By: Chris Cummings
Running a startup takes an inordinate amount of time but I believe that education and continued self-learning are non-negotiable if you want to be successful. As Henry Ford put it, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”
This year I challenged myself to read 48 books comprised of fiction, non-fiction, and other academic materials. Typically, I read business books in the morning and during lunch as they help to inspire my work throughout the day. At night, I read fiction to take my mind off of work and relax. I didn’t quite hit my goal this year but I doubled the amount I read in 2016 just from setting an ambitious challenge.
Here are my five favorite business books I read in 2017
1. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
I started Pass It Down in 2015 but somehow didn’t stumble on this incredible book until this spring. I mean what I am about to say seriously… If I could go back two years, I would have read this business book alone over the other 50 business books I read in 2015 and 2016. If you are looking to launch a startup, start here and nowhere else. Too many business books are full of big ideas, or surface level coverage, but almost all of them lack a systematic process to follow to build your business. The Startup Owner’s Manual led me to completely rethink my business model, investment, and the focus of my business and everything has gotten 110% easier since we started implementing this book’s approach.
2. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
In the winter of 2016, I developed a bit of an addiction to Mad Men and wanted to delve into the world of advertising. Several friends in the ad industry referred me to start with the legendary work, Ogilvy On Advertising. I was blown away. Before Ogilvy, I appreciated advertising but I often didn’t understand or see the methodology behind the ads. Now, it’s like a secret language that I see everywhere 24/7. I appreciated Ogilvy’s love of good copy, his belief that women needed to be brought into the advertising industry which was very patriarchal, and that the purpose of advertisements is not to impress other advertisers but to sell your services. “Your role is to sell, don’t let anything distract you from the sole purpose of advertising.”
3. Winning The Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell – and Live – the Best Stories Will Rule the Future by Jonah Sachs
I own and run a storytelling agency for a living so I try to read everything I can about my field. My good friend Alex lent me this book in the spring and it quickly became a favorite. Sachs takes the world of advertising and brand messaging and breaks down how the best organizations use storytelling, and the intentionally created structures underneath those stories, to cut through the noise and reach your audience.
One of our big beliefs at Pass It Down is that stories are the best way to reach consumers because they are our original form of communication. This belief is echoed throughout the Story Wars.
4. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
This book had been sitting on my shelf for about a year when I decided to throw it in my bag on a whim on a last-second trip to Chicago. It was a fascinating and quick read. What makes things popular? Why do some things go viral? What type of stories are people more likely to share? Berger covers all these topics and more in Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Pick up the book to learn what STEPPS are and how they can help you craft better content.
5. It All Matters by Paul Cummings
Last but not least, my favorite book of the year was It All Matters by my dad Paul Cummings. My dad has been speaking around the world on personal development, sales, and leadership for over 30 years and has changed countless lives and I couldn’t be happier to see him put his life’s work into this book. The cherry on top was him being the #1 best seller in Barnes and Noble in the country across all book categories in October. #superproudson
These are my five favorite business books of 2017. What are yours?
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Author: Chris Cummings is the Founder and CEO of Pass It Down, a digital storytelling agency that helps communities around the world bring their stories to life. Pass It Down’s been recognized globally as a leader in storytelling and finished as one of the top six startups in the nation, from over 15,000 companies, in a national startup contest judged by Daymond John of FUBU and Shark Tank.