of Habit
15. The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future
16. Will It Fly?
– Pat Flynn
17. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
18. The Go-Giver
– Bob Burg
19. Think and Grow Rich
20. Who Moved My Cheese?
21. The End of Advertising: Why It Had to Die, and the Creative Resurrection to Come
22. No B.S. Guide to Brand-Building by Direct Response: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Plan to Creating and Profiting from a Powerful Brand Without Buying It
Book by Dan Kennedy
23. Passive Income Ideas: 50 Ways to Make Money Online Analyzed (Blogging, Dropshipping, Shopify, Photography, Affiliate Marketing, Amazon FBA, eBay, YouTube Etc.)
24. Platform Revolution
By: Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Sangeet Paul Choudary
25. The Dichotomy of Leadership
-Jocko Willink and Leif Babin