Minimum Viable Products and other schtuff

While home for the holidays, I wandered upon the bookshelf I used from high school until my second to last year of college.  It’s full of software and small business related books.  Some I read, some I skimmed, some were completely useless.  I’m going to share my thoughts on the books on the shelf in the hopes it can help someone.  Also, feel free to email me if you want some of these books.  I’m cleaning out my old room to clear some space.  rcavezza[at](gmail).com 

This post is about the top shelf.  The Top Shelf of my Bookshelf of Business and Startup Books

Great Big Book of Business Lists
This was the first time I was “tricked” into buying a book that was made almost entirely of blogposts.  I was thoroughly disappointed after ten minutes of reading and vowed to skim thoroughly before buying in the future.  The books from 37 signals got me three years later.  Damn it.Tom Brokaw – The Greatest Generation
If I hear about a book on tv and then see it at a yard sale for $0.50, I’ll buy it.  Also, I usually never read books I see tv and think I should read it because others say so.  I never read it, and probably never will.Holy Bible
The bible is everywhere.  I always think I should open to a random page and read something for learning or inspiration, but I never did.  Not once.  Sometimes, I open Revelations and read, mostly when I watch something on the History Channel about the end of the world and want to read more into it – I still have no idea how many of the “experts” come to the conclusions they come to on these shows.

Why We Buy
This taught me that the bibliography of another book can lead you to solid reads.  Much of buy-ology was based on Why We Buy as the guy who wrote Buyology was basically an understudy of Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy.

Biogenetix Total Body Transformation
This is a really thin book that was basically trying to get you to buy an expensive diet supplement package.  The book says it retails for $21.95, but it was sold for $2 at the store.  I bought two.  Lesson:  It works to set a retail value high for a lousy product – idiots (like me) will still buy it.  They should have paid me to buy this book in retrospect.

Business Etiquette
After a dining etiquette seminar in college, I thought I’d follow up and learn more.  This book was on sale for $6.95 at Barnes & Noble.  I bought it, read one chapter, and never opened it again.

Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing
If an author’s book teaches you something, don’t buy his second book. It’s probably crap.  I forget which of the Rich Dad books were crap, but basically all of them except the first one were horrible.  he suckered me into buying a few.

Conversational Spanish
I took four years of Spanish in middle school and high school.  I barely remember any of it.  I often buy cheap books thinking I’ll read them some day, I never do.  I don’t think I’ve ever opened this book before.  If you want to learn another language, move there for a month, it has to be more efficient than pretending you’ll read a book in the future that you’ll never read.

Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000.  
I learned that I will always buy a non-fiction book if the author is at an event to sign the copy.  I don’t remember who the author is, but he signed this book.  I understand the premise, and I probably didn’t learn anything after the title of this book.  Dealing with angry customers is one of the most difficult and rewarding parts of building minimal viable products.  You learn the most and people usually understand you’re a one man operation – they usually only get really pissed when Bolt Bus ignores all the angry tweets.

Start Late, Finish Rich by David Bach
You’ll probably think I have bad things to say about this book, but it really changed my life.  Before getting into startups and small business, I was trying to find get rich quick techniques to become a millionaire.  This was one of the first books I read on the subject, and it really helped me see things with a clear picture.  If I was ever going to get rich with stock investments, and I wanted to “invest” rather than gamble, it would probably take 50 years to make a boat load of money.  It was what turned me off from the stock market because I never realistically thought it would see 10% returns forever.  It’s funny that I turned out to be correct about stocks.

It may have been a different David Bach book that I really loved – whichever book was his first was what helped change my life.  

10 Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make
I honestly didn’t remember ever reading this book.  I opened the pages just now and realized that anything you want to learn from this book, you can learn from scanning the table of contents.  Lesson:  Always scan the table of contents before buying a book.

Guerilla Marketing for Free
Lesson:  If you add “For Free” to any product name, even if the person has to pay for the product, they will buy it.  I may have even bought this book before buying Guerilla Marketing.  Damn, that Jay Conrad Levinson is a smart cookie.  Too bad he emails people way too often and is way too “selly” or else I would probably still read his newsletter.

The Athlete’s Bible
I have no idea why I bought this book.  It was probably less than a dollar.  It’s all about supplements athlete’s take and should take.  It was probably thrown in for free or a dollar with the Biogenetix books I bought.  Maybe I was in a supplement store or something?

