My MBA book list

Give yourself a personal MBA in 6 months or less

Believe it or not, grabbing a stack of the right business books can get you pretty close to an MBA’s worth of knowledge. Without the hefty costs and rigid schedules, you can dive into the essentials of management, strategy, and a whole lot more. It’s like a crash course in business mastery you can take at your own pace, focusing on what really interests you. Perfect for anyone looking to level up their business game on their own terms.

Total cost: ~ 170 EUR or about 1 EUR / day.

Month 1

Entrepreneurship: The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber

Summary: “The E-Myth” revises the common belief that starting a business is solely about having a great product or service. Gerber explains that success also requires understanding the business aspect, which is often overlooked by technical experts eager to bring their knowledge to the market. The book introduces the concept of working “on” your business rather than “in” your business, emphasizing the need for systems, strategic planning, and a clear vision to ensure that businesses can grow without being solely dependent on their founders.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. The Entrepreneurial Myth: The belief that expertise in a technical skill translates into business acumen is a fallacy. Success requires more than just technical knowledge.
  2. The Importance of Systems: Implementing clear systems and processes allows businesses to operate efficiently and scale effectively without the constant input of the owner.
  3. Work on Your Business, Not in It: Business owners should focus on strategic planning and the overall vision of the business, rather than getting caught up in day-to-day operations.

Strategy: The Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Summary: “The Blue Ocean Strategy” introduces a business strategy of creating new market spaces (or “Blue Oceans”) that are ripe for innovation, as opposed to competing in overcrowded industries (or “Red Oceans”). The book argues that success comes not from battling competitors but from creating “blue oceans” of uncontested market space aimed at making competition irrelevant. It provides frameworks and tools to help companies break out of traditional competitive structuring and create new spaces for growth.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Avoid the Red Ocean: Competing in existing market spaces only leads to a bloody competition over price and features (“Red Ocean”). Seek instead to create your own market space.
  2. Value Innovation: Focus on innovation that significantly increases value for customers while simultaneously reducing costs.
  3. Create and Capture New Demand: By focusing on non-customers, companies can create and capture new demand, opening up new and uncontested markets to serve.

Month 2

Personal finance: I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Summary: Ramit Sethi’s “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” is a practical guide to personal finance for millennials, emphasizing no-guilt, no-excuses, and no-BS approaches to managing money. Sethi combines storytelling with actionable advice, covering banking, saving, budgeting, investing, and responsible spending. His approach is not about frugality but about spending money on what you love, while cutting costs mercilessly on things you don’t care about.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Automate Your Finances: Automating your savings, investments, and bill payments ensures that you consistently contribute to your financial goals without having to think about it.
  2. Spend Consciously: Spend on what you love unapologetically but cut costs on things that aren’t important to you. It’s about smart allocation of your resources.
  3. Invest Early and Often: Investing is crucial for wealth building, especially starting young. Focus on long-term, low-cost index funds as a foundation for your investment strategy.

Organizational behavior: Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal

Summary: In “Team of Teams,” General Stanley McChrystal draws from his experience transforming the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command to argue that the traditional hierarchy of organizations is too slow and rigid for today’s fast-paced, complex challenges. He advocates for a flexible, adaptable organizational structure, where decision-making is decentralized, and teams have the autonomy to respond quickly to changes. The book emphasizes the importance of transparency, shared consciousness, and empowering leaders at all levels to foster a more agile and responsive organization.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Adaptability Over Efficiency: In complex environments, the ability to adapt quickly is more critical than maximizing efficiency.
  2. Decentralized Decision-Making: Empowering individuals and teams to make decisions at the local level allows organizations to respond more quickly and effectively to challenges.
  3. Shared Consciousness: Creating a shared understanding and purpose across the organization enhances coordination and speeds up decision-making.

Month 3

Management: The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Summary: “The New One Minute Manager” updates the original bestselling classic with modern approaches to leadership and management. It outlines three practical secrets to becoming an effective manager: setting one-minute goals, giving one-minute praisings, and delivering one-minute redirects. These techniques encourage managers to respect their team’s time, clarify expectations, and provide immediate feedback for efficient personal and professional growth.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. One-Minute Goals: Setting clear, concise goals ensures that everyone understands what is expected from the start.
  2. One-Minute Praisings: Catching people doing something right and immediately praising them motivates and encourages positive behavior.
  3. One-Minute Redirects: When a mistake is made, a quick and constructive redirect can help correct behavior without diminishing morale.

Leadership: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman

Summary: “Multipliers” argues that there are two types of leaders: Multipliers and Diminishers. Multipliers are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. They inspire their teams to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations. On the other hand, Diminishers drain the intelligence, energy, and capability from their teams. The book provides strategies for leaders to become Multipliers by empowering their teams, fostering an environment of intellectual curiosity, and challenging others to think and solve problems independently.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Attract and Optimize Talent: Multipliers attract top talent and get the most out of their team by valuing their unique capabilities and encouraging their development.
  2. Foster a Culture of Intellectual Curiosity: Encouraging debate, exploration, and the sharing of ideas drives innovation and team intelligence.
  3. Lead by Asking Questions: Instead of providing answers, Multipliers ask challenging questions that inspire their teams to find solutions and become more self-sufficient.

