DoctorPreneur, with John James, M.D.
I’m a bit of an anomaly for a CEO. I’ve never formally studied business or entrepreneurship. Even so, I feel I’m as book smart as any MBA grad. My wife has an MBA, and she regularly ponders how I acquired my ninja-like biz skillz without a day of formal training.
An MBA grad exits school with a knowledge pool that is an inch deep and a mile wide. An entrepreneur needs to be a mile deep in certain areas and have the ability to go wide (or deep) on any subject that effects his business.
Medical school didn’t teach me how to be a good doctor. It trained me to become a self-learning physician. That self-directed education can be applied to almost any area… I use the skills acquired in medical school every single day to push my business forward.
If I need to optimize my supply chain, I study supply chains. If I need to learn Internet marketing, I study it. If I need to know the ins and outs of venture-capital term sheets, I bite the bullet and become an expert on esoteric business law.
I understand full-ratchet, anti-dilution clauses and 3x capped participating preferred stock only because it was important to my business.
That said, I don’t have any more than a cursory understanding of topics that do not directly effect my business. I couldn’t care less why the dollar/yen relationship is in turmoil. I don’t care that gold is at an all-time high. Heck, I can barely build a balance sheet, but I understand my business financials inside and out.
Any entrepreneur worth his salt should have a voracious, unquenchable appetite for reading. I read at least two books, a dozen magazines, and several hundred websites each week. Two of my favorite pastimes are reading and making money… so naturally, I love to read things that will help me make money.
Below, I’ll share a few favorites from my reading list. While the list would be most useful for a person running an Internet startup, raising venture capital, or building a arbitrage-based hedge fund, there are some great reads that apply to all entrepreneurs as well.
I’m a Kindle snob, and six of the 11 books on my list center around business mathematics and data mining… clearly I’m not a lot of fun at parties.
Rework — A book by 37 Signals founder Jason Fried. WOW. You can read this book in one hour… it will be the most productive hour you will have all month. It will change the way you do business. If you are only going to read one book on my list, pick this one!
Delivering Happiness — The Zappos.com book. Innovative, innovative, innovative.
The Facebook Effect — A great read about the early history of FB.
The House Advantage: Playing the Odds to Win Big in Business — Every business model I’ve ever created revolves around statistics and exploiting market inefficiencies. This book provides a low level overview of the concepts I use every day… a boring book for a math whiz, but a great book for a math-challenged CEO trying to gather and use data to his advantage.
The Big Short and Moneyball — Two books by Michael Lewis. One about how financial engineering caused the current economic crisis, and the other about Billy Beane’s use of statistics in Major League Baseball.
Do More Faster – TechStars Lessons to Accellerate Your Startup — Started AND finished it this morning, so it’s gotta make the list.
The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street & Nearly Destroyed It — Every business model I’ve ever created revolves around statistics and exploiting market inefficiencies. This book was like catnip for me, but would bore most people to tears.
Predictably Irrational — A great book of behavioral economics by an MIT math geek.
The Long Tail — Another must read about Internet commerce. I’ve built my business around the theory of aggregating the long tail… if you don’t know what that means, you need to read the book even though it’s a few years old.
Tech / Startup News Websites
TechCrunch.com — No surprise here. TC is the leading startup news blog centering around VC-funded tech startups.
BusinessInsider.com — Like TechCrunch, but with a much broader focus. And nowhere near as good, though still worth the read.
Gigaom.com — Again, like TechCrunch, but with a lower posting frequency. Very high quality articles.
Mashable.com — Social-media news. A lot of fluff, but offset by a few great articles each week.
News.Google.com — Mine is customized around Fayetteville, Business in Arkansas, Technology, Social Media and Sports.
TechMeme.com — A mashup of all the high quality tech-news blogs.
Internet Marketing Websites
WebmasterWorld.com — THE source for information on search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Twenty-six steps to 15,000 daily visitors using Google Alone by Brett Tabke is the best article ever written about driving traffic online. I’ve followed this advice for eight years. It works.
Venture Capital Websites
Feld.com — Brad Feld, the influential Boulder VC, opens his mind in this valuable blog. I learned everything I needed to negotiate our recent term sheet here.
Yes, I occasionally read magazines. Believe it or not, I don’t read them online… a magazine and a latte at Barnes and Noble is still great escape.
Inc Magazine — A ton of fluff, but the annual Inc 500 issue is worth reading cover to cover.
Internet Retailer Magazine — Again, at ton of fluff, but the top 500 guide is worth its weight in gold.
Litely Salted Trivia — Gotta get my daily trivia on, yo! Fo shizz. I built the site, and I play every single quiz.
VintageCardPrices.com — I arbitrage investment grade sportscards on eBay. Yes, even my hobbies are opportunities to exploit market inefficiencies. Yeah, I’m a geek.
The above is only a partial list… feel free to share your favorites in comments below!
(John James, M.D., is a physician turned serial Internet entrepreneur. His latest venture is Acumen Holdings, a rapidly growing ecommerce company based in Fayetteville. Each Tuesday, his DoctorPreneur blog will appear in INOV8. Drop him a line in comments.)