How To Survive Without Your Parents Money
Get a job.  Save your money.  Budget.  Don’t buy this book.

Managing the Professional Service Firm
I’m sure I bought this book when I considered starting a company as a marketing consultant.  You don’t need a book like this to become a consultant.  Find someone who will pay you for the work to do, and then get them to pay you for it.  Make them pay you money upfront.  You don’t need to put together lengthy proposals, in many instances, if it’s not a huge client, proposals will be a huge waste of your time.  Most people that ask for proposals, at least in the small business & startup market, won’t ever pay you for your services – or they will, but be “bad clients”.

Public Relations for Dummies
I bought this book when I was interning for a startup that was creating a resource for Exchange Traded Funds.  It was a 3 person operation (including me), and I was thrust into everything PR for this company.  I don’t remember much about this book, but I do remember PR.  Get in touch with journalists, ask them to write about your company.  Keep the journalists in mind, know what they like and what they write about.  Don’t write a glowing report about your company, write a report about a cool story they can write in your company’s field, let them know three people they should talk to for interviews, and they’ll probably include you as an interviewee as well.  You want to write as much of a story for them as possible, without making it about your company.  They’ll like the help, probably write good things about you in the future, and potentially say good things about you to other reporters they know.  Don’t annoy them.  If you’re not with a major company, they usually don’t care much about you – it’s about how you can help them.

How To Win Friends & Influence People
This book is mostly about “strategy of talking to people”.  There are a few specific strategies in the book, but many of them deal with “being fake” and/or “manipulating people”.  Main things I remember, be nice to people, have them talk about themselves, try to criticize very little.  The only way people will ever do something is if they want to do something.  That’s it.  My rules?  … don’t be a dick, help whenever possible, and always try to help the other person (even if they don’t ask for it).

Napalm and Silly Putty by George Carlin
George Carlin was an intelligent man and funny as hell.  May he rest in peace.

Building Websites for Dummies
The For Dummies books aren’t always updated.  Make sure you read table of contents and understand your own skillsets vs what is offered in a book.  I don’t think I learned much from this book even though it’s giant and over 500 pages.

Multinational Business Finance
I don’t think I ever read this book.  I didn’t have it from a class, just really interested in finance before some of my finance classes turned me off to the subject.

The New Humanities
This was my “expository writing” book.  It was filled with short stories we compared and contrasted in order to make argument papers.  It was how I learned of Malcolm Gladwell.

Memory Power
Lesson:  I want to improve my memory capabilities, but I don’t want to take 5 minutes to open a book in order to help me do it.

You, The Owner’s Manual
I care about my body, and I want to be healthy, so I bought this book; however, I must not care enough to put time into reading it.

Government and Business
This was a textbook from the class with the same name.  I learned the relationships with government and business in different countries were shaped mainly by values of the people and the history behind each nation.  I think the book compared, contrasted, and explained how the relationship between government and business works for The United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and the US.

Why Unions Matter
I’m sure there was a lot of important facts about unions and how often they help people.  My viewpoint was that unions always made businesses more expensive and likely to lose money.  I’m sure I often think about the bad side of unions where it’s very difficult to fire union members who make egregious workplace violations such as coming to work drunk, but I’m sure they also made good contributions to society.  They have helped raise the standard of living for many people, and some of the labor reform acts greatly helped society.  I think I underestimate how terrible things were back then.  I’ve become more left-wing in the past few months, but I’m still somewhere in the middle on almost every political issue.  I wish there were better ways we could make sure workers were treated fairly without giving idiot employees near unlimited power to keep their jobs.

Buy-ology
Great book – just like why we buy.  I found why we buy by looking at the bibliography of Buy-ology.  Buy-ology is great for software developers who don’t have a marketing background.  It will help you get inside the heads of potential customers.  You really need to understand how people operate instead of how you think they operate or thinking that they operate similarly to you.  IIRC, this should give you some insight into how different customers approach purchasing decisions, and how different purchasing decisions are made in each household.

Here’s the book shelf.  The Bookshelf of Startup and Small Business Books from my high school and college years
§65 · January 2, 2012 · Uncategorized · · [Print]

Leave a Reply