Introduction: a few days ago I mentioned that my next-door neighbor here in Wisconsin, Todd Sattersten, happens to be the co-author of a new "book about books," The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You. I asked Todd if he'd write a post for TOP recommending a select few business books that pertain to the kinds of business problems that photographers contend with. Here are his recommendations. —MJ
By Todd Sattersten
Let me start with dispelling two falsehoods that persist about entrepreneurship:
Myth #1: Nine out of 10 businesses fail in the first five years. This myth has been dispelled by research from the Small Business Administration, but the message persists. StartupNation by Jeff Sloan and Rich Sloan reported that 40% of companies where thriving after three years, and only 18% had filed for bankruptcy. Startups That Work by Joel Kurtzman presents more definitive data from a study conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers that quantifies the failure rate at less than 6%.
Myth #2: You should start the company by yourself. Most entrepreneurs leave their jobs because they don’t want to work for or with anyone. This is dangerous. The data is clear that companies founded by more than one person are more successful and grow faster. David Gage, in his book The Partnership Charter, says that 94% of hyper-growth companies have two or more founders.* The Kurtzman research also chimes in on this idea, saying that "Founding teams with a diverse set of skills tend to be far more successful than a single founding entrepreneur, especially if the members of the team worked together previously and had complementary skills and personalities."
So, start now and find a friend.
But, of course, it's not that easy. Being in business is about more than shooting pictures or baking bread or fixing cars. Taken mostly from The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, here are five books to help turn your hobby and passion into a business:
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber—Gerber’s message is that most new business owners don’t have a problem with the technical parts of the business, but fall down with the managerial and entrepreneurial parts. He says business should be built like franchises are, with strong systems that allow repeatable results.
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, 20th Anniversary Edition by Al Ries and Jack Trout—What is the first company you think of when I say "MP3 player"? Apple owns that space with its iPod product line. The authors say that this first-in-mind spot creates enormous market advantages.** And if you can’t replace the market leader, redefine the category. Become the best children’s photographer in your Zip Code, for example.
Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith—Selling services is very different from selling products. Beckwith says everything hinges on the quality of the service and making the value of the service concrete in the customer’s mind. This is a great book that is a quick read and will change your view of marketing your services.
Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin—Once you have the message for your business, you need one person to tell the next. Godin says that the companies, products, and ideas that win are the ones that spread the furthest. Same holds true for your reputation. Do something remarkable; people will talk.
The Knack: How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham—Most entrepreneurship books just don't deliver. The wide variability in fledgling businesses makes it nearly impossible to write a universal prescription for success. Books about the entrepreneur who made it big are often filled with more celebrity and celebration than hard-won lessons and real life pain. The Knack is the exception. This new book just came out in December 2008 and was not included In The 100 Best, but the rich and relatable stories are the same ones that have made Brodsky and Burlingham's "Street Smarts" column in Inc. magazine so compelling over the last 14 years. The opening story alone is worth the price of admission.
*This is just anecdotal, but one thing I've noticed over the years is that many successful pro photographers are actually husband-and-wife teams. It's more often the case that the wife is some combination of bookkeeper, studio manager, secretary, marketer, scheduler, fixer of lunches, etc., but I've known more than one couple (including one very high-profile one) where a husband performed those tasks for his photographer wife. —MJ
**Strong positioning is essentially what I was recommending in this essay. —MJ