At Burkland, we have a stack of recommended startup books. These are the books we continue to reference and recommend. We quote them, we give them to clients, and the audiobook versions are saved in our favorites.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Patrick Lencioni)
This is a favorite recommended startup book of Burkland’s executive team. The first segment of this book presents one of Lencioni’s fables centered around team dynamics. Lencioni’s fables are an enjoyable read and you quickly see where he is going while reflecting on your own team. The second part of the book provides helpful strategies and ideas on building strong teams. Lencioni faults five common pitfalls with sidetracking teams – absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. The section includes a questionnaire to use in evaluating your own team and specifics to help understand and overcome shortcomings.
Scaling Up: How a few companies make it…and why the rest don’t (Verne Harnish)
Burkland recommends this book to clients because there is high-value usable information from cover to cover. This book delves into the four major areas every company must get right to scale – people, strategy, execution, and cash. Harnish is well known for his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and in this book he expands on how companies grow to success. You will find tools and techniques that you can put into practice to build your business. The book also has practical insight on how to deal with the challenges that come with scaling a venture. One of the components that really stands out is guidance on how to align all of your employees around contributing to growth.
Zero to One (Peter Thiel)
Thiel presents a great and fun read on how businesses succeed better when they differentiate rather than compete. When startups create something new they go from 0 to 1. This is a must read for how to build innovative startups. Thiel references what he learned as a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir and then as an investor in hundreds of startups, including Facebook and SpaceX. Thiel presents a remarkable pattern that shows how to find success in building a startup that truly innovates. These companies go from 0 to 1 with their high organic growth rates, profitability, and pricing power.
The Founder’s Dilemmas (Noam Wasserman)
This is one of the first recommended startup books to initially review. It covers the most critical decision of a startup – the founding team. Wasserman explores all the pitfalls and common mistakes founders make when building their leadership team and how to avoid them. The book delves into how equity should be shared, should friends or family co-found or help lead, when to fire a founder/CEO and other critical leadership and people decisions for founders. Wasserman draws on the inside stories of founders like Evan Williams of Twitter and Tim Westergren of Pandora, while using data from almost 10,000 founders. People problems are the leading cause of failure in startups and this book gives helpful insight.
The Lean Startup (Eric Ries)
This book presents Lean Methods (lessons inspired from Lean Manufacturing) and gives founders a scientific approach to creating and managing a successful startup as they innovate and scale. Principles like “validated learning”, rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices, all that shorten product-development cycles, are presented. Ries provides several good examples from startups. One of the best takeaways is the “5 Whys” technique for when you encounter a problem. Ries’ approach works great for startups – who need to innovate more than ever.