Month 4

Operations: The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

Summary: “The Goal” is a business novel that introduces the Theory of Constraints (TOC), a method of identifying and systematically addressing the bottlenecks that limit an organization’s ability to achieve its goals. Through the story of Alex Rogo, a plant manager struggling to save his plant and his marriage, Goldratt illustrates how traditional operational measures can lead managers astray and how focusing on throughput, inventory, and operational expense can guide a company to achieve higher profitability. The narrative style makes complex concepts accessible and engaging.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Identify and Exploit Bottlenecks: The throughput of any system is determined by its slowest component, or bottleneck. Focusing on improving the bottleneck’s efficiency can significantly enhance overall system performance.
  2. Subordinate Everything to the Bottleneck: Non-bottleneck processes should be adjusted to support the bottleneck’s pace to maximize flow and minimize waste.
  3. Embrace Continuous Improvement: Organizations should continually assess and address new constraints as they arise, fostering a culture of ongoing improvement and agility.

Communication: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Summary: One of the first best-selling self-help books ever published, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” offers timeless advice on how to be more likable, persuasive, and effective in influencing others. Carnegie’s principles are rooted in respect, empathy, and consideration, emphasizing personal interactions and the power of positive reinforcement. Through anecdotal evidence and straightforward advice, Carnegie outlines strategies for better communication, leadership, and relationship-building, which remain relevant in both personal and professional contexts.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. The Importance of Listening: Showing genuine interest in others and listening actively makes people feel appreciated and opens the door to influence.
  2. Avoid Criticism and Condemnation: Criticizing others often leads to resentment and resistance rather than change. Positive reinforcement is more effective.
  3. The Power of Praise: Sincere praise and appreciation can motivate people, improve relationships, and help achieve personal and professional goals.

Month 5

Networking: Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi

Summary: “Never Eat Alone” explores the power of networking and building relationships as the cornerstone of success. Ferrazzi emphasizes that success is not achieved in isolation but through the support and collaboration of others. He offers practical advice on how to connect with people beyond superficial socializing, through genuine interest and offering mutual value. The book covers various strategies for expanding your network, maintaining those connections, and leveraging relationships effectively to achieve both personal and professional goals.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Build Relationships Before You Need Them: Proactively cultivating a network of connections ensures you have the support and resources you need when opportunities or challenges arise.
  2. Give More Than You Receive: The key to successful networking is to offer value to others without expecting anything in return. This builds trust and opens up opportunities for reciprocal assistance.
  3. Be Authentic and Generous: Authenticity in building relationships is crucial. Genuine interactions, coupled with a willingness to share knowledge and resources, strengthen connections and enhance your reputation.

Negotiation: Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss

Summary: Written by a former FBI hostage negotiator, “Never Split the Difference” offers a gripping, unconventional look at the art of negotiation. Chris Voss shares insights from his high-stakes negotiations, revealing the skills that helped him and can help anyone become more persuasive in both their professional and personal lives. The book breaks down the psychology of negotiation, emphasizing the importance of emotional intelligence, empathy, and active listening. Voss provides practical strategies for getting what you want in every negotiation, including how to use tactical empathy, find leverage, and navigate difficult conversations.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Tactical Empathy: Understanding and vocalizing the emotions of the person you’re negotiating with can create a connection that facilitates agreement.
  2. Mirroring and Labeling: Repeating the last few words your counterpart says (mirroring) and labeling their emotions or concerns helps in building rapport and encourages them to open up more.
  3. “No” is the Start of the Negotiation: Don’t fear rejection. “No” often means “wait” or “I’m not comfortable with that.” Use it as an opportunity to delve deeper into your counterpart’s needs and concerns.

Month 6

Marketing: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Summary: “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” is a concise guide to the essential principles of marketing that the authors argue cannot be violated without failure. Ries and Trout distill decades of marketing experience into 22 laws covering aspects such as leadership, category, focus, and exclusivity. Each law is designed to help marketers thrive in competitive environments by understanding the underlying dynamics of consumer perception and brand positioning. The book is both a primer for newcomers and a strategic guide for experienced marketers, offering insights that are as relevant today as when it was first published.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Law of Leadership: It’s better to be the first than it is to be better. Being first in a category allows you to shape customer perceptions.
  2. Law of the Category: If you can’t be the first in a category, create a new category you can be first in. Innovation creates unique spaces for brands to dominate.
  3. Law of Focus: Owning a word in the prospect’s mind can turn a brand into a leader. The most powerful concepts are simple and focused.

Accounting: Accounting Made Simple: Accounting Explained in 100 Pages or Less by Mike Piper

Summary: “Accounting Made Simple” demystifies basic accounting principles for those with little to no background in the subject. Mike Piper presents the essentials of accounting clearly and concisely, covering how to read financial statements, understand income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, and grasp the basic concepts of bookkeeping. The book is designed for entrepreneurs, business owners, and anyone looking to get a handle on the financial fundamentals of running a business. Piper’s straightforward explanations and practical approach make accounting accessible to everyone.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Understanding Financial Statements: Knowing how to read a balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement is crucial for interpreting a business’s financial health.
  2. The Basics of Double-Entry Bookkeeping: Every financial transaction affects at least two accounts, which helps ensure the accuracy of financial records.
  3. The Importance of Financial Ratios: Financial ratios provide quick insights into a company’s financial performance and health, guiding better business decisions.