Lean books every entrepreneur should take to heart

by Simon Murdoch

We are massive fans of the whole lean movement. Lean is usually thought of solely in terms of development methodology and there are lots of books about it.

However, the customer development concept of lean is incredibly powerful for start ups and so we recommend all entrepreneurs should buy and read some or all of the following books. Feel free to get in touch if you need pointers on which relate best to your own situation.

Choose from:

Lean Startup, Eric Ries

Probably the most famous proponent of lean, but this book is not an easy read and is more focussed on the technical aspects than the customer development aspects of lean so in my opinion less valuable than some of the others below.

Running Lean, Ash Maurya

I really like this one and especially his interpretation of the business model canvas into his Lean Canvas – that really helps with the business model on one page for a specific customer segment and so enables you to consider which customer segments to attack first/at all. Highly recommended.

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development, Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlaskovits

This is a great first read for entrepreneurs. How to work out if you have a market which could support a sustainable business. NB funny structure to the 80 page book (probably written in a hurry) but persevere with it!

The Lean Entrepreneur, Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlaskovits

Much longer version of Customer Development – turned into a full size book and published c Apr 2013. Have just received my copy and only part way through, but they have added so much unnecessary padding they have lost the message unless you already know what you are looking for. Will persevere and may change my mind (e.g. pages 100+ in the physical book starting to get more relevant) but for now – would not recommend.

Lean Analytics, Alistair Croll & Benjamin Yoskovitz

Has a lot of the customer development methodology but also breaks it down by type of business and the specific KPIs you need for each and at various stages of development.

The Startup Owner’s Manual; The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company, Steve Blank & Bob Dorf

The physical version of this book is a tome – get the ebook which is only £4.99 at the moment. The ebook is also different to the physical book and structured better. You can read the first 14% of the book and get the whole start up strategy in succinct form. Only need to read the rest of the book if you want more detailed advice. NB Steve Blank was the original source of all this stuff but his original book Four Steps to Epiphany (FSE) is very hard to read in my opinion and only for the dedicated. Better to read this one before FSE.

Fyi, FSE is: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Four-Steps-Epiphany-Steven-Blank/dp/0976470705

Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model, John Mullins & Randy Komisar

Read this after several of the others. In my opinion most of the lean startup advice is about finding a market you can serve to achieve revenue growth – the most important first step for a start up. This book shows several other key considerations for creating a financially successful business model and ideas on how to flex the various parameters.

Business Model Generation, Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur

Bit of an academic work. I need to read it again after only skimming when I received. Probably valuable but hard to turn into specific actions if I recollect rightly.

Other important resources:

Dave McClure’s AAARR metrics

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