As the holiday season draws near, it seems a fitting time to share some book ideas — ones for your own reading pleasure or as gifts for your favorite etailer.
While there wasn’t any scientific method for choosing these books, they all share some important qualities. I’ve enjoyed reading these books and find myself referring back to them in both my personal and professional life. These books have also found a home on the bookshelves of many of my colleagues in the industry.
I’ve placed these books into two general categories — those that are fun to read with good general business advice and those with very factual ecommerce execution information. For me, the balance between the two provides a sustainable level of learning and reading enjoyment.
General Business Advice Books
The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)
by Seth Godin
In high school I had a football coach who, in hindsight, seemed a bit silly. His philosophy was that if anyone quit his football team, they would become a lifelong loser. If you quit football, you would quit school, your job, your family and so on. Apparently, he had never read this book. In this book, Godin prescribes a new counter-intuitive way to approach your potential for success.
In Godin’s view, quitting is an essential element in success. The basic premise is that you cannot succeed at everything, so you must make hard choices about what you should invest your time and energy in… and what you should quit.
The secret to “strategic quitting” is seeking, understanding and embracing “the Dip”— described by Godin as “the long slog between starting and mastery” that filters out those lacking the determination and will to get through adversity. The key, he contends, is to identify which “Dips” are insurmountable — the ones where no amount of work will lead to success — and those that are worth getting through. Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt until they commit to beating the right “Dip” for the right reasons. In fact, winners actively seek out the “Dip” because they realize that the bigger the barrier, the bigger the rewards for getting past it. If you become number one in your niche, you’ll get more than your fair share of profits, glory, and long-term security.
Losers, on the other hand, fall into two basic traps. They either fail to stick out the “Dip” — they get to the moment of truth and then give up — or they choose the wrong “Dip” to conquer. So, figure out if you’re in a “Dip” that’s worthy of your time, effort, and talents. Then decide whether it makes sense to stick it out to become the best… or quit and find another “Dip” that you can conquer.
Godin’s truth —”we fail when we get distracted by tasks we don’t have the guts to quit”— makes excellent sense of many difficult business decisions.
Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results
by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen
I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve been to a fish market. I recently saw one, however, on the Amazing Race (a TV show in which teams race around the world). It looked like a stressful, noisy, dirty and chaotic place… a perfect analogy for this book.
Fish! takes us to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, a place where we learn valuable business lessons from the fun-loving fishmongers of the Pacific Northwest. “How’s that?” you’re wondering.
In Fish!, Mary Jane Ramirez is asked to engineer a turnaround of her company’s troubled operations department after being recently widowed and left to care for her two children alone. She has her work cut out for her as other groups in the company call the department she must change the “toxic energy dump.” Mary tackles this very challenging situation with the help of the head fishmonger, Lonnie. Fish! aims to help employees find their way to a fun and happy workplace. The key ingredients promoted by this book are to restore ambition, energy and helpfulness.
The book presents pragmatic and quick prescriptions — such as “Choose Your Attitude,” “Make Their Day,” and “Be Present,” which I found easy to remember, easy to apply and fun to share with my colleagues and teams. You’ll learn valuable lessons on reinvigorating the work and personal lives of your teams after reading how the fishmongers at Pike’s Place Fish Market re-discover their own motivation and positive attitude.
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox
As snow falls outside over the holidays, I appreciate the lighter reading of a good story. So here’s a novel, a real story, about Alex. Alex is a plant manager whose factory and marriage are failing. In his quest to save the factory, he turns to an enigmatic former professor who, through piecemeal advice and tidbits of knowledge, steers Alex on a journey to improve all aspects of the factory. In the end, he uses this knowledge to help save his marriage.
Alex’s journey will help you question assumptions and ask new questions. The economic principles behind the decisions and actions he takes are presented in a digestible and engaging manner — keeping the interest of even the most left-brained thinkers. For example, the book illustrates how some counter-intuitive pieces of strategy, such as making parts of the plant less efficient, results in the entire plant becoming more efficient and productive.
The very human story of his separation and reconciliation is a touching contrast and a welcome break from the business lessons presented throughout the book.
Hard-Core ECommerce Books
Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
by Steve Krug
The premise behind the book is found in the title — that website usability should be defined by an intuitive flow that doesn’t require the user to think. Simple enough, but how?
Loaded with tips, techniques and advice for both novices and experts alike, the book keeps the reader’s interest level and drives home key points with an attractive mix of full-color screen shots, cute cartoons and diagrams and informative sidebars. All of the tips, techniques and examples presented revolve around users being able to surf happily through a well-designed site with minimal cognitive strain.
Krug illustrates his lessons with easy-to-read and often humorous writing, as well as to-the-point examples. For example, some of his tenets to bear in mind when creating sensible websites include: “We don’t read pages — we scan them” and “We don’t figure out how things work — we muddle through.”
Overall, this is an excellent book for both a complete overview of design principles and as a follow up reference for the future. Despite its conciseness, it will give you a broader, expert’s ability to judge web design. After reading this gem, you’ll probably never form a first impression of a site in the same way again.
The Complete E-Commerce Book: Design, Build & Maintain a Successful Web-based Business
by Janice Reynolds and Roya Mofazali
This is one of those complete A-to-Z books on making your ecommerce dreams a successful reality. It includes instructions on how to plan, implement, and operate a successful ecommerce site. Whether you are just starting out or are an experienced business owner, this handbook is full of helpful site examples to give you ideas and insight on what to do and what not to do.
The book starts by helping you plan a business model, create the right customer experience and design an effective, easy-to-access interface created for your business objectives. It then dives deeper into cutting-edge programming techniques and robust server configuration for the techies and for those who need to manage techies. Next, you’ll master site marketing, customer service, order processing, warehousing and shipping. All these execution pieces help you develop the right ecommerce and customer experience.
This book also provides valuable case studies and real-world examples to help you understand the “dos and don’ts” of ecommerce. It’s also a wonderful reference guide for many aspects of building a web-based business — from outsourcing, building traffic, order processing, and fulfillment to your site planning, design and execution.
eBay Business All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies
by Marsha Collier
If you’ve been to eBay Live! or an eBay training event, the chances are high that you’ve run into Marsha Collier. After meeting Marsha, it’s easy to see how she’s created such a practical and useful guide for becoming a successful eBay seller.
This book covers all the bases, beginning with the fundamentals of being an entrepreneur and how it applies to success on eBay. It then launches into in-depth coverage of the most critical successful factors for selling successfully on eBay, such as merchandise sourcing, marketing, advertising and customer service. In addition to addressing the nuts and bolts eCommerce operation issues necessary to run an eBay business, Collier instructs readers on related topics that range from digital photography to eBay selling and marketing to auction management software.
With the amount of information and reference material this book provides, it’s like getting an eBay MBA course from a single book!