Pirates! Not the Navy

Although there are many books out there about Steve Jobs, this one stands out for me because the author Jay Elliot was a Senior VP of Apple and former manager at IBM and Intel. He was working directly with Steve, allowing the unconventional culture to thrive while applying the managerial skills he had gained from working at two other tech companies to keep things from going out of control.

Being a manager he found Steve’s cavalier style of leading a company to be surprisingly effective given what he knew about the benefits of structure and order. But never forget that with Steve there was always order behind the chaos. He mentions that Steve turned down a recruit because he arrived in a suit for the interview, a clear indication that he had not done the research on the “dress code” and for that matter the culture at Apple.

That is what is unique about an Apple insider’s perspective on Steve Jobs, it lays out the system that is not apparent and can sometimes be confusing to an outsider. It shows that even among pirates they follow and respect a code (Pirates of the Caribbean reference). 

There is so much in here that takes away the ambiguity of how Apple came to be what it is. As an example did you know that Steve sat in on interviews for 5000+ employees – and yet some startup CEOs are too busy to make time for the 100 odd people they end up recruiting. 

I am really surprised that this book is not more well-known – it shares the blueprint to Apple’s success! There is so much in here – by a true insider and management guru in his own right – on one of the greatest companies in the world.

Order your copy here https://amzn.to/3dRhZDO

Carve Out Time

The 4-Hour Work Week is a unique take on time management and getting more done with less effort and with less time. But what should you do when you end up with more time on your hands?

A lot of people are being urged to use this social distancing and self-isolation downtime to learn new skills, but what skills should you learn? It is important to be very deliberate about what skills you want to pick up, because if you used this time to learn to speak Hungarian it would be a wasted opportunity!

I would suggest that you learn skills that will help you work less: learn some more Excel spreadsheet functions that can help you manage data more easily or you can go further and learn Visual Basic for Excel to help you actually program the spreadsheet. Learn to automate your social media posts. You have to be as deliberate as possible on the skills you choose to pick up.

How does all this apply directly to you as an entrepreneur? The following advice comes straight out of Tim’s book and as one example it aptly points out ways you can get bargains in a buyers market for goods and services. The book does not focus only on time management but also on seeing opportunities in negative times, which is the running theme of getting more with less.

“… economic downturns produce discounted infrastructure, outstanding freelancers at bargain prices, and rock-bottom advertising deals – all impossible when everyone is optimistic.

Whether a yearlong sabbatical, a new business idea, reengineering your life within the corporate beast, or dreams you’ve postponed for “someday”, there has never been a better time for testing the uncommon.

This period of collective panic is your big chance to dabble.”

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Corporate Insights

Africa is still a bit of an unchartered territory when it comes to doing business. Different markets call for different strategies (as of this writing mobile money is not fully available in Nigeria!). You need first hand information on how to navigate successfully through these challenges, and the map is provided by those directly involved in doing business on the continent: the CEOs of some the largest companies in Africa.

Business in Africa touches on the view points of key players in over a dozen different industries including; Law, Mining, Telecoms, Banking, Advertising, Retail and Services, Real Estate, Franchising etc. 

You will get first hand information on the state of affairs as well as key trends in these industries from the CEOs and market leaders such as Tony Elumelu of UBA Group, Heirs Holdings and the Tony Elumelu Foundation whose mission is to support entrepreneurship in Africa. His chapter on Building African Entrepreneurs offers key insights on what governments and private equity can do to invest successfully in the development of a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Reading this book will show you which industry your startup could partner with or provide solutions for, as most of the CEO’s point out problem areas in their industries that need addressing. This could open up a new vertical for your startup. 

Order your copy here: https://amzn.to/2x5i8D0

Financial terms at your fingertips

I recently came across this gem and although it is remarkably useful it is quite uncommon – Barron’s Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms. Now as you are working on your startup you will be dealing with financial figures and terms a lot.

There is nothing more helpful than having a quick and concise definition to that term that you think you understand but you’re not so sure about. Google is nice for that but with this, your source is so solid and it gives you that confidence to know precisely what you’re talking about.  It is very handy to have on your own bookshelf but it makes a great gift for your newly minted CFO.

It really helps address the issue of effective communication about the numbers of your startup which is an area rife with misinterpretation. 

Order your copy here: https://amzn.to/2YlECsF

Build something people want

A lot of startups are solutions that have been built with time and effort in search of a problem. A majority of first-time entrepreneurs come up with their ideas without any clear feedback as to who they are solving the problem for and how those people are going to pay for that solution.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany strips you of the ambiguity you have in mind when you come up with an idea for a startup.

“For the path of a startup is well worn, and well understood. The secret is that no one has written it down.” – Steve Blank.

Even with these words staring us in the face a lot entrepreneurs, myself included, feel that we are faced with unique challenges that no one can understand. Whether it is the market you are entering, the customers you hope to serve with your app or service, or even the resources to keep the business running. At one point or another it feels like we are dealing with a problem no one has ever faced before.

This vague notion of what to do next is a company killer and in some cases it can cause you to reinvent the wheel resulting in lost time and money.

What the experienced incubators such as Y Combinator and Founder Institute (FI Accra Chapter vet here) have in common is the same insight this book gives you – “…there is a true and repeatable path to success, a path that eliminates or mitigates the most egregious risks and allows the company to grow into a large, successful enterprise.” The key concept is Customer Development and this book’s author is the originator and final word on that idea.

I like to think of it as the missing manual for the COO role you will be playing during the chaotic early days.

Order your copy here: https://amzn.to/2SRjXKR